Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Thoughts - Year of the Pokémon

I bought and started playing Pokémon Red yesterday, eventhough I already own both Blue and Red on the original cartridge. My reasoning was that I have to use my Game Boy DS to play those and eventhough I really like that console, it's not as handy as my 3DS. Problem solved, thank you Nintendo! But you can pretty much slap the name Pokémon on anything and I will buy it. And it is definitely a good year to be a Pokémon fan. Not only did we get this surprise re-release (I at least had not heard of it until the day before it was released), there is the announcement of Sun and Moon and the already known Pokken and Pokemon Go to get excited about too. I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but it sure would be cool with another Stadium/Colosseum game as well (as far as I can tell the last one was released 9 years ago!).

The most important choice you'll ever make in a game -

I've never played Red though, when I started out with the whole Pokémon thing I managed to get my hands on the Blue version. Not that they differ much, but I do prefer the exclusive Pokemon for Red than Blue. I was a bit late to the game back then, I was 14 when they were released but didn't get my own Game Boy and game until at least a year later. I swiftly started playing the TCG as well and was a couple of years older than pretty much everyone else playing it. I recall going to the Pokémon Club gatherings (we even had them in backwater Sweden, it says a whole lot about the popularity of the game) and being surrounded by kids 5-12 years of age whereas I was in my late teens. I really miss those times, it was good fun. Heck, I still have my Pokémon decks but no one to play with. I haven't played the TCG for 10 years though so players nowadays would consider my decks archaic at best.

I had partially forgotten how unforgiving the original games were, at least compared to the more recent releases. The Pokémon games were never particularly difficult, but if any of them are it would be the first gen ones. "When do I get my running shoes?" I naïvely asked my bf. "Aww, there aren't any running shoes in these games" he said and patted me on the head. Of course not, I should've remembered that. Nor do you get any starting Poke Balls and poison ticks outside of battle. Item Finder and XP Share were a lot less user friendly than they became in later games. There are no NPC conveniently standing around outside of caves waiting to heal your Pokémon either, you're on your own until you get to a town. I remember getting to Victory Road and giving up because I got stuck in some god forsaken cave and the random encounters were doing my head in. I'm not even sure I ever ended up beating the game. Well, time to rectify that then! The music is still brilliant though, squeezing every ounce of capability out of the Game Boy sound chip. I am already looking forward to getting to Lavender Town and not being able to sleep afterwards.

Mystery Dungeon are good fan service games -

Although I've far from tried every Pokémon spin-off, there are just so many, I've liked all the ones I have tried. Me and my friends played Pokémon Stadium loads, even the half-hearted mini-games, which makes me wonder if there was just nothing better for us to do or if our love for Pokemon also made us blind as to the quality of what we were playing. Pokémon Conquest was a cool crossover spinoff that I quite enjoyed. I don't technically count the Smash Bros games Pokémon spin-offs, but the Pokémon feature quite heavily and they're loads of fun. I've loved the Mystery Dungeon games I've tried, in fact I think they're my favorite Pokémon spin-off series. My only problem with them is the same I have for pretty much any Pokémon game - they're too simple. It says a lot about the quality of the gameplay when you're willing to play hours on end in a game that doesn't actually offer any kind of challenge. It can hardly be for the story either, so what makes Pokémon so compelling? I'm not even going to try and answer that question in what is supposed to be a relatively short post, let's leave that for another day. The funny thing is though, as I've pointed out before, eventhough there is a lot about Pokémon I think could be done better I never get bored and I keep getting back to it more than 15 years later. I can't think of another game series that I love and enjoy that deeply. And I'm hardly alone. If the Pokémon TCG clubs were to re-open, I'd be the 30-something among other 30-somethings.

I don't think Pokémon is going anywhere soon, in case anyone ever thought as much. Nintendo has a real nack for creating long lasting and loved franchises that aren't necessarily RPGs. In a way Pokémon has outgrown even Mario. You've got Pokémon in movies, series, cards (as mentioned), toys, merchandise... I already thought this was going to turn out to be a pretty good year for video gaming, but it has turned out to be a pretty good year to be a Pokémon fan as well.

I've written Pokémon so many times now, the word has lost its meaning...

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