March 24, 2011
Games for Gameless Situations: Pokémon
Brace yourselves. We’re going back on a trip to the mid-to-late 90’s. A lot of you were probably playing early FPSes or RTSes at this point behind good old CRT monitors, ball mouse in one hand and “generic-old-computer-beige” keyboard under the other. Did any of you have a little brother? Maybe even a little sister? If you were born between 89 and 94, or had a sibling who was, chances are you were EXTREMELY familiar with this one word.
Pokémon. Properly pronounced Poke- EH (like a canadian)- Mon, but frequently pronounced Pokeymon or Pokeuhmon. It was a game. It was a TV show. It was a toy franchise. It was my entire world for so many years. The grip that Pokémon had on my generation was uncanny, almost unholy. It was a religion, a science, a job, a sport, a hobby. We ate Pokémon Pop-Tarts for breakfast. We dressed up as our favorite Pokémon for Halloween (many of which were some of the most embarrassing costumes ever, looking back). If you didn’t know Pokémon, you were either too old or dead.
^If you’re currently between the ages of 15 and 20, there is a 75% chance that you have eaten a birthday cake very similar to this one.
So, let’s say you’ve been in some sort of cruel gaming science experiment where you’re a gamer and you’ve never heard of Pokémon. I’ll attempt to explain the concept in the simplest terms possible.
In the world of Pokémon, animals called Pokémon take the place of the animals we know. They roam wild areas, people keep them as pets, some are rare while others are common. The difference is, these animals have superpowers. In this world, we allow children as young as TEN YEARS OLD to randomly roam on their own by foot and attempt to catch these Pokémon in scientific/magical “Pokéballs”. The most common sport in this world is to pit your pet Pokémon against your friends’, and make them fight until they’re knocked out. That’s right, the final boss should totally be Michael Vick.
^And when you beat the game he gets arrested for improper usage of balls.
As far as genre, Pokémon games fall under the RPG category. Your party members are the six Pokémon you carry with you (apparently your belt can only hold six Pokéballs, I guess fat people can carry up to seven or eight?), and they level up and gain experience and all that. They each have a specific type. Some have elemental types (Fire, Water, Grass), while others have more difficult to explain types (Psychic, Fighting, Flying, Ghost). Many Pokémon are dual typed, and every attack also has a type. Unrelated types do a normal amount of damage, but using logic, one can get “super effective” hits (A fire move like “Ember” against a grass Pokémon like Bulbasaur). By that same logic, some attacks are “not very effective” (like using “Ember” to attack a Water Pokémon like Squirtle. Some of these “counters” make sense, others require a little thought (Rock is super effective against Flying, presumably according to the “kill two birds with one stone” adage.)
^We had that shit memorized. Credit to this Matthew Lankard Chronodreamers dude.
The story to the games is kind of bland. You’re on a quest to become the greatest Pokémon trainer ever, and catch every single Pokémon that exists (This gets harder with newer games, as more of them exist.) PAUSE! Let me interrupt here by saying that Nintendo and Game Freak are sneaky bastards. In order to catch all of the original Pokémon, you had to have at least two games, at least two GameBoys, and a Link Cable. Some Pokémon were unavailable in either the Red or Blue edition, and the starters were only available at the start (except in yellow.) So to get them all, you had to trade from one cartridge to the other. And even then, Mew was still unavailable. The only “Legit” way to get that final Pokémon was to go to a freaking convention! Of course, you could always use a hexadecimal cheating system, or execute a really convoluted glitch. Either way, the “storyline” of the game is an epic marketing ploy. The only other real subplot is related to Team Rocket, a group of evil people who apparently mistreat Pokémon worse than the ORGANIZED FIGHTING SYSTEM THAT SEEMS TO GOVERN THE WHOLE WORLD. You beat them.
^That was the sound of a thousand nostalgic teenage nerdgasms.
There’s also the TV show, which follows Ash, a shittier trainer than many of us were when we were ten years old. The show led to many discrepancies and misconceptions about the game (The first and second “gym leaders” you face in the game became his best friends and followed him everywhere. We weren’t as lucky.), but overall was a pretty good show. To start with.
As the years went by, Pokémon got lamer and lamer. As new generations of games came out, the developers clearly were running out of ideas. Everything showed. The TV show got retarded, new Pokémon were unmemorable and bland, and the gimmicks began to fail. We’re currently on Generation number five, and it sucks donkey balls is a “Death Magnetic” level improvement . Also, it’s offensive to Americans.
^This Pokémon is directly responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks. Look it up on Cracked.
So, I guess it’s time to score these games up. How do they hold today?
These numbers are for the “Good ones”. Emerald was the last “Good One”.
Storyline:3/5- The actual storyline is meh. Trying to catch all the Pokémon, however, is one hell of an experience. If you’ve ever gotten all 151 of the originals, you feel somewhat fulfilled. Also, you feel like a huge nerd. The culture is moreso where Pokémon hits. Get together like five friends and “experience” a game all at once, complete with link cable trading and battles. You’ll know what I mean.
Control:4.9/5- Nothing too wrong here. The menus are expertly laid out. The only problem is the excessive text. You might make a wrong decision whilst clicking through various afflictions.
Addictiveness:4/5- The games can occasionally get slow, and in some parts it’s easy to get lost. However, when you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. Sometimes, grinding to find that one Pokémon that only appears in one small area 5% of the time is just as entertaining as the battles. If you move through the game fast, things can get challenging. Pacing and difficulty are directly proportional. If you have friends also playing, it can become cracklike.
Ease To Obtain:4.5/5- The good ones aren’t in stores anymore. But if you don’t have them, someone in your neighborhood does. Offer them $5. These games were huge, and sold bajillions of copies. They’re hard not to find. You can probably get a couple game boys, all games necessary to catch the full set of whatever generation, a link cable, and WormLights (for nostalgic late-night adventures) for less than 50 bucks.
^That’s a WormLight. Bask in the old-school pre-backlight glory.
Battery Life: (varies)- Count up how many AA’s you have. Divide that by two. Multiply by five. That’s how many hours of Pokémon you can enjoy. Divide by two, and that’s the battery life score.
As small as these games may seem, they can become a whole adventure if you let them. If Mario is the crack of nostalgia, Pokémon is my own personal Charlie Sheen. They’re best enjoyed in numbers, so grab some supplies, and enjoy the adventure.
EDIT: NON-JOURNALISTIC SOLELY WRITER OPINION ALERT: Also, only homos pick the Water starter Pokémon. Except in generation three when it’s Mudkip. He’s awesome.