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.


  1. zero_19 - March 24, 2011 11:47 am

    Good arti­cle CC…however just from a jour­nal­is­tic cred­i­bil­i­ty stand point, I’d have left the “only homos” line out.…I know what you’re try­ing to say, but the method in which you con­vey it is.…dubious.

  2. thsoundman - March 24, 2011 1:02 pm


  3. CharcoalCoyote - March 24, 2011 2:16 pm

    Dit­to was a favorite of mine.


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