I’m about to open with a cliché. I love Pokémon. No. I really love Pokémon. And I’m not one of those, “oh yeah, I remember Pokémon, it was well cool”, couldn’t-tell-a-Voltorb-from-an-Electrode fans too. I’m an original Pokémon geek. I was in the trenches, teaching my Jigglypuff Mega Punch AND Water Gun. Do you remember walking into Mt. Moon, battling one trainer and walking right back out to heal up? I do! How about the moment you discovered how to ‘climb a tree‘ all by yourself? Yeah, I did that. Pokémon defined my generation. People a bit older than me own Tetris and Street Fighter II, while people a bit younger have Tony Hawk and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. However, as hard as Pokémon Red & blue hit the shelves in 1996, it hit me and my peers harder than a tidal-volca-hurricane on an orphanage of abandoned disease-ridden puppies. It was ridiculously brutal. Yet deliciously fun.
But I’ve gotten older now, and while I still harbour a love and respect for the long-running game series, I’ve noticed things that are just too odd to go uncommented on. I’m aware of the long line of iffy aspects to do with the concept of Pokémon, many of which are well documented in blogs, lists, threads and articles across the internet. However, through my older, more critical, more judgemental eyes I want to document aspects of the Pokémon games that I think were completely unnecessary, or have grown obsolete. Starting with…
Allow me to briefly explain the PC storage system (although if you need this explained you may as well move on to my next blog post now). A Pokémon trainer may only carry up to 6 Pokémon at any one time. If he/she acquires in excess of that, the rest will be stored in said trainer’s personal profile. That database of Pokémon is subsequently accessible from all well-labelled, highly discernible, public computers across the land. Now enter unnecessary grief.
On first contact with your digitised ‘mons, you’ll find them under a header labelled “Someone’s PC”. Who is ‘someone’? Well, as traditional of RPGs, one of the tens of people you meet will be a seemingly random individual who claims to have developed the entire storage system. This revelation then promptly updates every computer in the land, as if they were previously completely oblivious of their creator’s existence, but the key to this lost data is the random stumblings of a 10 year old child.
For undisclosed reasons, Bill would rather remain in secrecy until users of his heralded PC storage system seek his face and engage in small, non plot-forwarding chit-chat, before releasing his name and reminding you, en mass, what a badass computer programmer he is.
Pokemon Gender Differences
In order to make new generations of Pokémon feel fresh, new features and mechanics are brought to the series. Some of these are incredible, like Gold & Silver introducing genders and breeding. Some are not so great…like Diamond & Pearl introducing Pokémon gender differences.
Just another way for Pokémon to adorably straddle the translucent line between real world occurrences and Pokémon world dynamics, this time referencing ‘sexual dimorphism’ in humans and animals.
Gender differences, while visually fun to a consumer, must be a massive labour cow for the producers. Just imagine the conversation with the artist after finalising the 4th generation designs.
Pokémon Artist: Yes! I’ve finally finished drawing all 106 of the new generation’s Pokémon!
Game Director: …Actually can you draw them all. Like, over again. This time, giving them a slight insignificant difference between the second and the first?
Pokémon Artist: Uh!? Wha-!? Are you joking? You gotta be- oh…fine…
Game Director: Ah thanks. Also would you redraw all the previous 386 Pokémon as well. Each with defects even more minor than the last.”
Pokémon Artist: …
(I can only assume aggravated rebellion led him to rework only 61 previous Pokémon.)
Game Director: …And after these we’ll be making 156 new Pokémon, some have different forms, but all need two versions made of them.
At this point I imagine a middle finger was displayed, when only 3 of the 5thgeneration Pokémon came back with gender differences.
The Pokéwalker (or as I sometimes call it ‘the reason SoulSilver cost an extra £5’) was Pokémon’s unnecessary but long overdue answer to the Digivice. It let young trainers take their Pokémon out of the game and around with them IN REAL LIFE via a pedometer (y’know, just like a real Pokémon trainer). It boasted incredible pedometer technology, almost impossible to be tricked (oh how quickly that was broken), and a points based reward system that let you unlock later courses.
And only after working your budget Shake-Weight for what seems like several millennia to unlock all courses, do you realise how hollow the experience was. The incredibly commonplace Pokémon available. The gloomily random mini games. The prospect of your Pokémon increasing an astoundingly awe-inspiring one level. It all comes together to a pretty underwhelming device, useless outside its own design, doomed to fight off dust bunnies and the shame that even a Tamagotchi wouldn’t call it a distant relative. The only thing more disappointing was I almost made it through without making a Tamagotchi reference.
‘Rally’, ‘Sightseeing’ & ‘Amity Meadow’
Oh yeah, I’m not done with the Pokéwalker just yet. This particular entry is really the pioneer that started this entire critique of the much loved RPG series. The Pokéwalker, was crap. That is fact. But you kept at it so you could unlock all the courses, and complete something in a world where “completing something” originally meant acquiring 493 Charles Darwin experiments gone wrong.
Nationwide Pokémon distribution events have been all but shunned in recent years, in favour of distribution via Wi-Fi. In this case, certain courses were only available via the internet at an undisclosed date. It begun well and good with ‘Yellow Forest’ being released quickly after the games were. ‘Winner’s Path’ came soon enough and ‘Night Sky’s Edge’ came with a Jirachi.
Things were going well. Playing a fantastic remake of my favourite generation was splendid and the Pokéwalker was still interesting. I checked for Pokéwalker courses online and see a couple are yet to come. Some weeks pass, the Pokéwalker is nearing completion, the main game has been beaten and still no word on the courses. More time passes, I’m long bored with my Pokéwalker but have persisted only for a complete course list. All that’s needed is for someone to press send at Game Freak HQ, and I’d have my courses. And here we are, 2 years after HeartGold and SoulSilver’s release, ‘Rally’, ‘Sightseeing’ and ‘Amity Meadow’ still haven’t been released. And I’m still waiting. It’d be maddeningly annoying, if it wasn’t so sad.
Why anyone would want to be Magikarp I’ve no idea. It’s like aspiring to be a hobo. Or something worse, like Mickey Rourke’s face. But here we have Feebas, introduced in Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. However as far as encountering the fish goes, Feebas is very much the ‘Leslie Winkle’ to Magikarp’s ‘Anyone else on the Big Bang Theory’.
In the game of its induction, Feebas was only available in 6 random spots of water on Route 119. You had to fish in a random spot and hope a Feebas appeared, if not, well you can’t knock the possibility that that’s the spot so you fish again. Maybe after two more attempts you decide to move on to the next spot of 200+. Whatsmore, the already random spots, randomly change when the random trendy phrase in Dewford Town changes. Randomly. It’s more mixed up than a Kangaskhan cub on father’s day.
Funnily enough, a warped sense of achievement overcomes you if actually find one, all before a wonderful feeling of shame when you look back at the time wasted. It’s a truly warped individual that must think searching for 6 random spots is fun…and a truly warped team to re-introduce it in the 4th generation games again. In recent games Black/White they are available through rippling water phenomena, a positive move. Will we ever see Feebas mingle with the rest of the sea? Probably not. We can barely stand Magikarp, can the world tolerate one with leprosy too?