Review by bioadam

"Stop the Madness"

The idea of Pokemon and their battles is quite disturbing. The games have a lot of text discussing the balance of nature and living in piece with Pokemon. Then you go into the wild slaying, neigh "fainting" scores of wild Pokemon. Scavenger Pokemon likely eat the one you faint, assuming you haven't fainted all the local predators. A short training spree could lead to the collapse of an entire ecosystem. The Pokemon themselves are natural disasters. Many of the Pokedex entries describe the Pokemon as knocking down trees for fun, triggering earthquakes, and causing hail storms. I imagine that ecology of the Sinnoh, Kanto, and Hoenn regions would be much better off without Pokemon. The game never touches on another stark realization, the powerful Pokemon who can shatter mountains with a whisper have probably killed lots of people, including women and children. They don't seem so cute now, do they?

Nintendo says there are lots of Pokemon to catch and what really matters is that you love them. First response, no one loves your freakish creations like Grumpig and Nosepass. Second response, even if you do love a Pokemon, like the walking tree Sudowoodo, you have to dump the weak loser because it can't even help you with the Elite Four much less a player vs. player battle. You catch it, it looks like an Ent from Lord of the Rings, it faints a lot, and you dump it. Then you check the gamefaqs and guides and start to only fall in love with Pokemon who have good stats. This isn't Dragon Ball Z where a Sayan with a power of 1 can go on to become the strongest fighter in the universe. This is Pokemon and Pokemon don't take kindly to poor base stats.

Here is the biggest rub of Platinum, some of the best Pokemon are only attainable after you have effectively completed the game. This was always true of the legendary Pokemon and MewTwo. These uber Pokemon are rather unfair to use anyway. There are Pokemon, however, that look really cool and have great stats and moves. In previous games, you had to progress a bit to find them, but usually about 75% through you'd have a very competent team of Pokeball droppers. Now you need to pretty much finish the game to catch the dragon types, trigger final evolutions, and bring back old Pokemon from PalPark.

The core concept of the game is so good - select your monsters from 495 choices, evolve it, and teach it new moves - that even I, a bona-fide adult and father of two, am compelled to start collecting them all and forming an unbeatable team of Pokemon. To get the best stats, though, you need to find or breed many Pokemon candidates. Breeding is also helpful for getting the best moves and dispositions. Then there are alternative abilities, secret move tutors, trading items that trigger special evolutions, Pokemon only available from the old games, Pokemon only available when the old game cart and Platinum are both inserted in the DS, and Pokemon and evolutions only available from certain special events at toy stores, some of which have never officially occurred in the United States. That's not even the half of it. Pokemon can also eat certain foods and wear certain "accessories" to win beauty contests. In Platinum, Nintendo wanted to combine every casual game genre to create a Pokemon Dance Dance Cooking Mama Nintendogs Final Fantasy Party game. Oh, and there is a mining game as wells, because every game needs a rock hammering element. All this is playable via wi-fi, by the way. If not for the special event Pokemon, players would have no impetus to go outside, ever.

Platinum, like Emerald, Crystal, and Yellow before it, lets you capture more of the version exclusives on the cart itself. There are still a lot of Pokemon that exclusive to the other or older versions. More Pokemon are also require trade items to evolve. There are only so many trade items, of course, so catching them all is still a daunting task, i.e. work, a.k.a insanity. Honesty time, I don't want to advertise the fact that I like playing Pokemon, a kiddie game that went of style years ago. Why oh why can't Nintendo let me grind away on my own and get into a random trainer battle when I feel like? Maybe because three versions of a game for each generation make more money for them than one. Basically, though, if you haven't bought a Pokemon game yet, Platinum is the way to go. The earlier versions are almost for chumps.

Do you know where Pokemon comes from? Everyone knows the story of the bug loving game designer who wanted to bring the thrill of collecting insects to the masses. But Pokemon the video game really has its roots in Japanese role playing games, "JRPGs". Long ago when the Game Boy was black and white there was a Final Fantasy JRPG that let you add monster characters to your party. When you slayed a monster, sometimes you got monster meat. You monster could eat the meat and become that monster. I had more fun with the monster characters than with the item wielding, mana using humanoids. Pokemon is basically that kind of game with only monster characters. After more than a decade, Pokemon is still just a JRPG. We all know JRPGs are a sham. All that I ask is that when I look back on the 100 hours I've spent hitting the "A" button that I remember myself having fun.

Innovation is great. Two screens are great. Wi-fi is great. Trading and playing with friends is great. New Pokemon and moves are great. Splitting moves between special moves and physical moves is really great. New evolutions for old and forgotten Pokemon are great. Rydon evolving to the nearly uber Rhyperior is really great, assuming you have a friend who will unlock the trade evolution for you. I like seeing the new moves and evolutions. Someone had to draw all the animations and make the sounds. There is real content in that cart. But come on, after a decade, I'm still running through the tall grass 86ing wild with the "A" button. And now Nintendo wants me to even more work to put my awesome team of highly trained Pokemon together?

What really baffles me is why there are no Pokemon competitors. the JRPG roots are deep enough that you can copy the game play without infringing copyright. There was a robot themed clone way back in the Red, Blue, Green days that failed to make a dent. But now, I urge a developer to make a Poke-clone that lets you catch them all, without the ruddy cooking, berry picking, and mining that has turned a fun diversion into a chore filled crapfest. I suppose Action Replay has filled that niche with its cheating device, and in the case of Pokemon I wholeheartedly endorse cheating as an alternative to an un-life of baking poffins and watering berry patches.

Maybe Platinum just need more surprises. There are lots of new Pokemon, but when you take out all the new evolutions and pre-evolutions for old Pokemon, legendaries, and just plain losers, there really are not that many new AND interesting Pokemon. The first few wild Pokemon are still a bird and a lame rodent. The gyms are still all composed of the same type of Pokemon and as far as I can recall, they are pretty much the same gyms. Team Galactic is identical to all the previous villains you fight. HM moves needed to navigate the map are still annoying. I suppose Nintendo can always rely on a steady stream of new customers until a "Children of Men" style event. They don't need folks like me why have a memory of past games and desire to buy new things only if they are better than old things. Yeah, that's right. Nintendo doesn't really care if I play Pokemon. That's what really hurts and that indifference is why Platinum doesn't do it for me.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/09

Game Release: Pokemon Platinum Version (US, 03/22/09)


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