Review by Unleashed Vortex

Reviewed: 10/18/06

Got you by the poke-balls.

The Hype (Don’t believe)

Now, about a decade or so ago, this review would be gushing with praise. Chances are that it very well could’ve been the most positive review of anything to grace the internet. It would’ve had its head so far up the rear end of Nintendo that the text that you are reading just now would be brown, not just the plain old black font you see here.

Yes, now that the hype has died down and everyone has moved on with their lives (aside from Nintendo themselves who still continue to throw out re-hashes and redesigned versions of the same game, the true nature of Pokemon can be exposed.

Now, before I start to pick away, let me just get one thing straight. Back in my youth, I loved Pokemon. I watched the T.V show, I collected the cards and I played the games. In fact, Pokemon Blue remains today as the game I have completed the most times, even beating Altered Beast (which is worrying in itself). Yes, you may laugh at this and I don’t blame you. I played this game to death. I built up killer teams, I traded and fought with friends and I even had the guts to catch MISSINGNO. At the time, it was easily one of the most engaging RPG’s I had played. It kept me coming for more every time.

However, when I returned to this game a few years after, the magic had died down. I’d left its comfortable arms, gone into the big bad world and engaged in riveting battles with classic RPG’s such as Shining Force, Phantasy Star II and Last Bible. With a little bit more experience, I plugged in a rom of my first RPG love and decided to relive my past joys. However, all was not what it seemed!

I’m pretty sure you’ll know how this works. Pokemon is simply about kidnapping small animals and forcing them to fight each other. (I bet Jack Thompson will bring this up in his next videogame rant.) Pokemon are the name of the creatures that inhabit this strange world. It’s common for people to pluck these creatures from their natural habitat, pit them against other creatures to train them and eventually, march across the country to collect ceremonial badges by defeating key Pokemon trainers. The mission of your unnamed character is to go out into the big bad world, gather and train a team of six Pokemon and win the Pokemon league. With a large variety of Pokemon waiting to be caught, the range and depth of your team can be extremely large. However, collecting and training that team is a VERY tedious due to a few deep flaws in gameplay.

Variance (and lack thereof)

One of Pokemon’s main offerings was the ability to collect and train a vast amount of Pokemon of varying types. These types range from fire, water, electricity and grass and all have their own strengths and weaknesses in battle. For example, water Pokemon will have a clear advantage over a fire Pokemon but not over a Pokemon of the electricity type. So, when constructing your team, you will need six Pokemon that differ completely in abilities so you can defeat anything that an opponent will throw at you. However, this needed variance is a chore to obtain. The creature you picked at the start of the game, whether it was Bulbasaur, Squirtle or Charmander, will always remain as your most loyal and strongest member. However, attempting to train five other Pokemon up to compete with the same level is a pain in the ass and takes far too much time to comprehend with.

Fighting against Pokemon, whether they are wild or from another trainer, is based on a system found in every standard turn-based RPG. You take turns at attacking each other until your enemy faints or is caught by you with a trusty Poke-ball. Of course, since you’ll have about two Pokemon that are actual capable fighters, you’ll only be able to use them. At the start of the game, you will have your ass handed to you on so many occasions due to your weak team. You can switch Pokemon at any time and can improve your current Pokemon’s status by giving it potions to retrieve lost health or to cure burns or other damages caused by battle. After you’ve done a few battles and gotten used to the system, you’ll proceed to gather and train more Pokemon.

You can also teach your Pokemon new moves by giving it TM’s, which allow you to teach it a new move. These are fun for customising your team but in reality, a lot of the moves are incredibly useless. At the end of the game, you’ll have hundreds of unused TM’s which either contain moves like tail-whip or something that none of your party can use. Each Pokemon can have four moves so you may have to delete some in order to fit new ones in. You also have HM’s, which work in the same way but cannot be deleted. This is because you need to use them in external situations, as well as in battle. For example, teaching a water Pokemon to surf will allow you to use him to swim across water and give him a strong attack in battler. However, you can’t delete them once you’ve used it so you usually end up with a Pokemon that is stuck with some crap HM move like Flash or Cut, which are useful externally but do little in battle.

As you can probably already gather, Pokemon that fight will gain experience and grow stronger. As they reach certain strength levels, they will learn new moves and eventually evolve into new forms. However, experience isn’t generously handed out in battles and is even divided and handed out to Pokemon who have participated in the fight. Therefore, training a basic team takes forever to do and even if you finally create a team from scratch without cheating, you’ll notice that your entire social life has vanished down the toilet. In order to gain experience, you’ll have to fight other trainers (who can only be beaten ONCE in the entire game) or fight random wild Pokemon, who give you very little exp in the first place. Imagine simply trekking through areas in the game, looking for menial fights to gain tiny portions of exp. It sounds sad but at its heart, this is what Pokemon purely offers the player.

Incompleteness (Ripe with)

Sure, Pokemon is noted to have the most glitches ever but I’m not going to pick on that. Pokemon’s incompleteness comes from the innovative but highly flawed idea to release two versions of the same game with a few minor differences. Now, imagine that you were playing to collect all 150 Pokemon. Sounds like a fair enough challenge, yes? But, what if I told you that you can only collect a certain amount of Pokemon on the version you are currently playing and you’ll have to go out and obtain a Game boy link cable so you can connect with another person so you can trade Pokemon? Yes, I’m afraid you’ll have to find another poor sap that is in your sorry situation, which will be practically impossible to do now.

At the time, I loved to use the link cable to connect with others and do battle or trade with them. It was enjoyable to fight others but trading with them just to get a Pokemon you couldn’t get or needed to trade so it could evolve is just extra and tedious work which you find yourself doing because you have to, not because you wanted to. However, playing this game nowadays would be extremely difficult to do if you had no one to trade with or if you didn’t have the correct equipment. Sure, for extra kicks it was worth playing but not if you have to do it to proceed in the game.

The legacy (Hype at its finest)

Pokemon is an extremely basic RPG which relies on gimmicky features and worthless trades. Its impact and popularity in the late nineties was due to its commercial success as a cartoon. The actual root of Pokemon’s popularity is a rotten and broken one, one which is shrouded in praise due to its cult status and charm. However, if one was to examine further, as we have done, you’ll find that this nothing but an extremely monotonous and boring RPG that did little substantially to compete with other RPGs but simply relied on a gimmick.

For shame! Millions of people may have succumbed to it, but there is very little which separates Pokemon from any other RPG. The release of two similar versions and a link cable which serves only one purpose is obviously a desperate dash for cash. Next to Nintendo’s release of the GBA Micro and the NES Classic’s range, I’ve never seen a more desperate pledge to take advantage of the stupidity of their fans. Well, next to Zelda: 4 Swords, three expensive incarnations of the same console and the re-release of dreadful games, this is probably the least offensive of Nintendo’s schemes.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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