Saturday, December 1, 2007

The best Pokémon spin-offs

Sorry for the common use of the words spin-off and off-shoot, but they're the only two words that work here! I even tried a thesaurus!

When a franchise gets popular, it usually sees it's fair share of spin-offs. Pokémon became the biggest thing since sliced bread in the late nineties, and it's still fairly popular almost a decade later. Thusly, it's seen a lot of spin-offs, probably only beaten out by Mario for the most ever. Here are some of the greatest off-shoots the franchise has produced.

Pokémon Snap

Whenever I describe this game to someone who's never played it, it sounds incredibly boring. Seriously, the thought of taking pictures of Pokemon while moving along a fixed path with almost no freedom at all? Comes across as somewhat boring, huh?

But, despite this seemingly snore-worthy concept, Pokemon Snap was a great amount of fun. Moving throughout each level and finding new and creative ways of taking pictures was an amazing adventure. It wasn't enough to merely snap a pic of a Magmar! No, you had to catch it when it's breathing fire on another Magmar! This is a great action shot, and it earns you a whole lot of points!

Further more, getting the Pokémon to fill as much of the frame as possible is important, too. If it's really far away or much too close it just won't do! You have to make it so it's as close as can be without surpassing the borders of the picture. Keep it all in-frame, and it can really be worth quite a bit. Also, make sure the Pokémon's facing you, too. A picture of a Kangaskhan's butt isn't exactly gonna cut it.

You could also interact with the environment and the Pokemon themselves! Throwing apples to tempt a Bulbasaur out of a tree stump or chucking Pester Balls (Sleeping gas-filled Pokéballs) at a switch is often key to getting the best pics of a Pokémon, and sometimes even makes new creatures appear.

Sure, Pokémon Snap may not sound like the greatest idea for a game at first, but behind it's boring concept lies a great little puzzle/adventure game waiting to be discovered. Snap is probably my favourite Pokémon spin-off yet, and I can't wait to download this once it hits the Virtual Console.

Pokémon Pinball

Nintendo really could have taken the easy route here, and simply slapped the Pokémon franchise on to a standard pinball game. But instead, they made a brand new and entirely original pinball concept built exclusively for the Pokémon name.

First of all, they made a unique twist by making the table two screens tall. Whenever the ball left the lower half of the table, the upper section would appear, and vice-versa. This allowed for a taller pinball table with more possibilities. Using both halves together would be key to getting high scores and more.

Instead of just shooting pinballs for high scores, you also had to "travel" from location to location. You could travel by hitting the Poliwag, Psyduck or Dugtrio buttons on either side of the table three times in quick succession. You then had to shoot the ball around the upper loop of the table and quickly knock it into the hole that would appear in the lower half.

What's the point of traveling? To catch more Pokémon! After sufficiently charging up Catch Mode by doing laps in the upper loop, you could trigger a Pokémon encounter. First, you need to hit the Staryu or Shelder in the upper half of the screen at least six times to reveal the Pokémon. Then you need to whack the newly-revealed creature with the pinball three times to catch it. And hey, look at that! You've got yourself a Seel!

Pokémon could be evolved, too. By using a similar process to start Catch Mode, you can trigger Evolution Mode. During this time, you will have to go around the table and collect all the experience points that appear scattered about. Once all three have been gathered, you need to plunk the pinball down a hole on the lower half, and voila! Your Seel is now a Dewgong!

Every time your Pokémon count reaches three (Evolving counts as two additional Pokémon), you trigger a Bonus Game. By hitting certain targets in these extra rounds you can gather more and more points. All modes are timed, so you need to be quick! Challenges range from hitting Meowth, hitting multiple Seel, attacking Gastly, Haunter and Gengar or even fighting the one and only Mewtwo. Defeating this rounds doesn't net you any Pokémon for your collection, but it does get you a whole bunch of points!

Pokémon Pinball is hardly your average arcade fare. From catching Pokémon to traveling to new locations to evolving your critters, Pokémon Pinball is one heck of a game! Definitely my favorite ever virtual pinball game.

Every franchise has it's fair share of spin-offs, and many are dismissed as cheap cash-ins. But some off-shoots really are great, despite the fact that they have a big name slapped on the cover. Pokémon really has quite a few great spin-offs, and I only wish I had the time to list some more! Maybe one day...

Okay, that's all for now! See you all on Monday!

The Duck Has Spoken.


THE3EYED1 said...

Yeah, Snap certainly tops my list, even though I prefer the main games to any spin-offs (GSC FTW), When the game hits the VC here in America (hopefully with the new Wii functionality intact), I will be picking it up. On that note, if Nintendo were to go and creat an all-new Wii version, I wouldn't say no to that either...

Anonymous said...

the orig. NES pinball game was also 2 screens tall. there were prob. others that did the same thing before pokemon pinball came out as well.

also what about the pokemon tetris attack game? that was pretty popular i think.