Monday, May 5, 2008

Pokémon: Why it needs to go back to go forward

I love the Pokémon series of games. Ever since I first got Pokémon Yellow way back in 1999, I've been hooked. I pick up each new game in the main series as soon as possible, even buying Gold Version and Diamond Version on their release dates. I have just about as much fun now as I did all those years ago, but something is starting to feel different about the series. It's not quite like the game I got for Christmas almost a decade ago. I really feel that, in some ways, Pokémon needs to go back to go forward.

First of all, I really hate how nice the rivals are now. I remember back in Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow, how Gary Oak use to say "Smell ya later, gramps!" and "You stinker! I took it easy on you!". He was a jerk, and you really wanted to put him in his place. But now, the rivals are nice. You don't want to fight them. They're good sports, they encourage you to get better, hell, they're mostly childhood friends! I wish we could go back to the way things were in the first two generations, with jerks like Gary Oak and the mysterious red-haired kid.

Unlike Dawn and Lucas, the jerky crook in the second generation
was a rival you really wanted to beat the crap out of.

And what's the deal with how complicated the Pokémon contests have gotten? In Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, it was as simple as entering and using appropriate moves to wow the judges. But in Diamond and Pearl, that hardly even seems like the focus of the contest any more. First, you have to dress up your Pokémon (What?). This is a really weird and somewhat abstract step, as your asked to dress them according to such bizarre themes as "The Alive", or some crap like that. They don't even tell you what class each accessory falls under, just to go ahead and slap some crap on your Pokémon.

And then there's the dance competition, which is just plain odd, and incredibly easy. For the first three turns, you mimic the moves of the lead dancer Pokémon, and on the fourth turn you perform your own dance. Except they aren't really dances, but more like timed button taps on the lower screen corresponding to one of four colours/directions. These just take away from what should be the main focus of the Pokémon contests, which is the actual competition stage.

One more thing that's really changed for the worst over the last three generations is the slot machine mini-game. In the original games, they were as easy as lining up the right symbols to win credits. But now there's things like bonus time and weird countdowns and stuff... What happened to the actual slot machine part? Other than the timed button-presses to stop each individual reel, there's almost nothing in the current slot machines like that in the originals. My dad always used to ask to play around in the slot machines in Yellow, but I think that all these changes and complications would only turn him away from them now. In fact, they're even turning me away. I've barely spent any time at all in the Game Corner in Diamond. Can't slot machines just be slot machines again?

And what's with all these weird and somewhat useless HMs? What the heck is with Defog? There's only one, maybe two places in the entirety of Pokémon Diamond where there's fog to disperse, and it just seems like an excuse to make up a new move. Not only that, but Defog is practically useless in battle. All it did was take up space in my Empoleon's moveset. I think they could have done well without the thick fog, and thusly without this useless HM. They could have easily gone with a light fog and gotten the same atmospheric effect, but without the annoying space-waster that is Defog.

Defog's not the only problem with the current HMs. What's the point of Rock Climb? It just serves as an annoyance to me. These climbing sections could have easily been replaced with, say, a staircase or ladder. As for serving as a way to impede progress until later on in the game, I'm sure something else could have been worked out. Anything to avoid the uninspired Rock Climb HM.

In fact, what if we just went back to how it was in the beginning, with five HMs? Cut, Fly, Surf, Strength and Flash were all good enough for me. I wouldn't mind if they added in one or two of the newer HMs like Waterfall or Rock Smash, just for a bit of variety. Just no "clone" HMs, like Defog and Rock Climb are. After all, they're just variations on Flash and Waterfall, respectively.

While the core gameplay of Pokémon has gotten nothing but better, there are so many parts of it that have done little but get worse. Making things complicated isn't always how you move forward with a franchise. Quite often, it's just the opposite. In Pokémon's case, I sincerely think that going back is the only way to move forward.

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The Duck Has Spoken.


Maxz said...

Valid, but kind of nitpicking. Although most of the things you've mentioned are true, you only use them for a small part of the game and then forget about them.

Most complaints at the Pokemon series is that it's story hasn't moved forwards in the last 10 years (it's core has been refined to perfection however) and moving backwards is the last thing anyone needs.

4332-6582-6091 said...

Totally true. I also think they need to use more thought if/when they make more new pokemon. At this point, it seems like they arent thinking like they used to. Most pokemon are just deformed versions of real life animals and plants. Where's the originality in that?

Also, some pokemon seem to be like a drunken joke taken too far. Nosepass. Miltank. Spoink.