Pokémon. Chances are good you already know exactly what I am talking about with that one little word. Pokémon has affected millions of people, from the video game series (great!), to the card game (we all played it at least once!), to the TV show (was great once! Apparently still worth watching), to the immensely successful movies…you get the idea.
Now a lot of people I know (less than I would have expected) have had nothing to do with Pokémon since the first game came out. “Pft, these new Pokémon are lame, the original 150 are still the best” is something I hear a lot. Well since a new game came out recently (its AMAZING), I want to tell people about some of the immense changes the series has had, and why it’s easily one of the deepest RPGs out there.
Lets start with the basics: What makes a Pokémon game so fun?
Well luckily for me, the formula hasn’t really changed. The game begins and you set off with one Pokémon, your new best friend, and head out to explore a new world. On the way you gain new friends, new abilities, and stronger Pokémon. You battle all the “gym leaders”, and defeat them to earn Badges. Once you have enough Badges, you fight the Elite Four, and then the Champion. Often there is a sinister plot you need to beat as well, and a lot of end game content, but that’s the basics of the game. How is this different from other Role Playing games though? The idea of a hero saving the world is nothing new.
Your party is the big thing that sets Pokémon apart from other RPGs. Most RPGs have a party of around four people at a time, and switch out that party rarely through the story. A good rpg may have at most 20 characters you can win over at any time, most have significantly less.
Pokémon has, as of writing this article, 649 Pokémon, any combo of which could be in your party. You don’t need to do the math to realize how flexible that is.
Add into that equation 559 moves, and a ton of abilities, and you can see how deep this can get.
This is the most impressive part of Pokémon. All of this (and the extra stuff I am going to go into in a second) can very easily be ignored. If you find six Pokémon you like and level them up enough, you can get through the entire game without much effort. Children can pick this game up and play through without ever once even glancing at a guide.
But for the hardcore…these games deliver in spades. I now bring up the subject of “Effort Values”, something I only discovered recently, and probably the most interesting part of Pokémon. If you want to go through the effort (and if you wanna play pro, you will), you can specifically improve each Pokémon’s individual stats using intense training, special items, and sheer will. Its crazy, but it pays off. The same Pokemon more than doubles (some even triple) in strength if trained this way. If you don’t feel like doing this, it wont slow you down in the game at all. If you do feel like doing this, it pays off almost instantly.
Now lets talk about boss-fights.
Each game has “Legendary” Pokémon. These are one-of-a-kind Pokémon that you often only get once chance to fight, and they are often far stronger than anything else. Here is where Pokémon becomes far more interesting than most other RPGs, because in any other RPG, you fight a boss, you take their hits, you heal your party, and you hit them as hard as you can until they eventually die. You can technically do this in Pokémon, but then you lose out your chance to catch one of these super rare, super strong demigods. Every boss fight is an intense balance between dealing enough damage to the boss, preventing them from doing a lot of damage to you, and trying to put them to sleep before you hurl your poke-ball (or more likely Ultra-ball at least) at their face. Even then, odds are you wont catch them on the first throw, or the second, or even the third. Sometimes you wont catch them on the hundredth throw, or even further. Many a boss fight has resulted in me resetting because I ran out of Poke-balls before I could actually catch the thing. If you succeed though, it is worth it. You can now use this monster of a Pokémon for yourself, and more often than not, even untrained, a legendary can walk circles around entire teams. Hell, most are so powerful they tournaments ban them!
And keep in mind, most games don’t just have one legendary, most have at least five, if not more, but its OK, most of them are in pre-set locations and you can go and get them at your leisure.
Some are not however, these are called wanderers, and seriously fuck those guys.
Here is how they work.
1: You find them in the first place, they immediately escape, you don’t even get to fight them.
2: They begin to randomly travel across the world. You can track them, but they move faster than you, so you pretty much have to get lucky.
3: If you do encounter them, you generally get one attack off before they automatically flee the battle. If you check your map after, they are often on the other side of the world after. They will flee even if put to sleep (SOMEHOW).
4: If you manage to keep them in the fight with an ability, some of them have a move called “Roar.” Roar makes YOU flee the fight automatically.
5: They are as tough to catch as regular Legendaries, meaning it can take upwards of 50 ultra-balls to catch them, each time if you fail they run.
It took me three straight hours to catch the top one in the picture above, his name is Entei. Upon capture, I buried him deep within my storage box and refused to look at his stupid fat face.
The nice thing about these games though, is you can totally avoid the frustration of fighting them, or just flat-out kill them, it really wont effect the game in any way.
There is more to the game too, like “shiny” Pokémon, double battles, TRIPLE battles, trading, breeding, evolving, exc…but to be honest they are in the background. The real core of Pokémon, is traveling a strange world and fighting adorable monsters. I love these games.