A while back, there was some Æncyclopædiæ drama over Chris-chan (aka Christian Weston Chandler). I'm not really commenting much on the issue, having had similar (but deinitely not as spectacular and not as severe) issues as this guy, but I'm just saying that I found the Sonichu audio books pretty... unique. And at parts hilarious. I sure hope this guy gets over the, ahem, issues, one way or other.
Anyway, I'm not posting about that - I just mentioned that because looking at the case reminded me that I still haven't completed Pokémon Sapphire. So, in the weekend, I played good few hours of the thing. Yay. So here is some aimless rambling about a Grown Man Playing Pokémon, a bit Analytically.
I'm not necessarily completely coherent today, so apologies if this article is too weird to handle.
So why was I playing Pokémon in first place?
Wasn't there a line in Pokémon Red/Blue that said something like "a RPG! There's no time for that!"
Years ago, the regrettable fact was that there weren't any good portable game systems besides Game Boy line, and, uh, the only RPG that was worth playing for on the only portable game system ever was Pokémon. And, hey, I like Vulpixes! Flame-throwing foxes are pretty cute! ...okay, the GBA game has some pretty cute ones too. But Vulpixes are so aww cute.
Now, years later, the only portable console line worth a damn is still the Game Boy line and the Nintendo DS, but at least the situation is changed for the better: There's plenty of great RPGs available for GBA - I've bashed through Breath of Fire and almost through a couple of Final Fantasy titles. And, more importabtly, the aanoying thing about Game Boy was that the games were rarely very complex in the first place, and in the GBA era, this changed for the better. i wanted complexity, and no longer had to demand specifically a RPG. There's thrillingly beautiful action games like Metroid: Zero Mission, amazing strategy games like Fire Emblem, even puzzlingly cool concepts like the isometric Max Payne remake - and hey, these are just the GBA things, I haven't even gotten started about the DS offerings... but I digress. Back to teh Pokeyman.
What really drew me to Pokémon back in the day? I realised that when I looked at the Sapphire game. One could try to fit in a preposterous statement by asserting that I was looking at a game from my early adulthood, back in the day when I used a game system from my childhood, through the eyes of an adult when I was playing a game on a system that definitely belonged to my adulthood. In other words, no damn green-LCD nostalgia from school days. So - a few years back, I was playing Pokémon Sapphire... eyes open and seeling the utter corniness of it all. I grinned, and went forward. What the heck else I could do?
One of the things that makes me think Pokémon series is fun is because it's so over-the-top in its childish stuff. It's meant to be funny for the children, and in its pure simplicity it's just charmingly funny to me too. Nintendo's recent offerings have been meticulously translated, and at least up to the GBA generation, they gave a good day off for the good translators and brought in the tolerable-but-cheesy translators. There's nothing wrong as such with the dialogue - maybe it was weird to begin with - but there's this distinct impression that they brought in the cheese company to do funny dialogue for children, different crews for different products.
There's a lot more to like about the games than just the charming dialogue. Colourful world, colourful creatures that vary from horrible to cute-overload, and when you get right down to it, the basic mechanic of collecting Pokémon is pretty clever and interesting even as such. And some of these things are so cute. Awww that cute Vulpix up there. Aww.
However, there's sides I've never quite liked in these games, especially when you compare them with other RPGs. Most of the things have to do with game mechanics.
- Level balance is off the whack. Level difference of over 10 is lethal if you want to somehow catch wild Pokémon, especially if your all-slaughtering dream team happens to have proper moves learned - you probably don't want to waste move slots on completely puny attacks.
- Moves are a weird thing. While the move system itself is pretty good, there's not really enough information available on different moves; the only good way to find out what the moves really do is through good old-fashioned "let's go try it out" thing. Pretty big leap from here to, say, Fire Emblem's damage calculations. Okay, I get it, it's a children's game, and it's not responsible parenting to unleash the Inner Munchkins of the poor and innocent children. (It's their responsibility, after all, to unleash it themselves, if they want to learn, through fun and harmless way, what "learning by mistakes" really means.. =)
- HMs are too weird. I don't know about the GBA games, but in the GB games the HM moves couldn't be forgotten without some extra help, and oh boy, did that ever stink.
- I'm not very convinced that buffs work too well in the game. The game seems to use buffs in retarded situations, and only buffs that are of any good use are ones that raise evasion. Even so, using buffs is severely subject to Murphy's Law. The best strategy seems to be to just go out there and kick butt.
- Finally - dude, were's my secret hideout? Okay, it's supposed to be secret, but geez, a helpful map note might be useful.. I'm getting caffeine dementia and I can't remember every mystery from a game I played about year and a half ago. Never you worry, I'm going to learn that fly move and go scouting... speaking of which, some sort of planner would be pretty good, aside of just having a list of all badges you have and map showing what towns you haven't visited yet...
Regrettably, I haven't yet checked out the DS games and how they stack up, but if old signs are true, nothing big has been going on. We'll see, eventually...
(Image: Oh dear, Vulpix flies! Captured by yours truly some good while ago from Pokémon: The First Movie, the Pikachu's Vacation segment. Apparently, frequently copied around the net by now. And yes, two frames make it worth to let the DVD sit on the shelf... =)
(Update: Sorry, was speaking of Crystal when I obviously meant to say Sapphire. Darn. Sorry.)