The Pokemanz

29 03 2010

I’ll go right ahead and admit it, as if you didn’t know already. I’m a huge nerd. I play vidja games a lot, watch videos on Web sites, talk about them, read about them, all that. It shouldn’t really be a surprise. One of my favorite game series may surprise some people, though. I love Pokemon.

When Pokemon first came out in 1997, I was 10. I had no real idea what I was getting in to, I just remember reading about it in Nintendo Power and thinking, “That sounds like fun.” I saw Pokemon Blue at a store and decided to buy it. Another fun fact: Pokemon was my very first RPG, or at least traditional JRPG. I… Never owned an NES or SNES and before this, mostly just played platformers or sports games (I was into sports back then, go figure.)

Anyway, I enjoyed the game. The critters were fun, I liked leveling them up, the idea of traveling the world as a young boy (I was the same age as Ash in the TV show!) and fighting with these little creatures really connected with me. The first game I ever pre-ordered was Pokemon Gold in 1999. I was hooked for life. Since then, I’ve bought pretty much every main game in the series. I bought Pokemon Yellow when it came out (chalk that up to my being a fan of the TV show) and I can’t tell you how excited I was when Pokemon Gold came out. I was 12 and Pokemon was still sorta cool, but not by as much. Especially for someone my age. I had to hide it from the public, but I would still play it all the time. Some of my best memories from middle school come from playing Pokemon Gold with my friends before class.

The other games came and went, but my friends seemed to lose interest after Pokemon Gold. Maybe they felt they outgrew it, maybe they got bored, I’m not sure. I remember being the only one of my friends to buy Pokemon Sapphire (2003) and not telling them, because I knew they would mock me, or at the very least not buy it. I managed to get the same friend I would always play Gold with to buy Emerald in 2005, but at that point I was graduating, so we never really got to go back to the glory days of Gold and Silver.

Some time around FireRed and LeafGreen’s release, I found just how deep Pokemon could go. It’s very easy for someone who knows nothing about the game to look at it and laugh at its dated graphics, simplistic mechanics and cutesy creatures (not to mention the story, but really, who plays Pokemon for story?). Let me tell you, Pokemon is deep.

While it’s true the battles are (and likely will always be) a turn-based affair, it’s easy to overlook things like Natures, stats, types and so on. Pokemon uses a sort of rock-paper-scissors mechanic on its battles. Grass beats water, water beats fire, fire beats grass, and so on. But that’s just the beginning. Playing the game will let you know what type works against what, but there is so much working under the hood, it’s a bit mind-boggling.

I didn’t learn about EV’s or natures until FireRed. You see, Pokemon, when trained, get these things called EV’s (Effort Value) from every opponent they get experience in. These EV’s bolster a Pokemon’s stat, and each Pokemon can receive no more than 510 EV’s total. It’s a bit hard to grasp, but this means you can dramatically increase your Pokemon’s effectiveness in battle. An example: a Charizard raised in Special Attack and Speed will have significantly higher points in those skills than one trained in, say, HP and Defense. Then there’s the natures. There are 25 total, with 5 being inert. These natures further boost and hinder a Pokemon’s stats, adding more depth. Oh, I almost forgot abilities. Abilities were added in Sapphire and Ruby and appear on every Pokemon to further augment skills.

It’s a lot to wrap your head around, and that’s just the beginning. I won’t touch IV’s (every single Pokemon has a set of these, ranging from 0-31 that will further affect their attributes), breeding, egg moves or anything like that. Sites such as Serebii, Smogon and Bulbapedia are all dedicated to Pokemon, with Smogon focusing entirely on the competitive battle circuit of this “kiddy” series. While Pokemon will never take the place of Street Fighter or Madden or Call of Duty, it’s hard to deny there is a definite market out there for people who take Pokemon seriously. Just one glance at these sites shows you how much information and how much depth is crammed into these games.

For a series that many people gave up on (or never even bothered with) it’s very daunting to look at Pokemon and want to play. The game is as deep as you want it to be, and that’s what’s great about it. Kids love the game because they love the sense of adventure, they love the cute critters that fight for them, but older people love it for the strategy involved in the battles. While the main game itself will probably never bring things fans have been asking for from the start (a way to see and count EV’s, a way to see IV’s, easier and faster battles) it will always bring an insane amount of depth masked under a very shallow premise: Gotta Catch ‘Em All.

I’ve never once caught ’em all, but dammit if I don’t get excited when I hear a new Pokemon game is coming out.




One response

19 04 2010

TLDR; Long live Ivysaur.

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