First Post: What Makes a Pokemon Game?

Hello there. Welcome to my blog! Since I’m new to this sort of thing, this post will probably be shorter and less well written than the others, but I’m sure I’m going to improve through experience. I might have to follow up or edit this post later, but for now, LET’S TALK ABOUT POKEMON.

It’s no secret that Pokemon is a wildly successful franchise. It’s probably one of the first video games I’ve ever played, and I still love it today. I like the battle system, the music, and of course, the Pokemon themselves. But I think one of the things I like the most about Pokemon is the story.

Here’s a simple summary of the plot in every Pokemon game:

  1. After getting lectured about how “trainers and Pokemon live together” and the adventure “should make you grow as a person” by the Pokemon professor, the hat-wearing silent protagonist begins the game in their bedroom.choosingstarter
  2. The future Pokemon trainer then chooses between three Starter Pokemon. and afterwards is challenged to a battle by a rival character almost immediately after receiving it. (I have so much to say about rivals that I just need to shut up and save it for a future post)8badges
  3. The player says goodbye to their mom, and then begins their quest to complete the Pokedex (catch em’ all) and earn 8 gym badges from defeated “gym leaders” across the world. The player traverses all sorts of different climates with their Pokemon, while battling other Pokemon trainers and their rival.48395_pkmn_plat_tg_ambitions2
  4. One of my favorites aspects of Pokemon is the evil team that the player encounters periodically throughout their adventure. I think it’s kind of hilarious that even though they cause trouble and do bad stuff, stopping them isn’t the true focus of the game like in most RPGs. The player just sort of detours from their main quest sometimes to prevent them from executing their evil schemes. The team usually tries to harness the energy of a powerful legendary Pokemon to accomplish some task, which never goes well. The player often has a final confrontation with their boss/leader close to the end of the game.52
  5. After finally earning all eight badges, the player then proceeds to the Pokemon League, battling their rival one final time on the way there. In order to secure entry into the Hall of Fame, and win the game, they must defeat the all of the members of the Elite Four, followed by the Champion.

That’s about it. Pokemon in a nutshell. A painfully simple, yet delicious nutshell.

For reasons I can’t really explain, I find the story of Pokemon fascinating. I like the idea of the player trying to be the very best, like no one ever was, in a world where others are trying to do the same thing. I like travelling to different cities and landmarks across the world. I like tangentially stopping the villains!

Unfortunately, this plot has barely changed at all for 20 years. People say all the time that Pokemon is “getting stale” or that they’re “running out of ideas”, and I agree with them. While I admire their story from a thematic perspective they never really seem to do anything with it, and  each game just feels like an updated, fancier version with slightly different characters in the same positions they always have. Pokemon is becoming very predictable, and they need to do something about that.

portal-2-screenshot-8

Portal 2 (which is a game I’ll definitely be talking about later) is a fantastic example of a sequel that does what Pokemon should be doing- changing things up and experimenting with their story. The first game had you using your Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device to solve puzzles and escape from GlaDOS, a malevolent AI that forces you to go through test chambers. In the sequel, which takes place many years after the first, GlaDOS is revived and makes you solve puzzles again in revenge for killing her. However, at some point in the game the facility is taken over by a new, unexpected antagonist. GlaDOS’ mind is transported into a potato battery, and you actually have to work together with her to defeat the new threat.

Portal 2 demonstrates that a game can still vary the plot without removing the things that make it iconic. Both games involve you solving puzzles designed by a robot, but there are different circumstances to those events in each of them.Similarly Pokemon should keep on exploring its core themes such as adventuring to become the strongest and catching Pokemon, instead of focusing on more specific things such as gym leaders or even the champion.

What I’m trying to say is that the story of Pokemon has a lot of untapped potential. While I perfectly understand from a business perspective why Pokemon games play it safe and do the same thing each time, I can guarantee that the fans (myself included) would appreciate it if they at least tried something new. In fact, my wish might already be granted, because I’ve actually heard rumors that the new one in the series (Pokemon Sun and Moon) is going to be different from the others, and I’m really excited! Maybe this time Pokemon will finally be born anew. Or something.

(Photo credits: bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net, serebii.net, derekwheatley.files.wordpress.com, and ngohq.com)

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