pokemon

Pokémon X and Y – childhood that never leaves

“Bulbasaur” by nicholaskole

For the first time since my childhood, I’ve become a Pokémon Champion. Though I’ve dabbled in many other Pokémon games, Pokémon Y is the first title of the franchise since Blue where I have smacked the Elite Four and the Champion. When I succeeded just a few hours ago, I had the urge to leap out of my seat, run towards my mom and shout “Look, ma, I’m the Champion! I did it!”

Except that I don’t live with my parents anymore. But I leapt out of my seat anyway.

This childish rush, born from the victory over a bunch of pixels, was just one of many nostalgic moments on my journey through Kalos. In fact, Pokémon X and Y feel like both the next step in the evolution of the franchise and an ode to its roots. Being able to pick a Kanto starter already tingles my childhood memories, but when I notice that Santalune Forest has the exact same layout as Viridian Forest (and the exact low appearance rate of Pikachu), I have to look in the mirror to make sure I have a bearded face which is not covered in chocolate. Now, when I first saw my Bulbasaur in 3D…words can’t describe my feelings.

A myriad reviews on the Internet have pointed out the flaws and strong sides of the game, but I am here to remind you of how Game Freak has succeeded in bringing everything you love about Pokémon to the third dimension. Sure, the story sucks, the characters are cut-outs and you technically play the same game you played ten years ago, but who cares? It’s Pokémon, a formula that has worked since you were beaten up in elementary school for your foil Charizard trading card!

I might have moved out and left my mom behind, but Pokémon X and Y reminded me that I’ll take some parts of my childhood with me wherever I go.

Go catch ’em all,

Chin

P.S.: Yeah, this is the last post about Pokémon. For now.

 

Pokémon X and Y: first impressions

pokemon y yveltal

When I received the text message from my LGS that a copy of Pokémon Y was waiting for me, finishing my work got really hard. Knowing that I was just two-and-a-half hours separated from my future career as Pokémon Master didn’t make waiting any easier, so when the clock struck five, I jumped on my bike, peddled like a madman and picked up my copy. About an hour later, I was knee-deep in the Kalos Region, kicking all kinds of asses with my Froakie and other living weapons known as Pokémon.

So, what’s my opinion so far? Visually, I’m still stunned by how great the game looks. Walking through caves with the camera over the shoulder of your character makes the experience more intense, and racing through the streets of Lumiose City looks far more impressive know that the beautiful buildings really tower over you. Also, seeing your Pokémon as actual three-dimensional entities in battle, with facial expressions and what have you, is a real treat. The moment I had to fight my first Pidgey, I pointed at the screen and shouted: “It looks just like the one in the anime, including that arrogant face!” My inner kid was satisfied, especially once that cocky pidgeon was in my Pokéball.

The gameplay is what you expect from a Pokémon game, but with a few major and minor additions. The big new features include Super Training, allowing you to train your Pokémon’s EV’s through mini-games. Next to that, you can cuddle with your critters in Pokémon-Amie, hand out O-Powers to people all over the world or dress up your character in new clothes. These big new features are all nice, but to me, the small adjustments really make the difference.

pokemon x y lumiose city

Two of those little tweaks are the changes to the Exp. Share item and earning Exp. when capturing a Pokémon. In the past, your Pokémon would not get experience from a battle in which you caught the opposing Pokémon. Now, your Pokémon still get experience, even when you put that cute little thing into a tiny, confined space. Also, Exp. Share is now an item that can simply be turned on. When activated, all Pokémon who did not participate in battle get half of the experience the fighting Pokémon received. It’s a small change, but it eliminates some of the grind from previous games, making the training of your fire-breathing, bubble-blowing minions easier.

So far, I think Pokémon X and Y take the familiar formula of the previous generations and put them into a revolutionary visual presentation. The new features and changes to old ones improve the game, making it more accessible and fun. At least, that’s what I can say being six hours into the game, on my way to earn my second badge (what, I’m a Slowpoke, okay). Seeing how I like to spit my opinion at random people from the Internet, you’ll hear from me again once I’ve seen more of Kalos.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a Gym leader who needs a whoopin’.

From simple to complicated – the evolution of ideas

“Evolution” by Ikurx

Ah, how I love Pokémon. My generation had the honour of growing up with the very first generation of these little critters, and just like all the other kids on the block, I loved to play every game that involved these monsters. I collected the trading cards, and I fielded a nice team of battle-hungry Pokémon on my Gameboy. The video game was just so addictive. From the moment you received your first Pokémon (Bulbasaur for the win), to the satisfying moment where you defeat the Elite Four, Pokémon offered tense and tactical battles with monsters ranging from cute to threatening. Every time I give a new Pokémon title a try, I’m overwhelmed by this sense of nostalgia and unfortunately have to discover that none of the new games satisfy my lust for the collection of pocket monsters.

However, what these new games also show is how a rather simple game can turn into something really complicated over different iterations. Pokemon Red and Blue (I will not mention Yellow here. Only the lazy, snobby kids who wanted all the cool Pokémon in their time played Yellow, and I was far too awesome to start a game with a lame Pikachu in my team) were, essentially, nothing but a glorified rock-paper-scissors simulator: certain types were efficient against other types, so the trick was to have a well-balanced team that was able to hold its own against different kind of Pokémon. However, the franchise was and is still milked for every penny it’s worth, and so generation after generation of new games appear. Fortunately, they are no carbon copies of the originals. In fact, they take the basic concepts of Red and Blue, and keep adding additional layers to the game. These days, trainers have to be aware of so many things next to their Pokémon’s type, and when I hear players talk about their team set-ups, I feel like I’m listening to football coaches and talent scouts talking about something I once knew so well, but that has become something so deep that I can no longer follow them.

Despite the fact this added complexity has caused me to fall behind, I understand that this is the ideal evolution (see what I did there) of a game: starting out simple to get players used to the ideas and concepts, and slowly change into something that still holds on to these core ideas, but that is also refreshing. It’s an organic and really natural growth, that in most cases gives the franchise a fresh breath of life with every new iteration. Pokémon is by far not the only game who has done that. Recent sci-fi RPG series Mass Effect might have kept the same awesome and thrilling storytelling through all three titles, but the actual game that was behind the cinematic drama changed significantly throughout the three parts. Each new Zelda title sticks to a well-known set of characters, but also tries to re-imagine the world of Hyrule every time. It’s progress at its finest, and in my opinion the best way to introduce innovation into the market.

The problem with many great ideas is that you have to get them into other people’s minds. This entirely new game idea might sound really great in your own head, but that’s no guarantee that your target audience will understand it. Instead of throwing everything at them at once, risking the chance that the complexity and “newness” of it will scare your audience, introduce them to it step by step. Start simple, but get them hooked. Take the best part of your concept, and put it in a nice package. It’s like writing a text, where your opening sentence has to catch the attention of the reader, or else they won’t bother reading your stuff. See how I lured you in with some talk about Pokémon, and how you’re now reading something about organic introduction of new game concepts? I got you hooked, and step by step, I’m introducing you to my ideas.

Once the audience is on one level with you, ramp up the complexity. Build on the foundation you have laid, and see how they react to it. Should you go into the wrong direction, you can direct this form of intelligent design into another, better way. You control the organic growth of your product, and react to the demands of the market. In the gaming world, it’s survival of the fittest, and whoever can adapt to his environment will come out a survivor.

So next time you start writing a game or come up with a brilliant idea, break it down into simple pieces. Start with the core idea, and turn it into a strong element that you can bring to your audience. Then, let evolution do its work and see where it goes. I’m sure that, in the end, you will even surprise yourself about the direction it took.