It’s hard to believe there’s a new Pokemon game already! I have a really unfulfilling history with the Pokemon series that can be traced back right to where all of it started…Pokemon Blue and Red. After getting my Charmander and crew all the way to just before the Elite Four, my buddy who wanted to trade some of my Pokemon over to his game took my stuff home with him and accidentally deleted my save. I had put so much effort into my little monster buddies at that point that I was not only discouraged from starting up again, I didn’t even go out and buy the next couple main sequels. Enter Pokemon Diamond. I had finally decided that it was time to jump back into that crazy world and give it another go. Pre-order and midnight purchase, the whole nine. Since so much time had passed since I last played anything named Pokemon, there was roughly ten million more creatures than there used to be. So…I figured Diamond would mean a clean slate. I was super excited and the game was great but for some reason, mentally, I just wasn’t 100% into it. My circle of friends was so fully engulfed in the fantasy (and true possibility) of obtaining all known Pokemon that having a complete Pokedex to prove it was crucial. As far as my game went…I took Torterra as high as possible and ran the Elite Four until I won, then put the game away forever. Maybe I was intimated by my two best friends’ pseudo “race” to complete the Pokedex and was turned off to the whole experience. Maybe I just didn’t like Pokemon games as much as I thought I did. Whatever the reasons may be, I wasn’t all that invested in it. I went back into my abyss of Pokemon ‘meh’ and waited to see if the remakes of Silver and Gold would finally awaken the true Pokemon Master that I thought was in me. Another no go. I didn’t even get half-way through before I put that game back into its case on my shelf for the rest of eternity.
So WHAT THE FUCK? Why do I keep trying this shit? Do I even really like Pokemon? I’m card carrying member of the RPG Fanboy Organization and these games are well made, long and heavy-grind centered completion fests. Almost everything I love about RPGs… :/. I think my final realization on why Pokemon didn’t resonate with me as much as it should are the same realizations people have been ignoring about Pokemon games all along. Every game is exactly the same…starts and ends the same way, same “new” monsters with the exact same types. Same catch ’em, random battle ’em in the grass, battle ’em against trainers, beat the elite four with ’em, brag about ’em to your friends FUCKING FORMULA. Game Freak knows what they have and are business savants for refusing to change the core functions of it. They’ve even gone as far to say that a true console Pokemon RPG won’t ever see the light of day because the vision of what Pokemon IS is what it ALREADY IS. OK, that’s cool guys…that doesn’t really bother me. I just can’t keep playing the same damn thing over and over with a fresh new coat of paint and tell myself that it’s anything but the same old shit. There had to be some sort of significant growth to the series before I would spend my money on another iteration. Now, since I’m very aware that they won’t usher in any discussable changes, maybe it was I who could change the experience!
Black and White are now out and I was there at midnight, exiting my store of choice with renewed ambition and a copy of White. Pokemon White, which is sure to contain the same now embarrassingly tired (but extremely profitable) formula that we’ve known since Day 1. So why? What has changed or will change? Isn’t the definition of insanity to do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results each time? Despite what people might say about me, I’m not insane and I have a fucking plan. If they won’t change, the way I’ll play the game is going to change. In some idle Pokemon related internet wanderings my friend Jon came across an interesting rule set for anyone who wanted to challenge themselves with an alternative Pokemon experience. There were many different versions of the same core idea but the two rules that stuck out to me the most were:
1. You can only attempt to catch the first Pokemon you encounter in each area. If you fail to catch it, you move on and do not attempt to catch anything else in that area ever again and carry on with your current party. If you do catch it, add it to your party then discontinue any attempts to catch anything else in that area ever again.
2. If a Pokemon faints during battle it must be treated as dead and released. You may not go back and catch another Pokemon in the area where you caught it (or anything else in that are cause you only get one try remember?) or take it to a Pokemon Center for healing. The one exception is your starter, which ends up as the cornerstone of your adventure because well, if it ever had to be released then you’d be fucked.
So! Pretty interesting. When I read this concept for the first time I was immediately blown away. Is this possible? What sort of Hero of Golyat could even accomplish such a ridiculous task? I guess the main idea here is that it’s a much more serious, quite possibly more realistic experience that seems much closer to what Ash did in the show. It was so crazy that it just might work. It just might break me out of my Pokemon slump once and for all.
And there I was at my store of choice, doing something I never thought I’d do again with the dream of creating my own special Pokemon experience. And here I am now, eight hours in to the latest ‘collect ’em all’ and having by far the best experience of my officially documented Pokemon life. I’m so excited about this that my post today isn’t really to talk about my previous experiences at all but to describe why I’m already having so much more fun than I ever have playing Pokemon.
First things first. This is Callo, and yes I chose female. The mains are clearly a little bit older this time around…I don’t know why, but they certainly are NOT the original concept 10 year olds that they used to be. I’m endlessly amused/aroused? by the really gratuitous short shorts butt-shot that I’m treated to when Callo or “White” throws her Pokeball at the beginning of every single battle.
Not a bad way to start my new Pokemon life.
So I’ve got Callo and I’ve gone through the insanely familiar opening moments (town with four houses, a couple of a friends/rivals, learn about pokeballs/dex, pick a starter between grass/fire/water and finally freedom to roam the world) when I get to Route 1 and realize that if I’m truly following this new format then the first battle I get into will be extremely important because if I don’t catch the first thing I see I’m going to be kinda fucked for quite a while. I hesitated to even step into the grass, actually. This moment was so much more serious than it ever had been before. When I finally did take that first step, my first and last random soon-to-be subordinate in Route 1 was this fucking brosauce:
It was a Wild Lillipup. I guess I should explain that I purposefully avoided anything Pokemon over the last few years…so when I seem overly surprised or excited upon seeing new things that most people would at this point consider pretty common, don’t judge me. This fucking brosef right here was just begging to be Snivy’s partner in crime and I couldn’t have been more pumped when I caught him after throwing my first ball without even attacking him (I was worried Snivy might one-shot him and thus lose my chance forever at a Route 1 Pokemon). Now that I had him, I knew that (unless he died) Lillipup would be a true bro for a long time. One of the virtues of this new way to play Pokemon was that this Lillipup was going to have to be trained. I needed him to be just as strong as Snivy because I would be heading into a Gym Leader battle with possibly just two Pokemon! It was a pretty epic feeling that did a lot to connect me with this Lillipup. I couldn’t catch more to find a certain nature I was looking for or a slightly higher leveled Lillipup. The one I got was the one I had to keep and that endeared me to this little puppy much more than any that I’ve ever had in the past. So I started training him to a point where Lillipup was equal to my Snivy and I was confident that I could move on. Along the way I happened to notice the other Pokemon that inhabited Route 1: Patrat. Sadly I couldn’t catch him due to my rules, but it did seem like my first encounter in the grass yielded me the slightly more rare of the two.
I carried on past Route 1 and found that not only was my Lillipup a beast, it seemed like when the time came for him to step into a battle of some import, he would be able to hold his own. This observation revealed something to me about this game series that I feel has been lost on a lot of people. There are over 150 Pokemon in this game, but sure as the sun sets…a “top tier” system will be established and many people will fall into line and use the “best” Pokemon regularly, something that always pissed me off. It makes me proud to know that this challenge will be forcing me to use, mostly exclusively, Pokemon that I would never have even thought of using in the past. I won’t be all that surprised if I find myself rolling around with whatever Lillipup’s evolved state is when I come knockin’ on the Elite Four’s front door, and that’s a good feeling.
No gym in the second town so onto Route 2 and whatever Pokemon my first battle yielded. Ah yes! A Patrat!
Feeling very accomplished I took my Patrat (and his CRUUUAAZZZY red eyes) onto the first gym in the next town. If you’re not keeping track yet…the rules have only afforded me three total Pokemon. They are bros, to be sure, but will Snivy, Lillipup and Patrat be able to get me my first badge? I spent the necessary time bonding with my Patrat and helped him get on a comparable level with his other two homies. The crazy thing about battling in this new system is that you have to approach things so much differently than you would if you knew you had an endless supply of Pokemon. If I see an enemy Pokemon charging up his power, no matter what HP my Lillipup is at I have to switch Snivy in because the risk of losing Lillipup is just too high. It may seem like there’s always an easy out knowing that Snivy can repeteadly take one for the team…but it’s not that simple. If Snivy takes a hard blow and is knocked out during a match, I have to have Pokemon in place that will be able to carry on the rest of the battle. Also, there are times when some crazy Pokemon critical hits you, one-shots your ass and you’re left crying…you have to be immensely careful and watch the weaknesses continuously. I almost feel like I’m playing it a way that’s much closer to the intent of the developers. Yeah, I can assemble a team of super 1337 badasses and guarantee victory against every trainer and gym I come across, or I can be diligent with my randoms, perform the necessary training and win out with the power of perseverance. It’s obviously not impossible to play this game without a very prioritized team of super effective Pokemon, and I’m learning that even these Route 1 and 2 “throw-away” Pokemon are actually quite good.
I win the battle and get my first badge. Feelin’ really good so far and I’m incredibly anxious to see what random Pokemon I get to add to the Bro Squad in Route 3. But there’s a little dungeon off to the right that I missed and a person gives me a POKEMON!! ENTER BROMEO #4:
Panpour is a little water monkey and he’s obviously a bro. I’ve learned that even with my silly rules, the game isn’t fucking me over as much as I thought and throwing five normal types at me this early on in the game. Panpour’s water element supplements my Snivy pretty well and I’ve got a great feeling about my team that’s now four strong.
Whelp, that’s where I’m at currently. Through hard work and smarts I’ve been able to avoid a death as of yet. This whole idea sort of hinges on me having the integrity to release a Pokemon if it does fall in battle though, so when that time comes I guess I’ll find out if I’m a real man or not. It would absolutely break my heart to have to let any of these true heroes go, but that’s the contract I’ve signed with myself. I’m happy that I’m finally seeing Pokemon in a positive light. It’s kinda funny that I wasn’t able to understand the true beauty of the design until I forced myself to change the way I played it and let go of the notion that your party had to be composed a certain way to find success…and I had thought myself pretty observant!
The Justice For All part of title is a reference to Phoenix Wright 2 because I’ve just beaten it. One of the best games ever made…won’t try to do any of it ‘justice’ right now…but I’m definitely scared about where any of those Phoenix Wright games will place on the list.