Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pokemon: Gotta Improve 'em All

There have been five generations of Pokemon games since the original release of Red and Blue (or Red and Green in Japan). Each new release has brought minor changes or new features that have generally pushed the series a little closer to perfection. The original games captured the minds of many children because of clever game design and a great understanding of what children would find fun. Players could embark on a journey that lets them travel to different towns, explore caves and dungeons with mysterious Pokemon and even become the world’s best Pokemon trainer. Even after defeating the eight gym leaders and plowing your way through the elite four and the Champion, there is still more to do. You can try to finish your Pokedex which means collecting all the Pokemon available (originally 151 but the latest generation has 649 to collect), enter in Pokemon contests or even build a team to compete against other real life players.

Pokemon took full advantage of the hardware available on the Nintendo DS. Players are now able to use their internet connection for battling and trading with others. This made the number of trainers you could battle or trade grow from being only a few friends around your block to anyone in the world who had a wireless internet connection. Game Freak also included a new feature called the Global Trading Center. This allowed for trainers to put up a Pokemon and request any other Pokemon with the ability to specify gender and level. It allowed players to trade efficiently even if they lived in different time zones. The latest Black and White 2 games added the ability download the Champions’ teams of the real life Pokemon tournament winners and see how your own team does against them. This helped introduce competitive battling to a larger audience and showed them how the battle system can actually require skill and strategy instead of just power leveling through like in the regular story mode. Before the DS games had arrived, the only way to get some Pokemon officially (such as Mew in the original Red and Blue) was to attend Nintendo events. However since the release of Diamond and Pearl, users are able to connect to the internet and download the event Pokemon through the Mysterious Gift option making these Pokemon much more accessible to everyone.

I believe the Pokemon games are great but like all great games it has flaws. The first thing that I have noticed in all the Pokemon games I played was the constant random battle. Almost every step I take triggers a random battle, and usually is the same Pokemon over and over again. The battles end up becoming a chore and something that prevents me from enjoying the franchise. You can just buy some Pokemon repel but then you might be under leveled for the next Gym battle. I would love to see the next Pokemon game have a lot less random battles and increase the general experience awarded so the player doesn’t have to grind  to stay at the proper level. It would be great if there was a feature that allowed you to increase or decrease the likelihood of a random encounter. That way if you just want to get to the next area without having to fight too many Pokemon you could do so but if you were in the mood to level up then you could increase the chances.

Another problem with the battle system is that it takes forever to finish a battle or even farm a Pokemon to level 100. Pokemon Stadium and its successor had a feature which allowed players to connect their Pokemon game and play them on their TV. It also allowed for players to speed up the game to almost three times the normal speed which made grinding to level 100 feel like less of a chore. I would love for Game Freak to somehow include this in later generations through an attachment to the Wii or Wii U which they could sell at a reasonable price.

I’m surprised that a New Game + feature has still not been added to the Pokemon series. I would love to play through the story of a Pokemon game again (especially since the Black and White story is much more involved) but the fact that I will lose all my data has prevented me from replaying the story line. The New Game + would allow the player to retain all the items (other than key items) and all Pokemon in their PC and team. This way the player can choose to start fresh and just place their team in a PC box or just plow through the story line with their leveled up team. The argument that many people will state is that people will be able to get duplicates of legendary Pokemon. However simple scripts can prevent those events from triggering again on a second play through so that people cannot abuse the system to get more legendary Pokemon.

The last thing I would love to be added to the Pokemon RPG series is a cloud saving service. After collecting all 493 Pokemon in the Diamond and Pearl generation, I never want to try collecting that many all over again. It would be nice to have my entire Pokemon collection transfer over to the next generation so I wouldn’t have to sit there and manually trade over all Pokemon that I managed to keep on that game. I would then be able to just focus on collecting the new set instead of trying to recapture what I had already did in past games. The cloud saving service would also help reduce the losses whenever someone receives a corrupt save file message and had no other way of backing up their data.

Pokemon has been around for about 14 years starting with the original games on the Gameboy. It is one of the few franchises that has gotten better with every installment and will only continue to grow closer towards perfection as the years go by.  I hope some of the features I have listed here will become available in future generations but only time will tell. I decided to end this post with one of my favorite Pokemon songs from the original Red version:

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