Confessions of a Pokemaniac
Posted on Friday, November 7 2008 @ 11:28:11 Eastern
Today on Serebii.net I was browsing through they’re in-depth pokedex and I suddenly realized something, something that has not crossed my mind in years. Pokemon is pretty damn old now. Maybe not as ancient as most game franchises are, like Tetris, Pac-Man, Mario or Zelda, but it now has over ten years on their belts notched ever since the game graced the game boy back in 1997. And with the Pokemon Platinum released in Japan back in September, chances are it will grace the U.S shores sometime in April again, marking it the 14th game in the normal series of the Pokemon RPG games.
For a franchise that has sold over 175 million units in a little over ten years, that is impressive in it’s own right. And let’s be serious for a second, almost everyone growing up in the late 1990’s played pokemon on the handheld, watched that still awful tv show on the WB, bought, traded and played the collectable card game (with two shiny rare Charizards that I once got $200 for one of them.) Hell, pokemanics who won’t be afraid to admit it can still name the exact statistics and strategies that you need to take down Mewtwo without the use of the Masterball.
But I digress. Over ten years old, Pokemon is still going strong on the handheld, and in Nintendo’s fold of cash in games. The series has spawned one of the cultural phenomenons of the past few years, and is still a benchmark for pop culture today. Where as phenomenons like Pogs and My Little Ponies have faded into pure obscurity, Pokemon is going strong after eleven years.
Why is that? Why is it that some random game that is offensively Japanese, is totally kid friendly, has more cute creatures than a pet shop and really has remained unchanged since the first game came out, still the number one seller on the handhelds? Also, why is it that a lot of the elder fans of the game shun their roots from it?
The first question is easy, and it has to do with appeal and gameplay design. The Pokemon’s appeal as a kid friendly title is part of it, but it is also the appeal of catching and collecting creatures to do battle with. That core game concept keeps players going back for more, to find rare and exclusive creatures to fill out a collection, and collecting the Pokemon is just one half of the rubrics cube. The second part, the gameplay design, and keeps those players hooked (even if they won’t admit it.) The game has very deep and well thought out strategic elements that have evolved over time to create one of the better strategy battle games on the market.
The limit of four attacks a Pokemon is pretty much put down into a science by most poke maniacs. They know what to use on whom with what attack, and who has the broadest chance of hitting an opponent. The games statistics are also highly detailed. Depending on the type of one’s Pokemon, the type of attack, attack strength, and if the attack is a physical or special attack, will calculate the damage you can do to an opponent. Likewise, defense and speed is categorized in the same fashion, all of which is coupled with a base statistic score that can range between 60-120, not to mention the augmenting effects of stat boosters and reducers.
Any given pokemaniac can sit down, calculate what is needed, and win a battle accordingly, which is why the game has such a broad appeal with a lot of age groups. Hell, kids who have grown up with the game, on average, still play it today, because of the deep strategy elements in the game. Some of the biggest tournaments worldwide are in Pokemon, granted the rules are different somewhat depending on what tourney your participating in, but the competitive battle scene is really deep and engrossing.
And that is just the game itself. The card game has a great appeal as well, like Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh, and continues to pump out four sets a year with constant updates to the gameplay mechanics. Pokemon’s influence is not just in pop culture, but also in other venues all over the world. The Thanksgiving Day parade, the infamous ANA Boeing 747 with Pokemon inked on the sides, hell, a new protein was named after Pikachu by scientists early in 2008.The influence is totally widespread.
But still, there are those who have played the games, were engrossed into the statistical nature of the battle system, even religiously watched the anime every day through recordings and video releases, yet have shunned it as a phase, like it was something to grow out of. And I bet some people took it even further and did extreme things, like go see the Pokemon Live! Show or write Pokemon fan fiction where Ash and Misty are rocking the casaba. (Incidentally, I have a fanfiction on Serebii.net if you want to read it, it’s an original story so don’t worry too much about it.) Yes, with every great fad there is a lot of excess, but when the fad is still going strong after all these years, perhaps it is time to embrace it once more. You can't just grow out of a game series you like. You can move on to better (or sometimes worse) games, but you will never stop loving a game from your past that you played, even with all of the flaws it may have or the image it presents to you.
I am a pokemaniac and I’m not ashamed of it, and everyone else who loves the games from their youth should not be either. You may have moved on from the cuteness of Pokemon, but the core gameplay, the strategic merits that can be learned to help with cognitive thinking, still exist in the cartridges memory banks. You would be doing yourself a favor to play the adventures again, even if it’s just for nostalgia’s sake. I can guarantee, the inner pokemaniac in you won’t complain about it.
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