The simple joys of Pokemon…

So I’m not working this summer, which means that I’m slacking off and playing video games for three months straight. (Also, going to the Henry Doorly Zoo as often as possible.) To kick off the summer of gaming, I went out an picked up Pokemon White Version. Because I’m an ├╝ber pokenerd. Also, my friend hasBlack Version, so this way we can trade and battle and such. Anyway, I know Pokemon seems kind of like a kids’ game, but I’m here to tell you that’s not the case at all.

I was about 12 when Red and Blue came out. I loved them and played Blue all the fucking time, trading with friends and battling and such. Also, I had Pokemon Stadium for N64, which was nice because it had the fun of battling with awesome killer 3D graphics. Anyway, a few years later I sort of decided I wanted to grow out of it; trading and battling cute cuddly animal-like thingies is all fun and good when you’re in middle school, but high schoolers are supposed to like Grand Theft Auto III and all that nonsense. Also, Final Fantasy X with its obnoxious voice-acting (but awesome gameplay nonetheless). So, I shelved my Pokemon for a few years.

It wasn’t until 2009 when I had some money to burn and I asked my friend, Josh, who is 7 years my senior, for a recommendation for a good RPG. To my surprise, he recommended Pokemon. I was a little confused; he was almost 30, why was he still playing Pokemon? He explained that despite the fact that it was geared towards the younger crowd, it had all the qualities of an amazing RPG. So, I decided to revisit the franchise and picked up Pokemon Platinum Version. My eyes were opened.

Sure, it’s still collecting, trading, and battling cute-and-cuddlies, but the gameplay is where it’s at. The main thing that really takes me back to the days of Final Fantasy III and those games from the early 90s that sucked me into the RPG/strategy world is the difficulty level. You can’t just breeze through the game unless you’re up for a major challenge. In the Pokemon games, each gym represents a major leap in enemy levels, which means you either have to fight an uphill battle and go all-out on the strategy side of things, or you spend countless hours grinding. Honestly, I like grinding, mainly because the RPGs I played growing up all required lots of grinding to build up stats or money for the best weapons and armor.

The other thing that really takes me back about these games is the epic nature of the games. When I first played Platinum, it took me more than 40 hours just to get to the Final Four, and even then the game wasn’t over. I’m a huge fan of epic games when you’ve got such great gameplay. The thing is, once I get sucked into the battle system and the plot, I don’t want it to end. And then, when the main story finally ends, I want more, simply because I’ve devoted so much time and effort to character development and don’t want to just wave goodbye to all my companions. Pokemon totally delivers in this category. On White, I’m about 12 hours in so far and haven’t even gotten to the fourth gym, and then there’s that whole deal with Team Plasma that’s probably going to eat up a fair amount of time. And then the Final Four, and then the after-game jazz, plus playing with friends and such. Not a bad deal for $35.

Also, I love the battle system. With the weaknesses and only being able to know 4 moves and all that jazz, it encourages strategizing. I love games like that. I’m a deliberator; I like to plan things out carefully and go in with a well-formed strategy and everything. That’s why I like RPGs and strategy games.

All in all, Pokemon is a stellar example of an old-school console-style RPG. I am totally happy being a nerd and playing a game designed for preteens. It’s a damn good game and anyone who denies it doesn’t know what they’re talking about.