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Hall of Fame: Pokémon

 

It’s that time again people, it’s time for us to celebrate another entry into the GodisaGeek.com Hall of Fame. We all know that video games are knocking at the door to be entered into our prestigious Hall of Fame but only a single game per month can actually make it. This month, the honour goes to…

Pokémon!

Over the years that Pokemon games – the ones with the coloured suffix, Silver, Gold, Black, White, etc – have been released almost all of us will have played one of them at one time or another; most of those people then lost a couple of hours of their lives. Here are just a few of those people…

Benjamin talks about the history of the Pokemon “Colour” titles and his quest to “Catch ’em All”.

Benjamin Maltbie: My natural inclination here is to write about the “colour” titles in the Pokemon series; the main entries and, quite frankly, the heavy hitters. However, after some careful thought, it seems foolish to separate the games from pop culture successes they’ve given birth to. Pikachu is everywhere, from toys to shows to games to movies. If you haven’t got even a cursory knowledge of the critter, then there is simply no way you’ve been even remotely cognizant over the last decade and a half.

Pokemon Title Screen

By creating a game that can be played on so many levels, within the confines of a franchise that appeals to parents, kids, and whatever demographic I am a part of, the “colour” titles have managed to sell an obscene amount of copies. Parents see cute critters, tales of friendships and morals. Older crowds see a competitive environment; one of a small number of competitive environments RPG fans have available to them.

And what makes it such a competitive environment? What possesses “trainers” to EV train and IV breed their Pokemon? Why do players care about the “natures” of their digital army?

My theory is that the franchise as a whole is what makes mastering the game so enticing; its undeniable popularity.

Honing your skills in Call of Duty is a brag-worthy endeavour simply because of the large following the game has. Conversely, nobody cares if you consider yourself a master in the Kane and Lynch multiplayer. I have some track records in Banjo Kazooie: Nuts N Bolts and not a soul cares; understandably so.

Pokemon is the same deal. League of Legends is another example. As a franchise grows, the rewards of practice grow too. There is a larger audience willing to appreciate your virtual skills and I assert that a significant portion of addiction, at least on a personal level, is derived from that drive. There are World Tournaments for this game. That’s a huge achievement.

Pokemon Battle Screen

Add the competitive obsession and mass appeal to the persistent quest to “catch ‘em all,” — a quest I have been on since I was ten years old — and you have a series that deserves its fifteen year reign. You just can’t undermine the achievement of a game that, despite few gameplay changes since its début, manages to remain fun after all this time.

Ryan talks about his love of the franchise as a whole and it’s impact on general culture.

Ryan Sandrey: If I was anywhere but inside my own home, you can bet I had a Game Boy with me. Be it a Game Boy Colour, Advance or Advance SP, whenever I visited anywhere in my childhood, my trusty companion would travel with me. I’d only need one or two games to keep me busy, and they were always Pokemon games.

The reason for this is simple, they were addictive, entertaining, enthralling and interesting no matter what you did in them. There was no unnecessarily complicated game mechanics, there was a wide range of tie-in items that you simply had to own as a child (I think the amount of Pokemon trading cards I owned would equal about half of a small rainforest in pulp at its highest) and you knew as soon as you sat down to have another play of it that you’d be there for the long run.

The difficulty curve was forgiving, provided you levelled up your Pokemon to the necessary levels and learned all of the types, strengths and weaknesses. It was a child’s RPG, in simplest terms, but it was never alienating; even children who weren’t gamers, or are no longer gamers as they’ve grown up, still respond fondly to the mention of Pokemon.

The games were never about being purely for one set of fans, they were for everyone, and though, as more and more of the games come out and they run out of colours to name them, there is still a common element throughout the series, no matter how many innovations they add. Whether it’s Johto, Kanto, Hoenn or Sinnoh in which you choose to control a ten year old animal tamer, there is still something undeniably familiar about everything you do, without it feeling like you’ve been short-changed by the latest instalment.

Pokemon Gold Title Screen

Even today, sixteen years after the release of the first games in Japan, there are still more and more people discovering Pokemon and falling in love with it. ‘Hall of Fame’ is all about classic games, and if the games it discusses have even some of the far-reaching impact that Pokemon and its many games has, then they will be considered long-term successes. Pokemon isn’t a long term gaming success, it’s a long-term cultural success.

Whether it was cursing Zubat every time it appeared when traversing one of the many caves in Pokemon Blue, or simply the lecturing telepathy of various professors throughout the regions whenever I tried to ride my bike indoors, Pokemon imprinted in me a deep love of RPGs and a deep and varied understanding of its quirks and universe and took, for its reward, most of my time with it. The love it nurtured in me still exists to this day, and when a new game comes out, I still have to stop myself from instantly buying both releases and trying to ‘catch ’em all’. Game Freak, thank you.

Colm talks about his first encounter with the game that would end up being a classic.

Colm Ahern: The Pokedex, a Pikachu teddy, the iconic baseball cap, stickers, trading cards, I loved everything about Pokemon growing up. The cartoon mesmerised me with its vibrant colours and ever-changing roster of characters, constantly keeping it fresh whilst growing relationships among the staple of Ash, Misty, and Brock. Then, one day at school I played the game on another fella’s Game Boy. The game he showed me was an RPG. “Ugh” I uttered. At that age I didn’t want to sink tens of hours into a Game Boy game (plus I didn’t have a Game Boy) when I had other stuff to do like; consume Hot Cups, run around, eat bowls of Frosties, etc. Then, I realised what I was playing…

“Poke, Pokemon!?!?!”. I was instantly sold. Went home after the final bell rang and demanded (read: asked nicely) that my mother get me a Game Boy and Pokemon Blue – because everyone else had Red and I was a non-conformist, even at that age. Thankfully she did, and it remains one of my favourite games of all time.

Pokemon - Blue

There were some similarities between the game and TV show, but a lot of the main characters were not present. I did feel a little bit cheated at that point, but I soon realised I was playing a classic. The game will always instil memories of swapping pocket monsters with my friends at the back of class, while the teacher is trying to teach us what multiplication is.