It’s January 2020 and I think I’m hooked on a Pokémon game more than I ever have been, which is kind of wild considering I was obsessed with the series when it was all the rage in the late nineties, and from 2013-2017 I played nearly every iteration in the series as part of a “grand ambition” to, literally, catch ‘em all. Pokémon Sword and Shield, the newest entries and the ones I find myself wanting to play every night, are just fantastic. Their foundational mechanics aren’t all that different from previous games in the series (a blessing and a curse) but Game Freak has introduced engaging new features and implemented smart quality of life improvements. The games aren’t perfect; performance and network issues bog down some of the cooler features for instance, but on the whole they’re masterfully refined and endlessly addictive. Continue reading Pokemon Sword and Shield [Switch] – Review→
Anticipation and apathy; for me, that was the prerelease cycle for the newest entries in the Pokémon series. As a lifelong fan, I couldn’t help getting excited with the reveal of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!, especially since they would hold such a unique place in the franchise. The developers, Game Freak, intended to bridge the gap between the long-running “core” series and Pokémon Go, the still popular mobile game that was a worldwide craze when it launched in July 2016. As information was disseminated however, my anticipation turned to apathy, doubtful about adjustments being made to accommodate features of the mobile game. Then, on the day of its release it hit me: there would be a new Pokémon game waiting for me when I got home! I was excited again, and that excitement remained all the way through my nostalgic journey of Kanto. Continue reading Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! [Switch] – Review→
Roaming Pokémon are the worst. I’ve been nearing the end of my Pokémon Y playthrough and just gained access to one of the few available legendary Pokémon. Unlike the few others that are located in caves, this particular one roams the region. It’s such a pain in the ass to catch though I don’t know that I’ll even put in the time to obtain it. This isn’t a new concept for the series but it is one rarely utilized. I’m generally not one to play armchair quarterback but as my frustration grew Sunday morning, I thought about what I’d do to improve upon the concept. It’s one I theoretically like, especially applied to the Pokémon games, I just wish it was implemented differently in this instance.
In the Pokémon games, beating the Elite Four and champion is one of the core goals; doing so signals that you’re the strongest trainer in the region. Afterwards, there’s additional content that becomes available. It’s generally not much but in Pokémon X and Y, it seems especially barren. Regarding X and Y, every player’s first encounter with a wild Pokémon in the post-game will always be with one of the legendary birds. It’s different based on which starter Pokémon was picked at the beginning of the game. Since I picked Froakie, the legendary Pokémon available to me was Moltres.
This first encounter is just a tease as the Pokémon immediately flees. Now however, the Pokémon’s entry has been somewhat completed in the Pokédex, at least enough to track it and see where it’s currently located. At this point, there’s primarily two ways to tackle this capture: passively try to catch it as the post-game content is naturally completed or while focusing on other objectives, or actively try to pursue it. Since there’s not a ton of post-game content and I’m merely “passing through” this game on my way to Omega Ruby, I actively tried catching it.
The method of actively pursuing a roaming Pokémon I’m most familiar with entails going back and forth between two routes or a route and a town in the hopes that it will appear in the desired route. This becomes a tedious task quickly as the player buttons through layers of menus to get to the Pokédex to locate if the Pokémon is nearby. If it isn’t, cross that border and back into the desired route and check again. Luck is a factor in the sense that it’s rarely on the player’s side when tracking roaming Pokémon. And, something as simple as flying to where the roaming Pokémon is won’t work as it will be somewhere else by the time the player touches down.
If that Pokémon is on the current route, the player can still mess up their opportunity to encounter it. For instance, if the first Pokémon of the player’s party is of a higher level, the roaming Pokémon won’t appear. In fact, if you encounter another Pokémon, say a wild Flabébé 70 levels the junior to the first Pokémon in the player’s party, that roaming Pokémon is now somewhere else. The so-called legendary is afraid to fight something a piddly wild Pokémon will gladly step up to. WHAT!? Even if a weak Pokémon is in the first spot of the party and the roaming Pokémon is in the current route, there’s still no guarantee that it’ll be encountered. And if a wild Pokémon is encountered instead, that roaming Pokémon is likely somewhere else.
It can be frustrating and at the very least, time consuming. The roaming Pokémon in X and Y eventually settles down in a cave after ten encounters. But still, that’s ten encounters when I’ve had trouble getting a second! So, what would I do differently? One implementation stuck out to me immediately and it’s primarily what I’ll posit. There’s plenty of ways to alter this concept too but it’s only now that I’m shifting gears towards constructive criticism that I realize I really just wanted to rant. Still, I’ll elaborate on a different method of including roaming Pokémon that may be less frustrating than the current one.
First off, instead of introducing the roaming Pokémon after the game’s been beaten, I’d instead introduce it during the lead up. I’m of two minds on how to: randomly or through a predetermined encounter. Introducing it through a random encounter would mean a different experience for every player. For some, it may be the first wild Pokémon they encounter; others may not see it at all during their playthrough. This randomness would make the encounter more impactful, like running across a shiny Pokémon, although I’d want the chance of seeing it much higher than seeing a shiny Pokémon (roughly 1/4096 for the current generation). Perhaps the best method would be through a predetermined encounter, with future appearances requiring the hunt; basically just changing the timing of the Pokémon’s initial availability.
The legendary Pokémon almost always appear at a preset level which could break the game’s difficulty if one was encountered early on and somehow caught. They could instead have a scalable level based on when they’re encountered. I’d scale it such that it can still wallop the player’s party but a skilled player may be able to inflict a status condition or throw a Poké Ball. That would entail allowing the player to get a move off whereas currently, the Pokémon flees before the menus on the touch screen even appear. I’ve caught legendary Pokémon by throwing a Poké Ball out as my first move and let me tell you, it’s pretty satisfying!
As I thought, I wound up wanting to rant more than to offer constructive advice. At least, offering detailed constructive advice because really, simply introducing the roaming Pokémon sooner would alleviate a lot of my grief. With my current chase, I feel like actively pursuing Moltres is the only option since there’s so little post-game content. If I was sticking with this game longer, this whole topic would be a moot point. I’ve already got Omega Ruby queued up and if I’m going to spend dozens of hours with a game to complete the Pokédex, it’ll likely be that one since it’s the most recent release. As it stands, tracking this Pokémon down and attempting to catch it is a pain in my ass and likely one I won’t continue to endure.
When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.
I don’t fully recall how I came to own Drill Dozer but I imagine I acquired it from Best Buy a year or so after its release. I remember reading about it in Nintendo Power at the time. It seemed interesting, especially because it was something different from Game Freak, and it was well received, but it wasn’t for me. This, more than likely, was because I didn’t have a job at the time. As best as I can remember, it played like a cross between Mr. Driller and a Treasure side-scroller akin to Gunstar Heroes. It looked fantastic, had a unique premise, and I don’t remember it being terrible, although I didn’t finish it. Thinking about it now, I ought to return to it.
Drill Dozer was developed by Game Freak (you know, the Pokémonstudio) and published in North America by Nintendo on February 6, 2006. This was a Game Boy Advance game, and as the Nintendo DS had been released about a year-and-a-half earlier, I imagine this would’ve been one of Nintendo’s final GBA games. It, along with WarioWare: Twisted, were the only GBA games that utilized a rumble feature.
A retread of the region of Sinnoh, Pokémon Platinum is an enhanced remake of Diamond and Pearl – the fourth generation of Pokémon games and the ones that ushered in the era of the Nintendo DS. Released in the spring of 2009, two years after its predecessors, it’s a game that I never played until now. Nonetheless, the remake sticks so closely to its predecessors that little feels unfamiliar. Like everything before it, it’s a solid entry that refines the classic formula but does little to improve upon it.
As I did with Emerald, I started in an uncommon way. Thanks to owning multiple handhelds and games, I was able to start with all three starters. Not only that, since some were traded, they earned 1.5x experience and leveled faster than normal. Due to this, the difficulty ranged from pushover to frustrating. At points, my Pokémon would grow too strong and would only listen to me occasionally. This was very frustrating! About four gym leaders in (out of eight) this wasn’t much of a concern anymore. The only other time I had issues was facing the Elite Four. Conquering them required grinding – but it seemed like less compared to Emerald.
This generation introduced many new features, although for my purposes, there’s little that I wanted to, or could, interact with. Arguably the biggest feature was the introduction of online trading and battling. With the Nintendo WFC shutdown now, this is a nonstarter though. The next most important introduction would probably be the use of the touch screen via the Pokétech. Consisting of twentyish apps, the majority of them are useless novelties. This was the biggest lost opportunity. Naturally, there were more Pokémon introduced and many more gameplay additions and tweaks too.
If the poor use of the touch screen was the biggest lost opportunity, perhaps the second would be the lackluster visuals. The environments – routes, dungeons, and towns – are set on 2D backgrounds, but for the first time, use 3D accents. Buildings, trees, and other objects are displayed in such a way that they pop up and out visually. Battles however, still show off the battling Pokémon in flat 2D drawings that offer little animation. There’s probably more fidelity than in previous games, but it’s hard to tell.
Being three mainline games into my Grand Ambition at this point, it’s very easy for the games to run together and seem less distinct. With the major new addition to the series obsolete today, Pokémon Platinum had little to offer in newness. The most enticing new feature was the Pokémon themselves. Going back and capturing the Pokémon that I did back in high school was a comforting task. Sinnoh wasn’t as memorable a region for me as Hoenn was, but it was still nice to go back. This, despite the fact that most of the additions were either poor or unused by me, as I focused nearly solely on beating the game and capturing the legendaries.
Classically, the mainline Pokémon games come in threes. The first two launch together while the third, usually an enhanced amalgamation of the previous two, releases about a year later. Pokémon Emerald is the enhanced remake of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire – the first two Pokémon games on the Game Boy Advance. I adored Ruby when it released in my freshman year of high school. I clocked well over 200 hours with it before moving on. After retiring LeafGreenand Colosseum, I was interested in starting Emerald and returning to Hoenn as it had been ten years since I last saw it.
Returning to Hoenn brought back many memories. As I crisscrossed the expansive island, I remembered specific towns, routes, and completing specific objectives. Not everything was familiar though. I couldn’t remember some of the smaller story beats. The series is host to light and airy narratives though, so this wasn’t a surprise. Whereas players were confronted with Team Aqua or Team Magma in Ruby and Sapphire, players had to contend with both in Emerald. These groups aren’t necessarily evil like Team Rocket, but their goals of enacting massive changes to Hoenn’s ecosystem were potentially world ending.
The Battle Frontier was heavily marketed as the defining feature of Emerald when it released back in the middle of 2005. Personally, the battle facilities that have been introduced in the series haven’t appealed to me too much. This one hasn’t stolen too much of my time either. I appreciate being able to win harder to find evolutionary items and spotlighting the various battle styles is fantastic, but I’ve never put too much time into these. I’m more of a breeder than a fighter. The Battle Frontier is massive though and there is plenty there to entertain diehard fighters.
Really, those are the major differences between Ruby and Sapphire and Emerald. Perhaps the most notable of the minor alterations was Game Freak’s adjustments of wild Pokémon locations and the ability to capture both Groudon and Kyogre. Oh, and the Pokémon battles featured minor amounts of animation, like Crystal did prior. This generation was host to many new additions. Prime among them were double battles, contests, weather, the ability to dive, and many, many other novelties and mechanics.
This awesome building was one of the attractions at the Battle Frontier.
Pokémon Emerald is the first enhanced remake in the series that I’ve completed (discounting LeafGreen and HeartGold, I guess). All in all, the additions and alterations make this the most feature packed between Ruby, Sapphire, and it, but it doesn’t make those games obsolete. I would find it grueling to play this immediately after playing one of those, so if you’re attempting a series playthrough as I am, pick one. The major changes may seem minor, but a comprehensive changelog of all changes would be immense. An older Pokémon game like this isn’t for everybody though, so only Pokémaniacs need apply. I fit the bill too! It’d been forever since I journeyed across Hoenn and it was a pleasant return.
I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon HeartGold in my free time lately. One thing that I like about it is the user interface. Because it’s on the Nintendo DS it can take advantage of the system’s touch screen. Now you think it working fine would be a no-brainer. A menu heavy role-playing game on a system with a touch screen should work well, and HeartGold does. I guess my whole point in bringing this up is because of how little Game Freak utilized the touch screen in Pokemon Diamond/Pearl.
In that generation of Pokemon games the touch screen was used terribly outside of battles. The normal action took place entirely on the top screen while occupied on the bottom screen were twenty or so mostly useless doodads. The bottom screen was a Swiss Army knife of crap. Navigation of menus could sometimes be done through the bottom screen, but the icons were so small and positioned as to be nearly useless. On the other hand, the bottom screen was utilized well in battles.
In battle there were four options. Instead of the prompts being of equal size and therefore of equal importance, the battle option was very prominent. After selecting it, the next choices are what moves to use and these are evenly divided between a Pokemon’s four options; even when using an item or switching to another Pokemon in battle, the user interface is easy to use.
HeartGold makes no improvements of the user interface in battles but menus outside of battles are totally revamped. In HeartGold (and SoulSilver mind you) the menu is readily available on the bottom screen. Thanks to this improved accessibility, and the navigation that’s miles ahead of where it was in Diamond/Pearl, I play the game nearly exclusively with a stylus. I remember thinking to myself when I played Diamond that buttons were much faster thanks to the poor implementation, not so in HeartGold/SoulSilver.
I grew up on Pokemon games so I have a lot of love for the series, hence this article. Plus, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately and thought I’d write about it. At this point HeartGold is two years old and it’s not even in the most current generation of Pokemon games any more, Pokemon Black/White take that honor. I haven’t played those yet (my thoughts on those two are a whole other article haha) so I wonder what kinds of improvements – if any – were made in those games.