Tuesday, January 15, 2013

To Be the Very Best

To Be the Very Best by T Oliver Prescott on GroovesharkOn January 8th, Nintendo announced a brand new generation of Pokémon games being released in October for the Nintendo 3DS. Since that day the internet has damn near exploded with excitement over Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. Perhaps it speaks to my character and interests, but it feels like everywhere I go online I’m being bombarded with talk about this new entry in the main series of one of Nintendo’s most profitable franchises. Little is known about this new addition to the Pokémon family, but what is known is stirring up quite a bit of excitement. 

First, there will be a worldwide release in October. For the first time ever, I will not have to read all the grand adventures Serebii is having in the Japanese version. I won't have every aspect of the game spoiled for me over the six-to-eight month wait for the North American release. Everyone in the world will be battling their way through Gym Leaders and catching them all concurrently! Second, and most notable, the graphics are a vast overhaul from previous versions. Pokémon X & Y step into the world of modern gaming with 3-dimensional models and maps rather than playing like a RPG from the 90s on 2-dimensional fields.

The Pokémon "Y" and "X" incarnate!

Of course, Pokémon is an RPG from the 90s. It started (in North America) in 1998 and has come a long way, but Pokémon is not a series known for taking bold new steps into uncharted territory. It found a winning formula a decade and a half ago and has stuck to it with much financial success. Each new game typically has improved graphics and tweaked features, moving it ever closer to a perfect mind trap to the collectors and explorers inside us all, but nothing quite as drastic as pulling us into three dimensions. Mario was brave enough to do this back in 1996, but he had been in the video game business for fifteen years. I suppose Pokémon was playing it safe and biding its time as if it were Brock’s Onix about to crush the life out of my Pikachu.

Game Freak's Development Strategy

So we are approaching the 15th anniversary of Pokémon’s debut in North America (17 years for the Japanese readers) and we’re finally seeing something closer to the Pokémon world we've all secretly yearned for. I am pretty excited, but not without some reservations. I've always assumed that Pokémon’s graphics were limited because they needed the cartridge space to cram in all those Pokémon and their move pools. I’m a huge proponent for cutting back on graphics power in order to jam in all kinds of customization options and content - which is something Pokémon has always done! So I am hopeful that the 3DS is finally capable to give us all 700 or so Pokémon and all their attacks and abilities alongside these graphic enhancement, but if there are sacrifices for the sake of graphics, I will be duly disappointed.

The Great Circle of Life

It's a wonder that I'm still playing Pokémon after all these years. I love a classic, traditional Japanese-style RPG with their turn-based battles. Games of that nature are hard to come by in this day and age, so I suppose Pokémon is dependable in that regard. Since very little has changed over the years, and I know that I had fun playing it before, I know I'll have fun playing it again - with new creatures to collect and strategies to employ. Their dedication to remain the same has made the product rather consistent. It appeals to me (and others) because I love to collect and customize. I also love that it has the simplicity a child could grasp, but a hidden depth to training and strategies that I've only barely scratched the surface of in competitive play. Varying layers of depth and complexity is a large draw for me in any genre of games.

Next week I’m planning a mini-series dedicated to my own personal Pokémon journey. Each day I will discuss a new Generation and where I was in my life when I got my hands on those games. Pokémon has been an important part of my life since I first watched the anime series just a week or two prior to the release of the games (great marketing strategy, Nintendo). The theme song alone convinced me that it was my destiny and I've been a fan of the games ever since. Along with "Final Fantasy" series, it’s one of the few franchises I've been a part of since its debut in North America, and also one of the most influential to me as a game player and writer. If you enjoy Pokémon, or random anecdotes about my personal life, then you’re in for a treat next week. If you don’t like either of those things, let’s argue about it in the comments!


Related Links

  • serebii.net - My one stop source for everything Pokémon

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