At the time of writing I’m in the middle of a PCS (Permanent Change of Duty Station) move. In the process of packing up my place, I found this in a drawer.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
My heart swelled with memories and countless lost hours of building my perfect team of Pokemon. I remember playing into the wee hours of the morning, a flashlight clutched between my chin and shoulder, hiding under a sheet to not wake up my brother. I remember the mid-nineties Pokemon fever.
Everyone I knew had the games and the cards. Granted, less than half of the kids knew how to play the card game, but they had them nonetheless. My school actually banned the cards, forcing us to trade in secret between desks or bathroom stalls like drug dealers. The fact they made it something we weren’t supposed to do made it that much more infectious.
We all encouraged our friends to join. Every group had their designated “restart guy” who would restart and trade his starter Pokemon until every member of the group had them. This took a while, considering you usually couldn’t trade until an hour in.
I remember all the good times with Pokemon, and with no hesitation I walked over to my TV remote that hadn’t been packed yet, took the batteries, and placed them inside the GameBoy. Flipping the switch, I was greeted to the Nintendo Logo being blacked out. Pulling out the cartridge, I blew into the port and replaced it. This time, all seemed in order, and away I went.
The Grind Of Pokemon Past
After a six hour flight, then a four hour flight, and then an eighteen hour road trip, I’m a little shy of ten hours in. I want to say this has been a magic time of joy and merriment, but no. Actually, replaying this game made me realize how much of a slog the old Pokemon titles were.
Turns out nostalgia glasses might actually be a blindfold.
It’s not like I’m out of the Pokemon loop: I’ve played as recently as X and Y. This was before I sold my 3DS because I wasn’t playing it enough to justify owning it, and a month later Majora’s Mask was released, after which I put myself on suicide watch. But what I remember about X and Y was that they were actually fun. Replaying Pokemon: Yellow this last month has felt like a chore.
I can already see people rising up and saying the new games are too easy, to which I ask: when was Pokemon ever difficult? Taking five hours to train one Pokemon ten levels to learn a move so you can challenge a gym leader is time-consuming, but it isn’t difficult. I appreciate a good grind just as much as the next guy, but even in Final Fantasy the entire team levels up.
The core mechanics have never changed. Catch, train, and battle has been polished to a mirror shine. Pokemon maintained the mechanics and had continuously built on it for twenty years now.
While playing Yellow all I felt was how slow the movement was, how much of a colossal pain in the ass trading was back in the day, batteries were stupid, and who in the fuck categorized “Gust” as a “Normal” attack?
Making Them Better
Pokemon has tweaked every game just a little since, and every change was a step in the right direction. Experience sharing, running shoes, roller skates, player character customization, mini-games, special events, growing special berries, double and triple battles… the list goes on and on. The series offers the player so much more to do than ever before, and is so much better for it.
Pokemon was busy being awesome while you were surprised it was still around. Someone recently saw a commercial and said “Wow, Pokemon is making a comeback.” There are over 600 critters, nearly 900 episodes of the anime, dozens of games, and roughly 10,000 unique cards. It never went anywhere.
The game is still as infectious as ever. I was the first person in my squad to play Pokemon in years. I picked up White and had a ball a few years ago, and within a few months, almost every specialist and sergeant in my immediate work space had a 3DS. We all went in together for X and Y and soon discovered how easy trading was now. Not to mention that the starters can lay eggs, so it’s become a race to find a Ditto if anything.
We had inner-office tournaments with a dozen trained Army soldiers clamoring for the title of Pokemon master, just to give you an idea of how ubiquitous this series still is.
Pokemon is still awesome, and the original games are classic, and good in their own rights for their respective times. The new games are better, and I have no problem admitting that nostalgia is the reason I’ve been so against admitting that for so long.
Do yourself a favor, and go play some Pokemon. Yes, it’s better now.