Thursday, 2 February 2017

Pokemon: 20 Years Late to the Party

Most people have this or that popular game series that they've never played before. I'm no different. In fact, there are quite a few big name series that I've not played. One of the most notable of the bunch is Pokemon. When the series first started, I was already in college and the game just didn't interest me. My priorities were different, there were a lot of really good RPGs already gobbling up my time (FFVII, Suikoden, and Wild Arms to name a few), and I pretty much wrote off Pokemon as a game for kids since most of the people playing it were tiny little rug rats.

Now, a good 20 years on, I finally decided to actually try a game in the series, and started with Pokemon Red, as I figured I might as well start with an early game and go from there if I decide to explore the series further.

So far, the experience has been alright. It's quite obvious that the game is geared toward a younger audience. The battle system is very simple, even compared to other RPGs at the time. The main challenge has come in figuring out which creatures are strong or weak against which other creatures. It actually reminds me of the Shin Megami Tensei games where combat has a similar underlying premise much of the time. There's a little bit of a learning curve in these sort of battle systems (assuming players don't take the easy way out and just download a chart detailing what beats what), but once one gets the hang of it things get quite fun exploiting enemies' weaknesses.

While there is that basic similarity in the two games' combat systems, one thing that Pokemon has which SMT doesn't is this underlying sense of optimism. SMT is just dark with it so often focusing on demons and angels fighting for control, and neither of them being particularly good choices for humanity. While it's not Warhammer 40K levels of grim dark, the world of SMT is not a happy place. Meanwhile, things are smiles and sunshine in Pokemon. Ash is out exploring the world, trying to discover as many pokemon as he can while challenging other collectors of these creatures, striving to be the best at what he does.

Maybe the two games are reflections of their audiences with Pokemon having generally younger players full of optimism, while SMT fans tend to skew older and developed a thick shell of cynicism. It is what it is, but I couldn't help but dwell on this difference for a time.

So far, I have been enjoying my time with the game. I'm definitely taking a more casual approach with it. It's a lot simpler than I'm used to when it comes to these sort of games, but I've been enjoying exploring the game world and trying to find all these different creatures that have since become so popular in video game lexicon. My first pokemon was a Squirtle, which I thought was adorable, and I was quite pleased to be able to capture an honest to goodness Pikachu early on in the game. Now I'm starting to see some of these guys evolve into stronger creatures, which is pretty exciting if I do say so myself.

There's still a ton I have to do in the game, collecting a bunch of badges, never mind pokemon. So, I'm going to be busy for the next while. The game hasn't made me into any sort of Pokemon true believer or anything, but it has proven enjoyable enough. It's certainly made me curious enough to try other, slightly more current installments in there series somewhere down the line.