Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pokemon Party Time!

Ever since my early days of childhood Pokemon has played a role in my life. When I was younger that role was far more consuming than it has been in the past few years or so, and this is due in large part to the fact that not only has the anime become a total tankfest, but the games have been rehashing the same generic everything for over a decade and have somehow managed to get progressively worse.

Munchlax lives with Snarf in the land of terrible fucking ideas.
It's amazing to me that something with increasingly terrible character designs, absolutely no plot, and a habit of continuously alienating its previous audience could have survived even half as well as the Pokemon franchise has managed to do. With each new iteration a new batch of unsuspecting halflings (read: second graders) rushes through Walmart like a pack of rabid dogs in a meat factory. Even the trading card game has managed to outlive every single one of its competitors and is still pushing out new sets and is routinely the focal point of nerd tournaments in the backs of local comic shops.

Of course ever since the beginning of time, or maybe the mid-to-late 1990's (but really, that was the beginning of time), Pokemon has been a festering zit full to the white capped brim with spin-offs and promotional toys. Sure, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Digimon and to a lesser extent Monster Rancher all had similar tie-in material, but Pokemon was like that classy looking slut that you knew had herpes, but you were willing to collect all of those painful sores (and there were 151 of them) for just a brief look inside.

Gotta cash 'em all!
On the Gameboy Color, which was probably selling like hotcakes at the time (what's a hotcake anyways?), Pokefans were treated with Pokemon Pinball and Pokemon Trading Card Game, the first in a long, long set of spin-off titles that would ultimately prove to be far more powerful titles than any of the mainstream games since Generation 2 (the one with Ho-oh and Lugia for those of you who don't care to remember what matters in life.)

Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Stadium 2, Pokemon Snap, and Pokemon Puzzle League would all make themselves known as some of the greatest games on the Nintendo 64, which also became the home of Hey You, Pikachu! which never seemed to work right and that damn tiny microphone was always falling apart or getting lost or something. To most people this is about all they can remember in terms of Pokemon. Nothing worth while happened after these games. Fortunately for the rest of the world, these people are very wrong.

Pokemon Colosseum, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, Pokemon Rangers, and Pokemon: Mystery Dungeon all have been released in the new millennia, some of which are sequels to previous spin-offs, effectively making them a series, and some have their own sequels, so they've started a series. Unfortunately many of these games have been overlooked by the general public, and even a large portion of the gaming community, falling into the realm of Pokefans. This is because everyone in the world acts like Snivy.

I called you a Snivy.
Recently my girlfriend has twisted my ignorant and critical eye into a pretzel of confusion and nostalgia by reintroducing me to the lighter side of Pokemon. Because she did this I found myself compelled to dust off that old Pokemon Rumble demo that had been sitting around on my Wii for months and purchase the full game, against the wishes and insults of nearly every video game review site known to the internet. And I'm damn glad I did.

Pokemon Rumble, while, yes, it is repetitive, will be fun as hell for people who like anything with a bit of an arcade feel, a dungeon crawler feel, a beat-'em-up feel, or Pikachu. At first glance the idea that "hay gaiz teh mons are toyz and cants evolve" seems like a lazy excuse not to make a full evolutionary chain or implement a level system, but this is actually not the case. Most of the Pokemon you encounter in the game will have their entire evolutionary line completely intact, and while they don't level up, that fact alone actually forces you to rethink your strategy every time you want to enter the tournament or charge into a stage. It's also some brilliant plan on the part of the developers to show off the four or five dozen Pokemon included in the game, and not let them rot in the realm of the under appreciated.

I've also seen videos and screenshots of PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure which looked like the most ridiculous piece of crap to ever attempt cashing in on a popular franchise. But that was when I was in Walmart. After looking it up at home, PokePark Wii looks like it should have been named Pikachu 64, because it even has penguin race, and that's never a bad thing. Seeing some of the newer Pokemon (y'know, the ones I've been trolling for half of this post) in this light have also helped me get over my bullshit and acknowledge that they're not too bad. Except for Magmortar, because he's still bullshit. Same with Munchlax.

Stop. Ruining. Good. Pokemon.
So really, while everyone and their moms, and probably their dads, were out there dissing Pokemon for being a continuously recycled pile of nosehair burning Satan shit, the franchise was creating a treasure trove of little minifranchises that make everything the series has ever done kick an entirely new level of ass. If you've wasted all your time reading this crappy article, you should really go spend it butting heads with Rhydon. Not Rhyperior.

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