Pokemon: The Most Important Modern RPG?

Posted by MattBodega (1904 posts) -

Is Pokemon the most Influential RPG of all time?


When I was in third grade, there was nothing in the world that seemed more important than the fantastical whozits and whatzits of the Pokemon franchise. My friends and I devoured everything even minutely related to the game inside the red and blue cartridges: card games, toys, the cartoon show, the  proper console games. Every single physical item was enhanced by the mere presence of the  Pokemon property ( I’ll bet marketers at Nintendo still remember the “good ol’ days” when that shock mouse was  raw electric money ). 

But , despite that merchandising whirlwind that encapsulated our young minds, it was the actual Game Boy games that we latched onto and obsessed over. I think a substantial portion of 1998 was devoted to figuring out if you could breed Pokemon and raise babies, if there were wild Mews near the truck outside of the cruise ship, and if Missingno was some “super Pokeman”, or just Raichu’s dad( I kid you not.) In the days just before we fully embraced the internet, my friends and I discovered, passed on, and made up rumors about that most mysterious of Game Boy games. Trying to separate the fact from fiction in those heady days without forums or communities, I found myself gain an enormous appreciation for the Pokemon franchise; I invested so much of myself and my time into those first two games, trying to become “the Pokemon master” that I found the series to be tremendously interactive, and one of my most potent early gaming memories.

What the hell is that thing?!

Flash forward to middle school, and to the moment where my nostalgic memories of the Pokemon franchise began to crumble. My new friends were dead set on convincing me that Pokemon wasn’t a “real RPG”. No, these new kids were playing real RPG’s, real games that told real stories real serious(ly). They introduced me to their definition of a “real RPG”, a game franchise that I knew in name but had no experience with: Final Fantasy. With a taste for “real RPG’s” I embraced the console franchise wholeheartedly, and continued enjoying JRPG’s from Squaresoft and other “real” Japanese developers.

It’s a little shocking, in retrospect, to see how adamant my old friends were that Pokemon couldn’t possibly be a real “RPG” franchise. ….Actually, I take that back; It may be shocking in our modern context, where the Pokemon franchise has outlasted it’s detractors and haters, it’s jokes and it’s memes. I imagine, in the minds of those old compatriots, that the Final Fantasy games they were enjoying seemed like adult fare; they were playing games with “stories” and “subject matters”, with “characters” and a “plot” and “shocking events”. Compared to  the non-existent story of the Pokemon games( “Go catch ‘em all! Alright, late!) those Final Fantasy games must have seemed like the first time anyone had taken their gaming past time seriously. The “realistic” story totally characterized what the RPG genre was able to deliver, and games like Pokemon seemed mentally stagnant by comparison.

All these years later, I finally understand where my friends were coming from, and why I latched onto their line of reasoning; I wanted to see video games taken seriously as an artistic medium, and treated with the same kind of reverence people held for movies and literature, and so I bought into the “serious” nature of video games.

But in the 200-NIIIIICE, I’ve finally manage to outlast and contain those middle school impulses that forced me down the endless, dirty road of Final Fantasy worship and Square Enix adulation. I’m finally ready to say what I’ve known in my heart since 1998.

Pokemon is the most influential RPG ever made.

This gameplay section only serves to give you something to interact with! It has no bearing on the point of the game!

Now, allow me to clarify the above statement. I’m not here to argue that Pokemon Red/Blue(we’ll stick with the original games) is the best RPG ever made(though it’s my personal top 10). Nor am I here to argue that other RPG’s aren’t important (I would be remiss to toss away the influence that games like Final Fantasy 6, Final Fantasy 7, and Chrono Trigger had on game player’s expectations of the RPG genre. Rather, I am here to assert that the fundamental structure of Pokemon was more influential than any other RPG because it was the first RPG that prioritized the gameplay over the story.  In particular, I’d like to take to task older console RPGs rather than newer ones(you can’t argue that games like Oblivion and Kotor are “better” than those old Game Boy Pokemon games). While the quality of those older games should be noted, it is their supposed “influence” that I address.

One of gaming’s great incongruities is that so much love is bestowed upon Snes and Playstation RPG’s like FF 6 and FF 7 and Chrono Trigge as great games but these products are not fundamentally “game like”.  Video games are, inherently, defined by their interactivity(and I use interactivity to label any connection that the player can have with the game). However, whenever people talk about the great RPG’s you won’t often here them describe moments that YOU, the player, were allowed to interact with. Some people may remember a particularly memorable boss(the Sephiroth fight, the Kefka fight), but you’ll rarely hear anyone mention the things they were able to do in a game. These RPG’s are predominantly made up of moments, and these moments are usually events that take place outside of the users control.

So, if the best moments in a video game happen during cutscenes or dialog, how does the player interact with the game? Why, in the random battles, of course! Older  Japanese RPG’s revolved around the bulk of your gameplay experiences  occurring as random battles against random enemies. Progression in these games was dependent on you grinding your various characters against enemy after enemy until they were powerful enough to advance the plot. Nothing that ever happened in those actual “gameplay” sections ever had any importance to the game. There was no random battle that ever completely changed the game and the events in the story. No fighting move or magic attack you ever used in combat was useful for more than simply allowing you to “advance the plot”.

Take the most obvious, common contender for “the best RPG ever made”, Final Fantasy 7. Ask yourself this: what are the parts of that game that you remember and enjoyed the most? Was it fighting random enemies on the map? Was it casting Fire-2 on a Shinra Soldier? Or, perhaps, was it the scourging at Nibelhelm, the death of Aerith, and the death of Ultima Weapon? The best parts of these games are not the meager interactions you have during random battles, but, rather, the actual moments relevant to the progression.

This is an awesome moment....but you don't really play the moment. You watch it. Shouldn't a video game actually be about the moments you ARE playing?

So, do you see what I wish to take to task in those older RPG’s? Those games separate gameplay and story entirely. Gameplay is a swamp, a murky, muddy barrier to keep you from crossing through and reaching the other side too quickly. Gameplay is, in many of those older RPG’s, an artificial lengthening measurement to assure that you don’t blow through the game’s story too quickly. The gameplay is an afterthought, a chores which must be completed in order to see the next exciting part of the story. The product is the story, and all your attention and actions are directed towards the story as opposed to the gameplay.

“But, hold on just a minute here!”, you might be thinking. “Everything you just described here applies to those early Pokemon games! Red and Blue also have the same grinding you complain about, the same constant slogging through random battles in order to complete the story. Hell! There’s not even much of a story to complete, so all you’re left with is the gameplay that you hate so much! How can you sit there and tell me that Pokémon’s gameplay is able to succeed where Final Fantasy 7’s gameplay fails?”

It’s an astute observation, and one that bares clarification. I’ve attempted to argue about the overall game play in terms of it’s structural elements in this blog entry, but I’ve never made any statement claiming that these Japanese RPG’s aren’t fun. In fact, I think they ARE pretty fun. Even games like Final Fantasy 6 and 7, which I’ve just spent 1200 words decrying, is a game that I enjoyed when I played it. But the point that I decry here is that the way that the gameplay is treated over the course of Final Fantasy 7: a second class citizen to be stepped on. Those old school JRPG’s make very little effort to focus on the gameplay, instead devoting the majority of your playtime to showing a particularly compelling story.

Pokemon Red and Blue are, on the other hand, ALL ABOUT GAMEPLAY.

Everything you do over the course of Pokemon Red/Blue is designed to keep you focused on the actual interaction between the various types of Pokemon. The game’s meager story attempt at a story  ( go kick ass and teach Gary a lesson) insures that you won’t spend your time focused on character relationships or the political intrigue. No, Pokemon is 100% about the gameplay, and everything goes back to the gameplay. The whole point of the game is to fight, and to get the opportunity to fight, you have to FIGHT. BADASS.

Okay, it might not be badass, but the point I’m trying to outline here is that Pokemon Red and Blue is one of the few RPG’s released that is ACTUALLY about the gameplay. The majority of Japanese RPG’s released around the Pokemon franchise are merely opportunities for trying to tell a story. Those RPG’s aren’t’ about the gameplay. Like adventure games, the RPG genre is a story telling “platform”, a means of controlled, measured interaction where a story can be inserted.  The actual plot and character development of an RPG occurs around the actual gameplay.

15 Types. 6 Slots. 4 Moves. GO.
But the Pokemon franchise NEVER attempts to distract you from the actual interaction you have with the game. Unlike other JRPG’s, the star of the show IS the Pokemon on Pokemon violence. Everything in the game is designed to keep you thinking about what you can do to your Pokemon team to handle a certain opponent/type of enemy. The gameplay is the star of the show in Pokemon, instead of the story.

That’s the reason why Pokemon is the most influential RPG in recent memory. Every other “important” JRPG that we see lauded on message boards or blog posts inevitably talks about the story in those games, the events that you see taking place over the course of a game. But we’re talking about video games here, and, as such, we need to measure games based on the interaction you have with them. Ultimately, Pokemon Red/Blue has the fewest number of barriers between the player and the game itself. You play Pokemon to PLAY it, while other RPG’s are played in order to get to the next cutscene.  Pokemon is the game responsible for embedding the RPG gameplay elements into the minds of game players because the game was primarily ABOUT those gameplay elements.

Again, I don’t necessarily think that Pokemon is “better” than those other games, or even more fun that those other JRPGs. However, Pokemon is the one game that is actually about the gameplay interactions you have, rather than the story the developer is trying to tell. While I believe that a great story or really novel interactivity is certainly preferable to really deep, compelling gameplay, Pokemon Red/Blue is perhaps the “purest” JRPG ever created, as it uses the RPG genre for its specific gameplay elements rather than a means to see a bunch of cutscenes.

What do you guys think? Is the meager interactivity in games like Final Fantasy 7 overshadowed by it’s fantastic story and memorable characters? Do you think that the Turn based/ATB systems of those games actually have an effect on the story so you feel like a participant in the game’s plot? Are you someone who will ignore gameplay for a really well told story? Do you think Squirtle is awesome? Let me know in the comments!

#1 Posted by MattBodega (1904 posts) -

Is Pokemon the most Influential RPG of all time?


When I was in third grade, there was nothing in the world that seemed more important than the fantastical whozits and whatzits of the Pokemon franchise. My friends and I devoured everything even minutely related to the game inside the red and blue cartridges: card games, toys, the cartoon show, the  proper console games. Every single physical item was enhanced by the mere presence of the  Pokemon property ( I’ll bet marketers at Nintendo still remember the “good ol’ days” when that shock mouse was  raw electric money ). 

But , despite that merchandising whirlwind that encapsulated our young minds, it was the actual Game Boy games that we latched onto and obsessed over. I think a substantial portion of 1998 was devoted to figuring out if you could breed Pokemon and raise babies, if there were wild Mews near the truck outside of the cruise ship, and if Missingno was some “super Pokeman”, or just Raichu’s dad( I kid you not.) In the days just before we fully embraced the internet, my friends and I discovered, passed on, and made up rumors about that most mysterious of Game Boy games. Trying to separate the fact from fiction in those heady days without forums or communities, I found myself gain an enormous appreciation for the Pokemon franchise; I invested so much of myself and my time into those first two games, trying to become “the Pokemon master” that I found the series to be tremendously interactive, and one of my most potent early gaming memories.

What the hell is that thing?!

Flash forward to middle school, and to the moment where my nostalgic memories of the Pokemon franchise began to crumble. My new friends were dead set on convincing me that Pokemon wasn’t a “real RPG”. No, these new kids were playing real RPG’s, real games that told real stories real serious(ly). They introduced me to their definition of a “real RPG”, a game franchise that I knew in name but had no experience with: Final Fantasy. With a taste for “real RPG’s” I embraced the console franchise wholeheartedly, and continued enjoying JRPG’s from Squaresoft and other “real” Japanese developers.

It’s a little shocking, in retrospect, to see how adamant my old friends were that Pokemon couldn’t possibly be a real “RPG” franchise. ….Actually, I take that back; It may be shocking in our modern context, where the Pokemon franchise has outlasted it’s detractors and haters, it’s jokes and it’s memes. I imagine, in the minds of those old compatriots, that the Final Fantasy games they were enjoying seemed like adult fare; they were playing games with “stories” and “subject matters”, with “characters” and a “plot” and “shocking events”. Compared to  the non-existent story of the Pokemon games( “Go catch ‘em all! Alright, late!) those Final Fantasy games must have seemed like the first time anyone had taken their gaming past time seriously. The “realistic” story totally characterized what the RPG genre was able to deliver, and games like Pokemon seemed mentally stagnant by comparison.

All these years later, I finally understand where my friends were coming from, and why I latched onto their line of reasoning; I wanted to see video games taken seriously as an artistic medium, and treated with the same kind of reverence people held for movies and literature, and so I bought into the “serious” nature of video games.

But in the 200-NIIIIICE, I’ve finally manage to outlast and contain those middle school impulses that forced me down the endless, dirty road of Final Fantasy worship and Square Enix adulation. I’m finally ready to say what I’ve known in my heart since 1998.

Pokemon is the most influential RPG ever made.

This gameplay section only serves to give you something to interact with! It has no bearing on the point of the game!

Now, allow me to clarify the above statement. I’m not here to argue that Pokemon Red/Blue(we’ll stick with the original games) is the best RPG ever made(though it’s my personal top 10). Nor am I here to argue that other RPG’s aren’t important (I would be remiss to toss away the influence that games like Final Fantasy 6, Final Fantasy 7, and Chrono Trigger had on game player’s expectations of the RPG genre. Rather, I am here to assert that the fundamental structure of Pokemon was more influential than any other RPG because it was the first RPG that prioritized the gameplay over the story.  In particular, I’d like to take to task older console RPGs rather than newer ones(you can’t argue that games like Oblivion and Kotor are “better” than those old Game Boy Pokemon games). While the quality of those older games should be noted, it is their supposed “influence” that I address.

One of gaming’s great incongruities is that so much love is bestowed upon Snes and Playstation RPG’s like FF 6 and FF 7 and Chrono Trigge as great games but these products are not fundamentally “game like”.  Video games are, inherently, defined by their interactivity(and I use interactivity to label any connection that the player can have with the game). However, whenever people talk about the great RPG’s you won’t often here them describe moments that YOU, the player, were allowed to interact with. Some people may remember a particularly memorable boss(the Sephiroth fight, the Kefka fight), but you’ll rarely hear anyone mention the things they were able to do in a game. These RPG’s are predominantly made up of moments, and these moments are usually events that take place outside of the users control.

So, if the best moments in a video game happen during cutscenes or dialog, how does the player interact with the game? Why, in the random battles, of course! Older  Japanese RPG’s revolved around the bulk of your gameplay experiences  occurring as random battles against random enemies. Progression in these games was dependent on you grinding your various characters against enemy after enemy until they were powerful enough to advance the plot. Nothing that ever happened in those actual “gameplay” sections ever had any importance to the game. There was no random battle that ever completely changed the game and the events in the story. No fighting move or magic attack you ever used in combat was useful for more than simply allowing you to “advance the plot”.

Take the most obvious, common contender for “the best RPG ever made”, Final Fantasy 7. Ask yourself this: what are the parts of that game that you remember and enjoyed the most? Was it fighting random enemies on the map? Was it casting Fire-2 on a Shinra Soldier? Or, perhaps, was it the scourging at Nibelhelm, the death of Aerith, and the death of Ultima Weapon? The best parts of these games are not the meager interactions you have during random battles, but, rather, the actual moments relevant to the progression.

This is an awesome moment....but you don't really play the moment. You watch it. Shouldn't a video game actually be about the moments you ARE playing?

So, do you see what I wish to take to task in those older RPG’s? Those games separate gameplay and story entirely. Gameplay is a swamp, a murky, muddy barrier to keep you from crossing through and reaching the other side too quickly. Gameplay is, in many of those older RPG’s, an artificial lengthening measurement to assure that you don’t blow through the game’s story too quickly. The gameplay is an afterthought, a chores which must be completed in order to see the next exciting part of the story. The product is the story, and all your attention and actions are directed towards the story as opposed to the gameplay.

“But, hold on just a minute here!”, you might be thinking. “Everything you just described here applies to those early Pokemon games! Red and Blue also have the same grinding you complain about, the same constant slogging through random battles in order to complete the story. Hell! There’s not even much of a story to complete, so all you’re left with is the gameplay that you hate so much! How can you sit there and tell me that Pokémon’s gameplay is able to succeed where Final Fantasy 7’s gameplay fails?”

It’s an astute observation, and one that bares clarification. I’ve attempted to argue about the overall game play in terms of it’s structural elements in this blog entry, but I’ve never made any statement claiming that these Japanese RPG’s aren’t fun. In fact, I think they ARE pretty fun. Even games like Final Fantasy 6 and 7, which I’ve just spent 1200 words decrying, is a game that I enjoyed when I played it. But the point that I decry here is that the way that the gameplay is treated over the course of Final Fantasy 7: a second class citizen to be stepped on. Those old school JRPG’s make very little effort to focus on the gameplay, instead devoting the majority of your playtime to showing a particularly compelling story.

Pokemon Red and Blue are, on the other hand, ALL ABOUT GAMEPLAY.

Everything you do over the course of Pokemon Red/Blue is designed to keep you focused on the actual interaction between the various types of Pokemon. The game’s meager story attempt at a story  ( go kick ass and teach Gary a lesson) insures that you won’t spend your time focused on character relationships or the political intrigue. No, Pokemon is 100% about the gameplay, and everything goes back to the gameplay. The whole point of the game is to fight, and to get the opportunity to fight, you have to FIGHT. BADASS.

Okay, it might not be badass, but the point I’m trying to outline here is that Pokemon Red and Blue is one of the few RPG’s released that is ACTUALLY about the gameplay. The majority of Japanese RPG’s released around the Pokemon franchise are merely opportunities for trying to tell a story. Those RPG’s aren’t’ about the gameplay. Like adventure games, the RPG genre is a story telling “platform”, a means of controlled, measured interaction where a story can be inserted.  The actual plot and character development of an RPG occurs around the actual gameplay.

15 Types. 6 Slots. 4 Moves. GO.
But the Pokemon franchise NEVER attempts to distract you from the actual interaction you have with the game. Unlike other JRPG’s, the star of the show IS the Pokemon on Pokemon violence. Everything in the game is designed to keep you thinking about what you can do to your Pokemon team to handle a certain opponent/type of enemy. The gameplay is the star of the show in Pokemon, instead of the story.

That’s the reason why Pokemon is the most influential RPG in recent memory. Every other “important” JRPG that we see lauded on message boards or blog posts inevitably talks about the story in those games, the events that you see taking place over the course of a game. But we’re talking about video games here, and, as such, we need to measure games based on the interaction you have with them. Ultimately, Pokemon Red/Blue has the fewest number of barriers between the player and the game itself. You play Pokemon to PLAY it, while other RPG’s are played in order to get to the next cutscene.  Pokemon is the game responsible for embedding the RPG gameplay elements into the minds of game players because the game was primarily ABOUT those gameplay elements.

Again, I don’t necessarily think that Pokemon is “better” than those other games, or even more fun that those other JRPGs. However, Pokemon is the one game that is actually about the gameplay interactions you have, rather than the story the developer is trying to tell. While I believe that a great story or really novel interactivity is certainly preferable to really deep, compelling gameplay, Pokemon Red/Blue is perhaps the “purest” JRPG ever created, as it uses the RPG genre for its specific gameplay elements rather than a means to see a bunch of cutscenes.

What do you guys think? Is the meager interactivity in games like Final Fantasy 7 overshadowed by it’s fantastic story and memorable characters? Do you think that the Turn based/ATB systems of those games actually have an effect on the story so you feel like a participant in the game’s plot? Are you someone who will ignore gameplay for a really well told story? Do you think Squirtle is awesome? Let me know in the comments!

#2 Posted by Bucketdeth (8005 posts) -

This is one awesome blog post, brings me back to when I used to love the Pokemon franchise when I was younger, like you.
cards, cartoons, games and toys, the whole works, I had to have it and I remember trying to figure out how to get mew by that damn truck which never did happen, and when my friend first showed me how to get infinite rare candy.
ah, the good ole days.

#3 Posted by MattyFTM (14363 posts) -

To me, It doesn't seem that influential. I can't think of a single game that's been significanly influenced by Pokemon. Sure, Pokemon is awesome, and all the points you make are right, but many other JRPG's continue to put story before gameplay, and those that value the gameplay seem to do it by adding as many features to the gameplay as possible, wheras pokemon has kept it simple.

Maybe it should be the most influential RPG. Maybe more RPG's should take something from pokemon and change the genre for the better, but as of yet, pokemon remains quite a unique game.

Moderator Online
#4 Posted by Thordain (959 posts) -

We've had this conversation many times in the IRC and every time I've agreed with you Matt. This time is no different.

#5 Posted by granderojo (1778 posts) -
MattyFTM said:
"To me, It doesn't seem that influential. I can't think of a single game that's been significanly influenced by Pokemon. Sure, Pokemon is awesome, and all the points you make are right, but many other JRPG's continue to put story before gameplay, and those that value the gameplay seem to do it by adding as many features to the gameplay as possible, wheras pokemon has kept it simple.

Maybe it should be the most influential RPG. Maybe more RPG's should take something from pokemon and change the genre for the better, but as of yet, pokemon remains quite a unique game."
Pokemon is like WoW, they have there own market, and nobody dare try to copy what is greatness of that gameplay.

I dislike about 85% of RPG's out there, and very few I like.

I love pokemon, something about catching a pokemon and leveling him up tell the very end of the adventure.

It is the only real RPG that I played like a role playing game so to speak, and it didn't hurt that the game is incredibly easy.
#6 Posted by Bullet_Jr (770 posts) -

Poke'mon got me into RPG games. Before, I wasn't really into the genre.

#7 Posted by tekmojo (2300 posts) -

Pokemon RPGs are more mainstream than anything else. So yes it could be considered influential. I would say the old Dungeon & Dragon RPG games for PC still had a heavy impact for the genre.





#8 Posted by albedos_shadow (1485 posts) -

Pokemon is what got me interested in video games. Absolute agreement.

#9 Posted by Weltal (2272 posts) -

It's like you said yourself, the Pokemon games are all about the battles but not really the story where as you other JRPGs mentioned (Final Fantasy, Crono Cross) involve story and the battles. Everything Pokemon does it does it without much in the way of storytelling so It's truly a pure battle game but I don't believe that makes it an influntial game because of this fact simply that it lacked the things that made other JRPGs more entertaining. Don't get me wrong I played the hell out of some Pokemon Blue but I don't feel the fact that the games didn't feature much in the way of a story and instead went with a gameplat that really wasn't that much deeper than the fights you would have in a FF or CC.

I suppose that's the crux of my missunderstanding here. Why does the inclusion of cutscenes make these other games less influencial when they featured battle systems that were about as deep as any Pokemon game? The gameplay is still there and it's still engageing but you also get a story to go with it.

#10 Posted by Hamz (6846 posts) -

Back in the day I remember on the news here in the UK that schools had banned kids from taking pokemon trading cards, gameboys or even wearing anything pokemone related to school. Why? The sheer fanatical following kids had for that franchise was causing eight year old kids to bring dinner knives, spoons and other weapons to school just to protect themselves from the kids mugging each other for those shiney Charizard or Mewtwo cards. It was a crazy time for any kid back then. Pokemon was the new crack cocaine but for a younger generation and it had an even worst effect because that same generation has now grown up into the yobs and hooligans we have today. Can we blame current rises in crime on the Pokemon craze back in the 90's?

As for the main point of your blog I have to say as an avid fan of Final Fantasy 7 (as if the avatar didn't give it away) I find the reason I am so into that game, and many other RPG's, is for the exact same reasons as you outlined. I loved FF7 for its story and played it to progress that story through cutscenes, dialogue and so on. The gameplay and combat just seemed like filler to slow me down from reaching the thing I wanted so badly, the next piece of the story. And its the same for most RPG games. You play an RPG like the Witcher which had a tremendous story and narrative to it but the gameplay itself is frustrating and when I sit down here in my lazyboy replying to this blog I can't disagree with you.

Modern and to some extent older RPG's do follow that pattern where gameplay feels like its simply there so you spend hours playing a game to learn the story and get to a conclusion that if you took away all the gameplay would be maybe an hour's worth of your time. RPG's can be 30+ hours of gametime in some cases but if you strip away all the cookie cutter rinse and repeat activity, all the combat, the time spent buying or selling items, spending minutes deciding where to put that precious skill point. You actually get a story which can be told in half an hour at the most.

A game like Pokemon had a mediocre story because it was designed to entertain kids, it didn't need plot twists or emotional scenes. Its goal was for you, the player, to raise and fight your pokemon against others and eventually whipe the smug look off of Gary's face like you said. And thats why it actually was really so damn amazing and got such a fanatical following because it took what we consider the RPG standard and sort of twisted it a little.  Instead of a game where you slugged through hours of gameplay for the enjoyment of reaching the next cutscene. You went through hours of awesome pokemon fights and gameplay which was the charm and soul of the games.

I know a lot of people may disagree with you over this blog. But I totally see where you are coming from in that Pokemon was an awesome game because it was all about the interactivity of the gameplay instead of the gameplay simply carrying you, and sometimes holding you back, to the next cutscene for that all important twist in the story.

Personally I was always into Bulbasaur myself.

#11 Posted by BoG (5187 posts) -

Halloween 2006 was the most peculiar of all Halloweens in my life. I didn't really care to dress up for the first (and only) time in my life, I didn't make plans with friends to gather candy or create mayhem, and I didn't spend any time eating doughnuts and making merry at the family party. It wasn't due to teenage angst, depression, or other so many other possibilities, it was due to Final Fantasy XII. Rather then fill my evening with ghosts, ghouls, and gummi bears, I filled it with chocobos and moogles. I don't know how long I spent playing the game that night, but I assure you, I was playing for quite a long time.

Only a few days and dozens of hours into the game later, I realized exactly what Matt is saying here: I wasn't really doing anything. Final Fantasy XII is the worst offender in regards to treating gameplay as "a second class citizen to be stepped on" as Matt states. Really, in XII, it all boils down to moving from point A to point B, watching cinematic, and repeating. At least in other games, I felt involved in the events. For example, I'll use another Final Fantasy, the sixth entry in the series. In Final Fantasy VI, I often felt a part of the events; sneaking around as Locke, searching for my comrades, and so many other instances I was playing out the story. In XII, I never felt this, I only felt that I was travelling here and there as the story dictated.

Really, it is quite unfortunate that it has all come to this. The games that truly utilize the medium are those games, at least in my opinion, are the very best. I hope that more games don't go the way of Final Fantasy XII, and more let the player act out each memorable scene. I'm taken back to last generation, when a gaming journalist said that the best part of the newest Bond game was how the game's explosive opening scene involving bond rapelling down a burning building wasn't a cinematic, it was gameplay. That's not the best example at all, but it illustrates my point. Movies are about watching, games are about playing. 
#12 Posted by Sweep (8837 posts) -

I think Squirtle is awesome.

I have always admired the Pokemon franchise for its production values. No character ever dies in a Pokemon game. Everyone is friendly and polite (even those bastard in Team Rocket). The world is a safe place. I don't know if I would go as far as to call it the most influential RPG ever made but it certainly left a strong impression on video-game culture for both creators and consumers.

Nice blog matt, good to see you back on form :)

Moderator
#13 Posted by GobiasIndustries (356 posts) -

This is an amazing blog post. I completely agree.

It really says something about a game that I enjoyed in third grade (nice) so much, and to this day, every time I try to pick it up and play it I get sucked in again. I never thought about the combat being actually part of the game, and you are completely right.

Pokemon is the most important because it is the only one that I am always interested in playing.

#14 Posted by insanejedi (655 posts) -

I think Pokemon is the most influential because it sold the most out of everything and basically anything combined. 7 year old kids were playing RPG's with text, dialog, tactics, stats, quests, characters, blah blah blah. But it basically indoctrinated several millions of kids to play RPG's.

I think though, you are missing one perspective of the genre which is western RPG's. Effectively when I say that, I think today that KOTOR which was my first Bioware game, really was the first time that I knew what I wanted out of an RPG. I wanted to roleplay my character, and not watch my character, and not grind. D&D based RPG's always walked the fine line between the narrative elements you talk about in Final Fantasy, and the interactive elements that really what makes a game. You are always given narrative, characters, and a quest to do, but how you approach them is your decision which takes the elements of interactivity. Moral choices, are elements that developers put into a game that allows them to express a narrative movie-like quality, yet retaining elements of interactivity of what makes a game.

#15 Posted by Jayge_ (10221 posts) -
MattyFTM said:
"To me, It doesn't seem that influential. I can't think of a single game that's been significanly influenced by Pokemon. Sure, Pokemon is awesome, and all the points you make are right, but many other JRPG's continue to put story before gameplay, and those that value the gameplay seem to do it by adding as many features to the gameplay as possible, wheras pokemon has kept it simple.

Maybe it should be the most influential RPG. Maybe more RPG's should take something from pokemon and change the genre for the better, but as of yet, pokemon remains quite a unique game."
You don't need to influence other games to be influential. Pokemon was the first RPG I'd ever experienced, and I still count it as one of the best franchises of all time. Top 3. Barely anything better.
#16 Posted by Endogene (4741 posts) -
#17 Posted by GobiasIndustries (356 posts) -

I Dugg that shit.

#18 Posted by Rowr (5521 posts) -

best japanesish rpg i ever played, thats fo sho.

#19 Posted by Geno (6477 posts) -

Final Fantasy VII had tons of storyline stuff in the gameplay, and the battle system is likely the best that has ever been implemented in an RPG (the new action RPG real time stuff is garbage). While I don't agree the Pokemon games were the most important RPG's, especially in comparison to the FF's, they were damn fun and the fanbase around it was awesome. By the way, I thought I was the only one that knew about Raichu's dad!

#20 Posted by Oni (2098 posts) -

I WISH Pokemon was the most influential RPG. I wish more RPG's and games in general would make the gameplay in service of the story, whilst still being fun. But sadly, that isn't the case, because most developers still haven't figured out how to make the gameplay compliment the story with it still being fun. Every modern RPG still has battles just for the sake of it, to keep you from progressing as fast as you would otherwise. Most of the time you aren't even fighting enemies to your cause, rather violent wildlife and the like. I can't think of any FPS game where you have to shoot random wildlife while you're hunting for an evil terrorist organization, no, you're shooting evil terrorists.

Great blog.

#21 Posted by Hexpane (1397 posts) -

That analysis only applies to the generation of people like you who were a certain age playing Pokemon.  You have to remember the history of RPGs.  Despite the popularity of Pokemon, it came much later in the timeline and the influences were already being driven by other earlier games.  I would suggest that pokemon didn't so much as influence other RPGs as it spawned more interest in the subgenre of cardbattle type RPGs.  Western RPGs were already much further along in terms of gameplay and depth than JRPGs.

#22 Posted by brukaoru (5079 posts) -

I have not played many Pokemon games, in fact, the only real time I've play one was through a cousin who was visiting me and I never really played for that long. I think I pretty much get the whole scenario of the Pokemon games though. They all play out the same with little story involved.

As much as you can argue the Pokemon games being focused on gameplay where as other RPG's focus on story, you can pretty much say that all PokeMon games play out the same, correct? At least when I'm playing a different Final Fantasy game, I can expect a different story AND different gameplay. Then again, at least you know what you are getting from a Pokemon game, unlike some other RPGs that turn out bad.

I think I prefer gameplay that only serves to be interactive in a game with a great storyline than a game that has little storyline with lots of gameplay. It all depends on how the game plays and just how in depth the story is, of course. It's hard to strike an equal balance with both.

Great post Matt. :)

#23 Posted by PapaLazarou (711 posts) -

I loved Red & Blue but the problem with the franchise is once you played oned then you played them all and I've had no interest in playing any of the new ones and I hate all the new Pokemon.

#24 Posted by ktseymour (7 posts) -
PapaLazarou said:
"I loved Red & Blue but the problem with the franchise is once you played oned then you played them all and I've had no interest in playing any of the new ones and I hate all the new Pokemon."
Ooohhh my god! I haven't seen that game in years! Zool, freakin zool. I've still got my Zool sticker on my change jar. How did you come about the knowledge of this game. Now I miss my Amiga...Sigh

I have to agree that Poke'a'girl was an influential game for thae age group it was targeted at. Hell, even my nephew liked Poke' man for a while.
#25 Posted by bwooduhs (1616 posts) -

Pokemon is the first made me fall in love with video games. Even now when the original style RPG's come out i play them avidly.

#27 Posted by Foil_Charizard (345 posts) -

As a Foil Charizard I approve of this message

#28 Posted by Aaox (1657 posts) -

Oh, them Pokemans... First game ever was pokemon pinball, immediatley followed by Pokemon Yellow. I didn't care if Rattata's tail looked like a straw, it was mine. Nice post.

#29 Posted by StaticFalconar (4849 posts) -

I'm actually quite disappointed with the Pokemon franchise actually. Well back when it was on the Gameboy I thought it could be so much better if the technology was there to support it. Now many years later, the technology is there and the damn game is basically the same thing with some modifiers. I wanted the next pokemon to be exactly like the Cartoon. Some pokemon going to tackle my pokemon? I'll say dodge it just like the cartoon and he does it. None of this slug fest going on in teh game. Nah instead I wanna see the two pokemons running around the battle area with me calling the shots of what to do ATB style.

#30 Posted by Red (5994 posts) -

Weird coincedence, I was thinking back to whether or not I wanted to get the expanded version of Pokemon Diamond (I dunno what it's called) which got me back to my old days of playing pokemon. From what I remember, a chinese bootleg version of Pokemon Silver was the first game I ever really played. I wouldn't call it the most important modern RPG (it hasn't changed in the past 10 years) or maybe not even the most influential RPG, it is certainly the best playing and most addictive RPG ever. I've played tons of JRPGs, Final Fantasy 1-7 and 12 and Chrono Trigger and I haven't really beaten any of them (besides FF one and two). I've gotten quite a ways into each game, but usually at the 10 hour mark I'll just hit a bump where I just lose interest. No matter how good the story, graphics, music or even gameplay is I will always beat a Pokemon game over a more traditional JRPG. It's really the constant goals the game gives you. Leveling up, trying to evolve, trying to catch new pokemon, getting more badges...it's just those visible goals that make a game, which is really just grinding, so friggin addictive. If you hand me a copy of FF6, I will play it, I will nearly cry, I will remember it, I will love it to death but I probably won't beat it. If you hand me a copy of any Pokemon game I will beat it, it will become part of my life, I will sink a good 20 hours into it after I beat it and then I'll probably play it again (after I transfer over all my pokemon).

Even though Pokemon hasn't changed at all, I will love it. I guess it's a guilty pleasure.
#31 Posted by insanegamer (612 posts) -

thats a great post, pokemon and final fantasy 7 were the first rpg games i first played and got me into rpg games.

#32 Posted by TripMasterMunky (2402 posts) -

I Agree with you on most of your points. I too, enjoy me some good ol' Pokemon. It is all about gameplay - BUT...

1) I wouldn't necessarily say Pokemon is the most "influential" RPG though. A few game copy off of it, but Final Fantasy is way more influential in that sense. Just about every JRPG tries to copy off of Final Fantasy. Pokemon is more unique.

2) Most importantly, RPG stands for Role-Playing Game. Role-play. It isn't necessarily about which has the best game play or is most fun, etc. It is about which game you are able to role-play best. Which game can you get most into the character and the universe around it? In this case, story may be much more important than gameplay. It's all about how much you can immerse yourself into the character you are playing. Some would say Pokemon is better for this, some would say Final Fantasy.

Personally, I'll always go for Pokemon. But it's still good to consider the points above.

#33 Posted by NinjaSquirrel (233 posts) -

I agree. This is the game that got me into RPGs and is probably the most important rpg I've ever played. To me atleast.

#34 Posted by Llyr (52 posts) -

Great blog, well worth the read.  I also like Pokemon Red/Blue.  Its simplicity has never been matched.

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