By 1p 0 Comments
On Friday, i finally caught them all. Well, kinda caught them all, as i only completed the Unova Pokedex in Pokemon White, which encompasses 153 Pokemon right now. As opposed to the National Pokedex, which has grown to an incomprehensible 649 Pokemon over the last 15 years.
Still, this marks the first time i've filled any Pokedex. It's also the first time i've really gotten into a Pokemon game. I previously dabbled in 2007's Pokemon Pearl, but eventually got distracted after just a few gym badges. Thus, i consider Pokemon White to be my first proper Pokemon experience.
You might find this surprising, considering that Pokemon has been one of the most ubiquitous franchises for a long time, and especially considering that i was around 10 years old during the big Pokemon boom of the late '90s. I can vividly remember my classmates in 5th or 6th grade, discussing the intricacies of catching wild Pokemon, freaking out about Pikachu plushies they'd bring to school. The hype train was going full steam ahead, possibly only rivaled by the comparatively short-lived Tamagotchi craze a few years earlier, and i was in the perfect spot to jump on board with all the other kids. Yet, it took me until 2011 to get into Pokemon for good.
Why? Well, it certainly wasn't for lack of wanting it. See, when i was a kid, my parents were quite strict about the games i was allowed to play, the media i was allowed to be involved with. Without opening this can of worms any further than necessary, let me just tell you that i never even owned a Game Boy, and Pokemon was outlawed and forbidden, and that was that. It sucked back then, and while i can now clearly recognize it as a first world problem, i still never really got over the fact that i didn't get to play Pokemon with the other kids.
I never gave up on it though - i just delayed it. You know, for over a decade.
A decision was made that this year's Pokemon games would be a great time to finally make things right. So, because twelve-year-old me was so utterly deprived of Pokemon, early-twenties me spent about 125 hours with Pokemon White over the last two months.
I overcompensated. It was utterly cathartic, and i have no regrets.
A newcomer's thoughts about the series
Besides these personal reasons, without which i certainly would have enjoyed the experience differently, i found the game to be of impressive quality. Because it's the first one in the series i played, i got to see all the cool stuff Game Freak put into Pokemon over the years, all at once. To fans, i assume that it must be disheartening to play game after game and only ever see slight variations and additions from one release to the next. But first-time players like me, i feel like we're the big winners here, because we get to play this amazing, massive game that has been improved upon for over a decade.
I still would not defend Nintendo's conservative approach to Pokemon. While it clearly makes fiscal sense to do what they have been doing, it's also quite lazy, and they have missed great opportunities by continuing to capitalize on what are basically remakes of Pokemon Red and Blue from 1996 (like, how about a real console Pokemon RPG, in full 3D?).
Yet, i can't ignore that, between these downsides to Nintendo's Pokemon strategy, there is this one massive upside: With every iteration, they have gotten better at making Pokemon games. They have mastered the formula. Pokemon Black and White are the result of their 15-year learning process, and it shows.