Nintendo/GameFreaks: Mad genius or idiots?
Everything I know of Pokémon is from when I was a young kid. I remember the commercials for the game and I remember the anime. The catchy slogan of “Gotta catch them all!” was all but hard to forget. But as a kid I never owned a handheld so the joys of Pokémon were ultimately lost on me. I would see friends with the game and would gaze over their shoulder, wondering what the big deal was about. However from a cursory look I didn’t see anything awesome. Fast forward a decade now, Pokémon is STILL popular, I still didn’t have a handheld and I still was trying to figure out why it was so damn popular.
Well during a business trip with some friends I was subjected to the ramblings of two Pokefans. Grown men in love with Pokémon still? Ok now I seriously had to know what was going on. I borrowed my best friends DS on the car ride back and was intrigued enough to seek out the game upon getting home. Luckily my roommate had a DSi he never used and a copy of Pokémon Platinum.
Let me explain why:
The first thing I noticed is that Pokémon is an incredibly almost deceivingly, deep game. The mechanics of the game have grown from what I’d seen back in my childhood. For example; Lightning attacks beat Water Pokémon. But if the Pokémon is “Water Flying Type” than a physical lightning attack won’t hit. And if its a “Water Ground Type” then lightning won’t work at all. Grass attacks work best on those type of Pokémon.
I mean, seriously? That’s out of control. You really do have to memorize the PokeDex, not just for bragging rights, but so you know what to do against what Pokémon. At that point I was really starting to like the game, I’m always a fan of strategy, the game had become a digital monster filled version of chess. Well I’m riding home from work with my best friend Joe (the same one whose nerd rant started this whole thing) and I’m playing Pokémon while we chat on the way home. I then get in a random fight with an Onyx, a Rock Ground type Pokémon.
I think to myself, “Awesome! I need that type of Pokémon”. I ask my friend what he’s weak to so that I can capture him. No. Onyx proceeds to whoop my ass. He kills 3 of my 6 Pokémon just off the bat. This guy is 3 levels below my team and he’s completely destroying me. So I finally get his health in the red and try to capture him. Ha! NO! He’s resisting ball after ball. Joe looks over at me as I spew expletives, “Onyx is never that strong..” Tell that to him! It ultimately took me 20 regular pokeballs, 4 premier pokeballs, 1 dusk ball, 1 Net ball (I was starting to get desperate if you couldn’t tell), and 3 great balls, to catch this guy. So I go and check out his stats and show it to Joe, his mouth drops open. He tells me that this guys defense stat is crazy high, higher than he’s ever seen on an Onyx.
That’s when I fell in love with the game. Everyone’s journey through Pokémon is different. You can talk to four different people and compare the different kind of monsters you got. And that is ultimately the genius of the idea. The game itself breeds multiplayer just by its core nature. It’s a brilliant idea and execution. You catch them all because they’re all different and unique and on top of that you can tailor them to your needs.
This however highlights why Nintendo is the dumbest publisher I’ve ever seen. Let’s make one thing straight, in my opinion Pokémon is not a children’s game. It is a children’s game in the same way you would look at chess. The initial premise is simple, but the strategy is deep. Deeper then I feel any child would grasp. At the least Pokémon is more similar to World of Warcraft in that it can appeal to anyone, old and young.
But Nintendo has not even TRIED to market to my demographic. When I went to pickup my copy of Pokémon Black, I noticed that there was a HUGE crowd of gamers buying the game, a huge crowd of gamers…my age. The sad thing is that most of the gamers are probably Pokémon fans because that’s just what they grew up on. Nintendo could easily expand their audience by introducing more of their features to the older crowd. But the big N is simply unwilling or too stupid to do so. Either way it’s a bad idea for a great franchise.
This is quickly becoming the problem with our industry, not enough willingness to re-examine common perceptions and ideas. Nintendo, you have a great game, one of the few surviving old school franchises. Why can’t you realize that as the game has grown up, so has your audience?