I wanna be the very best, like nobody ever was. To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause. So it has been for the last 13 years since I first picked up a Pokemon game. I didn’t really play Pokemon Blue much really, but I certainly got the bug in 2005 when I got Pokemon LeafGreen, and my collection started.
Back in the present, I have 648 of the 649 Pokemon in a save file on Pokemon White, the latest generation of the enduring video game saga (the last one, Meloetta, hasn’t been released through a Wi-Fi event, as a handful of Pokemon are each generation). It’s turned into a bit of a labour of love, and I’m sure I’ll keep collecting any new ones that get released in subsequent games. Some of them I’ve had for many years, why lose them now?
The game itself has stayed frustratingly unchanged throughout this whole time. You play the role of a young child, irresponsibly encouraged to go on a long pilgrimage around your country’s 8 Pokemon gyms, whilst ‘collecting’ (i.e. trapping) a variety of cute monsters with different skills, strengths and weaknesses. You use these to fight other wild Pokemon in order to trap them too, or to level up your Pokemon so they are strong enough to take on the Pokemon of fellow trainers, the 8 Pokemon gym leaders, and ultimately the “Elite Four”, the top trainers in the country. Only then are you declared the Pokemon champion.
The more these games change, the more they stay the same. This central tenet of the gameplay has really not changed at all since the first games were released in the late 90s. But there are other things to occupy you on this epic quest. Of course you can try to tick off every Pokemon (and eventually catch ’em all), perhaps the true ultimate purpose of a trainer.
There are always other little distractions on the way. Link-up battles and trades, beauty contests, Olympic-style tournaments, even a movie studio in the latest iteration. But these are mere trifles, and don’t explain the enduring appeal of these games for me.
Every game so far has been released in two ‘colours’, each with a few differences in which Pokemon are available (thus forcing trades to complete collections). The following year or two, there is normally a third edition of the game that builds on the previous pair, but having sunk dozens of hours into one, I’ve never really bothered with it.
However this time around, two years from Pokemon Black & White, we don’t get a 3rd version, we get the first ever sequels – wait for it – Pokemon Black 2 & White 2. They are a continuation of the storyline, but separate enough to stand alone. The mechanics are largely the same as ever, and yet I’m right back into it already.
I’ll do a proper review later (much later!), but as it stands, this will likely consume a lot of my time for the forseeable. I’ve picked my first ever Grass-type starter for those interested, and I’m resisting the temptation to bring over some tough Pokemon from my copy of Pokemon White, at least until I’ve finished the main story. Is anyone else playing?