I’ve been writing about Pokemon quite a bit for the last few days. It’s been on my mind with the release of Pokemon Indigo League on Netflix and the infamous Twitch Plays Pokemon. It’s an easy topic for me to get stuck on considering I own one Game Boy Colors, one Game Boy Advance, two DS’s, two 3DS’s and a copy of every Pokemon game created.
I primarily have all of this swag so I would be able to obtain all the Pokemon in existence without ever having to trade with anybody except myself. I’m not a particularly social critter and before you could trade online I didn’t know any other college aged kids that still played Pokemon. That said, there’s no point in keeping this many games and accessories around if you’re not going to play them. This begs the question: how do you know when you should restart your Pokemon game?
For those of you who play Pokemon competitively, I don’t have answers for you. The way you level grind and play Pokemon boggles my mind and I bow down to your patience and knowledge. For the rest of us who just play for fun, or to “collect ’em all” there comes a point when you’ve run out of things to do. How do you decide when it’s time to say goodbye to the game you’ve been playing and start a new save file?
Reasons to Restart the Game:
- If you’ve become the Pokemon Champion. If you’re only goal was to beat the Elite 4, then it shouldn’t be too hard to say goodbye to the Pokemon you’ve been training and the trainer you’ve created and simply re-start the game. However, you should know that if this is your only motivation I am judging you hard core right now. There are so many things to do after you’ve beat the Elite 4 that deciding to quit right then is hogwash. At least wait until you’re 100% certain you’ve completed the main story.
- You’ve completed the main story. This is pretty self-explanatory. If you’ve completed the main story line for a Pokemon game then there’s not much left for you do to except train and try to fill your PokeDex. While many people do enjoy those and spend many hours on them, it is understandable if you want to restart your game to enjoy the story a second time. I’m not judging you…too much.
- You’ve completed the main story and filled your PokeDex. No matter what version of Pokemon you’re playing, filling a PokeDex is a huge accomplishment. Maybe you only caught the original 151, or maybe you’ve caught all 718 of the currently revealed Pokemon, either way huge props to you. That said, If you’ve managed to fill your PokeDex you’ve also probably managed to play all of the game that you want to. While it hurts my soul a bit to see a full PokeDex erased, you might get more joy out of the game by re-starting and going on an all new adventure.
- You own both version of a given generation and you’re using one to farm Pokemon. I own both Pokemon Heartgold and Soulsilver. I use one of the cartridges to store all of my awesome Pokemon and I use the other to get the version exclusives and starters. To get all the starters for a generation, it’s necessary to restart the game at least once and chances are you won’t grow very attached to the version you use for those purposes.
- You nickname your Pokemon horrible things and treat them as badly as the game will let you. You are clearly a terrible person who doesn’t understand the point of the game and should restart yours to erase the crimes against Pokemon you have committed. You should also probably give the game to someone who will actually like it and treat their Pokemon nicely.
Now, when will Pokemon games finally allow more than one save per game so we don’t even have to consider this?
So, Pokemon conquest has been out for a little over a month now. As a Pokemon fanatic (I primarily use Tumblr to look at adorable pokemon pictures all day) I pre-ordered this game well in advance and devoured it the second I picked it up from GameStop. For those of you who may have been iffy about the whole Pokemon + Nobunga’s ambition cross-over, you were right to follow your instincts.
Story: The story of Pokemon Conquest goes like this: you are a warlord, you need to beat all the other warlords in battle and bring all of Ransei under your command to before Nobungas, the evil warlord does. Why must you do this? Because it has been foretold that once a warlord unites all the kingdoms under one command, the creator of Ransei (spoilers: It’s Arceus) will appear and bend to the Warlord’s will. Nobunga wants to use Arceus to destroy Ransei, while your Warlord strives to stop this. Compared to the Pokemon plot of “catch all the pokemon and beat the elite four” this Pokemon Conquest story should win a nobel prize. However, like most video games, the story is simplistic, but serviceable.
The main problem I had with the story was the way it abruptly ended. Going into the last fight, you should be aware that it is the last fight. However, once you defeat Nobunga, the game is over. You don’t get to continue playing as your Warlord and any assets you had (warriors and pokemon) disappear. I expected to be able to keep playing in Ransei with my warlord while I continued collecting pokemon and warriors. This is not the case. Instead, there are several end-game quests, where you typically control one of the Warlords you fought during the main storyline. The quests can be fun, but they get repetitive. If you complete all of them, then “The Two Heroes of Ransei” episode is unlocked where you get to play as your hero again. As much as I wanted to go back and play as my hero, playing through all of those episodes just wasn’t worth it.
Gameplay: Battle system in Pokemon Conquest resembles that of previous strategy JRPGs like Final Fantasy: Tactics. You can control up to six pokemon on a grid. Like a traditional pokemon game, these battles take type strengths and weaknesses into consideration. Psychic can’t hurt Dark, Dragon falls to Ice, etc. The majority of kingdoms favor a specific type of pokemon, reminiscent of Pokemon Gyms, which makes larger battles easy to prepare for. In these battles it is necessary to micromanage your pokemon and think beyond action/reaction to play well. You must carefully think about pokemon types and the scope of your pokemons attacks. Some pokemon can only attack one square ahead of them, while others can attack through three squares. If you like strategy games, than you’ll probably enjoy this type of combat. The merging of Pokemon with Nobunga’s Amibition worked particularly well here to create a unique and enjoyable rendition of strategy RPG combat.
While the majority of the game is focused on combat and conquering new kingdoms, there is a secondary emphasis on collecting warriors and pokemon. Within each kingdom there are locations where you and your warriors can travel to fight wild pokemon and warriors unattached to a kingdom. You must defeat “wild” warriors within three turns to be able to draft them to your side, although with certain warriors there are other conditions that must be met. To obtain pokemon, a warrior must link with themWarriors can link with any pokemon, but most warriors favor specific types and have one pokemon that they form a perfect link with. The higher the link the stronger a pokemon can become. For instance if my link with a pokemon can only go up to 50%, then once 50% has been reached, the pokemon stops growing. Perfect links are are links with the potential to get to 100% which theoretically means those pokemon should be pretty powerful. If a warrior has a 100% link with a venipede, it still doesn’t work out that way.
There are over 200 pokemon to collect, and almost as many warriors to recruit. If you really want to catch ’em all, then you have a patience for tediousness only rivaled by John Goodman:
Luckily, the episodes at the end of the game give you a lot of opportunity to obtain pokemon and trainers, and collecting them all is much more doable than getting 649 pokemon (number will probably change soon with Pokemone Black and White 2 coming out so soon).
Gender/Race/Sexuality: You get to choose which sex you want to be at the beginning of the game, hooray! Regardless of what you pick, your warlord gets saddled with a loveable warrior named Oichi and her jigglypuff. Judging from the fact that the first woman you meet owns a jigglypuff, I feel justified in saying that there are some slight problems with the depiction of women in this game. Most of the women are either weak like Oichi, or very sexy. There are some depictions that are fine, but considering OIchi is the first woman you meet in the game, and the one you spent the most time with (you have to put up with her through the entire main storyline) I find the game’s representation of women to be kinda sexist. You could make the argument for historical realism since the game is in a feudal setting, but its that involves pokemon which invalidates all arguments of realism. There isn’t any diversity in terms of race, all the characters are the fun white/japanese hybrids that we typically see in JRPGs. As I mentioned in a previous post, Japan has a homogenous population and typically produces games with homogenous populations. LEARN TO DIVERSIFY!
To Play or Not To Play: If you’re a huge fan of Pokemon or you like strategy RPGs, I would say go ahead, pick up the game, but maybe wait a few months for the price to go down. The game is a really fun mash-up, but the abrupt ending of the main storyline, and the endless end-game Episodes drove me up the wall. Since you’ve been forewarned now, the game might be more enjoyable. Now here’s your reward for reading through this review (as if the review weren’t reward enough)
So, usually Wednesday is devoted to the series “Would you rather” which I am postponing until tomorrow. Today, I would rather look at Skylander’s: Spyros Adventures and the way it combines collecting and gaming.
Clearly, the Pokemon video games were some of the first video games that integrated an aspect of both collecting and gameplay.
This was a highly successful model because it enabled the game to be more social by necessitating player interaction if they wanted to obtain all of the pokemon, while also featuring normal gameplay for those that didn’t give a damn about catching em’ all. This has clearly been a popular model with games like Digimon and Fossil Fighters and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker presenting variations on the original Pokemon model.
Skylander’s: Spyro’s Adventures is on more game that follow suit, however, Skylanders are not collected in game, but must be collected in the form of figurines.
As you can see from the picture, there is a portal that comes with each copy of Skylanders. A player must put a skylander figure on the portal to introduce the character to the game. This has been a savvy business model as the release of the skylanders figurines has been staggered in waves, inflating the value of some figures. In addition to the normal figures, there are special editions of each of these characters. There are legendary skylanders which have better stats than the normal versions, and there are gold and silver versions (very rare) of some characters. The figures are important to the game, but have also triggered a secondary market in collectors who just want to own all of the various skylanders figures in all their iterations. In this way, Skylanders taps into the same market that Beanie Babies exploited in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
For those of you who don’t quite remember, the Beanie Baby craze hit the United states driving prices of hard to get beanie babies upwards of thousands of dollars. They sold books on the projected pricing of beanie babies, and at my school beanie babies were banned from the playground because of high incidences of theft. Skylanders figures taps into this collector’s market, which has also seen the prices of certain figures skyrocket exponentially. A few weeks back, the Skylander figure Camo sold for almost 40 dollars, typically an individual skylander retails for 9.99. As supply finally caught up to demand, the price returned to normal, but now certain other figures prices are up as they become hard to find.
Considering the upcoming realease of Skylanders: Giants clearly this model has worked out very well for Activision. While Skylanders initially relied on ties to the Spyro franchise to sell copies, the game is doing well enough on its own currently to warrant a sequel and the addition of new skylanders figures. However, there is one thing that I think that Skylanders has missed in its appeal to children as collectors.
For those of you who have played Pokemon, you will remember that each time you catch a new type of pokemon for the first time, the pokedex entry (a brief sentence or two of flavor text) pops up to tell you about the nature of whatever pokemon you just caught. For example, catching a Zubat (yes I hate them too) would tell you that “It has no eyes. Instead, it relies on its ultrasonic cries for echo location to flit about in darkness” a brief entry that tells you a bit more about the nature of Zubat. For Beanie babies, each came with a four line poem. Continuing with my apparenty obsession with bats, Batty the bat’s poem reads:
Bats may make some people jitter
Please don’t be scared of this critter
If you’re lonely or have nothing to do
This Beanie Baby would love to hug you!
Both Pokemon and Beanie babies provide a small back story on each character. When you are purchasing a skylander character, they do not come equipped with a story of any sort. You receive the figurines, an online code, and a card of the skylander, but there is nothing that comes in the packaging to make the characters relatable.
Online, the official skylanders website provides some background information on each character, but the failure to attach these stories to the skylanders in the packaging, I feel, is a failure to engage Skylanders younger audience, and to get children to relate and play with the skylanders figures in and out of the game. Clearly I don’t want to underestimate children’s imaginations, but I think that adding a line of backstory for each character would enrich the gameworld, and also make the characters more engaging for the intended audience. Again, considering how successful the sales have been so far, I don’t think Activsion will consider changing any aspects for the release of Skylanders: Giants. However, I think if Activision had studied its market a bit more beyond just recognizing that “Omg, people like to collect things in video games” it would have made Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure a more enriching game narratively, and the figures more interesting to a younger audience.