DEAR VIDEO GAMES – A personal Pokemon history
Dear Pokemon Games,
We’ve been through a lot, you and I. We grew up together and I have to admit we also grew apart. But despite my recent neglect of you, you have not given up on me. I can see that in yet another attempt to reel me in with a new game. You’re tempting me, and I have to say after our short break, I think I’m ready to commit again.
But let’s reminisce in our past before we talk about our possible future. It started out so innocently. I borrowed your Blue version from a friend and we had quite some fun. I wasn’t allowed to save cause it would override his progress, so I had a Groundhog Day style weekend with you. The same scenarios over and over, practically like playing a demo, and you got me hooked. I don’t think I played an RPG before I got my hands on you, so it was you who opened the gates for what I can now proudly call my favourite genre.
The first game I bought with my own money after saving up my meager allowance was Pokemon Red. I knew I wanted to play you but had to change it up a little from what I tried before, and to trade with the friend since you were such a naughty tease with some creatures being exclusive to specific versions. You always knew how to get kids to spend more money on you. Forget unlocking DLC characters for a few bucks; you taunted us to buy another game, another Gameboy, and then a goddamn link cable just so we could get those few other monsters.
Still, I did get you back then. Although I let my brother watch and help decide which Pokemon to catch and which path to explore next, he wasn’t allowed to directly play with you. So he got his own eventually; the Yellow version. I have to admit, I was a bit jealous. The updated colours made you look so new and fresh, and not having to choose between the popular three starters was amazing. Having both Charizard and Blastoise on your team while Venusaur sat in the PC box all sad, underappreciated, and boring as fuck because he’s not a fire-breathing, dragon-like lizard or a water-blasting tank turtle. He’s just a toad with moss on the back. Yeah, totally enticing, don’t mind me while I prefer to use elements more threatening than “not mowing the lawn for a week”. I didn’t care how useful his stats were in the game. Venusaur’s design was lame, and that’s all the cool kids cared about.
It wouldn’t be long until a new generation arrived. This time I didn’t hesitate before I bought Pokemon Gold. My brother, too, was so enchanted with you, he got Pokemon Silver at the same time. We only had one Gameboy Colour, so playtime was limited and we couldn’t even trade. But we knew we needed our own versions of you. You couldn’t be shared; you only had one save slot, you always did. Such a monogamous game, I wonder how you could preserve this ancient practice for so long. Everyone’s upset about it, but not enough to stop spending time with you. We still want to play with you, even though you’re being such a tease.
Gold and Silver were fantastic times. You lasted so much longer since you didn’t only have the new region, but also a post credit section where you could visit the old region. Something no future version has ever replicated and making you very unique. The final battle music against the original player Red still rings in my mind when I’m about to take on an epic challenge, like a pile of dirty dishes as high as Mount Silver.
I never had a Nintendo 64 and missed out on a few gems. I even skipped the Gameboy Advance era, or at least the legal way. This was a time of romhacks, where I was too edgy to pay money for games. I could play an unlimited amount on my PC for free. Why would I ever pay for a game again? I had so many games at my disposal that I neglected you throughout your whole Advance era. It wasn’t until many, many years later where I caught up by getting a used Emerald copy.
I borrowed a Nintendo DS once from another friend, with your Pearl version. I wasn’t too keen on the changes you made. Well, the first time I played through. Then I played it again, and again. I had rekindled my love for you, and I liked the new handheld. It was time to get my own and get back on the Pokemon train. Especially since I still had the luxury of romhacks at my disposal. That’s right, I cheated. I got that filthy cartridge and SIM card that let you download roms and play them on the DS. That’s how I tried you out, when you went Black and White. It was almost 3D, that’s as 3D as you had ever gotten at this time.
Except for Pokemon Stadium.
And Pokemon Snap.
Oh, or Pokemon Stadium 2.
Or Super Smash Brothers, if you wanna count that.
We don’t talk about Pokemon Channel.
Point is, it was pretty close to 3D in a core Pokemon game. You didn’t offer the best creatures in Black and White. Some of them were cool, but most were underwhelming and among those were the starters; the three Pokemon you choose from in the beginning which are supposed to be the hook into the game for everyone starting their journey. Yet, something about you always screamed success despite any possible flaws. So you changed up the routine a bit and made a sequel two both versions, rather than a third slightly different edition. I have to admit it was fun to explore an expanded version of the same region that changed through the passage of time. Almost like back in the Gold and Silver days, where we’d eventually visit the first region again.
Back to Gold and Silver again, huh? I was done with romhacks at some point. I grew out of the childish greed of amassing a huge library of free games, where the less I paid the more clever I felt. I wanted to openly support you and your development, and was very happy to buy a legitimate copy again. Of course it was the beautiful remake of your best time. I have replayed HeartGold more often than the original, and still I crave to play it every time a new version comes out. Yes, I have been excited for a full 3D core version and played Pokemon X, but HeartGold (or SoulSilver to some) is timeless.
In your X and Y phase you were aesthetically nice to look at and the new Pokemon had very interesting designs. You even introduced Mega Evolutions to spice up older generations of Pokemon. Still, something about you made me feel unfulfilled. I was looking forward to spend another several playthroughs with you, but I breezed through the first one so quick, and had not much left to do post game, that I was ultimately underwhelmed by the content you offered. Yeah, you looked great, but it couldn’t hold up to what you used to be. That’s where I fell off again.
I watched someone else play Sun and Moon and I was disappointed in what you have become. Did you think we all forgot how a game works? Why was the entirety of those two versions just one long-winded tutorial? There was no freedom and exploration, just going from one point to another, constantly interrupted by someone saying “Uhm, actually have you tried this shitty gimmick yet”. You always had your forced tutorials with no option to skip of “how to catch Pokemon”. But this was just sad. Some say you got too easy, but you always were easy. It was just more of a grind fest back then, and honestly, I don’t need you to be extremely difficult. I don’t have to feel like a Pidgey waterboarded by god damn Dragonair, but I don’t need you to constantly hold my hand either.
I thought it was the end, since not even Pokemon Go could keep me interested long enough without any substance to the game. Turns out, I didn’t do a lot of GO-ing when I had to stop every five seconds to catch the thousandth Magikarp cause Papa needed some candy. It felt like you were drifting away from me, towards some demographic I could never be. It’s not bad to change, you didn’t owe me anything. I was prepared to say goodbye forever.
And then I got hit with this shit
What the fuuuuuuck, lemme have it, I wanna!
Suddenly my excitement for you was back. Like running into an ex and having a pleasant conversation where you end up wondering why you broke up in the first place, cause they be lookin’ mighty fine. So yeah, this might be a mistake, but I’m invested in you again. I am hopeful that after our break, we are ready for each other once more. I’m filled with determination to enjoy you to the fullest. Meaning, I will have my laptop next to me with the Bulbapedia page open, developing a strategy of which Pokemon to catch along my journey and when to evolve them to make sure they learn their best moves possible, eliminating any kind of surprise I might have along the way.
Maybe I’m the problem.
I’m looking forward to this, but hey, no pressure.