This week, Zero Punctuation dispels some notions on why Pokémon hasn't been reviewed before.
I have viewers who genuinely believe that the only reason I've never done a video on the specific popular games or franchises that they like is because they're my secret guilty pleasure, as if I'm afraid a positive opinion on a game emerging from my lips will take all my integrity with it like a stream of colorful handkerchiefs. So having never covered Pokémon before, the appearance of another few greasy pustules on its amorphous mass presents a great opportunity to disabuse the shit out of some notions.
Now, I did religiously watch the TV show when I was younger, wrapped in a duvet and spellbound by the flashing color and excitement - I guess I was much easier to impress back in my early twenties - but I only played one actual Pokémon game before this one, one of the really early ones on Game Boy Color where the towns are only differentiated by having different colored filters over the screen. It is gratifying to see that at least one game series remains untainted by the various scourges of modernity, but only because it hasn't budged an inch in fifteen fucking years.
So for the record, I went for Pokémon White, because I felt some kind of racial connection to it, although I don't think the version matters unless you're the kind of person who displays unopened ThunderCats action figures and has to segregate their Fruit Loops before they can bring themselves to eat them. I can only blindly hope that Pokémon Black doesn't differ too hard from the same plot of every Pokémon game ever.
In an alternative world in which the school system is regarded with universal contempt, children are encouraged to roam the wilderness siccing wild animals on every motherfucker who crosses their field of vision. You know in the intro to Syndicate Wars where the lad who lives in the dystopian nightmare city has this chip in his head that makes him think he's living in picturesque small town America? I like to think the protagonists of Pokémon all have the same chips and are in reality exploring various murky basements with a sackful of rats and mangy attack dogs. Anyway, while challenging gym leaders for the badges that will finally make you a man in the eyes of society, you must also contend with a sinister organization called Team Plasma, who are different to Team Rocket because they're run by a skinny green-haired fellow who is - and let's be reasonable about this - a massive twat.
The main selling point of Pokémon Race Relations is to introduce another batch of the little bastards. No, seriously, that's it. There's over six hundred now. If you are planning to catch 'em all, I hope you've got a lot of pooper scoopers. Why don't you just save money and just draw a hundred and fifty pictures of animals if the prospect is that thrilling to you? Or just admire your collection of shiny milk bottle tops for a few minutes, because you're obviously more easily pleased than Keith Richards in a pharmacist's stockroom.
Here's how one comes up with new Pokémon: take animals that exist in the real world and change one letter in the name. Or alternatively, leave your pen and paper with a rhesus monkey for a few minutes and then add animé eyes to the result, slightly angrier eyes if it's the evolved form. But it's around this menagerie of margin doodles that this game - and indeed, this entire society - is based. Where are all the characters who are just kind of indifferent about Pokémon and don't really care one way or the other? Do they just live somewhere else, or have they all been burnt at the stake?
Turn-based combat and I have never exactly snuggled up together on a tigerskin rug, because personally, I've never seen a fight where the participants stand on opposite ends of a room taking turns to run up and slap each other on the face. It's very frustrating when you're stuck in a loop healing up and getting smacked down to three health every other round 'cause your guy's never heard of multitasking. Hey, Junior, he's fighting you with a fucking puppy! You've still got a foot, haven't you?
Maybe turn-based combat requires a more thoughtful, strategic approach to warfare, but that's just it - there's really only one strategy in Pokémon: use whatever the enemy is weak to. I built up a core group of seven or eight lads representing most of the elements, and there was very little that could touch me. Usually anyway. There was a gym fairly early on that might as well have had a big sign on it saying, "We Use Electric Types". Every Johnny in the city asked me none too subtlely how I was for ground type Pokémon, and the whole area was lousy with ground type random encounters. So after power-leveling some newly-caught groundy lads for a while, I challenge the gym leader, and what does she pull out? A fucking flying electric type! And guess what flying types are immune to? I'll give you a clue: it rhymes with "pound"ing nails into my fucking eyes.
Whatever satisfaction I was gleaning from wiping out an entire health bar with one expertly-chosen attack gradually faded from sight beneath the many little frustrations. The game has a nasty habit of making tough boss fights you couldn't possibly be prepared for jump out of the fucking hedges. That green-haired twat keeps pulling this shit, and at one point insists on making you ride a Ferris Wheel with him for every time you have to retry. Fucking hell, you needy ponce! Haven't you made any friends of your own at twat school? And then there's the places with random encounters which 100% of the time either occur two paces after the last one or wait just long enough for you to think you might be able to get out of here unmolested.
There's another gym leader who refuses to let you challenge her until you've climbed all the way up a tower on the edge of town, pushing through umpteen random encounters and trainers so petrified of random encounters that they stand perfectly still challenging passers-by for the fleeting moment of human contact. And what did she make me do when we got to the top? Ring a fucking bell! Like I'm a budgerigar and she's teaching me a trick. Imma make your Pokémon into cuttlefish, lady!
And with every fucking fight, you have to sit through the same opening animations where you send your Pokémon out and it makes a sound effect like you trapped its tail in a car door, and after a while, this sequence was akin to having my teeth picked with a pizza slicer.
All of this leads me to my final conclusion about Pokémon as a franchise: that it's specifically designed to appeal to mad people, the kind who will one day be found dead in their front room beneath a pile of cat turds and old copies of the Radio Times. In brief, a game for collectors who can't function in society without having 100% of something. There's even a feature where you have to collect surveys from other Pokémon players in the near vicinity, so I guess you can't fault it for trying to socialize the mad people. But unless you go out of your way to set it up, what are the odds of being close enough to someone else playing the same game unless you're in middle school or Japan, where the average inner-city Wi-Fi connection can reach about ten million people?
Personally, I'd recommend a jigsaw puzzle instead. At least those don't bring out two hundred more pieces every few years.
- Prefers the other kind of cock fight: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- One wonders why the protagonist is the only one who thinks to rock up with more than four of the little cunts
- I like to Pokémon on a Sunday afternoon