Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Incredible Fighting Magikarp

I’ve played through a few Pokemon games in my time, most recently finishing off the Elite Four in Pokemon Platinum, and I’m struck by the similarities between the games. Like, how every Pokemon game I have played is exactly the same game I played last time.

Ok, not exactly, but it’s so close it’s kind of uncanny. The starting towns follow the same layout, the exposition is identical (get a Pokemon from your local version of Prof. Oak, your rival picks whichever one is strong vs. your starter’s element, get a Pokedex and go collect gym badges), the endings are the same, and, ignoring minor details, the rest of the game is the same freaking thing.

So, it would make sense that my strategy for all the games has been the same: Gyarados. The game is a little broken because of the fact that if you are willing to train a Magikarp long enough to get it to evolve you are basically set for the entire game. On all of them I stick with my starter Pokemon until I get a fishing rod, then catch the first thing I fish for (it’s pretty much always a Magikarp), then level that sucker up.

Gyarados is kind of ridiculous for pretty much the whole game. It’s got more attack and defense than it has a right to, and it’s evolved from a super-common Pokemon, and it has a powerful moveset from the get-go. I suppose it’s a reward for dealing with a Magikarp, who can only learn spash (does nothing) and tackle (one of the weakest attacks in the game, with no special abilities), and it only learns the latter once it’s well on its way to evolving.

Once I get to the point where I have my mighty Gyarados the game becomes nothing more than a grindfest, with me returning to a Pokemon Center only to replenish the dwindling PP of my Gyarados’ moves. The only time I really feel threatened is when I’m fighting against electric types, because they do +500% damage to my Poke-Beast (+300% prior to Pokemon Gold/Silver).

The Elite Four, the most powerful NPC opponents in the game are only threatening because I essentially have to kill 30 Pokemon (ok, KO them, but whatever) in a row without returning to refill my PP. I suppose if I were to train my other members of the team I wouldn’t have to worry so much about running out of moves, but the game pretty much forces me to dedicate half of my team to HM slaves (no really, I actually name them that way [HM Slave 1, HM Slave 2, etc]) so that I can get around the world, thereby forcing me to have a bunch of Pokemon stacked with mediocre moves, locked at low levels.

I suppose I’m kind of being a little harsh on the mechanics of the games, but to me they kind of feel old fashioned, even the new DS ones. The games really are fun, and it’s kind of an adventure that you won’t get anywhere else. I just find it amusing that I can get by using a single Pokemon, and have it be the same one every time.

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