By 90's Pokémon Master Ben Salter
The Pokémon videogame series first launched on the GameBoy back in 1996. 13 years later it has become one of the best selling games of all time, and one of Nintendo’s most famous handheld series. Nintendo stated that the Pokémon franchise had sold over 175 million copies as of April last year, and these figured have definitely improved since then.
I began playing Pokémon Platinum in preparation for the review a few days ago. After growing up with the originals on the Game Boy Pocket (or even original Game Boy if you wanted to be old school) I noticed a striking similarity between the two. 10 years on and the games have hardly changed. Pokémon Diamond & Pearl are essentially exactly the same in terms of single player gameplay as Pokémon Red & Blue. Sure there are some small gameplay enhancements, but surely Pokémon heads the list of ‘most games released with so little changes’. Each generation two flavours of the same game are released and then, around two years later, a remake of that game is made to complete the trio for the generation. We essentially have the same game released three times on one platform and yet it sells like hotcakes.
That’s just taking into account what I would consider to be the ‘main series’. Beyond that we have the Mystery Dungeon
& Pokémon Ranger
spin-offs along with popular console games such as Pokémon Stadium
and its sequels, Pokémon Snap
and the Pokémon Box/Ranger games. Remakes of Pokémon Gold & Silver
were recently announced
for the DS and already have fans going crazy. A 10-year-old game being remade is not uncommon, but technically it has already been remade, or was at least enhanced, with Pokémon Crystal
which completed the trilogy on the GameBoy Color.
What is it with Pokémon that makes gamers go crazy, despite the fact they are either playing a remake (or enhanced remake) or a sequel that is so similar to its predecessor that it may as well be considered a remake? The TV series played a role in kicking off the craze. Back in the late 90’s when the original games were released kids were going Pokécrazy with the show, videogames and trading card game. I remember school lunch time trading Pokémon cards on a daily basis or playing Pokémon Red if you dared to pull out the gameboy at recess and risk its confiscation. It’s fair to say the show is nowhere near as influential now (not to mention terrible without the original Pokemon or characters) nevertheless the series is as popular as ever with Platinum hitting the 1 million sales mark within 2 days of release in Japan.
Maybe Nintendo has perfected the formula; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I admit while visually I’m not impressed with Pokémon Platinum I’m enjoying the gameplay even though I spent 40 odd hours playing Pokémon Diamond two years ago. And I am not alone, while I find it hard to straight out recommend it to the owners of Diamond/Pearl I expect many of them to buy it. It won’t just be kids either; while it certainly appears to be a ‘kiddie game’ it’s one that gamers of all ages can appreciate. While I doubt many of you older gamers would admit it, if you have a DS you’d be a fool not to look into the Pokémon games. I’m certainly not the biggest fan of the role playing genre; however, I’m willing to spend countless hours on the Pokémon games. Raising the creatures into a fighting machine is rewarding and still fun even if you’ve done it many times before. Because the gameplay is so good you’re almost happy that it’s repetitive, you find yourself wanting to do it all again. I don’t understand why people bother importing their already trained Pokémon from past games, or use cheats that make them unbeatable. Choosing 6 new Pokemon and training them until the final gym battle is a rewarding experience. I understand that trading from Diamond & Pearl is one of the key features but to an extent I believe this is where the repetitive gameplay may come unstuck. Where’s the fun in starting a game that’s based on developing something when you begin with the finished product?
Another view could suggest that Nintendo don’t really care. They realise that anything with ‘Pokémon’ in the title will sell. I believe this is the case with games such as the rushed Pokémon Dash and some of recent Mystery Dungeon spin-offs. With so many ‘enhanced remakes’ and actual remakes, which began with the original two being reborn on the GBA as Pokémon Fire Red & Leaf Green, the same could be said for the RPG series. But with such great gameplay 13 years on I’m willing to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt with their main Pokémon series and say it hasn’t been changed simply because it doesn’t need to be.
What are your memories of the Pokémon games? Even if you haven’t played one recently chances are you did back in the Game Boy or Nintendo 64 days. Why do you think they are still so successful? Leave your thoughts, maybe even dare to admit that you still enjoy the Pokémon games despite being in your late teens or adulthood.
Pokémon Platinum will be released in Australia this Thursday, May 14. Our featured review will be up on MyDS later this week.