Pokemon: A Brand New World

BY LUCA D’ANGELO: Last Christmas was a good one from a gaming perspective as I became the proud owner of a Nintendo Switch with a copy of Pokémon: Let’s Go! Pikachu.

To be honest, ever since Let’s Go was announced, I’ve had conflicted feelings about the remake of the Pokemon game that started it all.  Initially, I was taken aback by the brand new graphics and gameplay mechanics, and oh finally Pokémon are actually spawning instead of being introduced by screen transitions. But at the same time, returning to Kanto again didn’t give me as much excitement as I thought it would.

Nintendo’s intention to introduce the Pokémon franchise to a new generation with modern graphics were pretty clear since the beginning, as well as showcasing the mechanics that will likely feature heavily in the next generation of Pokemon titles.

It then became even clearer when Meltan, the 8th-gen Mythical Pokémon, was introduced in Pokémon GO. On that day last September, many were firmly convinced he was just another random bug, but I stubbornly chose to believe that he wasn’t – and that Niantic was actually teasing something bigger.

Smothered by many different questions that would go unanswered for a while, I was taken back to childhood, when I took to the caves down deep at the bottom of the sea in Pokémon Sapphire, convinced that they hid a Braille-coded message.  This eventually led to the unveiling of lore and to three places sheltering the legendary Regis.

To this day, I can’t remember other times I felt that sense of mystery – at least on a Pokémon game.  Pokemon games have never been renown for their deep stories, but they have had plenty of lore to enjoy and a world to immerse yourself into, which is even more important.  Rumours became myths and those that really came into fruition became legends.

Remember back in the 90s when an out of place truck became the supposed location of the mythical Pokemon Mew?  Or jumping down a ledge in a specific place a set amount of times under the premise that it would glitch the world around you?  Kids in my area were convinced that the glitch was a whole new location, so much so that they gave it a name – “Number City.”

Fast forward to 2019 and the industry has changed, as has the world.  Guides, walkthroughs and all the answers you could need can be found within seconds by a quick internet search – something that can be great but can also be damaging (as I wrote about in my article about an abundance game trailers ruining games).

I already knew how Pokémon: Let’s Go intended to evolve Pokémon Yellow thanks to the trailers.  I knew that Team Rocket from the original anime series would make it into the game, I knew about the gameplay mechanics and I already essentially knew the story.  Then I got to Blaine, the 7th gym leader and…well…

I remember reading an article a few weeks ago, about how the rival has changed from the angry-looking guy in Red/Blue/Yellow versions to the friendly-looking boy he is now, and how Game Freak explained it’s just literally a matter of pixels.  They said that the restricted space couldn’t allow for much emotion on faces in those three original games, while the 2019 graphics behind Let’s Go can definitely create something totally different. And that’s how Blaine’s totally plain-looking gym of 1997 became one of the funniest moments I had in a Pokémon game (although I must confess I definitely preferred a more “rivalrous” rival).

If you are a veteran Pokemon player from the original titles, then while playing Let’s Go you will find out it’s generally deeper than it ever was in the “old days.” Characters are interacting with you, and some of the more popular NPCs (Bill for starters) get a far more accurate characterization to them. You’ll definitely find yourself smiling, at the very least, at some of their interactions.

If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ll miss those old days in some cases, but you won’t help to crack a smile as you think about how Game Freak managed to bring you back to your childhood once again.

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