I'm a science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction writer by trade, but aside from writing, video games are my biggest passion. I also write over at Gamer Limit.
The first console my brothers and I ever got was an SNES for Christmas one year. Since then, we've owned an N64, Playstation, PS2, and an Xbox 360. I got a Gameboy Color one year for Christmas, but my brothers are more into handheld gaming than me. Every time they upgrade to the latest system I get their hand-me-downs. That's how I obtained my GBA and my two DS's. Handheld gaming for some reason doesn't interest me even though I know there are great games out there. The first console I've ever been the exclusive owner of is my PS3. The first games I ever played were Super Mario World, F-Zero, 7th Saga (which I've written about), and Out of This World.
My favorite genres are RPGs (Western or Japanese), FPS, action/adventure, and RTS (even though I suck at them).
I borrowed Pokemon HeartGold from my brother to see if I could relive those carefree days I spent in Johto as a child. Sadly, those days are gone forever. My 60+ hours spent with HeartGold taught me one thing: Pokemon is broken.
Pictured: Pikachu, cool lightning. Not pictured: broken mechanics
Thereís always controversy every time a new Pokemon game comes out. People complain that the series doesnít innovate enough. They bemoan that each game is basically just like the one before it with maybe a new coat of paint and a tweak or two here and there. Iím not going to delve into those complaints. Thatís not where I think the Pokemon series has problems. I want to delve deeper into the actual, somewhat bullshit, gameplay mechanics.
Maybe it was the innocence of youth that blinded me to Pokemonís faults. But after 60 hours with HeartGold, Iím not sure Iím going to play another Pokemon game ever again. Hereís a couple of reasons why:
The endless grind Ė As Iíve gotten older Iíve realized I have less and less patience for grinding, and Pokemon is all about the grind. This isnít a trait thatís unique to Pokemon; many JRPGs suffer from the need for almost incessant grinding.
Price of admission: one soul
Pokemon wants you to ďcatch Ďem all,Ē but what they donít tell you is that once you catch Ďem you have to raise Ďem to high enough levels to fit in with the rest of your team. And that takes forever. Battling wild Pokemon and battling other Pokemon trainers are the two ways you earn experience. But the problem is you never seem to earn enough.
Por ejemplo: I was going to tackle one of the gyms in HeartGold. The gym leaderís Pokemon were all in the mid to upper 30ís. I needed to level up a few members of my team so they could hold their own in the coming battle. However the wild Pokemon available to me at the time were only level 25, and I was out of other trainers to battle. The game forced me to spend hours battling weaker Pokemon just to scrape a few level ups together. It was soul crushingly monotonous. And it happened all the damn time throughout the course of the game.
I hope you all lose your jobs
Healing Ė The second problem I see with Pokemon is related to the first one. Undoubtedly your Pokemon are going to get hurt during all that time spent grinding. You have two options for healing them: take them to a PokeCenter or use an item. PokeCenters are free, but theyíre only located in cities. Itís a huge pain in the ass when you have to race back to the nearest town after every fight to heal your team. Items really arenít a better option either. Wild Pokemon donít drop potions or other healing items like in other RPGs, nor do they drop money. You only earn money from battling that finite number of trainers. Thereís a finite amount of money you can earn in the game. Therefore your ability to purchase healing items is severely limited.
The fact that healing your team is such a hassle only makes the grinding that much worse. While Dragon Age II was criticized for aspects of its battle system, I think that the auto-heal after a battle mechanic would work wonders within the Pokemon universe. Sure itíd put PokeCenters and all those identical looking Nurse Joyís out of work, but I can live with that. If I never had to hear that ďhealing melodyĒ ever again I could die a happy man.
I just thought this picture was funny. That is a truthfact.
Without addressing the overarching complaints that surround Pokemon Ė the lack of innovation Ė the issues I talked about above are the two biggest ones that break the Pokemon games. Maybe Iím not hardcore enough to slog through the games without complaining. While I love the fact that Pokemon is a surprisingly deep series Ė I donít go near the breeding and EV stuff Ė I think it would take a turn for the awesome if it showed just a little more accessibility. If that happened then my time spent training my critters wouldnít feel like such a dreary, mind numbing chore. So come on Game Freak and Nintendo, forget about creating new batches of Pokemon. Fix your gameplay mechanics and Iíll be first in line to throw more money at you.