Is Pokemon the most Influential RPG of all time?
When I was in third grade, there was nothing in the world that seemed more important than the fantastical whozits and whatzits of the Pokemon franchise. My friends and I devoured everything even minutely related to the game inside the red and blue cartridges: card games, toys, the cartoon show, the proper console games. Every single physical item was enhanced by the mere presence of the Pokemon property ( I�ll bet marketers at Nintendo still remember the �good ol� days� when that shock mouse was raw electric money ).
But , despite that merchandising whirlwind that encapsulated our young minds, it was the actual Game Boy games that we latched onto and obsessed over. I think a substantial portion of 1998 was devoted to figuring out if you could breed Pokemon and raise babies, if there were wild Mews near the truck outside of the cruise ship, and if Missingno was some �super Pokeman�, or just Raichu�s dad( I kid you not.) In the days just before we fully embraced the internet, my friends and I discovered, passed on, and made up rumors about that most mysterious of Game Boy games. Trying to separate the fact from fiction in those heady days without forums or communities, I found myself gain an enormous appreciation for the Pokemon franchise; I invested so much of myself and my time into those first two games, trying to become �the Pokemon master� that I found the series to be tremendously interactive, and one of my most potent early gaming memories.
15 Types. 6 Slots. 4 Moves. GO.
But the Pokemon franchise NEVER attempts to distract you from the actual interaction you have with the game. Unlike other JRPG�s, the star of the show IS the Pokemon on Pokemon violence. Everything in the game is designed to keep you thinking about what you can do to your Pokemon team to handle a certain opponent/type of enemy. The gameplay is the star of the show in Pokemon, instead of the story.
That�s the reason why Pokemon is the most influential RPG in recent memory. Every other �important� JRPG that we see lauded on message boards or blog posts inevitably talks about the story in those games, the events that you see taking place over the course of a game. But we�re talking about video games here, and, as such, we need to measure games based on the interaction you have with them. Ultimately, Pokemon Red/Blue has the fewest number of barriers between the player and the game itself. You play Pokemon to PLAY it, while other RPG�s are played in order to get to the next cutscene. Pokemon is the game responsible for embedding the RPG gameplay elements into the minds of game players because the game was primarily ABOUT those gameplay elements.
Again, I don�t necessarily think that Pokemon is �better� than those other games, or even more fun that those other JRPGs. However, Pokemon is the one game that is actually about the gameplay interactions you have, rather than the story the developer is trying to tell. While I believe that a great story or really novel interactivity is certainly preferable to really deep, compelling gameplay, Pokemon Red/Blue is perhaps the �purest� JRPG ever created, as it uses the RPG genre for its specific gameplay elements rather than a means to see a bunch of cutscenes.
What do you guys think? Is the meager interactivity in games like Final Fantasy 7 overshadowed by it�s fantastic story and memorable characters? Do you think that the Turn based/ATB systems of those games actually have an effect on the story so you feel like a participant in the game�s plot? Are you someone who will ignore gameplay for a really well told story? Do you think Squirtle is awesome? Let me know in the comments!