Back in 1998 there was one thing on most kid’s minds: to be the very best, that no one ever was. Back then when Pokémon Red
released, every kid on the block and in class was the so called best. Every kid was a master because they had the level 100 legendaries, the strongest moves, and the words to back their play. I was one of those kids. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I realized how rusty I was when it came to Pokémon.
Let’s start from the beginning with Pokémon Red
. The proverbial “bees knees” of the franchise for most gamers, but in my elementary school it was the end all be all for glory. You were either the champ or the chump. Things were fast back then, no time for strategy and thinking. Whoever had the faster, stronger Pokémon was the victor. There was no time for Sleep Powder followed by a surprise super effective move. You had to be quick, the moves are still ingrained in my head: Blizzard, Hydro Pump, Fire Blast, Thunder, Psychic, and the end all be all Hyper Beam. The Pokémon were always the same – Legendaries, Dragonite, Gyarados, Starters, and for some lucky bastards Mew. I was the lucky bastard. I somehow managed to procure a Mew from a kid who used a Gameshark to get him; however, I was different from the others. I didn’t load my Mew with all powerful death dealing moves. My set was simple – Recovery, Psychic, Thunder Wave, Horn Drill (with more PP using PP Up). The start of my strategic career in Pokémon, no one expected it. Paralyzed with Thunder Wave then hit with a Horn Drill, an instant KO. Did it always hit first time? No, but it did make me different, I began to think outside of the box. I learned that it did take more than just strength and speed, it took skill.
followed a few years later. With the second generation of Pokémon came new moves, types, and of course Pokémon. I also had grown a little older, well into my middle school career. The transition to the next stage of Pokémon brought my favorite Pokémon, Houndoom
, and a new way of thinking about the game. As I learned by the end of my Red
years, it took strategy to win. I learned this with the new egg system, trying to craft Pokémon with innovative move sets learned from their parents. It came with the new moves, giving my team moves that they could fend off their superior element with, for example my Houndoom with Solarbeam. I also became conscious of a Pokémon’s stat strengths and weaknesses, for example Houndoom has a massive amount of points in its Special Attack stat, but an average Speed stat.
I also had the Pokémon Stadiums
to practice with. These were great at helping me establishing a “battle range”. The Poke Cup was my favorite, a Pokémon League sponsored event that was made out to be similar to the tournaments in the Pokémon show. I loved the idea of only being able to use level 50-55 Pokémon, no Legendaries, and a total Pokémon level of 155 for the three Pokémon chosen to battle. This level range was great in that most Pokémon had not learned all of their moves yet and some had not fully evolved. Again it added to more strategy finding, level maxing, and move optimizing.
The third generation was probably my weakest outing into the Pokémon universe. I had no Gameboy Advance and was unable to partake in Ruby
. It distanced me from the series a bit. I did not fall behind in terms of what Pokémon were new and what new techniques were available, but I couldn’t practice. I didn’t have the game in front of me to actually try out combinations of Pokémon and see what move worked best with the new Pokémon. I would peek and listen to younger kids on my bus play the games and talk about the new Pokémon, trying to gain any knowledge I could, but also trying to maintain my “cool” as a high school student. It wasn’t until late into this generation’s life that I jumped on board, but it was too little too late because the next generation would soon be making its debut.
As with the other iterations, Diamond
brought more of the same new fare to the table. This time I was much older and wiser. I learned of something that completely changed the game for me: Effort Values. Effort Values, or EVs, had been in the game since Red and Blue; they are attributes that boost a Pokémon’s stats and increase depending on what Pokémon is fought. This meant that years of using Rare Candies were pointless, as Rare Candies offer no EV upon a level increase. EVs and Pokémon Natures, personalities that boost and decrease stats, added an unexplainable amount of depth in terms of raising Pokémon. I had to essentially beat the game and start raising Pokémon from scratch once I had access to the entire map. I also had to pick and choose which Pokémon would be the best EV fodder for my competition team. I feel these values and depth are what make Pokémon similar to a Pixar movie, they are both accessible to children, but adults can also enjoy them for the nuances a child cannot catch.
This brings me to present day, a new generation same old spiel. I still haven’t acquired the new Black
games, but I have been looking into them. This time I have gotten practice with a few of the new Pokémon unlike my Ruby
stint. Pokémon Showdown
is a site where one can jump on and battle people over the internet with their own made team or random battle with random Pokémon and random moves. This, to me, is the best way to train. You are given a random team and are thrust against an opponent with an equally random team and are forced to make on the fly decisions to win. I can’t say the move sets and squad selection always end up in a fair outcome, but I’ve surprised myself with what some Pokémon can do in a tight spot. You might have to use a Pokémon who’s at a type disadvantage, but is able to take a hit, only to be able to use the one move in your whole squad that can damage the opposing Pokémon.
What does any of this have to do with training? Out of all the games I’ve played, I feel like I’ve put the most time and effort into the Pokémon series, almost 14 years. Memorizing names, type matchups, strategies, moves, items, and ways of obtaining Pokémon, I’ve done it all alongside following the show (I haven’t watched an episode of the show in a few years, it’s pointless) and collecting the cards (I recently obtained the Charizard from the first set of Pokémon cards). Every generation was a new learning process, a reconfiguration of old methods and new ideas. The only other games I put that much energy into are fighting games, but Pokémon still beats those out by a landslide. I feel like an aging sports player, trying to keep up with the times and adapting to the new styles the young guns throw at me. At this point the only thing putting me ahead of them is wisdom, who knows where I’ll be two Pokémon generations from now...
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