Thursday, 17 January 2013

An Analysis of Pokemon

I, am a fan of Pokemon; however, I feel that Nintendo mishandled the franchise.

The series started with its humble beginnings with the Original Generation of 150 Pokemon; it was fantastic. They did a good job of introducing variety, so that players could build varied and interesting benches based on what they were interested in. Although most veteran players can agree on a choice few Pokemon that formed the "ideal" end-game bench, the cute Pokemon are what drew in a lot of players, and it does help to have a variety of units, even if not all of them are useful. The anime series was well received, and it was an overnight success.

Where I feel that Nintendo misstepped was in how they handled subsequent generations. In the second generation, they added 100 new Pokemon. The only ones that remained from the first generation were ones that had new evolutions in this version.

I feel that they would have been much better off to treat each new generation as an expansion pack for the series, rather than feeling they needed to reinvent the entire ecology of Pokemon for every generation. I would have liked to see maybe 50 new pokemon, and cycle out 50 of the less popular pokemon, resulting in a significant number of new faces, as well as a host of familiar ones, and only 50 new ones to learn, rather than having to start from square one. This also has the benefit of making it not unreasonably hard to 'catch them all', the underlying motto of the series.

In subsequent generations, they misstep again and again. They add 135 new Pokemon in generation 3 (for a total of 385), and again, reinvent the wheel. They added in Leaf Green and Fire Red, remakes of the original generation. I feel that this would have been a great time to consolidate the three generations into something manageable, as the Running Shoes alone made the remakes worth buying, however instead, they stood largely alone, not really affecting the series as a whole in terms of Pokemon biodiversity.

The fourth generation, Diamond and Pearl, adds 107 new pokemon, bringing us up to 492. By this point, it would take a truly dedicated Pokemon master to catch them all, and they are starting to run out of reasonable shapes for their Pokemon, resulting in slightly ridiculous varieties, or species that are derivative of previous Pokemon.

In the fifth generation, Black and White, we add 156 more, for a total of 648. While there is no denying that the game has improved mechanically with each game's iteration, it can equally said that the endearing quality of the Pokemon themselves has diminished with each generation. Beyond the starters and the legendaries, how many Pokemon can you actually name? - and more importantly, how many do you actually care about from the newest generation? 

I feel that Nintendo would have been better off cycling out a smaller portion of each generation, and retaining more Pokemon from generation to generation, allowing favourites to remain a part of the franchise (aside from Pikachu of course, who never seems to go away). By forcing players to learn over a hundred of new Pokemon each time they want to pick up a new game, and virtually guaranteeing that their favourites will not be in the next one, they are isolating a lot of their core fan base. 

Pokemon games are still fun, and it is good to see them experimenting with new formats and inter-generational mingling. Games such as Pokemon Conquest are refreshing, and promising for the future of the franchise, as it has become abundantly clear that their current path is not the correct way to continue. I still enjoy Pokemon, but I haven't been very interested in them lately because there are just too damn many of them.

Until next time,

-Colin Souva

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