In honor of the recently released Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver games on DS, here’s a special blog about my history with Pokemon, my top five favorite non-battling Pokemon games, and my top five favorite Pokemon critters!
I first read about Pokemon in a small article from Nintendo Power many years back. In that article, they briefly described a new game in Japan called Pocket Monsters. It had actually been quietly released over there, and got popular by word of mouth! It was kids, not Nintendo, who started calling it Pokemon and choosing Pikachu as the series mascot!
I like to say that Pokemon helped pay my way through college. How? Well, at the time, I was reviewing games for The Dallas Morning News. Pokemon had just been announced for a US release, and I insisted to my editor that I get to cover all the games and hoopla around it. He said, ‘whatever, sure,’ not knowing how popular it would eventually get in the US! Pretty soon I was writing TONS of articles about Pokemon, and making some nice college spending money, too!
Unfortunately, by the time Pokemon Gold/Silver came out on the GBC, one of the editor’s sons was old enough to write so they had him do the Pokemon game reviews from then on. Dontcha’ just love office politics? But it was just as well. By then I was getting a little tired of the Pokemon RPG formula, which has been relatively unchanged to this day. But it’s not the game’s fault. I kind of OD’ed on the first Pokemon (I caught all 151 of them, even Mew, without cheating). So I haven’t played through any other main Pokemon game all the way. I kind of wish they would change up the battle gameplay, but Nintendo probably says, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So it’s just a personal preference thing with me.
I do like the two on two battles in the newer titles, but they don’t happen enough in the handheld games. That’s why I liked the GameCube Collosseum games since ALL the battles in the RPG part were two on two. And catching Pokemon was different, as well.
Anyway, because I have grown a little tired of the Pokemon RPG format, I probably won’t play through all of my Pokemon HeartGold game either. I mainly got it, and the SoulSilver version for brother Jeff, so we’d have something to play together. He still loves the Pokemon games. Another reason why I wanted to get the Gold and Silver remakes was for the PokeWalker accessory, mainly because I have a fascination with keychain virtual pet games. Which is all the PokeWalker is, aside from a pedometer so you can take your Pokemon for a walk. It’s a cute little distraction, at least.
Personally, I think Pokemon games are great for kids. They teach problem solving, multitasking, and management skills. In fact, the first Pokemon game helped encourage my little brothers to learn how to read (it didn’t teach them, but it did make them want to learn quicker).
Really the only problem I have with Pokemon is how they market it to kids. When I was to E3 the year that Pokemon was to be released in the US that fall, their slogan on all the press material was “Catch ‘em if you can!” But by the time the game was released, it was changed to “Gotta Catch ‘em All!” It’s an ingenious marketing plan, but I think it makes kids want to buy more and not be satisfied with what they already have. But I still say the games are good and the cartoon is still one of the better video game based toons out there (sadly). Plus Team Rocket was cool.
One problem that I’ve seen that some parents have with Pokemon is they say it’s nothing but virtual violent cockfights. While I personally think that claim is a little silly, these parents are entitled to their opinion, and I respect that. Luckily, there are a lot of games out there with Pokemon that are not about fighting and battling. In fact, since I’m a little tired of the regular Pokemon RPG format, the non-battle Pokemon games I usually tend to like better now. So, here are my top five non-battling Pokemon games!
Pokemon Pinball (GBC and GBA)
There are two different Pokemon Pinball games. The GBA one is certainly better and more advanced, but the older GBC one is certainly good for what it is. I liked how they ‘captured’ the spirit of catching Pokemon in the pinball titles. The first one on GBC was made by HAL, and they KNOW how to make good pinball games (like Revenge of the Gator and Kirby’s Pinball Land). The neat thing about the GBA game is you can play on one credit for a LONG time!
Pokemon Snap (N64)
In this N64 game, you ride a track on rails and try to take pictures of wild Pokemon. I think this game was ingenious (also made by HAL), and I wish they would make a sequel or update on Wii or DS (you can download the original on Wii virtual console, though). This game is also educational as it teaches the basics of good photography. You are judged on your pictures by how close the Pokemon are in the frame, if they’re facing you, and how centered they are. Anyone remember when this game came out and you could print off little stickers of the pictures you took at the little kiosks at Blockbuster Video?
Pokemon Channel (GameCube)
This is one of the weirdest games I’ve played on the GameCube. It’s kind of a sequel to the N64 Hey You, Pikachu! microphone game, but Pokemon Channel is way better. All you really do is watch Pokemon TV channels with Pikachu. Most of these TV channels have Pokemon themed mini-games and quizzes. You can also buy goodies on the Pokemon shopping channel. After watching TV, you and Pikachu can go outside and meet other Pokemon.
A lot of game reviewers bashed this game, but it’s really not a game at all. It really plays more like a young children’s electronic activity center. Nintendo even advertised it as such. I never saw an ad for it in a regular gaming magazine, but in parent magazines like Nick Jr., there were lots of print ads for it. I thought it was a really adorable game. As you played, you unlocked a cute little original cartoon called Meowth’s Party (which used an old GC tech demo as its premise). Fans of the Pokemon cartoon would want to get Pokemon Channel since you can’t watch this cartoon anywhere else. You can decorate your TV room, which gives it a bit of an Animal Crossing feel. Finally, it’s also like a classic game collection in that you can play virtual versions of all the Pokemon Mini handheld games that were exclusives to the Pokemon Store in NYC. So yeah, I think Pokemon Channel was a pretty unique little Pokemon experience and I really liked it for what it was.
Pokemon Puzzle League (N64)
There are tons of versions of this Nintendo puzzler (Panel de Pon, Tetris Attack, Planet Puzzle League), but I think the Pokemon themed N64 version was the best. It was the most robust, and I really liked the 3-D cylinder mode. And the graphics and voices from the cartoon show really cracked me up sometimes!
Pokemon Ranger (DS)
In this DS game, you capture Pokemon by drawing circles with the stylus. But you don’t use the monsters to battle, instead you use your captured Pokemon’s abilities to solve puzzles and bypass obstacles. There’s even a sequel and a third game in Japan (which will probably come out here, too, I bet), but I’ve only played the first game. It’s also made by HAL, and a pretty creative game, too. Not perfect, but still neat.
Of course, while there are many good non-battling Pokemon games, there are some really awful ones, too. One is Pokemon Dash, an early DS racing game that you all should stay away from. Another one is the aforementioned N64 Hey You, Pikachu game. You used a microphone to communicate with Pikachu, but it didn’t work AT ALL. I bashed it when I reviewed it for the newspaper.
Bonus Stage: Cary’s Favorite Pokemon
Even if you hate Pokemon, you have a favorite. Come on, admit it, you know you do. So to conclude this blog, here’s my top five favorite Pokemon!
I just think Snorlax is cool! I don’t look like Snorlax on the outside (I’m not big and fat), but I sure do act like Snorlax on the inside (I love to sleep and it’s one of the only things I’m really good at). I also like the baby form of Snorlax: the insatiable Munchlax!
This was the very first Pokemon I chose in the very first game! He stayed with me all throughout the first adventure. Bulbasaur was also the first Pokemon toy I got. It was a little plush capsule toy Nintendo was handing out at the E3 where they first announced Pokemon!
One of my best friend’s favorite Pokemon is Meowth. I mostly like him from the cartoon, because he can actually talk and he’s part of Team Rocket, the only good part of the cartoon. I think the whole Pokemon cartoon should just star the befuddling Team Rocket instead of those stupid kids.
I think they modeled this Pokemon after Santa Claus. Since I like to give people presents in real life, I can kind of identify with this critter. Plus, Delibird was an always welcome sight in Pokemon Channel because he’s the one who would give you your goodies from the Shopping Channel!
I both like and hate Pichu at the same time, for the same reason. He just so gosh darn adorable. Especially in the Pokemon Channel cartoon and his taunt moves in Super Smash Bros. Melee are too cute.
And that’s all I feel like talking about Pokemon right now. In the comments section, let me know what YOUR favorite Pokemon games and monsters are! –Cary