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There Are Entirely Too Many Pokémon

/ Nov 23rd, 2012 11 Comments

Pokemon Red and Blue
Pokemon Red and Blue

The original 150 in Red and Blue.

In the private school that I attended, we were outlaws. Hiding in bathrooms, finding corners with low faculty traffic, creating walls with our bodies to conceal the trading and capturing of the original 150 in Pokémon Red or Pokémon Blue. When I was keeping lookout for teachers or breaking line of sight with my husky build, I would listen in on stories and strategies from veteran classmates to the greenhorns. Magikarp is useless, this I knew for certain. We all knew. But one day, I overheard a classmate instructing another to keep the Magikarp as the first in the party and to swap him out as soon as the battle started, granting the feckless fish a portion of experience without having to partake in battle. This was one of the most powerful epiphanies of my young life. The next day, my nomadic band and I broke formation, jumped in the air and celebrated the first Gyarados in our class on an empty basketball court. After months of watching others, I was determined to experience the magic first-hand.

Make no mistake. The game was magical. 150 seemed to be the perfect number that felt plentiful while still within reach. The creatures felt unique, even the simplest ones. Goldeen is just a koi fish with a horn. Pidgey and Spearow are just birds. However, unlike with the newer series, the original gang felt like they had individual personalities. Parties weren’t always boiled down to the best stats or most powerful moves, but how much the player loved the design and personality of a Pokémon. Kingler may be a stronger water Pokémon than Blastoise, but Blastoise was there from the beginning of the journey, a Pokémon raised from level 5 that had earned a permanent spot in the party. The beauty of the game’s design was that gamers were not only collecting as they went, but they could create a group and grow together.

Pokemon

Bulbasaur, number 1 in the Pokedex and number 1 in our hearts.

Ever since Gold and Silver, the main push was that there were more Pokémon to catch, more to explore and more badges to earn. It was all the series needed. However, they seemed to lack the testicular fortitude to wipe the slate clean and make a game featuring only a set of 150 or 200 all new monsters. Every iteration included all monsters from the previous entry. Not only did it make the environments feel cluttered, but the designs of later generation Pokémon were terrible. White and Black saw the abominations such as Trubbish and Vanillite, which are literally a bag of garbage and a living ice cream cone, respectively. As basic as some of the first generation monsters were, they weren’t so lazy as to tack on a set of eyes to inanimate objects or food items. Without having to waste time on creating subpar monsters to raise the count, development could be focused on new features, better story sections or even the full 3D models that fans have been clamoring for since Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64.

The first generation had a few Pokémon that would only evolve into their final states after a trade to another player, and there has always been an emphasis on trading and collecting between versions. The problem with having 600 different Pokémon in a single game is that players become focused on collecting them to fill up a Pokédex rather than battling them and leveling up their party. The time one can dedicate to each individual is inversely proportional to the amount of monsters that can be found in the wild. This leaves gamers with a party of relatively strong members, most of which they have carried since the early portion of the game, and a plethora of low level, ill-equipped Pokémon stashed in the Pokédex. It becomes a chore to withdraw a Pokémon from level 5 or 10 to carry around into fights against trainers with level 40’s or 50’s. As with the Magikarp strategy, swapping these weaker monsters so that they gain a percentage of experience is the only option besides backtracking twenty hours to grind against wild enemies. The levels don’t feel earned, time doesn’t feel well-spent and the endgame is just another check mark.

Pokémon has been a passion for me ever since it first showed up on US shores. To this day, I have played every version that Nintendo has released. I want this series to continue, but not at the cost of its personality. As more and more Pokémon are created to fill the games to come, the less people will be interested in the quest to catch them all. Pokémon used to be mascots, which my friends and I attached to and identified with. To this day, gamers who grew up with Red or Blue can name the original 150 (151 if we count Mew) completely from memory, a feat that seems unfeasible with the current count, not only due to overwhelming number but also from the substantial forgetfulness permeating the new designs. Perhaps I were born into a later generation, I could play with and love over 600 Pokémon despite their faults, but I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that these games aren’t made for me anymore. These creatures aren’t meant to entice me to purchase the latest version and trade with my friends. I have never and will never outgrow Pokémon, but Pokémon has outgrown me.

Chance Asue

Chance Asue

Associate Editor & Multimedia Specialist at Gaming Illustrated
Chance Asue is a self-taught computer builder and hardware junkie. His favorite game franchises include Pokemon, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy. He is Gaming Illustrated's Multimedia Specialist and reviews the latest hardware tech.
Chance Asue

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  • Joe

    I’m sure you’ve outgrown it, as in the series as a whole and not just a small fraction of it in the form of generation 1. It’s become more of a game for battling, rather than collecting, which I find completely more interesting.

    • Chance Asue

      I do love the battling. The team battles of later games introduced a new layer of strategy, but when paired with my ignorance of the members involved, it didn’t really matter how much I leveled up. If I’m seeing a monster for the first time and it has an ambiguous design to it, I can’t intuit what it will be weak or strong against like you can with the first couple generations.
      It’s more an issue of overloading the player with options from the beginning and having them try to memorize too many things at once. If the game was locked off to continents or major areas containing 200 or so creatures, you could commit much more to memory and wouldn’t have to deal with the overwhelming number from the beginning of the game.

  • Chris

    I agree! I find it tiresome but I love the series too much to give it up lol the most annoying this with the new series is that people follow you EVERYWHERE and tell you what to do and where to go. They never used to do that. I remember as a child being lost and stuff because I didn’t know where to go…but I found out where and got happy lol like really it’s SO annoying that they follow you.

    • Chance Asue

      Remember in Red/Blue missing Professor Oak’s aide and not getting FLASH before reaching the Rock Tunnel? Reaching the end of it without FLASH was enough to overwhelm you with relief.

  • Dustin

    I don’t agree with this article. Now that we have around 600+ pokemon’s, we have more variety of pokemon to choose from. Maybe a little girl plays a pokemon game and wants to capture every “cute” pokemon. All the different types of pokemon give your trainer personality. Now with online competitive side, it is GREAT! More variety of pokemon means there are lots to except and every battle isn’t the same.
    But other than that, it just seems that you have just out grown pokemon.

    • Chance Asue

      Was a lack of variety ever a problem in the series? I don’t think it was. The problem with the little girl’s play style is that it limits her in terms of power and abilities and doesn’t reward her in any way. The only reward in this game comes from collecting badges and Pokemon, not differing play styles. If they gave some sort of incentive to create a team and stick with them for the greater part of a playthrough, that would be entirely different. From the first generation forward, they have only emphasized a need to catch every single monster, not to be creative or to play to your own likes.

      • Austin

        Lack of variety was never a problem for the older generations because it never had the chance to be. It very well could have been a problem had Gold and Silver never been released.

        To the latter point, it’s no so much about emphasizing a need to catch every single Pokemon as it is an incentive to explore every aspect of the game and expand upon the given adventure. It’s like buying a new product; you probably never would have purchased it had it not been advertised. Does that mean you’re going buy out the entire store? Of course not!

        I see their message as encouragement to identify yourself with new Pokemon, new places, new stories, ect. It’s not a burden or requirement, it’s an opportunity. You’re free to stick with what you know if that’s what pleases you, but other people enjoy the wider selection of options, whether it be battling, collecting, ect.

        • Chance Asue

          Finding new monsters and creating a personalized party is great. I like that part of the game. The problem is the number of choices is too great in each game. Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t have an achievement or trophy system in place, so there is no reward for playing the game in different ways. From the outset, you are told to fill the Pokedex and collect badges. It’s a collection game above all else.

          Also, it’s easy to forget that there are differing views on choice. Some see 649 Pokemon as 649 individual choices, where others will group them by type, abilities, or color. In an interesting study on TedTalks.com, a group of people were asked to choose a soda from a list of several flavors. Some viewed the sodas as individual choices, where others thought they had no choice at all. They had to pick a soda, where they might have wanted water or another drink.

          Imagine the Pokemon model in a Final Fantasy. If you started with a group of characters, all of which you had to level up and strategize with. But at the end of their stories, you were given a new world with all of the characters from the last game to play with and level as well. Once or twice might be alright, but with little incentive to max every fighter, you begin to find the best swordsman, the best mage, the best healer and so on. You stop seeing them as individuals and start seeing them as what they can do in battle and, ultimately, how replaceable they are when a stronger character of the same type comes along.

  • Alex Salazar

    I feel the same way man. I grew up with both Gold and red version and just miss the simplicity and authenticity these games had compared to these new watered down pokémon games. I mean both Dewgong and that ice cream cone thing are ice types, but I’d much rather carry a real badass instead of a dessert in my team.

  • Rhyan W

    I agree as well. I found my interest peaked with Emerald. To me that was the quintessential Pokemon game. After that point, I stopped buying the games and trading cards and settled into a comfortable life of re-playing Red, Yellow, Leaf Green, Crystal, and Emerald.

  • Darius

    Why does everyone define generation 5 by van illite and trubbish? There is volcarona, hydreigon, haxorus, virizion and many more, plus more Pokemon means better battling variety and the excitement of the battles. All Pokemon are equal and all generations added something new to the table that makes it unique and special, plus black and white has a much better storyline than any other main series games

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