An incongruous collection of people lined the sidewalk outside the local video game retailer just before opening on March 6th, 2011. The first in line were a pair of teenage boys in baggy jeans and band shirts, skateboards tucked under their arms. Next was a 9-year-old boy and his mother, followed by a 20-something female with spiky purple hair, a skull and crossbones on her belt. Then there was a young teenage girl, dressed all in yellow, red circles painted on her cheeks and a stuffed Pikachu tied to the handlebars of her scooter. Then a pair of young twins, a boy and a girl, with their mother, and three preorder tickets between them. Two college boys waited impatiently while talking too loudly about their strategy for the upcoming game. There was the 20-something couple, arms tangled about each other, their female friend eyeing the mid-thirties man behind her, who typed a business email on his cellphone. The line continued to grow…
After examining this strange collection of humanity, a middle age passerby stopped in his tracks unable to make sense of the diverse demographic gathered before him. "What are you all waiting for?" he questioned, staring in disbelief when the answer came back: Pokémon. He eyed the line and could not help but ask again: "All of you?"
That is the magic of Pokémon, there is no one demographic, there is no one type of Pokémon player. The 12-year-old who started playing “Red and Blue” is now the nostalgic 30-year-old who still has his original Red and refuses to let his collection fall behind. At the same time, the magic of the world of Pokémon has not been lost on the new generation, as wireless gameplay, charming mini games and tantalizing secrets draw in new players.
Fans around the globe are once again eagerly awaiting the release of the newest Pokémon games, “Alpha Sapphire” and “Omega Ruby.” Nintendo has been gearing up fans for the new releases and encouraging preorders for months, offering players who make the trek to a local gaming store the codes that can be redeemed for rare Pokémon and game items, including the new “Megastones” and the previously unreleased legendary Pokémon, Diancie. The promotions appear to have been effective, with over one million copies preordered in Japan alone. Pokémaniacs are clearly eager to return to the Hoenn Region once again. The settings of Pokémon games have gone more global in the recent games. The Unova Region, where Pokémon “Black and White” takes place is based on America and features huge cities and the megamart, while the most recent “X and Y” games were set in the Kalos Region, which was based on France, boasting beatiful flowers and an Eiffel Tower-inspired attraction at the central of the city. However, this time Pokémon is returning home with Hoenn, which was inspired by Kyushu, the main island of Japan. Hoenn is also the home of the Pokémon that was made famous by the infamous Internet meme: I Herd U Liek Mudkips. “Alpha Sapphire” and “Omega Ruby” will be the second games to feature Mega Evolution, a special kind of evolution which allows certain Pokémon to temporarily "mega evolve" with the aid of the megastone, an item which the Pokémon must hold in order reach mega evolve status. While “Alpha Sapphire” and “Omega Ruby” do not offer any new Pokémon for trainers to collect, they will considerably increase the catalog of Pokémon which can mega evolve.
Much to the delight of the global population, these games will also have a worldwide release, allowing players world-wide an equal start on their collection. Pokémon “X and Y” were localized to different languages and regions as they were developed, allowing these titles to be the the first Nintendo published games to be released to all regions at once. It is exciting to see this new tradition emerge.
STILL CATCHING 'EM ALL
Eighteen years after the release of Pokemon “Red” and “Green” in Japan, the franchise is still going strong, thanks largely to easy yet addictive gameplay, storytelling and adaptability. While “Alpha Sapphire” and “Omega Ruby” are not, strictly speaking, new games (the original games were titled “Pokemon Ruby” and “Pokemon Sapphire” and were released in 2002 and 2003) these remakes offer players a much more immersive world, with radically different graphics, more monsters to catch, more items to collect, easier social interaction with other Pokemon players, as well as minigames and activities to lose themselves in. Pokémon, like its monsters, continues to evolve, and in so doing, has deftly managed to keep the interest of veteran players and attracted a whole new generation of gamers.
Pokémon “X and Y” versions, released on October 12, 2013, introduced a new game engine, transporting the world of Pokémon out of stubby pixel characters to smoothly animated 3D renderings of characters. These newly rendered characters are capable of doing so much more than their predecessors including tricks on roller blades, unique rock climbing and Pokémon riding animations, to name a few. The new graphics allowed players the ability to customize their avatars and feature those avatars in Trainer PR videos. These videos allowed players to star in their very own mini-movies utilizing various expressions, poses, backdrops, music, effects, and text. Meanwhile, Photo Spots encourage players to take the time to truly admire the new graphics by way of a virtual camera. Lacking an auto focus but offering a variety of lenses, filters, and different focusing options, the camera speaks to would-be photographers and allows players of all skill levels to share online photos they’ve taken of their avatar and the beautifully rendered scenery.
Ever embracing of pop culture, Pokémon is combining the cosplay trend with their most famous monster. “Alpha Sapphire” and “Omega Ruby” will be the first games to offer the Cosplay Pikachu! This adorable Pikachu is sure to be the star of the returning Talent Show, and will have a variety of outfits. Cosplay Pikachu will acquire special moves based upon which costumes they wear, and, like any truly dedicated cosplayer, will appear in costume even in battle.
While the old tried-and-true formula of Pokémon has remained constant, the recent games have brought so much more to the world of Pokémon. Players still start out selecting one of three starter Pokémon, battling their way across the map, collecting gym badges, and capturing wayward monsters as they go. For many players, however, it is not until after the main storyline of the game has come to a close that the real game begins.
Sophisticated algorithms allow players to carefully, but deliberately breed an elite class of battle-ready monsters. These mechanics have been tweaked over the years by the game developers themselves in order to encourage players to legitimately breed the best Pokémon rather than resorting to cheating or 'hacking' the game to achieve these near-perfect Pokémon. While the odds are long and the process is time consuming, those dedicated are able to predictably hatch monsters with unique moves, specific "natures" which will boots a desired stat, and even control what kind of Pokéball the new Pokémon will live in.
There is also the hunt for the elusive shiny Pokémon. Shiny Pokémon have colors which are different from their common Pokémon brethren, their bodies sparkle when they enter battle, and they are very rare. As of the Pokémon “X and Y” games, players have only a 1 in 4096 chance of naturally encountering a shiny Pokémon. Some gamers report having completed two whole Pokémon games before finding their first shiny. The Poké Radar, an item unlocked only after the main game has been completed, allows players to 'chain' specific Pokémon battles in order to drastically increase their chances of finding a shiny Pokémon. Meanwhile, breeders use the Masuda method, which consists of breeding two Pokémon who originate from different real-world countries, to drastically increase their odds of hatching a shiny from 1 in 4096 to 1 in 1365.
GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL
Pokémon could not have chosen a better slogan to promote their game, as there is no question that the obsessive desire to catch them all is a major drive for many players. Pokémon games are released in paired versions, and some Pokémon are version exclusives, found in one version of the game, but not the other. Some Pokémon have forms which cannot be found naturally in game and can only be unlocked if they are traded from one player to another. Some Pokémon have unique appearances which change depending on the season, sometimes the same Pokémon will have a different appearance depending on its gender, while still other Pokémon have a different appearance depending on the region your game originates from. Some Pokémon will only evolve if the player has raised the friendship of their monster, by traveling with it in their team, or spending time in the Amie mini-game, where players pet their Pokémon and hand-feed them Poké Puff pastries.
Then there are the legendary Pokemon, which are rare and difficult to find, often version exclusive with only one monster found per game. Some Pokémon are event exclusives, where gamers must bring their 3DS and Pokémon game to a certain real-world location within the correct time frame order to download a special Pokémon. Some Pokémon are distributed via the Wireless feature on the Nintendo 3DS and are offered in celebration of a holiday or special event. For the hardcore collectors, the game does not end when the credits roll, not even when the Pokédex is complete, and all 719 Pokémon have been recorded. For the truly dedicated, the game is not over until every Pokémon, every color variation, every gender variation, every shiny variation and every special event Pokémon has been acquired.
Pokémon also rewards long time players, allowing them to pass their Pokémon forward to new games, so trainers do not have to start all over with each new game, while in-game mechanics prevent trainers from using previously trained Pokémon to power through the story. In the past this was a rather cumbersome process, but sending your favorite and most rare Pokémon to your new game is now easier than ever thanks to Pokémon Bank. Pokémon Bank is a subscription service players can purchase for $5 a year, and acts as a virtual safety box. Players are able to store up to 3,000 Pokémon online for safe keeping and transfer those Pokémon to any Pokémon game inserted into the 3DS system that Bank has been installed on. Trainers no longer need to worry about losing that super rare legendary due to a lost game cartridge.
While Pokémon may be a one-player game, the game play is anything but isolating. Through the wireless connection of the 3DS, players can, at any time, see the icons of their friends and random online passersby, battle or trade with just a few clicks, or even offer a player a stat boost to help them in their game. Voice chat enables friends to connect over long distances, groups of players can trade unhatched eggs, and even those who are offline can still impact those actively playing by offering to trade a Pokémon via the Global Trade Station.
Across the Internet, Pokémon communities have become common, from groups here on DeviantArt, to Reddit and Tumblr and dedicated Pokémon fan sites. Players swap friend codes in order to explore Friend Safaris, where rare Pokémon with boosted stats wait to be found. Trades for Pokémon, both legendary and common are negotiated and breeding extras are given away to help out future breeders. The days of needing a link cable, a wish and a prayer in order to trade are long gone. It has never been easier to interact and trade with other Pokémon players.
Players are also rewarded for finding other Pokémon players offline. Nintendo 3DS systems are able to swap information with any other nearby 3DS unit. Pokémon is able to recognize other Pokémon games and will reward players who pass by other Pokémon players with Poké Miles, points can later be redeemed online for in-game items.
Even battle is a social event in Pokémon. Wireless competitions are held regularly, with different rules dictating which Pokemon and which Pokémon teams can be entered. Gaming stores and individual groups often organize in-person Pokémon tournaments so gamers can see how their Pokémon teams stand up against other local trainers. The annual Pokémon World Championship is a televised, narrated global competition where Pokemon awards over $100,000 in scholarships to video gamers and card players. The 2014 tournament featured over 500 players from 30 countries, and the tournament winner, Se Jun Park, won a surprising victory with his Pachirisu, spawning a flurry of art featuring the adorable electric rodent.
Pokémon “Alpha Sapphire” and “Omega Ruby” will make social activity and sharing even easier thanks to the inclusion of Super Secret Bases. Each trainer will have their own clubhouse-like room which they will be able to customize with items such as Pokémon plushies. They will also be able to play a ‘capture the flag’ style game with other Pokémon trainers and will be able to easily share their clubhouse and invite others to play simply by publishing a QR code. Visiting clubhouses will allow players to either battle or to offer a stat boost to assist the others in their game.
If the idea of walking across the world and throwing balls at monsters simply does not appeal to you, don't worry! You may yet find yourself a Pokémon fan. In the “Pokémon Mystery Dungeon” series, you can play as a Pokémon, teaming up with other monsters as you navigate quests and help other Pokémon in an ever-changing dungeon crawler game. Or maybe you prefer strategy games? “Pokémon Conquest” may pique your interest. Here you can conquer a feudal-era world, find the perfect Pokémon to pair with your warriors, and navigate various terrain in a grid-based tactical game. Or claim ownership of no one Pokémon and travel as a ranger, working with and quickly releasing Pokémon as you help better the world in “Pokémon Ranger”.
Pinball fans may find a fondness of “Pokémon Pinball”, “Pokémon Rumble” may appeal to those those who like action games. Lose yourself in the puzzle game “Pokémon Battle Trozei”, or brush up on your strategy as you play the long-lived “Pokémon Trading Card” game which can also be played online and on iOS. “Pokémon Art Academy” is available to entertain and teach the artistically inclined. If you're just not into games, you could always just kick back and watch the long-running Pokémon anime, one of the 16 movies, or pick up any of the Pokémon mangas. Several Pokémon and their iconic Pokémon Trainer are also featured in “Super Smash Bros.”, for those who feel the need to watch Lucario beat the snot out of Bowser or Wario.Even if you are not inclined to catch them all, Pokémon has worked hard to offer something of interest to every kind of player. Pokemon has a whole host of games, features, minigames, strategies and events beyond those featured in this article. Whether you are picking out your very first starter or if you are a master with a completed Pokedex, join us in a return to the world of Pokémon! A new adventure and new evolutions await us all in Hoenn, and it looks like Team Magma and Team Aqua are up to no good once more, so let's go defend the world once again!
- damphyr (damn-FEAR) deviant. 1. A creature of the night; Female half-vampire/half-human hybrid. 2. Generally a friendly and helpful creature. 3. A nice being until it decides not to be. 4. Is always spelled with a lower-case d.