Pokemon Wednesday

Chances are, when I like something, I like it forever (or at least long enough to feel like it).

Most people these days equate Pokemon with childish cartoons and simple-minded video games that went out with the nineties, but alas, I disagree (well, I do think the anime has become quite childish, but there was a time, while it was under 4Kids, that it was actually fairly decent, but I digress). So, you might be asking, why do I still like Pokemon?

I remember: Back in my early days at Hebrew school, all the rage was Pokemon. Everyone was playing, and if you weren’t, you just didn’t get it. Aaron, one of the older kids, showed me his game and I was awed by it, but it wasn’t until my best friend Josh played Pokemon that I really wanted it. Unfortunately, my mother wouldn’t allow me a Game Boy (too violent, she said). So some time after that, my grandparents visited around my birthday and asked me what I wanted. So I asked my mother if I could get a Game Boy, and she said if they got it for me, it’d be alright–and they got it for me! I got Pokemon Red and started with Squirtle and named him Squirt. I was hooked. I played it every day, and then some more.

When Pokemon Silver came out in 2000, I got it as a Hanukkah present and played it so much that night that my Cyndaquil evolved before bedtime. At Hebrew school, Josh and some of my other friends who had the game (or the compatible Gold version) would do Mystery Gift with me and we would get random items, or swap secrets on how to clone Pokemon and valuable items, like the Master Ball, which can catch any Pokemon without failure, a handy item when you gotta catch ’em all.

Fast-forward a while, and I’ve grown up quite a bit since then. And yet, I still like Pokemon. Very few of my friends from those days still play, and fewer still of the new friends I’ve made since then, but something about the games is nostalgic for me. It reminds me of days long ago when I was carefree and my biggest obstacle was getting through Victory Road. It reminds me of the springtime and of getting up early Saturday mornings to go to the Bug Catching Contest and watch the anime on TV. It reminds me of the excitement of venturing to new places and the surprise when I watched my Pokemon evolve unexpectedly.

Nowadays, however, there’s more to it than just that. Now that I’ve learned more about the mechanics of the game, it’s stopped being so much an Adventure RPG as it’s become an RPG Strategy game. The massive amount of variance there is in the battle system–the staggering 483 unique Pokemon, their individual values, their effort values, their natures and characteristics, and the hundreds of moves they can choose from–has itself become a fascinating challenge for me. I try to make my Pokemon the strongest, the fastest, the best they can be. I pore over possible move sets, imagining all the ways I can tweak this stat or power up that one to maximize my attack without sacrificing necessary defense or hit points. It’s all a matter of strategy now, considering type effects on opponent Pokemon and also my own, decisively using items to boost my power along the way.

Not to mention, of course, that the adventure is still pretty fun on its own. All of those reasons are among the many reasons I like Pokemon. All of those are among the reasons I still play Pokemon today, and love it as much now as I did then.

Too many people think Pokemon is outdated and for children. Too many people don’t understand what it’s all about.

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