By: Johnny Marcondes
Before getting into the topic of “are we settling for less” aspect of this article, there have been some recent announcements that have many long term players and on and off players once again excited. There are going to be numerous Pokemon Go events happening this month and with the rumors of legendary Pokemon coming into fray it’s going to be interesting to see if we get a first glimpse of them this month. There have been reports that an ad in India for Pokemon Go mentioned legendary Pokemon but there wasn’t exactly a release date or much to go by. However being that this month is their anniversary it wouldn’t surprise me if we see a lot of special reveals and events to promote it. Nintendo treats the Pokemon brand with care and respect, we saw all the effort they made during the series 20th anniversary and Pokemon Go has been giving Nintendo and Pokemon a major rise in stock again. As of right now the only major inclusion in the series is that of a Pichu/Pikachu being found or hatched from egg wearing the iconic Ash Season 1 Pokemon hat.
Are we settling for less?
Pokemon Go has been out for a full year now and through it’s many ups and downs there’s been this lingering feeling of resentment I personally felt towards the series. When the game was first being promoted there was this universal excitement where it finally felt like Pokemon was going to not only become more accessible but cater to a new demographic and feel completely new once again. People were rushing to websites trying to get a glimpse of gameplay footage, news and stills not to mention the rush of pre orders for tacked on “watch” Pokemon Go Deluxe. This was the first time in quite some time where Pokemon was reaching the levels of fandom and popularity that It reached back in the 90’s. There was this massive wave of hype behind the series and it was being targeted towards young players, casual players, nostalgic young adults and even those who were unfamiliar with the series were being lured in with it’s charm an appeal.
Everyone at one point or another was excited about this game and the possibility of walking around and encountering Pokemon like a real trainer. Numerous videos and promotional photos painted a picture of the ideal next step for Pokemon games. A real augmented reality game that placed Pokemon into the real world, at any given moment you could encounter your favorite Pokemon around your town and build this ideal team or simply “collect em all”. However, what we got and what were promised weren’t the same. As soon as the game came out and I downloaded it the harsh reality of my exceptions came crashing down. While Pokemon Go delivered in it’s promise of a unique augmented reality based Pokemon game, there was never this sense of heart or even the feeling that it was a real Pokemon game.
I remember seeing friends and strangers roam the streets flicking their fingers up trying to catch Pokemon or meet up and head to the nearest “gym”. It was fun for all of a day or two but once the initial charm faded away reality set in it was easy to see that this was nothing more but another niche title. Pokemon Go isn’t really a Pokemon game per say it’s this charming app that utilizes unique features and don’t get me wrong they utilize them fairly well but other than the characters and name there’s no real connection to the series. What makes Pokemon Go suffer as a game in the long term is that there’s no sense of accomplishment that accompany it. You’re aimlessly walking around encountering Pokemon but never really work for them. Once you encounter a Pokemon the only real options you have are to catch or walk away, the one thing that makes the Pokemon series so great are the battles and Pokemon Go strips you of that. Without battling the game never feels like anything other than a glorified or enhanced experience of a dull/basic form of the Safari Zone.
Even going as far as calling it a basic form of the Safari Zone is a little far fetched, there’s no sense of strategy or feeling that you have to put in work to get what you want. Pokemon Go may be a financial success but in terms of a game it’s kind of a complete failure in many aspects. There’s no battle system to be found in the game other than aggressively tapping your screen when encountering the games version of a gym battle. When it comes to games, the Pokemon series has always placed an emphasis on narrative and battle/gameplay. With each Pokemon game being filled with interesting characters, challenged and a battle system that’s simplistic but incorporates strategy you always had this sense of self accomplishment. Each Pokemon game felt complete had more of a focal point and this just doesn’t go for the main series but for their spin offs as well, yet it’s the one aspect not present in Pokemon Go. This may just sound like sour grapes or me reaching for things to argue about but Pokemon Go is by no means a Pokemon game and is just a clever way to utilize a camera app and GPS features on smart phones. Once you spend some time with the game it becomes really repetitive to the point that a lot of its players who initially downloaded the game have left and almost feel little to no incentive to return. One of our fellow writers and member of Inbeon (A partner to Pixelated Rampage) Lawrence, who was an advocate for the game recently went back to the game following it’s updates and shared his thoughts here.
Taking a step back and looking at the issue.
What used to be a flooded server is now steadily becoming stable again due to people leaving and it’s simply because the game never feels like anything more than a gimmick. Unfortunately even with newer updates and features being added I don’t think it’s going to really change all that much with the game. Looking back at the spike in numbers Nintendo had with the initial release to Pokemon Go not to mention the frenzy it created it’s easy to see that Pokemon Go isn’t going away any time soon and that’s fine, but without major change to the formula I don’t see Pokemon Go having the long shelf life it needs. If Pokemon Go added a more tradition battle system, leveling up system and added weekly challenges/ranks to encourage people to grind and train more I could see Pokemon Go becoming a legitimate extension of the Pokeverse. Giving this mobile app a more strategic battle system like in the handheld games or adding mini games like Pokemon Stadium had could really make seem like much more than a map skin app with a cool camera feature. The fact that people are still giving Pokemon Go so much attention is a little sad, don’t get me wrong this isn’t just be huffing and puffing at people enjoying simplicity it’s me being upset over people generally accepting things as they are.
Pokemon Go when first announced had so much potential to be something special, it was something that literally anyone could pick up and enjoy. What was promised to us was an exciting new way to see Pokemon like never before, we were showing events and battles that made the game look exciting in trailers only to realize what we’ve gotten wasn’t even a game at all. Pokemon Go at the end of the day is nothing more but a creative use of Pokemon characters. Other than the Pokemon there’s no connection to the series, your trainers constantly feel generic and unimportant, there’s no reason for you to seek out certain Pokemon because there’s no story to tell. Sure the concept of exploring your real life home town for Pokemon is exciting but it never goes any further than that. The exploring, the gym battles and PokeStops all feel really repetitive to point that it almost feels impressive how linear this game can get when it’s essentially an open world game based on the real world. With no badges, challenges, lack of special events, a enticing battle system and narrative to by there just isn’t enough here to care about. Now I know I’ve spent a good majority of the article bashing the game but that doesn’t mean I hate it. Conceptually it’s brilliant and the app itself works, my gripe is with people blinding supporting what’s a bad game and or just an app that relies heavily on one feature.
When word of Pokemon Go first hit and there were talks of collecting and battling Pokemon/gyms everyone had this idea that it would be a mobile version of the handheld games. While I understand doing so would add it’s own difficulties to the process given the mobile limitations and the game relying on 4G/wifi it still would have been nice to have some variation of it. Having a proper battle system while using the map capabilities and augmented reality features would have made this the ideal Pokemon game. Even though Pokemon Go broke records in downloads and crashed more servers than one could count, ultimately the initial hype for the game has faded and the players that still roam the streets as trainers have dropped significantly. Even though I don’t personally like Pokemon Go conceptually it was a success as it opened the door to numerous new fans/customers.
At this point I firmly believe Pokemon Go can have all the updates it wants and bring in every generation of Pokemon and it still won’t change my personal views on it. The truth of the matter is for this game to really reach that potential that it showed and become something much more than just a gimmick it’ll need a complete overhaul. While many people still play the game and enjoy it, there needs to be a demand for something so much more. I truly feel as if Pokemon Go is not a good game and I don’t judge this based on my own opinions or lack of excitement towards it, I base it on the features found in game and it’s extremely repetitive nature with redundant mechanics. I don’t blame anyone for liking the game, this article wasn’t created to bash those who find pleasure in the app or for me to shout my disdain for it. All I want you readers to take away from this article is the fact that we shouldn’t have to settle for less. Pokemon Go is capable of so much more, it’s the leading brand in pushing merch to children and one of the most popular/financially successful animes to ever come out. Given how popular and well received the series is the game should have really been looked at more thoroughly and given more features.