Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pokedex design for fun and profit

There's been a lot of hand wringing since the remakes were announced as to what the Pokedex is going to contain. Since the split Pokedex is practically guaranteed, let's go inside the numbers for a second and see what we can determine. For our purposes, let's assume it's required to go to Kanto.

The baseline for the number of Pokemon in the Johto Pokedex is 130 - that's the number of Pokemon between Chikorita and Celebi, plus any Pokemon you need to get the Pokemon through evolving or breeding. There are certain families that are going to appear because they always do - the Red Gyarados means Magikarp and Gyarados are going to have to appear as a story event and the families that always appear will probably continue to. So yes, you get to be sick of Tentacool all over again.

But that brings us to 147, and Diamond/Pearl caught no end of flak for having only 150 in its regional dex. Certain Pokemon have counterparts, though - the Oddish line has the Bellsprout line, Miltank needs Tauros until they create a calf in the 5th gen and they're probably going to need some Pokemonn to balance
out the ones that only appear at specific times or to stock the Bug Catching Contest.

So how do we get a decent number for Johto (somewhere around Platinum's 210)? It's actually pretty simple. Take the New Pokedex from the originals and toss out the Pokemon you had to bring up from the 1st gen games - 9 starters, 5 fossils and five legendaries. Celebi won't be required as an event, so that gets us to 230. I'm sure we can find 20 Pokemon to toss out to bring it down to 210 while still keeping the Gym Leaders well stocked just by looking at older Pokemon that didn't show up until Kanto anyway.

Here's who I'd ditch:
The Rattata family, the Nidorans, the Diglett family, the Ponyta family, the Doduo family, the Grimer family, the Cubone family, Kangaskhan and Mr. Mime.

By tossing out 20 Pokemon that are either redundant or were original Pokemon that didn't show up until Kanto, you get to a clean 210.

But one concern that's been brought up - what to do with the evolutions or baby forms for these Pokemon that came in since? Consider for a moment that there's 20 existing Pokemon that have evolved or formed a babby since the 2nd gen. Are we going to re-create the scene in FR/LG where you literally could not trade in a Pokemon from outside until you got the National Dex, even if it came from another remake? Probably, if they want to recreate the GSC experience as much as possible. So what do we do?

There's actually a clean solution for this, though. There's 5 babies and they require an item to create. It's a lot easier to breed in the post game, so if I was in charge an item I'd put the breeding items post game and simply exclude the babies from the Johtodex. That brings us to 225. You can take 3 out from Magnezone, Leafeon and Glaceon since they have to be in a specific location to evolve. Leave the Dubious Disc in Kanto, since Porygon2 might be as good if not better than PorygonZ (especially if you go by their Twitter feeds) and put the move returner in Kanto for Piloswine's evolution and you have 220.

Of course, if they choose to deny the existence of the other evolutions I can understand too. I just want to rip stuff up with Togekiss in-game.

This is all my own opinions based on past actions in remakes and my limited knowledge of Pokedex design.
Edited 5/21/09: Forgot Tangela/Tangrowth

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Time for some move updates

This is a modified and updated version of a post originally made on the GameFAQs Pokemon Diamond board on April 11, 2008. The original can be viewed here.

Every generation sees a few moves get modified in the name of competitive balance. Sometimes it's because of a mechanic change (like the Special split), sometimes it's in the name of nerfing stuff (like original Dig). But there's still a few moves that could use some tweaking, and that's where I come in.

Let's start with a prime complaint I see whenever people make 5th gen requests - HMs that aren't Surf or Waterfall blow, and the fact that you have to carry Tropius/Bibarel/HM whore du jour is a pain. So here's what I'd due with the HMs. (All numbers are Power/Acc/PP unless otherwise indicated).

Now: 55/95/25 Normal
I'd make it: 60/--/20 Steel
Thematically it makes sense as you need something sharp to cut stuff. Moving it into Swift territory makes it a decently usable move and beats up the one guy that uses evading Rocks. The only thing holding me back is that Scizor doesn't need any more help.

Now: 90/95/15 Flying
I'd make it: 90/100/15 Flying, bypasses Protect, impact goes last
In order to improve Fly, I stole a side effect from Shadow Force (which doesn't get used much anyway) and added the extra effect to provide a chance to miss 2 attacks. It'll still force switches, but if you Fly against a Machamp you won't get Stone Edged to death.

Now: 80/100/10 Normal
I'd make it: 80/100/10 Rock
Strength's out of battle effect involves moving rocks. The original battle animation involves hurling a rock at the opponent. You make Strength a Rock move, and Rock moves suddenly become usable in the Battle Frontier among other places.

Now: 15 PP, lowers opponent's evasion, removes battle obstacles and entry hazards on opponent's side
I'd make it: Would remove entry hazards on the user's side
I can't help but think this was an error on GameFreak's part, but they didn't fix it for Platinum so I dunno. Maybe in the remakes? Either that, or just dump the Fog altogether.

Rock Smash
Now: 40/100/15 Fighting, 50% lowers Defense one stage
I'd make it: 50/100/20, 100% lowers Defense one stage
Combination of "make it a usable early game move" and to provide a concept for a move that lets you take a couple of quick jabs before dropping the opponent with a power move like Manny Pacquiao (or Brock Lesnar, for the MMA crowd).

Rock Climb
Now: 90/90/20 Normal, 20% confuses
I'd make it: 90/100/20 Normal, 30% confuses
I thought about making it 100/100 but that slaughters Return. So we'll make it stop missing, and up the confusion chance by a mildly significant amount - the only problem is it completely obsoletes Body Slam.

And while I'm at it, let's fix some other moves as well.

Acupressure: 10% of increasing current stats, 10% to recover 50% of HP, 5% of Ancientpower boost, 5% nothing. Let's just make it the official move of Press Your Luck and get the "NO WHAMMIES" chant started on wi-fi.

Assist: If the Pokemon you get your move from is still alive, you get a 20% power boost because they're helping you out on the move.

Baton Pass: 20 PP, because I've never seen this used for more than 5 PP.

Brine: Becomes physical and learned by Bibarel. A move that doubles when your opponent is under 50% on your better and a move that cuts the opponent's HP in half? YES PLZ. Also makes Wake a bigger pain because Gyarados among others love this move.

Double Team: If this is going to be learned by everything that can learn a TM, it can't be so blatantly broken. The new effect would be that the next move is a guaranteed miss - a delayed Protect with the same failure odds.

Drain Punch: Gets an additional 5 base PP to bring it to parity with Giga Drain.

Fire/Ice/Thunder Fang
: Originally I thought about making them elemental Body Slams, but that'd be too broken and ruin the concept of the elemental punches. At the very least bring them to parity with the punches - 75 power and 100 acc. They have two added effects, so...

Gastro Acid: If used on Slow Start, the affected Pokemon gets its stats restored. Regiphail no longer.

Hammer Arm: 100 accuracy and lose the Speed lowering. My fellow Canadian ranter Slowflake covered this (#15, link mildly NSFW) - why does every physical Fighting move have a drawback? Either power up Brick Break to 90 or fix Hammer Arm.

Knock Off: Knocks item off, then deals damage - make it like Swagger and Flatter where the boost occurs THEN the side effect.

Last Resort: Instead of being unlocked by using the other moves in your moveset, it'll get unlocked by going under 25% like a Salac Berry boost. If it's a Last Resort, you should be able to FIRE MAH LAZER in an act of desperation.

Natural Gift: Right now, it consumes the berry when used basically allowing it to be used once. If it's going to be the physical Hidden Power, let it keep the berry so you can use it multiple times.

Rapid Spin: If there are hazards on the user's side: +5 power for every layer of Spikes, changes to Rock type if Stealth Rock is down, and 30% of poison/Toxic if Toxic Spikes down. It'll provide incentive to use a Spinner (especially if they drop Stealth Rock).

Stealth Rock: Either ditch the multiplier for Rock weakness/resistance, or make it only kick in after it's used twice (6.25% dmg otherwise). As it stands right now, there's a pretty heated debate as to whether it needs the banhammer.

Tailwind: 1 speed stage boost for 3 turns? Not enough, especially given how rare it is. 5 turns and a 1-stage PRIORITY boost (where everything acts like Quick Attack)? That's a winner.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Did we need Heart Gold and Soul Silver? Really?

So despite my best efforts at misinformation, Yahoo Japan and Nintendo decided to announce that yes, they are remaking Pokemon Gold and Silver for a release in the fall in Japan, with the inevitable NA release probably next spring.

I used to have a running tally in my signature on the GameFAQs boards that added two weeks every time someone asked for a remake, and I tried to convince myself (and people on The Twitter, Joystiq et al) that Nintendo was more interested in trolling the obsessive fans and would end up releasing something more appealing to their expanded audience. Like Hey You Pikachu DS or Pokemon Channel 2.

But they went ahead and did it anyway. And as someone who played the second generation games more than would be healthy, I'm not sure if I'm happy about it.

Let's look at what great innovations the second generation brought:

- Events based on time of day and the day of the week
- The split of the Special stat into Special Attack/Defense
- Dark and Steel types
- Two regions in one game
- The coolest Pokemon
- Running legendaries

All of these things are either gigantic pains in the ass or were refined to be much better in the newer games. Having the clock worked out well until it killed the game's internal battery.

The Special stat, although pretty meaningful in the long run (it made Mewtwo only slightly broken instead of being a proto-Arceus) was upstaged by the split of moves in gen 4. There were barely any Dark and Steel types, and those were sacked away until the endgame anyway (Tyranitar, Houndoom, and Skarmory was a version exclusive).

Running legendaries were old the minute Raikou took off - they're supposed to be rare, but it shouldn't take me five hours or cloned Master Balls to get these things. And not only is it questionable - and unlikely - that they'll use the Crystal storyline so Suicune's going to be running around, but if the trend of making the GBA games unneeded (largely because of the DSi) continues the Latis will probably be running around in the post game too.

The coolest Pokemon? Purely debatable, and I spent most of the time on my original playthrough using Alakazam, Golem, Machamp, Lapras and Fearow to rape the game in half and stuff it through a mailbox (@igndotcom). Notice anything? Not a single GSC Pokemon. There were maybe ten usable families debuting in GSC plus a couple of trade evolutions, and they've spent two generations evolving everything else to make it usable. Feraligatr's good now because of the physical/special change giving him Waterfall and Ice Fang/Punch to play with, but Typhlosion's a one-note gimmick and Meganium is outclassed by everything, for one thing.

And finally, the concept of two regions in one game has done nothing but set an unnecessary expectation that sets off a torrent of bitching all over the internets and offline. If they had held off on doing it for one generation, it could have been done so well - and you would still have the prior games if you wanted to go to Kanto. As a result, the developers ran headfirst into the limitations of a dual GB/GBC game and the end result was two inferior continents. The description of the 2nd gem games as a half-assed Johto paired with a 16th-of-an-assed Kanto might be unfair to the developers, but the complete lack of branching (Johto) and a point (Kanto) is pretty clear.

Hell, there's more post-game content in Platinum, which has a whole 2.5 cities, 6 routes and the Cheating CPU Frontier. That little island has more content than Kanto, which can literally be beat start to finish in an hour and a half. (30 minutes if you Dodrio Mode it through Pokemon Stadium 2).

So the question becomes, am I going to buy the remakes? After all, when Diamond and Pearl came out, I pre-ordered both of them, one version each at two different places. I think I've figured out my plan of attack, though - especially as if I do end up getting them I'll probably end up FAQing them out of force of habit.

If there's a significant amount of content added - enough that both regions are anywhere near Sinnoh-sized - then I'll end up pre-ordering one (Gold, because I got Silver in 2000 and want something different) and hoping Best Buy re-runs the deal they did in Canada for Platinum where you get the player's guide for free. Because let's face it, 624 page guides are cool. Otherwise... we'll throw a Garchomp at the bridge when we get there.

Still, I can't help but wonder what the 5th generation would have if they took all the effort around remaking games and focus it on making a good 5th generation. Or maybe they'll bring in a Flare Blitz tutor Flareon can't use and not evolve Farfetch'd again.

It's not going to stop me from speculating about the remakes here either.