Friday, July 31, 2009

Mainline Pokemon on consoles - like oil and water

A few months ago, Phil Kollar did an interview with the Pokemon developers (WhatTheyPlay) in which they admitted that they focus on creating a handheld experience and they aren't working to bring it to the Wii or to any other console.

Despite this emphatic statement from the creators, the frothing demand for a mainline Pokemon RPG on the Wii increases daily. "Console Pokemon" is right up there with "Pokemon MMO" (which is a whole other entry on its own) on "What game should they make" lists (as seen at the Gaming Age forums).

Which makes me wonder if I'm completely missing something, or if the hardcore Pokemon community has lost its mind.

First of all, everyone seems to forget that the name Pokemon is short for Pocket Monsters. Key word: Pocket. Doesn't that imply that the series is intended to be on portable systems to begin with?

The biggest advantage that being portable gives the series is to allow for trading, and one of the common arguments is that the introduction of the GTS brought wireless trading so you don't have to do any local trading anymore. But as Matsuda would remind us, that's not the point:

"Trading is a core concept of Pokémon. So when you're trading, you meet with a friend and decide which one you want and which one they want. I would like to emphasize real-world communication. You don't see each other online."

Also, a combination of past history and future needs hamstrings the development of a traditional Pokemon game on a console (for our purposes, a "get badges, take down evil team, beat Elite 4, complete Pokedex, beat up everyone you know in a 5-mile radius" game). Although all Pokemon got represented in XD's Battle Mode (and in Colosseum's), the fact is this generation is probably going to end with either a PBR 2 (supporting HG/SS connectivity) or with HG/SS itself. The next gen is going to add another 100 Pokemon at minimum, putting the total near 600 Pokemon with a similar number of attacks to animate.

And development of this game would have to be handled by "Genius" Sonority, who see fit to use models for the original 151 Pokemon that date back to Stadium 1. Let me put this another way: Current 3D Pokemon models were designed for a system that started its design the same year my favourite baseball team made the playoffs.

If they didn't upgrade the models, the same people that want this game to happen would lose their minds, and to get it to a decent 3D model for that many Pokemon would fill a Wii disc with no room for story. Or god forbid, the My Pokemon Ranch models. Why go to all that effort, when they can create a DS RPG at maybe 1/4 of the cost, and sell 5.66 million copies in nine months worldwide like Platinum just did (according to Nintendo's Q1 financial report)?

The last thing to realize is that Nintendo as a whole (giving Metroid to Team Ninja aside) is a very conservative company that has a massive foothold in Japan. And Japan as a culture has gone whole-hog portable between Pokemon/Dragon Quest IX on the DS and the success of the Monster Hunter series on PSP. That, among other things, is why I would be shocked if Iwata stood up at a E3 press conference and said "Pokemon RPG, on the Wii, spring 2010. And it works with the Vitality Sensor."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pokemon's biggest ingame monsters

One of the most common memes on the GameFAQs Pokemon message boards are to ridicule any poor prole who dares to ask for help with their ingame team. Basically, "everything works ingame".

But if all Pokemon are equal, some are clearly more equal than others. And all things considered, these are one man's best bets if he needs to do a speedrun and chuck his starter.

10) Ramprados (Diamond, Platinum)
Despite how much of a pain he is to raise as a Cranidos (and to get, especially in Platinum), bear with me. Because of the way his experience curves, as the levels increase he levels up faster and faster. His main feature is Mold Breaker, though - you have no idea how much easier the Galactic double battle is when you can laugh at the Bronzor and their Levitate. He's just fast enough to avoid being a complete glass cannon...

9) Lapras (Fire Red/Leaf Green)
Sure, it's somewhat late to the party - but when it gets there, it turns everything upside down and all for the low price of a little leveling and a quick visit to Mr. Psychic's house. During the Silph Co run it'll level to the point of learning Body Slam and Ice Beam on its own, and it tears the back half of the game apart.

8) Zigzagoon (Ruby/Sapphire)
The only Pokemon on this list not in it for their ability to tear things apart - but the original Pickup distribution giving you Nuggets, Rare Candies and Hyper Potions off your first Pokeball? I'll take five, thanks.

7) Machamp (Gold/Silver/Crystal)
Strictly on the list for the purpose of survival against Whitney and that damn cow of hers. And even after that, he's growing 1.5x faster than the rest of the team so you might as well let it hang around. There's a Dig TM right after that so you can even use it against Morty. (Shame this won't happen in the remakes, stupid Levitate).

6) Nidoking (Red/Blue/Yellow)
It's amazing how much a quick evolution can help you. In Nidoking's case (L16 + a Moon Stone and you get two in Mt Moon) it almost triples Nidoran M's TM capability, and it learns enough of the expendable TMs to have a hell of a lot of move variety. Despite being nasty, it's not as evil as...

5) Dugtrio (RBY)
You should never need to use a starter against Surge, and here's why. Thanks to the way RBY criticals function, Dugtrio got double damage about 30% of the time with that insane speed, and it had Slash (a high CH move). Dig getting downgraded and not having Magnitude in FR/LG cost him a top 3 spot.

4) Butterfree (FR/LG)
If you're trying to play it somewhat straight (weaken, sleep, throw) then Butterfree is your god and it's all thanks to 98% accurate Sleep Powder. He's not a killer, but he's a crippler and probably the best crippler in the history of the game (ingame).

3) Golem (GSC)
The perfect combination to beat GSC quickly: The Geodude family to start, then finish with #1. You get it early and Rock Throw beats the first two gyms, at which point you get Magnitude to take everything out. Bonus points for a natural Earthquake. Although the last two gyms give him pause, he's still damn lethal. Don't believe me? Ask the speedrunners.

2) Staraptor (DPPt)
It's like they took every complaint about the early-game Flying types and made the ultimate Flyer. Intimidate and jacked up attack/speed keeps him tearing things apart and he could feasibly be used against every gym except the first and last. Throw in Close Combat and Return (he's an amazing candidate for the bonus Return TM in Platinum) and it can even beat the Rocks and Steels that stop a typical Flyer cold.

1) Alakazam (GSC)
The math is simple:
1 Abra + $9,000 = broken.
It's so easy to raise Abra when you have three base 75 special moves available for purchase in the city next to where you catch it. And Alakazam's Speed and SA are both high enough that no matter what, he's going to go first and probably take something out as you move up the chain of Psychic moves. Did I mention he can beat the Elite 4 on his own except for two Pokemon (Umbreon, Houndoom)?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pokemon by (x)

So after a haze of exhaustion on the way home from work today, I got to thinking a little bit - what would happen if GameFreak was owned by another publisher instead of Nintendo? Aside from the multi-platform implications, it caused me to have several scary thoughts, outlined below.

Microsoft Game Studios: Instead of a RPG, a M-rated shooter with bullets, blood and breasts. A 17-point achievement for catching a shiny Pidgey ("Memetic Mutation"). Event Pokemon available for 240 Allards instead of being distributed for free over wi-fi.

Sony: 3-D graphics out the ying-yang because 2D is for suckers. You'd have to take out a second job to pay for stat drugs in game. The games would come on a proprietary format and Spiderman would be in the Elite 4. Kingler kept out of high-level play after everything attacks the weak... nah, too easy.

EA: Although the games would stay as they were (except maybe a PC port), Pokemon Stadium would be released every year. As a side effect, the announcer would provide such salient advice as "If you hit the Pokemon, they lose hit points".

Activision: If they actually bothered to release it because GameFreak wouldn't allow it to be molested diddled exploited, it would be released annually with some sort of Poke Ball peripheral that would make the games cost $90. Treyarch and Neversoft would take over development after GameFreak bolts to join EA Partners, and although Smogon loves the games for giving Rattata a 2 catch rate they become nigh-unplayable for everyone else.

Valve: Although the games would be high quality, Valve's perpetual development cycle would mean we'd be anticipating Pokemon Crystal's release in 2009.

Ubisoft: The two versions would consist of Tom Clancy's Pocket Monsters and Assassin's Monsters, both games requiring massive amounts of unnecessary stealth to complete. The third version? Imagine: Mudkipz.

Capcom: Pokemon Diamond: Championship Edition. Search your hearts, you know it to be true. And every starter would learn Sketch 8 times per game.

SquareEnix: Nomura takes over NPC design to ensure proper amount of belts and zippers. Red and Green re-released on every platform known to man.

Level cap raised to 9999, Arceus available as a bonus boss after beating the game except its base HP is 1 billion. May's chest swells even further. Instead of evolving by level up, trade, etc Pokemon evolve by the trainer pulling out a gun and SHOOTING THEM IN THE HEAD.

Bethesda: A first-person RPG where NPCs now have voice acting. Despite using approximately five voice actors for the whole game, all is forgiven by the community after Professor Oak is voiced by Liam Neeson or Samuel L. Jackson. No Mutants Allowed threatens a boycott because Nintendo isn't publishing it, but eventually folds like a cheap suit.

SNK: Champion's party has 6 L100 max stat Pokemon. Chosen from the ingame legendaries. May be dual-published with Capcom.

PopCap: You thought Pokemon was addictive before...