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Pokémon Generation 7

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I have not played Pokémon since black and white a.k.a gen 5. But I can still justify talking about it after looking at the sheet of existing Pokémon, because so much of what makes Pokémon good exists on the surface level.

What draws people to Pokémon? It’s not the gameplay or story, because frankly Pokémon offers little strategic or narrative appeal (at least in a traditional sense).

In my opinion, what attracts people to Pokémon is the presentation, the Pokémon and the dream of catching them. A child like drive with the logic of, I want that cool Pokémon because it is special, cool and rare. Many Pokémon have these qualities. The first Pokémon you get is something that can’t be found in the wild and an entire category is formed around this concept, know as legendaries.

The legendary Pokémon are separated from the regular Pokémon in many ways. They have higher stats, a more eye catching and generally majestic design, only one of them exists. Their encounters are scripted often having you to venture into some cave, ruins or even entirely different games to get them. Usually some type of lore is behind it, something that tells you a little bit about what this creature is and why it is important. It could have powers crucial to the antagonist’s plan, it could be a god, alien, or genetic experiment. But all of this importance needs to be reflected in gameplay, or because it would be a letdown to have all this narrative build up and not deliver on it mechanically. This is where the capture rate comes into play as it serves as the bulk of the difficulty when engaging in a legendary Pokémon. This means that the action of tossing a poke ball will be repeated until the player is finally rewarded with a legendary Pokémon. In a sense this is a ritual analogous to a slot machine but without consequence.

Now the narrative hypes up legendary Pokémon for a purpose. This purpose is for the player to feel special when he captures it. In fact, the entire narrative of Pokémon is all about making the player feel special. After finishing a Pokémon game, you have achieved the title of champion and got rid of the crime regions establishment. The player is now at the top of a competitive sport in which the entire Pokémon society revolves around.

Like most games, Pokémon is an illusion. It depends mostly on aesthetics rather than mechanics to create an experience. So it would heavily depends on design and story to frame one and zeros into an epic adventure. So if you remove proper aesthetic of the Pokémon, the experience starts to collapse. Because who would want to catch them all when they are all unexpressive uncreative and make no sense?

When creating a monster catching game, the monsters should fit in with the reason why they are there, aesthetic or central theme. With Pokémon that theme is alternative nature and mythical creatures. The original game was inspired by Satoshi Tajiri and his childhood adventures in bug catching. The early designs of Pokémon mostly reflected that vision. But later on, Pokémon shifts away from the design philosophy of gen 1. Instead of modest colors, we get bright neon ones in gen 7, and a greater focus on surrealism.

Surreal Pokémon have always been around but as the expectation and not the rule. But I feel too many of these Pokémon are a bit more abstract and less grounded in something I can recognize which conflicts to much with its nature centric roots. Pokémon can be strange and fantastical, but that these elements should be balanced with something else. Somewhere along the line that balance was altered.

 

 

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Pokémon Generation 7