It doesn’t take long for any conversation about Pokemon — specifically the games — to come to the point of the games’ rehashed formula. And it’s a fair point to make; playing the Black version, I’m consistently surprised by how much of the game is retained from Red and Blue. I understand that the reason the games don’t change their fundamental design is because each version serves as an introduction for new players, and that Game Freak believes that style works well.
And it does. By the time you defeat the first Gym Leader you know enough about how the game works to be able to dig into the game’s collecting and battling. I’m not afraid to admit that Pokemon’s simple battle system still packs enough allure and strategy to keep me engaged. The reveals new Pokemon (the creatures, not the game) still follow the same pattern as previous games (you’ll get a ton of boring “Normal” types before you start finding some of the more exotic species), but the visual difference is enough to make the experience seem new. When I see a new wild Pokemon, I want to catch it. When I see a fellow trainer, I want to bury their critters’ faces in the dirt. The basic elements of the game still work remarkably well, and I’m sure Game Freak knows it.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t places to improve, at least from the perspective of someone who’s played most versions of the game. For one, the early parts of the game feature so much mandatory hand-holding that I almost turned my DS off from boredom more than once. The game asks the player if they need few things explained to them, but they need to take it all the way: allow veterans the chance to skip the introductions of what a Pokemon is, how the world works and how to heal your captive friends at the Pokemon Center. So the PokeMart is now embedded in the Center? Cool. I could’ve figured that out myself.
But, despite the game’s superfluous foreword, I’m still going, if no other reason than the title of this post.