Monochrome, monotone

I decided to dig into Pokémon Black last week so I’d be able to talk about it for podcasts or whatever, but I think I’m throwing in my hat after about five hours. I enjoyed Pokémon Pearl a few years ago, and I spent more time with HeartGold last year than I care to admit, but for some reason this latest version feels like an arduous chore. Well, not “some reason.” The problem is that I played this exact game a few years ago and spent more time with it last year than I care to admit. The breaking point was when I walked into a cave and encountered a bat. It wasn’t called “zubat” this time, and it had a fuzzy face, but it was still evasive and used confusion attacks and was basically annoying in all the same ways that zubats are annoying. I looked at my party of reskinned vendor trash and my elemental-themed starter and realized that I just don’t have the patience to retrace these particular steps all over again.

The weird thing is that, despite being almost exactly identical to every other Pokémon game to date, Black and White feature a lot of changes and additions. But Game Freak’s philosophy for developing sequels isn’t to change the essentials but rather the peripheral elements, to recreate (or rehash) the basics while piling new features on the post- and meta-game. It’s a weird approach, and I guess it’s not a bad approach. The people who are into the high-level game presumably blitz their way through the boring main slog in order to get to the new stuff. I don’t play efficiently and ruthlessly as that… plus, I’m not into the high-level game. Or the basic game, for that matter.

Anyway, all of this prompted me to return to my copy of Dragon Quest IX and start digging into that high-level game instead. I finally made it to the 15th floor of Masayuki’s map, and it was pretty intense. I guess the lesson here is that if I’m gonna subject myself to a tedious, time-consuming grind, it has to be one that I really enjoy. Either that, or I’d rather fight slimes than fake zubats.

15 thoughts on “Monochrome, monotone

  1. I super-excitedly picked up Pokemon White a few months ago as well, having been bombarded by advertisements on TV, in convenience stores, etc.

    I got about three hours in before I realized that, without the nostalgia factor – that is, recognizable, iconic monsters – the heart seems to have fallen out of this latest Poke-adventure. This brings the cash-in factor to the forefront, weirdly enough. The reskin makes the rehash nature of the game all the more evident. And compared to many of the great DS RPGs (note: there are way too many amazing DS RPGs), Pokemon B/W isn’t really even that gorgeous.

  2. I’ve been feeling this way about Tactics Ogre and felt this way about Dragon Age. Games are more than gameplay — it can be hard to get past stale/recycled visuals, universe, story, etc. even if the underlying game is remains solid. So with Tactics it’s still that whole Final Fantasy thing, and not only did I play through the original but FF Tactics, which is basically the same. With Dragon Age, it’s more boilerplate fantasy and more Bioware completely unbalanced tactical RPG. Also, like Pokemon, you can almost entirely predict what you’ll be called on to do when you are in a particular situation because everything is so familiar.

    So, I’m playing Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a game in ages.

    • Actually, I think Jeremy gave the exact opposite complaint regarding Pokemon B/W: the same fundamentals with a different coat of paint.

      Wasn’t entirely following what you meant with Tactics Ogre. How can it be “the whole Final Fantasy thing” when FF: T was basically TO by way of FF, albeit with many of the Matsuno trappings?

  3. When it comes to Pokémon, I’m more of of a collector than a strategizer. I’m sure I’ll end up buying it anyway, even though I’m well aware it’s largely the same game but with a faster pace.

    Can’t say I’m thrilled about hearing the fuzzy Zubat Expy’s just as annoying as the real deal, though. Oh well, at least it’s cute.

  4. This is a fun/hypothetical question for anyone who’s ever played two or more installments of Pokemon and thusly became burned out:

    What is your imaginary, ultimate expression of a Pokemon game?

    Personally, I’ve always wished it were like the anime. Not saying the cartoon was enjoyable, but it always felt somewhat like Dragon Quest V, in that it’s a few people with a scant stable of monsters wandering around the world helping strangers.

    Hmm. Maybe that answers my question – Dragon Quest V is the secret best Pokemon game.

    • You, sir, win this argument.

      Got to add that I played through the original Pokemon Blue, but haven’t had the fortitude to go through any of the others since. Guess I just have too many other RPGs on my plate to really prioritize the Pokemans.

    • I’ve always wanted a pokemon action-rpg. Like Kingdom hearts or something, you play as the pokemon directly and can jump around and hide and stuff. I mean, it would never work since some pokemon are like the size of buildings but whatever, man!

      • Or Paper Mario, perhaps?

        I always wanted a game that took after the anime battles, like using various moves as well as the environment in unique ways.

  5. To each his own I guess, but its kinda hard to hear you talk about Pokemon’s monotony when Dragon Quest IX’s end-game practically defines the word. And I liked the game! (But liked VIII a lot more.)

  6. incidentally, i have a map whose 10th level is entirely gem slimes, if you want to make the money grind a little easier.

  7. Well, I haven’t played since R/B/Y, so I’m not in the “burned-out” category. Day one for me, as long as I finish Strange Journey by then (all I have left is the grind to the end-boss, having just taken out the penultimate threat to me failing to defend humanity).

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