For me personally, this is a difficult game for me to stay objective with. Most of my enjoyment of this game stems from nostalgia. If you count Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow as 1 game, it’s probably my most played game of all time. Not necessarily in the sense of most minutes played but rather starting a new game and progressing through the game to the end. There is something about these original titles that just make me happy. That genuine happiness is transferred over from the originals to this game. Being in this world again but this time but this time it looks so damn good is exactly what I want but this is definitely not for everyone.
Open-World but Linear
The draw of the Pokemon series has never been its story and it’s the same here. You’re a young child, ready to go on an adventure to become the very best Pokemon trainer. It’s not a great story or concept but that’s fine because Pokemon has never been about the narrative but rather creating your own stories with your own team.
Since this game is all about characters and the characters are the Pokemon, I can’t pick just one so I’m just going to talk about my team that I had for most of the game.
- Blastoise-Blastoise is one of my favorite Pokemon of all time and I initially didn’t plan on using him but as I was moving around the world, I just saw a Squirtle in the wild. I have never stumbled upon a Squirtle in the wild before so that concept just felt so unique that I had to use him.
- Machoke-Ideally I wanted to use Machamp but I kind of streamlined through the game and didn’t have a chance to trade him so I could evolve him. Because of the way you have to evolve Machamp, I have never used him on my team even though Machamp is one of my favorites from Gen 1.
- Haunter-The same with Machamp, I like Haunter/Gengar but I never use them because of the annoying evolution requirement
- Arcanine-I love Dogs and I have always loved Arcanine. I never used him growing up because the game I played the most was Yellow and with me playing Yellow I had access to all 3 starters so I always chose Charizard over Arcanine.
- Nidoking-Nidoking is a super cool Pokemon that I never used. I don’t know why, I just never used him but now I have and I’m happy I did because Nidoking has a great variety of moves. It’s the same with Nidoqueen and that evolution line. At one point early on, I did have both on my team. Ultimately I had to make the decision of dropping one and I chose to keep Nidoking because he had the better stats.
- Vileplume-Last but not least was Vileplume, a Pokemon that once again I have never used. I don’t want to say that I regret using Vileplume but it was fairly useless. I didn’t use it once during the elite 4. I just had better Pokemon for each situation.
Pokemon has never been known for puzzles. There is the one where you have to figure out how to get through Victory Road but that’s the same puzzle it was 20+ years ago so I can’t praise the game for that.
Gameplay breaks down into three categories, traversal, combat and catching Pokemon.
- Traversal-Early on, moving around the Pokemon world is pretty standard. A big difference is, your character just automatically runs. It’s no longer a slow walk like the original or in Leaf Green/Fire Red where you have to wait until you get the running shoes and then you can hold a button to run.
- Riding Pokemon-Much like Pokemon Sun and Moon, you can ride Pokemon around in the world. The reason for it, it just ends up being a faster way you can move around the world. It seems like riding Pokemon replaces bikes in the game which I prefer because I loved riding my Arcanine.
- Fast Travel-No longer do you get the HM fly and have to teach it to a flying type Pokemon. Instead, you can just open up your map and select a city and go there, it doesn’t matter who you have in your party.
- Combat-Combat ends up being largely the same as the other mainline Pokemon games. The only major difference is, abilities are no longer a thing. It’s like original Pokemon so there ends up being a little less strategy. I can’t comment on whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, that just comes down to your own personal preference.
- Catching Pokemon-This is the biggest change in the formula of the entire game.
- Random Encounters-They no longer exist, as you’re wandering through an area you see all of the Pokemon that are available at that given time. I personally like this because as I have been going through and trying to fill out my Pokedex. I can open up the Pokedex look up the Pokemon’s habitat, go that specific route (or area) and walk around and wait for that specific Pokemon to populate. Once it would populate, I could instantly walk over to it and try to catch it. If you use items like a lure, it ends up being a very quick way to catch Pokemon.
- Catching Pokemon-This seems to be a very controversial way change to catching Pokemon. Apparently, people liked battling the Pokemon widdling it down to almost 0 HP and trying to catch it. I never really loved it, I just always dealt with it because that was the standard Pokemon system. Now it’s streamlined and much quicker to catch the average Pokemon. It has the Pokemon Go mechanic where there is a circle on the Pokemon and you want to throw the ball when the circle is at its smallest. That gives you the best chance to catch the Pokemon. I personally played this game docked so I had to use motion controls. So I would flick my wrist at the right time and for the most part, catching a Pokemon takes 10 seconds (occasionally a little longer ).
A staple of the Pokemon series has been Boss Battles disguised as Gym Leaders and then the Elite 4. They switched that formula up with Sun and Moon with Totem Pokemon rather than Gym Leaders. I wasn’t as big of a fan of it, I always liked having the 8 gyms and the 8 different Gym Types. Especially playing a Pokemon game for the first time, you never know what Gyms lies ahead so it forces you to have team variety and thats personally fun to me.
Because this game is a remake I already knew what the Gyms were so I found myself very early on building my team in a way that would make the Gyms and also the Elite 4 as “easy” as possible.
Music/Sound Design/Voice Acting
- Music-I don’t know if this is the original sound track or if the game’s music is made to sound like the original sound track. Either way, 2 thumbs up. I was a fan of the music as a child and I’m a fan now.
- Sound Design-I have always loved the sound design of Pokmon games, it’s the little sublties of each and every move having it’s own sound to go along with the animation. When you defeat a Pokemon the little noise it makes as you gain experience and then when you level up a Pokemon the little happy tune that plays. Between the art design, the animations and the sound design, they all just mix together so perfectly to create such a charming game that makes me happy.
- Voice Acting-No Voice Acting but now that I’m thinking about it, I’m kind of wondering if next years Pokemon game will have voice acting. With it being the first mainline console Pokemon game (that’s a mouthful), maybe?
This is meant to be a broader category. Just a place for me to mention, certain mechanical things about the game. Some games I may talk about frame rate issues or the game crashing a lot. I never ran into those issues but I did run into issues with the controls.
Oh god this is my biggest issue with the game. Catching the average Pokemon, I enjoyed the experience. As I said before, the game does a great job of speeding up the process of catching Pokemon. The problem is, as the game progresses it tries to make catching Pokemon harder. It succeeds but not in the way they were intending. Later on in the game, Pokemon don’t just stand still they move from left to right. So now you not only have to flick your wrist, you have to angle your wrist in a direction. This is where the game breaks down. I don’t know if it’s a system limitation or poorly designed gameplay but either way, I had a hard time angling the Pokeballs (or ultra balls) correctly. When a Pokemon was slightly to the left, I would either throw the ball too far to the left, sometimes not far enough to the left and sometimes the ball would go to the right. I would guess when the Pokemon would move around, my success rate of just hitting the Pokemon would go down to about 30-40%. Keep in mind, that’s just hitting the Pokemon that is not catching the Pokemon. It took me over 200 ultra balls to catch Zapdos. Catching Articuno and Moltres probably took me about 30ish ultra balls so take that into consideration.
There is a way to play it in handheld mode, it does sound like that is an easier way to play the game but that’s not how I wanted to play this game. It’s the first console Pokemon RPG game, I wanted to play that on my TV not in handheld mode. I have been doing that for the last 20 years, I wanted something different.
Recap: The Good
The Combat is the same but simplified
Catching Pokemon is streamlined
Recap: The Bad
Bad Motion Controls
Recap: The Okay