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Individual Values: A Pokémon Feature - Week 74: Indulging in Interaction


Jonathan Higgins

Welcome to the seventy-fourth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed my send-off to the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series over the past two weeks, check here and here! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday.

 

Shaymin is available via the Nintendo Network. It'll be live until July 24th. Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all!

 

 

 

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Indulging in Interaction

 

Even though my work in Pokémon Yellow is done, I still go back from time to time just to indulge in Pikachu“s Beach. When ping-ponging around the idea of talking about how the Pokémon games have allowed a trainer to interact directly with their collected critters, my first instinct was to say “let“s look at how far we“ve come”. While it“s easy to track a steady growth in most aspects of the main game--everything from music, to graphics, to even the battle UI like I discussed a few weeks ago--Pokémon interactivity has been a bit of a spotty Thing. I“m going to do my best to sum things up here:

 

In Yellow Version, we could interact with the Pikachu we started with directly, as it followed behind us the whole time [so long as we didn“t let it faint or deposit it in a PC]. It had a voice, unique facial expressions, and more than one tiny contribution to the narrative as a whole. Its purpose was...to be the first ever measure of the Happiness value many veteran trainers know the ins-and-outs of, by now. ...Once the Pika-purpose was served, they shelved the concept for Gold & Silver.

 

Still, it inspired things like Pokémon Pikachu [2]. I“m not sure if your experiences differ, but: when we were kids, all my friends yearned for the ability to have any Pokémon you wanted walk behind you. We“d all get our wish eventually...but I“ll get to that.

 

Do you all consider [super] Contests to be along the same lines of interacting with any Pokémon? I personally don“t, because the experience is so closely aligned with battling. HP never goes down, but there are various mechanics and formulas to master if you want to get all your ribbons--you couldn“t really casually raise a “Contest Pokémon”, lest you risk feeding them poffins that aren“t good enough and permanently filling them up. That“s what happened to my ten year-old Pikachu since the Diamond & Pearl days--I am amazed that her contest stats are still alive and at the fixed value they“ve been since around 2007, despite being transported across two generations of games since first raising them.

 

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Speaking of Diamond & Pearl: Let“s address Amity Square. This special place in Sinnoh allowed you to bring your own Pikachu, Clefairy, Jigglypuff and Psyduck from first gen--Torchic, Shroomish and Skitty from third gen--and the Sinnoh starters, plus Drifloon, Buneary, Happiny and Pachirisu from the newest games at the time...and explore a small, gated area with one of them at a time. It“s a tiny area, and that“s really a tiny amount of Pokémon when you consider there were 493 upon Diamond & Pearl“s release...but I“m grateful for its inclusion nonetheless. Since I caught my Pikachu in FireRed, I hadn“t gotten the chance to have it walk behind me until Amity Square happened.

 

And then HeartGold & SoulSilver blew the whole concept of interactivity out of the water, beyond most fans“ wildest hopes and dreams. Not only could every single Pokémon in existence follow behind the trainers in that game [including taking the time to program shiny color alterations for those special Pokémon], but it had various places to take photos with your team, dress them [and you, the trainer] up in outfits, and… the PokéWalker. This thing took the premise that Pokémon Pikachu tried to create and put it on steroids, allowing you to walk with any Pokémon you wanted & potentially fight to capture new and exclusive Pokémon when you weren“t walking around with it. As far as feeling like your critters were “walking with you in real life, too”, the PokéWalker was the closest we“ve ever gotten. If you were young enough--or willing to suspend your disbelief enough--it was something really special, you know?

 

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And then Black & White took it away and dashed our dreams...okay...so maybe they decided on a different approach instead. Didn“t mean to bring us down a bit there! The Dream World offered a rather obtuse way to catch exclusive Pokémon--through use of flash games and an interactive website. Instead of having Any Given Pokémon walk behind you in the games themselves, Unova let you walk behind them in a dream. There were various mini-games that offered a bit of fun on top of what was otherwise simple point-and-click exploration.

 

And that leads us to 6th Gen, where the flash games of sorts have returned to our Nintendo handhelds, with a bonus means to pet our Pokémon and feed ”em treats, in order to raise a unique stat. Since Affection--not Happiness--is a new attribute to gauge Pokémon with, I thought “PokémonAmie” might come back in some form with Sun & Moon. Turns out I might be right. ...What new levels of interaction will the upcoming games hold beyond PokémonAmie?

 

I hate to dash dreams here, but as Pokémon graphics and presentation start to evolve towards reflecting more realistic-looking people and proportions, the concept of having “all 800-something Pokémon” following behind you will be incredibly out-of-reach. In HeartGold, Wailord took up a single sprite on the screen--in Sun & Moon, if they“d want to keep a more realistic look both inside and outside of battle, there“s no conceivable way our favorite large whale friend will be able to follow behind us faithfully. But! I“m kind of hoping for the return of an Amity Square kind of place, where we can take a select (larger) group of Pokémon behind us to explore a (larger) dungeon, as they walk behind us.

 

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You“ve all seen augmented reality photos like this one since the launch of Pokémon GO a while back. I“m not sure if I have it in me to add to the handfuls of “Pokémon GO Thinkpieces” out there, since the Thing is a bigger success than anyone [myself included] could have anticipated. But I will say this: The biggest “problem” I have with the app, philosophically, is that these types of photos can only be taken before the Pokémon in question is actually caught. As far as I know--there is no way to interact with your critters after you catch them. Ever since Red, Blue & Yellow--the “point” of your Pokémon journey is to bond with the critters you catch. GO has Gym Battles, training, and other fodder. But it“s missing the option to--as an example--highlight a Pikachu once you catch it, and let it out of its PokéBall...for photo ops with friends & in various locations besides where you found it. The inclusion of such a feature could be easily added, and it“d help Trainers to become more attached to their respective critters, wouldn“t it?

 

Anyway. That“s quite enough from me.

 

At the end of the day, I“m just looking for mainline [and even spin-off] games that let you do more with your Pokémon friends than make them fight each other. How do you all feel about the level of interaction you“ve seen from games past? Are HeartGold & SoulSilver your favorite because of reasons like I listed? Goodness knows, I“ve jumped back into Johto to help scratch an itch that GO just can“t reach. Be sure to share your thoughts!

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