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Individual Values: A Pokémon Feature - Week 12: The Never-Ending Story


Jonathan Higgins

Welcome to the twelfth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed the last one, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday morning. Also! I'm extending my Mew giveaway to give you guys more time to enter.

 

 

 

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The Never-Ending Story

 

I“m going to open this week“s Individual Values by discussing the Pokémon anime, albeit briefly. Besides a nod to it in the very beginning of this feature, I“ve kind of stayed away from discussing the adventures of Ash, mostly because the games and anime are fundamentally different from each other. Still, Pokémon Yellow Version did a good job of confusing the identities of Red and Ash, did it not? I still have friends who can“t tell the two apart. Do you know the difference?

 

Anyway. I promised I wouldn't spend too long on the anime, so: like it or not, Ash Ketchum“s adventure does a much better job of presenting the actual world of Pokémon than any of the games do. When you“re zeroing in on ideas, characters, and people via an episodic format, it makes it so much easier to create a cohesive world with many ins, outs and complexities.

 

Ash“s story is filled with detailed interactions regarding the NPC Pokémon Trainers we only get to briefly battle in any given game. You get to see what the life of a Pokémon Breeder is like, for example, and hear about the nuances of Pokémon food for twenty-two minutes (before Team Rocket gets in the middle of everything, again).

 

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The narrative in any given game has been mostly the same, in spite of the series“s many leaps forward since 1996: Get eight badges, beat the Elite 4, save the world from [a threat], and become a Pokémon Master, if you can. You encounter various people in towns, and a few main characters (like Brendan or May in ORAS) are developed as they intertwine with your journey. But… because the games aren't episodic, the main narrative is... pretty basic, at the end of the day.

 

But, as with any formula established over nineteen-plus years, there are exceptions. Gold, Silver and Crystal are one of those exceptions, and I think the rich story is what helps those games remain infamous among fans. You don“t just get eight badges and fight the Elite 4—you get sixteen, because you can set out to explore the world you left behind in the first game two years later, and you get to fight yourself at the end. How awesome was that? And why the heck haven“t they done it since then, especially with direct sequels to Black & White being a thing. (Oh, don“t dare make me open the B2W2 can of worms. I have so much to say about those games that I might devote an entire piece to it sometime down the line.)

 

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Next noteworthy exception: Black & White. The Pokémon Trainer N“s ambitions lead to many twists in the typical Pokémon formula. For one thing, there was never a disaster to prevent—N was an idealist, and you merely opposed his views, as the player. BW“s focus on ideals made it a truly unique narrative, especially due to N being such a fascinating character on his own.

 

Sure, you still basically progressed through the game with your eight badges and Pokédex completing mission, but… you don“t become the Pokémon League Champion when the credits roll for the first time in BW. Actually—N lays siege to the Pokémon League and then takes you to task. It just goes to show how just one well-developed character can make a series whose narrative feels stale suddenly interesting again.

 

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And then there“s Zinnia. And the Delta Episode. Remember how I said the video game Pokémon stories weren't episodic? The new addition to the remake of RSE is, perhaps, the most noteworthy exception of all. Without spoiling anything for those who haven“t made it to the end of ORAS just yet, throughout the course of the episode you“re introduced to a brand new character, and you get to see her ambitions come to pass over the course of a few short hours versus an entire game. And... I don“t think this is the last time we“ll be seeing Zinnia, either.

 

By the end of the Delta Episode in ORAS, the new Pokémon League Champion (you) is aware of Zinnia“s ambitions and saves the world from disaster (again). But... Kalos isn“t aware of her at all, as far as we know. And things are kind of open to this character creating a link between the Hoenn and Kalos regions, to be sure. Wouldn't it be outstanding if “Pokémon Z(innia)” was actually a sequel of sorts that blended themes of the Hoenn and Kalos regions together? That would certainly surprise longtime fans, as Game Freak has tried to do in the past.

 

Which of the Pokémon narratives is your favorite? Can you think of any other exceptions, besides the three I“ve listed? Do you have any of your own theories as to where Pokémon narrative could go next? Be sure to let us know!

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