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FGC #435 Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee!

Here comes some fuzzy dude!I am an Eevee convert.

I am a Pokémon nerd, and have been from practically the first moment they hit these shores. Shortly before Pokémon Red/Blue (in America), there was the Pokémon Television show. And shortly before that, there was the Nintendo Power pack-in Pokémon comic. It followed the same plot as the anime, so, naturally, it featured Pikachu right from the start. And, yes, like so many people, I fell for that tiny electric rodent immediately. I think it was the “always says its name” thing? That’s like Yoshi, right? Totally endearing! I was saying “pikachu” to friends as a random nonsense word one time at band camp before the global phenomenon actually kicked off, and I prided myself on being at the forefront of this particular nerd movement/moment. Pikachu and I were together right there at the beginning, and you never forget your first Pokémon.

And Eevee… well… Eevee was more of a threat.

As we’ve covered before, Pokémon Red/Blue was, to put it lightly, a jerk. The title existed before pokébreeding existed, so every “unique” Pokémon was just as exclusive and limited as the legendaries of today. This meant that, against all odds, noted losers Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan were actually desirable and sought-after. Similarly, everyone wound up with an Eevee, but only one, and thus only one of three branching evolutions. So you could swing by the department store and Thunder Stone up a Jolteon… but was that the right way to go? Would you prefer a Flareon? Or was the more defensive Vaporeon the better choice? And, even if you somehow chose the “best” for your own team, were you comfortable with trading away your choice? Jimmy down the street has a Flareon, and you really would like to complete that Pokédex, but are you going to trade away the Omanyte he’s asking for? Argh! Eevee seems like a great idea, but the little bugger is just too annoying to be a favorite. Electric apparently has an advantage over Normal in this round.

Get 'em!And Eevee didn’t fare much better in Generation 2, either. It was more readily available, and it received two brand new evolutions, but… they were annoying. Umbreon and Espeon were unmistakably great designs with cool moves (you didn’t have to be psychic to predict a new dark type would be exciting), but they were tied to the new friendship mechanics and the day/night cycle. While some Pokémon would evolve thanks to basic leveling or being exposed to a particularly nice rock, the evolution conditions for our new Eevee forms were comparatively about as complicated as solving a quadratic equation. And, like a quadratic equation, it wasn’t all that difficult, really, it was just a pain in the ass, and why deal with such a thing when there were many more “easier” Pokémon out there? Tyranitar doesn’t need your love and affection, it only needs the still-warm blood of its enemies. Sorry, Umbreon.

Though Eevee did wind up with a come-from-behind victory through Pokemon Colosseum. This Gamecube title was an attempt at a more adult Pokemon experience (as adult as any game can be and still include a Numel), and featured a radical teenage protagonist that jets around on a hovercycle and detonates various buildings. He also had a pair of Eeveelutions as his partners, an Espeon and an Umbreon. And that was pretty damn cool! They were now the yin and yang of the Pokemon universe, the forces of good and evil vying for this protagonist’s soul as he desperately battled to save Pokémon from being exploited so he could then turn around and exploit them, but, like, in a good way. Alpha and Omega, the most obvious names I have ever given to a pair of Pokémon, kicked untold amounts of ass while venturing around Orre, and I have to admit, they did bring me around on the whole Eevee concept.

It's probably the hatAnd then came Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, and we received two all-new Eevee forms. And they were… lame. Glaceon had a cool new ‘do… but that’s it. Nothing worth writing home about.

But then Pokemon X/Y introduced Sylveon, the ribbon-based Fairy-type evolution of Eevee. That’s when Eevee clicked as one of the best Pokémon.

The Fairy Type in Pokémon is weird as hell. The type was first introduced in Pokémon X/Y, so you’ve got creatures that were retroactively “fairy-ized” like Clefairy (makes sense!), Jigglypuff (okay, fine), Mr. Mime (… what?), and Snubbull (the hell you doin’?!). So the defining trait for Fairy Type is… pink? Oh, no, Marill and Ralts mess up even that theory. Then you have the Pokémon that were designed to be Fairy Type from the ground up, like Flabébé the flower thingy, Dedenne the wannabe Pikachu, and Swirlix, the unholy amalgamation of Stimpson J. Cat and one of his own farts. So what’s the connection in Fairy-Type designs? The only common denominator seems to be that they’re all cute. Well, except Mr. Mime, as it is an abomination in the eyes of a caring and just God. But the rest of ‘em are cute!

And Sylveon is the cutest of them all. Because it wants to be cute. It’s an Eevee that knows a fairy move, and feels affectionate to its trainer. And, as a result, it turns into a creature that is 90% ribbons by volume. It is pink. It is adorable. And it is okay with that, because it knows it is loved. And, side note, it can slay dragons. That is always helpful.

But you know what? Sylveon is just the tip of the Eevee iceberg. Eevee doesn’t have to be a Sylveon. Glaceon is available! Or Jolteon! Or Espeon! Or, assuming Eevee has some kind of brain problem, Leafeon! Eevee can be anything! Or at least seven different things! That’s more things than any other Pokémon can be! And it can just stay an Eevee if it wants to be. Nothing wrong with that!

Gooooo!And, ultimately, that’s why Pikachu and Eevee are the ideal mascots of the Pokémon franchise. Pikachu is immutable. Pikachu’s greatest strengths come not from its evolution into a fatter rat or a psychic rat, but from Pikachu continuing to be Pikachu. Infants recognize Pikachu. Grandma recognizes Pikachu. Mickey Mouse begrudgingly recognizes Pikachu. Pikachu is not meant to change, it is meant to simply learn how to be a better, potentially surfing Pikachu. Eevee, though? Eevee can be anything. While Pikachu is stuck forever in its perpetual yellow adolescence, Eevee can progress, and move forward to a future that is right for Eevee. Even the Always-Eevee star of Let’s Go Eevee feels like it is just learning the ropes before it eventually figures out its path in life. It can learn a potpourri of Eevee evolution specific type-based moves. It’s just enjoying its “undeclared” years before choosing a major. Who could ever fault an Eevee for making an informed decision?

So I am an Eevee convert. I used to be a Pikachu super fan, but Eevee has now claimed that top spot, bolstered by all the possibilities within every Eevee. You’re the best, Eevee, and you can make yourself better eeveery day.

And besides, Pikachu is a cop.

Noooooo

Screw that noise.

FGC #435 Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee!

  • System: Nintendo Switch. It is… kind of like a Gameboy? Except not.
  • Number of players: Two! And, like, completely two players, too. And the two player catching is kind of fun! And your buddy can run around the map screen like an idiot anytime they want! It’s surprisingly well implemented for kids and people who just want to participate, but have no idea how to do that!
  • SNORLAX!Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: What? It’s Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow, but with modern conveniences and an emphasis on capturing the Pokémon Go market. It’s a lot of fun, but basing the title on the Pokémon game with the least post-game content makes for a less enjoyable experience. And, look, I know I could raise a Magikarp up to Level 50 to challenge some magical Magikarp master… but I have things to do! Give me a new “dungeon” or something. Please?
  • Other Trainers: Green, the female counterpart to Red (Ash) and Blue (Gary), finally makes her first official appearance. She… is apparently an idiot, and mistakes the player for a Pokémon. Or she’s being coy, and is just using such a reason to pelt her opponent with pokéballs. Either way, she’s not exactly endearing…
  • Favorite Pokémon (this game): Machamp made a surprisingly good showing in this title. Eevee is permanently weak to fighting types, so it’s good to have a battlin’ buddy that can throw a few punches. I mean, Eevee obviously is the favorite Pokémon here, but anyone that can help is going to take second place.
  • So why did you get this game? Entirely to unlock Meltan (boxes) in Pokémon Go. And because I will play absolutely every Pokémon game that ever comes out. But the first reason is why I played this game quickly.
  • Gotta Catch ‘em All: You know I do!
    I win!

    And playing Pokemon Go helped!
  • Goggle Bob Fact: By complete coincidence, this article will be posted when I’m flying back from Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago. People of the future! Did I post pictures of the event on my Twitter? Tell me what the World of Tomorrow contains!
  • Did you know? Apparently Eevee’s original, “prototype” name was Eon. This explains why all of the Eeveelutions have names that end in the “eon” suffix. This makes so much more sense now!
  • Would I play again: I technically play this pretty often to unload random Pokémon from Pokemon Go. But am I ever going to play through the game ever again? Probably not. Then again, that is true of practically every other Pokémon game, too, so nothing new there.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare for the SNES! Will it be a dream, or that other thing that is the opposite of a dream that I can’t quite recall the name of right now? Let’s find out! Please look forward to it!

I know them!

FGC #380 Pokémon (Ultra) Moon / Sun

DawwPokémon Sun & Moon is the first Pokémon game to feature a memorable story and characters.

It’s also the first Pokémon game to feature dynamic camera angles, dedicated cutscenes, and full animations for as many of its humans as its pokémon.

Gee, what could be the connection?

For many people, the plot of any given Pokémon game is about as essential as a story in a fighting game. In fact, you could easily make the argument that the Pokémon titles are fighting games. Sure, there’s a complete JRPG GUI, and you talk, level up, and manage your ‘mons as if they were straight out of Final Fantasy Legend, but the battles are the main draw. And, while that’s true of many JRPGs, most JRPGS are not two player, and even less are head-to-head two player. For a countless number of Pokémon fans, the “main campaign” is a way to tinker with random party configurations at best, and a complete waste of time at worst. The real appeal is producing the best team ever, marching into your local poké-tournament, and cleaning house with your Level 100 Medicham. Or, like fighting games, popping online to play with the “meta game”, and feel really great when you wipe out a Mewtwo… that was trained by an eight year old. You monster.

And, for about the last every Pokémon game ever, it seemed like Game Freak agreed with the audience that didn’t give a damn about plot. Yes, every Pokémon game even going back to Pokémon Green had a whole plot with unique characters and trials/villains to overcome, but the plot was always completely secondary to the sheer weight of one day becoming the Pokémon champion and scooting into the postgame. Slow?Hell, in one of the later Pokémon titles, a cyclopic, light-haired bad guy raised an entire evil castle from the Earth while summoning some manner of god- mon… and I can’t even remember which game contained that event. I want to say Black/White? Maybe? Look, I’m still anime racist, and I can’t tell these silly magic emperors apart.

But Pokémon Sun/Moon changed all that. It introduced Lillie and Nebby, and, in one fell swoop, flooded Deviantart with more Pokémon fanart not featuring a naked lady version of Pikachu than anyone ever thought possible. Lillie not your thing? Don’t worry, we’ve got rude boy Gladion and his beloved Type:Null to keep you company. Hau ain’t bad, either, Team Skull is unforgettable, and Lusamine is a great villain because she’s such a threat to not only “you”, but the people you inexorably care about as well. Sure, every Pokémon villain has threatened the world with flooding or ghost dinosaurs or whatever, but how many of those rogues had the sheer malevolence to torture a lil’ dude that has been living in a gym bag? For the first time in Pokémon history, the people of Pokemon Sun/Moon are more memorable than the ‘mons, and, considering they’re competing with Rowlett, that’s no small accomplishment.

But, sad to say, you don’t care about Lillie, Gladion, or even Professor Kukai because of their personalities and design (though, admittedly, you might like the Prof for his topless lab coat fashion combo), no, you the stars of Pokémon Sun/Moon shine because of scene direction.

Yay!Other Pokémon games had heroes, friends, and villains, but they all lived in a decidedly primitive JRPG world. Pokémon X/Y , Sun/Moon’s direct ancestor, had excellent graphics (and outfits!) available, but every story beat played out with protagonists that may as well have been Dragon Warrior sprites. Lord Whatshisname is threatening the planet with his pokémon-based death ray, but I can’t remember his damn name because he just stood there like a doof and generated text box after text box of “dialogue”. Yes, you’re a generic bad guy, I get it, can my gyrados eat you yet? The average Pokemon villain is no more threatening than the bug catching kid on Route 1, and it’s all because they’re presented in exactly the same way. In fact, that kid in the shorts might be more threatening, because he’s there when you just started, and your most effective offensive measure is to friggen growl at your opponent. By the time you’re stomping down Team Rocket, your favorite pokémon has evolved into a rhobeast, and the average battle takes just long enough for you to open a menu. Looks like you’re blasting off again, Giovanni, compliments of six different hyper beams.

But Pokémon Moon/Sun does something completely different. PSM actually treats the camera like a tool, and not a necessary evil. There are close ups of character’s expressions. There are mad scientists that giggle when they think no one is looking. There are villains framed against their helpless captives, and screens that convulse and shake as cherished Nebbys are beaten and hurt. When you first meet Hau, it’s a happy occasion, and everything about the direction, from the angles employed to the joyful music playing, tells you that. When you first meet Lusamine, you know something is up, because the direction reminds you that something isn’t quite right here. And when you find yourself trapped in another world with a raging, monstrous Pokémon, you don’t have any questions about the stakes of your next battle. Pokémon Sun/Moon goes the extra mile to tell its story, and everything about the “ignorable plot” of the title sparkles as a result.

And it’s a damn shame more games can’t take a page from this new Pokémon book.

Yay!Somewhere in the history of gaming, we started to think that “plot” simply meant “more words”. You could blame it on the possibility of more words (Newer words! Bigger words!) with the expansion of game storage space, or you could just point to the success of Final Fantasy 7 and call it a day. Super Mario 64 was only kind of a hit, and it had like a paragraph of words; Final Fantasy 7 was practically a novel… so clearly what the public wants is more words! And it doesn’t matter that Final Fantasy 7 had amazing visuals, set pieces, and “sprites” that may have looked like Popeye’s spikey haired cousins, but never stopped emoting; no, what’s important is the big, long plot and all those precious words. It doesn’t matter if we pump out a JRPG where heads just talk to each other for hours at a time, and the average infodump is accompanied by maybe one still image, what we need is as many words as our typing monkeys can spit out! Throw in the word “evil” over and over again! That has to be interesting, right? A couple of dudes sitting in a non-descript room talking about what is inevitably going to be the final boss and how it fought some brave hero twelve billion years ago? More! “Press X to advance text” is the most exciting thing a person could do with a controller!

So congratulations to Pokémon Moon/Sun for advancing the storytelling capabilities of not only the franchise, but the entire medium. Nobody had to do such a thing, and we would have been perfectly okay with another preteen saving the world from old men and their rattatas, but you went the extra mile, and created an unforgettable experience. Congratulations, development team, you are Pokémon Masters.

FGC #380 Pokémon (Ultra) Sun / Moon

  • System: Nintendo 3DS for all time.
  • Winner!Number of players: As many players as there are on the Global Trade System, so probably something approaching the total population of Europe.
  • Ultra Moves: I’m going to consider this “review” as something that applies to the Ultra versions as well. Give or take a lame sidequest with Looker, the Ultra versions are better in every way than their less interesting ancestors, and there’s pretty much no reason to ever go back now. They even included a surfing minigame that makes absolutely no sense! That’s always good!
  • Favorite Pokémon (this generation): Okay, yes, I know Rowlet is the breakout star of this generation. But did you know that one of the other starters turns into a freaking angry wrestling black cat? How could I ever say no to that!? Its signature attack is a spinning lariat of doom! Dooooom! Keep your round boy, I’ll go for the lucky cat any day of the week.
  • Think of the children: Look, I get that we all like big, showy Z-Moves. But it’s one thing for a torchic to use scratch on a psyduck, and it’s quite another thing for a Lunala to suck an opponent into another dimension, focus a multi-beam laser on its target, and then spit the poor sucker back out on the ground. That’s just bad sportsmanship.
  • Other cruelty: Immediately having the choice of adding a poke to your party or sending them back to the PC is great! I just feel like there could have been a better way to phrase it all…

    LOSER!

    YOU GET SENT TO THE BOX!

  • So, did you beat it? I am the very best.

    Winner!

    Like no one ever was.

  • Did you know? There are only two new dark type pokémon in this generation: the previously mentioned Incineroar, and Guzzlord, Snorlax’s evil cousin. Given dark type is my favorite type (because it’s the only type that contains a Godzilla), I take personal offense at this choice.
  • Would I play again: This is the most recent Pokémon generation as of this writing, so, yes, I’ll play it right up to the very moment a new Pokémon generation hits the streets. I’m very predictable that way.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Diddy Kong Racing for the N64! Time to race a wizard pig for dominance of a genie elephant. Or something! Please look forward to it!

Winner!
Bahamut got nothing on this

FGC #304 Pokémon X/Y

I am a heterosexual male, and, for this, I consider myself lucky. To be clear, in this case I’m not talking about being lucky because being a (white) heterosexual male is practically easy mode on a social and biological level; no, I consider myself lucky because I like being a heterosexual male. I’m about 90% straight (10% of me gazes wistfully at pictures of Cillian Murphy), so I’ve never doubted my sexuality, and I’m a man’s man, so I’m totally okay with my boy parts. Mind you, I suppose I have always been terrible at sports (both playing and watching), and my body isn’t so much built for lumberjacking as it seems to be more designed for comfortably filling office chairs, but, regardless, I’ve never thought I wanted to be another gender. I am comfortable in my own skin, and, barring scientific advances that would allow me to graft a tail to my spine, I have no grand desire to change any part of me. I am just as genetics made me, and I’m okay with that.

However, if you were to boot up any save file of mine from a game that allows you to choose your protagonist’s gender… Well… It might appear that I want to be a pretty, pretty princess.

Today’s game is Pokémon X/Y. Starting with Pokémon Crystal (effectively Pokémon 2.5, for anyone not familiar with the odd naming conventions of the franchise), it became possible to choose “the girl” as your digital avatar. Likely because of Crystal being something of a revision/”incremental version” game, this started a simple pattern in my playing habits. When I played the first Pokémon game of a generation (like, say, Pokémon Ruby), I would choose the boy character, and name him Bob. Then, when the inevitable sequel popped up (like Pokémon Emerald), I would choose the girl character, and name her Robin (Bob – Rob – Robin). If any prequel remakes popped up in that time, I’d go with the “kiddy” version of the names in the same pattern, usually something like Bobby followed by Robyn. All o' 'emGenerally, I considered this a simple way to trade with myself across multiple Gameboys, as the naming convention would make it easy to see where Pokémon originated. I know that Mewtwo was originally caught by Bobby in Pokémon Fire Red, for instance. Not being certain of such a thing would be intolerable.

But that all changed with Pokémon X (forget Y, X has the better Mega Charizard). At first, I was going to follow my usual pattern, and just wait for the inevitable Pokémon Z (ha!) to break Robin back out of the mothballs. After all, Pokémon X/Y had dramatically expanded online features, and it feels… I don’t know… dishonest to misrepresent your gender online. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying that I’ve always been uncomfortable presenting myself as something I’m not while online. I guess I’ve always had this thought in my head that men posing as women online were doing it for the attention, and I’m not nothing if not an attention whore (VISIT GOGGLEBOB.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION). So, as a good child of previews and going into every Pokémon game knowing as much as possible, I decided I was going to stick to my usual “Bob” persona, and play Pokémon as a man, the way God intended.

Except…. Well…



I wouldn’t want to ruin such delightful photo opportunities with crummy male fashion sense, now would I?

I am a man. I have been one all of my life. Yet, likely thanks to a combination of general isolation and too many of my childhood heroes wearing exclusively armor, I have no concept of male fashion. My closet consists of approximately two pairs of jeans, two pairs of pants, a suit, and twelve thousand “witty” t-shirts. Oh, and I own one “presentable” pair of sneakers, and like twenty different kinds of flip flops. I live by the beach! This is allowed! … Though I suppose that kind of rational isn’t going to get me on the cover of any fashion magazines in the near future.

And I’m pretty sure I know the real source of this problem: I’m straight. I’m not claiming there’s some magical queer eye thing going on that my sex has completely missed. I’m just saying that, ultimately, I don’t pay attention to what works for men. As far as my brain (and maybe other parts of my anatomy) cares, other men may as well be featureless blobs, and I literally cannot remember what another male is wearing about ten seconds after I stop looking at the dude. That bubbles over into my own ensembles, and as a direct result of having no “fashion role models”, I dress like… a featureless blob.

WIZARD!But the other side of that coin is that there is an entire wing of my brain dedicated to “checking out chicks”, and that department has been storing information (coincidentally) since I hit puberty. Trust me, I would much rather be able to immediately recall my grandmother’s birthday at any given moment, but, no, my brain would prefer to regurgitate the exact jean style worn by my first crush six billion years back. I don’t want to be casually storing all this information, but I’m pretty sure I understand “what works” on a woman because I’ve been subconsciously studying it much longer than I’ve been worried about what I’m wearing.

Yes, I am absolutely just saying I understand “women’s fashion” because I find women wearing particular things to be more attractive. I’m not claiming to be some kind of women’s fashion guru, I just know what I, and only I, like to see. I’m an egocentric jackass, but I know what I like.

But getting back to our game du jour, I knew about the “fashion factor” of Pokémon X going into the adventure, and I thus decided to go with “Robin” and never look back. And I don’t regret my choice for a moment: the male outfits in this game are pretty lame, but everything on the female side of the changing room is pretty great. And I’m a giant fan of purple, which really doesn’t work for any man save Prince, but works phenomenally on any given pale brunette that winds up being my digital avatar. See also Saint’s Row. See also Splatoon. See also Create-A-Soul in Soulcalibur. See also Dragon Quest 9. See also every game where I can customize a character even the tiniest bit, because I know what I like to see.

Hi, I’m Goggle Bob, I’m a straight male that enjoys looking at pretty women, even if those women are supposed to be “me”. Look, if I’m going to spend 200 hours with a game, I may as well like what I’m looking at.

And at least someone appreciates my choices. Thanks, Pokémon XX.

FGC #304 Pokémon X/Y

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. The bottom screen used for Wi-Fi features is pretty marvelous in this game, and should emulated by every WiiU… oh, that system is already dead.
  • Number of players: One endless single player experience, but also two player for competitions/trades. Also, technically infinity players for some of the online stuff. More games should be infinity players.
  • Isn’t this the generation that introduced Mega Evolutions? Yes, but no one cares about that when there are fashion choices afoot.
  • Favorite Pokémon (this generation): Aegislash is a living sword ghost that can control minds and slash smaller Pokémon in half. Living sword monsters hiding in tall grass is clearly further evidence of my Pokémon theory.
  • Did you catch ‘em all? Damn straight.
    I win

    Even had to go to McDonald’s for some damn magic rock creature.
  • Did you know? Pokémon X/Y was the first Pokémon game to be released simultaneously worldwide. This is helpful for global training, but also had the fun side effect of the entire Pokédex being hidden until the game was actually released. Oh, and six months of terrible fanart suppositions of evolved forms of Pokémon. Hm, maybe Gamefreak should just release all Pokédata immediately to save us from those horrors.
  • Would I play again: Pokémon X is finally the generation where everything seems to “work” 100%, and revisiting the game isn’t a gigantic chore. Unfortunately, it’s also not the most recent Pokémon game, so it’s unlikely to get played again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubble Bobble for the NES! Something something fantastic story. Let us look forward to it!

Such hair
Even my Megas are gorgeous.

FGC #195 Drill Dozer

Kinda phallicIt has got to be weird to be Game Freak.

Game Freak is a company that started as a “fan zine” (like a primitive Geocities) back in the early days of gaming. That is adorable. Also adorable: Game Freak progressed from super fans to the big leagues in 1989 with the release of a NES game, Mendel Palace (aka Qunity). If you don’t remember Mendel Palace, that’s okay, but know that it’s an action puzzle-ish game that possessed some of the most deceptive North American box art on the NES. After releasing Smart Ball (aka Jelly Boy) for the SNES, Game Freak started to get cozy with Nintendo, and was granted the keys to Nintendo’s newest mascot, Yoshi. Yoshi (the game) was a Dr. Mario-esque puzzle game that pretty much only used the titular dinosaur as an excuse for egg stacking/hatching. However, this wouldn’t be the last time Game Freak worked with a strange, sexless creature that was only capable of saying its name…

After a few other games (including one starring Mario… that never saw American shores), Game Freak finally hit pay dirt: The Gameboy Camera. Wait, no, not that. Pocket Monsters: Red & Green were released in Japan in 1996, and then its international cousins, Pokémon Red & Blue were released in North America shortly thereafter. From that point on, Game Freak released very few games outside the Pokémon umbrella. No, they’re not responsible for every Pokémon game (the trading card games were put together by the remains of the people behind Earthbound, and Pokémon Snap was produced by pure, bottled joy), but every “real” Pokémon game, like Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Garnet, or Pokémon X/Y, all came from the graduated fans at Game Freak. And, frankly, it makes sense: in a way, the Pokémon games are an advanced/evolved form of Dragon Quest, so it only makes sense that the kind of game that so heavily relies on minutia and balancing some 700 critters would come from minds that have been dedicated to gaming since the days of Erdrick. Ignore all the hype, ignore 900 episodes of a TV show, ignore the fact that there are children born knowing the word “Pikachu”, and you still have a JRPG that is just plain good, and somehow a rolling katamari of monsters and move lists that have persisted for twenty years. That almost seems impossible!

And then there are Game Freak’s other games.

MAD WITH POWERSince 1996, there have not been many outside the Pokémon umbrella. There’s Click Medic, a (Japan only) RPG set in the far flung future of 2016, a time when diseases have to be found and catalogued in a manner not entirely unlike capturing pocket monsters. There’s 2012’s Harmoknight, an interesting rhythm/action game that has the misfortune of being on the same system as Final Fantasy Theatrhythm. And, more recently, there’s Tembo the Badass Elephant, a platforming/action game that is pretty similar to today’s game: the 2005 Gameboy Advance release, Drill Dozer.

Drill Dozer is a quirky, completely adorable game. You play the part of Jill Dozer, daughter of Doug Dozer, and inheritor of the Drill Dozer. But don’t worry! Doug isn’t dead, he’s just been injured by the nefarious Skullker gang, and, since those blasted Skullkers also stole the valuable Pink Red Diamond that belonged to Jill’s mother, it’s up to Jill and the Red Dozers to beat those Skullkers down. Along the way, you’re likely to obtain a few other gigantic, mystical diamonds of varying powers (Green Diamond can control fish? Uh, sure), and eventually destroy the Dark Diamond to totally defeat Croog, leader of the Skulkers. And did I mention the benevolent Red Dozers are bandits, too? It’s a good excuse to rob a museum.

Move alongAnd the gameplay does some interesting things with the action platformer genre. First, and most obviously, this is a Gameboy Advance game with built in rumble effects, and, like Wario Ware Twisted, it completely justifies the gimmick by viscerally enhancing any drill jobs. It just plain feels good to drill down some wall with the GBA shaking like a jackhammer in your hands. Beyond that, every stage of Drill Dozer follows a familiar rhythm: your drill mech starts out with a mere single gear, but find two new gears in the level du jour, and suddenly you’ll be a lean, mean, drilling machine (moreso). Previously insurmountable obstacles crumble like tissue paper, and whatever gimmick lurks around the stage is usually enhanced by Jill’s new gears. Combine all this with some Treasure-esque giant bosses, and you’ve got the recipe for a great game, left alone a great game for the GBA.

Except…

Let’s talk about Pokémon again. I’ve got to fire up Pokémon X again to claim that Volcanion, so… let’s see here… I’ve apparently played Pokémon X for 290 hours. Technically over twelve days. That’s just one Pokémon game, and I’m almost certain I put a similar number of hours into Pokémon Black. Total up all the Game Freak produced Pokémon games, and it’s entirely possible I’ve devoted a cumulative month of my life to playing with Pikachu. Mind you, in many cases I was also doing something else while fiddling with the pocket monsters, but, still, a lot of time fake bike riding.

Drill Dozer, meanwhile, was one and done, and I barely felt any need to finish it when I was playing it the first time. The game isn’t bad! It’s just, somehow, not very compelling. Even though the game is completely designed around the mechanic, maybe the way you have to constantly reacquire your “best” powerups is tiring. Maybe the GUI constantly displaying the “gear up” gauge detracts from the amusing visuals. Maybe it’s simply that the story feels too light and breezy to have any real ramifications or pressure toward “what happens next”. Maybe the levelsThey're good people, right? are too long. Whatever the reason, I enjoy playing Drill Dozer, but I in no way feel compelled to replay the thing or collect all the hidden treasures.

And Drill Dozer is not the only Game Freak game that gave me that feeling. I played Mario & Wario (somehow) for a few stages to see what I was missing, and then quit, feeling quite content to never play it again. HarmoKnight is cool, but I could be playing a rhythm game with music I already like. And Tembo the Badass Elephant I have sitting on my Playstation 4 with two or three levels played, and the rest? Well, I’ll get back to that someday, right?

But Pokémon is amazing, so Game Freak must know how to make an enthralling game. It’s not a mile a minute thrill fest, but it holds my attention for hours, so it must be doing something that the other Game Freak releases are not. I mean, my most played game since Summer has been Pokémon Go, and that even got me to get up and walk around the big scary outside. Game Freak must…

Wait.

Pokémon Go is a joint Pokémon Company / Niantic release, and only could possibly be related to Game Freak via Pokémon Company employee overlap? So, the gameplay of Pokémon Go, such as it is, is predominantly the domain of Niantic? I’m… I’m just playing the number one app of the year because I like the idea of a Lickitung hanging outside my house?

Geez… uh… Must be weird to be Game Freak right now.

FGC #195 Drill Dozer

  • System: Gameboy Advance. This one is just begging for a virtual console re-release on the WiiU, assuming they can get the rumble right.
  • Number of players: Jill Dozer is one of a kind.
  • What about Dig Dug? Shut-up.
  • WINNERWhat’s in a name: Drill Dozer’s original, Japanese title is Screw Breaker Gōshin Drillero. That… that is what I want to name my children. It’s unisex.
  • Crossover Appeal: The fact that Tron Bonne and Jill Dozer, both bandits that pilot bipedal mechs that occasionally have drill arms, have never met is criminal. These two need a team-up, like, yesterday.
  • Favorite Boss: Sometimes giant scorpion mechs with drill tails are best.
  • Did you know? Jill Dozer appears as an assist trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl… but not in Super Smash Bros 4. This is disappointing, but likely has something to do with her Game Freak origins. There is a drill item in Smash 4, but it seems to be more based on a Kid Icarus item than a pink mech.
  • Would I play again: I did enjoy this game when it came out… just I never thought about it again until ROB chose it. I want to say I’ll play it some more… but I have to get back to that elephant game first, right?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Back to the Future for the NES! Did… did you get the date right, ROB? No. Didn’t think so. Anyway, please look forward to it!

Hm.