Here’s my theory on the Pokémon world: none of it is real, and it’s all just a game.
Wait! I mean… Oh, just let me explain.
Let’s look at exhibit A. Who’s that pokémon?
It’s Ponyta, the fire horse pokémon. I am featuring ponyta first, because there is no part of this creature that could ever exist. It is a horse that is always on fire. If we ignore biology issues entirely (It has to consume how many calories to keep a fire burning eternally? None of its internal liquids are vaporized? Food isn’t turned to charcoal as it’s devoured? Does it… just eat charcoal?), we’re still left with the more immediate problem that ponyta are found in tall grass. Tall grass’ kryptonite is the very thing that fuels ponyta, yet the poké-world hasn’t been turned to ash yet. Want to claim this is all based on Johnny Storm physics, and a ponyta only burns what it desires? Let me remind you of its pokédex entry:
“A PONYTA is very weak at birth. It can barely stand up. Its legs become stronger as it stumbles and falls while trying to keep up with its parent.”
A child ponyta can’t even control its legs, what hope is there for anything downwind of its flamethrower tail?
That’s just one pokémon. Another pokémon found very early in the franchise is Beedrill, a three foot tall insect with swords for arms that are filled with poison. There is no way human beings could ever evolve to modern society with a creature like that prowling the Earth. Man would still be working out this whole “tools” thing when a swarm of beedrill swung on by to end all squishy, human life in the area. And this isn’t some conjecture on my part. I’m not attributing violent tendencies to what is actually a friendly, misunderstood pokécreature. To quote the pokédex:
“A BEEDRILL is extremely territorial. For safety reasons, no one should ever approach its nest. If angered, they will attack in a swarm.”
How close is too close to a flying insect the size of a small child? Nobody is getting out alive on beedrill’s world.
But wait, psychic type pokémon can quell the poison pokémon, right? Well, there’s the existential nightmare that are the non-physical pokémon. Did your foot fall asleep, or is an alakazam playing with its disable skill for giggles? There are at least four pokémon known for dream eating, half of which were introduced in the first generation. When you’re absolutely most vulnerable, a pokémon may be devouring your very thoughts, and, considering the move is used in battle, it’s not doing you any favors. Did you just wake up hung-over, or was some little yellow bastard gobbling up your soul?
Oh, and the concept of a soul in the pokémon world? Alarming. A pokémon can be forced into battling until death, return as a ghost, and then be captured and forced into slavery again as a non-corporeal being! Everyone always makes a big deal about Drifblum carrying children into darkness, but did you ever consider that an undead balloon monster might have problems of its own?
No, no you didn’t, because the full implication of a world where everything in the pokédex is true is more than disturbing, it’s horrifying. So we have to start at the point that everything in the pokédex is a lie. Well, perhaps not a lie, per say, maybe just… flavor text. But to what end?
Well that’s simple: it’s all a game. No, I’m not talking about it being a game to you, I mean it’s a game to everyone in the pokémon world.
Since we’re already on the concept of “world”, let’s consider the actual areas you explore in a pokémon game. Kanto contains multiple towns with, what, six houses? Eight? These aren’t towns, they’re barely campgrounds. There is the occasional city (real “city”, not just four buildings using a big boy noun), filled with high-rises and alleys and whatnot, but these are traditionally solitary and centrally located, as if the city had always been there, and the rest of the attractions in the periphery were added later, perhaps as a way to draw tourism to an otherwise dull location. But you’re still dealing with “small” cities: Unova features Castelia City as an ersatz New York City, but you can bicycle from one end to the other in less time than it would take you to order a churro in actual NYC. And, as many will recall, you can cycle 75% of the entire North-to-South distance of Kanto in a few seconds, faster if you’re going downhill.
I could make the comparison that these regions aren’t the size of countries, they’re about the size of theme parks, but you’ve already realized that, haven’t you?
Yes, every Pokémon game features a kid going to a themed resort to have fun with other kids. Okay, yes, some of the other trainers aren’t kids (or teens, I’m old, they’re all kids), but everyone has an excuse for being there. The hikers enjoy the scenic trips and play with pokémon as a necessary concession to the venue. The scientists and archeologists are genuinely curious about the world around them before Pokéattraction took over, and are curious about pokémon battles from an anthropological perspective. The pokémaniacs never grew up and out of that pokémon phase (I can relate). All the “rival trainers” patrolling the region are just other kids, in their own way, enjoying another summer with other likeminded individuals.
Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed you’re all trading poké-fun bucks.
The gym leaders, and their toadies, are obviously just employees of the park. Everyone reading this knows that the worst thing a game can do to a new player is be too difficult too fast, so gym leaders and their challenges are there to guarantee that an expert or a novice have the same enjoyable experience through sticking in their designated areas. The gym badges are proof of your level, and more badges mean access to more areas, and the challenges they contain. Or did you really think a collection of psyduck were just shutting down transit due to headaches?
And Team Rocket, Team Magma, or whatever malevolent “team” we’re dealing with this week? Actors playing a part, no more threatening than the guy in the Jafar costume at Disney World. What kind of person doesn’t want to believe they saved the world by battling pokémon after pokémon when the police and armies of the world did nothing? Yeah, sure, kid, you saved us from some jerk trying to conquer all of time and space. Now go hustle off to the Poké League so you can become the one true champion while we reset the castle gizmo for the next customer.
Don’t try to tell me that Kyorge was moments away from flooding the world when a teeny tiny poliwag can create a localized rain storm without any environmental issues.
I suppose I’ve delayed it enough. It is time to pull back the curtain on how pokémon “work”. Sorry, Virginia, but there is not a Delibird, it’s all just zeros and ones and lifelike holograms that can only be programmed with four basic motions. Some of the better parks contain projectors that exist all over the place, so a pokémon can appear to attentively follow you, but the majority only offer projectors in select areas, like caves or just below the surface of a lake. In some areas, all they can afford to do is hide the devices in tall grass. Your pokéballs are there to pull data from the server and “capture” that pokémon to your own private collection, but you can only carry six at a time, because, come on, with everyone else wandering around the park, there is a lot of data to be served 24/7. Everything else is stored on non-portable terminals that can be accessed at pokécenters, which I’m sure you’ll be swinging by anyway, as how else will you top off your beasts’ imaginary HP? Maybe buy a Technical Machine while you’re there, and stick that CD into whatever slot you can find on your gardevoir.
Now get out there and win, trainer, you parents paid for this little trip, and you’re going to enjoy it. After all, all the world’s a game, and all the men and women merely players.
FGC #53 Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald
- System: Gameboy Advance, though the remake has hit the 3DS…. But that’s effectively a totally new game.
- Number of Players: Pokémon has always been an excellent two player experience… assuming you’re not taking pictures or something. Bonus points to any game that encourages trading as much as battling.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I will always hold a grudge against the third generation pokémon games because they locked half the cast (and my beloved Hypno) behind a series of other games, like the Gen 1 remakes and the Gamecube Orre series. Also, completely arbitrarily, I want to say this is where Pokémon started reusing animals that already had definitive poké-analogues. Why would you ever want a skitty when meowth is right there? All that said, Pokémon Ruby was basically the reason I finally got a Gameboy Advance (poor college student), and I never once regretted it. Pokémon Emerald, years later, decisively proved I would buy the same game over and over again as long as I was promised a new hat.
- Did you catch ‘em all? You’re damn right I did.
- Robin? I figure it’s the female form of Robert when I feel like switching sexes for a game.
- And it’s not just another in a long series of A Midsummer Night’s Dream references that you sprinkle into every facet of your life? It can be two things!
- Favorite Gen 3 Pokémon: Ludicolo, the slimy Mexican pokémon. How was that allowed?! Unfortunate cultural stereotype aside, Ludicolo seems to do everything, like constant, uninterruptable dancing, with a gigantic smile on its face. Combine that positivity with a cool sombrero, and we’ve got a winner.
- Real Life Pokémon: I once saw an entire modern business grind to a halt because a squirrel had found its way in through the ductwork, discovered a nice, warm server, and then decided to nibble through all of the attached wires before crawling back into the walls to pungently rot. I literally cannot imagine the level of damage that could have occurred if the squirrel had the ability to consume, conduct, and control electricity.
- Did you know? The reason this, the third generation, is the base for all future trading, and you cannot trade pokémon from Red/Blue/Yellow or Gold/Silver/Crystal, is that the original two generation games allowed you to absolutely dope your pokémon on poké-vitamins (like calcium and protein) until they possessed stats that would put a Mewtwo to shame. Sorry, guys, but your surfing pikachu had to die with your Pokémon Blue’s battery so the metagame could be better balanced. Sacrifices must be made for progress.
- Would I play again? Nope. Love the game, but every single version of Pokémon has iterated on the previous version without losing the best of its ancestors. There is basically no reason to go back and replay Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald for anything other than curiosity, so why bother? (not rhetorical)
What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Digimon Rumble Arena for the Playstation. Erm. I’m… I’m not completely sure I’ve ever actually played that game, and just picked it up on a lark with an Ebay lot that included Cannon Spike, Record of Lodoss War, and NES M.U.L.E., all games that I could easily write about. But, no, Digimon Rumble Arena will be here Monday. Please look forward to it?
“Love the game, but every single version of Pokémon has iterated on the previous version without losing the best of its ancestors. There is basically no reason to go back and replay Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald for anything other than curiosity, so why bother?”
Not to mention the sixth generation of Pokémon has modernized remakes of Ruby and Sapphire with things like up to date mechanics, an easier to navigate game world, Wi-Fi support, and a massive overhaul to contests.
You do miss out on the Battle Frontier (Emerald’s most notable addition) and underage gambling (because EULA), but the latter’s no big loss and they could always add the former to Pokémon Z or Gen 7 or whatever.
I do miss the Battle Frontier, but, man, I do not miss the casino stuff. Hurry up and play some game other than Pokemon to eventually hopefully win a pokemon so you can get back to the real game. No thank you.
I hear ya, definitely don’t miss the Porygon grind. And while Pokémon was far from the only jRPG series to feature gambling, it did always feel pretty inappropriate to have a child protagonist playing the slots.
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