The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

When that Ol’ Curmudgeon Mezun isn’t Ranting ‘Bout All Bananas Being “Socially-Necessary Labor Time,” He’s Babbling On ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days o’ those there Pokémons

Though it seems both a lot o’ fans agree with me, I’ll admit that my preference for generation 2 probably stems from nostalgia, as ’twas the 1st Pokémon game I e’er played, when I was 9. I’ll admit that my preference for the original Game Boy Color versions o’er the DS versions, which fans seem to prefer, probably does, too.

For the latter comparison, this mainly stems from aesthetics. Call it shallow, but I’m an artsy type & consider aesthetics to be as integral a part to a video game as to any painting or movie, as integral as style & diction are to literature. Gold, Silver, & Crystal were probably some o’ the most gorgeous 8-bit graphics e’er, save for maybe Kirby’s Adventure or some o’ the Mega Man games; generation 4 had early-N64-quality 3D graphics. I may be making this all up in my head, but I always felt that the 2nd generation games had a sort o’ watercolor look to them—probably ’cause the official art @ that period had that look. You know, wherein everything didn’t look perfectly colored-in. Take this official art for Feraligatr. ¿See the way Feraligatr’s highlights were smudgy whites?

& don’t get me started on the music; the remakes utterly butchered most o’ them. Songs that were mostly simple & melodic in tone became jangling messes o’ bell notes. Listen to what they did to “Goldenrod City”1: if you listen closely, you can kinda hear the original song buried in the mountain o’ notes. Or how ’bout “Dark Cave”: the original’s crunchy riffs become washed-out generic sounds. It’s like watching your favorite maple tree from your childhood home be chopped down & replaced by cheap office plants. Fuck Mother 3‘s or any o’ those games’ “sad” storylines; if you truly want me to cry @ a video game, make me listen to HGSS “Dark Cave.” In general, the remake’s music is washed-out messes o’ what were originally clear & focused songs, with only maybe the “Kanto Wild Pokémon” theme being an improvement. That’s probably why they put in a way to listen to the original soundtrack: they knew they fucked up. But in order to use that, you have to pretty much beat the whole game, ¿so what’s the point, ‘less you’re anal ‘nough to fuck round with collecting Pokémon or creating Pokémon with perfect IVs & Evs & all that shit.

The 1st generation games’ remakes also had inferior music to the originals’. Oddly, the 1st generation games’ music, when it wasn’t obnoxious nursery-rhyme shlock that makes me need an aspirin, like “Celadon City,” it’s actually rather menacing music for children’s games. I mean, it’s not frightening or anything; but it’s certainly not happy. While I remembered the infamous “Lavender Town” & “Pokémon Tower,” which are ghostly places, so it’s expected, I didn’t remember till much older that “Viridian Forest,” the song that plays in 1 o’ the earliest areas, where you catch Pikachu & fight Metapods that can’t e’en do shit to your Pokémon, goes “DUN DUN DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN DUN” like the soundtrack to some countdown to mass destruction.

In general, the 1st generation games seemed eerier, probably due to their old aesthetics that bordered on awkward. I don’t know why, but ’cause the graphics & music were less complicated they felt dimmer. Granted, the fact that the graphics were so ghastly that most o’ the Pokémon looked like eldritch abominations & that the official sound track had an echo effect to it (as well as the stranger fight sounds & Pokémon cries added in) helped. Strangely, this didn’t apply to the 2nd generation games, which felt much brighter & softer in tone.

Still, like the 2nd generation (though not as much), the 1st generation’s original music matched the right tone better than the remakes’. The remakes felt brighter & cleaner, & its music felt softer. I’m sorry, but the remakes’ “Lavender Town” will ne’er be as eerie as the originals’. That said, it’s not as bad a butchering as Heart Gold & Soul Silver. The mo’ jangling songs, like “Cerulean & Fuscia Cities” actually sound better. Hell, e’en their remixes o’ 2nd generation songs “Violet City” & “Azalea Town” sound better in Leaf Green & Fire Red than Heart Gold & Soul Silver.

I will admit, however, that I have some nostalgia for the 1st generation remakes, though I’m not sure if it’s any mo’ than the originals (or a’least Yellow). I think I’d still prefer the aesthetics o’ the original. In addition to the music fitting the tone better, I rather like the effect o’ the changing monochrome in Game Boy Color Yellow or Super Game Boy Red & Blue.

Interestingly, while I have huge nostalgia for generation 2 due to being so fond & familiar with it, I’ve become somewhat sick o’ generation 1 ’cause o’ how familiar I am with it. Whereas generation 2’s Pokémon, music, towns, gym leaders, & graphics are rare ‘nough in general Pokémon media to still feel somewhat fresh, the originals, due to being the originals, are all o’er. ¿Who isn’t already immensely familiar with all o’ the 1st 150 Pokémon, or the towns, or the music, & all that? ¿Who’s mo’ familiar with Silver & his lustuous long red hair than Blue or mo’ familiar with that whiny asshole Whitney & her Mootank than Brock or Misty.

1 thing the 1st generation did better than the 2nd generation, & both did better than most o’ their followers, was give the player mo’ control o’er how they proceed through the game. Sure, you have to beat Brock & Misty @ the beginning if you don’t cheat or screw with glitches, but other than beating Koga before Blane (so you can surf to Cinnabar) & beating Giovanni last, you can fight the gym leaders in any order. The 3-by-3 grid layout o’ the heart o’ Kanto probably was the best layout o’ any Pokémon game. You could get to most towns through multiple directions, with mo’ opening up as you progress further—mainly after you get the guards their lemonade or tea. I believe the 2nd generation games did allow one to go rightward after Goldenrod ‘stead o’ leftward, but I ne’er went that way, since it’s less convenient. Still, it’s sad that the later generations didn’t allow players nearly as much creativity in how they can progress through the game, ‘specially since the looseness o’ Pokémon’s difficulty (e’en Pokémon who are dozens o’ levels ‘bove yours can easily be beaten if one has a good team) would make this easier than in an action game.

Apparently the generation 3 games are viewed as a low point in the series, but though I do remember feeling rather bummed out ’bout not being able to trade ‘tween it & the previous generations & not being able to go to previous regions, I don’t remember e’en letting that influence my opinion o’ the games that much. Ironically, I remember when I 1st saw screenshots for Ruby & Sapphire I was awestruck by how much better they looked than the previous generations—¡actual backgrounds in battles! ¡No mo’ fighting in white voids!

While people harangue this generation for not bringing back day & night changes from generation 2 (¿why don’t they complain ’bout generation 6 not bringing back seasons from generation 5?), they ignore the many improvements generation 3 made. This was where abilities originated & where the berry, Pokémon stats, Pokémon box, & item systems were rehauled into something less simplistic & tedious. Also, while not as cheesily fun as Team Rocket or the odd mix o’ cheesiness & actual threat as Team Plasma, Teams Aqua & Magma were probably the best-written villains o’ the series (they were also the most subtle). Their goal was the most believable & they weren’t nearly as strawmanned as any o’ the other villains. Team Rocket outright calls themselves evil; Team Galactica have stupid motivations & are otherwise forgettable as the rest o’ that generation; Team Plasma & Team Flare are too ludicrous to take seriously, & the latter’s motivations were also silly (the closest I could comprehend was that Lyssandre believed in a lot o’ outdated economics, like some Malthusian shit & the ol’ myth that the world is o’erpopulated & that that’s bringing economies down).

The generation that I feel is the low point is the 4th generation, which infects my view o’ the Gold, Silver, & Crystal remakes mentioned ‘bove. I don’t know, Diamond, Pearl, & Platinum just felt bland—like Game Freak were just phoning it in. Whereas I feel as if all o’ the other generations had some freshness—like Game Freak were making a new Pokémon game with new elements that made them feel different—the 4th generation felt sterile. Yeah, they brought back day-&-night cycles, & added internet & a touch screen as practically mandatory for a DS game; but what did generation 4 truly contribute, save for mostly forgettable Pokémon & the physical/special divide that technically had already been implemented in Pokémon XD. I didn’t feel as if these games had a personality @ all. The 2nd generation games had the intermeshing o’ modernity & tradition, with the contrast o’ the glitzy cities like Goldenrod gainst the ol’ towns like Ecruteak & Kanto, which was both familiar & changed @ the same time. I’ve heard many who discuss the game describe it as feeling closer to the previous generation than any other generation did to any other; but that closeness seems to make the differences feel stronger. Generation 6 also seemed to have something like this, which I’ll discuss later. Meanwhile, the 3rd & 5th generations felt like reboots that seemed to jolt life into the series. Generation 4 doesn’t seem to have any o’ that, though: it somehow doesn’t feel particularly different or similar to any o’ the other generations.

But worse than that, Diamond & Pearl just feel clunky. They’re so slow that it’s almost intolerable to play. Pokémon balancing is terrible: there’s only 2 fire Pokémon lines in the entire main game, & 1 o’ those are 1 o’ the starters. If you don’t pick the fire monkey (see, I don’t e’en remember this generation’s Pokémon names), you’re stuck with Ponyta or no fire Pokémon @ all. This despite the fact that 1 o’ the Elite Four trainers specializes in fire Pokémon—’cept since there are so few fire Pokémon, he’s stuck with a bunch o’ irrelevant Pokémon. You’d think @ that point they’d realized they fucked up, but they apparently didn’t. I don’t know: I feel as if there was less attention put into this generation—that they were just filling in #s rather than creating a game they actually cared ’bout. I guess Platinum apparently fixed some o’ these; but the 3rd game o’ a generation shouldn’t fix a game. Yellow, Crystal & Emerald didn’t have to fix their originals ’cause the originals were still good.

To show that this isn’t just ’cause I’m an ol’ curmudgeon who hates anything new (I just realized that the 4th generation is almost a decade ol’), I actually remember being excited ’bout generation 5 when ’twas coming out & finding that it mostly met that hype. Unlike generation 4, which did li’l interesting for the franchise & was barely playable—seriously, it’s that sluggish—I remember generation 5 improved a lot o’ elements that many were clamoring for: making TMs not disappear after being used, changing that awful beeping when a Pokémon’s life is low, talking ’bout the ethical issues o’ Pokémon raising & the idea o’ someone trying to dominate the world by monopolizing all Pokémon (maybe this latter was just what I was clamoring for). Its Pokémon designs also seemed mo’ memorable, but I guess most people have mixed views ’bout that. I hear many complain ’bout how they hate Pokémon who are inanimate objects & are simple, whereas I like these Pokémon & hate the Pokémon they like: that same dog- or beast-shaped design they use for almost every modern legendary with a million seemingly random spikes (the primary legendary for the 4th & 5th generations are ample examples). I don’t know ’bout you, but I thought the trash bag & snowcone Pokémon were hilariously awesome. ¿& how could anyone hate those jangling keys, Klefki?

Speaking o’ generation 6, it’s OK. 1 interesting thing ’bout it is the counterpoint it makes to generation 5’s treatment o’ Pokémon inclusion: whereas the 5th generation had the most new Pokémon since the 1st generation & only used those new Pokémon, generation 6 has the least & focuses on mixing together the Pokémon from all the earlier generations, with a li’l mo’ focus on some o’ the ignored Pokémon, like Mareep (granted, there are still a lot o’ Pidgey & Zubats). I guess Mega Evolutions are fun & they improved a lot o’ tedious stuff, like having to use Max Repels manually each time 1 runs out & letting one ask for Pokémon one hasn’t seen yet on GTS. Pokécommunism (Exp. Share) makes the game a joke, difficulty-wise, though: ’twas the 1st time my Pokémon were higher levels than all o’ the Elite Four, e’en the champion. The story was also forgettable, other than maybe the cheesy Matrix-bad-ass style Team Flare’s going for.

As for the aesthetics… (yawns). Other than Lyssandre’s battle theme & maybe Laverre City, the music is so bland & boring. It almost makes me fall asleep. The UI—mainly the text prompts—also looks like some cheap schlock I could make in Photoshop in a few minutes—you know, like they have in those cheap cellphone remakes, like those heinously anus Final Fantasy remakes.

It’s still better than Diamond & Pearl, though. Those games’ gameplay makes me fall asleep.


[1] It’s so bad that e’en these simple fan remixes are 1,000 times better.

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Posted in Video Games