Pokémon: Saffron City

Six badges now. Blenkinsop is level 46, and the only thing I’ve faced that posed any difficulty for him (or his assistant, Pratchett the Hypno) was Sabrina, Pokémon Leader of Saffron City. She specializes in psychic pokémon, and has a high-level alakazam of her own. Mine was bigger, but the key problem is that her alakazam knows Recover, a move that lets it heal itself in battle. At first, I was powerless to do more damage than it could recover in a single round. I eventually managed to give it the “paralysis” status effect, which makes it randomly skip turns, and then reduced its “special” rating, which seems to govern how much it can heal in a turn. After simply overpowering things for so long, it was nice to have a battle that actually required some tactics.

Before I could challenge Sabrina, I had to chase Team Rocket out of town. Team Rocket is one of those things that was drastically changed in the cartoon, which turned them into bumbling comic villains. Here, they’re more sinister and menacing, or at least as sinister and menacing as you can get when you’re displayed in a severely chibi style most of the time. They’re somewhere between gangsters and nazis, and their stated goal is to take over the world using an army of enslaved pokémon. I’m not quite clear on how this enslaving pokemon differs from what the player character does, but presumably it’s somehow worse than beating them up until they can’t resist being imprisoned in a pokéball from which they’re only taken out to fight other captives for their master’s amusement.

Before I kicked them out, Team Rocket was infesting the headquarters the Silph Company, which does pokémon-related research. The Silph Building is an eleven-story teleporter maze. As such, it constitutes a puzzle unrelated to the game’s core mechanic. I noticed a couple of other sections like that when I was wandering around trying to figure out what to do. For example, one town has a building with a maze of arrows, where stepping on an arrow tile makes you keep going in that direction until you hit an obstacle. I had solved that maze during my first Pokémon kick, but had completely forgotten that it existed. The memorable thing, the distinctive thing, in this game is obviously the pokémon. Mazes of this sort have nothing to do with pokémon; they could be shoved into any game, and often are. You can call it variety elements, varying the gameplay to keep unrelieved fight scenes from getting tedious 1 Speaking of tedious, unrelieved fight scenes, I saw the Michael Bay Transformers movie recently. Is there a videogame adaptation of this flick yet? Such a thing would be an oddity to rival Lego Star Wars: an adaptation chain that goes toys — cartoon — movie — game. , or you can call it filler. If you ask me, what it shows in this particular game is a certain lack of confidence on the part of the designers. I mean, Pokémon took risks. For all that it’s based on established RPG mechanics, it was a new paradigm, and no one knew how successful it would be, so can they be blamed for hedging their bets by throwing in some relatively safe generic content? I know that something of this sort happened in the development of Thief: The Dark Project, resulting in the combat-oriented “monster” levels that are generally regarded as the game’s weak spot. It’s not even really a phenomenon unique to games. Consider Don Quixote: Book 1 contains numerous digressions, essentially embedded novellas detailing the backstories of various secondary characters and the like, apparently because Cervantes didn’t think that the satire of chivalric romance would maintain the reader’s interest. By the time he wrote book 2, he knew better, and the digressions disappeared.

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1. Speaking of tedious, unrelieved fight scenes, I saw the Michael Bay Transformers movie recently. Is there a videogame adaptation of this flick yet? Such a thing would be an oddity to rival Lego Star Wars: an adaptation chain that goes toys — cartoon — movie — game.

3 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 14 Jul 2007

    There is – some variation thereof is available on pretty much every videogame platform in current release. And it’s made by the same people who made Lego Star Wars, as it happens.

    (I hear that it is, however, not nearly as good.)

  2. paul on 23 Jul 2007

    I didn’t know that about book 2 of don quixote, and when I recently tried to read it, I stopped right around the beginning of the second book. It was really the digressions that were slowing me down, so I guess I stopped right before it kicked into gear. I didn’t expect that your review of Pokemon would be the thing to get me to finish it.

  3. Jason Dyer on 22 Dec 2009

    I’m not quite clear on how this enslaving pokemon differs from what the player character does, but presumably it’s somehow worse than beating them up until they can’t resist being imprisoned in a pokéball from which they’re only taken out to fight other captives for their master’s amusement.

    Epic win!

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