Ever since August 1999, when I watched a VW Beetle dressed up like a giant Pikachu send my then-youthful IGN team running out into the parking lot, squealing like a bunch of kids, I've written Pokémon off as a game not worth playing. Its cutesy animals and seemingly dull turn-based gameplay just didn't look like much fun. "Stupid kid's stuff," muttered my inner Scrooge as he dusted off his pulse rifle. "Bah humbug."
And that was pretty much that for Pokémon and me. I'm certainly aware of the whole Pokémon thing, but just haven't given it the time of day. However, after a recent conversation with Kat, during which she waxed long and lyrical about why she loves the series so much, my interest was piqued. I liked the sound of the way it worked, and in many respects it reminded me of World of Warcraft's pet battle system, a relatively new addition to the game that I'd always assumed had been somewhat "inspired" by the Pokémon games.
I've really enjoyed collecting WoW pets, leveling them up and battling other folk with a trio of my favorite little critters, so transitioning to the game upon which it is clearly based seems like a no-brainer. And that's what I got the chance to do recently, when a few demo codes for Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire were sent to us.
Dusting off my trusty gen one 3DS and adjusting my glasses as I peered at its microscopic screen, I watched the game boot up and go straight into a typical anime cut scene, and then onto the usual indeterminable chatter that no Nintendo game seems complete without. And so began much thunderous pressings of the A button as I skipped past the endless chitchat, no doubt missing that one important nug of info on the 12th screen.
I exaggerate of course, but it seems like Nintendo games in particular are still fond of using reams of text. Fortunately there's plenty of action between the chatter, and that's what I was most interested in as I picked my very first Pokémon – Grovyle – and set to work figuring out how to play.
Turns out it's easy enough in principle. Pokémon is highly reminiscent of World of Warcraft's pet battles, and I picked up its similar-functioning battle system almost immediately. What I didn't know, however, was how the rock-paper-scissors aspect of it worked. First time out, my Grovyle felt really weak against the first few opponents, and crapped out almost immediately. I realized it was probably something to do with my monster being a Grass critter, and my opponent being something else that I couldn't tell, but I couldn't quite suss it out.
A little put off, I tried the demo again from scratch, this time picking Combusken. That turned out to be a much better choice, and the fire-based critter face-melted every opponent convincingly, all the way through to the final battle, where I successfully captured my first wild Pokémon, Glalie.
I've since played the demo a few more times to experiment with the combat system, and each time I've done so, I've walked away wanting more. I'm not going back to play the older games yet, but I'm certainly looking forward to playing the new ones. I just imagine I'll be tapping up Kat for some help, though. What the demo assumes is that you're a veteran player who knows what you're doing. I'm not, and I don't, and while I can one-shot monsters, I still don't quite know why and how. Plus, I'm pretty sure it's not going to be anything like that easy in the game proper. But learning how to play sounds like fun – and quite a challenge. Not really quite what I was expecting from what I thought was a kid's game.