Last time on Pokemon Black, I won.
I turned off the game after it saved, because things had gone on long enough for the day.
The game starts with me back in my room. When I go downstairs, Looker is disguised as a copy of my mom.
He says the seven sages are still around. So the idea is for them to be post-game bosses? That’s dumb, I have no reason to think they’re any good when they could be held off by the gym leaders I beat.
And he gives me the super rod. I have a bad feeling about this…
Going outside, my two failrivals.
Bianca apologizes, but it’s for not being there because she was trying to get the last trio of gym leaders, not for doing it in the first place.
Cheren says that he lost Ghetsis because of the ninjas, and Bianca has no idea what he’s talking about because she never saw any of the important things.
Bianca says she’s going to Black City.
That’s one of the weird things. I end up at the League with the whole eastern chunk of the map still untouched.
Cheren tells us where it is (I HAVE A MAP) and says that there might be different pokemon that haven’t been seen before (LIKE EVERY OTHER PLACE IN THE ENTIRE DAMN GAME NINTENDO WE DON’T NEED IT EXPLAINED BY THIS POINT)
Then Jerkface shows up. He gives us the national dex, because Professor Juniper couldn’t possibly do this herself thanks to ovaries.
So this game is doing the same shitty thing where finishing the game arbitrarily unlocks new pokemon. For no damn reason.
Cheren says: I think I’ll travel all the way around Unova, starting at Route 1 again. I’m sure I’ll discover lots of new things. Could be I’ll encounter the Seven Sages along the way… And, Farla, if we spy each other along the way, let’s battle again, OK?
I ALREADY GET IT GAME YOU WANT ME TO GO THROUGH THE SAME AREAS AGAIN.
Well, let’s fish.
L54 basculin. It’s like the game’s mocking me for raising my pokemon when this was sitting around the first route.
Let’s check out the other areas. Leaving from Opelucid City, there’s some random hiker. Who talks in French.
With a L65 croagunk? Jesus christ where where you when everything was going down?
The battle isn’t that hard, oddly. Neither is the next, which involves even more L65s.
Let’s try fishing.
Though it appears very elegant when swimming with fins unfurled, it can jab powerfully with its horn.
How about the grass?
Zangoose. Ooh, and it knows false swipe.
It has feuded with Seviper for many generations. Its sharp claws are its biggest weapons.
It is seen swimming dynamically and elegantly using its well-developed limbs and flippers.
Hm, so, do psyduck appear somewhere else, or is the idea there’s pokemon I can only get by breeding?
Anyway, then on to…a town on a bridge? It’s pretty.
Isn’t this a unique sort of bridge? A long time ago, the river overflowed, and all the houses were washed away. So people built new houses on top of the bridge to keep them safe from flooding! It’s a simple solution, but it’s genius!
…So in Japan bridges never get washed out?
Now I’m fighting a school kid with L60 pokemon. What.
And of course they’re all old gen pokemon to show off the new dex, but…why haven’t I seen any trainers with these before?
Now there’s a baker with over L60 pokemon.
I guess I shouldn’t complain since it makes for more interesting battles, but… couldn’t they have just given me experienced trainers? Also, the battles would be more interesting if it didn’t seem to pick the move at random.
Then on to some weird city where everyone obeys the rules…
Oh, and a vespiqueen in shaking grass.
It releases various pheromones to make the grubs in its body do its bidding while fighting foes.
Absol! God, I love absol.
Rumored to sense disasters with its horn, it became a target. It fled deep into the mountains.
I really, really liked the very original one game canon that all anyone knew was it appeared before disasters. All the room in the world to assume it was actually just trying to warn people, without it being canon it was innocent of any harm.
I’ll have to check out Black City and see if I can find Bianca. But later.
So, Pokemon Black.
I think the pokemon designs were pretty good overall. There were some I didn’t like, but it’s not like I loved every one of the original set either. And I think it’s very telling that it took me ages to realize this game had an entirely new crop of pokemon with no repeats, because they all fit in very well.
The problem I did have was the lack of diversity. I realize Nintendo takes a dim view of replay value with these games, but I’ve always enjoyed starting a new game and playing through with a different team. In this generation, you have the three starter options and a set monkey you get with each one, and then lillipup, patrat, audino in the first area, and purrloin in the second. That’s all you get for the first gym, and three of those are normal types.
Compare that to Kanto’s first gen, where the first two pokemon you have access to are rattata and pidgey, then weedle or caterpie, a nidoran species, spearow, and in Yellow mankey, then pikachu in Viridian Forest if I’m not playing Yellow. A normal type, two flying type options, a bug type and a poison type, an electric type and an additional fighting type in Yellow.
Or Johto. Pidgey, rattata, sentret, spearow, hoothoot, hoppip in Crystal, geodude, jigglypuff in GS and phanpy in Crystal, caterpie and/or weedle, ledyba and/or spinarak, poliwag and zubat in Crystal, bellsprout, gastly in Crystal, dunsparce, teddiursa in Crystal, and only then do we hit the first gym – which you can bypass, no less! Eleven pokemon in GS, eighteen in Crystal. Normal, flying, grass, rock, bug, poison, plus ghost and water in Crystal.
Now, not all those pokemon were a good choice for your team, like fucking hoppip. But you could play through the game several times without reusing the same pokemon for your team. I don’t need a full team for the early section, but I want enough variety I can do more than just raise my starter.
Let’s take the smaller selection in the first gen. If I raise three pokemon for my first gym battle, that’s my starter plus two others. So, say, bulbasaur, spearow, nidoran, then charmander, pidgey, caterpie, then squirtle, rattata, pikachu. I can stretch it out even further if I’m only raising two in this section, since I’ll have plenty of time to raise whatever I find in the next area while I’m wandering around Mt. Moon. And if, like a lot of the more hardcore fans, I have more than one game to play, that gives me mankey and weedle as well. Three starters plus nine other pokemon mean six completely different teams done like that.
With second gen you can make multiple complete teams just from the early pokemon you meet.
What are my replay options with fifth gen? Starter+monkey+four pokemon. You can argue the monkey counts as three different pokemon, but they sure look like they all play the same and I like to raise different pokemon to see how they fight, not just to have a typeswapped version of someone I already raised. If they had different stats and moves like the eevee line do, it’d be one thing, but…
I also like type variety in general, and the monkeys are just repeating the same type as the starters. And besides them…normal type, the one I usually avoid raising, and a lone dark type. I have to dip into trading almost immediately.
Plus, none of the pokemon are particularly satisfying for the opening, since there’s nothing that evolves at a low level.
Speaking of leveling, the way it’s set up was very good for this let’s play, letting me easily swap around pokemon throughout the game and get a look at a lot of them. But as you may be gathering, the way I like to play is by raising a pokemon from start through the elite four through whatever other endgame boss there is, not to partially raise a whole bunch.
And that often involves a suboptimal choice or six in the process, which means I need to be able to overlevel to get anywhere. I once did a Johto playthrough made up of pre-evolutions. While this was idiotic, it was also informative, but it wouldn’t have been possible at all if I hadn’t made sure they were always significantly over the usual level of an area until they finally started evolving. I want the option to do stupid things. I also did an eevee team, a dark team, a prehistoric team, a team of the pokemon I hadn’t caught which is how that fucking hoppip got involved, plus a lot of teams that were just a random assortment of pokemon that looks reasonably balanced in type.
The only way to play without a properly balanced team is to level up further. I’d argue this is at the heart of a lot of experience based RPGs, where if you’re not skilled enough, or you’ve chosen a suboptimal build or whatever, you have the option of level grinding to get through a challenge.
Speaking of stupid things I like to do, I don’t want perfectly balanced starters. Picking chamander in the first gen really did make the game insanely hard. And you were warned clearly in the booklet: bulbasaur for beginnings, charmander for masochists. And yes, as a young and foolhardy preteen I decided I could totally handle a charmander. And yes, it was a disaster. So I restarted around Mt. Moon, picked the bulbasaur, and enjoyed myself. Then later to prove I could I raised a charmander and found I hated the line in general, but I felt very smug I managed to beat the game despite lugging around a worthless black hole of experience points.
So in sum, the game works really well for the first playthrough. I’m dubious of how much replay value it’d have regarding different teams.
Also, while I found the TMs being reusable to make things a lot more convenient, it led to a lot of sameness on my team and removed a good part of the usual aspect where you have to level to get decent moves, because I’d just give everyone dig. Maybe it’d have been better to have single-use TMs but just make it a lot easier to replace them, like a store where their selection increases over time as you find more TMs. Plus, that way I could sell the sucky TMs and not have to scroll past them.
Speaking of items, I really wish we’d go back to the PC model of item storage, especially because I like to hoard items.
I really wish there was a better option for berries. I hated the berry-raising thing and the way it ate up so much time, but I don’t like getting them handed out either, though it is better than the alternative. I’d prefer either static berry trees like in the second generation. But the best for me would be plantable berries that grew more slowly to maturity but remained ripe until you pick them. That way, you’ve always got berry trees growing and flowering all over the place, without having to stop playing pokemon trainer in order to play water everything endlessly.
The areas we saw were diverse and beautiful. They did a great job with the 3D thing and even though it’s clear they were trying hard to stick it in as many places as they could, it worked well. And I liked the shifting weather. In Emerald I never had much interest in catching the legendaries because I thought it was cool the way they were messing around with the routes.
But what they weren’t is big. There wasn’t much to explore and certainly not enough to get lost in. And this feels like such a weird complaint to be making, but…the dowsing rods kind of got boring. They just made things too easy, and the items they gave were mostly just regular ones. I liked how in the early games you could sometimes tell an item was there by clues in the game. I think I’d rather that most items were in item balls and then you get the dowsing machine late in the game and have it be always on so you’ll notice anything you missed. And there were no puzzles.
And it really annoys me that they’ve put so much focus on the post-League game. Yeah, it’s nice to have more to do, but why can’t we do it before finishing the game? It’s supposed to be the hardest battle we’ll ever face, and then we leave and there’s regular trainers with pokemon stronger than everyone involved? Plus, once I have eight badges there just shouldn’t be any blocked routes, it’s just not how things are meant to work.
An the plot.
What I want out of plot is large areas affected, lots of battles, bosses to beat up, and people telling me I’m awesome. Oh, and loot. And puzzles. In the event things go more into the RP of RPG, it needs to give me some degree of choice about it, otherwise there’s no roleplaying to do.
This game had the exact opposite of what I wanted. Lots of cutscenes and exposition, no decisions to make, nowhere to explore, practically no fighting, and instead of loot, people handing me stuff afterward. Payment isn’t loot. And it stuck to the blank slate protagonist but tried to do character-heavy plot, which meant the game revolved around NPCs.
In fact, at many points the game had cutscenes take the place of actually battling, which is just inexcusable. I didn’t hunt down Plasma so people could talk and then they leave.
Simply on a writing level, this game was terrible. I already explained my original issue with Alder, but then there’s Cedric, who’s an entirely superfluous character. Everything he does is something that Juniper or another character could have. Then there were the endless cutscenes in the late game where everyone repeated the same things to each other. It’s like the cutscene designers went to the FFN category to learn how to write. Then there’s the way even when they weren’t repeating things, the information was stuff that usually would have been immediately obvious by playing on, so it just wasn’t necessary to know – for example, those floating rocks in Chargestone cave. And just in general, there was the sense that I was playing this game just to stand on the sidelines and quietly fangirl at the NPCs. And I’m not even an absolutist on this point – write a decent game with awesome characters, and I’ll be happy to do that. But here it was a parade of author darlings, where the writers started from the assumption I liked the characters.
Like, say, Clay. My first introduction isn’t just him being a dick, it’s him being a lazy, irrational nutjob of a dick. Yet from the way the game goes, it’s like I’m supposed to be hurt that a character I love doesn’t trust me and happily run off to try to prove myself to him. And again, let’s imagine this with Lance. Say he showed up and didn’t trust us. Oh no! Lance, the awesome guy at the end of the elite four, the guy who helped us beat up Team Rocket, the super awesome dragon-type trainer, the guy who’s earned his accolades and character love! It’s a terrible misunderstanding! Quick, we need to find the real bad guys to prove we’re not in league with them!!!
And a lot of why people are fans of characters is that they’re done with broad strokes. They show up just long enough to be interesting. This game did not go with that at all.
I feel that may be related to my next issue, the failure of gender-neutral writing. In the first games, you and your rival were both boys. Once the gender option became standard in third game, your initial rival swapped genders, and that was great. But that was also when they added an extra rival, who was always set to male, and then fourth gen removed that in favor of one male rival who had more characterization than he needed with a minor secondary who was the opposite gender, and fifth gen’s taken it a step further by giving a boy and girl rival, and giving them complex, set in stone plots where the girl’s purpose is to suck and eventually give up.
You know how in GSC, the rival appears and you get the chance to name him whatever you want afterward? I think more of the game should be like that. Imagine if the game screen just described your friends and you got to pick their traits. Then later, a wild green haired weird kid appeared! And afterward someone asks you the kid’s name and gender.
And also the actual content was absolutely horrible, but I don’t think I have anything to add there that I didn’t already say louder and with more profanity..
But the game part? The thing where there were pokemon and you fought with them? Pretty good. I think I’ll probably have fun exploring the remaining areas and catching what I can and finally getting to fight the sages. And if I do replay this game with a particular team, I’ll just mash A through the cutscenes and be on my way.
Also, let’s talk fanfic.
Having finished the game, I really want three stories:
1) Fanfic that’s just using an evil cult as the team. Cults are awesome.
This is the direction that a number of the teams have gone in, but none ever embraced it. The thing about cults is they aren’t tied to reality even in the flimsy way of Aqua and Magma. Is reconfiguring the coastline a horrible idea? Sure. But there’s plenty of second graders thinking it’d be a good idea. And altering the environment on a global scale actually is a good idea provided you’re using a subtler and less uncontrolled tool than a raging god monster. They were just stupid.
Cults? A cult’s goal can be anything, and the reason will have no tie to reality. I was explaining to my brother that some American support for Israel is that Israel needs to exist in order for it to get wiped off the face of the planet and usher in the second coming. Now, there are long and complex reasons for why this is, but it ultimately boils down to “because that’s what we believe”. Cults can’t be reasoned with because they’re not operating based on observable reality. And many cults believe the world will change or end if their goals happen, so they’re not even limited by their perception of what’s best. Team Magma is at least aiming to help people. Team Light People On Fire is just lighting people on fire. No amount of screaming and dying changes their mind because these are not people reacting to reality any longer. If they believe X will make God come back, they will do X no matter how little sense it makes.
And that’s awesome. Especially when you realize the pokemon world has temperamental tactical nukes just wandering around eating berries.
2) Fanfic that does a complete rewrite of this plot, with all the stupidity taken out. N worried about pokemon? Ghetsis manipulating people? Team Plasma being a mix between N’s devotees and a rotten minority of Ghetsis’ people? All awesome. The execution is just terrible.
Ghetsis just needs to not be stupid (why doesn’t he have a killswitch of some sort for N?) and the various parts have to connect properly. There’s never any explanation why some members of Team Plasma support N and others are just using him, and of course, no attempts to counter the many signs we see in canon that all is not well in the region itself (and no, N saying at the end that all pokemon were happy definitely doesn’t do it.)
Here’s a minor change that fixes so much just by itself: N didn’t just see pokemon that hated people. He saw abused pokemon that still loved people. It’s canon thanks to that one Plasma grunt that pokemon can be attached to people who don’t care about them. All Ghetsis has to do is shove the occasional Stockholmed pokemon in with the rest and let N hear all about how wonderful the person who kicked them was and they miss him so much.
After that, it becomes practically impossible to convince N that a pokemon actually is happy when it claims to be. I think ideally he’d be convinced that there was something special about the main character when they did something to show a mirroring concern for their pokemon. It doesn’t even have to be too cynical – if N is mostly watching pokemon and doesn’t read people well, he’s not going to be able to tell if they actually care about their pokemon that easily, so even if most of Unova’s actually good, you can just assume he only notices if someone goes above and beyond for their pokemon.
Also, the resolution can’t be “I guess everyone’s right!” Everyone involves the pokemon abusers, who again, canon. Those Plasma grunts kicking the munna? Still around. So N’s plotline should be realizing he shouldn’t assume everyone’s abusive/enough people aren’t abusive that cutting apart all relationships is overkill, not that he’s wrong about anyone being abusive.
3) I want the exasperated protagonist to get all the way up to the top, maybe even beat N, then when he’s all “oh noooo am I wrong” explain that if someone would just LISTEN instead of challenging them to pokemon battles and raising crazy castles, they’d have said they agreed with N’s points.
(Then their dragons can eat people together. Because there were so many people that needed eating. So. Many.)
Seriously, I can see N as the sort of person who isn’t used to talking to people and just sort of rambles at you, blushes and runs away. And the fact the cutscenes kept getting written around the character actually make it plausible that people aren’t letting you get a word in edgewise by the endgame.
Why does N lose? Because N’s full of doubt. He doesn’t know which path is right and he wants you to pick for him. This, too, is technically canon given that if you lose he just waits for you to come back. So it actually would make sense that someone who didn’t believe him at the start and slowly came to his side would end up certain by the final fight, while N doesn’t really want to win because he can’t be certain it’s right and wants someone else to pick instead.
It’s entirely possible part of the problem is just that N seems to be motivated by others, so actually being in charge of the dragon throws him off. He wants to do what the dragon wants, but the dragon is the whole weird avatar of a thing that just responds to people with really strong beliefs, so all of a sudden he’s entirely in charge and all the responsibility is his. He may well have thought that he could wake up Zekrom and put Zekrom in charge of everything.