The Pokemon Revelation

Pokemon becomes infinitely more fun when you realize one simple fact:

You can win with basically anything.

See, the problem with Pokemon’s gameplay, from an adult’s standpoint, is that much of the roster of monsters is irrelevant if you take them purely on stats, abilities, and movepools — you know, the things you judge characters on in every other game ever. Why bother with Espeon or Gardevoir when Alakazam is available and better in just about every way? Why take Mantine or Dewgong for a spin when you can just catch a Gyarados and annihilate everything? The guides to Pokemon will tell you to build a varied team, with strong Pokemon of different types and a wide array of attacks, and indeed this makes the game easier… but Pokemon’s dirty little secret is that it’s already pretty damn easy. (It has to be; its target demographic is in grade school.) Freed from the restriction of having to optimize everything, Pokemon’s large, mostly superfluous cast of critters becomes an advantage again.

See, for my first several plays of Pokemon games my teams tended to be pretty same-y. This is because I had talked myself into believing that I needed certain things out of it in order to win, and once you’ve filled your team with the prerequisites there’s not a whole lot of room for noodling with new monsters. Once you’ve got your speedy Psychic sweeper, your Surfer with Ice Beam, your Electric-type, and your Ground-type (for dealing with other people’s pesky Electric-types), that’s only two spaces for weirdness. And, unsurprisingly, teams that were largely constructed the same tend to play out the same way.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Pokemon Revelation is simple, like most revelations, but important: You can use whatever you want. The main quest will not stand in your way — it’s amenable to being beaten with almost any combination you can dream up. Once you’ve freed yourself from the notion that you “need” this or that, the game’s inherent modularity and flexibility come to the fore. Solos? Hell, this is easier than a real game. Mono-type team? It can be done. All-unevolved team? Difficult, but doable — and cute. A team based off the Cobra Unit from Metal Gear Solid 3? Not even all that original!

This post was spurred by rediscovering a random team generator (now updated for Gen V!) while going through my bookmarks, and remembering just how fun it is to look at strange teams and figuring out how to make them work. I wonder how many people who think Pokemon games are all the same just run the same Starter/Early-game bird/Alakazam/Gyarados/Legendary setup in every game.

Set aside your conventions and play Pokemon with your impulses. See how far you can get with Mr. Mime or Delcatty as a first-stringer. I think you’ll come away with a more enjoyable experience overall.


1 Response to “The Pokemon Revelation”

  1. 1 Guarionex February 27, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I totally agree! I did take my time to consider how to make a somewhat balanced team, but I tried to do it by having my favorites first, and then filling up the other spaces..
    I hated when people told me “Why don’t you switch this pokemon for that other one?”

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