An open letter to Nintendo:
Dear Nintendo (umm Pokémon division?)
My friend and I are Pokémon fans, Pokéfans if you will. Adult Pokémon fans. Is there a sadder thing? Probably. People who are into team sports. All those people who invested their money in property instead of your series of children’s videogames (at least I still have my Marshstomp hah!). But we’re not going to make any excuses for our sad sorry selves. Not to you. Of course we could argue that the whole series should be championed by gamers for it’s visionary approach to RPGs and the ability to take your favourite characters into games that span a number of console generations. For fellow RPG fans how nice would it be to be able to keep transferring your favourite characters from one game to the next without having to start over from scratch? Well Pokémon lets you do that (kinda) and we are grateful to you.
Also, we could take this opportunity to praise the series for interweaving the games with the TV series with the film. Not in an awful spin-off way but seamlessly, all set in the same universe with recurring characters and elements and no other series has done that that we can think off. A novel version of the storylines told through the games, anime series and films would rival the greatest works of epic storytelling literature (in terms of length anyway). We could even brow-beat non-Pokémon fans into looking at the series by describing the deep levels of strategy and stat management that lies centimetres below the fluffy friendly faÃ§ade of those lovable pocket monsters that can only say their own name.
If we were desperate we might even eschew the educational benefit of the series going into depth about the comprehensive parody of modern taxonomy and biodiversity which most players are unaware of merely because biological education through the conventional school system doesn’t even touch the range of organisms that have been cutified for the Pokémon series of games.
However, we won’t be doing that here. We won’t even be going on about how we still
cry like little girls get a nasty bout of our fake allergies at the end of Pokémon: The First Movie. Even now. Just last week in fact. No, that is not the purpose of this letter. Suffice to say, the Pokémon franchise has been firmly and permanently lodged in our brain making us addicted to every piece of tat with that familiar blue and yellow lettering on it. Salivating over screenshots of the next game in the series (essentially another remake of the first three Game Boy games) in the same way that junkies do for drugs, winos do over alcohol and catholic priests, PE teachers and scout leaders do over the little boys that society has unwittingly put into their care. The only difference being the only downside to being a Pokémon fan is spending £40 once or twice a year and having to hide the deep shame to everyone you know (in some communities Pokémon fans form underground clubs to engage in hardcore EV training, trading and dancing contests). In short, Nintendo, we are sold on the series. We are your demographic. Release it and we will buy it.
But today we don’t just write to bather in the glory of the franchise that pays for your nice suit, the water coolers, and your office. Today we show our fanatacism, by bitching about the whole series we enjoy. Way back since the Precambrian, you have been cranking out Pokémon games. Even Jesus was a fan: “And the Lord said unto them, cast out bug/flying types for they are weak to everything” (Ludicolo 11:16). Hitler also had a penchant for the series (he favoured Fighting type Pokémon which explains why we won the Battle of Britain) and rumour has it that the Dalai Lama invented the now banned SkarmBliss combination. And ever since the beginning the series has been accompanied by the “Gotta Catch ‘em all!” tagline. The phrase is so widely recognisable it made the cover of Time magazine in 2001, accompanying images of the Taliban masteminds behind the 9/11 tragedy. You no doubt know all this, but it is important to state because it underpins the whole point in this letter.
Ever since the beginning it has been literally impossible to legitimately catch them all.
Pokémon Red, Blue and Green kick started the whole phenomenon initially with 151 of the little blighters to collect. Except Pokémon number 151: Mew, wasn’t catchable*.
Then Pokémon Silver and Gold introduced a hundred more critters, the kicker being that you could only catch 99 of them in the games. Pokémon number 251: Celebi was unavailable*.
Then, unhappy with the money you made from the first two generations of the game (including the release of the money spinning tweaked remakes Pokémon Yellow and Pokémon Crystal), you decided to start it all over again. So, although we could transfer the Pokémon that we spent hundreds of hours levelling up, dreaming of and drawing unsavoury pictures of from Blue, Red and Yellow to Silver Gold and Crystal (but not back again!) and to the okayish N64 battle games, Stadium and Stadium 2**, the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire meant we had to start again, again. From scratch. This time you gave us 360? 800? More? To catch. By this time we could tell the creativity pool was running a bit dry and more and more of the pokedex became filler rather than genuine contenders for competitive play. What the fuck were you thinking with Luvdisc? Whismur? Spinda? These are the only three I can remember from that generation.
Still, as with previous generations there were still a bunch of legendaries we couldn’t get and even if we had managed to go to one of the Pokémon events to get Mew or Celebi for B/R/Y or S/G/C there was no way of getting them off the Game Boy games to the Game Boy Advance games. So now the pokedex ran from 1 to 2780 and I still had gaps at 151, a gap at 251 and some new gaps in the shape of Deoxys number 989. In addition to this, you furthered the barefaced cheekery of it all by re-releasing the first games in the series, albeit with a slight tart up. Make no bones about it Pokémon Fire Red and Pokémon Leaf Green were almost pixel for pixel remakes of Red and Blue. You know it, and we know it.
You may be lost at the moment so here is a quick recap for you. I have played Yellow and Silver to completion and caught all the Pokémon possible, 248 out of 250. I then started all over again and bought Ruby and Leaf Green and played through those to completion. But what’s this? I still have 60 missing, I can only get 300 odd out of 360 odd? Oh yeah that’s right, I now need to start buying the Gamecube versions to get the last 60. 60 Pokémon which, by the way, I have previously caught on Silver with no problems.
Another problem was that Pokémon Colosseum for the Gamecube was very very slow and very very boring and the multiplayer was very very poor. The unlocking requirements for the legendary Ho-oh were unnecessarily high and now I have accumulated a bunch of hardware that is totally useless when the next generation of Pokémon games came along: the Game Boy-N64 adapter, GBA-Gamecube cables, the Game Boy Advance wi-fi adaptor. Expensive. Expensive and pointless after you used them once. And I can’t even sell them because no other Nintendo games used them. Then because the die hard fan that I am hadn’t quite spent enough money in the vain attempt to catch them all, the dire Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness and Pokémon Channel were released for the Gamecube.
Pokémon XD is practically the same as Pokémon Colosseum although a fraction less unforgiving, some of the colosseum-only Pokémon were one chance and one chance only to catch, so thanks for that. The only incentive to buy XD was to catch the legendary Pokémon Lugia (also easily available in Silver and Gold, forever stuck on the Game Boy Color). Getting Lugia is indeed an exercise in RPG grinding, the unlock requirements even MMORPGs wouldn’t dare ask yet I did that. I played fourty hours of that game, aimlessly collecting Pokémon I already had on four other games, fighting all those slow fights in a row etc. etc.
As for Pokémon channel, also for the Gamecube, what a bizarre game. So I have to play a game WATCHING TV WITH PIKACHU. But this isn’t real TV this is Pokémon land TV. So I have to unlock channels. But I also have to keep Pikachu happy. Except Pikachu is a demented retard who wants to watch one channel over and over and over again and gets pissed off if I, say, want to watch something I haven’t already seen eight times in the last four hours. Anyway, once again, the only incentive to buy and play this bizarre mental game was to unlock Jirachi, the so-called wishmaker, one of the new ones, generously available only through Pokémon channel.
I now have 100 or so Pokémon games. Five different consoles to play on, a bunch of useless hardware and a bunch of gaps that are event-only bullshit Pokémon to collect. Event Pokémon are fine if you live next door to the Pokémon Centre in New York. Not fine if you live in Europe. Also, being able to download Pokémon at the cinema! Brilliant, except the films never came out here at the cinema. Which is a double shame because I am the kind of mug who would pay money to see the film. I probably would have booed my eyes out to Pokémon 4ever at the cinema like I did with the DVD except it wasn’t on a cinema within travelling distance of where I lived. I was done, Nintendo. I was out. Destined to not catch them all despite the psychological need to and despite the hundreds of pounds spent trying. Then Pokémon Diamond and Pearl came out for the DS.
So now there are 20,000+ Pokémon to catch. And I have to catch a gazillion of ones I already have again again again as well as some by now totally uninspired Pokémon. Instead of being based on real life plants and animals there are now Pokémon based on kitchen appliances, an old man’s face and Pokémon based on other earlier Pokémon. Fortunately, I could (after playing through Diamond or Pearl once) easily transfer Pokémon from my GBA versions. I said easily; I could transfer six every 24 hours. Gee thanks Ninty. Thanks for putting a limit on me, a fan of the series, who has paid you good money over the years. Thanks for putting some complete bullshit time limit on how many of MY Pokémon I can transfer from MY Pokémon game to MY Pokémon game. Why did you do this? Did the marketing folks decide that players were just having too much fun in testing?
So I’ve bought Red, Yellow, Silver, Stadium, Stadium 2, Ruby, Leaf Green, XD, Colosseum, Channel and Diamond. It’s cost me (or a parent if you are at the age you should be to play these games) hundreds of pounds. It’s taken me multiple hundreds of hours on the main games and about 100 hours on all the other ones to unlock the one or two you can’t get elsewhere. They have been painstakingly transferred to the latest version, all 400,000 of them, six at a time every 24 hours. Yet there are still Mew, Celebi, Deoxys, Manaphy, Phione, Darkrai, Arceus and Shaymin missing. Their empty slots in the pokedex taunting me every second of every day. It says “You, a grown man! Can’t catch them all? Loser. Child in an adult’s body loser”. And then timelilily you release Pokémon Ranger. £40, shit game which broke my DS touch screen and 20 hours later and I now have Manaphy and Phione. Woop de doo! Two more legendary Pokémon which have cost me time and money that I can put in a box and never ever use again.
Which brings us to today. I’m still five short. A year ago there was an event to get Mew which wasn’t a hundred million miles from where I lived. Attending the event was degrading, horribly organised and literally physically painful. Last week there was some event to get Shaymin, which came and went. I missed the twenty four hour window to go and get it because I was working in another country at the time. Oh well. Boo for me. Maybe you’ll run another event in ten years when I may have a chance to get it. With Diamond and Pearl you added a pretty nifty Global Trade Service which allows you to trade with literally thousands of Pokémon players around the world! Great. Now I could legitimately acquire hacked event-only legendaries. Except you can’t because you can only request Pokémon YOU ALREADY HAVE in a trade. Didn’t think that through did you dicklips? Making the entire service useless.
The joke is well and truly on me, reader of this letter, I could have bought an action replay a zillion years ago and just got all these legendary Pokémon without wasting hours of my life or travelling around the continent hanging out in shitty car parks and shops to get a whiff of some ridiculous Pokémon I’m not ever going to use. But that is wrong Ninty, using an Action replay is cheating. I’m one of the good guys. I’ve paid my dues. I’m trying to catch them all, I really am. It’s just you are not playing fair.
Which is the reason for this letter. If you could please be so kind as to send me Shaymin, Darkrai, Arceus, Deoxys and Celebi I promise, cross my heart and hope to die, that I won’t commit a very public suicide outside your head office wearing a placard reading “Couldn’t catch ‘em all” spelled out in my fresh wrist blood.
P.S Could I get two sets, one for me one for my friend Richie? Otherwise is wristy-bloods time yeah?
*This isn’t strictly true as these were available at special Nintendo events in Japan and probably America. Over the years there have been events in the UK making some of these legendary uncatchable ones available but they are often advertised 45 minutes before they start, are held in the ass end of nowhere and the event lasts for a total of 10 seconds. Even as people in their mid-late twenties with an active interest in the bloody games and an unhealthy amount of time spent on the internet, these events can often come and go before we’ve even had a chance to book a train ticket to the ‘alley by the car park at Nowhereham’. Quite how young children with no money who don’t spend all day on the internet find out about and then coerce their parents into taking them to these events is beyond us. Do you have a marketing department? This is like the DLC from hell. If you can find out about it, get there in time, pay for a train ticket, find the obscure venue and queue up with a hundred 10 year olds without getting arrested then you can download some stupid fucking thing which IS ALREADY ON THE CART ANYWAY.
** The minigames on Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Stadium 2 were particularly entertaining. Good work. The decision to make your own Pokémon as playable characters in Stadium 2 was inspired. The sad ending to this story is that the battery on some of the first edition Silver and Gold games was decidedly dodgy, meaning I’ve lost all of my data. THAT IS MY LIFE WASTED THANKS NINTENDO and I have nothing to show for it.