How Pokémon introduced me to RPGs
When Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue first hit American shores back in the fall of 1998 I wasn’t sure on what to expect, and I definitely didn’t know that Pokémon would have such a huge impact on my life moving forward. I vividly remember playing Pokémon Red on vacation in the back of the family car and frantically trying to keep the glare off the screen while simultaneously making sure my Gameboy didn’t die during my many attempts to catch the legendary Mewtwo.
I can’t even begin to calculate the hours I spent battling and collecting Pokémon throughout my Kanto journey. Something about the collection aspect of Pokémon and building the perfect team felt rewarding, and I became attached to each Pokémon on my roster.
The sense of progression in Pokémon and the victory I obtained over each gym became the catalyst that fueled my drive to continuously progress and shaped how I would play future games -- especially RPGs. The many memories that I established with the Pokémon games and the time I spent with the first generation Pokémon games in general would definitely go on to shape the rest of my gaming catalog for the proceeding years afterward.
The Pokémon series was my first introduction -- and I’m sure many people's first introduction -- to the world of RPG’s. Because of Pokémon, I developed a better sense of the mechanics and gameplay elements that defined role playing games at the time.
Although most of the core gameplay elements and progression systems present in Pokémon were not much different than many JRPGs released at the time (like the Final Fantasy series and Earthbound), it was the sense of accomplishment and camaraderie you established through building your team and the collection aspect that set Pokémon games apart from similar games in the genre.
In spite of Pokémon's continued success for well over 20 years, there are some people today who constantly complain that the Pokémon core series as a whole has not changed much from a gameplay standpoint over the past 20 years. I personally believe that is perfectly fine that the series hasn’t changed much overall, and in many ways that is why the series has remained successful. Sometimes game series can change too much and that can potentially alienate long-time fans.
There have, however, been many incremental changes and additions made to the franchise and additional Pokémon that have changed the series in fundamental ways. Although there haven’t been many changes made to the actual gameplay of the main franchise there have been many experimental games and spinoffs that have garnered plenty of success.
Pokémon Go is a current example of the nostalgic power of the Pokémon series. The fact that Niantic and the Pokémon Game Company only used first generation Pokémon was definitely strategic on their part and was one of the main reasons Pokémon Go was able to establish the foothold and see the success that it initially gained in the first month after release.
My main complaint about Pokémon Go is that it lacks the sense of progression and strategic elements that make the main games so fun and rewarding. The battle system present in Pokémon Go is very limited, and there’s no real strategy involved. Pokémon Go does, however, maintain the collection aspect that is present in the core series -- and that is probably why it remains so popular.
I personally believe that Pokémon games are the perfect introduction for anyone trying to learn the mechanics and strategy that go into turn based and stat based role playing games. There is a heavy emphasis placed on numbers and statistics, and also a great deal of strategy involved within the Pokémon series. And if you actually spend the time learning all of the various nuances and layers of strategy involved, you gain a greater appreciation for RPGs in general.
When you actually break down the moment to moment gameplay in Pokémon it is essentially about numbers, types, and weaknesses. Each Pokémon has a designated type, and sometimes multiple types. You base your team roster around multiple types so you have plenty of variation and differing Pokémon to deal with opponents’ weaknesses.
The combat system and strategy you learn in Pokémon can be very rewarding -- especially in the thriving competitive scene. Pokémon has personally changed my life and it introduced me to a gaming genre that I would grow to appreciate and respect over my many years of gaming. It has taught me patience and many of the fundamentals that are present in role playing games today -- plus to be a better gamer and more strategic gamer overall.
I think without having played the original first generation Pokémon games I would have never played many of the RPG series that I love today. The series overall has had plenty of ups and downs over the years, but the core gameplay has stayed pretty much the same and if you are looking to start playing RPGs (or JRPGs for that matter), then the Pokémon series is definitely the perfect introduction.