Pokémon, at least the main series, is one of those franchises that doesn’t seem to change, despite the tweaks and small improvements that have come to the series over the years. You can play Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 the same way you played Pokémon Red and Blue back in the day. There are so many Pokémon, items, abilities and such that you can tailor your party to be whatever you want. Want a team full of Dragon-types, you Lance-clone you? Go for it. Army of Eevee-lutions? Sure! Every Fire-type starter Pokémon? Good god, yes, but you have to put Charizard out in front.
Pokémon can be as open or linear as you want, as easy or difficult as you want your journey to be. Two people can play two different ways and get entirely different experiences out of it.
With Pokémon X and Y out in October, I find myself wondering if I’ll play this latest entry any differently to how I played the previous games: Collecting and training the ones I want, while paying little to no attention to their stats (except the level) and battling using only the knowledge of type advantages and disadvantages.
I like to keep my Pokémon experiences fairly simple and easy to comprehend, but there are many ways to play during your time as a ten-year old that’s allowed to travel thousands of miles on their own. Take Effort Values (EV) and Individual Values (IV). There’s still no way to actually ‘see’ these values and their effects in the summary for you Pokémon, but they’ve been a part of the series since the beginning.
EVs, which are a Pokémon’s base stats, are affected by the other Pokémon it defeats in battle. Take out a bunch of wild Pokémon with high defense and your own defense stat will improve upon leveling. IVs, meanwhile, are, well…they’re this. Ever battle two Zubats back-to-back (of course you have) and wonder why the second one was faster than the first? IVs are responsible for that; they’re basically genes and are the reason no two Zubats, Magikarp, etc are exactly alike.
Now, the time-sucking, math filled rabbit holes that are EVs and IVs are one way to play the game, but you can also raise your Pokémon based on their Nature, which affects how fast or how slow some of its base stats change. A Pokémon with a Quiet Nature, for example, will have an increased Special Attack, but a decreased Speed, while a Jolly Nature will result in the opposite. I’ve got a friend who will play through the intro of a Pokémon game over and over until he gets his preferred starter with the Nature he wants. And since there are 25 of these that are, presumably, random, imagine how long that could take. The most work I’ve ever put into getting a Pokémon with a specific skill was when I set out to get a Pikachu that knew Volt Tackle. And even that took me a couple hours to do (the Light Ball was the hardest part).
The Pokémon games have always been easy on the surface, but the extra challenge is there for those that want to seek it out and delve into it. Me? I’m incredibly intimidated by that stuff, hence my simple strategy to battle based on types. I mean, have you seen the equation for calculating IVs?
Now, the same way you can raise your Pokémon in a number of different ways, you can also play the game for different reasons. Do you play the games because you want to see where the story goes and you just can’t stand Team Whoever taking over the world? Or maybe you play because you like becoming ‘the very best’ all over again at the tender age of ten.
There’s also the possibility that you want to ‘Catch ‘em All.’ And even then, do you mean to complete the National Pokédex or just catch all the new Pokémon? I’ve been playing for years and never managed to fulfill either of those. There’s, what, over 700 Pokémon now? With some that are only obtainable through a Wi-Fi Event? It’s an ambitious task, to be sure, but this goes back to playing for different reasons and making it as easy or difficult as you want.
Why, or how, do you play Pokémon? What’s your goal when you set out on a new 40+ hour adventure? Are you a Trainer, Breeder or Contest Participator? And most importantly, do you ever let your Ditto out of the day care?