Let’s make this clear right now: the writer of this article has never played Pokémon Go; never held a phone while the application was in use, never contributed one input to the system’s main frame. Because as far as he is concerned, that… thing, is not Pokémon.
As far as the writer of this article is concerned, Niantic made a virtual reality demo and called it Pokémon. They inputted battle, levelling, evolving and catching systems loosely based on the Pokémon games, and bought copyrights to the original Pokémon names and images so they could legitimize the whole operation. An operation that has people out in public calling themselves Pokémon trainers, calling themselves Gym Leaders, aiming to be Pokémon Masters, when all they’re mastering is the art of making their socks stink and building sweet calves. This application is not a Pokémon journey, it’s remotely aimless walking.
Which is, you know, fine. But as you play, keep this right in the front of your skull: the original Pokémon games are way, way, way better.
15. The Levelling System
Life is all about growth, education and evolution. How do you level up in real life? Is it by catching a thousand invisible Pidgey on the street? No, that doesn’t make any sense. You level up in real life by assaulting your enemies with a selection of four attacks until they faint, and the Pokémon games reflect that beautifully.
The levelling system in Pokémon goes like this: you level your Pokémon up by battling and defeating other Pokémon. The stronger your opponent, the more experience your Pokémon earns. Simple, really.
Really though, what on Earth were Niantic thinking when they designed their levelling system to make Pokemon level up through catching instead of battling? Are the Pokémon themselves doing the catching? No — you, the trainer, are. Even if little Pikachu was the one chucking the Pokeballs, how would that improve his electric attacks? Honestly, whose idea was this originally and why were they not fired after their boss heard about it? Niantic: you should have gained at least 2000 exp. points in the original games before trying to take over the world with your app.
14. The Story
The story! The original Pokémon games tell a story of a wide-eyed child, freshly 10 years old, travelling across foreign lands with a mission: to catch every type of Pokémon in the country, so that jolly old Professor Oak can see his dream of completing the Pokedex come true. Sounds simple enough, but there are countless obstacles along the way, like the meddlesome Pokémon terrorist organization Team Rocket, or a lazy Snorlax blocking the only path to the next town. The original Pokémon games allow us to live vicariously through that lucky, lucky little kid, while the best thing we had in the real world was licking frozen cow’s milk or running aimlessly around itchy grass, with no Pokémon in sight.
What’s the story in Pokémon Go? You go to different places and aim your phone at specific patches of breeze. Maybe you join a team. Sure, you’re building quadriceps, but where’s the escapism? Where’s the progression? We’ll tell you where it is: on eBay or Craigslist, where the real Pokémon games are.
13. The Moves
Every real Pokemaniac knows that a Pokémon is defined by the moves they learn. As a Pokémon reaches higher levels, they have the ability to learn a new move they can use in battle. Each Pokémon has up to four move slots accessible to them at all times; if all slots are filled and the Pokémon wants to learn a new move, they would need to forget an older move to make room for it. The four-move system is the glue that holds Pokémon battling together, and it’s exactly as close to perfection as it needs to be.
How many moves can the poor Pokémon in Pokémon Go learn? Two, maybe three? Where’s the versatility? Where’s the strategy? Where are the rest of the moves?! Why would anyone want a minimized version of what should be a mighty beast of fantasy? Niantic: go use Rest and go to bed.
12. The Fighting System
If there’s one thing better than catching Pokémon in the original games, it’s battling them. Unless you’re like crazy Professor Oak, who just wants to see the Pokémon field of study grow, we would argue that there’s no point in even catching Pokémon unless you’re planning on using them for battle. Beautiful, artful Pokémon battles, based on knowledge, projection and sheer, lucid passion.
That’s in the original Pokémon games, anyway. We are not referring to that ridiculous excuse for battling found in Pokémon Go. We would take a thousand thunderbolts to the nipple before we decide to poke our phones with our salty fingertips in banal exchanges people are calling Pokémon battles. It’s just not right; Pokémon battling is a turn-based, patient sport. There are a million tap apps available to every smart phone in the world, and all but one of them have the decency not to call themselves a Pokémon game.
11. The Characters
All stories are made by the characters in them. As the generations of Pokémon games progress, the stories grow in depth, and so do the characters. This makes the storytelling better or worse depending on who you ask, but regardless, there are characters in the game.
So, what characters will you find in Pokémon Go? Professor Lance Bass up there? What a cool guy, he just shows up in a single frame during the game’s intro and disappears. Then you’re left to choose between generic avatars to place yourself in. Which would be fine; the protagonists from the original games are also empty vessels meant to be filled by the player in order for you to go around with the neutral perspective ideal for taking in all the zanyness of the characters and the story before you. But in Pokémon Go, you’re an empty vessel in a land with no other characters. It’s purgatory.
You can be meta and say that the people playing the game are the characters within the game. Okay, fine, but what are those characters doing? Playing Pokémon Go: a game with no characters. Purgatory.
10. It’s Safe
The 10 year old mystery protagonist in the Pokémon games goes through all assortments of hell to fulfill his promise to ole Professor Oak, and we experience all that from the safety of our comfiest chair. We don’t need to surf in open waters or dodge the stray Fire Blast from a Magmar in order to fill up our Pokedexes.
The same can not be said for Pokémon Go. This is a game that tells us to Go catch a Pokémon in the middle of a busy intersection, or Go knock on our creepy neighbor’s door so we can catch Pokémon in his backyard while he slips a mickey in our lemonade. Augmented reality is great, and it’s preparing us for virtual reality, which is also great and inevitable. But how about a little troubleshooting along the way, Niantic? How about not telling us to stand in the middle of the street for two minutes, Niantic?
9. The Gyms
In the original games, the gyms were milestones representing progress. You start off with Brock, making quick work of him to get your first badge (assuming your starter was Bulbasaur or Squirtle; God be with you if you chose Charmander) and go through the other Gym Leaders until you reach Giovanni, who by the way may or may not be your father (oh my God, story elements!). Each Gym specialized in a certain type of Pokémon, and the trainers in them usually carried Pokémon you haven’t seen in the wild before. A little dialogue box would pop up before every Gym Leader battle, and the Leader in question would give you a little tidbit of wisdom, or arrogance. It was lovely.
We won’t even attempt to understand what on Earth Pokémon Go is doing with their gyms. All we know is this: when a teenage Pokémon Go player told us they just beat their first gym battle and we asked them if they had any trouble against Brock, they answered, “Who’s Brock?”
Who’s Brock? Who’s BROCK?!
8. The Evolution System
Evolving Pokémon in the original games was relatively simple: earn enough experience through battling and eventually, your Pokémon will reach a high enough level for it to evolve. The level depends on the Pokémon and evolution in question; Charmeleon evolves into Charizard at level 36, Ivysaur into Venusaur at level 32, and Dragonair into Dragonite at level 55. You can hold off on the evolutions for several levels, which would make your Pokémon learn the rest of its moves at a faster rate, but that’s only for the vets. Some Pokémon require an elemental stone to evolve; Pikachu, for example, will evolve into Raichu at any level as long as he’s presented with the Thunderstone. Same goes for Clefairy evolving into Clefable with the Moon Stone.
We don’t know exactly what Niantic pulled with their evolution system, but they decided to throw all the classic mythology into the bin in favour of some sort of candy system wherein you need to catch multiple copies of the same Pokémon and get enough of their… candies to let your Pokémon evolve. Whatever floats your S.S. Anne.
7. Team Rocket
What’s a Pokémon game without Team Rocket making things hard for us? Their name changes depending on what generation of the game you’re playing (Team Rocket in the first two generations, Team Aqua and Magma in Ruby and Sapphire, Galactic and Plasma in Black and White, etc.), but all iterations act as the much-needed disrupters of the perfect Pokémon world. All stories need some opposition. The game would still be a fun click without Team Rocket, but it wouldn’t be much of a game.
You know what isn’t much of a game? You guessed it. The lack of antagonism and conflict isn’t the only thing that makes Pokémon Go unworthy of its trademark, but the addition of something resembling team rocket (or any sort of conflict at all) would definitely be a useful band-aid. You know what else would be a useful band-aid? Adding some elements from the actual games, bruh.
Starting from Pokémon Gold and Silver, the original games began to feature Shiny Pokemon. Shinies are identical to their common kin, except their colour palettes are entirely different, and their skin glistens in the pixellated sunlight. Shiny Poliwrath is green, Shiny Charizard is black, etc. In Pokémon Gold and Silver, players would inevitably run into a Shiny red Gyarados, since it was crucial to advancing the plot. Aside from that, good luck finding one. The chances of encountering a Shiny Pokémon in the wild are extremely slim, 1 in every 8192, or 0.0122%, to be exact.
What we do know is that, as of yet, Shiny Pokémon haven’t been discovered in Pokémon Go. Maybe they’re hiding out there in the virtual landscape waiting to be discovered, but judging by the sheer number of people who play the game, at least one of them should have been found already. Where the Shinies at, Niantic?
5. Pokemon League
After collecting all the gym badges, at which point our young eyes were comatose from sweet lassitude, there was one last thing we needed to do before seeing the credits roll: fight our way past Victory Road, get to the Pokémon League and defeat the Elite Four with our jacked up Pokes. It would take some of us many attempts and several revives and full restores, but eventually we’d eviscerate all 4 Pokémon veterans and our rival as well. Professor Oak would then walk us into a dark room and register us and our comrades into the Pokémon Hall of Fame, cementing our legacy in Pokémon history. It was enough to make a young eye cry.
But Pokémon Go plays by its own rules. There’s no Elite Four, no Hall of Fame, no sweet old man to validate your hard work. No tears of beauty are shed in that game, only beads of pedestrian armpit sweat.
4. Competitive Battling
The complexity of the original games is such that Pokéfreaks can play through every iteration in the series, uncovering all the in-game secrets without realizing that Pokémon battling can be one of the most intense competitive games out there. Outside of the game, there is a very dedicated subculture of competitive Pokémon battlers who take Pokémon extremely seriously and do not f*** around with it. Evidently, The sheer number of Pokémon and the unique characteristics inherent in each of them (like typing, stats, abilities, move sets and training) as well as the possibility to have six Pokémon in your team makes for limitless possibility in a competitive environment. Emulators like Pokémon Showdown are an absolute war zone. Go see it for yourself.
It’s too painful to even crap on the total lack of competitive battling possibility in Pokémon Go. Baby Jesus, Santa Claus and 500 leprechauns would need to hold a prayer circle around the game’s mainframe for that miracle to happen.
3. The Sense of Attachment
Because of the elements highlighted above, players would emerge from the original Pokémon games with a deep sense of attachment to the Pokémon who carried them through it. The Pokémon are there, right by our side, pixel after pixel. There would be no way to make it past all the obstacles of the game without the Pokémon. Our young protagonist would have been gusted to death by the first Pidgey he ran into in the tall grass outside Pallet Town without his starter. Adults who played the original games still hold a special place in their hearts for the jacked-up Charizard that single-handedly crushed the entire Elite Four. Our Pokémon were just sprites on a cheap screen, but they were our sprites.
Because there’s no story, no fun battling, no memorable characters, and a nonsensical levelling system, the Pokémon in Pokémon Go really are just sprites, forming more inner thigh rashes than they do genuine connections with their trainers.
2. The Rival
That bastard rival always seemed to be one step ahead of us. Except when we met him at the Pokémon League, of course, when our over levelled Charizards turned his team to burnt tofu. Still, having a rival in the game was another awesome layer that made the play-through so much fun. He would appear intermittently, at random, say some smart-ass remark about how he’s so much better than you and then challenge you to a battle. Your progress with your Pokémon party would usually match his, making the exchange a great gauge for how far you’ve come since Oak’s lab.
In Pokémon Go, the only rivalries you form are in real life. The thing about the rival in the original game was that his purpose in life was to be your rival. He lived for it, had no existence outside of it. In the real world, people have obligations that get in the way of them making your Pokémon journey difficult. Which is unfortunate, just like most things about the game.
1. You Don’t Need To Go Outside
Do you even watch the news? Outside is crazy these days. It’s either way too hot or way too cold. There are a bunch of people you don’t know walking around, so you’re constantly in danger of being bumped into or sneezed on at any moment. There have been cases of spontaneous combustion, where people just burst into flames randomly, for no reason at all! Apparently the government will try to take your money. You’ll need to give up your public transit seat to old people, or feel like a dink if you don’t. You can forget your keys and be locked out of the house for hours, during which time water can fall from the sky and ruin your phone. Then you wouldn’t be able to play Pokémon Go. Also, aliens.
But sweet, good, virtually isolated OG Pokémon games can be played from anywhere within the safe confines of your home. No need to venture out into the cruel world. Keep all those perfect hairs on your head and in your nostrils in tact. Play the original Pokemon games all day, sleep a sweet syrupy sleep, then do it all over again. For days and months and months and years. Safe, safe, safe. Mmm…