Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why Won't They Make These - Competant Pokemon Clones

We all know the games.  The concept is rather simple:  Young kid sets out on a character-building adventure with a trusted pet companion, faces adversity but triumphs through the sheer purity and innocence provided of youth (And/Or Goku Syndrome) and eventually reaches the ultimate triumph.  It's not a hard thing to write, and let's face it:  none of the pokemon games are going to win any writing awards anytime soon.  But honestly, that's not why we play them; we play them for the collecting, for the training, for making the perfect team to match us and take it against the world.

Which, when you look around and see obvious clones of other, popular games, but little more than a dry well for Pokemon clones, it's confusing.  As a Nintendo property, it's guaranteed to print money regardless, but here, Pokemon has established a new level of money-printing for the company.  Two versions of every main game come out, leading silly people like me to, essentially, buy the same game twice, not to mention remakes and the (usually inevitable) 'third version' of an iteration.  We all know companies want a piece of this pie, so it's just up to us to figure why any and all attempts at it went out with the nineties.

It's been a while, and I don't know the actuality of the situation, but growing up, Digimon always just seemed like the "Me too" response to Pokemon.  Sure, it was a little more thought-out, and the story was completely different, but when you boiled it down, you still had little monsters fighting other monsters at the behest of their 'owners'.  So I guess the reason this dropped was because, if my thoughts/opinions mirror the general opinions out there, nobody took it seriously.  Which, actually, is a bit of a shame, but such is how this sort of thing goes.

I'm going to level with you guys here on this.  I have no idea about Monster Rancher.  All I know is that it used to be a thing, I watched the cartoon but don't remember any of it, and I remember friends of mine saying how cool the PSOne version of the game was, because you could get different monsters by putting other games into the console when it asked you to.  Which, uh, I always thought was a really neat concept, but never really followed up on it. 

As far as I can tell, the concept of Monster Rancher is a bit more subdued than Pokemon, focusing more on raising the monsters, almost like livestock, and occasionally battling them.  Of course, as I stated before, I have no idea.  I never played any of the games and like I said, I don't remember the cartoon.  So if I had to say why I think it's not around anymore, I would say, "It kind of is, since a game for it was released last year." but aside from that, I 'unno.  Maybe they didn't want to make more monsters.

I guess the problem anyone has with making a clone of Pokemon is that 1) Everyone's going to know it's a clone and 2) they're going to imagine it's just as, if not more, poorly designed than Pokemon is.

Now, wait a minute, because I know that's a "WTF?" moment right there, since I have claimed love for these games in the past and will continue to do so.  But to say the gameplay doesn't need an overhaul at this point would just be silly, since every game just takes the previous game and improves on it, but never really changes anything.  There's always a clear path from your starting town to the Pokemon League with a bunch of cities in between that you have to beat the gym in before you can go on.  Along the way, you fight members of Team (thing) who are evil stereotypes and eventually beat them because they're clown shoes, end up catching a Legendary Pokemon that may or may not be the equivalent of a God, and challenge the Elite Four which is actually the Elite Five, since there's always a Champion.

Now, I know my primary defense of most games that other people would call repetitive and such is usually "Who cares, it's fun?" or, "When you break any game down, it becomes 'do this, do that, win game'", but Pokemon is a bit different since they....really don't even try to mask the fact that you're doing the same thing, but with different towns and different people.  And for a game series that is guaranteed to do whatever you want it to, profit-wise, seeing such a lack of creativity, or rather an attempt at showing any, is frustrating.  And when a developer refuses to really grow, you have to try and force them to.

The concept is there and easy enough, and while, generally, the last thing you want to do is encourage the theft of an, all-things-considered, interesting idea, this is something that could really do well for someone willing to take the foundation and really open it.  Take the concept of using your monsters to help you get places and make it non-cumbersome.  Take the concept of having 'other things' to do, aside from challenging gyms, and make it a viable option.  Open the freaking map.

Now, I'm not saying we need Morrowind/Oblivion levels of Open-World with monsters scattered about, but you have to make the world make sense in itself.  As far as we can tell, from Pokemon games, the only way you can have a proper Pokemon adventure is by being given a pokemon you can't catch anywhere and a Pokedex by a Scientist who resides in the house a few doors down from yours.  Yet, you stumble across other trainers who have, I guess, somehow managed to bypass this step.  Of course, this means that they're not the main character, but it introduces an element that's never, ever touched on:  Catching Pokemon without actually having Pokemon.  (Aside from Safari Zones which, honestly, suck.)

And that's not the least of the Pokemon World's inconsistencies.  As far as anyone can tell, there's only one way to get to every town, which is normally through grass, over/through fucking mountains and caves, or over an ocean/sea.  Yet, cars exist and drive on roads leading nowhere.  Those areas also usually have some sort of thing that blocks you because you have to have a pokemon that knows a certain move that is the only thing to facilitate you in getting from Point A to Point B, and yet, you stumble upon people who, also, bypass this completely.

And like I said, none of this matters in Pokemon, because the game you get will inevitably be fun like the version before it was (Except Gen three.  Gen three sucked.), because they've dug themselves into a niche that allows them to mix nostalgia with repetition without so much as a complaint from their fanbase.  But I just can't help hoping some day, we'll see something like Pokemon, but without the traditional chains of a Pokemon game, be it from Game Freak or someone else.

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