Saturday, March 21, 2015
The Pokemon Retrospective: Gen IV
The death of Pokemon.
Let's not mince words here; Diamond/Pearl are not very good games. In fact, I would go as far to day that Gen IV was the worst generation of Pokemon that I've ever played. Hell, it's not even a fun game to play in all honesty. It has too many flaws, continues several negative traits of the series that I do not enjoy, and it is the most imbalanced gen I've ever played. To play Diamond/Pearl is an endurance test, a test that I have failed numerous times. I've only beaten the game once I dislike it that much. Still, I might as well explain myself first.
So back in the mid 2000's, Pokemon was no longer the cream of the crop. The hardware cutoff from GB to GBA was too great, and the series slowly began to lose steam. Kids grew up, played different games, and Pokemon was left as just another 90's franchise that time was doomed to forget. It was going to fall in the same way that Digimon fell. Technically it still existed, but it would never reach the same levels of popularity it did all those years ago. However, with the Nintendo DS becoming more and more popular, more popular than the GBA, Nintendo thought that this would be the perfect time to release a new Pokemon Gen. A Gen that would reclaim Pokemon's supremacy in the popular culture.
Strangely enough, their gambit paid off. They sold more than Ruby/Sapphire, Gold/Silver, Fire Red/ Leaf Green, and even became some of the highest selling DS games of all time. Reviews were more favorable than all the other previous games, and people were generally happy with the game overall. Despite all of that praise, if you were to ask any Pokemon fan what their least favorite gen is, they would almost certainly answer Gen IV in a heart beat. No questions asked. So that begs the question, why do Pokemon fans dislike this game and why do I hate this game so much?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to balance. This game is horribly unbalanced. It's unbalanced in its difficulty, its types, its length, and its forced story elements. While you could make the argument that all of these elements were present in Ruby/Sapphire, they were tolerable in their amounts. There was an abundance of water Pokemon, Team Magma and Aqua were present but only in a handful of moments, and the game didn't drag until the end of the game. Not the case with Diamond/Pearl though!
The enemy team in this game, Team Galactic was present from nearly the very beginning of the game. Pretty much every time after you got a gym badge, you had to stop your quest to deal with Team Galactic and their mishaps. There were even several points in the game where they stopped you completely and could not continue the game until you beat them. In limited doses, that's fine, but when it's so. Damned. Constant, it makes the game frustrating. This was the game that forcibly tried to insert a story into the series and failed miserably. No one cared about Team Galactic, and no one wanted to fight them They were lame and had no real goal besides being evil and stuff.
But Diamond/Pearl's most unforgivable crime is its type imbalance. I can play through the game for only so long before the type imbalance kicks in and I start to rage at the game. What exactly do I mean by type imbalance? Well, I mean that some types are much more prevalent in routes and towns than other Pokemon. You are more likely to fight this type of Pokemon in comparison to others, to the point where it becomes painfully noticeable. In this case, Psychic, Poison, and Fighting Pokemon overpopulate the Sinnoh region. Every route you go to, you'll find on of these Pokemon. Every Galactic fight will feature at least one of these types. Your team will include one of these types against your free will because there is nothing to catch. No only that, but Grass, Electric and ESPECIALLY Fire type Pokemon are barely in the game. Do you know how badly imbalanced the Pokemon are in this game? The Electric gym leader only has two Electric Pokemon and the Fire Elite Four member only has two Fire Pokemon. TWO. It's very safe to say that if you do not choose a Chimchar as your starter, you will have no Fire Pokemon on your team.
I hate it when games are this imbalanced. The goal of Pokemon is to capture whatever Pokemon you want and make the perfect team out of them. But what if I want a fire Pokemon on my team? The game essentially says "Sorry, you don't get one because of reasons." Then it gets even worse when I'm fighting against a gym leader or Elite Four member that's weak to Fire type movies, but I don't have any Fire type Pokemon to use them. The enemy can use Fire Pokemon, but because of gen restrictions and me not choosing a Chimchar, I can't use one unless I trade over from different games. Instead, I can get as many Psychic and Fighting Pokemon I want, even though they're not what I want. I want to have fun and choose my own team, not be forcibly restricted by what Pokemon I can and can't capture.
Diamond/Pearl are incredibly flawed, and while I think they were necessary to renew interest in the series once more, they still aren't that great. They've aged poorly and with more Gens being available that have hundreds of team options and types available, it makes Gen IV look like the most dated Pokemon game. It's not fun to play through, it's too difficult and restrictive, and it just isn't a good game. Pokemon should be about freedom and exploration, not forced story modes that don't work. Next time though, we get the pinnacle of story integration in Pokemon, but we also get one of the most refreshing games in the series: Black/White.
The Pokemon Retrospective:
Gen I: Red/Blue
Gen II: Gold/Silver
Gen III: Ruby/Sapphire