It blows my mind that Nintendo's monster phenomenon have existed on this side of the Pacific Ocean for 13 years. That is half of my entire life. Yes, that means I am 26 years old and talking about Pokemon. While some people may have their reservations about this series, there is no denying the significance that these colorful titles have had on the world. It used to be one could not go around without seeing a reference to the games in pop culture. Pikachu seemed to make an appearance everywhere. I still see Pokemon commonly in video game culture, whether it is the occasional Slowpoke or Professor Oak advice meme or a full-blown comic strip from sketchy drawings by novice artists to the evil masterminds behind Penny Arcade.
Underneath the kiddie connotations, the atrocious anime, and the monolith of money-making merchandise, you will find a deep and surprisingly complex RPG. At the heart of the games is the various species of Pokemon each one aligned to one of 17 elements, or a combination thereof. Part of the complexity lies in the way these elements, or types, interact with each other. Each type has weaknesses, resistances, and immunities to the other types. To be truly effective in battle, one would have to know all 289 of these interactions. I imagine not many kids can memorize the entire chart that details all the effects of attack types against defenders.
Beyond this base formula, the gameplay has been refined over time with each generation not only adding a new feature that makes the strategies ever more profound but also improves upon the changes of its predecessors. For example generation two brought about items that enhanced the battle capabilities of the Pokemon. The third generation introduced passive abilities that affected each battle differently. Other battle situations were also added over the years from double and triple battles to rotation battles and "Little Cup" battles that involved a new level of strategy with Pokemon that would rarely be used in a normal battle.
On top of the battle system is the highly customizable party system. Many Pokemon exist in the games, thus the old saying "Gotta Catch 'Em All", and they all have statistical builds and move sets that are unique among species. Even more, each individual member of that species has its own build of natural and trainable stat boosts that can also be customized if you know how breed and raise your creatures correctly. Regardless of whether or not two parties are built the same way, it is likely they defer in some small way. Some Pokemon may be lacking in one stat or one person may have chosen a different attack. All in all it is a probability geek's paradise, but most people don't need to delve into the mathematical depth.
It is obvious that Pokemon is a thoroughly refined game. Now consider that this series still adheres to a formula that most other games -- aside from clones and the occasional indie game -- no longer use. The old style of turn-based RPGs where speed determines order, attack power determines damage done, and defense dictates damage prevented is considered outdated. Many gimmicks have been used in more recent games to make the turn-based combat more interesting. For example Final Fantasy has gone through several transformations. Such revolutionary endeavors include the Active Time Battle system, the Gambit system, and the Paradigm system. Other similar games have gone in the direction of the card battle or the action RPG. Nothing else retains the straightforward gameplay and success of Pokemon.
Pokemon has been around for a long time. The series combines the simplicity of its turn-based formula with the complexity of a multiple element system and the fundamental diversity of creatures for building a party. Pokemon remains true to the roots of RPGs, yet it has topped sales charts for over a decade. The undeniable fact remains that Pokemon is a strong force in the gaming world.
ArgentStew, the Gaming Sage