Play or Pass: Pokemon

Welcome to the FINAL post in my year-long series “Play or Pass” that takes on the proverbial “must before death” theme with video games. Every other week I will be covering one or two games from “32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die,” a list compiled by BuzzFeed based on a reader poll. I will not be critiquing the list itself, but rather I’ll be discussing each game or games in whatever manner feels fitting and will attempt to answer a couple simple questions: Have I played [insert game name here]? If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why? If no, do I want to play the game before I die? I’ll be going through the games in the order in which they appear on the BuzzFeed list. Good? Good. Let’s get on with the games!

Week twenty-five: (32) Pokemon

too many pokemon 2

Alright folks, we’ll here we are…the last “Play or Pass” post. *sniff*

Before I get all weepy (and I probably will), we have one more game to discuss. Or, in this case, a series in general, I suppose, since these days, telling someone to play a Pokemon game is like telling someone to eat a pizza — it’s far too broad a statement to make.

But before I narrow things down,  let me say a thing here about the Pokemon games:

They are the best kept secrets that everyone knows about.

That doesn’t make much sense…

…or does it?

Because though I knew about the Pokemon phenomenon, I really didn’t know anything about it until I played one of its games. And once I did, the secret was out. The phenomenon is, indeed, pretty damn phenomenal.

On this site and United We Game, you’ll find plenty about me and Pokemon. You’ll find my story of how I once made fun of the franchise and wrote it off as a juvenile pursuit. You’ll find how I turned that around many years later by finally playing LeafGreen. And you’ll discover than the experience was supremely worthwhile in ways that I didn’t expect. It’s really that last point that I want to elaborate upon here, because before LeafGreen, I would never have called a Pokemon game a “must.”

Am I calling it a “must” now? Let’s put a pin in that for now.

At present, let’s talk about strategy and teamwork.

When it comes to that require degrees of strategy and teamwork, I’d like to say that I’m as sharp as a tack. But the truth couldn’t be more damn dull. Or, the opposite. In fact, I’m am impetuous player, one who tends to act first and think later, especially in battle. I usually charge in unheeded, without any forethought or than “VICTORY OR DEATH!” And I usually end up dead. Dead, dead, and deader until either the rage-quit happens or I get my shit straight and decide to use a little strategery. (Shut up spellcheck, strategery is a word. Just ask Bugs Bunny.) It’s often not until I replay a game, in fact, that I come to understand a specific set of battle mechanics or how to best utilize my teammates.

Ah, yes, the teammates. They aren’t just there for conversation and quickies! Very often in games that give you teammates, they can be used to your advantage! But you knew that already because you’re not me! Why can I not stop using exclamation points!

And it’s not like I’ve never played a team-based game before. I get the mechanics, the classes, the strength and weakness factors, but I harbor a perpetual lone-wolf mentality. And here’s no denying that in some games, your teammates are completely useless. Fresh in mind is Assassin’s Creed II, which I’m currently playing. In it Ezio doesn’t have teammates per se, but every now and again he’s accompanied by someone during a mission, and sometime that someone will have fighting abilities and will “help” you out should a set of guards get too friendly. In most cases, the “fighting” companion is only good for distracting a few guards until you get around to dealing with them yourself.

So let’s get back to Pokemon, a game that is all about strategy and teammates. I didn’t know this going in. If anything, I thought it was more of a collectibles game than anything. Y’know, you go around discovering and fighting and picking up Pokemon along the way. Well, the game quickly put me in my place. Not only was the game more complex than I expected, but it came with a full-on, RPG-y base and story to boot. And the Pokemon weren’t just things to simply hoard, they came off as individual creatures, each with fairly distinct personalities. Frankly, Pokemon LeafGreen had me floored. And hooked.

It wasn’t until I was well-seated in the game that I came to understand the importance of each Pokemon’s abilities and how they affected (in ways good and bad) not only general progression but also the team I had created. Eventually, I had to go out onto the World Wide Web of Knowledge in order to educate myself on Pokemon “types” — fire, water, dark, psychic, ghost, etc. And once I understood that, the game took on an entirely new perspective. Because up to that point, I really had been approaching the game from a collectible/adventure game standpoint. And it was certainly fun, but not very dramatic. (Also, my Pokemon died a lot, and often.) But after learning about types and their advantages and disadvantages in battle, I was forced to take that knowledge into account in the game, and things changed…for the better. After that, rather than sticking to and leveling up a set team of what we really the first Pokemon I found (outside of the starter), I started to form different teams and switch them out depending on who I was battling or what types of Pokemon were in a particular area. And while this didn’t make the game any easier (damn, there are a TON of Pokemon types!), it made it more satisfying and eventful.

It also made me consider much more closely the notions of forming strategies and properly using teammates to your advantage in many games I’ve played since.

Never in a million years would I have expected a game, let alone a Pokemon game, to wholly change my approach to gaming. I know that sounds overblown and dramatic, but it’s true. Pokemon hasn’t made me a better gamer, but it has helped me remember that I don’t always have to go it alone on impulse and a drive to simply finish. Because honestly, the best part of gaming is the journey.

Have I played (a) Pokemon (game)?

If yes, then do I consider it a “must?”
Well, maybe. This discussion kinda goes back around to the Chrono Trigger discussion of a couple weeks ago. I found playing Pokemon to be not only fun but also highly effective, but would anyone else discover the same? I don’t know, but y’know, I would say that, for any non-Pokemon gamers seeking to expand what they think they know about games, at least learning about what the Pokemon games offer is a must. Because they go far deeper than silly character designs and kids throwing magic balls around in grass.

If no, then do I want to play the game before I die?

Thank you all for allowing me to indulge my, um…creative talents in this oddball series. I had a great time writing about the games I knew and learning about those I didn’t. I want to revisit how this whole thing went in a post, but I need to take a step back first. So look for that postmortem in two weeks. Next week I’ll be featuring my plans for this blog in the new year.

🙂 <<<HUGS>>> 🙂


  1. Great finale to a fun series! I definitely think there is a great strategery element to the actual (original?) Pokemon game. I will admit that I judged this post *so hard* at first because I was thinking of Pokemon Go, which is by far not as strategically challenging (cough) as some of the original Pokemon games, in my humble little opinion. But I do agree that it’s a game worth checking out, or at least one that shouldn’t be dismissed right out of the gate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pokemon Go is an odd entry into the series. I enjoyed it for a little while, but, even with my limited knowledge of the Poke-verse, it didn’t feel at all like a Pokemon game. It just didn’t hold my interest. But I understand why it’s so popular. It also provides an introduction to what Pokemon are, so it could be a good place to start for the uninitiated.

      I may revive Play or Pass in some manner in the future; thanks for the kind words! But for now I’m glad to put it to rest. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome finale to an awesome series! It was a pleasure reading them. This was one was great as well. I like your thoughts on the “teamwork” aspect. What has always drawn me to the game is the bonds that I have made with the Pokemon. I know they’re not real, but it’s easy to think of it like a pet, sort of how some people like Nintendogs. Except these pets fight together, and I love it. I first started taking competitive Pokemon seriously around Generation 4 (Diamond/Pearl) and have been addicted to it since. My favorite part of any Pokemon game is the hundreds of hours I spend in postgame building teams and training them to be my own. Luckily, even for those who don’t do that, the game is still excellent. I wouldn’t say the original Pokemon games are a “must-play,” but everyone should try out at least one Pokemon game. It’s different from Chrono Trigger. Because no matter what anyone thinks about the franchise, it’s a phenomenon. So playing it actually helps to understand some cultural trends like when the Pokemon GO craze happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the fantastic comment! Agreed that everyone should at least try one game from the series. It is quite a bit different from naming a single, classic title as a “must” or not. Pokemon has evolved into something that’s greater than the sum of its parts, and it totally worth it for anyone to experience what it is to “play Pokemon.”

      While I don’t know that I strongly bonded to my Pokemon in LeafGreen, once I had formed a team that I liked, I definitely became protective of them. I never quite understood the whole” happiness” factor that is apparently an integral part of the games (all Pokemon games?); I never quite got hope I needed to keep my team “happy.” They succeeded nonetheless, but I likely missed out on an important part of the game. I’d very much like to pick up one of the modern Pokemon games someday to understand better what the series has become.

      I’m also well on the fringes when it comes to competitive Pokemon, but it’s awesome how people have come together over it, to form and build their own personal teams with which they form long-lasting relationships. I’m always curious to ask Pokemon fans what their “dream team” is — do you have one? It can be composed of any Pokemon from across the series.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hmm, a dream team. Funnily enough, I’ve never thought of it. I’ve made multiple teams and make it a point to train different competitive Pokemon each gen. I could tell you my favorite Pokemon, but I don’t know if that’s the same as naming a cohesive team. It’d probably consist of Charizard (Mega X version) and Starmie at the very least. I’d also have Salamence, Lucario, Greninja, and Minikyu.


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