Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Day 167

I was going to talk about the entertaining 2003 version of Zatoichi that a classmate asked us to watch, but I'm always rambling about films, so instead I'm gonna jump on the chance to talk about another medium of entertainment.

The other week I was happily persuaded to pre-order the new Pokemon Black (or Pokémon Black, as show-offs call it) on the Nintendo DS. I played it for three hours in the sun and then went directly to Script Editing, which confused my brain a bit. Anyway, my brain is enjoying Pokemon Black, though it doesn't blow your teeth out or anything.

The same storyline has run through each Pokemon game since 1995. You're a young boy or girl who lives with Mom in a picturesque backwater village in a world inhabited by Pokemon, colourful creatures that look like wonky doggies and piggies and birdies and so on. From a kindly professor you get your first ever Pokemon, and so begins the coming of age ritual: embarking on a journey on whose path you battle your Pokemon with other people's. Like cockfighting, except with less feathers and squawking.

In each game you also have a rival whose story is much more interesting than yours. This is because your character is flawless, well-adjusted and mute, whereas your rival always stumbles into a curiously dark spiral of despair primarily based on an abundance of ambition and a lack of love.

The structure of the journey consists of winning a badge from every Pokemon Gym in every town in order to defeat the Champion. Running alongside this journey is a gang of stupidly-dressed bad guys who want to take over the world. But on more than one occasion the bad guys have had strangely environmental or noble agendas. In Pokemon Black, for instance, "Team Plasma" (isn't "plasma" a sort of watery colourless fluid in your blood?) believe that Trainers battling Pokemon is cruel, because the Pokemon get hurt.

The idea is that the rightness and wrongness is ambiguous. The world isn't black and white, so it doesn't force you to choose.

I chose Pokemon Black by the way.

Other than the pleasing 3D swooping and the embarassing in-game Nintendo propeganda, what stands out the most is that this time they've attempted to ensure that you don't go on your great adventure alone. You have your two best friends with you, and although they disappear and reappear, the implication is that you're all backpacking together and meet up every night for a Pikachu Pie or whatever it is they eat in this world.

You do have to be a bit shameless to play Pokemon, but it's semi-aimed at people my age. When I was 11 my cousin introduced me to the very first Pokemon game on the monochrome Gameboy in Australia, so like Spiderman or Batman the makers have to please (and thank) the oldies. Pokemon does this with satirical nods to past versions, and a general tongue-in-cheek tone throughout the dialogue.

It's a masterful and endearing little game, and it's very easy to get sucked in and happily ignore phone calls and homework, but luckily that phase passes quickly. Still, I highly recommend it to anyone whose foot really really hurts because you stubbed it on the side of the pavement on the way back from campus.

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