Pokemon has a brilliant mechanical narrative where you're encouraged to treat your pokemon as living creatures, and use them to fashion an identity for yourself... or at least that's how it works in theory. In practice, do Pokemon's mechanics actually work... and is Ian Bogost right to suggest that maybe chasing after narrative in games is a lost cause?
Reload the Canons! is an ongoing Storming the Ivory Tower project where I play through The Canon of videogames. Except I'm not playing the original games. Instead, I'm playing only remakes, remixes, and weird fan projects. This is the canon of games as seen through the eyes of fans, and I'm going to treat fan games as what they are: legitimate works of art in their own right that deserve our analysis and respect. You can support Reload the Canons! and my other projects on the Storming the Ivory Tower Patreon.
- Battles don't last all that long in practice, so status effects seem to have much less importance than they might otherwise.
- If you're weak to an opponent, in practice you're doing a quarter of the damage they're doing to you a bunch of the time, making damage races a disaster.
- This means that in practice battles are often a rock-paper-scissors battle between power types. Strategy in the game consists therefore of having a spreadsheet open so you can refer at all times to the breakdown of what type attacks are super effective against your opponents, competing against the damage race generated by that killer quarter damage.
- The dead turn it takes to switch between pokemon means that damage races are further disasters if you're weaker or focused on status effects. Switching pokemon means you lose critical momentum, and there's a chance that effects like sleep may wear off by the time you've switched out your, uh, wizard pokemon let's say for your paladin.
- The curve for leveling seems to be such that outside of a few levels difference victory swings heavily on just who's got that slight boost in stats.