[23 April 2014]
The Pokemon series has always been known for collection, so much so that the series’s catch phrase is “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.” As the games have evolved, the word “All” has become more and more inclusive and vague, going from 151 individual pokemon to over 700. What once seemed like a difficult, but feasible goal in the turn based strategy game is slowly becoming an impossibility. Despite this, the main draws of the series remain the same, the simple turn based design, the cute creatures, and the vast variety of pokemon that the player can catch and add to their team.
Pokemon Battle Trozei, despite being a puzzle spin-off game, stays true to most of the tenets of the Pokemon series. The gameplay is very simple, similar to a slightly shorter and more focused Bejeweled, the cute monsters are in the forefront, and the player’s main drive is to “catch ‘em all,” as the game manages to combine collecting pokemon with puzzle elements. The player even battles monsters to catch them, just like in the main game. Yet, despite mirroring the main game well, Pokemon Battle Trozei misses why people want to collect, and thus collection becomes an almost meaningless endeavor in the game.
The gameplay in the main Pokemon games contributes to the desire of the player to collect. The player begins with only one pokemon and the main drive of the game is catching more with the purpose of creating a team to battle other trainers and become a “Pokemon Master.” Each pokemon has a different moveset and different strengths and weaknesses and can be useful as long as the player is creative. Thus, collecting isn’t just about fulfilling some internal desire to collect, but rather it is a practical approach to beating the game and to fully enjoying the gameplay.
Other games that have a successful collection system follow the idea that what the player collects should have some sort of pragmatic value. League of Legends, allows the player to collect champions, each of which has his or her own unique strengths and weaknesses and completely different movesets. Gaining a new champion means more unique gameplay opportunity and adds to the replay value of the game, just like in Pokemon. In short, collecting doesn’t exist just for the sake of collecting, but to enhance an already deep game.
Pokemon Battle Trozei completely misses this fundamental part of collecting. While there is some incorporation of pushing collection and gameplay together, it is almost meaningless in the scope of the game. As the player ropes around the wild catching pokemon, they can add a single pokemon that they’ve caught to their team (think of it as collecting and adding different minerals to your Bejeweled game) that will help them catch and do more damage as they rack up combos. This has almost no effect on the gameplay though, and “catching ‘em all” has even less. Only a few pokemon are truly viable because one group (legendary pokemon) do nearly three times as much damage as all the others, and you can catch them right away. So the combination of gameplay and collection, despite intentions otherwise, just becomes collection for collection’s sake.
I don’t have a solution for how to combine the puzzle nature of Pokemon Battle Trozei with the strong themes of collection present in the Pokemon main series, but this is certainly not it. Despite featuring robust puzzle gameplay, nearly every other element of Pokemon Battle Trozei, especially the collection aspect(which is what sets it apart from its predecessor), seems tacked on instead of fully thought out. This may be the nature of spin-off games, but it feels painful here.