Of Remakes and Reimaginings

In the grim darkness of the far future, Pokemon is still trash.

I didn’t expect to be writing an article about Pokemon. I thought I’d scrubbed my entire life of this stupid franchise after the whole Pokedex fiasco; after all, at 23 years of age it just isn’t worth putting time and energy into a game that: a) isn’t even aimed at you anymore, and b) isn’t really that fun nowadays. I was so wrong: Pokemon is an immovable pop-culture fixture in CURRENT YEAR, and consequently there’s no avoiding the inevitable hype train barreling through each and every online community in existence.

Absolutely disgusting. Let’s just get this over and done with.

I know what you’re asking: “Node, if you hate Pokemon so much, why write an article about it?” My answer comes in two parts: firstly I’d be lying if I said that this blog was going to be about nice things all the time, and secondly there’s new Pokemon stuff coming out; namely Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (remakes of the fourth generation of the franchise’s mainline games), as well as a project called Pokemon Legends Arceus (something else). The former titles were highly anticipated by the fanbase, and with good reason: their original counterparts pushed nearly two million copies within the first week of release, and in my case, I remember the games very fondly from when I purchased my copy alongside with my brand-new Nintendo DS.

Pokemon Diamond Version (v1.13) (E)(Independent) ROM
By the way, if you’re not familiar already, Pokemon is a game where you catch monsters and make them fight each other.

Diamond and Pearl also laid the framework for their generation’s improved “third version”, Platinum, and HeartGold and SoulSilver, games which I consider the absolute peak of the entire franchise. I’m biased, though, since HeartGold and SoulSilver are actually remakes of Gold and Silver; second-generation games that were released on the Game Boy Color in 1999, and that also happened to be the first Pokemon games I’ve ever owned.

Remaking games isn’t a “new” thing in the Pokemon sphere: Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are part of a tradition that started when the original 1996 games Red, Green and Blue were remade for the Game Boy Advance as FireRed and LeafGreen. I was fortunate enough to be there as most of them were announced, and my reactions to them usually ranged from “holy fucking piss” to “oh, that’s cool”.

These new remakes are different, however. The only thing I could think of when watching the teaser for the new games is: “why?” There are some people that agree with me, however I’m pretty sure my opinion is incongruent with the majority of Pokemon fans, like this special person:

I get it; by acknowledging Twitter’s opinion, I’ve already lost.

This is a shit take. Let me explain why.

I’m not going to go into a full history lesson about a monster collection game, but let’s just compare screenshots of all the Pokemon games that received remakes:

Generation I (GB Red/Green/Blue & GBA FireRed/LeafGreen)

Looking back to 1996 with Pokemon Red and Green - The ...
An orange lizard with a flame on its tail is on the bottom left, battling a blue turtle with a brown shell in the top right. At the very bottom is a text box, giving players four options (fight, use an item, change to another creature, run from the battle) they can usescene, the Pokémon at the top right of the screen is the opponent's; the Pokémon at the bottom left is the players. The player's options are shown at the bottom right.
Pokemon Fire Red (U)(Squirrels) ROM

Generation II (GBC Gold/Silver & NDS HeartGold/SoulSilver)

Pokemon - Gold Version (USA, Europe) ROM
Pokemon Gold Version Download Game | GameFabrique
Pokémon Go could soon let you farm for candies by walking
Pokemon - SoulSilver Version (U) ROM

Generation III (GBA Ruby/Sapphire & 3DS Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire)

Pokemon Ruby Screenshots | GameFabrique
Pokemon Ruby Version (USA, Europe) GBA ROM - CDRomance
Buy Pokemon Omega Ruby Nintendo 3DS Download Code Compare ...
Pokemon Omega Ruby (for Nintendo 3DS) Review & Rating ...

I find that in this case, pictures speak a lot more than words. A remake, at least in the traditional Pokemon sense, doesn’t just re-release an old game on current hardware: it realizes the original vision for that game to (roughly) its fullest extent using the current generation’s technology. Whether it’s the settings of Kanto, Johto, or Hoenn, their games’ remakes bring those worlds to life with the increased graphical fidelity made available to them, and the player gets to see something closer to what the original developers might have imagined all those years ago. In that sense, it’s more of a reimagining than a remake.

So with that in mind, let’s look at what Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl bring to the table compared to their original games from 2006:

Generation IV (NDS Diamond/Pearl & NSW Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl)

Play Nintendo DS Pokemon - Diamond Version (USA) (Rev 5 ...
Pokémon Diamond - Nintendo DS (US) ROM Download

Sure, the graphics have improved significantly since 2006, but… why’d they keep the lo-fi chibi aesthetic? It made sense back then, where sprites could only be so large, but there’s no reason for it to be designed like this now, especially after games like Sun and Moon or even Sword and Shield showed that new Pokemon games no longer needed to conform to this aesthetic at all.

Pokémon Sun (Nintendo 3DS) - A Detailed Review » CelJaded
Pokemon Sun: so bright, so vibrant, and with dynamic camera angles!
Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield Announced For Nintendo ...
For all of Sword/Shield’s failings, I’d rather have a Sinnoh that looked like this over what we got.

I get it: Game Freak, or ILCA, or whoever, they wanted to achieve a remake that was faithful to the original Diamond and Pearl experience introduced 14 years ago. However, I’d argue that there’s a distinction from being faithful and being the same. The remakes preceding Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl weren’t brought down by improving on the visuals, so why try to do it now?

It’s a running joke that Game Freak always takes one step forward and two steps back when it comes to making games; it seems like that curse has spread to the developers they’re outsourcing, too. Get your shit together, guys. Fuck.

Now, this alone isn’t really a reason to condemn these games– I’m working solely off of visuals, and there’s plenty more to hate about Pokemon and its degeneration as a franchise. It’s just another example of the powers that be refusing to take Pokemon into ambitious new heights– and I guess part of that is because Game Freak was never a large enough studio to make those kinds of leaps.

I don’t know. Fuck this shitty game and the two decades of my life I’ve sunk into it.

There is a silver lining to this, however. This is what Legends looks like.

Legends is going to be set in the same region as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, though in a different era. The game looks closer to what I’d imagine a fourth-generation remake should look like– a reimagining of the Sinnoh region. Sure, I have my gripes, but visually the game at least looks more lively than Sword and Shield ever did. This is a spinoff, though, and it looks like they’re deviating from typical Pokemon gameplay just from the trailer, so cautious optimism is all that I can afford to it. Maybe we’re seeing the beginnings of a redemption arc, who knows?

Anyway, these games are coming out whenever. I don’t know if I’ll buy them; I don’t even recommend that you go out and buy them. Not until they’re released and, you know, playable. I mean, they’re probably going to be okay, but I will bet you money that okay is all they’ll ever be. For me, okay is no longer enough.

As always, thanks for reading, and hopefully this is the last Pokemon article I’ll ever want to write.

2 thoughts on “Of Remakes and Reimaginings

  1. The last Pokémon article you’ll ever write? Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha! Ha. Silly mortal, you have Pokémon brainworms and they are living deep inside your cerebral cortex, sending to dopamine whenever anything reminds you of Pokémon. This condition cannot be cured, only managed.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: