Ever since Tomagotchi took the world by storm various companies have rallied to create the most appealing monster training game. At this point you can raise monsters on keychains, the Playstation, a PC and now Nintendo has gotten into the act with its version. Pokemon (short of Pocket Monster) is a nice little RPG where the purpose of the game is to collect all of the Pokemon that you can along with a number of badges that you win in combat. In a typical Nintendo marketing ploy, there are two different versions of the game (red and blue) and a third (yellow) on its way meaning you have to buy all of them to get all of the monsters. Actually, Nintendo did that to promote play with other people since you can acquire knowledge of the monsters over a link, but if you don't have any friends.
The play of the game is very simple, but utterly addictive. You start out with one Pokemon and explore a group of towns looking for other Pokemon to fight. Each of the monsters has its own character traits and a basic set of moves leaving advanced moves to be learned through experience or through training. The more experienced your monster is and the more moves that it knows, the better it will be in combat. So, the first monster that you acquire will most likely be the one that you never get rid of since it is going to be the most powerful.
On a surface level the game may seem repetitive and boring and in some respects it is, but the more that I played it the more I wanted to play it. Each monster is so fascinating and different from the other monsters that it does really make you want to "Catch 'em all" as the box says. The trouble is that to acquire a monster you have to beat it to two inches of its life and then capture it with a Poke ball. So, when you do finally capture it, it is practically dead. Once you have it though you will find that each monster is very unique and there are so many different species of monster that there is a chart which details which type of monster is best to attack every other kind of monster. This is very helpful especially if you want to fight a friend's monster, a major selling point of the game.
Pokemon plays just like a role-playing game only instead of building up your own character you are building up monsters'. There are special items to find, secrets to unlock, and worlds to explore. There are also a great number of items and potions that can change each monster's state. Some boost health, some give it a new move to learn, and some give it an advantage in battle. It is all of these variations on a simple theme that make Pokemon so addictive. While you are playing, the only thing that really keeps you going is finding more and doing more.
What was annoying about the game is that it seems like they did not invest enough time into the single player aspects. The whole game revolves around capturing and building up monsters to use in combat with someone else. It would be great if there were some puzzle elements or something else for the Pokemon to do besides fight. This would kill the monotony of just having to fight all of the time.
So if you are a big fan of Monster Rancher or just tired of carrying around you Virtual Pet and listening to it whine, grab a copy of Pokemon for Gameboy. Soon there will be a way to use your monsters on the N64 in a Pokemon stadium. Until then you will have to settle on kicking the crap out of your Gameboy opponents. A last piece of advice: don't buy any monsters from the old man; he's a swindler. I found that out the hard way.
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