by Shawn McFadden
Pokemon is one of gaming's most popular long running franchises and it's easy to see why. It now has a 600+ roster of cute collectable monsters that have captured the hearts of millions across the world. What is special about the Pokemon franchise though, is how much hidden depth there is when you look underneath the hood of its seemingly simple battle mechanics. This is why Pokemon has one of the most dedicated competitive battling communities out of any game. There is even an entire website and forum dedicated to battling Pokemon competitively. Go over to http://www.smogon.com/ to check it out. These guys have thought of everything. They have divided Pokemon into specific tiers for each generation of games, offer sample competitive move sets for each Pokemon and even have a battle simulation program for the PC where you can build a team and test them out against people online. It's truly an impressive community.
After first being introduced to the world of competitive Pokemon by my friend who had wiped the floor with me with a Vaporeon that had seemingly infinite regenerative health, I wanted to give it a try. After spending some time going over sample movesets and tier lists and selecting Pokemon I wanted to train, I realized something: Nintendo makes it a pain in the ass to play competitively. Seriously, it seems like Game Freak knows exactly what it takes to make each Pokemon good and does their due diligence to make it especially difficult and time consuming to accomplish your goals. I am just going to say that I am by no means a Pokemon expert, but I am just going to go over my experiences with the series and what Nintendo could do to improve their future games.
The first thing that bothers me about the Pokemon games is that all competitive battling revolves around game mechanics that are hidden. Ever hear of EVs and IVs? If you have, you certainly didn't hear about them from playing the actual games. EV stands for Effort Value. Essentially, an effort value is what controls which stats are raised during the leveling process. Each Pokemon has a total of 510 EVs with 255 points maxing out a particular stat. EVs are obtained whenever you defeat certain wild Pokemon. For example, when you kill one Patrat (Or Rattata if you're old school), you will get one EV added to your Pokemon's Attack stat. This means that to max out your attack stat, you would have to fight 255 of these particular Pokemon and make sure that you don't fight any Pokemon who would give you the wrong EV points. Yeah, that doesn't sound fun. There are items that will delete EVs, but it is all done in such a roundabout way that it begs to question why we can't just go in and pay PokeDollars to simply edit our EVs. It's also very puzzling that Nintendo does not even acknowledge the existence of EVs in the actual game, even though they are so vital to creating an effective team. That's not all though. Nintendo added items that sharply decrease how long it takes to EV train. Well, they would if Game Freak didn't make them such a pain in the ass to get. They do offer you the Macho brace in the game that is relatively easy to get. This item doubles the amount of EV points that are gained from every battle. This may sound like it helps but it still takes freaking forever. If you really want to cut down on your training time, you will want to get the set of "Power Bracelet" items. These add +4 to a specified stat after every battle. This means that if you have the "Power Bracer" and you fight a Patrat, you will get five attack EVs, instead of one. The only problem is that in order to acquire these items, you need to go through the painfully boring "Battle Subway." These are a set of ten battles which reward you with BP or "Battle Points." These Battle Points let you redeem prizes, such as the much sought after bracers. You will have to battle long enough to get one of these items for each stat in the game, so it will take a painfully large amount of time. This is also the only way to get popular competitive battling items, such as the "Life Orb", which sharply raises attack but makes you take recoil damage every time you attack. The only problem with the Battle Subway is that if you lose any battles, you receive nothing. You don't even gain experience for these battles so you just feel like you wasted your time! That's really crappy, Nintendo. Why add more grinding to a game already reliant on it?
That's only beginning though. You want to make a good team? You better get used to running around for hours and hours by the breeder, hatching eggs and releasing garbage Pokemon in order to save room in your boxes. IVs or Individual Values are very important when it comes to maxing out the stats of your Pokemon. IVs are essentially values that a Pokemon is born with that can give a stat boost to certain stats. Check Serebii for more information on them. The one thing that annoys me about this, is that there is no in-game way to check a Pokemon's IVs. In order to determine IVs, you have to use an online IV calculator. Is there any reason why a game mechanic should be so secretive? The only real way to guess a Pokemon's IVs are their characteristics. These can be found in their stat menus. For instance, if you are training a Pokemon in HP, you will want to get the characteristic "Often Dozes Off" for your best chances in having the highest possible HP IVs (It offers the chance for an IV value of 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, or 31). Sound confusing? Well, it kind of is. Along with characteristics, Pokemon also have Natures. Natures raise and lower a particular stat by 10%. This means that if you are planning to make a powerful physical attacker, you could use a nature that raises Attack and lowers Special Attack. So, now you have to get a Pokemon with a good Nature and a good Characteristic and then use an IV calculator, all to make sure your Pokemon has max stats. There are 30 different characteristics and 25 different natures. This means that there are 750 possible combinations. There are ways to raise the chances of getting the nature or characteristic that you want, but still. That's a huge pain. Can't there be a way to train a previous Pokemon to behave in a certain way or pick a specific stat to train for at the breeder? There are so many ways they could make it easier for people who know what they are doing to make an effective team. Besides all this madness, there are also moves that specific Pokemon cannot learn without the use of breeding. Why is this the case?? If a Pokemon has the ability to use a move, then let them use it! To add insult to injury, there are certain TM (This stands for Technical Machine, which lets certain Pokemon learn certain moves that they normally wouldn't learn via leveling) that do not appear in later versions of the game. This means that you need to boot up an older version of the game, like Diamond and Pearl, breed your Pokemon, and THEN trade them over.
This may sounds like me complaining, but creating a great competitive team simply has too high of a price when it comes to time. Normally, I would be fine with this but it doesn't need to take hundreds of hours to create a good team. Nintendo needs to find ways accommodate their hardcore fans. Give us the opportunity to edit EVs and IVs. Let us breed for specific natures and characteristics. Let us have access to TMs for every move in the game. And please, for the love of God, fix your online battling system. No more friend codes and let us play 6v6 against random people. Let's hope they throw us a bone in X & Y.