Not too long ago, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company pulled a fast one and announced New Pokémon Snap, a reimagining of some kind of the beloved, uh, “old” Pokémon Snap. A revisit to this game is something fans have been begging for for well over a decade now. If you were an outsider and judged just from some fan reactions, you wouldn’t be mistaken if you thought this was the first time in the history of forever that The Pokémon Company did anything fans asked for.
Asking every single fan of one of the largest entertainment franchises in the world to behave is perhaps a bit much, but while some fan hype has been a bit wild of late, the joyous reaction to the Pokémon Snap news was a reminder that Pokémon has perhaps as many incredible side games as it does main series games. The world of Pokémon is, ironically, something core games don’t really get into terribly much, but it does leave any side or spin-off games with a breadth of both freedom to fill the gaps and the necessary means to do so. I mean, there are, what, almost 900 Pokémon now?
Despite being a derider of the original Pokémon Snap for a number of years, I truly hope this new version does well and takes more than a weekend to beat. But I’m not in a celebratory mood. Yes, there are plenty of games in this financial juggernaut of a franchise that deserve another look in this age of revisiting the old, but what about the ones that have no business being taken out of the PC and thrown into the party? Today I’m here to take a look at some of the bigger lemons hidden in Nintendo’s vault that, for one reason or another, should stay there.
Quick note in that I’m only going to be referencing games or series that have been exported to the rest of the world and nothing that didn’t leave Japan.
4. Pokémon Dash
A DS title released worldwide in 2005, Pokémon Dash is aptly titled because, disappointingly, that’s all there is to it. You play as Pikachu and only Pikachu as you use your stylus to dash through checkpoints and over obstacles through a series of race tracks. This isn’t too much like some of the PokéAthelon games from Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver, ironically the best remakes in the entire series.
To say one would “hate” this game feels a bit unwarranted given how relatively simple it is in both concept and practice, but it is probably the least fun you can have doing anything Pokémon related (unless you wanted to play Pokémon Quest). There is nothing to do but tap the screen, make sure you hit checkpoints in the right order, go to the next race. It has some neat concepts like the Pikachu hot air balloon that serves as an adorable visual on the opening screen as well as an in-race mechanic. And of course being so simple and aimed at an even younger audience than the core games, you don’t race against anything but a select crop of the “cute” Pokémon. There is nothing wrong with that, but with the idea of a Pokémon race, you wouldn’t be out of line thinking back to that cool episode of the original anime or wanting to compete against (or on) a Charizard or something.
Maybe I ask too much, as from the premise, you can see there isn’t much to this game and that perhaps I’m picking on a kid who can’t really defend themselves. But hear me out – from this simple premise bears the potential fruit of a remake on the mobile games market. Reports surfaced this year that Nintendo are slowing down their efforts in mobile games, and there’s already a racing game from them in that field in Mario Kart Dash. But I can’t help but think for one second that Nintendo wouldn’t take one look at their little yellow mascot and try to put him in a microtransaction laden game. For that possible idea alone, I hope it stays locked away.
3. Pokémon Puzzle League
Another game that kind of tells you all you need to know from the title, Pokémon Puzzle League is more or less the Pokémon version of Tetris that was released on the Nintendo 64 in 2000. It even comes complete with Gym Leader challenges and Team Rocket, being based more on the equally popular anime rather than the core series games.
It isn’t a bad game at all, but it didn’t really need to be anything good considering it was released at the height of Pokémania. I remember this game being plastered everywhere in the magazines and comics I used to read, which kind of leaves it in my mind of maybe the most hyped mediocre game from my childhood. That said, like any puzzle game, there is room for plenty of skill at the most insane difficulty levels, which I guess is in line with the series’ entire long-running appeal.
This one is here less on its quality and looking more at the fact that it would be redundant if it came back to the current PokéMarket. While there is no sequel or remake with this exact name, the spirit of this game is still felt in the Pokémon Trozei/Link, Pokémon Shuffle, and most recently Pokémon Cafe Mix series of match-em-up puzzle games. Both series of games, despite their straightforward premises, have a surprising deal of depth to them. Too bad the latter two are limited play-style, puts a bit of a damper on their addictive puzzle-ness. Oh well.
Oh, and take notes on that “redundant” idea because we will be revising that very shortly.
2. Hey You, Pikachu!
Ah, here we go. This is quite possibly one of the most frustrating games I have ever played.
Upon the announcement of New Pokémon Snap, a friend of mine openly questioned if they would bring this game back, to which I promptly got war flashbacks and opened up a can of rage I didn’t know I had apparently repressed for twenty years.
Hey You, Pikachu! is a virtual pet game for the N64 released at the turn of the millennium that was built entirely around you speaking into a microphone to communicate with a Pikachu to aid the little fella on his adventures. And he has quite a few, all of which sort of tie together to make a very loose narrative. It is also a game made from the candy cane wands of sugar plum fairies, as it’s completely saccharine and almost completely devoid of conflict beyond “Help Pikachu find the thing!”
These are not the things that made the game enraging for me; in fact, I would more than welcome a game like this in the unforgiving year that is 2020. What made it infuriating was the fact that voice recognition in video games was not exactly a perfected craft in the year 2000. Hell, it’s a rarely used mechanic even now. So when you have a game that relies entirely on that unpolished mechanic, it gets frustrating super fast when it never bloody works, no matter how cute and adorable the game is.
Because the game is so syrupy sweet, you can advance without even doing anything. But this on-rails sort of thing left me confused as to what was even happening because nothing was explained. Despite this advancement, I never felt I was accomplishing anything at all because of the terrible voice recognition. Screaming “Pikachu, pick the herb” over and over so you can complete Bulbasaur’s recipe that the game never tells you all the ingredients for but you wouldn’t know that because Internet wasn’t a thing for kids back then while the yellow rodent blissfully ignores you because he’s just so enamored by the Oddish that popped up out of the ground is an energy I wouldn’t wish even on my worst enemies.
Don’t even get me started on the river mission where you have to wrangle a herd of baby Poliwag while a Haunter creeps around and constantly scares them away. Nintendo, leave this game back with the Y2K craze, please.
1. Pokémon Stadium/Stadium 2
And here we come back around to the Department of Redundancy Department. Also, before you hurl the venom, hear me out.
I have been a Pokémon fan since they came to the States. This franchise is perhaps my favorite thing to ever exist, period. Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Stadium 2 are probably two of my favorite games of all time, and undoubtedly the most difficult games I have ever had the joy of beating 100%. I am not alone in this love for the Stadium games, as these are probably some of the most often requested remakes by fans. But a remake of these games is entirely pointless.
The biggest draw of the Stadium games lied in two particular points. One was the ability to see your 8-to-16-bit creatures come to life with full 3D rendering. The other was satisfying the need for a more polished competitive scene, as the one of Pokémon’s early days was nowhere near what it would become. Both of these ideas are more than satisfied with the current games.
Every game from the sixth generation (Pokémon X and Y) forward has Pokémon models fully rendered in 3D, much more fluidly than the somewhat clunky N64 models. While there has been some fan ire at said models and their potential animations, this is such a beautiful thing, at least to me. Again, starting from where Pokémon came from to see Pokémon up and walking around in their natural habitats in Shield & Sword’s Wild Area is a genuine treat. I don’t need a Stadium remake for that; it’s already commonplace.
For the second point, as I kind of hinted at, Pokémon’s meta and competitive scene has evolved so bloody much from the first and second gens. While the Stadium games sort of gave us an early primer for what would become mainstay competitive rules and regulations, we have come so far that going back to anything these games had going on would maybe be a step back. Well what if you want to be competitive, but don’t want to play with other people? This was my big thing because, growing up, single-player was my flavor. The base games have long addressed this too, even from one of the games Stadium covers in Pokémon Crystal.
The Battle Tower and all its divergent forms in every single generation since gives everyone the chance to go head-to-head with competitive minded AIs so they can either enjoy playing against them solo or as practice for actual battles against other players. If you even want to argue something like the cool atmosphere of battling in a packed arena, the latest games have also given us battles inside football arenas. In many ways, Shield & Sword stealthily might have been the Stadium/Colosseum remakes we all wanted all along – right down to the restricted PokéRosters. A smaller, additional point has also been muted – additional storage space for all your Pokémon. With services like Pokémon Bank and Pokémon Home, we no longer need this function as well.
In a sense, the DNA of the Stadium games have stayed with the entire franchise and kind of keeps pollinating each new installment, which I think might be even better than a remake.
But this is all just one dude’s grumpy rambling. Did I miss any games that shouldn’t come back around? Did you happen to have a good time playing Hey You, Pikachu? Do you not respect the opinions of someone who considers the Stadium games “difficult?” Let us know in the comments.
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