Thursday, November 20, 2014

Yes, I Play a Children's Card Game (In Video Game Form)

It's finally out!

After school, my friends and I would take our Pokémon binders up to my treehouse and marvel at our collection. Mainly buying packs to look at the pretty pictures, we hadn’t the faintest idea how to actually play the Pokémon Trading Card game. Usually we’d put down cards and yell out attacks without any regard to energy costs, evolutions, or prize cards. For years, I’d continue to buy packs just to look at the pretty pictures until Pokémon released TCG Online back in the Black and White era. Realizing how much fun the actual game was, I quickly gathered my stockpile of old cards to build decks. Needless to say, there aren’t many players that stick to the old base set. The best place to get my old-school fix was with the Gameboy Pokémon TCG game, but was more elusive than Mew thanks to its rarity and unusually high price. That is, until now thanks to its release on the 3DS Virtual Console this past week.

Pikachu, the Science Pokémon.
The story of the Pokémon TCG game is pretty simple. You’re a card player sent on a journey to collect the 8 medals from club leaders to challenge the 4 grandmasters and eventually defeat your rival to inherit the legendary cards and become the champion. Wait…isn’t this basically the same story as Red and Blue? At least there’s no evil team trying to steal people’s cards, but Imakuni’s creepy enough to be considered evil in my opinion. And what the heck is up with the Science Club? Every other club is based on a Pokémon type, but I can’t wrap my head around why they would have a science-themed club. Don’t tell me they plan to release a new Science-Type Pokémon.

Navigating the menus takes some getting used to.
The Pokémon TCG game serves as a decent intro for the card game. At the beginning, Sam the lab assistant plays a practice duel with you. The practice duel goes through the basic steps of how to win, but since I played the card game before I just breezed through it. One thing I noticed was that the tutorial wasn’t as thorough as I’d expect. For instance, the practice duel doesn’t go into details about special conditions like paralysis and poison. There are some guides outside the practice duel that you can read in-game, but who wants to do that! The practice duel is mainly handy to familiarize yourself with the interface. The Gameboy can’t fit the entire play area onscreen, so it’s somewhat harrowing to navigate through menus without some practice.

Like my adventure in Pokémon Red, I started my journey by picking Bulbasaur…or in this case the Bulbasaur and Friends deck. Fun fact, this deck contained Venusaur, my all-time favorite card. I mentioned it on a past post but I have a Base Set Venusaur in real life that I got from the same friend I use to have treehouse battles with. Originally, the idea was to get Venusaur out as quickly as possible and abuse Energy Trans to switch Grass energies around. Unfortunately, evolution wasn’t the solution as setting up took way too much time. I’d find myself on the receiving end of Blastoise’s Rain Dance infused shenanigans before I could even evolve to Ivysaur. I’d have to adopt a new deck, and that meant abandoning Venusaur.
It's not me, it's you. Sorry buddy.
You can't escape my Special Punch!
A while back, I remember reading about a “Haymaker” deck and thought about building one for myself. Basically, Haymaker decks consist of big basic Pokémon like Scyther, Electabuzz and Hitmonchan. While it might seem like an odd combination with no real type synergy, a Haymaker deck is quite devastating thanks to its quick setup time. Pokémon in a Haymaker deck feature strong attacks with very little energy cost, so Hitmonchan can start hitting right off the bat for 20 damage. While that might not sound as impressive as Charizard’s Fire Spin for 100, keep in mind it takes a minimum of 2 turns if you got all the right cards in hand. By the time your first Charizard is ready to go, Hitmonchan knocked out 3 other Pokémon and you now trail significantly behind in the prize card count. Because of their aggressive playstyle, Haymaker decks pretty much shut down every other strategy. The early metagame of the TCG was dominated by big basics, which is kind of a reflection of today’s metagame with cards like Mewtwo-EX. While there are better cards and new rules to help counter big basics, the early metagame certainly wasn’t balanced. Pretty much every Pokémon was Hitmonchan’s punching bag. And to think, back in the day I had every card needed to make a formidable Haymaker deck in real life!

You're lucky you have a good theme, jerk!
After cutting the competition with Scyther, clobbering my way to the top with Hitmonchan, and (insert dumb electric pun) with Electabuzz, I managed to beat the 4 Grandmasters when SURPRISE SURPRISE, my rival Ronald already beat them and I have to defeat him to inherit the legendary cards. I used to think Gary was a jerk, but this guy takes it to a whole new level. Seriously dude we’re playing a children’s card game, no need for the smack talk. I kicked his sorry butt anyways thanks in part to his wide array of Normal-Types that are extremely weak to Hitmonchan. After about 10 hours of my weekend, I claim the overhyped legendary cards for myself and my journey is over.

Looking back, Pokémon TCG felt a little too easy. Granted, a Haymaker deck really is overpowered, but I just didn’t feel satisfied with my victory. With Virtual Console titles on the 3DS, a lack of multiplayer features means you’re stuck challenging the same computers so there’s not much variety in battles. Still, it was a joy to visit this blast from the past. I gained an appreciation for the fun, albeit broken, origin of the Pokémon TCG.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Get Ready for the Next (Pokémon) Battle!

Namco and Pokémon officially announced their marriage of fighting games and Pokémon, two of my favorite things in video games, and I couldn’t be more excited! Pokkén Tournament, a mix of Tekken gameplay with Pokémon, is planned for an arcade release for Japan in 2015. There’s no confirmation of a console release yet, but judging by Namco’s history of releasing fighters like Tekken on arcades first, it’s safe to assume a console release is inevitable. Worried that Pokkén Tournament will remain a Japan-exclusive? Pokémon Conquest was a cross-over between Pokémon and Nobunaga’s Ambitions, which is a rarely known series outside of Japan. If that got an international release, I’m sure Pokkén Tournament will.

 The first trailer show Lucario and Machamp duking it out in the countryside. A flurry of punches an Aura Spheres are thrown in this otherwise peaceful backdrop. While Pokkén Tournament’s fighting style is similar to Tekken, there also seems to be a hint of Dragon Ball Z fighting games like Raging Blast. In one scene, Lucario’s back is completely turned to the camera as he wales on Machamp. While characters in Tekken can circle around an opponent, their back never turns completely against the camera. Taking cues from DBZ fighting games might be a good way to balance the projectile-based attacks used in Pokémon.
Side-by-side comparison of Pokkén Tournament and DBZ Raging Blast
Ready to bust a move! Credit to Zweilous on Tumblr
Character selection make or break a fighting game, which Namco in the past has handled well. We already know that Lucario, Machamp, and Blaziken (teased at the Pokémon Game Show in 2013) are confirmed, so there’s definitely an emphasis on Fighting-type Pokémon. With that in mind, Hitmontop and Heracross would be my top choices for contenders. Yes, I’ll admit my choice is biased due to being my favorite Fighting-types, but they would bring welcome diversity. Hitmontop just screams Eddy Gordo! Heracross could play a mixed set, utilizing physical contact moves like Close Combat in his normal form, and then Mega Evolve to use more projectile attacks like Pin Missile.

If he can fight in Smash Bros, he can fight here
Hopefully, Pokkén Tournament will expand its roster to include more than Fighting-type Pokémon. It’d be a shame to miss out on powerhouses like Charizard and Tyranitar. It wouldn’t even take much to imagine their moveset. They got claws, they got a big tail, Charizard can fly and breathe fire, Tyranitar can throw rocks and cause earthquakes, they got all they need to be perfect fighters. Other hopefuls for me include Greninja, Mewtwo, and Shiftry.

*UPDATE: Pokkén Tournament producer Katsuhiro Harada confirmed via Twitter that other types besides Fighting will be represented. There's hope for Charizard! 
Tekken does a great job of including joke characters like Kuma and Roger Jr. and still making them play well. At first, I couldn’t think of a Pokémon that would work well in this game while being somewhat of a joke. Then it hit me, like a stick to the head.

It’s not a farfetched concept to imagine. Farfetch’d could use his stick to attack, kick up dirt with Sand-Attack, and peck things with his bill. The hype would be unreal if Farfetch’d won EVO! While the final decision of characters is up to Pokémon and Namco, a man can dream. But Farfetch’d would be pretty sweet.

While there isn’t much information, I’d expect in the coming months to hear more about Pokkén Tournament and what the King of the Pokémon Fist Tournament will bring. I’m excited about the first Pokémon fighting game, and know it’ll do well in Namco’s hands.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Become a Pokémon Master (In Real Life)

Pokémon Worlds. In a sense, it’s like challenging the Elite Four and Champion at the Pokémon League. The countless hours training are put to the test fighting against the best of the best. There’s no turning back, you can only hope for the best with the team you brought and just keep moving forward. While I didn’t attend this year’s competition, I enjoyed watching the stream and seeing how much the community has evolved since my last foray in 2011. Pokémon Worlds offers the highest level of play, so how does one prepare for the biggest battles and become a Pokémon Master in real life?
The coveted Worlds trophy. They even give you a card!

Know the game. This goes beyond knowing what moves are super effective. It’s about knowing the trends of the metagame and what to expect before the first Pokéball is sent out. Looking at player statistics from Pokémon's Global Link, Charizard ranks as one of the top used Pokémon in doubles. Thanks to its useful Mega Evolutions, Charizard is a force to reckon with. When building your team, ask yourself “what do I have to take down this threat?” If you don’t have a good answer, go back to the drawing board. It’s impossible to deal with every threat, but be prepared for the common ones like Charizard, Kangaskhan, and Garchomp. Plan on using a Charizard of your own? Know ways people tend to counter it and address those issues. Maybe have a Wide Guard user to stop Rock Slide, speed control like Icy Wind or Tailwind so Charizard outspeeds opponents, Pokémon like Marowak who can switch in and redirect Electric moves that threaten Charizard, things like that.
Do you have a plan in case of Charizard?

Once you know the metagame; take past assumptions and turning them upside their head. A great example of this is Germany’s Markus Lie and his Machamp. When one sees a Machamp in Team Preview, they’ll most likely come to the conclusion that:

·       Machamp will abuse No Guard and Dynamicpunch to spread confusion with a strong move

·       Machamp will support his teammates with Quick Guard and/or Wide Guard

·       Machamp will be slow yet bulky and physically strong
Markus’ Machamp went against convention to emphasize speed over power and support. By holding a Choice Scarf, Machamp was able to outspeed threats like Charizard before they could hit first. Many Charizard players, including myself, are familiar with Wide Guard stopping Heat Wave. One way to stop this is to single-target Machamp, letting it waste its turn with Wide Guard while I knock it out. With Machamp out of the way, I can continue to spam Heat Wave for game. So you happily hit the Air Slash or Overheat button only to have Machamp knock you out before you can move.
Look how fast he goes!

But the surprises don’t stop there. Instead of No Guard and Dynamicpunch, Markus’ Machamp uses Guts and Close Combat. While usually an inferior choice, the current metagame makes it a superior option. As I mentioned earlier, Kangaskan is a huge threat. One of the ways to deal with physical hitters is to deliver a burn to half their attack power. For this reason, Rotom is a prominent Pokémon thanks to Will-o-Wisp and other support moves in its arsenal. Naturally, one would burn Machamp to weaken it, and this is true if it was the No Guard variant. However, Guts actually boosts Machamp’s attack when afflicted with a status effect. Players will instinctively burn Machamp, only to make Machamp even stronger. A hindrance for physical attackers becomes an advantage for Machamp, and the choice of Guts over No Guard is a great metagame call from Markus.
Competing in live events differs from online competitions due to human interaction. While it might seem weird to have a “strategy” for it, human interaction can prove either helpful or hurtful depending on the way you look at it and should be something to keep in mind before going into battle. For one thing, you don’t want to go blabbing your mouth about how trainers won’t anticipate your “Choice Specs Gyarados” only to have your strategy fall flat on its face.

Quit your blabbing and start battling!
That example seems obvious, but even subtle hints before you fight can be detrimental. During VGC Nationals 2013, one trainer I fought was talking up about one Pokémon on his team no one really expects. During Team Preview, I saw an Electabuzz and thought “he’s probably means that.” Sent out my Landorus first turn and “surprisingly”, he led with Electabuzz who immediately ran tail.

Of course, one could argue that someone could bluff you with prebattle talks, so it’s best to avoid those mind games to begin with. I find it helpful to introduce myself, shake hands, and maybe throw in light banter to help people relax. During battles, it’s all focus. I don’t say much and tend to just look at my screen when making moves. At the end, I’ll extend my hand for another hand shake and compliment my opponent (Good prediction with your Abomasnow’s Safeguard!).  When you’re less nervous, it’ll help you think clearer in battles, so have a plan to go in with a calm mind. Raise your Special Attack and Special Defense by one stage!

Be calm young one.

Probably the most helpful advice I can give is practice. A LOT. Coming up with winning strategies doesn’t happen by only reading articles online or watching a few matches. You can only level up through experience. In a previous blog post, I mentioned how Kangaskhan caused significant problems for my team. So I battled and failed, multiple times, until I could finally secure a strategy to effectively take her down. I might not have a trophy of my own, but I don't plan on giving up anytime soon. It took Se Jun Park, the current World Champion, five years to finally claim his title. Any champion can tell you their success comes from their failures. So never give up! Go out there and battle to become the very best like no one ever was!
Always a joy to see my boy Pikachu

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Raging About Rage Quitters

It's a normal day in Pokemon X. I hatch some eggs, Wondertrade, battle online, and hatch some more eggs. Just as I'm about to grab more eggs to hatch, I get a challenge from Andy, a person I recently Wondertraded with. My main team was built for doubles, but I usually don't get challenges so I say what the heck and accept his singles challenge.

It was a back-and-forth match and I'm about to deliver the final blow to his Gyarados. Right before my Conkeldurr lands the final Mach Punch, I get this:

Yep, Andy couldn't handle the loss and disconnects on me. I spent 20 minutes in a battle only to have some jerk disconnect on me. Now, I've had my fair share of disconnects from trainers in the past, but this particular match infuriated me.

First off, why the heck are YOU initiating the challenge if you're just going to quit before the match officially ends? That's like someone challenging you to a game of chess and knocking the board over after a checkmate.

Not only that, but you had Darkrai on your team! I hate how some trainers assume that an Uber
legendary will carry their whole team. All Pokemon have weaknesses that can be played around. If you knew Darkrai was going to be your key to victory, you should have taken care of it. I knew that Conkeldurr was a key player in taking out your team, so I kept him in the back until the opportune moment. I'm sorry I played around your Dark Void shenanigans.

And don't go crying to me that I won due to hax. Greninja waking up the turn after Dark Void hit was lucky, but you my friend had a great amount of luck on your side again. My Charizard's Heat Wave missed 4 times in a row against your Aegislash WITHOUT King's Shield up. Immediately after, my Venusaur gets off a Sleep Powder, and you wake up the next turn. Did I disconnect after that stream of bad luck? In Pokemon, there's a factor of luck. Deal with it. If I really wanted to quit, I could have ran and formally gave you the win. You could have easily done the same.
It's right there! How hard is it to hit "run"?!

It's aggravating that players think it's ok to act like a poor sport just because it's a video game. Every competition has a code of respect. Whether that's shaking hands before and after a match or see a match through, you owe it to every player to facilitate a fun environment. I felt that disconnect was a spit in the face. Andy of New Mexico, you should be ashamed of yourself. It's players like you who take the fun out of online battles. But you can be a better player than that. Take your losses in stride, learn from mistakes, and become stronger. Pokemon's a game, and part of that is accepting defeat gracefully. Quitters never win and winners never quit.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pulling the Iron Curtain over Battles

Getting off of work early, I rushed to my room and turned on my 3DS. Yeah, sounds like any other day. But the 2014 April Friendly, an official Pokémon battle competition, was already underway and my team wasn't ready yet! After a 4-hour grind session, my Pokémon were ready to proceed online. I could only pray that my hastily built team could pull some victories.
My team for April Friendly. I didn't have time to nickname them.

The rules of April Friendly differ from previous VGC rules. Each battle is singles, where trainers choose 3 out of 6 Pokémon per battle. Every Pokémon in the Kalos Pokédex were eligible. Yep, that means legendaries like Xerneas, Yveltal and Mewtwo were permitted to wreck havoc on unsuspecting trainers.

The legendary deer in all its glory
I always say fight fire with fire...just make sure you have coverage against Fire-types. With that, I picked Xerneas as my legendary of choice. The set wasn't anything special, just the usual Power Herb+Geomancy combo. Geomancy is Xerneas's signature move that increases its Special Attack, Speed and Special Defense by 2 stages. It usually requires 2 turns to activate, but consuming a Power Herb changes that to 1. As this set was common, I had to prepare myself for counters like Scizor and Talonflame.

Mega Aggron, the Greatest Wall of Ever
And thus, I give you the star of my team, Mega Aggron. He's more of a "Super Ultra Mega Titan Behemoth" Aggron. Seriously, Close Combat tickles him. The idea was to use this Great Wall of Pure Steel to slowly wear down opponents until Xerneas could come in and proceed to sweep. When Mega Aggron's HP got low, I just used Rest and Sleep Talk. Very few Pokémon can reliably 2HKO him. I mainly paired Mega Aggron with Florges or Rotom-Wash to deal with really strong special attackers.

Besides that, I had a Greninja and Talonflame whose task was to break down walls. While straightforward, they did their job well.

Delirious, I recorded my first set of battles. I look quite pathetic, so feel free to laugh and cringe as I perform my rendition of "New York." First match in, I throw away a 3-1 lead by clicking Psyshock instead of Moonblast! I'll never live that down.

The next day, I managed to maintain a winning record. While most of the teams consisted of the same standard Pokémon, I was impressed by the few creative movesets I ran into. Rest Quagsire, a Greninja with King's Rock, and even a Pikachu! Unfortunately, Pikachu couldn't scratch Aggron, but it's the thought that counts.
Sorry Pikachu, you just don't mess with Mega Aggron.

The number of matches dwindled on the last day of battling. Don't get me wrong, I had fun competing. But after fighting match after match of faceless opponents and recording virtually every match, competing became a chore. With my Pokémon-playing friends out of town and my brother deciding not to play, it got lonely. This competition lacked the atmosphere and excitement of a live competition. There was one brief shining moment when I convinced my mom to commentate a battle with me. I felt bad though; I constantly talked over her and I could tell that half the things I said went over her head.

For throwing my team together at the last minute, I managed to squeeze in a decent record and placed in the top 9%. I earned a final rating of 1647 with 27 wins and 18 losses. The inclusion of legendaries was an interesting twist, but most trainers stuck with standard teams. This battle competition was fun, but maybe it's time I take a small break from Pokémon. My fighting spirit has all but vanished, and the time away might be just what I need to reflect and refresh myself for the next competition. At the very least, April Friendly gave me the opportunity to experience Mega Aggron's girth, and I look forward to using him in future teams.
You can watch more battles on my YouTube channel (

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Smashing Surprise

My doctor warned me about taking in too much info about the next Smash Brothers game. Not one to heed advice from a medical professional, I watched the Smash Bros Direct anyways. A heart attack, trip to the hospital and transplant later, I'm back and fully recovered. While there was a good amount of general information revealed, Pokémon received generous attention and it all started with this cleverly teased picture.

Presents for all the good Pokémon fanboys and girls
In addition to the usual Pokeball item, Master Balls were introduced. Master Balls contain legendary Pokémon such as Arceus, Palkia and Xerneas. They might have a limitation similar to Assist Trophies where only one legendary Pokémon can be out at a time, but there hasn't been any word on
that yet.

Go Gogoat, Go!
Many Pokémon were recently revealed as Pokeball items. Out of the newly revealed ones, Gogoat is my favorite. As the goat that goes, Gogoat lets you ride on it as it rams into opponents. I was the guy who spammed Wario's bike, so this will be quite fun to exploit. Returning Pokémon like Snorlax, Entei and Metagross don't change from past iterations.

Imagine Shadow Lugia as a stage hazard
Besides the already revealed Prism Tower stage for the 3DS, the Wii U is treated to the Kalos Pokémon League as an exclusive stage. While it looks drop-dead gorgeous, I'm disappointed. I know X and Y are the most recent games, but where's the love for 5th gen!? I've always wanted to fight at N's Castle. Or what about Tin Tower from HGSS or Citadark Island from Pokémon XD? In my opinion, too much emphasis is placed on 6th gen in the new Smash.

 Now, let's look at what everyone cares about: the characters. First, Lucario's Final Smash was revealed to be Mega Lucario. Makes sense. While Mega Evolved, Lucario's Aura is always at maximum strength. Lucario's Aura abilities also got a significant buff.

Watch the power of Aura!

You got to be quicker than that, Mac.
Character transformations were confirmed not to make an appearance. Zelda/Sheik are now separated as Zelda and Sheik. This means that Pokémon Trainer, one of my mains from Brawl, won't be coming back. It's only fitting that Charizard, the Pokémon I least used, will be returning without a trainer to boss it around. At least he won't have the tire out mechanic. The reveal trailer showcased some new moves including a stronger aerial attack. Mega Charizard X is also confirmed as his Final Smash. It's unknown yet, but hopefully Charizard Y will also be included.

Mega Charizard X is ready to battle!

And now, the biggest surprise and the last shock that triggered my heart attack.

Meowth, that's right! Greninja, the final evolution of Froakie, is a playable character. I'm still in disbelief. A while back, I made a list of likely Pokémon to be included as playable characters like Mewtwo, Zoroark and Blaziken. But never did I imagine that Greninja would be chosen. Greninja is one of my absolute favorite Pokémon and the main reason I picked Froakie, so I obviously welcome Greninja with open arms. It does make it difficult to decide whether I should play as Greninja or Little Mac my first match. Decisions, decisions...

The trailer showcases Greninja using swift water attacks like Water Shuriken and unorthodox moves like Substitute. What Greninja's addition means though is that the chance of Mewtwo returning became slimmer. Pokémon most likely won't overpass the Super Mario series in character representation, so I wouldn't expect more than 5 playable Pokémon. We already have 4 and I suspect Jigglypuff will be taking the 5th slot. Both Jigglypuff and Mewtwo are viable with their new techniques in 6th gen, but Jigglypuff has more history with Smash. I could be wrong, but my hunch says Mewtwo isn't coming back.

The Smash Bros Direct brought a ton of news for Pokémon fans. While I hope more emphasis will be placed on previous generations, the inclusion of new items and Greninja blew me away. Pokémon is going strong in the next Smash Bros!

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Struggle - Out of Moves and Hitting Myself in Recoil

With the latest generation of Pokémon out for a solid 5 months, the online battling scene has evolved into a harsh environment. The days that you can take your in-game team comprised of your starter, HM slave, and random assortment of creatures into battle are over. Thanks to the release of Pokémon Bank and breeding shortcuts, it's now easier to quickly prepare a team of battle-ready Pokémon. But with these new tools comes a more developed competitive scene, something I failed to keep up with.

After preparing a team I was comfortable with, I hopped online to challenge trainers from around the world. In 2 days, I had about 20 battles. I lost none. I even had trainers ragequit (meaning I was doing something right). I was so confident, I recorded live gameplay and posted it on YouTube. You can tell by the optimism in my voice that I haven't touched the cruel world of rated battles yet.

Spent 200 battle points to change it's ability...
So after my romp in free battles, I took my "skill" to rated battles. First match, I get wrecked. Second match? Equally bad. Third? I manage a win, and then get crushed in the fourth. I quickly realize that my strategy is not very effective and go back to the drawing board. I get back online and still can't manage to pull a winning record. Frustration gets the best of me and I continue to play recklessly. Simple prediction errors cause my team to struggle with me on the losing side. Bitter at my online experience (and Cloyster, whose lousy Twineedle only hits twice!), I took a small break and reflected on how to improve my game.

In doubles, Kangaskhan, Talonflame and Meowstic all pose a considerable threat. While I've successfully played around Talonflame, I still can't manage to break through Meowstic and Kangaskhan. While I hate to admit it, my team can't possibly be competitively viable if I don't have answers to deal with common threats. To improve my team structure, I've watched a good amount of battles online. I am by no means a Pokémon Master, so getting new perspective from trainers better than myself helped me come back with renewed strength. I got some new tricks up my sleeves, but I don't want to spoil them just yet. ;)
Don't let that baby fool you, it's a menace!
An important lesson I've learned time and time again is that Pokémon is a game. Victory Road is filled with hours of struggle, training and Exploding Gravelers. It's a mental game that requires you to outwit your foe to emerge triumphant. I've made stupid mistakes and will continue to make stupid mistakes. It should have been obvious that Twineedle only hits two times, especially with "twin" in its name! But regardless, I will learn from them and grow. Being a Pokémon Master doesn't mean you win from every battle, it means you learn from them.
A tough road ahead, but I'll emerge victorious

Monday, March 3, 2014

18 Years of Pokémon

Pokémon recently celebrated its 18th anniversary. Shortly after Red and Green's release in Japan, it became a worldwide phenomenon and the rest is history. I have no idea what my life would be like without Pokémon. I met some of my best friends through it and learned a lot from the series. So of course, it's only appropriate I give 18 cheesy, cliched reflections from the wonderful world of Pokémon.

1. Never give up, no matter how many times you fall

You ever met Ash Ketchum? This kid has the dream to become the very best like no one ever was. Out of the current 721 Pokémon, how many has he obtained? 72. If "to catch them is [his] real test", Ash is about 10% done. He's managed to collect the badges in each region, but falls short of being the League Champion (except in the Orange Islands). And yet, he keeps at it.
We can't all stay 10 forever, but we can learn something from this idealist.
I mean, if you like Muk go right ahead.

2. With over 700 creatures, you got to have a favorite!

Pokémon has variety. Maybe floating magnets or living piles of sludge aren't your forte. But there are so many to choose from, you got to like at least one! As weird as it may sound, Pokémon is kind of like life. Even though there are aspects that are less than favorable, there's so much to enjoy.

 3. We can take a different path to reach the same goal

I start with Bulbasaur, you choose Charmander. We'll catch different Pokémon to complement our team, have a different strategy to defeat each Gym Leader, and maybe even choose a different Eevee evolution (or none at all)! But at the end of it all, we will both collect the 8 gym badges, defeat Team Rocket, and eventually become the champion. It just goes to show that there's no singular way to play the games. Which brings me to my next point.

 4. The world isn't black or white

5th generation will always have the best story in my opinion. It was the first to raise the issue of the ethics behind Pokémon battles, and while N, the leader of Team Plasma, didn't meet a clear resolution, he learned to value others' opinions. When ideals clash, a new truth emerges that we can learn from.




5. The rules change from time to time, but the fundamentals stay the same

With the addition of held items, abilities, new moves, new typings, and new battle formats, Pokémon battles have changed a lot since Red and Green. Regardless, the basic principles behind battles stay the same. Pokémon battles is like rock-paper-scissors with elements of chess. Water beats Fire, Fire beats Grass, and Grass beats Water. But Water can move in a way that let it beat Grass. The rules of life change constantly with new technologies and discoveries, but the fundamentals like honesty and humility remain steadfast.

6. A journey with friends beats a journey alone

If I had to summarize what the overall message of the Pokémon series is, it's friendship. Ash and Pikachu's travels across the land show the deep, emotional bond these two share. What I enjoy most about Pokémon is how a seemingly single-player game can transform into the greatest multiplayer experience thanks to trading and battles. And now with online trading and battles, I feel part of the bigger worldwide community. I can't begin to tell you about the countless hours me and my friends spend talking about Pokémon. It's a powerful tool that breaks down barriers and connects people. What other game could unite an entire community to simultaneously play and beat it?
When thousands of people gather to play Pokémon, Omanyte becomes a God.

7. There are some things you just can't explain

What is underneath Diglett? How does a Wailord and Skitty create an egg? Why was Hulk Hogan chosen to be the spokesperson during Pokémon's 10th anniversary? The world may never know.
I got to keep training brother!

8. Don't be surprised if you run into a surprise

Right before my management class, I pulled out my 3DS thinking I could get some training down before the lecture began. Three battles in, I run into a shiny Eevee! I ran out, hugged a random girl, and apologized saying it was "Pokémon business." Granted, I caught 10 or so shinies before, but it was still exciting! Always have those Pokéballs ready, you never know what you'll run into the wild.  

9. Old Arcanines can learn new tricks

Charizard has always been the laughing stock of competitive battling since Red and Green. Now, he's one of the biggest threats thanks to his Mega Evolutions. It took him 18 years, but by Arceus he did it! Other Pokémon have also broken from obscurity since their debut. Blaziken went from being good, to just average, to being banned TWICE! Wobbuffet? He got a new ability and bam! Straight to Ubers! There are so many Pokémon that got better over time, so never say it's too late to learn something new.


10. "It's Super Effective" doesn't necessarily mean it's effective

Just because Blissey is weak against Fighting-type moves doesn't mean Aura Sphere is the best choice. Brute strength alone can only take you so far. Different strategies such as putting your opponent to sleep or slowing them down through paralysis can easily turn the battle in your favor. Analyze the situation and come up with a plan; don't go charging head first.

11. Learn from the stupid mistakes you make at the beginning

I am guilty of only training my Venusaur when I first played Red. He was the backbone of my team at level 97. I prided myself on the fact I didn't use a Rare Candy. My second highest? Pidgeotto at level 32. You can tell I knew what I was doing. But hey, how else can we learn if we don't make our own mistakes? It's always a laugh to look back and see how much of a noob trainer I was.

12. Patience is a virtue

Have you ever hatched eggs in Pokémon? It takes bloody forever! You’re moving back and forth for 30 minutes only to realize the baby has the wrong nature or ability or whatever. Sure, shortcuts like having a Pokémon with Flame Body in your party exist, but I remember going through countless eggs in Firered just to hatch a decent Totodile. If I already hatched over 400 eggs in X alone, I shudder to think how long I spent in Pearl. But if I’m still at it after all these eggs, then I must have learned a thing or two about patience. Which reminds me, I probably need to go back and finish hatching those Machop eggs. That will be fun…
I've listened to the bike theme plenty of times.

13. With teamwork, even Magikarp can sweep a team

The videos are absolutely hilarious, but given the right circumstance, the flopping fish has what it takes to take the world. To pull this off, Magikarp requires teammates to help give it a boost to sweep. It just goes to show that the power of teamwork can overcome all.


14. There’s a time and place for everything. But not now!

Yes Professor, I know I can’t ride my bike indoors. Yes, I also know I can’t use the Helix Fossil during battle. Yes, I know I can’t use the Super Rod in the middle of the city. It’s an annoying reminder, but Oak’s got a point.
Riding your bike indoors? He'll know...

15. The world is a big place to explore

From the majestic snow peaks of Mt. Coronet to the glistening shorelines of Cianwood City, the Pokémon world offers breathtaking scenery. There are so many places to see and things to do, so stop being cooped up and get out there! After you finish reading this post of course :)

16. Sometimes, it’s just luck

You might have the winning strategy that can take on the biggest threats, but a stray Ice Beam could freeze your Pokémon and all hope for victory is frozen. It happens. You just got to accept that luck might play a role in determining a battle, so don’t take it personally. It’s not all bad though, sometimes luck might get you out of a bind when you need it most. How else can you explain Ash winning the Boulder Badge?
Thunderbolt sets off the fire sprinklers, soaking Onix. That's dumb luck right there.

17. Follow what you love regardless of what other people think

As my good friend Terral once told me, “middle school is the worst version of yourself.” For a time, I left Pokémon because I didn’t want to seem uncool or nerdy. I remember asking a pair of 8th graders with their Gameboy Advances out if they were playing Pokémon. “Yeah we’re playing,” they responded. “So what?” They were probably used to people mocking them, but they didn’t care. They had guts and I envied them. It only matters what you think. Nothing else matters.

18. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong!

Seriously! I don’t say Pokémon is my favorite video game series for nothing. It’s an expansive game with thousands of hours of replay value. It’s a universal language where everyone from die-hard Pokémaniacs to moms with kids that play have something to say. It’s a strategic game that challenges you to use prediction and smarts to overcome your opponent. It’s a collector’s hobby with an expansive community full of traders. It’s a shared experience which solidified so many of my friendships and helped forge new ones. But most importantly, Pokémon is just plain fun, and I wouldn’t still be playing if it wasn’t.  
The games that started a phenomenon.