Pokemon was one of those necessary experiences for my generation. Be it the games, cards, or television show – everyone in my school knew about Pokemon, from the real gamers to those who may have only played the basics. As such, I have always cherished Pokemon as a great childhood memory. More than that though, the gameplay mechanics of Pokemon are tried and true perfection (why else would we see so many near exact retreads?) and worthy of our veneration and respect without wearing nostalgia-tinged glasses. For me, it is safe to say that while I like parts of the Pokemon world, setting, and stories, the real value of the series was held solely by its ability to combine the innate community elements of a game focused on collection with a rather unique spin on turn-based RPGs that allows for some really fun multiplayer. Yet, we’ve only really seen a handful of Pokemon-likes, each with varying degrees of success.
I’ll will finally admit this in writing: I was also a Digimon fan. You can’t hate such mind-numbingly awesome theme song lyrics like ‘Digimon // Digital Monsters // Digimon are the champions’, especially when you are 12 and 13. I can’t remember owning a Digimon videogame though. There were some, but nothing I ever heard was good. I did buy a lot of the cards, but like the Pokemon TCG, I only really collected. For me, Digimon was about the unique setting where a group of kids go into a parallel universe created out of the digital age of technology. It was cyberpunk-lite, science fantasy goodness and I loved it as a kid.
Other than those two entries, the collectible RPG genre has been surprisingly limited, especially if you narrow your search by mainstream success. Monster Rancher can probably be tossed in there, but it always seemed more like a gimmick than a real game to me.
Perhaps Pokemon was and still is successful because of the setting and the artwork and not the gameplay. Maybe it survives because of the nostalgia so many of us still have for it. Still, I have heard time and time again ‘I wish they would make a decent console entry’ or ‘I want a Pokemon MMO’. I believe Pokemon should be limited to handhelds, but I don’t think the genre that should have spawned in its image – the Pokemon-like – should have that same fate. Pokemon managed to make a Japanese RPG game with great multiplayer, which is so incredibly rare that I can’t think of any other major examples. I would love to see an indie equivalent.
This may be a non-post post, but the question didn’t really hit me with any force until today. In an age of gaming where quite frankly any sort of game is possible, publishers can be bypassed entirely, and it is easier than ever to monetize the basics of a potential Pokemon-like genre through free-to-play, microtransactions, and DLC, I would have expected something by now. Especially given its popularity among a wide array of demographics, its still beloved status among old and new fans, Pokemon already should of had its Diablo 2 equivalent game that could spawn other Diablo-likes such as Titans Quest, Torchlight, or Path of Exile.
What do you think?