The video game industry's answer to the Tamagotchi craze, Pokémon plays like most traditional RPGs with one notable exception. Rather than wiping out endless hordes of monsters for fortune, glory, and (of course) experience points, Pokémon encourages captivity over annihilation. So much so, that collecting, trading, and training the stubborn little pocket monsters make up the heart of the game. Theoretically, it sounds like a perverse electronic version of the Beanie Babies/Furby viral culture that has swept the nation. But in practice, the game proves to have more substance and legs than your average passing fad. Tapping into the object-collecting proclivity of our inner-child, Pokémon (while not designed by Shigeru Miyamoto) is a Miyamoto-esque experience in the truest sense.
I was totally engrossed in the complex dynamics of the Pokémon microcosm. While the game on the outside is visually primitive (sporting 8-bit sprite-based graphics), the gameplay inside is fully realized and rich in depth. There is an endless amount of specifics to be learned and remembered about the 150-plus Pokémon and the world in which they reside. Fortunately, the game's intelligent execution doesn't allow too much to be thrown at the player at once. The adventure proceeds progressively, allowing the player to naturally absorb the game in its entirety. What stands out most about the design is the amount of freedom and customization given to the user. It allows players to essentially fight, train, and develop favored Pokémon while discarding and trading others. This is what makes the game truly engrossing. Pokémon stands as a testament to those who believe in gameplay over graphics; a 2D oasis in a 3D desert of video games.
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