SwitchRPG vs. Pokémon: A Retrospective Series

Welcome to SwitchRPG Versus, a new article series that is taking a deep dive into some of the biggest RPG franchises to grace Nintendo consoles. In each iteration of this series, we plan to play every major title in an RPG series, beginning to end, rolling credits on each game, and providing a weekly play-by-play of the experience. Along the way, we’ll be talking about each game’s strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, and putting together full reviews that rank the games against each other on key gameplay elements. Story, dungeon design, class systems – you name it! The categories will be unique for each game, depending on what common elements thread their way through each successive game.

For our first edition of SwitchRPG Versus, we’ll be diving headfirst into Nintendo’s own Pokémon series, starting all the way back with the first generation: Pokémon Red and Blue. With eight generations to explore, a myriad of versions to sample, and hundreds of eponymous Pokémon to collect, we expect this series to take over a year to complete. Below, we’ll talk about the rules of the challenge, the games we plan to include, and just what elements common to Pokémon games we plan to rank along the way.

The Challenge

Before setting off on what will be my longest Pokémon adventure ever, I’d like to set a few ground rules for the experience – expectations for both myself and my readers.

  • Hardware: I will be playing only official releases, meaning no PC emulators, ROM hacks, R4’s, etc. This means that my 3DS will be my constant companion, as I’ll be playing the Virtual Console editions for Generations 1 and 2 – in addition to the preexisting DS-line games in Generations 4 through 7. For Generation 3, I’ll have my trusty Game Boy Advance SP at my side.
  • Start and End Times: Each game will begin with a fresh save file, will use no traded Pokémon from other players, and won’t end until the credits roll, typically after I have become Pokémon Champion. I may play beyond this point in some titles if I choose – challenging Red in Pokemon Gold and Silver, for example – but the hard line will be conquering the Pokémon League.
  • Pokémon Restrictions: In my first run through a given generation, I will try to build my parties using only Pokémon introduced in those games. In my second run, those restrictions will be lifted. I want to be able to rate both the newly released Pokémon of each generation, but also get a snapshot of just what Pokémon were available in the core games to build your party.
  • Weekly Updates and Other Articles: At a minimum, I will provide one short article per week, updating readers on my progress through the latest game and providing some impressions on key moments, dungeons, obstacles, etc. I think this will be an important part of chronicling each game’s experience and ensuring I don’t lose any of my thoughts when it comes to rating time. In addition, as I complete each game, I will publish a long-form article reviewing the title and updating the rankings in each category. Keep an eye out for additional articles along the way as well, including the occasional Bard Banter honoring the many great music tracks this series has to offer.
  • Extra Games!: From time to time, I may step outside the core series to do a short piece on a spinoff title (I’m looking at you, Pokémon Stadium). These will be short excursions, not intended to break the flow of weekly updates.
  • Breaks: I have no way of predicting how I’ll fare playing through eight generations of Pokémon back-to-back over the next year. I reserve the right to take a few weeks off between titles as needed for my sanity.

The Rankings

After conferring with other SwitchRPG Staff, I’ve boiled down a list of what I think are the most pertinent design elements in Pokémon games, worthy of being ranked side-by-side as the series goes on. While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of what could be ranked, it represents what I think will be the most practical snapshot to use as comparison.

  • New Pokémon: I’ll be ranking which games brought the best, most iconic, most creative, and all around most cool Pokémon designs to the series. Included in this ranking will be subcategories for Best Starters and Best Legionaries.
  • Region: I’ll judge each region – their layout, their culture, their lore, and everything in between. Included in this ranking will be subcategories for Best Gym Leaders and Best Dungeons.
  • Story: I’ll be asking if the overarching narrative is compelling and/or interesting and does it keep the player invested in the game world? Included in this ranking will be subcategories for Best Rivals and Best Evil Teams.
  • Bonus Content: From the Safari Zone to Pokémon Amie, I’ll compare and contrast the side content and quirky gameplay systems to see which offer a fun diversion and which become tedious and unnecessary slogs.

The Games

So, with the rules and rankings established, which games in the series will I be playing? Currently – and this may change depending on my sanity level in the months to come – I plan to play one core title from each generation, along with whatever the third/enhanced version of those games was also released. I also currently plan to include the generational remakes as well, but those may get scrapped if I find the rest of the challenge too daunting. Also, you’ll notice that for most of my life, I’ve picked up the second core game in each generation – a standing tradition between my brother and I – though I have deviated a few times over the years. For a complete list of my current plan, see the list below:

  • Pokémon Blue
  • Pokémon Yellow
  • Pokémon Silver
  • Pokémon Crystal
  • Pokémon Sapphire
  • Pokémon Emerald
  • Pokémon FireRed
  • Pokémon Pearl
  • Pokémon Platinum
  • Pokémon SoulSilver
  • Pokémon White
  • Pokémon White 2
  • Pokémon X
  • Pokémon Alpha Sapphire
  • Pokémon Moon
  • Pokémon Ultra Moon
  • Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee!
  • Pokémon Shield

When Does the Madness Begin?

Tomorrow! For each game, I plan to do a Day 1 post, chronicling an extended gameplay session to kick off the next step in the series. So, stay tuned tomorrow as I present the first edition of SwitchRPG vs. Pokémon!

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