The second half of this year has been, for me, all about Pokemon LeafGreen. After plenty of internal debate and more than a little help from my Internet friends, several months back, I decided to play LeafGreen, my first ever Pokemon game. I wish I could say that I’ve completed the game, but I haven’t…yet. (I’m really close though!)
Despite the fact that I’ve been playing video games for a while now and thought that I knew everything I needed to know about them, LeafGreen has instilled a number of importance lessons that I either completely took for granted over the years or, for one reason or another, just never learned. So here, for you and #Listmas2014, are three big take-aways that I’ve gotten from, of all things, a Pokemon game, proving that the world really does work in mysterious ways.
- The importance of strategy
I don’t play strategy-based games. (With the vicious circle being that I’m not very good at them, therefore I never want to play them, and therefore, I don’t.) In my canon of games that offer strategic gameplay, such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age, I usually overlook this component entirely, preferring to go in with the heaviest weapon and inflicting the most damage I can regardless of everyone else. In LeafGreen, I learned the hard way that a non-strategic approach usually left me with a dead team. Not knowing anything about Pokemon types, when I started the game, I figured I’d just level up my starter (Charmander, as chosen by the studio audience) as much as I could. The non-plan worked for a while, but in I eventually discovered that, with some enemies, the level of my little dragon was meaningless, because they just beat him flat. At this point in the game, I’ll admit that I still know far less than even the most minor of Pokefanatics when it comes to types, but I’ve gotten better at understanding types and recognizing the need for entering battles with a particular strategy in mind. There are still moments when I fall back into old mindsets, forget everything I’ve learned, and get frustrated when my level 60+ Charizard dies after a single hit from a water-type, but they are becoming few and far between.
- The importance of having a balanced team
This notion falls right in line with strategy and types, and its one with which I still tussle, even though I’m near the end of the game. When I started the game and the first several hours in, my team consisted of my starter and the first four Pokemon I captured. (If I recall correctly, Rattata, Caterpie, Weedle, and…Spearow? Maybe Mankey?) I imagine everyone starts like this to a certain degree, but it was some time before I figured that I needed to balance out the team better if I was to really succeed. So as I went on, I switched my team around, added new Pokemon, getting to know their strengths and weaknesses, until I settled on my current team (Charizard, Pidgeot, Victreebel, Snorlax, and Sandslash). And you know what? (I know you do.) It still isn’t balanced! Somehow I’ve gone this entire time with using some types – electric, ghost, fairy – and now I could really use them! But that’s the learning process. With lots of games now using AI to control a player’s team, it’s really easy to take your “teammates” for granted. They’ll just do whatever it is they do while you focus on whatever it is you need to do. In LeafGreen (And presumable all Pokemon games), that’s absolutely not the case. It’s easy for my lazy brain to overlook that I control my entire team and have to make up for its imbalances.
- The importance of spending versus saving
I will freely admit that in games where “money” is given and required, I’ll almost ignore it outside of the first few hours of play. When I’m trying to equip a new character to a comfortable level, sure, money means everything. But at a certain point, when you start gathering money for anything and everything you do, from fighting to looting, it becomes an unimportant necessity. As I type this, my funds in LeafGreen are terribly low as I’ve not managed it properly at all, especially now that I’m through with most of the trainer (gym and general) battles. Now that I could really stand to stock up on potions and such, I simply can’t, and I’ve started going back to re-battle trainers using the VS Seeker. It’s a remarkably frustrating process, and one that could have been avoided if I didn’t think early on that money was going to be as plentiful as Zubats in Mt. Moon. Should I replay this game, or try another in the series, money management will undoubtedly be at the forefront of my gameplay.