• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

It's all about the Pokemon

  • Marrend
  • 09/08/2010 06:47 PM
I've never played any of the mainstream Pokemon video games. I've never played the card game, nor saw any of the cartoons or movies. Despite all this, I have a very rudimentary understanding of what a Pokemon game is supposed to be about. I expected to be "schooled" as to what a Pokemon game is really about with this title.

I was somewhat surprised when the game switched from being Tom, the Trainer to one of the beasts he watches over, Splinter. I'm unsure how complete the demo I played was, but I only played it up to the end of Splinter's Day 2 in regards to plot events.

The blat:
Seeing as this is Pokemon Hunter 4, I presumed there would be references to previous Pokemon Hunter games. I'm assuming the opening sequence with Tom and Marty talking about Team Awesome was the first of many such references. Such references aren't totally lost, but I'm presuming that playing the game(s) that such sequences are referencing to would grant more immersion into this title.

With the first encounters of the game, the critters were fairly consistent in running from me, but not before dealing a bit of damage. The only way I could see to restore lost damage was item drops from said enemies. Since an enemy must be killed to get it's drop, and since they generally didn't stick around long enough for me to kill them, that meant there was basically no way to restore lost damage. During my initial play-through, one of my allies managed to die because of this tendency. I decided to start over, but basically rush to clear the prologue. If the pattern continued after the prologue, there would be no hope of playability for me with this game. Thankfully, the pattern did end after the prologue.

A point of observation is that this game seems to likes it's mazes. For the most part, they aren't terribly hard to navigate, but they tend to require players to recognize passability patterns.

This maze is among the first for the game. Note the use of two-high tile objects.

The training mini-games are an interesting touch. The jumping one is very straight-forward, being little more than a button masher. The running one is also straight-forward, but hanging up on a turn can, conceivably, cost a victory. The tracking one is a mind-bender that I've consistently failed at. It didn't help me much that the tracking game is on a timer. Frankly, I'd be happy if I could find what I was looking for at all!

Speaking a of frustrations, I managed to complete the trials in the Sky Temple, but not without getting seriously frustrated. The Mind trial wasn't so bad, since it was obvious where I was going and where I would end up. The Fire Trial was little more than the Race Training with worse consequences (taking damage, and staring from sratch) with more precise timing. The Thunder Trial was little more of a "hidden path" puzzle where there's no real indication of where the path could be. Personally, I found the path via sheer trial-and-error.

I don't like Tom very much. Consider the first "real" event of the game. One of his "pets", Kingpin, breaks loose. The townspeople are ready to track him down and kill him. Well, maybe just the one old guy is willing to kill him, but whatever. Tom steps in and says he'll find the beast. He manages to track Kingpin as far as a cave. Upon learning that the critter is essentially trapped, he simply leaves for home, satisfied that the critter isn't going anywhere very soon. Perhaps this isn't the best comparison, but isn't this the same thing as a cat/dog owner leaving behind the animal in question in the wilderness? I'm not exactly an animal person, and I'm aware that Pokemon are made of stronger stuff than a "normal" pet, but the sequence came across to me as simply unacceptable and totally irresponsible on Tom's part.

As far as I can tell, Tom never manages to catch up to Kingpin. He pretty much gives up after Day 1. He doesn't really care about Kingpin. The townsfolk are under the impression that Tom found him. They don't know the truth, and what they don't know can't hurt them. He does, however, get an invite to a ruined temple by a mysterious woman. The woman suggests that there's more to what's going on than meets the eye, but Tom doesn't seem to care about that, either. As Tom himself essentially puts it, "I've got nothing better do to, so why not?" To be perfectly honest, I'm not really sure what Tom cares about.

Splinter fares much better as a focus for the game. She cares that Kingpin is missing. She cares enough to rally the other Pokemon to search for him after Tom's one-and-only attempt. Perhaps a bit cliche, or cheeky, but searching for a friend is a much better motivation that Tom's apparent "whatever" approach. However, the choice of what elemental affinities can be accessed by Splinter's crew are limited. Three critters are Earth-types, while another three are Wind-types. There's one Water-type, and Splinter herself is a Normal-type (I find it mildly amusing that "Normal" is a type). This makes observing what enemies are weak towards what exceptionally important. Since I don't know what type a Pokemon is by looks or name alone (unless it's horribly obvious, like Charizard, Pikachu, or Squirtle), I have to rely on trial-and-error. There's Oke's sub-quest that can be done as Tom, but Splinter doesn't exactly have access to the library for easy reference.

If one plays the game as it stands, I would suggest getting Tom to Day 2, since that is when the training mini-games start up. Any further than that, as far as plot is concerned, doesn't seem very in-character for him. As far as Splinter is concerned, her sequence is where the real plot of the game takes place. While I didn't get further than Day 2 with Splinter, I think I might be intrigued with what happens on Day 3 with her troupe.

It is not my review policy to rate games that are still in production. I can't see everything that the game has to offer. Thus, rating for an unfinished game, however bad or good I perceive it to be, would generally be unfair. However, there are a few suggestions that I have that the maker may or may not take up:

This is merely a pet peeve, or minor annoyance on my part, but what's with the skills that cost 999 MP? Unless I'm horribly mistaken, those are little more than "placer" skills that do absolutely nothing. While the high cost suggest that they would never actually be used, I think the game would be better served if they characters didn't have them. It's not as if the skills themselves don't say what element they are in the first place, so what, exactly, is the purpose of having the player characters have them? I'm not suggesting to get rid of them entirely. Just remove them from the skill lists of the player characters.

It's possible I misread the text, but I'm under the impression that Splinter's available party members belong to Team Awesome. Even if I'm wrong, I definitely felt that they should not start at Level 1. If they don't belong to Team Awesome, then I simply misread or misinterpreted something. A communication error. If they do belong to Team Awesome then they should be, well, awesome. Perhaps not game-breaking awesome, but at least better off than starting at Level 1.

I understand the desire for players to have encounters for the prologue, but there just feels like there should be a better way to handle them. I'm not really sure what to suggest, as I'm not really sure what the point of those encounters are.

I'm at a loss of what to say about Tom. On one hand, there a a number of protagonists whose attitudes go from "It's not my problem" to "I'm going to protect everything" who work as protagonists (stares at Cloud Strife). I get the feeling that Tom is supposed to develop in a similar manner. While the demo I played (at least up to the point I played it to) doesn't "show" this character development, I'm hoping it's going to be in future versions of the game.



Pages: 1
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
Thanks for the review! You've given me quite a few things to think about!

The skillz that cost 999 MP to use are, as you suspected, just placers. They were more important in the previous iterations of this series where characters could learn skillz of multiple elements. But, since all the heroes in this game only have one element, I can probably do away with them.

The beasts that Splinter travels with do indeed belong to Team Awesome. However, while you might expect they'd all be super-tough beasts that could breeze through an adventure, that would make the game entirely too easy. As a measure of game balance, they all start at level 1.

I agree that the prologue encounters could be handled better. I'll have to figure something out for them, because right now they just don't fit too well. I think I need to work on Tom's characterization, too. He's supposed to develop the way you suggested; from an uncaring 'whatever' type to someone who can save the friggin' world. Or at least the tri-county area. I think I can convey that better.

Anyway, thanks again for playing it. I wanted to ask, though, just out of curiosity. Even though you wouldn't rate a game that's incomplete, what score would you have given this based on what you saw? Also, did you have any trouble playing it? Was it too hard, difficult but bearable, etc? Did you hit a wall at the Magneton boss fight?
Guardian of the Description Thread
I wouldn't call it a "wall", since it's totally optional, but that tracking mini-game seriously messes me up. I know to follow the "arrows" backwards, but I've sometimes followed them forwards because, well, they're shaped like arrows. I easily get lost, trying to backtrack to the point where I messed up, only to mess up my direction again. I end up wasting a lot of time this way. I didn't even know the game was timed until Tom essentially belted out, "Way to fail, Splinter!" At some point, I would probably do an F12 reset anyway, but Tom's time-out statement came out of absolutely nowhere. Maybe I was too concentrated on finding my bearings that I didn't notice the timer, if there was one displayed?

The Magneton was very much a "wall". I must have fought it at least five times before I noticed the Yellow Bands in my inventory. When I went back after equipping them (I might have grinded another level out of good measure), I beat it. I used all my Beast Revives in the process, and still ended up with with one "whacked" party member (Splinter, I think). At that point, I didn't care about fallen party members. I was glad to have beaten it at all.

As for a rating, I think it has the potential to be a solid 3, if not better. This demo probably stands at about a 2.5.
Pages: 1