Things Game Freak Can Learn From Pokemon Uranium (Part 2)

Next our focus will be on the region and game-play difficulty of Pokemon Uranium, which are some of the parts that made the game unique and a good reference for Game Freak. 

The Tandor Region

This region has several significant features. Firstly, it is powered with Nuclear (instead of electric Pokemon). Secondly, it is home to about 200 species with a large majority of them being Uranium specific (in fact, even most of the original series Pokemon featured here have Uranium-only evolutions and Mega forms with some exceptions like Floatzel and Ludicolo). Thirdly, it is split into East and West, and is governed by the Rangers.

The towns and landmarks are very well detailed. Every single city have a lot of detail (conversations with people, interaction with environment, architecture, ambient sounds) to them and have unique identities. Aside from the generic Kevlar Town, the other cities have color schemes and architecture that are unique to them. They range from busy central townships, mountainside towns, beachside tourism cities, rainforest civilization, townships that rain volcano ash or and another that snows. My personal favorite is Tsukinami Village, which is modeled after medieval Japanese villages with a rich history.

I think this is where Uranium wins most of the main series titles I played by a long shot: every city has a unique story to tell, unlike some towns with merely standard Pokemon facilities and two houses with a pitiful body of water to fill up the space (*cough* Cherrygrove *cough* Oldale) from the main series games. The cities are highly explorable with tons of interesting conversations and observations. My comment for Game Freak will be instead of merely remastering the classics with newer engines, they should actually pump more effort into redesigning quite a number of the towns and cities to make them more interactive, realistic and whole, or in other words, breath life into the city.

ps: I have not honestly played past Generation 5, so my comments may not be entirely valid, but from what I observed from lets-plays my points mostly stand.

Difficulty

I personally think Uranium went a little overboard, but it is a rather difficult game for Pokemon standards. It runs on Generation 6 mechanics (Fairy type, Mega Evolutions) and experience with original titles is highly recommended so that one can effectively manage resources. There are many battles that I would have lost if it weren’t for the repels, potions and revives I stocked. Trainer fights early on are actually fairly dangerous, most of the time you rarely are at an advantage. Also, a large number of Pokemon can inflict status conditions, and some are Nuclear type which can trainwreck unprepared Pokemon lineups. Basically, the game doesn’t prepare you for the dangers in game and you have to do your best to explore safely and collect resources like free medicine, rare candies, battle boosters, Mega Stones, and most importantly TMs to augment your team’s battling prowess.

The Pokemon early on are rather bad and difficult to train as they only have generic moves like Tackle. Most of the wild Pokemon can be encountered very frequently and are at the same level if they are not stronger.

Trainers can be very difficult and often own more than two Pokemon, occasionally up to 5 from the elite trainers. On top of that, the boss fights are relatively difficult to prepare for due to significant level gaps between the local wilds and their team levels. Also, more often than not players’ own will not have effective answers against theirs. which is quite unlike the main series where there is at least a couple of super effective Pokemon somewhere before the gym fight. Usually the only answer is to travel to areas far from heal spots and grind, and hope for the best. For instance, the Pokemon League battles are at level 70 and is huge gap from the 8th gym, while there is a lack of wild Pokemon at level 60.

There are notable ‘difficult phases’ of the game where it becomes very difficult to progress without retreating to a Pokemon Center or a healer. Of my head I recall the Rainforest and Anthell, along with the surfing ninjas as I cross to East Tandor. On top of them, there are what I call ‘fallout instances’, where players have to enter a instance full of Nuclear Pokemon to clear a plot objective. One tip here is that players should constantly keep an eye out for healing spots, such as medical NPC and Pokemon Centers.

Another thing is that HMs are rather scarce. A huge chunk of the game (as with the main title) becomes easier as you unlock benefits, but HMs are obtained at a very awkward and slow pace. Typically you get HM Fly like halfway through the game, meanwhile Surf is only available a little more than halfway through the game and Fly is effectively an close to endgame reward. This means that for the most part, transportation consists of a combination of walking/cycling long distances, taking the train (which is not available until halfway) or taking the ship, with the latter two costing a bit.

Here I am less certain about the takeaway to the licensed creators of Pokemon. Should the difficulty be pumped to this extent I am not sure. The game is really outright difficult and some times it isn’t enjoyable, but is satisfying once players got the hard parts out of your way. This is rather different from the watered down difficulty in Pokemon X and Y, where everything eases you into the game. Uranium feeds the player rewards at a very slow pace, requiring a large degree of patience and dedication from the player’s part.

Next up and the last post, I will just discuss random aspects that are rather tradition-breaking and enjoyable. 

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