So a number of weeks ago, I realized Pokemon Soul Silver was out, and heard that it had a neat little pack-in thing called a Pokewalker that worked much like the old pikachu-style tomagotchi, except that this one wasn’t a separate purchase and you could transfer ANY of your pokemon to it. I had been excited when I heard that this game was going to come out (I’ve always been a fan of pokemon) but I hadn’t looked into it for a while, so I wasn’t sure what the release date was. As soon as I heard it was out, I went off to the gamestop at the mall that saturday and bought myself a copy.
As I was walking out of the mall towards the parking lot, I ripped open the shiny silver foil-covered box to take out the pokewalker, so that I could start messing around with it. I ripped out the plastic tab to turn it on, and poked at the buttons, but all it would do it give me a sad face. When I got back to the car, I looked through the huge separate pokewalker instruction manual included in the box. It told me that I must “reach a certain point in the story” before I can use it. Well damn. Fine, I’ll just go home and figure out where I put my DS and eventually I’ll unlock it and be able to gather points whenever I walk into the kitchen at work to get more tea.
I’ve been playing the game casually for a few weeks, grabbing 15 minutes while my pasta’s cooking for dinner, playing for a half hour or so before bed because playing my DS under the covers with the lights off makes me extremely sleepy. Over many years, I discovered that reading a book before bed does not help me sleep, because I get drawn into the storyline and I want to stay up later so that I can finish it. There have been many times I’ve stayed up until four or even five in the morning reading because I just couldn’t put the book down. When I read books, I tend to read an entire book in an afternoon. I do not read parts of a book a little at a time. If a book is not interesting enough to me that I want to read it all in one sitting, I simply stop reading it. Portable video games, on the other hand, are different. I can usually only play them for 15-20 minutes before I can barely keep my eyes open.
So I just beat the second gym leader, that egg I’ve been carrying around has hatched, and I really started wondering — when was I going to unlock the Pokewalker? I was assuming that since it had a “certain point in the story” requirement that at some point, that at some point an NPC would give me a pokewalker in game and explain how to use it, and then I’d be able to connect. Since game spoilers are a non-issue for me (c’mon, I played through this game before several times back in the late 90’s) I did a google search to find out how much farther I’d have to play before unlocking it.
After several unsuccessful attempts on sites that gave me more information about using the Pokewalker without actually answering my question, I found a few questions from other people — and it turns out that “a specific part of the story” simply means “whenever you have more than one Pokemon and one of them is in your PC”. The game never does inform you that you unlocked the ability to do this, it simply expects you to notice that there’s a new option on the load saved game screen.
Personally, I NEVER read the lower options there. I know what they say, because they’ve been the same for EVER. There’s the biggest menu option at the top, it gives details about my saved game, I can select it to load said saved game. Below that is a New Game option, and below that is some kind of “connect with your friends to get something!” option that I don’t care about because I don’t know anybody else iRL who actually plays.
But when you’ve unlocked the Pokewalker, this main menu turns into a scrolling menu, but it still appears to have three options. Now the third option is “Connect to Pokewalker” and you have to scroll the page down to see the fourth option that used to be the third one. I never read these options because I know what they say, they never change, and I had been assuming that the ability to connect to the pokewalker would be inside the game itself, not at the load game screen. Maybe that was a silly assumption. I just don’t think this was handled very well at all.
Now that I’ve unlocked it and transferred a pokemon to it (my Sentret named Ootachi, so named because I had originally played Gold and Silver in Japanese and I think some of their Japanese names are cooler than the American ones) and it’s really quite cool to mess around with now. I usually have a few dozen Watts saved up whenever I check on it during break.
It costs 10 Watts to search the grass for pokemon. You play a little minigame with four bushes, one of them will get a little exclamation mark and you have to select it before it goes away. A couple of correct clicks will put your pokemon in battle against another one. Each pokemon has 4 HP. You can attack for 1 damage (crit for 2), evade (which will cause you to take no damage and “reflect” damage back at your attacker if the enemy attacks you — but it appears that if the enemy also evades, it will escape) or throw a pokeball to try and capture it (though if capturing fails, the wild pokemon will escape rather than give you another chance).
So far I’ve only seen Pidgeys and NidoranFs, and captured one of each, though the device can carry up to three captured pokemon at a time, at which point you need to decide to replace one of the ones you’ve already captured if you try to catch a new one. When transferring my pokemon to the device in the first place, it gave me two options of routes to send it on, either a grassy field or a forest. There are different pokemon on each route, and I hear that I can unlock different routes as I progress through the game, in order to catch more rare pokemon.
I looked up more info on it last night, and it appears that each of these routes has three different sets of Pokemon, and you need to take more steps in order to unlock the more rare ones. It resets the number of steps at midnight every night, and in my very easiest route, it requires 5,000 steps to unlock the highest tier of pokemon (which includes things like Doduo and Kangaskhan). I was browsing the listings for the higher level pokemon, and some of these routes require upwards of 9,000 or even 10,000 steps.
This has the very powerful effect of convincing me to get more exercise so that I can be rewarded with rare pokemon, because as hard as I’ve tried, I have not been able to get a single step by holding the device in my hand and shaking it. It’s very specific about what inputs it accepts, and the manual informs me that it might not record steps correctly in a wide variety of situations, such as if you’re running or jogging instead of walking, or if you’re wearing soft slippers instead of regular shoes.
I like that this device is NOT a tomagotchi or anything of that nature. It does not require you to feed or clean up after or even play with your pokemon. The device barely even knows the pokemon’s name and species, and doesn’t care about its stats in the slightest. It is simply a pedometer with a fun little pokemon-catching minigame attached to it. I find that I have little patience with things like tomagotchi (and to be honest, Farmville and its ilk on Facebook) because I cannot choose when to play with them. I do something now, then I can do nothing — until four hours from now, when I need to do something or I get penalized for not doing it. I don’t find these things fun. What if I don’t FEEL like doing that at that time? What if it isn’t convenient for me? Being required to do things at certain times just makes a game feel like a chore.
I’m having a lot of fun with the game so far, because it offers the right mix of nostalgia and improvements. I have a couple of old strategy guides for the original Gold and Silver sitting around on my bookshelf from when I played the originals years ago, and I’m using them to remind me of what pokemon are on which routes at what times of day, and to remind me of what pokemon the next gym leader has.
Usually when I play Pokemon, I use one of two strategies:
1. Attempt to keep a single, well-rounded and balanced team. This results in my team of six pokemon being very high-level because 100% of the EXP I’m getting is being funneled into the same pokemon. One downside of this is that I am forced to use pokemon I capture at the beginning of the game, because it would take too long to level any new ones up to match my current ones. Another downside is that I often find myself in gym leader fights where half of my pokemon are quite weak against the opponents they’re facing, so if the gym leader gets a lucky strike, I could be out of luck.
2. Attempt to catch everything I can and keep them all around the same level so that I can pick and choose which pokemon to use in the next fight. The obvious downside to this is that wild pokemon give so little experience that they might as well not give any at all, and with the number of trainer battles being so limited, I just end up with a whole lot of pokemon that are too low level for me to do anything with them. It works great for the first two gym leaders, but then after that my collection of pokemon grows so large that it becomes too much work to grind mindlessly on wild pokemon for hours (often when they have annoying abilities that cause status effects) and I end up giving up not very far into the game.
So this time around, I’m using a new, third strategy:
3. Catch everything I can, but after each gym battle, reorganize my team based on which gym leader I’m fighting next, still trying to keep a variety of types. Prioritize anything that has defenses against that type of attacks, and then anything that has attacks that that type is weak against. If I don’t have six of those, I try to fill out the rest of my team with anything else that isn’t weak against that type, especially if it’s good against the gym leader following the next one. This way, all of my available trainer battle EXP is funneled into the pokemon that will be most useful to me in my next challenge. If any pokemon aren’t ever good against a gym leader, then they’ll be sitting in the PC for a good long time, until I feel bored enough to try to build up my pokedex stats.
So far, this has been working quite well for me.
I was chatting with Khoa about it last night, and he was complaining that 5,000 steps is a really long way. I told him that it isn’t very far at all, it’s only like a 1-2 miles depending on your stride length, in fact he could probably rack up that number of steps walking between his classes at school. Then it hit me — he walks a lot more than I do on a daily basis, since he has classes to walk between and I’m sitting here at my desk at work, the only walking I do is from my desk to the kitchen to get more tea occasionally. I should probably let HIM carry the pokewalker, huh? I’m trying that out today to see how well it works.