Sunday, December 21, 2014

25 Days of Pokémon: Top 5 Endgame Events

Capping off my month’s worth of ‘top five’ lists focusing on the Pokémon series, this list covers five of my very favorite moments or chain of events from late in their respective games. Some are only accessible after completing the main game, while others are incorporated as part of the plot late in the core experience. Honorable mentions go to the Unova Battle Subway and the Delta Episode from the recently released Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. This has been a fun and very different approach to my ’25 Days of Christmas’ special, and I’d certainly consider doing something similar in future years with some of my other favorite video game franchises, like Metal Gear, Metroid, or even some more Legend of Zelda (even though it is one of the most frequently represented series on this blog).

#5) Revisiting the Kanto gyms in Gold and Silver / Heart Gold and Soul Silver – The generation II titles and their DS remakes will always hold a special place for me, as the first proper Pokémon games that I played on the Gameboy Color, as well as the games that got me back into Pokémon just a few short years ago. While the Elite Four and battle against Lance was a properly climactic conclusion to the Johto storyline, discovering how much more lay beyond the borders in Kanto blew my mind as a kid. In reality, this retread of the Kanto region is a trimmed down, fast-paced romp compared to both its original Red/Blue incarnation, as well as the entirety of the Gold/Silver storyline, but it was still tons of fun to go up against the likes of Brock, Lt. Surge, Erica, Misty, and all the other classic gym leaders.

#4) The Distortion World in Platinum – As Cyrus sees his plan to summon the legendary Giratina revealed, the game transports you both to an alien realm, one that appropriately reflects Giratina’s representation of anti-matter. Waterfalls flow from one impossible floating cliff to another, stalks of unnatural plants appear and disappear, and the game requires you to adopt a mindset more common to a series like The Legend of Zelda to solve a few puzzles in order to progress to the final showdown with Giratina. This drastic jolt from intense end-of-the-world scenario to mystical realm of impossibility was one of the moments in Platinum that really made me appreciate the game’s bold and stranger direction than most of its predecessors, even if this approach had not panned out quite as effectively in earlier legs of my adventures through the Sinnoh region.

#3) The Pokémon World Tournament in Black 2 and White 2 – This tournament effectively served as a love letter to Pokémon fans. It allowed players to hone their skills and perfect their strategies while taking on gym leaders and league champions from all the previous regions in a bracket tournament, and even offered up the more highly-specialized tournaments demanding players only use Pokémon that fit a specific typing. Of the plethora of post-game offerings in the generation V sequels, the Pokémon World Tournament was the most intense, the most robust, and constantly offered plenty of opportunities for fun and learning with each successive battle.

#2) The League Champion Battle against Iris in Black 2 and White 2 – While Black and White’s league champion battle was interrupted due to the arrival of Team Plasma, the sequel games do it up properly as one of the most fitting endgame challenges, but also one of the most enjoyable battles in any Pokémon game to date. Iris is so bubbly and excited to see what you’ve made of yourself as a trainer after the remnants of Team Plasma disbanded, and it’s both a breath of fresh air following the darker implications of the main story, and a perfect endpoint for that same journey. This battle against Iris and her team of Pokémon had me on the edge of my seat for all of the right reasons.

#1) The Elite Four in Black and White – This team technically also accounts for the Elite Four present in Black 2 and White 2, but my first time challenging them was truly something special. The Elite Four have always served as the endgame gauntlet-style challenge in the Pokémon titles, forcing players to bring their very best team members and strategies, and carefully planning each move as they attempt to forge a path toward the league champion. And yet, some of these have proved too easy a feat, as was the case in X and Y as well as the recent Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Others still have had such a sudden leap in the scaling of the opponents Pokémon, as was the case in Platinum. The Elite Four of the Unova region present Pokémon that are at a level that is simply perfect for that endgame climax, offering up a high degree of challenge, but one that is certainly possible to overcome, given proper planning and flexibility in the heat of battle. The typings of the Pokémon in the possession of each member of the Elite Four still stands as my favorite combination, with Dark, Ghost, Psychic and Fighting taking the stage in wonderfully-rendered arenas that provide each of the four characters with their own unique arenas that reflect their personalities and provide players a brief look into who they are as individuals. Grimsley’s candleit lounge, Shauntal’s gloomy study, Marshall’s chain-link-surrounded fighting ring, and Caitlin’s lavish bedroom – Black and White breaks from the tradition of trekking down a single linear hallway, allowing you to tackle these in whichever order

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