Ash’s abandoned Pidgeot asks:

I was reading old reviews and chuckled at your disgust for Ash and Pikachu’s magical friendship bull$h!t but it made me curious as to your feelings on Let’s Go incorporating aspects of it into gameplay (Pokemon curing themselves if status conditions, enduring one shots, i.e.)

I haven’t played Let’s Go (maybe it does something new I’m not aware of), but those things have been in the games since X and Y, haven’t they?  Pokémon with high affection stats from Pokémon Amie (in generation VI) or Pokémon Refresh (in generation VII) can cure themselves during battle, endure attacks, dodge attacks, score extra critical hits, maybe a couple of other things I’m forgetting.  I actually kind of like it, since it gives us a reason to care about our relationships with our Pokémon – something that, up until generation VI, didn’t really have much gameplay effect outside of some fairly niche things like Return/Frustration and a handful of evolutions (of course now we have to figure out what the hell the difference between “friendship” and “affection” is supposed to be, since they sound like pretty much the same thing and are broadly characterised the same way, but are apparently totally independent).  I think one of the big challenges for Pokémon’s game design is the disconnect between the fantasy of partnership, spiritual bonding and, frankly, magical friendship bull$#!t that’s always been core to the series’ ethos, and the… well… somewhat interchangeable, even disposable nature of individual Pokémon as gameplay elements (how many baby Pokémon have you hatched and then immediately released into the wild while IV-breeding?  I have no idea – which in a way is kinda the point – but I’m pretty sure I’m in quadruple-digit territory).  I’m glad that the last few sets of games have seen efforts to try and resolve that tension.

5 thoughts on “Ash’s abandoned Pidgeot asks:

  1. I like Pokemon Refresh. Then again, I tend to have strong connections with my Pokemon. Like, I end up feeling so sorry for the ones I store in the PC that I routinely go and train every one I ever catch x_x takes me /hours/ of grinding. I guess, in a way, the care sections only make that worse, but who can resist giving Growlithe a good old head rub?! At least with the bonuses for getting a high bond, I can get something out of my endless mashing of the Y button after a battle so I can go and give my Zubat a treat for doing so well. (PS. Zubats are the best).

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  2. For reference, the only things Let’s Go changed were…

    a) combining friendship and affection into one stat (since Amie/Refresh were replaced with Partner Play, which now excludes all of the Pokémon that Game Freak doesn’t want you to like… ironic, because I thought Let’s Go ALREADY excluded all of the Pokémon that Game Freak doesn’t want you to like), with all of the same benefits as affection but is raised and lowered in a way more like friendship instead
    and b) adding a small stat boost on top of that (up to a 10% increase in all five stats bar HP), which is definitely something I support, although it’s kind of overkill on top of standard affection benefits

    Since the questioner didn’t mention the stat boost, though, I can only assume they meant affection benefits in general and simply weren’t aware of them in Generations VI and VII. Maybe tying it to the passively-increasing friendship (instead of the affection stat that requires player input) made it more obvious? Or maybe they just skipped Gen VII – I know a lot of people did that (which is unfortunate because I think they’re REALLY missing out, but I know they’re very vocally criticized) and I think it’s harder to go without noticing Refresh than Amie.

    While we’re talking about affection, though, I think my personal favorite of the three systems has to be Refresh! My somewhat controversial take is that Let’s Go seem to have gone out of their way to make your relationships *less* personal with all of your Pokémon except your partner (I mean, they added walking Pokémon, which I think everyone loves, but the fact that Refresh functionality that used to be universally available is still fully implemented but exclusive to the partner speaks for itself…), while Amie is too isolated and out of the way – it’s completely discrete from the main campaign.
    Refresh has the best parts of both and more: it’s something you could do with every Pokémon like Amie, but it was naturally integrated into the campaign as Let’s Go while still being active and personal rather than passive and unnoticed – I think cleaning off Pokémon and healing their status conditions after battle was an ingenious addition and probably one of my favorite mechanics in the series.
    It’s also neat how it almost unintentionally adds character elements to different Pokémon. Like, most Pokémon only need to be cleaned off if an *enemy* gets them wet or if they battle in the sand or the mud, right? But in Ultra Sun, I had a team of five Pokémon – the latest addition being from the first visit to Malie City – before adding Poipole to my team after Ultra Necrozma, since that’s when it’s made available. That Poipole became my MOST affectionate Pokémon *by the time I reached the League* (a mere one Trial and one dungeon later!) because it kept getting itself dirty from its own attacks and liked to be cleaned afterwards.
    I mean.
    Just think about that for a second.
    Is that not *the cutest thing????*

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    1. Pretty much! All of it foregrounds stuff that is *supposed* to be central to being a good trainer, and for me it’s important that the game mechanics reflect the story and relationships we’re meant to imagine. That’s the difference between a good game and a great game.

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  3. I quite like the refresh/amie mechanic; I just wish the in-battle effects weren’t (a) tacked on and (b) total bulls–t. A mechanic that allows Pokemon to randomly endure hits, dodge attacks, heal status conditions etc (which none of the NPCs can use, and also doesn’t exist in multiplayer) effectively feels like playing the game on easy mode. And I know I could just not use the Pokemon refresh–but thats the point; I want to interact with my Pokemon in that way. So I really hope in future generations they just merge affection and friendship, and relegate it to the initial functions of friendship (evolution, learning certain moves etc).

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  4. Hm. This honestly made me rethink Refresh/Amie. I mostly ignored them because to me they seemed like another way to just make the game easier, and it seemed tedious to just tap and rub the screen, it felt like it slowed down the game… like, I just kept thinking it was breaking my immersion by having to go through a random little “minigame”. But from this point of view, it’s actually MORE immersive. Maybe if they add difficulty options back, I’d enjoy Amie more because it wouldn’t feel like I’m breaking the game, but more like an important mechanic, to bond with my team and fight with “the power of friendship”.

    How I tend to play the game these days is cycling my party a lot to evolve various Pokémon as I go along, filling out the Pokédex. With a bit more difficulty, that would be less viable without extra grinding and at the same time I’d feel like bonding with my team was important (when I keep switching my team, it’s hard to get too attached to it). I mean, maybe I’m the one that needs to change, but I digress.

    Either way, I’ll try to keep this viewpoint in mind as I play Pokémon Shield and use Pokémon Relax (or whatever they wanna call the successor to Refresh).

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