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(06-10-2008, 06:30 AM)
Let me be very clear--throughout this entire post.

I love Pokemon. It's my favorite series, and has produced many of my favorite games. I do think the single-player is rather droll, only ever hitting the heights of C+ or B- territory, but multiplayer in the mainline games is where it's at. Past or present, I've owned Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, another copy of Gold, Silver, Crystal, Ruby, Sapphire, Fire Red, Leaf Green, Emerald, another copy of Emerald, Diamond, a Japanese copy of Diamond (and I don't know Japanese), Pearl, and a Japanese copy of Pearl.

With the exception of Gold/Silver/Crystal, I always manage to pull at least 550 hours from every Pokemon generation. Not all of those are active hours, of course; I would say that at least 40% of them are spent hatching eggs while browsing GAF, talking on the phone, or any number of other things. My boxes inevitably reach a point of overflow, and that point almost always signals the exact time that I'll stop playing; I don't want to breed more eggs if I can only hatch 20 or 30 in one shot. For this reason, extra storage slots are always a plus to me.

I don't only buy the main games. I've owned Battle Revolution, Colosseum, Mystery Dungeon Blue, Pinball, Ranger, Snap, Stadium, Stadium 2, Trading Card Game (GBC), Trozei, and XD. I didn't particularly love Ranger; I'll buy its sequel anyway purely because I saw room for improvement. I didn't particularly love Colosseum; I still played through it three times to hoard more Suicune. I'll be getting Platinum day one, and I consistently hold out hope for a DS Pokemon Pinball and a Wii Pokemon Snap, along with another Colosseum or XD-style home console RPG.

I've been a series critic; for example, Diamond/Pearl have ludicrously slow gameplay compared to their GBA counterparts, and Pokemon Battle Revolution is an outright horrible waste of money. And I've highlighted a number of ways that the games could improve without radically changing any one aspect to a degree that might alienate the fanbase. It makes sense to critique something you love, right? Constructively, in hopes that it would improve.

But this post will not be a critique.

My Pokemon Ranch is the dirtiest of shovelware that Nintendo has yet produced or published. I am not talking about a "Yoshi's Story" level of shovelware. I am not talking about a "Pinball" level of shovelware. I am not talking about a "Virtual Boy" level of shovelware. I am talking about something new, unprecedented, and unparalleled, very nearly industry-wide. I am saying that if ever there were a case to be made against intelligent design and natural selection in one fell swoop, then I would say that the conception, creation, approval, and publication of My Pokemon Ranch rank among the strongest imaginable evidence.

I bought under the assumption that, given my understanding of what constitutes a fundamental human intelligence--what functions of thought exist that not even the mentally retarded or brain-damaged lack, never mind game planners ostensibly skilled enough to be hired and paid in this industry (or, if it's not their fault, then the marketers or other higher-ups who forced various design decisions on them)--nobody could screw up this title's one selling point, which is 1000 extra storage slots. Just to be clear that calling storage this title's one selling point is not my own unique and personalized hyperbole, Nintendo added a screen before the final purchase, warning prospective buyers that they can't use My Pokemon Ranch to battle or trade. This is good.

What's not good is that they provide only two of the four reasons that, much like the internal memory of Wii itself, My Pokemon Ranch doesn't even suffice as a storage utility. To begin, here's what they caution players about:

1) Any Pokemon which is deposited to My Pokemon Ranch cannot be withdrawn to a DS card other than the card which originally deposited it.
2) Any Pokemon which is deposited to My Pokemon Ranch cannot be withdrawn to the DS card it was deposited from if that DS card has started (and saved) a new game.

Exactly which of these two oversights may be called more asinine is nothing I can decide. Putting aside fanatics like myself for a moment, there are two significant reasons that a person would buy a Wii storage utility for a DS Pokemon game. The first reason is that she owns two or more copies of Pokemon but only has one working DS, in which case she can't pool the items and teams of her two files. If she wanted to do so, My Pokemon Ranch would not allow it. The second reason is that she has one copy of Pokemon and wants to start a new file without losing her old Pokemon. If she wanted to do so, My Pokemon Ranch would not allow that either.

I have four copies of Pokemon and two DSes, and I don't want to restart any of them since I don't care about the single-player. (And even if I did, technically I've already played through Pokemon D/P four times.) Consequently, neither of the above mistakes in My Pokemon Ranch apply to me--which explains why I would press on and buy it anyway, yes? Actually, no. I still want the option to start a new file if I feel like it, and transferring Pokemon between my two English copies without setting up trades between my two DSes would have been an enormous selling point. Nonetheless, after a few minutes of hesitation I went forward and bought it because of two remaining assumptions that ended up not holding water. And here is why they didn't hold water--here are the things which they don't caution players about:

3) You can't instantly store 1000 Pokemon. On the first day you can only store a total of 20--which on your end is only 14, since an in-game Pokemon ranch girl has already put in six (which you can't withdraw). You have to upgrade your ranch over a period of days before you can store that maximum amount. It will take a minimum of five days to hit the 1000 mark--or, alternatively, a minimum six instances of messing around with your Wii clock settings (the sixth being to set it back to normal).
4) There's no box interface. Yes, that's correct: a glorified 1000-slot Pokemon box does not have a series-standard box interface with which to conveniently organize Pokemon. The order you deposited them in is the order you're left with.

How does one manage to screw up systems which have been in place for over a decade? They only had to copy and paste what had already been done before, but couldn't manage that. Even a parrot who imitates human speech without contextual understanding is closer to legitimate language than My Pokemon Ranch is to a legitimate storage utility, much less a product worth paying for.

Before anyone argues that I'm merely upset because I spent too much money for an inferior product, I have to say that such a person would be wrong. Between a Smash tournament and various gift cards, I've gotten my last 6000 Wii Points at significant discounts. Going in chronological order, you might say that I effectively paid $2 for LostWinds, $0 for Defend Your Castle, $0 for Family Table Tennis, $2.15 for Dr. Mario Online Rx, $2.69 for Toki Tori, and $5.15 for My Pokemon Ranch. But even if My Pokemon Ranch had been released at a time to cost me effectively $0, I would still be upset. I don't make posts this large over a matter of price unless it's a $50 game that barely warrants a C grade. No, it's a matter of principle. This title is an insult to its series and has set Pokemon storage titles back nine years--literally, seeing as Pokemon Box and Pokemon Stadium 1 each handled extra storage capacity more effectively. Stadium didn't allow a quantity of 1000, mind you (though these were in the days before breeding and before more than 151 Pokemon, so hitting that high wasn't quite as important), but even that title allowed for clean transfer from one portable Pokemon game to another.

I suppose I could mention lesser troubles with My Pokemon Ranch as well. For example, I can point out that the music is repetitive, that the main girl talks for ten or so unskippable minutes before you can begin to deposit anything, or that the Pokemon models are 3D scarcely on par with a heavily anti-aliased version of 1992--to say nothing of their shapes, which are not only neither cute nor appealing, but so hideous as to actually detract from this title. All of that would be tangential, though. The exterior trappings--fair word there, at least in this case--are irrelevant in this scenario of a title which was called upon to do only one thing and ultimately could not do even that.

Get on with it and make a real Pokemon Box Wii, Nintendo, and pretend this abject, abominable aberration of a title never happened.