I remember the days when I would sit in my basement all day and play video games. Ah, yesterday.
But I also remember the times when I had a genuine Game Boy Color and a rumble pak version of the original Pokémon Pinball. It was such an addictive experience. Even now I can’t play just one or two games. I have to at least try for a high score. This is harder than it seems because this game is brutal.
Any pinball game would be challenging, sure, but this game has a tendency to grasp the ball in a sort of voodoo-fuck you magic and angle it just at the exact spot where it flies through the open space between your flippers. It has a tendency to go in the complete opposite direction of where you’re aiming for it to go. It has a tendency to go faster than sonic speed, zooming and bouncing off of every beep-boop buttons littered all around the stage, steeling your nerves and testing your focus in a race against death. This game is more nerve-wracking than most anime, most video games, most estranged family outings. You love to hate this God-forsaken manifestation of Game Freak’s frustration with fanboys writing to them begging for their OC’s to be included in their main series games. It punishes you for being weak, both emotionally and physically. A rage-quitter’s nightmare and a skill player’s dream in one.
Don’t even get me started on the Red Stage.
This stage looks innocent enough, don’t it?
Just a Bellsprout wanting some oral fun. A Staryu taking a nap. Voltorbs ready to be pounded. Digletts sight-seeing. A ditto under construction. All fun and sweet.
But sure enough, you start up the game and it destroys you. Game after game I’ve wasted trying to do anything on this course. I can’t angle it quite right to get into the Bellsprout’s mouth. The one of very few angles to hit the ball that will even get you in there. It’s like taking a putt on an upward slope in the middle of a monsoon. The level design is so crooked that you have to be so precise with your needle. I don’t even see how you can intentionally thread the ball into the appropriates tunnels. It’s a crap shoot.
I can’t do shit on this stage. I try every time and the farthest I’ve made it is to one bonus stage. It’s so much harder to master than the Blue Stage that I don’t see why anyone would even choose it. A difficulty buff’s dream, I suppose. It’s Hell to me, and I’m sure to many others. That elusive, non-moving Bellsprout.
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I love this game.
It’s a game I grew up with. It’s a game that I’ve wasted hours on, trying to fill up the internal pokédex with pokémon available to catch in-game. I never got that far when I was a child, but I was a hell of a lot better at catching and evolving pokémon than I was now that I’m more focused on getting points and completing bonus stages. The game does a magnificent job of incorporating all of the factors that make Pokémon such an enjoyable franchise, from catching to raising and finding new creatures in different areas. It also does a good job of feeling like a genuine pinball slot, with bonus multipliers, ball savers, and a giant array of point collecting with every obstacle hit. It’s great fun for anyone interested in Pokémon, Pinball, or both. It has such delicate details thrown into every aspect that makes it feel loved and cherished. It feels like everything has meaning. Everything is a burst of energy and enthusiasm. It feels great. It looks great. The game’s just great. Great fun. Great formula. Great incorporation.
If only the Red Stage wasn’t so maddeningly difficult.