Difference between revisions of "Can we catch ‘em all?"

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type=editorialop-column |
picture=Prof_Carolina.png |
caption= |
weekday=TuesdayWednesday |
day=285 |
month=1011 |
year=2014 |
time=0114:1011:0131 |
discusstype=bmgfnone |
discusslink=170139 |
sourcetype=exclusive |
sourcename=8bitbecca |
sourcelink=User:8bitbecca |
user=Rebecca Hernandez-Gerber |
userlink=User:8bitbecca |
tagline=Versions, remakes, and media archaeology in PokémonGeneration I |
blurb=In the firstsecond of seven articles, Pokémon Professor and Archaeologist Becca takes you on a journey into theGeneration world ofI core series games through the lens of media archaeology and media specificity. }}
'''“Tajiri had a novel idea: to utilize the tsushin keburu [Game Boy Link Cable] for ‘communication’ instead – for exchanges between players in which the objective would be to barter with, rather than eliminate, an opponent by training monsters.”'''
'''“''Pokémon'' is something you do, not just something you read or watch or consume.”
- Anne Allison, ''Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination''
Twenty years ago, many players first encountered a video game through its advertisement campaign. Nintendo, in particular, was notorious for tightly controlling advertisement through censorship of unwelcome critiques in Japanese gaming magazines. This control went even farther in the United States, where the company-run {{bp|Nintendo Power|’’Nintendo Power’’}} essentially functioned as a subscription advertising campaign. As a result, marketing controlled how players understood their games. Nowhere is this more obvious than in {{bp|Generation I|Generation I core series titles}}.
David Buckingham and Julian Sefton-Green, {{bp|Pikachu’s Global Adventure| ''Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon''}}'''
Before applying media archaeology methodologies to these versions, it is helpful to look at Nintendo’s advertised descriptions of versions.
[[File:Prof_Carolina.png|thumb|Your resident Pokémon Archaeologist]]
[[File:GenIOfficialVersionTree.png|thumb|Generation 1 Official Version Tree]]
We are being studied. That is a simple fact. Pokémon and its fan base have been discussed in everything from seminal works on convergence culture to understanding children’s media consumption. Throughout media studies, various groups have studied Pokémon fans to grasp how our base has adapted to the large amount of data found within the franchise. Yet in the nearly twenty years of being studied, fans have rarely done the opposite and used media studies tools for their own benefit.
According to Nintendo, Pokémania began with the Japanese release of {{bp|Pokémon Red and Green Versions|''Pocket Monsters: Red'' and ''Green''}} for the {{bp|Game Boy}} in 1996. A minor revision, {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}}, was released later in the same year as a gift to loyal {{bp|CoroCoro Comic}} subscribers. Red and Blue were translated into English, with no other changes made to the games themselves, and released in the United States in 1998 as {{bp|Pokémon Red and Blue Versions|''Pokémon Red'' and ''Blue''}}. Some advertisements noted the existence of a secret third version known as Green in Japan, but little to no information was released on that title. Once successful in the United States, another year passed before French, Italian, Spanish, and German translations of the games were released in Europe.
In many ways, Pokémon fans have an advantage over many other fan groups. Our franchise focuses on the infinite power of knowledge. We don’t just collect Pokémon; we collect Pokémon ''data''. Like a living {{bp|Pokédex}}, each one of us soaks up as much knowledge as we can, and when that knowledge becomes too much for one person, we turn to communal storage such as {{bp|Bulbapedia}}. To be a Pokémon fan is to be immersed in a culture that requires discipline, study, and teamwork to try and be the very best. That we have so much fun while gathering that knowledge only proves the resilience and abilities this franchise has to offer.
The popularity of the anime series throughout the world happily surprised Nintendo, which decided to treat its fans during the long wait until {{bp|Generation II}}. Therefore, {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pocket Monsters: Pikachu''}} was released in Japan in 1998. Renamed {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition''}}, it was released in the United States in 1999 followed by Europe in 2000. All of these international versions were marketed as exact translations of the original Japanese titles. Though these versions were all compatible with the new {{bp|Game Boy Color}}, they were not designed for that system.
So let’s turn the tables a bit and use one media studies theory to help us in our struggle: media archaeology. This field attempts to understand media through its technology rather than its content, or rather to process content through the lens of ''media specificity''. For example, let’s say we wanted to study the North American release of {{bp|Pokémon Red and Blue Versions|''Pokémon Red Version''}}.
Players soon discovered that Nintendo’s statements did not mesh with reality. In Japan, players noticed that {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}} was a significant departure from the previous versions. Graphics received a major overhaul, and a number of glitches were neutralized. Players with access to both the Japanese and North American titles discerned that the international localizations resembled {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}} more than {{bp|Pokémon Red and Green Versions|''Pocket Monsters: Red'' and ''Green''}}.
[[File:Red_EN_boxart.jpg|thumb|Pokémon Red Version boxart]]
In addition to these content alterations, a major technical change was discovered after comparing {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pocket Monsters: Pikachu''}} and {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition''}} across platforms. Japanese players using a {{bp|Game Boy Color}} could select one of several color palette options, indicating the game was built primarily for {{bp|Game Boy}} and not its color successor. In contrast, international versions defaulted to a single, richer color palette, indicating a {{bp|Game Boy Color}} title. These indications were reinforced by comparing the versions on the {{bp|Super Game Boy}}. The Japanese version contained no special features on the device, but international versions accessed a variety of special borders. This may not appear significant, but studying technical limitations gives a clue: only {{bp|Game Boy Color}} games contained borders on the {{bp|Super Game Boy}}.
Traditional media studies, or game studies in particular, might tell us to look at the video game itself. That could include studying the audiovisual content of the game, its plot or story, game mechanics such as battle, or the significance of trade in a cultural context. Those are all very fine points of study. Unfortunately, they are also very limited. How can we study why the audiovisuals looked and sounded as they did if we don’t consider the limitations of the {{bp|Game Boy}}? Can we truly understand battle if we don’t take a peek at how {{bp|Pokémon data structures in Generation I|data structures}} influence a Pokémon’s strength? How can we study trade in a vacuum without considering the hardware dependencies of a {{bp|Link Cable}}? If we only care about the game, emulation would be close enough to a video game so as to examine the experience, but we are not just studying a game. We are studying a media object that exists in a very specific technological framework. Through the use of media archaeology, we look at the whole picture rather than one part, and we gain a richer grasp of what that picture is.
How can a player make sense of this confusion? Why are Nintendo’s statements nonsense when compared to the obvious reality of versions? For a more honest breakdown of versions, we must look at the source and executable code itself.
One major advantage to media archaeology as a process of study is that it gives us a chance to look at one of the more infuriating or challenging (depending on how you look at it) aspects of {{bp|core series Pokémon games}}: versions. On the surface, versions don’t appear too complicated, seeing as the series generally follows a similar release model. Each {{bp|generation}} of core series games begins with a pair of games, generally identical other than a few alterations, followed by a third solitary version with additional tweaks. Sometimes, a paired set of remakes from a previous generation is released, as well. There are exceptions such as {{bp|Generation V}}. For most of the franchise’s history, games are released in six to seven languages: Japanese, English, Korean, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. The general pattern of distribution begins in {{bp|Pokémon in Japan|Japan}}, followed by {{bp|Pokémon in South Korea|South Korea}} (when included), the United States, Australian/New Zealand, and finally Europe (in all four languages).
[[File:GenIUnofficialVersionTree.png|thumb|Generation I Unofficial Version Tree]]
In reality, the connections between versions are much more complicated, and media archaeology gives us the tools to understand alterations to the code itself. This gives fans the ability to understand the games in entirely new ways, and nowhere is this more apparent than in remakes. If we took Game Freak and Nintendo at face value, we might assume that {{bp|Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen Versions|''Pokémon FireRed'' and ''LeafGreen''}} are remakes of {{bp|Pokémon Red and Green Versions|''Pocket Monsters Red'' and ''Green''}}. By using media archaeology and digging into the code, we discover that the remakes are actually remakes of {{bp|Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire Versions|''Pokémon Ruby'' and ''Sapphire''}} with the older audiovisual content painted on top of the newer game engine. Media archaeology gives us the tools to peek under the mainframe of versions and remakes and truly grasp why they work.
The diagram to the right demonstrates the actual connections between versions from a media specific, code-based examination. Media archaeology is critical to make sense of the differences between this diagram and the previous, official diagram of versions taken from Nintendo advertisements.
[[File:Confusion_status_III.png|thumb|Confusion: not limited to Pokémon]]
{{bp|Satoshi Tajiri}} released a superior set of games with the original Pocket Monsters titles, but he hand-coded those games over a period of six years. This limitation of resources resulted in well-known {{bp|glitch|glitches}}. The purpose of {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}} was not a minor aesthetic revision but instead a much-needed overhaul of problematic source code, neutralizing {{bp|glitch|glitches}}. What is so impressive about this version is that such an overhaul had to be invisible; more precisely, these structural changes appear minimal to players but radically altered the structure of the game’s code underneath the surface.
You might ask yourself, who cares about all these connections when we can spend our time playing Pokémon? Surprisingly, as fans we can learn a lot from these sorts of examinations. By having a better grasp of version connections, we can exploit inter-generational {{bp|trade}} more easily, ensuring we are able to {{bp|Gotta Catch ‘em All|catch ‘em all}}. By looking at data structures influenced by platform specificity, we can take advantage of {{bp|Glitch|glitches}} to build a more powerful team of Pokémon and defeat our enemies in battle. Perhaps most importantly, as fans we can truly comprehend Pokémon not as Game Freak or Nintendo want us to comprehend them, but instead on our own terms. We can control our knowledge of these games in ways we never could before.
I propose that we take a journey together. In this series of articles, I will examine each generation of Pokémon {{bp|core series}} versions. Examining data structures, system requirements, {{bp|trade|trade restrictions}}, and localization will give us a deeper view into Pokémon. In particular, we’ll focus heavily on remakes. Finally, we can use what we’ve learned to think about how the upcoming {{bp|remake|remakes}} might turn out, and how future {{bp|core series}} franchise games might be organized with the upcoming release of the New Nintendo 3DS.
Nintendo considered the release of the Pocket Monsters franchise in North America to be a problematic endeavor. Stories of the company’s reluctance to send the games overseas are well known. How, then, could Nintendo knowingly release glitchy games to an audience they felt expected better of their products? Revision was needed, and it appeared under the guise of {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}}. Using media archaeology as a framework, it is possible to dig into the code. Comparing code across titles demonstrates that {{bp|Pokémon Red and Blue Versions|''Pokémon Red'' and ''Blue''}} were heavily derived from {{bp|Pokémon Blue Version (Japanese)|''Pocket Monsters: Blue''}}. Game engine, script, and audiovisual content were all ripped from the less-problematic version, with only {{bp|version-exclusive Pokémon}} lists surviving from {{bp|Pokémon Red and Green Versions|''Pocket Monsters: Red'' and ''Green''}}. It is these ideal English-language versions that were translated for other international audiences, ensuring the best-quality product available outside Japan.
So, what do you say?
What, then, of the confusion surrounding {{bp|Pokémon Yellow|''Pocket Monsters: Pikachu''}}? Once again, glimpsing at the code itself is key. The title is not a version of previous Japanese titles but instead derived from what was considered to be the most stable set of games: {{bp|Pokémon Red and Blue Versions|''Pokémon Red'' and ''Blue''}}. Hidden objects in the code taken from the international releases confirm the connection. However, what remains especially confusing is the data discovered by accessing the game across platforms. Why would Nintendo release a more colorful version to international audiences but neglect their own?
“You teach me and I’ll teach you.”
By the time this version was in the process of translation, the {{bp|Game Boy}} was at the end of its lifecycle in the United States and an incentive was needed to purchase the newest mobile platform. As such, all international versions were slightly altered so that they are actually {{bp|Game Boy Color}} games rather than {{bp|Game Boy}}, giving children an excuse to hassle their parents into buying the newest system. What remains a mystery is unknown why Nintendo chose to continue marketing the version as a {{bp|Game Boy}} game. There are some questions that require a wider societal context than mere media archaeology. It is possible the company did not wish to confuse international audiences about platform compatibility or anger its Japanese audience by giving an enhanced product to non-Japanese audience. In the end, only speculation is possible.
You may have noticed this article does not discuss {{bp|Pokémon data structure in Generation I|data structures}} or {{bp|trade}}. Such factors are best discussed in the context of inter-generational trade beginning in {{bp|Generation II}}. What is most significant about this generation is that it lays the base for how Nintendo communicated Game Freak’s products to their fans. Reality within code and reality within advertising are not the same, and if players do not consider media specific ideologies, the truth is quickly obscured.