Most people acknowledge the notion that most games can be made better by the addition of Pokémon. Granted, some people may disagree, but this is a case where the majority rules and the fact that pretty much every Pokémon spin-off is successful is telling. Pokémon Art Academy , the recently announced iteration of Nintendo’s Art Academy series, is just another step forward in proving a good thing can be made even better when Pokémon gets involved.
Want proof? Pokémon Pinball is a pretty good place to start. We all know pinball games are fairly solid, but themed pinball games are even better. However, Pokémon Pinball wasn’t just a great game because the tables had our favorite little monsters all over them. It was fantastic because it turned the game into pinball with a point. Your pinball was actually a Poké Ball, and the point of the game wasn’t just to rack up massive points, but to also catch Pokémon along the way. It’s no wonder it got a sequel, Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire , and I only hope we perhaps get an eShop exclusive Pokémon Pinball: X & Y one day too.
It isn’t just the pinball genre that’s enhanced by the inclusion of Pokémon. Puzzle games get a much needed dose of charm from the characters. Do you remember Tetris Attack and Planet Puzzle League ? You’re forgiven if you don’t, as the Panel de Pon series has always been critically acclaimed, but not a household name. In fact, you may only recognize one title in this series–the N64 game Pokémon Puzzle League . Nintendo took the basic gameplay of Panel de Pon and added Pokémon to it, resulting in an addictively winning combination. (Not to mention another series that needs to make a comeback.)
Even Pokémon Trozei! and Pokémon Battle Trozei could be seen as a case of Pokémon being added to a puzzle game to make them stronger. At their hearts, both titles are basically match 4 and match 3 games. Naturally, they probably wouldn’t have sold as well if, say, Genius Sonority had used sparkling gems or pieces of candy as the items people were matching, but making them the heads of our favorite Pokémon had to help.
But you’d be mistaken if you only thought genres considered to be more casual are the only ones that benefit from having Pokémon tossed into them. RPGs and strategy games have found rampant success when Pokémon are added to the formula too. I trust you’re all familiar with the Chunsoft, now Spike Chunsoft, Mystery Dungeon series? While the Shiren the Wanderer series are the Mystery Dungeon line with original characters, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games take that roguelike formula and pop Pokémon characters in as the heroes, villains, NPCs and random opponents. Considering four Pokémon Mystery Dungeon generations have appeared so far–five if you count the Japanese Wii installment–I’d say they’re pretty darn popular.
Even a strategy game can do a little better when Pokémon get involved. Tecmo Koei and Nintendo’s Pokémon Conquest showed quite a bit of ingenuity. It was complicated, yes, but managed to perfectly blend Pokémon in with characters from the Musou series. The result was a thoughtful game that even took into account character compatibility and evolutions. It was just such a unique endeavor, and is absolutely one of my favorite Pokémon spin-offs.
So you see, Pokémon Art Academy is just continuing a rather grand tradition. It isn’t as though Nintendo and the developers are working on slipshod games and just tossing Pokémon in to make people buy it. The core gameplay is solid, and often representative of another series. Adding Pokémon in just makes it more accessible to a wider audience and makes the final product better. I’m looking forward to seeing how Pokémon Art Academy turns out, and am sure more people will be interested in it and stick with its lessons, thus perhaps even becoming better artists, because of the inclusion of the most famous of pocket monsters.