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Death Comes to Pokemon: Finding usefulness in the series' most useless creature

Death Comes to Pokemon: Finding usefulness in the series' most useless creature

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Unless you've been living under a rock, or in space (or inside of a rock that's in space that isn't Our Rock In Space), you probably know what Pokemon is. If you don't ... wow! I'll keep it brief: Pokemon is about over 750 collectible little creatures. But an app that's been released earlier in May is focused on a very, very special Pokemon. The wonderfully useless Magikarp: A fish Pokemon that is known for being extremely weak and having the 'splash' attack, which does no damage and involves the Magikarp just flinging itself around uselessly. Surely, there has to be something one can do with this Pokemon, right? Well, of course! You make it jump.

At least, you do in the adorable app released by The Pokemon Company. In 'Pokemon: Magikarp Jump,' you train Magikarps that you fish up through a series of exercises (and cramming berries in their mouths) to gain JP or 'Jump Power'. By using the 'JUMP POWER' that your Magikarp earns via training, you are able to go through jump competitions, until you have a champion Magikarp.

Copyright 2017 Pokemon / 1995 - 2017 Nintendo / Creatures Inc. All rights reserved

What's particularly interesting about this Pokemon game is how it explores death. In fact, how Magikarp is treated in general is really interesting. See, once your Magikarp hits a level cap, that's it. You can't make the level cap raise, even if you want to pay actual money for it (which I'll get to in a bit). Rather, Magikarp retire. And you'll see them swimming in the background of your Magikarp's pond, and you continuously cycle through Magikarp.

But sometimes Magikarp don't retire happily. The game will present you with random events, where you can gain more Jump Power, or another turn to train your Magikarp, or even coins that you can use to improve your exercises or the power of your berries. But some random events come with a choice. The game will, typically, prompt you twice with this choice. Very clearly, it will tell you this could be dangerous (For instance, choosing to have your Magikarp jump in a tree to get berries, choosing it to chase after a shiny underwater object that could be a hook), then ask if you're sure. Then will ask if you're SURE you're sure.

Copyright 2017 Pokemon / 1995 - 2017 Nintendo / Creatures Inc. All rights reserved

And if you lose that? 'Forced retirement'. Your character calls out your Magikarp's name, and a 'NOOOO.' And when you return to the screen to fish up another Magikarp, the professor tells you that (your Magikarp's name) is no more, and that 'he'll take care of it.' Somewhat ominous, but an interesting add-on for a cutesy mobile Pokemon game.

But don't let that spurn you from this title. Magikarp Jump is genuinely a very cute, fun, and addictive game. Admittedly, the further you get in the game, the more chore-like levelling up your Magikarp feels. But I'm three leagues in, and I've yet to stop playing the game for a day. There are options to purchase things for the game (Diamonds, which you can use to buy items for the game, and to re-fish Magikarp if you don't get one you desire) but what's fascinating is that the game actually has a cap for this. After you purchase 5000 diamonds, you're cut off. In an age of video games aimed for whaling (Which is, mobile games designed with pay options to hook a 'whale', which is someone that will drop hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on an addictive game) this is oddly refreshing and nice. Likewise, the game makes it very clear, on every single startup of the game, that while buying add-ons for this game is an option. It's not needed for game completion. Which -- for a game geared towards a younger audience -- is a relief to see.

Copyright 2017 Pokemon / 1995 - 2017 Nintendo /
Creatures Inc. All rights reserved

All in all, I find the gameplay really fun. You tap some berries, train up a Magikarp through random chance events, and slowly work through leagues. Compared to main Pokemon games, where once you have a strong Pokemon on your team, it's apt to stay there forever, it's refreshing and strange to have Pokemon retire and to see slow progress not only with how the trained Magikarp gain 'Jump Power', but also with how you train them, and how training methods open up as your progress through the game.

While I'm not sure if this is going to be a title I envision myself playing in - say -- a month, it's a fun, short title to enjoy. And with the release of this game, Pokemon also put out an adorable video featuring Magikarp  to accompany other songs from the Japanese Pokemon youtube that have been translated (Such as the strangely soothing Slowpoke Song). I recommend checking out this cute little app. There's just something charming and sweet about finding potential in a creature that's been called 'Useless' for years. 

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