Pokemon Ultimate Handbook Reviewed
When playing Pokémon games of any description, whether these games are the hand-held console games or browser-based games inspired by and based on the wildly successful Nintendo franchise, I find myself occasionally coming up short in the knowledge department. I try not to think of this of evidence of my own stupidity (since I have vast quantities of other more compelling proof to that effect), instead putting it down to the undeniably overwhelming number of Pokémon in the fictional Pokémon world, as well as the fact that there have been no less than five generations of games, each sporting their own collection of main-series titles and spin-offs running parallel to these. The world of Pokémon is nothing short of astounding in its capacity for creativity, depth, and most of all, continuing to confuse the living Johto out of me with its seemingly endless supply of impressive yet difficult-to-remember creatures of staggering creed and quantity. I had hoped that taking on what is easily the best browser-based Pokémon game in existence would require less of an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Pokémon universe, but as Morgan Freeman taught me as ‘Red’ in the Shawshank Redemption, hope is a dangerous thing, and wouldn’t you know it, the creatures kept on rolling. I broke the glass of my Pokémon emergency kit, and pulled out the Ultimate Pokémon Handbook to ease my worries: the following is what I discovered.
The Ultimate Pokémon Handbook is a fairly comprehensive text that focuses on giving you the rundown on the attributes of all the pre-Unova Pokémon; information which is essential to pretty much any fan of Pokémon trying to make their way in the world. Of Pokémon. While I found the information featured in the book to be too much of a toe in the Pokémon Ocean in a situation which actually requires full-body immersion (or another clumsy metaphor of your choosing), the book’s tidy summation of each Pokémon’s vital stats is something that any Pokémon Tower Defense fan would benefit from greatly in their quest to become the tower defence master. Of Pokémon.
Listing each of the pre-Unova Pokémon in alphabetical order (rather than by national Pokédex number; a referencing dream, if you ask me), the Pokémon Ultimate Handbook has most of the information that the casual fan of Pokémon Tower Defense will ever need about their creatures: possible moves it can potentially learn (as well as the order in which they will be learned), the nature/temperament of the Pokémon, its species, and perhaps most importantly its type. It also contains other information that the more hardcore, underground fans of Pokémon will enjoy such as the definitively correct pronunciation of the Pokémon names and their physical dimensions of height and weight (facilitating the invention of the ‘are you heavier than’ Pokémon game).
Put Some Power in your Tower (Defence)
No, I’m not great at thinking up slick, relevant titles that simultaneously act as a witty play on words, but in all seriousness, the Ultimate Pokémon Handbook contains a good quantity of information relevant to the Pokémon Tower Defence experience. Even as someone whose dedication to Pokémon is such that I own the entire fossil collection of Pokémon cards catalogued neatly into purpose-made, plastic presentation wallets (‘shinies’ included), I found myself lacking in sufficient knowledge about some of the newer Pokémon which appear in both Pokemon Tower Defence and Pokémon Tower Defence: Generations. This gap in knowledge led me to constantly immerse myself in the more questionable avenues of the internet and into some fan-sites which felt more dingy than the pure mathematics section in the basement of a library. The Ultimate Handbook allows for speedy location of the Pokémon in question, and spares you the sometimes unpleasant experience of attempting to cross-reference any partial or sporadic data that can be found online.
Since Pokémon in general (and indeed the tower defence games of Pokémon flavour) is based upon a purely mathematical system of return-based battle mechanics, it pays to know the particular type of Pokémon which you are in possession of, the possible moves it will go on to learn and which Pokémon it may eventually evolve into. Since the damage that your Pokémon will inflict and have inflicted upon it is based on both its level and its type, you will find yourself at a distinct advantage in battle if you know exactly which creatures you Pokémon are likely to be vulnerable to, and which ones can be taken on with ease. Knowing the evolutionary forms of the Pokémon allows you to make an informed decision on whether to let it evolve or whether to allow it to remain in its primary form. Deciding which moves to let the Pokémon learn can mean all the difference between a powerful Pokémon and a lame duck. The Ultimate Pokémon Handbook takes much of the mystery out of the equation and lets you decide which moves to allow the Pokémon to learn and which ones it simply doesn’t need: knowing which move comes next is quite a bit part of development of a useful, well-rounded Pokémon.
Ultimate is such a Strong Word
Ok, so the book does have its limitations in the context of Pokémon Tower Defence. For one thing, it doesn’t contain the levels at which the Pokémon evolve and/or learn their different moves. Now, this is more of a purposeful omission than an accidental oversight due to the variation of moves and the levels at which they are learnt by between the different generations of Pokémon. Yes, the inclusion of these levels would make for a more complicated affair, but the fact remains that this information is extremely useful and yet it is absent from the book.
The handbook also only covers Pokémon from the Kanto, Johnto, Hoenn and Sinnoh regions, since its date of release predates that of the worldwide proliferation of the Uniova-region Pokémon in 2011. Of course, the author/s of the book cannot be to blame, but unchanged is the fact that Pokémon Tower Defence 2 : Generations is beginning to introduce more and more Pokémon from generation five, and with the notable absence of these Pokémon from the handbook, the text becomes a less relevant source in this respect.
Finally, in spite of the inclusion of each Pokémon’s individual type, there appears to be a distinct lack of information on the particular advantages and disadvantages of pitting these types against each other. Since the mechanics of Pokémon battling are based quite heavily on type match-ups, it seems odd that a chart hasn’t been included in the book for reference. Many of these charts exists on the internet, which is exactly the kind of exploration I was hoping to avoid by owning this book. Oh well, no biggie; the information contained in the book is still ample for the majority of Pokémon Tower Defence Players.
In a game of such numerous variables, the man who owns the book which explains and lists a significant number of these variables in alphabetical order for your convenience is king. This is a quote from no one, and it neither rolls of the tongue nor is it pithy, but the fact remains that the more you know about the creatures you catch in Pokémon Tower Defence, the more of an advantage you will have. The Pokémon Ultimate Handbook conveniently lists the pre-Unova Pokémon, their moves, evolution progressions and some other not-so-vital statistics that while superfluous, give you almost all the information that the average Pokémon Tower Defence Player is ever going to need when playing the game.
Is Pokémon Tower Defense and the Pokémon Ultimate Handbook an example of pairing perfection? It doesn’t quite stand that highly in my opinion, since the really vital info just isn’t there. If another book is going to be released which is to act as a complete Pokémon retrospective to date, one would hope that it offered a little more information at least regarding the levels at which each Pokémon evolve, as well as which levels they learn their moves. Only then could the ‘Ultimate Pokemon Handbook’ begin to live up to its own description of being ‘Ultimate’ in any way. Oh and we could do with a Pokémon type-matchup chart that shows the particular weaknesses and strengths of each Pokémon type in grid form. Everyone loves a good chart, and a lovely grid is the perfect accompaniment after all.
Reviewed by Craig Sherratt