To be honest folks, I’m not entirely sure how I can talk about this game safely without having to worry about stepping on any toes here. I do want to give a disclaimer before anything else explaining that PETA and its affiliates are ones I would neither consider allies nor enemies. I think that the organization itself and the messages they have are important and fundamental in the equal treatment of animals… however, I cannot condone their shock-and-awe tactics as a basis to get people on their side in what I would consider fear-mongering. I think they’re well intended, but flawed in their methodology and one can equally argue that they’re a hypocritical agency that effectively scorns humans for being just that; humans. Moving right along, I think it would be best to cut politics out of the equation for now and evaluate PETA on their latest stab at Nintendo.
For those who may be out of the loop (or quite frankly never bothered to pay any attention to PETA for any imaginable reason), PETA and Nintendo have never been on the best of terms with one another, for a frame of time I cannot personally make an accurate guess to. Previous shout-outs against Nintendo on their part can be seen through previous articles on their website and more importantly, through the various flash games they have incorporated onto their site. Mario was initially the biggest target as an Italian plumber jumping on turtles was deemed too inhumane, then Cooking Mama followed not terribly long ago in a campaign they had to promote veganism/vegetarianism, Mario again in their campaign to end the wearing of furs and of course in this latest installment against Pokémon to make a stance against animal fighting.
Again, I will make this perfectly clear; I think that PETA is a well-INTENDED agency. The games that they made however; depict carnivores such as myself to be horrendous human beings that take pleasure in seeing the suffering of those weaker than us -at least in the Cooking Mama parody game- to be utterly barbaric and with no regard to food sanitation, preparation and with a taste for sadism. But I digress. The sake of this article will be to evaluate ‘Pokémon Black and Blue’ on the merits of being a flash game on their website.
For those of us who have paid attention to PETA in the last few years, one could see that they’ve been making game “parodies” to help push their own message and to make their causes well known to the general public. I will admit, in their own way, they are effective, because their shock-and-awe tactics actually DO get people talking… but unfortunately for PETA, the talks are usually filled with disdain, anger and ridicule. In their latest game attempt, they tackled Pokémon for being akin to dog fighting or cockfighting, an illegal act that people bet on and watch for their own entertainment. Again, there is some merit to this thought as Pokémon has devolved as of late into fine-tuning “machines” into ideal fighters and to see who can reign supreme.
The game itself is very straightforward; breaking down to Pokémon going and fighting against their old trainers to promote more animal-friendly messages and to promote an end to Pokémon fights as a whole. The design for the Pokémon that the player gets to use upon freeing them from their captors Cheren, Professor Juniper, Ghetsis and Ash do paint quite a grim picture that is supported through animal abuse and while a mapping of this thought was applied to the trainers listed... well quite frankly, it came off more comical than anything.
In the game, the Pokémon that we got to use were all given four moves, par for the course, however two moves are based off the original games’ moves while the other two were PETA based and included everything from Protest, Group Hug and Shame. Upon defeating a trainer (listed in order earlier), there’s a short speech between the Pokémon and the trainer explaining how Pokémon fighting each other is a morally wrong practice. After defeating each trainer, the small, ragtag party you assemble with Pikachu and the Unova starters talk amongst each other before the player is given a treasure chest with the following “prizes”: a depressing video showcasing animal abuse, a ‘Pokémon Black and Blue’ wallpaper and lastly, a set of trading cards relating to the game and based off of the current Pokémon cards we see today only differing just enough to skirt the lines of copyright infringement, if one says they're not blatantly doing so.
The game tries to appeal to a younger (see teenage) audience to try and compel players to promote their notions of animal rights activism by interspersing the “I herd u leik Mudkips” and Slowpoke memes but again, I felt as though they -tried- at least to make something better than decent in that regard but the plan fell on its face and the lines came off flat. If anything, the dialogue of the game and by trying to make something similar to the Pokémon franchise made the whole thing feel like a Korean knock-off with PETA’s message heavily mixed in.
If I may address the contradictions I their game though, I would like to point out that PETA tries to paint a grisly, violent lens over Pokémon, but as anyone who had watched the show can say, caring about one’s Pokémon is one of the focal points of the entire show. Within the first episode, any viewer could see that Ash was willing to throw himself to certain death just so he could protect his Pikachu. In the first movie, in an attempt to stop the fighting between the trainers’ Pokémon and Mewtwo’s clones, he ends up getting caught in the psychic blasts and dying (or turned to stone if that sense of petrification doesn’t count as a death). Hell, throughout the series, Ash has been repeatedly been abused by Pokémon at one point or another (especially with the Charizard he raised), but through it all, the one thing that has been capitalized is the fact that the entire series has been dedicated to him and his friends showing nothing but compassion towards their Pokémon, their teammates, their friends. The same message is translated into the games by the player fighting against terrorist organizations that seek to monopolize and use Pokémon to seek out their own selfish ends.
All in all, I will say that I give PETA points for trying, at least. The fact that they angered a monstrously large fanbase however does not help out their cause any, and I would say that even though they tried to address a very important and underlying message in the Pokémon games that Pokémon should have their own rights (see Team Plasma), the process by which they went about it was flawed. Their flash game, I think could have been much better if they had actually done some research into the series as a whole and patched up any flaws in their game’s design.
Reviewer Rating: 1.5/5
Reviewed By: Kaz