I’m going to go ahead and admit something that many 24-year-old males of any standing in society (of which I have very little; I mean who do I think I am, Rod Stewart?) would traditionally be too embarrassed to reveal in the public domain: I still love Pokemon. From the days of picking up my original Gameboy (no colour in sight) and spending ridiculous numbers of consecutive hours on Pokemon Red and Blue to the graphically-enhanced, multi-dimensional Pokemon Black and White Version 2 that take advantage of the full spectrum of colour, I still enjoy the merry hell out of it. I’m hoping that I’m not alone on my passion for pocket monsters, since I’ve recently wrapped my oculars around the very informative ‘Pokemon Handbook’. Since the whole essence of Pokemon is to catch and train, it makes sense to gather as much information as possible about the kinds of creatures that are out there, their possible advantages to your adventure and indeed the very nature and origin of each and every one. The Pokemon handbook brings all this information together in one simply-written, fully-illustrated, fully-informed, and (perhaps most importantly), fully-alphabetical work of informative literature, and today I’m delving into its efficacy as a source of Pokemon information.
Why do I need this Book?
Embarking upon any one of the Pokemon adventures – no matter which version of the game, region or level of experience with the Pokemon world – is a pretty challenging affair, and is better described as a relatively lengthy process that requires patience, determination and a willingness to spend quite a bit of time (particularly at the outset of your adventure) training up your initially-weak Pokemon into a team of well-behaved and well-evolved creatures which are a credit to the Pokemon name. This is also assuming that you have managed to catch some of the damn creatures in the first place!
Though it is possible to simply immerse yourself into a game of Pokemon without guidance or prior knowledge about the Pokemon universe and the creatures within it, I would say that the player who has even a small amount of background information on the Pokemon that you will eventually battle against and capture is a player with an advantage. The world of Pokemon, after all, is sizeable to put it extremely mildly. The fictional world of Pokemon as it currently stands contains five separate regions, all with their own unique selection of Pokemon, which when added together, total a staggering six hundred creatures in all.
I don’t know about you, but as someone going into this with quite a bit of Pokemon experience, even I still felt a little overwhelmed at the complexity of the whole affair. Having a textual trove of Pokemon knowledge at my fingertips which catalogues the entire collection of the Pokemon I am likely to encounter is something that puts me at a distinct advantage over anyone attempting to enter blindly into the Pokemon world without knowing what to expect. As I said, it isn’t an essential item, but I am damn well pleased that I have it to hand, since I know both what to expect in my adventure and what to do when I reach these now-expected encounters. There is no knowledge that is not power, and this book has knowledge by the bucketful.
What Can it Bring to the Table?
You don’t have to take my word for it, but having read through the book, I have some opinions about its contents which take into account my moderately lengthy experience with the world of Pokemon. When it comes down to it, the book has a right to call itself the ‘Ultimate Handbook’, since it alphabetically catalogues every single Pokemon that existed throughout the fictional Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh regions which formed the geographical setting of the adventures at the time of publishing. The information contained within the book is centred around the Pokemon themselves, and although it is not specific to any one Pokemon title or region, it constitutes the complete national Pokedex (excluding the Pokemon of the recently-imagined Unova region as part of the fifth generation of Pokemon games) and contains a good helping of information on each of the creatures.
The information about the Pokemon is presented in an extremely easy-to-read format that displays only a few Pokemon per page and often dedicating a whole page to a Pokemon that has several evolutions. Its presentation is best described as a highly-condensed selection of facts about Pokemon, presenting information that would be most useful to the average Pokemon trainer (I.e someone who owns any one of the Pokemon games from the first to fourth generations). On each page, the Pokemon’s name is listed along with its species, which determines many of the characteristics of a Pokemon including its behaviour and its nature. The Pokemon’s type is also listed, which is one of the most important pieces of information that you can have since it gives a clue to the reader about its likely strengths and weaknesses against other Pokemon; knowing the particular type of yours and your opponent’s Pokemon can be a deciding factor in a battle.
Other information about the Pokemon is also included, including the region in which you will find the Pokemon. It simply pays to know in which region the Pokemon in question is found since you can potentially waste time looking for a Pokemon that simply doesn’t exist in the region in which you are based. The book also provides you with the moves that the Pokemon will go on to learn and the different forms of the Pokemon that it will eventually evolve into; knowing this information can stop you from making mistakes by evolving the Pokemon too quickly and missing out on some very powerful moves. The height and weight of the Pokemon are also included, as well as the pronunciation of each of the names of the Pokemon, but this information merely constitutes trivia at this stage and really has no practical application, aside from perhaps winning a few extremely specific arguments about the correct way to say Aron (it’s AIR-ron, though you almost definitely were not wondering).
What is it missing?
Of course, there isn’t a book out there that doesn’t have at least a few flaws floating around it, casting small shadows on what is an otherwise excellent and informative text. Some of the most noticeable omissions from the book also happen to be some of the most important information that there is to know about Pokemon: the levels at which the Pokemon evolve, the levels at which their moves are learned and indeed the particular method and conditions which must be met to allow the Pokemon to evolve in the first place (evolves when exposed to Thunderstone, must be levelled up with high friendship etc); these three essential pieces of information are central to the development of Pokemon, and they are notably absent from the book. The inclusion of this information would have instantaneously made the guide much more definitive as a reference text and would increase its usefulness as an accompaniment to the games.
Though the Pokemon are listed in alphabetical order, I feel that the inclusion of a regional index at the back of the book would have made cross-referencing Pokemon by region a much simpler task. The only reason I mention this is because the main readers of the Ultimate Pokemon Handbook are likely to be fans which own at least one of the Pokemon games, if not several games from multiple generations of the series. Since the book is effectively the National Pokedex for generations I to IV of the Pokemon games, it would have made sense to include a system of reference that allows the reader to locate Pokemon by region (and therefore locating Pokemon that are specific to each particular game).
The final sin of omission is the very notable absence of a type chart which displays the weaknesses and advantages which each Pokemon type has over the others. Many of these charts are available online, and they come as standard in official guides such as the Pokemon Black and White Versions Official Pokedex/Guide, so why not in the Ultimate Handbook?
What Do I Think?
Alright, you’ve had the rundown of the contents of the book as well as the various inclusions and omissions that feature/don’t feature within. In all, the Pokemon Ultimate Handbook is a very useful text as both a source of reference, and simply for those who are a fan of Pokemon in general. Just think of it as a condensed biography of each creature, giving you what you need to know and doing so in an efficient, mater-of-fact manner. You aren’t drowned in irrelevant information, yet you aren’t left parched for more facts either. Think of it like a medical dictionary for a Pokemon doctor: it is the perfect companion for the Pokemon trainer that is serious about their mission. Lastly, I am perfectly aware that that everything about the Pokemon universe is fictional, but the man who has the capacity to imagine and hypothesise is one that is capable of higher thought, and simply more capable of fun in general. That’s what Pokemon is really all about, and this handbook can provide a considerable knowledge base and work of reference for the serious Pokemon enthusiast. It just lacks information about a few of the aspects of a Pokemon’s development, making it fall short of a perfect score by what is still a respectable score.