The Use of Healing Items by Opposing Pokémon Trainers

Welcome to RetroHate! Our usual columnist in this space, Joshua, is taking a break; in the meantime, he is graciously letting me substitute for him, which is great because I have something I really need to vent about.

I guess I am on a bit of a Pokémon kick lately, but I cannot help it: I adore the series as a whole, and still truly believe that the basic formula (JRPG with an enormous character roster, essentially) is among the best that has ever been executed. For me, the first couple generations of Pokémon games will always be a source of powerful nostalgia.



However, I am not here to praise its mechanics, or its story, or its battling system, or any other aspect that I would otherwise enjoy. I am here to gripe about a very specific phenomenon, so nuanced that I had difficulty coming up with a title for this feature that would make any sense, yet so explosively irritating that I absolutely have to mention it.

Let me set the scene: You have been traveling through a cave, or a gym, or perhaps one of the evil organization’s many hide-outs, or maybe even slogging through the Elite Four. You have a strong team of Pokémon that you feel good about, and through your savvy type match-ups and excellent move selection, are managing to wipe out most opposing trainers without much trouble.

But then there is that tougher one, at the end of this area. Maybe he has an especially strong Pokémon, or maybe she uses a particular type that you would usually match up well against but have a couple loyal Pokémon fainted in your party that cannot fight. You start the battle, and lose one of your weaker species. Okay, no problem, you switch to one of your faithful pocket monsters, one that can usually get a tough victory.

You swap hits: Back and forth, move to move, each Pokémon is dealing damage to the other. Neither is doing anything super effective, just having an old-fashioned brawl, turn by turn annihilating a bit of the other’s hit points or altering their status in a knuckle-dragging, tension-filled, all-out war.

And then the opponent uses a healing item.



That is so. Fricking. Annoying.

There are few elements of any retro game that can get my blood boiling quicker than seeing those words crawl across the text box: “Trainer used…” It always deflates me, and can turn the tide of a battle against my favor. It makes me feel like all my hard work was for nothing, and the opponent is using cheap tactics.

Now, hey, listen, I get it: There is nothing illegal about using potions, and it is within the rules of the game, for the computer and human players alike, so it can hardly be considered “unfair.” But I have principles, and my ethos on this screams injustice. What kind of trainer are you, if you cannot win by the merit of your Pokémon alone? What sort of poor, cheesy opponent has to resort to item usage in order to pull out a victory? How is that, at all, indicative of a strong team of Pokémon?

I think these are valid questions, and serve to justify my rage. But even if you can accept the use of a Hyper Potion here or there, maybe you have been victim to the Multi-Item Barrage: That soul-sucking, time-burning, utterly awful tactic when an opposing trainer uses two or three Hyper Potions in a row. This is especially aggravating when it happens with a strong Pokémon that you are taking several turns just to dent down to the yellow or red in their HP bar, only to see all your work go to waste.

“Gary used Max Potion.”

“Red used Full Restore.”

These are phrases that make me want to murder someone.

Oh, don't worry, new-school Pokémon fans:

Oh, don’t worry, new-school Pokémon fans: The grand tradition is intact for you, too.

I hope I am not the only one who has encountered this phenomenon and been frustrated with it, to the point of hatred. But even if I am, I will stick to my guns, and preach a message of real Pokémon trainers, that can go a whole battle, or several in a row, without using items. Even in other RPGs, I always thought item usage was kinda cheap, but perhaps that will go into another column.

Stupid potions.