How Dark Souls Made Me Love Pokemon Again

My first ever experience with role playing games was on the Game Boy Color with Pokemon Blue Version. It was so unlike anything else five year old me had ever played, nothing else had this kind of scope, growth, and evolution. I played the heck out of it to the point that I had 149 Pokemon in my PokeDex, just missing Mew and Electabuzz. That experience might just be why I still play video games today.

I distinctly remember when Pokemon Yellow came out, because I really wanted to play it, but I already had Blue and knew that Silver and Gold were on the way so my parents were not going to buy it. I wound up renting it and encountered a unique issue: I only had one week to play it. In order to complete it, I could not adopt my old strategy of assembling a huge collection of Pokemon, grinding them, and finally grooming my team, because it would simply take too much time. Instead I had to adopt a new ‘lean’ strategy.lean-chart

My team was planned in advance from the beginning and designed around type advantage. Nidorino took on Brock, Surge, and Koga, Pikachu bested Misty, Flareon roasted Erika, and Lapras mopped up the remaining badges. Instead of having 6 Pokemon in their 40’s, I had 4 Pokemon in the 60’s to take on the Elite Four and it was an absolute breeze. I never forgot that strategy – use quality typed Pokemon, catch them just in time for gyms, continuously improve them, and eliminate waste by only catching what I need.

About six months ago I finished Dark Souls (1) for the first time. I had completed Demon’s Souls back in 2013 and didn’t love it. I thought that Dark Souls would just be more of the same, so I had written it off entirely. I was so wrong because it was so much more, the world was interconnected and delightfully rich, the classes and stats were intuitive, and the side quests and characters were so subtly enriching. I played away every day until my file with ~60 hours got stuck on the Four Kings.


I began a new file in frustration when suddenly I had a flash of genius, my Pokemon Yellow lean strategy came across my mind. I saw bonfires as Pokemon Centers, I saw weapons as type matching, and saw my stats as my ‘Pokemon’. By using quality weapons, eliminating waste stat points, and seeking the flow of the game, I again used a lean strategy to find victory. It was so simple. I had rediscovered Min-Maxing and completed the game in under 30 hours.

I have long and unfairly resented the early Pokemon games for being overly simple both in combat and graphics. I viewed their obvious flaws of not having any Dragon type attacks and Dig being obscenely powerful as unforgivable. But Dark Souls made me realize that what they lack in technical prowess is made up for in content of the purest form. They had a deep strategy with perfect pieces lined up along the way and casually taught gaming principles that resonate today. Additionally the things that I adore about Dark Souls such as its wonderfully connected map and subtle side quests were present in Pokemon.

Pokemon made me a better gamer, and I thank Dark Souls for reminding me of all that Pokemon is.