2021 is Pokémon’s 25th anniversary. Just a few years ago, the Pokémon franchise games were limited to the Nintendo game consoles; since then, Pokémon games have branched out, from VR to their widely-acclaimed mobile game, Pokémon GO. The growth of the franchise in the last few years has provided more opportunities for the fans to catch and battle with Pokémon, and the fans are saying that they want more.
One particular Pokémon game that was released this Summer is a prime example of the franchise’s growth. Pokémon Unite is the Pokémon Company’s attempt at the MOBA genre of games, available for cross-platform play on the Nintendo Switch and on mobile. It’s a game that garnered much attention even before its release, and brought hours of entertainment to both old and new Pokémon fans.
While all these exciting new ways to play Pokémon are welcomed, fans all await for any news on ‘main series’ of the Pokémon games. For years, the fans have been waiting patiently for the generation 4 remake, and on the Pokémon Direct that took place earlier in 2021, the gen 4 remakes, ‘Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl”, as well as a new Pokémon game called ‘Pokémon Legends: Arceus”; a new RPG game that takes place in the same setting as gen 4.
The general consensus of these new Pokémon titles were very divided. However, when it comes to just the gen 4 remakes, many fans, both in Korea and around the world, were left disappointed. Their reaction is understandable; as a Korean national myself, the original gen 4 Pokémon games were what really made Pokémon find its second heyday. Of course, unless you’re like me, where you’ll still end up buying the game anyways.
There’s one particular fan that was very outspoken about his distaste for the gen 4 remakes. Meet Sejun Park, He is best known for winning the Masters Division at the 2014 Pokémon World Championships; since then, he’s earned a lot of nicknames for himself, as well as the title of being the only Pokémon pro gamer in Korea when he signed with arguably the most prestigious esports organization in the world, T1.
Sejun Park is someone that’s closely associated with one particular Pokémon; Pachirisu. Not only has Sejun expressed his affection for the Pokémon for years, it’s the Pokémon that made him a world champion in 2014. If you watch the footage from the finals, you can check how dominant he was with an off-meta Pokémon, as well as how much the fans loved it through their cheers.
In a time when fans are patiently waiting for these new Pokémon titles, we had a chance to speak with Sejun to hear what his thoughts are on the upcoming games. Although we would’ve loved the chance to speak with him in person, the following interview took place remotely due to COVID19.
※ The following interview took place on Oct 19, remotely via Discord.
Before we start, I just wanted to say that I’m a huge fan, so thank you for taking time off for this interview. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
“Hello, I’m Sejun Park, and I’m the guy that won the 2014 Pokémon World Championship with Pachirisu. Since then, I’ve joined T1 back in 2019, and have been playing Pokémon games under the T1 brand since then.”
When it was announced that Sejun was joining T1, I remember being pleasantly surprised. The biggest surprise factor was that a prestigious esports organization like T1 accepted that competitive Pokémon battling and was willing to invest in it.
So what kind of synergy does Sejun have with T1? What did T1 see in Sejun? Furthermore, as someone who’s been very active in the scene for many years, what kind of changes did he go through as part of T1?
“Due to the nature of the main Pokémon games series, it’s a one-man gig, so unlike other pro gamers, I don’t have to live in a team house or train for as long as they do. It’s a bit different from your traditional gig as a pro gamer.”
“There are three things that are better because I do things by myself. First, whether it’s streaming gear or other equipment that I need, it’s easy to get support for content. Second, unlike the days when I was only able to meet other Pokémon players who view things from the same perspective, I love the fact that I get to meet and interact with other streamers and pro players in other titles. I’m able to have healthy conversations on various topics surrounding gaming, and from them, I receive a lot of help.”
“Lastly, to be able to have T1 in front of my name fills me up with a lot of pride. However, since I joined T1 right before COVID started, there is only so much I can do, because official events are either being delayed or cancelled. Just like everyone, I’m hoping that the pandemic dies quickly, so that I’m able to play in tournaments and meet with fans.”
Most tournaments have recently been cancelled, with the exception of the ‘Pokémon Global Exhibition’. Will you be participating in it?
“It’s an eight-man tournament, where the best performing player per region will be invited to compete. There’s also been a qualifying tournament for it in Korea, and I unfortunately couldn’t qualify. While I won’t be participating as a player, I’ll be casting the event. Although it’s unfortunate that I won’t be playing in it, I’ll do my best as a caster, and wish for the Korean player representing his region, Jeong Won-seok, best of luck in his run.”
At this point in the interview, we started talking about the upcoming Pokémon games. There’s less than a month left before the gen 4 remakes are released, with Pokémon Legends following shortly after. When asked about his opinions on them, he replied:
“Before I express my opinion about the games, I first have to tell you about a certain prejudice I have. Pachirisu has been AFK in both Pokémon Sword and Shield, as well as in Pokémon GO due to being region locked. To finally be able to reunite with my dearly beloved partner in these future games, no matter how good or bad they are, is something I’ve been waiting for a long time.”
“Aside from Pachirisu being in the game, I think that my disappointment of how the gen 4 remakes look align with other fans as well. Fans had high hopes for gen 4, and were expecting remakes like ORAS [Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire - gen 3 remakes], because the original gen 4 games were what really brought the second boom of Pokémon in Korea. The expectations were very high, so naturally, there will be a lot of negative reviews about it so far.”
“I’m not just saying this because of the graphics; if that was the case, the ‘Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee’ series should’ve been the perfect games for me. What I don’t like about it is that BD/SP is part of the main game series, but the games feel too casual. However, since the games are yet to be released, I’ll refrain from saying anything until I’ve played it. I’ll try my best to enjoy it; I’ll have all the time to rate the game afterwards.”
“It’s also hard to talk about the other title that’s being released, ‘Pokémon Legends: Arceus’. It's a game that looks very different from other Pokémon titles. I’m both worried and excited about it; given the information that was released so far, I think that it has a different charm. I’m hoping that Game Freak’s new approach to Pokémon games will deliver.”
I’m personally very disappointed that the ranked battle system won’t be in BD/SP. The battle system was what elevated the series.
“You’re right on point. While both BD/SP takes place in the Sinnoh region and looks very similar to its original titles, the gameplay seems to be single player oriented, and the fact that they’re spinoffs is very disappointing. I’m not saying that I don’t like the spinoff series, but a lot of fans have been patiently waiting for the gen 4 remake; as a spinoff, there’ll be a limit to the in-game content, so it’ll be hard to play this game for a long time.”
“There are in-game content that are staple to the main game series such ranked battles, Pokémon trading, and various in-game events that you can always find in the main game series. The fact that players will be stuck with ‘Pokémon Sword & Shield’, the gen 8 game titles that made a lot of players stop playing Pokemon, is what worries me the most.”
“It feels like I’ve only listed the negative so far, so let me continue from the perspective of the Pokémon fans. If the gen 4 remakes stay true to the original games, I think it won’t really be the most terrible thing in the world. Pokémon Legends is also a completely new genre of Pokémon games, and I like how the adventure will take place in the Sinnoh [Hisui] region.”
‘T1 Sejun’ exists due to your undying love for Pokémon. Are you also trying to master other 'spinoff' games as well?
“Yes. I’m trying every game that’s associated with Pokémon, even if the in-game mechanics are new. In terms of competing as a pro gamer, the three main games that I’m associated with are competitive Pokémon battling in the main game series, Pokémon TCG, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Other than that, I’m casually enjoying Pokémon GO and Pokémon Masters.”
One game that I’m really focusing on these days is Pokémon Unite; Game Freak’s crack at the MOBA genre through the Pokémon IP. It’s a genre that’s completely different from the main game series, so I’m constantly playing and trying to enjoy the game.
How do you like the game? I remember you playing League of Legends on stream until the game dropped, constantly checking for its release.
“It’s very hard. Pokémon Unite is very different from what I’m used to, so the knowledge and the methods that I’ve gained over the years with the main game titles are absolutely irrelevant to this game. That’s why I’ve hit a wall when I’m playing against other players who are more seasoned in the MOBA genre. Still, it’s a fun game; if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have kept playing.”
Pokémon Unite is a MOBA game that uses the Pokémon IP. There are two 5-man teams that battle for 10 minutes; whichever team scores more points wins. On release, it was only available for the Nintendo Switch, but in September, the mobile version of the game was released, with cross-platform gameplay readily available.
Despite claiming to not be used to the MOBA genre, Sejun recently finished strong in an unofficial Unite tournament. It’s been three months since the game’s release, so I wondered how he rates the game.
“What I really like about this game is that unlike the main game series that I spend most of my time on, it offers a different type of entertainment and depth. The game’s still very new, so there aren’t that many Pokémon available; the fact that there’s various strats and that the meta’s constantly evolving is very appealing. Balance changes take a very long time to be implemented in the main game series; it’s fun and interesting to see the meta shifting every 1-2 weeks.”
“Despite the depth in the game, the fact that each game is 10 minutes long keeps the players captivated and focused. It may seem casual on the outside, but the skill cap is very high, so they’ve done a very good job at pleasing a wide spectrum of the playerbase. This game definitely has long-term potential to make it as an esports title.”
It seems as if you’d struggle with this new genre of a Pokémon game, but you’ve gotten used to the very quickly. Since you were outspoken on the positives of the game, how about some negatives?
“I really like the game from all aspects, so there really isn't a particular flaw that stands out. I do have various complaints about the game, but the developers are constantly analyzing and updating the game. So please think of what I just said as complaints, not flaws.”
“As long as the game utilizes the Pokémon IP, the developers will need to heavily focus on the balance between the playable Pokémon. While this is true for all tiers, the performance level of high-tier vs low-tier Pokémon is clearly evident as you get higher in the ranked ladder. The fact that you can’t research and play your favorite Pokémon because of limitations in their in-game function is frightening. Especially in the Pokémon world.”
“Even if it hasn’t been long since the game was released, the matchmaking system really needs to be improved. One thing that’s critical is the implementation of solo queue vs flex queue. Also, there also needs to be a logical design behind the ranked points of the game. I’ve even seen a ‘Master Cup’ player be matched with someone in the Super Cup [four rank difference]. Unfair aspects of the game will make players drop the game, so I hope that they get improved very soon.”
“There also needs to be balance changes around advantage states from capturing neutral objectives as well. A lot of the players are saying that Zapdos has too much influence. I like the fact that it spawns very late in the game, so it keeps the battle heated until the very end. However, the buffs that you gain from Zapdos are overbalanced, and actually makes the game monotonous and frustrating to play.”
“While the upcoming patch will be based around neutral objectives, I haven’t played it yet, so I’m not sure how the game will feel. I hope that they continue to monitor the game and implement the right balance changes so that the early game won’t become utterly meaningless.
“Lastly, I want to talk about the ‘Holowear’ [character skins]. The most recent releases are too expensive. It’s roughly 40,000-50,000 KRW [34.12-42.65USD], and when comparing prices to other MOBA games, it’s too expensive. I hope that they’ll think about this in the long-run, and that the future releases are cheaper.”
How many hours have you spent in the game so far, and which Pokémon do you main?
“I’ve spent about 400 hours in the game so far; I’m just a casual Master Cup player. There are too many people that are good at MOBAs; this game was my first MOBA experience, so I’ve received a lot of help from good players to improve.”
“I’m a Crustle main, because the Korean name of the Pokémon shares one letter with Pachirisu. When I’m playing as a five, I play Wigglytuff because I can at least do my part. Greedent’s scheduled to be released in the Halloween event, so until Pachirisu is released in the game, Greedent is going to be my main.”
Lastly, what would you like to say to our readers and all the Pokémon fans out there?
“It’s been more than five years since I’ve become a world champion, so from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all those that continue to remember me and Pachirisu, and for continuing to support me. I’ll continue to be active throughout my Pokémon journey, whether it’s as a competitor, caster or a content creator. Pokémon forever!
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports