A pearl of wisdom for you – pressure makes diamonds, but leisure time is platinum

Pokémon Diamond, Pearl & Platinum (2007 / 2009)

I like to think of myself as a pretty patient man, willing to accept cock-ups, malaise and the problems that one generally encounters in life. After all, I don’t tend to care too deeply about anything. I’m perfectly happy to be just sat there, as lazy as a snail, watching Countdown all day. And my primary motivation in work, and anything in life really, is not money, or fame – I just want to avoid any hassle.

This might resonate with you, or it might not, but I distinctly remember the moments after I finished my exams in my second year of college, which came after a particularly hectic time in college for me. I was having to combine day-drinking as well as evening and night-time drinking, you see, and it’s tough to keep that candle burning at both ends, believe you me.

The stakes weren’t that high or anything, although I wouldn’t have had the money to repeat if it all went very badly wrong. We don’t have GPA or anything like that in Ireland, all any fool needs is a scabby pass really, but even that was proving difficult for me. All those end of year exams, well, they all come at once don’t they?

They caught me so unaware in fact, that I didn’t have the chance to study. This was a bit of a problem, as I didn’t have the chance to attend lectures either. There was always something or other going on, you know how it is. Anyway, it was time to cram like crazy.

After a terrifically hallucinogenic week of all-nighters, with plenty of I-swore-I-wouldn’t-let-this-happen again bouts of frustrated knee slapping, the whole show was over and I was free for another summer. Ah yes, but I remember being free for summers, don’t you? You wouldn’t catch your office giving you the summer off, now would you?

After all that mania, after walking out of that last exam, things just went on hold for me. No really, I came out of the exam hall at 11:50, but the student bar wouldn’t open until 12 noon. Plenty of time to go for an impromptu walk, or golly, even a jog around the pitches, you’d have thought. But no, I would have lost my place in the bar queue, wouldn’t I have, so there was nothing I could do except be the first pale, sweaty, nervous mess waiting at the door.

They didn’t open the doors until something like 12:05, leaving me standing there like Hans Moleman, about to complain that they’d cost me time and energy but that I’d only have wasted anyway. But this is what I mean – I always had myself down as patient and understanding, but here was the first bit of stress and I was falling apart. Eventually, the doors of heaven swung open and there was St. Peter himself, with hipster glasses, ready to water me. The most popular deal in that student bar was four cans of beer for eight clams, and you can hardly say fairer than that, can you?

But here’s the bit I remember – having got through the exams, and with four cold, foamy, lovely prizes in my hand, the types of prizes they might have given away on Bullseye to much scorn, I finally had all that I needed. The sun was giving us a glorious day by the way, so glorious that I came home lobster red, which one might have expected given how long I stayed drinking in it.

You see, my whole body experienced a near-menopausal change. Whereas up to that point in the year I was running around like a headless chicken, or more accurately, a cow gone to night school, finally the exams and pressures were over. I could slow things down. I even had my brain tell my body to walk slowly.

So I did, walking around the playing fields with my tins of Bavaria, as slowly as one can without letting grass grow on your feet. I didn’t have anywhere to be the next day, no alarms to set, nobody on my ass, and I loved it.

I suppose this is just how the human mind and body adapts. When it’s all hitting the fan, it’s amazing how capable we can get, how much we can get done. But that only makes it all the more important to rest and grab those times of bliss and solitude when they come.

It’s a hell of a true statement about the devil making handiwork for the idle, or whatever He says. A little adage I always carry with me for the working world is that nobody will ever thank you for giving up your lunch hour. Hell, I gave up my summers of drunkenness to join the workforce, and nobody ever gave me a pat on the back for it, so what’s the story?

I’m losing patience with working life here, and it means I have to make best use of what they call “leisure time”, each and every weekday evening. And that’s a cause of great stress for me you know, as time management is to a lot of people. With that in mind, when we take into consideration how slow the battles in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl are, you can really see how my patience gets tested so.

The later special release Platinum did make things better here, but bloody hell – I reckon I could down six cans of Bavaria faster than I could down six Pokémon in this game, and that’s no brag. It’s a shame, because otherwise this fourth Generation of Pokémon on Nintendo DS is good, really good. It was definitely due a remake, although it deserved a far better one than it got. Still, go native with the DS and you’ll greatly enjoy the 493 sprites for the Pokémon, plus all the Shinies, the gender differences, and who could forget the Unown formes?

We’re well used to gimmicks making fly-by appearances in Pokémon games, only to disappear without trace shortly afterwards, and for my money one of the series’ best was all of the different widgets and doodads you could get on your Pokétch, a smartwatch that you can flick through on the bottom screen of your DS. It really was like having smartphone apps before smartphones.

Other than that, they made a brilliant change to the battling, introducing what’s called the Physical / Special split – so now, Fire-type for example isn’t just considered a Special type anymore, it’s all dependent on the move instead, meaning your cuddly Flareon may finally see some use in battle. And battle you will because, thanks to the DS’s online capabilities, such that they were at the time, you could finally battle and trade online.

There were still online limitations up the wazoo of course, no voice chat or online abuse or anything like that, and you’d struggle to even get a Lucario because nobody would budge on a trade for anything less than a Mew. But anyway, online Pokémoning is the innovation we were all drooling over, and here it was. A very nice night-and-day soundtrack and a fairly interesting plot with good characters rounds it off. It’s generally more of the same, of course, but this time online and on two screens, which is fine by me. I’ve not lost patience with the series, no – that would run out later on, trust me.

There’s also a bizarre Underground mode where you burrow down into a nondescript cave and mine items and build up points for no discernible reason. It’ll just use up your DS battery really, and there aren’t many scarier sights than your DS orange light flashing, and you don’t have any idea when it’ll give up the ghost. Of course, in Pokémon, you can take the whole adventure at your leisure, and that’s the type of guy I am. Although your rival in this game runs everywhere at 200 miles an hour, fining you a million quid for being late. Sometimes, unfortunately, I’m that guy too.

4 April 2023

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