Dude, where’s my Game Corner?
There’s no gambling minigame nor Game Corner to be found in BDSP! We explore the history of the casino in main series Pokémon titles, and why it’s no longer around.
Players of the more recent Pokémon remakes will have noticed a clear omission, and that includes Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Like in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, the Game Corner building has been entirely removed and replaced. Gone with it is a slot machine game and the side currency of coins.
It’s a disappointment, but not that big a surprise, especially considering that the previous four main Pokémon games did not have a Game Corner of any sort. Why has the Game Corner been removed? Here we look back at the Game Corner history, and review why you’re no longer allowed to gamble coins in a minigame (but yet still tell creatures to beat others up… and win money from doing that).
The Game Corner was around in the first mainstream games Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow. Found in Celadon City, it housed a number of slot machines, all with the same standard game. Match three icons up and win a number of coins, with three lucky 7s giving the best reward. It also had a separate building for claiming prizes. Prizes included TMs like Blizzard, and the famed Porygon, which was in all honesty a weak Pokémon. But we weren’t to know that, because it was worth a whopping 9,999 coins! (In Pokémon Blue, it was ‘only’ 8,300 coins.) That’s a lot of gambling minigames.
Because of this, Porygon was considered a symbol of achievement. It was the only way to get it, and ever since that infamous episode in Pokémon involving it in Japan, it was never seen in the anime.
But that’s not all – the Game Corner even held some plot relevance. Team Rocket had a secret hideout, which you could only find access to behind a poster in the Game Corner. The theme of a mafia-like gang making money out of exploiting a gambling establishment and using Pokémon as prizes was a good one. Sadly for the Game Corner, this is the only time it ever had relevance to the plot, save for the remakes in Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, and later Pokémon Let’s GO, Pikachu and Eevee!.
Generation two had two Game Corners, but one was just the same old set of slot machines in Kanto. They had minor changes where for instance a Chansey would show up and help you get triple sevens on rare occasions, but otherwise played the same. There was an additional card flip game that you could play, although it wasn’t as easy to make a large profit of coins from that game. Again Pokémon and TMs were offered as prizes, while in Pokémon Crystal the Game Corner was certainly worth your while, as an NPC standing outside would teach you moves like Ice Beam and Flamethrower for coins.
Generation three brought its own Game Corner too, and besides minor changes to the slot machines replaced the Card Flip game with one involving a roulette table. Furthermore, Pokémon were no longer prizes, although you could exchange coins for Pokémon dolls for your Secret Base. Meanwhile, there were additional ‘Game Corner’ buildings in Pokémon Emerald and Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, but these just had a couple of other minigames that didn’t involve any gambling.
Lastly came generation four, and Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were the first games of that set. They brought only the slot machines through, but spruced them up with bonus rounds. If you activated them, you’d end up in a minigame involving Clefairy and pressing the correct buttons in order. This could net you hundreds upon hundreds of coins, provided you could keep it going and that Clefairy didn’t decide to take a rest. It was a nice expansion on the otherwise repetitive slot machine game.
The beginning of the end
But this was the last time that everyone could experience the joys – or tedium – of slot machine minigames. You see, in the following game, Pokémon Platinum (the ‘third’ and updated version of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl), South Korea and most of Europe (sans the UK, in fact) had it cut out. While the likes of Japan, America, Australia and so forth had it run just like before, here you would instead get a random number of coins when interacting with a slot machine instead of a minigame. Nearly all dialogue was also changed for the game too. At least the TM for Explosion, which required you to play the minigame, was just given out in European games.
But why did it go missing without an in-game word of explanation?
The answer is because of anti-gambling laws that came out around the same time having an influence on game ratings. Upon people emailing Nintendo of Europe about this, one official reply revealed this:
“In Pokémon Platinum Version, the slot machines in the Game Corner cannot be operated by the player, to comply with PEGI age rating guidelines concerning gambling. Players can still get coins to exchange for items, simply by checking the slot machine.
PEGI – Pan European Game Information – are the group that decide the age rating for games. If they had kept the slot machines in, the recommended age for children to play this game would have skyrocketed from the then standard ‘E for Everyone’, by as much as a rating of ages 12 and up. That would have been one of the last things The Pokémon Company would have wanted. Parents not buying games for their kids or stores refusing to sell to too-young customers due to store policies would have resulted in less sales. And that’s ignoring the fact that having the minigame could have broken laws as well, and avoiding unnecessary lawsuits is in every company’s interests. This would be why they removed the slot machines from Platinum.
So essentially, European stigmas against gambling is to blame for the minigame removal. To be fair, the laws do have good intentions behind them, but they do, in my opinion, go too far as to remove minigames in a Pokémon game. But what about Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver (HGSS), the games that followed Platinum? These were the remakes of Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal, and as expected they had fancy slot machines too, complete with a Smeargle!
…Well, HGSS really did have slot machines – in Japan. Every other country however had the slot machines removed as well, and replaced with an entirely different minigame called Voltorb Flip.
You see, during the year separation between Platinum and HGSS, the ESRB – Entertainment Software Rating Board which functions for America and other countries – also toughened up on gambling references within games. It’s not just the European laws to blame here now. Japan had no such restrictions, but everywhere else certainly did. In fact, with Platinum the uncensored version of the game in Australia received a rating of PG rather than E for Everyone, the only mainstream Pokémon game sold there with such a rating.
Luckily, they did put more effort in than they did for Europe’s Platinum. The interior may be redesigned and there may be no slot machines, but a Minesweeper style game was put in for our enjoyment which requires a bit more skill than your standard slot machine game. The key point in this game was that you couldn’t actually lose coins, so hence it wasn’t gambling – you either won coins, or you didn’t.
This may have been planned in advance too, as data for Voltorb Flip was apparently found in Japanese copies of HGSS. It wasn’t enjoyed by everyone, while others far preferred it to the slot machines. But one could agree that it was still better than no Game Corner at all.
Bye bye, Game Corner
Sadly, that is exactly what followed. The fifth generation of Pokémon games lacked a Game Corner. Game Freak must have decided that putting it in for only one country was too much effort, and having to code in changes for the rest of the world. And the simplest solution is to just not have a Game Corner game at all, even if having something over nothing would be preferred by players. This is increasingly true when churning out a main series title or DLC every year means less time to complete game development in time – the Sinnoh remakes required a large day 0 patch, highlighting the issue of game crunch. Furthermore, a Game Corner building might just seem odd if it hosted games without a gambling element – it is modelled on a casino, after all.
The fifth generation entries did have minigames at least; Pokémon Black and White introduced the Dream World which allowed you to play simple flash games on the computer, while their sequels had Entralink missions which were pretty fun to play. But that was as far as it went. Pokémon X and Y also followed suit, this time having minigames within Amie but again no Game Corner. This has diminished with new main series titles. Generation seven did eventually introduce Mantine Surf, but Pokémon Sword and Shield only had the Curry cooking game and the forgettable Rotom Rally.
With Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, there was reference to a Game Corner. But instead of Voltorb Flip, we got a sad owner standing by his inaccessible store, telling us that he had to close his store for ‘reasons he’d rather not talk about’. Poor guy, it’s not his fault the world we live in doesn’t want children ‘gambling’ in Pokémon. That said, it would have been nice if he could have ran some other games at least, instead of giving us the remainder of the Game Corner prizes from generation three – the starter Pokémon dolls for your Secret Base. That’s all he has left, besides the memories. Perhaps it was fitting that this was not the only part of the city of Mauville that changed in the Hoenn remakes.
Pokémon Let’s GO, Pikachu and Eevee! kept the Game Corner building but removed games. Instead of earning coins, you get a few Easter Eggs from arcade machines in the building, referencing Pokémon Shuffle, Pokkén Tournament, and minigames in Pokémon Yellow. It’s cute, but it’s still less content. At least you don’t need to grind an obscene amount of coins or money to get Porygon.
And that brings us to the Sinnoh remakes. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl did give us a new building in its place that served as the location to change outfits. The range is limited, and there’s only the one in the region – and no minigame to play either. There is a nice reference, to be fair – the top of the shop building includes Clefairy, the mascot of the slot machine game in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.
So now you know – the Game Corner is no more, because of anti-gambling laws and video game rating boards enforcing tighter restrictions on gambling references. And a lack of a minigame following HGSS like Voltorb Flip may be simply due to lack of time or interest from the developers. If we see another remake of a generation four title, it’s more than likely that it will lack a slot machine game, and perhaps any game at all in its place.
But there’s at least one consolation for fans of the generation four Game Corner – the theme music still plays in the clothing store, and the remix goes hard.
An earlier form of this article appeared on Wynaut? magazine.
Edited by Arcaneum and Sheep.