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12:36 PM on 01.05.2013

Pokénews (and a general blog update)

Y’know, I’ve been trying to write something for a while. Anything, really. The hardest parts of these blogs are the intros. A half dozen unfinished word documents and several ideas filed away later, this is the best I’ve got: Pokémon predictions. Well, these are less like predictions and more like speculations, but whatever.

Actually, this was one of those ideas I was ready to shelve. See, a few days ago a notice appeared at the end of a Japanese trailer for Black 2 and White 2 stating an important announcement would be made on January 8. I felt this meant we would see the start of the next generation of Pokémon, but I wasn’t too sure. Then I saw the news yesterday.

My body is ready.

Both the Japanese and International Pokémon websites updated with the same notice- a big announce for January 8. In the relatively short history of Pokémon, I can only think of one other time that the Japanese and International branches made a simultaneous announcement- the reveal of Pokémon Black and White Versions, as well as their respective mascots, Reshiram and Zekrom. For Pokémon fans, this is gonna be big. And thus, here comes the speculation.

Right off the bat, I’m going to say this: They won’t be Ruby and Sapphire remakes. Thinking that we will have remakes next is a common assumption amongst Pokémon fans, after we‘ve received remakes of both the First Generation and Second Generation games. However, a Pokémon generation has never been spread across more than one system, save for arguably the second one (Gold and Silver could be played on the original Game Boy whilst Crystal couldn’t). And there’s no way we’ll see yet another release on the DS. The 3DS has been out for a couple years now, and the release of Black 2 and White 2 on the DS was already pushing it. Nintendo is definitely putting the pressure on Game Freak to release Pokémon for 3DS.

Of course, they could release these supposed Third Generation remakes for the 3DS, can’t they? Aside from a flimsy trend, there’s nothing stopping them. And while that may be true, all games across a generation share the same core. Fire Red and Leaf Green may have had a slightly different presentation from Ruby and Sapphire, but they still ran off the same game engine. Making a game for the 3DS; however, would require more effort on Game Freak’s part: they would need to rebuild the visuals for the game to take advantage of the hardware, as well as account for the different online infrastructure and system capabilities. Simply put, this would require almost as much effort as a brand new Pokémon game.

Sorry for you R/S fans, but I don't think we'll be seeing these again any time soon.

With all of that out of the way…let’s talk about Generation Six! Well, quite honestly, there isn’t much to talk about. However, I can take a couple of stabs at what they will reveal in the coming months. Firstly, as I stated, it’s practically guaranteed we’ll learn the titles of the new games, as well as the Pokémon that graces the cover. The two cover Pokémon won’t necessarily have to be legendary Pokémon – after all, Red and Blue merely had starter Pokémon – but it’s a safe bet that they will be.

Another possibility for the first revealed Pokémon isn’t a legendary/cover Pokémon, but instead some regular Pokémon. In fact, the first revealed Pokémon is almost always a regular Pokémon. This will either be a brand new Pokémon that will receive marketing, such as Zoroark and Lucario, or it will be a Pokémon related to an older Pokémon, such as Munchlax. As of now, I’m leaning towards the later possibility.

Recently, the marketing for Japan has seen a push towards the Pokémon Eevee. A character introduced in the anime uses Eevee and its evolutions, and the upcoming Pokémon film will have a Pikachu short (as they always do) attached focusing upon Eevee. For those of you unfamiliar with Eevee, it is a Pokémon that can evolve into multiple forms. Ever since Gold and Silver, Eevee has had evolutions introduced in pairs during even numbered generations: Umbreon and Espeon, and then Leafeon and Glaceon. Here we are, at the cusp of the Sixth Generation, with a marketing push for Eevee. It seems likely we’ll see some new Eeveelutions on the horizon soon enough.

Pokémon's marketing department at work.

If that wasn’t enough, a recent advertisement for merchandise for Extreme Speed Genesect (the title of the next Pokémon film) included a watch that was blacked out, along with text that notes there will be merchandise revealed for “two more Pokémon.” Eeveelutions are revealed in pairs, right? It fits pretty well.

I can only see one problem with this. You see, every Eeveelution thus far is one of the following types: Fire, Water, Electric, Dark, Psychic, Grass, Ice. These seven types all have one thing in common: before Generation Four changed the battle system, they were types that dealt special damage, or damage that concerned the Special Attack and Special Defense stats. There is only one more type that is considered a Special Type, and that is the Dragon type. One type does not make a pair. This could mean we’ll only see one Eevee evolution and a brand new Pokémon, or we’ll have the first Physical Type Eevee (aside from Eevee itself).

A couple of examples of the Pokémon Eevee can become.

Now for a random guess here…the names of the games! If we’re returning to the old Pokémon with new Eeveelutions, what if we also went back to the original colors, Red and Green? Only this time, we also reflect the trend shown from the Second to the Fourth Generations, by naming them after minerals. How does Garnet and Jade sound to you guys? Garnet can be a red color, whereas Jade is typically a deep green, so it fits.

Of course, in the end this is all completely meaningless. It’s freaking Pokémon, after all. Aside from that, it’s just a short few days away now. Hopefully someone enjoyed this meager attempt at staving off boredom! Now if you excuse, I must go back to watching out for Pokémon news like a Braviary.

Technically, this is an eagle and not a hawk, but it's too badass for me to care.

8:13 PM on 11.21.2012

Controllers with Screens!

With all of this news of people enjoying the heck out of their new-fangled screened controllers with that fancy internet connections of theirs, it’s only fair that I too got to enjoy such amazingness. So, without further ado, here’s my brand spanking new tech toy:

What? This isn’t what you were expecting? Oh. My mistake. This isn’t a Wii U at all, now is it? Well, I’ve had this Dreamcast I bought a year or two ago…just sitting here, with only one game for it. So, I did what any sensible person would do after letting it collect dust for two years- I bought stuff for it. And by “stuff” I mean that cool blue VMU (hey, those rhymed!) up there. I also got a couple of games through, erm, means.

Now that I’m armed with a VMU, and those two games, I can finally give the Dreamcast a real test run. First up, Sonic Adventure 2.

My experience with 3D Sonic games thus far has been…somewhat unpleasant. To put things into perspective, the very first 3D Sonic game I’ve played (discounting Sonic the Fighters) was Sonic 06. Yeah. I’ve also played Sonic Colors, but I wasn’t very enamored with that game. So, understandably, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, I actually like SA2! Fancy that, eh?

Okay, okay, but there’s a catch. There’s always a catch when it comes to Sonic. And that is the camera. Already I’ve inadvertently jumped off a cliff once because the camera was causing me some issues. It’s a major hindrance to deal with, but the game itself feels otherwise solid.

One of my biggest problems with recent Sonic games is that they toss Sonic through levels without much input from the player…and at speeds that are pretty hard to control. I get that speed is his shtick, but your games also have to be playable, you know? Thankfully, Sonic Adventure 2 seems to have struck up the right balance between speed and being able to PLAY the game. Knuckles also controlled fairly well, and Tails…well, Tails just kinda sucks. I’m guessing his levels may end up being my least favorite of the batch.

Something that I want to touch on before moving on is the cutscenes. Ignoring the fact that they want me to take a game where the military is chasing a hedgehog seriously, and also ignoring the infamously bad mouth flaps and animations, the voice actors…kinda suck. I remember reading a few years ago about people complaining about the 4Kids actors being used in the Sonic games, but after hearing these guys…all I have to say to that is “are you guys serious?” The 4Kids actors actually can, you know, act. Aside from maybe Sonic (who’s annoying with pretty much any actor anyways), most of the voices just make me cringe. Tails in particular is just horrible. Well, anyways…

Power Stone 2 is up next! Did I like it? In short…no, not really. I probably need to try out multiplayer before fully passing judgment, but from the time I spent adjusting to the controls and such, I feel as if it’s a tad overrated. There doesn’t seem to be too many options for attacks, and the system itself just lacks a lot of the subtle nuance from the Smash Bros. games, which Power Stone is oft compared to. I’m actually really disappointed that I didn’t like this too much. When I noticed people saying it was like 3D Smash Bros., I couldn’t wait to try it for myself. Instead, I got a slow paced, overly-simplified fighting game.

Some disappointment aside, I’m glad to finally be playing a good 3D Sonic game. And now that I have my VMU, I can look to playing some more old games in the future. When I’m through with Sonic, I will probably tackle Jet Set Radio. Fingers crossed that it deserves the hype it gets, eh? Now if you excuse me, I’m gonna go sulk over the fact that I don’t have a Wii U.


1:59 PM on 11.11.2012

SELF PORTRAIT: I want to battle! (plus some rambling)

(Sorry for how absurdly tall this image ended up being!)

If you read my blog before, you can probably tell I like Pokémon. If not, well, I like Pokémon. A lot. I decided to draw myself in the style of one of my favorite artists, Ken Sugimori, who does the majority of the concept art for the Pokémon series. I’m not that good of an artist, but I did my best to do his style!

Pokémon is probably one of the most influential series for me, period. It was the first game I could call my own, having gotten it on my 5th birthday along with a Game Boy Color. The series got me interested in sprites, art (alongside Kirby), glitches and programming, and allowed me to meet many friends. I could very well be an entirely different person had it not been for this game!

This is a fairly accurate representation of me, sans Pokéballs (unfortunately). Yes, my hair really is that fluffy at the moment. And yes, I really do need that shave. As I said above, I’m not amazing when it comes to art, but I like to doodle and I do try to improve myself whenever I draw something.

Aside from Pokémon, my other favorite franchise is Kirby, which I’ve also written about before. I don’t seek out challenging games, preferring to keep around what I feel I can play, but that doesn’t mean I like to have my hand held. When it comes to visuals, I’m a fan of creative aesthetic design over raw power. Games like Metal Gear Solid 4 look lovely, but I prefer my Epic Yarns and Raymans.   read

7:48 AM on 11.09.2012

Why the Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion Demo is Frustrating

Before I get started, I want to say that this was my first time playing any of the Epic Mickey games and the first time I played any side-scrolling Mickey Mouse game. I started this demo with a clean slate, so to speak. I didn’t have any previous attachment to the series, so I was going to pass up on this one. However, when I heard Nintendo put up a demo on the eShop yesterday, I decided to give it a shot, mostly because it is a platformer, but also because of the positive buzz it has received from various places. So how did it fair? Well…

As soon as I start the demo, I am disengaged from the game. It tosses you into an introductory cutscene. Well, no biggie. A lot of games have those, right? The problem is that the cutscene lasts about five minutes. Five minutes. While the art style in the cutscene was lovely, I’m here mostly to test how the game plays. A demo shouldn’t need a cutscene you can’t skip, it should put you right into the game…especially when that cutscene moves at a snail’s pace and doesn’t even allow you the option of speeding it up (which wouldn’t affect it, seeing as it has no spoken dialogue). To recap, I’m not even playing the game yet, and it has managed to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Oy vey.

The art in the opening scene is the same style used in the first Epic Mickey.

When I finally get out of the cutscene, I’m greeted by my first look at the game in motion…right? Well, no. Not at all. You see, the game has to have another cutscene, this one taking place on the bottom screen with still images of Mickey and Jiminy Cricket and some dialogue. Oh yeah, and the artwork here is different from the first cutscene, which was disappointing (but that’s mostly nitpicking). When I finally get out of this, I get to move Mickey around some. The first thing I do is to try all of his moves, but I pressed every button and could only manage to get him to jump. I’m obviously annoyed at this point, but I press on, still wanting to give this a fair shot. I see the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and guess what? Yep, another cutscene. Oh my god. Just to be clear, I’m not exaggerating. This is honestly what I felt while playing this. Anyways…

One of the many annoyances encountered in the demo.

So I finally get to the first batch of enemies. Jiminy pops up (again) to give me some simple advice- jump on those guys! Alright, I can handle that. How difficult could jumping on enemies be? I mean, I’ve played Mario before. Except the first couple of times I was the one taking damage, not them. What’s going on? Turns out, as Mister Cricket neglected to tell me, you have to press the jump button again in order to do damage. Isn’t this unintuitive? In most platformers where jumping is your main attack, you just have to land the jump. That’s it. Ugh. I still moved on, hoping the game would get better.

I believe at this point, I got to the first painting section. This is probably the most intuitive part of the game…and also one of the worst. You see, the game is disengaging me again so I can draw on the touchscreen. It pulled me out of the game and didn’t really add anything of value to the experience. If, as a game designer, I wanted to make a platformer that incorporated the touchscreen beyond a map, item storage, HUD, or what have you, I’d probably attempt to incorporate the touchscreen more, rather than having it feel blocked off from the rest of the game. Kirby Canvas Curse and Kirby Mass Attack were built around the touchscreen, and ended up being good. Now I’m getting off topic. Back to Epic Mickey.

An example of using the touchscreen to control the game.

Eventually Jiminy would show his face once more to gleefully tell me I can shoot paint and thinner. He also did the same thing to tell me about my spin attack. Okay, well, that’s great. Now I can use those abilities. I just had to wait until the game decided to tell me I could.

Had I worked to unlock them, such as in Rayman Origins, this wouldn’t be much of an issue. However, the game just hands them to me arbitrarily, and has the nerve to take me out of the game again (aren’t you tired of me saying that?) to tell me I can use them. Let’s compare this to Kirby once more: in Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, right from the first stage of the game, you have access to all of Kirby’s basic moves. The player is free to experiment if he wants. If the player doesn’t know how to do something, the game introduces the concept by a sign- for example, when there’s a big block, the game has a sign post there showing that you can shake the Wii Remote while inhaling for a super inhale. It doesn’t stop the player to tell them that hey, they can do this.

Signs are an unobtrusive way to explain how to use an attack.

Why did I bring this up? Well, at one point in the game, Epic Mickey actually has a sign like this set up! There’s one part of the level where you have to drop down some platforms, and on the castle wall is a sign that tells you the button combination needed to drop down. Wonderful. To make this clear, they were perfectly capable of doing it like Kirby, but for some asinine reason, they needed little Jiminy to tell us how.

I could probably go on about how this demo frustrated me, such as a couple of instances of Jiminy popping up to tell me the same thing twice in a row because I had to back track a bit to get an enemy to respawn, or how the game feels sluggish even without cutscenes, but at this point I’d be beating a dead horse. Even now, this has been more of a rant than a review. I just don’t think this will end up being a very good game if the demo is an honest representation of it. Perhaps if you go on beyond this introductory bit, but even then you’ll have to deal with talking to the other Disney characters trapped in the castle and needing paint or erase objects in the middle of the stage, both of which slow down the game and don’t do a good job at pulling the player in. I’ll have to pass on Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, which is a shame, because I like 2D platformers.


9:18 AM on 11.04.2012

Kanto is Where My Heart is

Recently, I’ve noticed something odd about my gaming habits. For the past few years, I’ve replayed Pokémon Red annually. In between those sessions, I’ve replayed Pokémon LeafGreen. During this span of time, I’ve also replayed some other Pokémon games, as well as getting to enjoy HeartGold, White, and White 2 for the first time, but time and again my mind drifts back to the first Generation of Pokémon. Perhaps I should explain.

Pokémon Red Version, while not my first video game by a long shot, was the first one I could call my own. I got it on my 5th birthday along with a Game Boy Color. It was the first game to truly engross me. I still don’t know what it was, but it managed to push all of the right buttons. Tagging along with my beloved Charmander (whose final form is still my favorite Pokémon of all time), I explored the region, battling trainers and finding new, exciting faces to befriend. Even now, I love exploring the secrets in these games.

I’m 90% certain that I could out-geek anyone here when it comes to Pokémon. I studied up on glitches throughout Elementary and Middle School, taught myself how to make pixel art in the style of the games, and now eagerly anticipate any drop of news regarding new Pokémon games. I visit websites every day, from Bulbapedia to Serebii. Even as I type this, I’m listening to Pokémon music.

Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to play Pokémon all the time. Quite the opposite, given the number of games I own that I haven’t completed. However, I feel almost a compulsive need to play a Pokémon game right now. More specifically, a game featuring the Kanto region, the region featured in Red and Blue.

As I mentioned, I replay these games almost annually. Early this year, I finished a run of Red version. Right now I’m feeling the urge to play LeafGreen again, despite having an unfinished run of Crystal (still need to beat Kanto…) and my first serious attempt at a complete Pokédex in White 2 to work on. Something about Kanto draws me back to it. Hell, I know my way around the Kanto region better than I do my home state! You could probably call it nostalgia, but even so, these games have a quality to them that I feel is lacking in most games. I can’t place my finger on it, but time and again I want to go back to them. These games are as much a part of my identity as the color of my hair and the language I speak. I’m looking forward to see Oak’s words greet me at the start again.


3:46 PM on 08.28.2012

Why Do I Want Backwards Compatibility

Whenever the topic of backwards compatibility comes up for a system such as the PS Vita or the Xbox 360, inevitably someone will ask “what’s so important about backwards compatibility?” Now, as someone who hoards their old systems (in fact, I willingly buy obsolete systems purely for novelty value), I can see where they are coming from. However, at the same time I can name 5 darn good reasons why I like to have backwards compatibility.

1. Convenience
Let’s be honest with ourselves- most people want simplicity and convenience and are willing to pay for it. If I can play Super Smash Bros. on my N64 and my Wii, but I also have many other games I like to play on my Wii, which system stays plugged in? The Wii does, of course. I can sit down and enjoy some classic Smash Bros. whenever I feel like, without fishing out the old N64.

For a portable system, convenience is even more important. Do I want to lug around my Game Boy and my 3DS? Of course not! If I can fit the Game Boy games I like to play on my 3DS’s SD card, I’d rather keep the one system on hand.

2. Some Systems Are Just Better
Yes, sometimes the newer systems simply outclass the older ones in some way or form. Going back to my Smash Bros. example, I’ve been playing its sequels with a Gamecube controller for so long that the N64 controller doesn’t feel right. Because I can play it on my Wii with a superior controller (for this series, anyways), I’d rather boot it up from my Wii rather than awkwardly fumble around with the three-pronged beast.

With portable systems, sometimes the differences are even more pronounced than a better controller. An example of a system that completely outshines its predecessors is the Game Boy Advance SP. It is slimmer, is the first Nintendo handheld with a lit-up screen, and also uses a rechargeable battery, meaning you no longer have to deal with the days of feeding your Game Boy AA batteries. The experience of play a Game Boy game on an older system doesn’t even compare to playing it on a SP.

3. It Allows Old Games to See a New Audience
I don’t have too much to say on this, but I’ll put a personal anecdote here instead. I never owned a PS1. When I first got a PS2, I was able to get some older PS1 games to play on it. Had it not been for the PS2’s backwards compatibility, I would have never known about these games or played them. They were games like Top Shop, Digimon World and some others, some of which I remember fondly.

4. It Expands the Library of New Systems
This one sort of goes hand in hand with that last point, but consider the fact that I mostly owned PS1 games instead of PS2 titles at the time. I’m not sure the reason why- maybe they were cheaper, or maybe there weren’t any PS2 games I wanted to play. Whatever the reason, they still made the system desirable to own for me. Without them, it very well could have collected dust and never used. I probably wouldn’t have played that many PS2 games then.

In addition to that, the ability to play old games is a much-welcome feature during slow release periods (which, if you’re a Nintendo guy like me, is damn near all the time). I don’t like a lack of new games to play, but what I hate even more is just not using a game system I own at all. Older games flesh out the library and keep me playing. In fact, in several cases I found an old game to be more engaging than whatever new game I happened to be playing.

5. Old Systems Die
It’s sad, but true. Many of our favorite systems get worn out and eventually bite the dust. Rather recently my brother’s beloved SNES went the way of the Dodo, rendering us unable to play some of our favorite SNES games. The ability to play old games on new systems not only benefits the new system, but it also preserves the legacy of the old system. It doesn’t just ensure new audiences can play old games; it ensures that old games can still see the light of day, even if the systems they are played on stops working.

If you’re still not convinced, then probably nothing will. Just don’t give us strange looks the next time we ask for backwards compatibility on a new system. ;D   read

8:36 AM on 05.30.2012

We're Going To Run Out Of Internet

Check out Extra Credit's take on this first:

This is big. Like, really big. More important than video games big. This won't just affect online gaming, but all internet use. Problem is...there doesn't seem to be a solution yet. I'm not sure what we can do about it besides raise awareness.

What do you guys think? Any way to slow down or stop this from happening? Or are we going to have much more restricted internet use come 2014?


7:04 PM on 05.07.2012

How They Should Make The Next Avatar Game

Hopefully many of you here are at least familiar with Avatar. Maybe you are currently watching the new series, like I am! We all agree that The Legend of Korra is freaking amazing, right? It’s pretty inevitable that they adapt it into the game- The Last Airbender had several video game adaptions. The question is, how should the series be represented? Well, I think I have a darn good idea.

Pro-bending! Now, here me out: Pro-bending has well-developed and fairly consistent rules, unlike many fictional sports of its type. It’s a rather exciting sport as well. The only problem is that, unlike on TV, people can’t control the elements. This is where video games come in.

The rules and such would stay the same, with possibly some minor adjustments here and there to account for the fact that it is an actual game rather than one seen on TV. A trio of players (presumably players that are on each other’s friend lists) would basically just play with each other to practice, and then move online playing other teams to see which one is better. That’s basically it. Yeah, not much, but I’d play it (if it was a good game, obviously).

It’d be a shame to not see that effort realized in a game that can be enjoyed by anyone. Just, don’t put it on Kinect, lest we see the return of the Pebble Dance.   read

3:54 PM on 04.29.2012

Pokémon- Too Legendary?

The Legendary Pokémon are an interesting facet of the Pokémon games, if only for the fact that they become the face of their respective games, driving a marketing blitz of new information and movies starring them. As a gamer who’s dedicated a good 13 years of my life playing Pokémon, I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the generational cycle and what the new Pokémon mean. I’m going to offer up my own opinion on them- in recent years we have had Pokémon that become the focal point of the game to such an extent that it actually damages the games. Before I can properly criticize the new Pokémon, however, I must establish the history behind them.

Let’s travel back to the ancient year of 1998. This was when Pokémon had first arrived in the US, and boy was it big. Pokémon was everywhere. Additionally, there was a lot that players did not know (at the time) about the games. Misinformation and rumors spread like wild-fire, and those that played were perplexed by the secrets the games had to offer. The Legendary Pokémon appeared as mysterious creatures, unseen to anyone except those that bothered to brave the dungeons found around the Kanto region. Between these monsters and the games being infamously glitchy, stories of Poké Gods took on a life of their own, and the Legendary Pokémon really did become something of a legend among players.

But, more importantly, from a gameplay perspective they weren’t required to be encountered. Players could read about Mewtwo’s origins and meet a bird keeper that knows about the legendary birds, but they were never told to seek them out. We were told of their existence and that was that. Actually encountering them was a reward for playing through the game’s extra content and in the case of Mewtwo, for making it to the end of the game.

Things changed somewhat afterwards, however. Gold and Silver versions were released in 2000, and with them brought a new set of Pokémon. For the first time, the covers were adorned with a Legendary Pokémon: Ho-Oh and Lugia, respectively. Despite this, their status in the games did not change much. There was more back story to the Pokémon, with some characters, rather fittingly, telling legends of the duo. Players were given items to encounter them, but outside of that they weren’t compelled to actually battle them. However, with the advent of Pokémon Crystal, the legends began to take greater importance in the game.

Crystal introduced the character Eusine, a man whose specific goal is to find, battle, and (presumably) capture Suicune. The player runs into Suicune and Eusine often, which ultimately culminates into battle against Suicune at the Tin Tower. Yet again, the battle was optional, though the player was outright encouraged to move the story along.

Seems pretty good, right? But then we have Generations 3-5. In every game since the start of Generation 3 save for Fire Red, Leaf Green, and Emerald versions, the player was forced into battling a Legendary Pokémon in order to move the game along. No longer were they content staying on the sidelines as simple world building. Legendary Pokémon seemingly became a major focus of the games. And that’s overall a bad thing.

Admittedly, the weather trio is pretty badass.

Granted, it was a fresh approach to the idea when Ruby and Sapphire did it. It makes sense that the nutty teams Magma and Aqua would believe in these Pokémon and would attempt to use them to expand the landmass or the sea. Yet at the same time the Pokémon began to lose their prestige. Rather than being simply powerful and rare Pokémon or the subject of myth, Groudon and Kyogre have an immediate impact upon the ecosystem, with powers that put them beyond older Pokémon in an attempt to make them appear more impressive. By making their encounters required, there isn’t much room for interpretation. Every player encounters them, and any sense of mystery is quashed when we are handed a Master Ball and told “here, go fight that Pokémon.” Even the remakes of Gold and Silver were not exempt from this, by completely stopping the player from progressing until he ran off and did some ritual to summon Ho-Oh or Lugia. Contrast this with how the original games handled things, and you can see a clear obstruction of player agency.

Even worse, Black and White felt the need to take things a step further- players literally cannot progress through the game without capturing either Reshiram or Zekrom. Inevitably, players will capture one. Rather than being a unique Pokémon of myth like the game wants us to believe, we are instead presented with the stark opposite- everybody has one. Or, to put things in perspective: “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”

Thanks for your wisdom, Syndrome!

Another problem presented by this is the feeling that Game Freak is trying to top their previous legendary Pokémon. What was wrong with Ho-Oh and Lugia being simply Pokémon that were revered, much like the spirits and monsters from Shinto*? Why is it that we now have Pokémon that control land and sea, time and space, and even a supposed Pokémon creator? This in of itself isn’t necessarily a large problem, but “bigger and stronger” doesn’t always translate into “better.”

In spite of this, we can see some Legendary Pokémon treated with the same care that those of the earlier games were. The Regi trio is a fantastic example of this, having been hidden away across the Hoenn region and only available to those able to go the extra mile. Then in Sinnoh, we meet Regigigas, the Pokémon that the legend from Hoenn was apparently talking about. There is no reason for these Pokémon to exist except to build up the world and make the Pokémon universe even more rich and entertaining than it already was. I can only hope we’ll see more Pokémon of this type in the future.

*Shinto is one of the two major religions in Japan, the other being Buddhism. You might be familiar with it via the tanuki (racoon) and kitsune (fox), both of which are rather well represented in various media.   read

6:04 PM on 04.17.2012

Tried out Project M Demo 2 today

I love Smash Bros. I also enjoy seeing hacks made by the fans for Brawl. My personal favorite before this was Brawl Minus- completely bat**** insane, and I love it. But, I finally got to try out Project M. Was it worth the wait? Yes, for the most part.

I'm not a tournament player, so this game wasn't exactly aimed towards me, but nonetheless I know I enjoyed Melee and and the other two, and I can get something out of being semi-competitive. So yeah, Project M. It's really fun. I recommend you go out and download it right now (you don't even need to hack your Wii to run it!). It's essentially Melee, but with way more freedom to modify the models, textures, music, and even stage list through the codes put out. And also, every character feels viable, but some take more adjusting to than others.

There are a couple of issues I had, though. The developers went in with the mindset that nothing from Brawl is sacred. Basically, they kept things they liked and eliminated the stuff they didn't. While all of the changes are very well tested and implemented, some characters feel different in nature from their Brawl incarnation. I suppose that was the plan, but it's still awkward to adjust to. ROB, for example, has a radically different recovery, and Lucario was especially reworked- the Aura system has been completely changed, as well as the properties of the character and his attacks. These changes WERE for the better, but they still nag at the back of the mind, and are definitely something to keep in mind when jumping into the game.

The Melee veterans, meanwhile, are mostly how they are in Melee, just tweaked with various aspects across all three games to make the best possible versions of the characters. And I cannot stress that point enough- were even I can tell what characters are bad and which are good in all three games, here in Project M every character feels good and every character feels viable. It's the best game for competitive play, so I highly suggest playing this if you enjoyed the tournament scene (or really if you just love Smash in general).

One more thing...Project M only has 29 characters right now, and those 29 characters COULD change in the future, whenever the next public release happens. The developers are working hard at making the rest of the cast work, but they won't update the demo with these characters- you'll have to wait till the next public version. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, and I hope you guys can enjoy it too.   read

1:20 PM on 04.06.2012

Dreaming: A New Dimension For Kirby

I am a Kirby fan. The pudgy pink cream puff has always brought a smile to my face, even when playing one of his bad games. Yet, despite all of the evolution he has experienced, from using items to gaining abilities, ditching animal friends for ability mixing, to dressing up in new hats, one thing has always remained constant: Kirby of the Stars stays 2D.

In one way, this has suited our round pal pretty well. Not every game has survived the transition from 2D to 3D. Poor Sonic still hasn't quite figured it out after a decade or so. Yet at the same time, there is only so much one can do with a 2D plane. After taking down the likes of Kracko, Heavy Lobster, Fangora and the Grand Doomer, it is hard not to ask for more.

Return to Dream Land or More of the Same?

Kirby has always been a very experimental series. Sometimes it can seem as if there are more spin-off titles than main series games. Mass Attack, Canvas Curse, and Epic Yarn are all great games, and Epic Yarn particular is my favorite single-player Wii game. Why, then, hasn't Kirby dabbled in 3D yet? In my entire experience as a Kirby lover, I can only think of two instances of Kirby in 3D- the amazing rail shooter fight with Zero Two in Kirby 64, and of course Kirby's Air Ride, especially when you are running around in City Trial without a vehicle. Both instances have their limitations, with the former putting Kirby on rails and the latter taking away his ability to inhale or do much of anything when not on a vehicle.

A few months ago, there was an Iwata Asks interview for Return to Dream Land. Obviously, part of it was devoted to the development hell it faced back when it was being made for the Game Cube. My heart sunk, though, when I saw this picture:

There it was! There was the 3D Kirby game I've been waiting for! And, in an even greater kick in the pants, it looked almost exactly how I envisioned the game would look. How could this game not have been made? Difficulties with making Kirby work in 3D? Huh? Somehow, I doubt that Kirby would be that hard to translate to 3D.

How would a 3D Kirby game work? Well, think Super Mario 3D Land or either of the Galaxy games basically, just with Kirby and copy abilities instead of Mario and power ups. The levels would be pretty straightforward, but in the spirit of the Kirby games there would be a lot of secrets to find, like in Kirby's Dream Land 3 or the Great Cave Offensive. Combat would likely be a simplified Super Star-esque system. The 3D style would allow for more varied levels and game play styles as well. Since a shmup level is a staple of the series, they could easily look to the success of Kid Icarus Uprising and incorporate rail shooter levels.

Storming the Halberd in a 3D Rail Shooter style level would be amazing.

In terms of the setting, we can look at Kirby 64 and Milky Way Wishes- a return to outer space! But, perhaps we can take it to Super Mario Galaxy proportions? There's a lot of material to work with here.

What system to release it on? Personally, I think the 3DS would be the best fit. 3D Land showed us what the stereoscopic screen could do to enhance the experience of a 3D platformer. Also, the 3DS's power is perfect enough to bring to life the vibrant, colorful visuals that we come to know and love from Kirby. Besides that, Kirby's home has always been the handheld system. His first game was released on the Game Boy, and he proved he still had it in him with his recent DS outings.

I realize this might not be the greatest game in the world. And, to be quite frank, it doesn't need to be. Kirby games are about pure fun and happiness. If this game could take that Kirby essence and thrust it into a 3rd Dimension, I would be in love with that. And maybe, you guys would too.   read

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