Who am I? A lover of the video game industry. I read about video games more than I play them. The various aspects and mechanics of design are what really intrigue me, and it's always fun to have a healthy debate about them.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.