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Found 8 results

  1. Jonathan Higgins

    Review: Pokémon Sun and Moon

    Developer: Game Freak Publisher: The Pokémon Company Platform: Nintendo 3DS Release Date: November 18th, 2016 ESRB: E for Everyone Note: This review is based on a playthrough of Pokemon Sun, though Pokemon Moon is largely the same game with minor differences, such as its own exclusive Pokemon and the clock being twelve hours ahead. Many people call me many different things. But — without a doubt — I am “the Pokémon guy” of my friend circle. My long-running feature articulates my love, minor compulsions, and many criticisms of the series in a way that what I“m about to write... must concentrate into something much shorter, more concise. As I“m sitting down to write this, I“ve spent over a hundred hours with the game. I“ve absorbed everything the main story and the plot-driven portions of the post-game have to offer. My Alolan Pokédex is even 100% complete. It“s probably the furthest I“ve ever sunk into a game before sitting down to review it, if I“m being honest. Brevity has never been my strong-suit, in both playing Pokémon and attempting to analyze it. But without further ado, let me say this: Above all, I am very conflicted about Sun & Moon. The newest games actually have a brand new director behind them, Shigeru Ohmori. A different pair of eyes overseeing all aspects of development is likely one of the key reasons that Alola, the new region... feels like the most refreshing thing to happen to Pokémon since fan-favorites Gold & Silver. Anyone who“s been playing these games forever will likely sing praises of major and minor adjustments to “the Pokémon formula,” as it were. That“s where I“ll start. Moves called Hidden Machines used to force players who wanted to fully explore the world to build their Pokémon team around them. Want to cut obtrusive bushes that block the way to hidden items? Better raise a Grass Type Pokémon with you that can learn “Cut,” or you won“t be able to proceed. Want to fast-travel from one town to the next? Put a Flying Type Pokémon and “Fly” on your team, lest you be inconvenienced. Sun & Moon finally make HMs obsolete with Riding Pokémon. Folks who want to fast-travel can use their nifty Ride Pager to call up a Charizard on a whim, who“s happy to take you wherever you need to go. Want to Surf? Eventually you“ll get a Lapras to call on, even if you never put a single Water Type Pokémon on your team. Pokémon games used to be about collecting eight Gym Badges, then taking on the Pokémon League and becoming the Champion. It was that way from 1996 to 2013 — always the same song and dance, no matter where you were or what system you were playing on. Alola introduces something else brand new: the Island Challenge. While this concept serves a very similar purpose to the one Gyms used to... it knocks down the archetypes of four walls and eight people being the biggest trials you“ll ever overcome. I“ve personally found Gyms to be the biggest reason why each new Pokémon region and game amounted to predictable fodder at best. Their removal meant me approaching Alola itself... and the game“s story... with unpredictability and wonder. Instead of conquering gyms, I was doing things like... exploring a haunted shopping mall, taking pictures of Ghost Pokémon with my PokéFinder before they discovered me and challenged me to a battle. Instead of Gym Leaders, the biggest challenge of each Island Trial was its “Totem Pokémon” — a big, burly boss with buffed up stats. This boss could call underlings in what I would soon learn was called an “S.O.S. Battle.” More on those, which extend far beyond Island Trials, in a bit. After clearing each and every Island Trial of a particular Island I was on... I would take on its “kahuna”... a leader figure to each island that serves more like a mayor, or a defender of justice, than a mere “Gym Leader.” Riding Pokémon and the Island Trial are the two biggest changes to what longtime fans know. They“re what you“ll see in every single review, and probably what“s on the back of the box (I can“t verify since I went digital). But there are several minor adjustments that I“ve been waiting for someone, somewhere to implement too. I“ve already blabbed about the evolved GUI for the length of a full review. I could probably double that with the new things I“ve learned about it since playing. Suffice to say: if you“re brand new to Pokémon... and most of what I“ve been saying sounds like complete gibberish? The game wants to help you. It“ll tell you how effective a particular move you want to use will be against a foe, once you“ve seen for yourself what type of Pokémon it is. If you“re carrying the maximum six Pokémon you can take with you and catch another... the game will ask you whether you want your new friend to join your party, or be sent off to the PC. It lets you see a full summary of the Pokémon“s moves and Nature, as well as the ones currently with you, before you ever leave the capture screen! There“s just so much. Sweeping and small mechanical changes are just half of what makes Alola so refreshing, to me. I loved the characters and “world” more than any other Pokémon game, so far. Hau, your rival... completes every island trial after you do, is brimming with optimism almost to a fault, and deeply cares about Pokémon and the people around him. He reminds me of Pokémon Trainer Red from the Game Boy days. He“s always happy lagging behind someone more experienced, with a Pikachu no less... but with seemingly great potential, too. Lille is a character who“s got a bit of mystery around her, and undergoes the most evolution and development in the story. The Pokémon Professor Kukui, the kahunas and the trial captains, the bad folks (Team Skull), and every other major character in Alola... all help communicate this idea that Alola is a truly unique place in the world of Pokémon. If creating something refreshing and new, that feels welcoming to new and returning players alike, was what Director Ohmori endeavored to do... I“d say he achieved his goal. It“s just a shame that I feel so many compromises were made in the process. In 2013, Pokémon X&Y introduced players to the Kalos region. With it, the total Pokémon count went from 649 to 721. Of the 721 known Pokémon at the time, 450 of them were available to catch with just Pokémon X or Pokémon Y. Each time you visited a new part of Kalos, you were given a new piece of the “Regional Pokédex” that had 150 or so brand new critters to find, to help make up that total. There was never any overlap. You could never really run out of things to catch or evolve, unless you were the compulsive type like me. And therein lies my biggest problem with Sun & Moon: the Alolan Pokédex is tiny! With these games, the total Pokémon count goes from 721 to 802. The DexNav from Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire helped catalog the tons of Pokémon you could find in any given area. I suppose that feature was removed in Alola because... there aren“t nearly as many to worry about. In order to make Sun & Moon less intimidating on newcomers, it seems, the total catchable critters in the game is only 300. That“s less than the Kalos region, and less than half of the total Pokémon out there. Alola is a region of four islands. Each island has its own “Regional Pokédex”, similar to Kalos. This time, though, there is definite overlap. Upon arriving to the game“s final island... I“d already completed over 50% of its Regional Pokédex... indicating that I“d see most of the same critters I“d already been seeing, over and over again, despite being in a brand new place. Alola“s environments are refreshing and new... but its fauna doesn“t boast the same qualities. There“s not even a “National Pokédex.” For the first time in 12 years: the 300 Pokémon currently native to the Alola Region are all that will ever be recorded in your game“s Pokédex, as far as I can tell. It encourages newcomers to “catch ”em all” and be card-carrying Pokémon Masters... by actively ignoring over half of the Pokémon that aren“t in these games. But see: that“s just something I personally don“t see eye-to-eye with. The fauna of Alola, and one“s Pokédex progress, could bounce off a whole lot of you. And that“s fine. But let me get into properly explaining what“s so flawed about the concept behind S.O.S. Battles. After completing the first Island Trial of the game... normal Wild Pokémon can call for help in the same way the Totem Pokémon do. If you“re trying like heck to catch a Pikachu... you“ll have to put off catching him if he calls one of his buddies at the end of your turn. Over and over again, until the “help doesn“t appear” or it decides not to. I was trying to catch a Cubone... and I had to knock out 16 other Cubones to get to him. That“s just cumbersome, no matter how you slice it. I get trying to add an extra layer of challenge to catching Pokémon. But I think S.O.S. Battles take things a little too far sometimes. Of the 300 Pokémon available to catch in Alola, 39 of them are “S.O.S. Battle Exclusive.” This means that they only appear in the wild if a friend calls them for help... and their appearance is typically hinged on a 10% or 5% chance, if not lower. That... is how you take “a little too far” even farther, to the point where I“ve relied on trading online to complete my Pokédex more than ever before. Even outside of S.O.S. Battles — there are several Pokémon with a 1% encounter rate by normal means. Some evolution items, like Sneasel“s Razor Claw, can only be found being held by Wild Pokémon. You have a 5% chance of encountering a Wild Jangmo-o in a certain place... and said Jangmo-o has a 5% chance of holding onto the Razor Claw you need. That“s a problem! Your only solution is to have absolutely incredible luck, or to spend forever having Jangmo-o call for help in an “S.O.S. Chain” until one shows up that“s holding the item. The concept of a “rare Pokémon” or “rare item” is taken to absolutely obscene levels in Alola... making most not worth the effort to seek out without online intervention. And hey: if you experience a communication error while trading or battling online, you will be unable to use those features for “a while” — anywhere from fifteen minutes to up to 72 hours. There really is a lot to love about Pokémon Sun & Moon. I didn“t even address some of the other stuff I enjoyed: like how PokéPelago is going to be worth investing time into for the unique items and rewards it yields, with minimal effort. Trainer customization is back, too; you can style your character in heaps and handfuls of different ways. And the soundtrack, which I consider to be the best they“ve ever produced, by a long-shot. There“s at least one major “dislike” I didn“t get to either... because mentioning the changes to Effort Values and competitive play would keep me here forever. To most, the Alola Region, and these games, are probably going to be widely hailed as the finest hour for the franchise so far. And I“d agree with them... but only to a point. I love that Alola is the most refreshing place I“ve had the pleasure to explore in my twenty-year Pokémon journey. I“m vexed that handfuls of Sun & Moon“s more obtuse mechanical changes, and artificial means to make “rare stuff” all the rarer, make me miss the games that came before. Pros + Several long-awaited mechanical changes help to make this the most refreshing, and somewhat unpredictable Pokémon game you'll play so far. + The region of Alola is expertly crafted, with a strong sense of individuality and community that extends far beyond the narrative, to even influencing the GUI and altering traditional sound-effects. + I didn't run into a single new Pokémon I don't like...and hey, Pokémon you might know, like Raichu, have new appearances and battle styles! Cons - The Alolan Pokédex is the smallest compendium of creatures since Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, which released almost ten years ago. - The concept of a "rare Pokémon" or "rare item" has been stretched to levels border-lining the obscene. More than one Pokémon has a 1% encounter rate by normal means, Almost forty others are hidden behind "S.O.S. Battles" - "S.O.S. Battles" are extremely tedious to work with, outside of the Island Trials. If you want to catch a Pokémon, you'd better be ready to take down 2-6 of its buddies, minimum. Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great The Alola region of Pokémon Sun & Moon is probably the most refreshing place to hit Pokémon games in sixteen years. But some oddball design decisions may make some longtime fans miss how certain things used to be.
  2. Welcome to the eighty-first week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed last week's, check it out. Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. Victini will be available via the Nintendo Network until September 24th. Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all! -------------------------------- Untold Stories As you“re reading this, I“m probably several hours into Dragon Quest VII on 3DS. I contemplated calling this week“s feature “Farewell”, because the world may never see me again. You know it. I know it. And Game Freak knows it, which is why they decided to release Pokémon Sun & Moon two months after the fact—I“m totally the reason for that. Yup! All jokes aside, some of the biggest news of this week happened outside of the main games. I“ll cover a bit of GO stuff, first: “The Buddy System”, as I“m affectionately calling it, went live just days ago. With it, you can figuratively have your critters walk with you like they would have in Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver. Here“s my canonical ten-year-old Pikachu, who will eventually sit on my shoulder in my profile after I walk ten kilometers with her. Nice Easter Egg there, Niantic. The “problem” with the Buddy System had to do with expectations versus reality, I think. When this stuff was leaked, plenty of folks assumed it would replace the “need” to find rarer Pokémon like Dratini multiple times over, because you could walk with one and get candy. A lot of folks were dismayed to find that Pokémon like Dratini require 5km of walking to earn just one candy. Uncommon Pokémon, like the Kanto starters, require 3km. And critters like Pikachu and Magikarp only require 1km. So, with the example of Dratini Candy in mind: in order to evolve my Dragonair into a Dragonite, without ever capturing another Dratini from this day forward, I would need to walk 385 kilometers or 239 miles. As it stands--the Buddy System isn“t designed to replace hunting, it“s designed to supplement it. I think it would have been fairer to make the requirements 1km/2km/3km instead of 1km/3km/5km, but...that“s just me, I guess. It still sparked a relatively renewed interest in the app, anyway. Back in late 2013, the short Pokémon Origins anime made ways within the community. This four episode mini-series [watch here] was a departure from the long-running anime, instead choosing to tell the story of Pokémon Red & Blue, through the eyes of Pokémon Trainer Red. It stayed remarkably true to the games, often echoing the script entirely, and only embellished on points that made the most sense to the story being told. They made Mr. Fuji—the guy in Lavender Town that gives you the Poké-Flute—one of the scientists responsible for creating Mewtwo. Other than that, it was like watching the Game Boy games come to life! Told you that to tell you this: on Tuesday, The Pokémon Company officially announced Pokémon Generations, a follow-up to the Origins spin-off that, rather than focusing on Red & Blue, encompasses all six generations of Pokémon. ! I“m really, really looking forward to seeing how they handle each game“s narrative—especially since we see Giovanni in the same appearance he took on from his . If you got the Event Celebi from those days, you could be transported back into the past--whereupon you fight Giovanni as Gold, and learn that your rival is actually his son. It was a really nice touch--one that they“ll probably expand upon in the new anime. If you“re as interested as I am--it“s set to debut today! So check out the official Pokémon YouTube channel. Last but not least: CoroCoro revealed the evolution of Rockruff, that cute dog Pokémon. Turns out, it“ll evolve differently depending on if you have Sun or Moon. There“s no English reveal yet, so we can only go on the Japanese translations of “Midday” and “Midnight” formes of its evolution, Lugarugan. Is this the first time a specific evolution has been gated behind owning a certain version of the game? That about covers it, this week. Has the Buddy System renewed your interest in Pokémon GO at all? Excited for Generations, or does it just bounce right off you? Be sure to let us know!
  3. Welcome to the seventy-ninth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed last week's, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. Victini will be available via the Nintendo Network until September 24th. Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all! -------------------------------- Choose Your Buddy The Nintendo Direct that happened yesterday brought some interesting Sun & Moon news. The Alolan Rattata is almost certain to become a meme in its own right -- that mustache makes it kind of resemble an old-timey comic book villain. And there“s the poor Ditto on the receiving end of Snorlax“s special Z-Attack, Pulverizing Pancake. Interesting that they chose to pack in a special kind of Z-Move as the "Launch Window Mystery Gift". In the past, it“s been a Pokémon -- like Genesect & Victini in the Black & White days, and Torchic and Shiny Beldum from 6th Gen. With the versatility you can see in , it looks like Z-Moves are going to be a competitive game-changer, in my opinion. There“s not a whole lot else to get to this week. Pokémon Snap didn“t come out today, like I thought it would -- likely because of both Axiom Verge on Wii U & Skyward Sword wildly overshadowing it. Maybe next week? Oh, and more Pokémon Sun & Moon news is confirmed for September 6th -- so maybe next week“s IV will be much more jam-packed. One last thing of note, though: something interesting was datamined from Pokémon GO. A future update could see the addition of “Buddy Pokémon” -- a concept that borrows a bit from HeartGold & SoulSilver, in practice. As per the findings: if I select a Pikachu I caught, it“ll walk beside me and gather Pikachu Candy, using the same method as one does to hatch eggs. This would feel most welcome, honestly -- as it allows folks who have only seen one kind of a certain Pokémon [like me and Vulpix] to let that one walk beside them and get its respective candy to help evolve or power it up. It also addresses something I did about a month ago -- it gives you the opportunity to interact with your Pokémon after you catch them, outside of gyms. While it“s a subtle thing at best, and it“s not actually here yet -- I think the whole concept of Buddy Pokémon is absolutely a step in the right direction. Here“s to more updates that move to better communicate the philosophies of the main games. GO still feels a little too much like a departure, to me personally. That does it for this week! How do y“all feel about the Alolan Rattata, or this reported “Buddy Pokémon” deal? What news awaits us in just a few days?
  4. Welcome to the seventy-eighth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed last week's, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. Victini will be available via the Nintendo Network from September 1st through 24th. Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all! -------------------------------- Drawing Circles, Spinning Off Love or hate Pokémon GO, I think it“s to blame for a few trends, as of late. If you haven“t heard--the Nintendo 3DS was the number one best-selling hardware for the month of July--up freaking 80% from last year. Pokémon ORAS, and even Pokémon X&Y--games from two years ago or longer--made the sales charts as well. It“s clear that the success of the mobile app has driven people to The Real Deal, and that“s exactly what Mr. Iwata set out to do with the initiative to bring Nintendo into the mobile space. Cool deal, right? The other thing it seems to have done is give Nintendo a shot in the arm, when it comes to releasing any Pokémon game they can on the Virtual Consoles across the globe. In the past month, North America has gotten all three Pokémon Ranger games on the Wii U Virtual Console--same goes for Japan. Europe got Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky, as well as Pokémon Snap. [And I can reasonably predict, since there“s been a Ranger game released here every two weeks, that we“ll get Snap on September 1st. Hope I“m right!] That“s what I“ve been up to in my spare time, lately. Hanging out with my Ukulele Pichu friend in Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs. While I“ve played all three games in the Ranger spin-off series, Guardian Signs is the only one I beat. I think, by the third game, the formula was refined enough not to turn me away with its...circle-drawing complexities. And the puzzles, story, and overall appeal of the premise was probably at its best after two previous attempts. But hey. Having a Pichu that played a ukulele didn“t hurt it at all. As soon as Pokémon Snap releases, we“ll have every current kind of spin-off available on current generation Nintendo hardware, with the exception of a Stadium. The 3DS has two Trozei-style games in Battle Trozei & Shuffle, respectively. It“s got Pokémon Rumble World and Pokémon Puzzle Challenge, too. There“s even the old TCG Game Boy Color game, even if it lacks needed multiplayer capabilities. And there“s Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, of course. The Wii U has PokéPark available digitally, Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire, all three Ranger games, and [eventually] Pokémon Snap. I...really don“t think I“m missing anything, do you? That“s a lot of extracurricular things to do in the world of Pokémon. It[”s impressive how versatile the brand has proven itself to be over twenty years, even if they“re sorely missing a platforming game. I think the Ranger series is among my favorite of their endeavors. Don“t get me wrong--I obviously love Mystery Dungeon & Snap. But the Pokémon Ranger games, despite their flaws, offer up a unique kind of puzzle-solving gameplay. Battling could probably use an overhaul, especially if they ever make one for a system that doesn“t have an innate touch-screen or stylus. But, if you take away the drawing and just look at the Ranger “world” for what it is--it“s the closest thing the franchise has to an adventure game. Even if the stories all feel a little juvenile, they still capture the “point” of the Pokémon games. The way these Rangers thank the Pokémon every time they release them back into the wild is just one small indicator of that. Honestly--I“m not sure how Ranger gameplay could translate to a console without a touch-screen. But I“d be willing to see a new Ranger game through! Ranger, Snap and Stadium are the three bigger endeavors I think could warrant a brand new retail game, to be sold at stores and what-not. But I“m curious why we haven“t seen a new Pokémon Pinball entry in so long, most of all. That kind of endeavor could end up mitigated to the eShop, but there“s certainly potential. Even if they did choose to make it a full retail game: it could start out with a limited number of Pokémon, and offer the old tables—and older Pokémon too—as DLC, like the Zen Pinball games often do. I can“t imagine designing intuitive pinball tables and bonus levels would take huge chunks of staff and development time. Of all the spin-offs we“ve seen come and go, the lack of a new Pinball game leaves the biggest question mark in my head. Maybe I“m just too nostalgic for my own good. Is there any particular spin-off that you enjoyed most of all, among all the currently available ones? Am I off my rocker about Pinball? Heck, did playing Pokémon GO compel you to pick up one of the newer [or older] mainline games and get back into the series, like the aforementioned numbers indicate? I“m interested to hear your thoughts.
  5. Welcome to the seventy-fifth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed last week's, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. Arceus will be available at participating GameStop stores from August 1st through 24th. You'll need to get a card with a serial code. Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all! -------------------------------- Going Beyond the Games It“s been quite some time since I last discussed Pokémon Sun & Moon at length. I may wait another week or two, as The Pokémon Company has promised more news on August 1st. It“s interesting how The Pokémon Company, much like the Smash. Bros team“s approach to reveals, has chosen to drip-feed information and brand new Pokémon in specifically tailored trailer bits, so there“s a reduced chance of the Internet ruining things. But I digress: Remember how I said I wasn“t going to download Pokémon GO? Oversaturation is why I caved. I was pretty strong during the first week or so of release, even going so far as to buy Pokémon HeartGold second-hand so I could distract myself with Johto to lessen my bitterness towards the Internet“s flood of memes and thinkpieces. My efforts proved for naught, though: The only way to stop myself from hating the app and everyone who [posts every three hours on Social Media] about it... was to download the Thing and participate, myself. I“m not going to add my thoughts about the Thing to the noise you“ve already heard/read/gotten tired of; rest assured. I just wanted to let the Meowth out of the bag (you might sigh at that line, but Super Mystery Dungeon“s dialogue is often worse!) so that when I do mention it, you“ll know I“m coming from a relatively informed place. Oh, and--if you or someone you love does decide to cave and play the Thing like me--don“t use a Pokémon Trainer Club account. Seriously. The Pokémon Company isn“t taking nearly as much advantage of GO“s success as I thought they would. When the numbers started pouring in--especially regarding how second-hand sales of the main games have increased considerably--I figured we“d see Pokémon Snap released on the Wii U Virtual Console in North America, as well as a push for all the DS side-games like Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs to come that way as well. [Yeah, I know Europe has them already...] I“m still not convinced we won“t see Pokémon Gold, Silver & Crystal released for the 3DS Virtual Console prior to the release of Sun & Moon, but...it“s looking less likely as the months draw on. Very interesting indeed. At least we can rest assured that Detective Pikachu is probably coming West before long. Now that I“ve sufficiently waffled on for 350 words or so, here“s what I really want to talk about: The biggest [positive] takeaway from GO is that it“s gotten people of all ages outside walking around and exercising. It“s an initiative Nintendo has tried with the Wii Fit games, but it wasn“t met with nearly as much success because it didn“t have Pikachu“s face all over it. Devices like Pokémon Pikachu & the PokéWalker from HG/SS attempt to tread that same ground, but they were ultimately held back because the devices themselves are limited in nature. What I want more than anything is for The Pokémon Company to develop an independent 3DS application, like Pokémon Dream Radar, that achieves the same objectives as both GO and the PokéWalker. Here“s my idea: What if I could send my Pikachu from Omega Ruby to a side-app that let me play minigames [not any more complex than what you“d find in the main game, or even Pikachu“s Beach] and interact with it while my 3DS was open, but let me travel with it while the system was closed? The 3DS already has a step-counter to help you earn Play Coins--if that Step Counter could be used in a 3DS application to earn “points” that could be redeemed for PokéMiles, BP [battle Points], or hard-to-obtain items (like Leftovers or Evolution Stones) in the main games--there“s your incentive to take your 3DS with you when you go places, and...yeah...to go places! TPC has also said they“re going to try to get Pokémon GO to work with the main games somehow. Since the first 150 Pokémon are already available in Pokémon RBY [which will work with Sun & Moon], I think transferring your critters to Sun & Moon from GO would be a little redundant, personally. I“d much rather they use this Magical Mystery App I“m making up to...let the egg(s) you“re incubating be temporarily transferred to your 3DS, so you can hatch them by steps taken instead of distance traveled--and maybe not leave the app on your phone open 24-7. Alas, I can dream! The PokéWalker was honestly one of my favorite things TPC has ever created. It“s ultimately simple in nature, but the objectives it helped achieve in-game were numerous, and got dedicated people moving. Whether it works with go or not--if they developed a 3DS application that used the system“s pedometer to unlock similar features in Sun & Moon--everything from otherwise unobtainable Pokémon, to rare items...really, the sky“s the limit--I would be the happiest Clamperl.
  6. Welcome to the seventy-fourth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed my send-off to the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series over the past two weeks, check here and here! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. Shaymin is available via the Nintendo Network. It'll be live until July 24th. Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all! -------------------------------- Indulging in Interaction Even though my work in Pokémon Yellow is done, I still go back from time to time just to indulge in Pikachu“s Beach. When ping-ponging around the idea of talking about how the Pokémon games have allowed a trainer to interact directly with their collected critters, my first instinct was to say “let“s look at how far we“ve come”. While it“s easy to track a steady growth in most aspects of the main game--everything from music, to graphics, to even the battle UI like I discussed a few weeks ago--Pokémon interactivity has been a bit of a spotty Thing. I“m going to do my best to sum things up here: In Yellow Version, we could interact with the Pikachu we started with directly, as it followed behind us the whole time [so long as we didn“t let it faint or deposit it in a PC]. It had a voice, unique facial expressions, and more than one tiny contribution to the narrative as a whole. Its purpose was...to be the first ever measure of the Happiness value many veteran trainers know the ins-and-outs of, by now. ...Once the Pika-purpose was served, they shelved the concept for Gold & Silver. Still, it inspired things like Pokémon Pikachu [2]. I“m not sure if your experiences differ, but: when we were kids, all my friends yearned for the ability to have any Pokémon you wanted walk behind you. We“d all get our wish eventually...but I“ll get to that. Do you all consider [super] Contests to be along the same lines of interacting with any Pokémon? I personally don“t, because the experience is so closely aligned with battling. HP never goes down, but there are various mechanics and formulas to master if you want to get all your ribbons--you couldn“t really casually raise a “Contest Pokémon”, lest you risk feeding them poffins that aren“t good enough and permanently filling them up. That“s what happened to my ten year-old Pikachu since the Diamond & Pearl days--I am amazed that her contest stats are still alive and at the fixed value they“ve been since around 2007, despite being transported across two generations of games since first raising them. Speaking of Diamond & Pearl: Let“s address Amity Square. This special place in Sinnoh allowed you to bring your own Pikachu, Clefairy, Jigglypuff and Psyduck from first gen--Torchic, Shroomish and Skitty from third gen--and the Sinnoh starters, plus Drifloon, Buneary, Happiny and Pachirisu from the newest games at the time...and explore a small, gated area with one of them at a time. It“s a tiny area, and that“s really a tiny amount of Pokémon when you consider there were 493 upon Diamond & Pearl“s release...but I“m grateful for its inclusion nonetheless. Since I caught my Pikachu in FireRed, I hadn“t gotten the chance to have it walk behind me until Amity Square happened. And then HeartGold & SoulSilver blew the whole concept of interactivity out of the water, beyond most fans“ wildest hopes and dreams. Not only could every single Pokémon in existence follow behind the trainers in that game [including taking the time to program shiny color alterations for those special Pokémon], but it had various places to take photos with your team, dress them [and you, the trainer] up in outfits, and… the PokéWalker. This thing took the premise that Pokémon Pikachu tried to create and put it on steroids, allowing you to walk with any Pokémon you wanted & potentially fight to capture new and exclusive Pokémon when you weren“t walking around with it. As far as feeling like your critters were “walking with you in real life, too”, the PokéWalker was the closest we“ve ever gotten. If you were young enough--or willing to suspend your disbelief enough--it was something really special, you know? And then Black & White took it away and dashed our dreams...okay...so maybe they decided on a different approach instead. Didn“t mean to bring us down a bit there! The Dream World offered a rather obtuse way to catch exclusive Pokémon--through use of flash games and an interactive website. Instead of having Any Given Pokémon walk behind you in the games themselves, Unova let you walk behind them in a dream. There were various mini-games that offered a bit of fun on top of what was otherwise simple point-and-click exploration. And that leads us to 6th Gen, where the flash games of sorts have returned to our Nintendo handhelds, with a bonus means to pet our Pokémon and feed ”em treats, in order to raise a unique stat. Since Affection--not Happiness--is a new attribute to gauge Pokémon with, I thought “PokémonAmie” might come back in some form with Sun & Moon. Turns out I might be right. ...What new levels of interaction will the upcoming games hold beyond PokémonAmie? I hate to dash dreams here, but as Pokémon graphics and presentation start to evolve towards reflecting more realistic-looking people and proportions, the concept of having “all 800-something Pokémon” following behind you will be incredibly out-of-reach. In HeartGold, Wailord took up a single sprite on the screen--in Sun & Moon, if they“d want to keep a more realistic look both inside and outside of battle, there“s no conceivable way our favorite large whale friend will be able to follow behind us faithfully. But! I“m kind of hoping for the return of an Amity Square kind of place, where we can take a select (larger) group of Pokémon behind us to explore a (larger) dungeon, as they walk behind us. You“ve all seen augmented reality photos like this one since the launch of Pokémon GO a while back. I“m not sure if I have it in me to add to the handfuls of “Pokémon GO Thinkpieces” out there, since the Thing is a bigger success than anyone [myself included] could have anticipated. But I will say this: The biggest “problem” I have with the app, philosophically, is that these types of photos can only be taken before the Pokémon in question is actually caught. As far as I know--there is no way to interact with your critters after you catch them. Ever since Red, Blue & Yellow--the “point” of your Pokémon journey is to bond with the critters you catch. GO has Gym Battles, training, and other fodder. But it“s missing the option to--as an example--highlight a Pikachu once you catch it, and let it out of its PokéBall...for photo ops with friends & in various locations besides where you found it. The inclusion of such a feature could be easily added, and it“d help Trainers to become more attached to their respective critters, wouldn“t it? Anyway. That“s quite enough from me. At the end of the day, I“m just looking for mainline [and even spin-off] games that let you do more with your Pokémon friends than make them fight each other. How do you all feel about the level of interaction you“ve seen from games past? Are HeartGold & SoulSilver your favorite because of reasons like I listed? Goodness knows, I“ve jumped back into Johto to help scratch an itch that GO just can“t reach. Be sure to share your thoughts!
  7. Welcome to the fifty-seventh week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed the last one, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. This coming week is your last opportunity to grab Mew from participating GameStop stores. It disappears again for a while after February 24th! Every single Mythical Pokémon will be distributed during a specific month for the remainder of this year. Now may be your only chance for a really long time, to actually catch them all! -------------------------------- Great Expectations As you“re all reading this, we“re just a week and a day away from February 27th, 2016--the official twentieth anniversary of Pokémon Red & Green Versions respectively, and what“s being marketed internationally as “Pokémon Day”. The proverbial Hype Train has been steadily rolling along since December, with crazy physical products available for our friends in Japan, all the stuff our Official Site has outlined, kind words from Mr. Masuda and others, and...even a brand new Pokémon. That last bit“s...kind of a big deal, right? I“ll blab more about Magearna momentarily, but there are a few brief points I need to hit first: First of all: Pokémon GO is going to be at GDC 2016 (March 14-18), featured in a panel where we“ll finally hear more information about it beyond the e“er popular reveal trailer. What does this mean? Well, it means the beta-tests you“ve seen going around are collectively just one meaningless hoax after the next. And it“s definitely not releasing on February 27th, like I“ve seen some brazen folks try to report. I know it“s a slow news cycle for many gaming websites, but the amount of stretching some people are doing makes rubber-bands look bad. Next: “Pokémon Fandom”--I am generally okay with your existence, even though I don“t necessarily identify with you at all. But could you all please stop begging for The Next Big Pokémon Game Announcement already? Just look at the replies on the Message from Masuda tweet I linked to above. It“s like every time The Pokémon Company tweets something out, they“re met with a bunch of hungry wolves after their next meal. Despite some reporting it as news: with the reveal of Magearna and the anime moving ahead full swing to “Pokémon XY&Z (emphasized to emulate how the Z appears in the logo)...the fact that they“re working on another Big Pokémon Project besides GO….is expected. ...Give them time, for goodness sake. They“ll show it off when they“re ready! Okay, last bit: The release of the old Pokémon games sure is unfortunately timed, isn“t it? Most of you hardcore RPG folks are going to be a week into Fire Emblem Fates. I“m choosing a different path (n“yuk n“yuk) and playing through Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen for the first time. Plenty of other folks are out there mashing their backlog, or working through new games I haven“t thought of. Is the draw of nostalgia going to be powerful enough to get you to put down what you“re currently playing through to play 20 year-old games? Personally, I“m probably going to buy and start whichever version I end up getting (let“s be real: it“s gonna be Yellow)...but I highly doubt Old Pokémon is going to be compelling enough to get me to stop my progress in New Dragon Quest. If I“m being honest with myself: I“d say only Mutant Mudds Super Challenge is the only game almighty enough to loosen Dragon Quest“s grip upon me. Now then--where were we? Oh, right. there“s a brand new Pokémon. Japan obviously got the news first, but the West didn“t have to wait six months to catch wind of it. ...Very interesting indeed. The reveal of Magearna pushes a couple of thoughts to the surface: Magearna doesn“t necessarily mean we“ll see a 7th Generation of Pokémon this year. We saw it with Marril, Kecleon, Lucario, Zoroark and others: sometimes the reveal of a brand new Pokémon is over a year off from the Actual Game that houses them. I suspect a third 6th Generation game will arrive before Magearna does, but I“ve certainly been wrong before. I“m keeping an open mind. Magearna“s reveal could mean the 7th Generation of Pokémon is coming this year. I mean, it“s the twentieth anniversary. Could a “portable NX”, as has been theorized, be coming this year...and launch with a brand new Pokémon game? The Internet would light with the fire of a thousand Charizards, and it would explain why we“ve gone so long without word from The Pokémon company. Which side of the 7th Generation Fence do you fall on? If you“re going to be picking up the old Pokémon games on 3DS in a week, which version will you start with? Plenty of questions! I“m very interested to hear your answers! ...I think I“m going to delay next week“s Individual Values and have it go out on Pokémon Day so I can quickly write impressions of whatever Special Things go down. We“ll see! Goodness knows, as I was writing this, it was announced that Pokkén Tournament will be showcased at the newly remodeled Nintendo NY in a tournament, where the winner will go on to compete in the Championships. (And hey, did you catch the “GIVE US POKEMON Z” among the very first replies of tweet showing new footage? Don“t ever change, Internet.) Also the retail version of Pokémon Rumble World is now confirmed for North America. News can really happen at any moment. It“s kinda crazy! Either way, it“s definitely a phenomenal time to be a Pokémon fan. Here“s something cool, but unofficial to leave you all with! As the wildly marketable catchphrase goes: train on, ladies and gentlemen.
  8. The Pokémon video games have always used real-world locations as inspiration for its settings. Kanto isn“t just the region from the first games; it“s an actual place in Japan. And I“ve talked at length about how the Unova region borrows elements from both New York City and L.A., at times. Earlier this morning, in a press conference outlining “new business strategies”, the Pokémon Company and new partners Niantic, Inc. officially announced Pokémon GO for iOs and Android devices. This new collaboration will effectively bring Pokémon to the real world by way of mobile platforms. Players will be able to catch and battle Pokémon found in their neighborhoods and anywhere conceivable, across the entire world. Junichi Masuda, director of the Pokémon video games, will be involved in these efforts. He“ll be thinking of ways to make the game as fun as it possibly can be, as well as “thinking of ways to connect this project with the main series of Pokémon video games”. Pokémon GO will be free-to-play, but it“ll have in-app purchases. If you“re looking to get the most you can from Pokémon GO, there is also a unique device coming dubbed Pokémon GO Plus. Thanks to Bluetooth technology, folks need just press a button to catch Pokémon, without the need to even look at their smart phones. Flashing and rumbling from the device will alert them when Pokémon are nearby in the real world. And there we have it. The concept envisioned by Pokémon GO creators spins an entirely new thread in the Pokémon world--augmented reality, and encouraging players to explore their own world. We“ll offer more information as it comes, but in the meantime--here“s the where the game was announced, including words from Miyamoto and key developers. The presentation was simulcast and the official Pokémon Twitter already gave word of it, so--seems the entire world will get to play when it releases in 2016. Are you excited for Pokémon GO? Do you have any concerns about this new direction for the series? Be sure to let us know!
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