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  1. Welcome to the forty-fifth 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. You can check out the previous Region Spotlight here. -------------------------------- Region Spotlight #5 Johto It“s the penultimate Region Spotlight! Just one more month to go until I“ve covered all six known regions in Pokémon! There“s just something about these last two that strike a particular chord. Maybe because Kanto and Johto are the only two regions physically linked to each other, and the ones most of us grew up with. Without further ado, let“s discuss the land with hearts of gold/souls of silver, shall we? Traversing the Land I think each particular Pokémon remake carries a message to Trainers experiencing the games for the first time, or coming back again with new eyes. Like we discussed last time, I think ORAS“s point was to make the Hoenn region seem limitless. As Brendan or May, players could traverse land, sea, sky and even space...fully and completely. While there is certainly plenty to do in those games, I think looking at Hoenn from the sky takes away a sense of magnitude that other games and regions have. HeartGold and SoulSilver, though, have two unique elements that emphasize travelling on foot more than anything else. The player is given not one, but two regions to explore--mostly on foot, with Fly only being used when necessary, and...with the Lead Pokémon in his or her party by their side for the entire game. Both this aspect and the Pokéwalker--which took travelling on foot to real life, too--just make everything about the Johto region seem that much bigger, in my opinion. Rather than spend my first spot on this Region Spotlight discussing a particular area of Johto, I“d rather emphasize the entire region“s approach to exploring things on foot. No Pokémon game has done what HG/SS did before or since, outside of Yellow letting Pikachu travel with you. And since the Pokémon Pikachu accessory was also a pedometer, I suppose that (in conjunction with Yellow or even the original Gold & Silver) could be seen as the precursor to what we experienced in the remakes. Ruins of Alph/Sinjoh Ruins The Ruins of Alph always fascinated me, right from the start. I thought they would be where the player inevitably encounters the boxed Legendaries of the games, Lugia and Ho-Oh, but...rather than turn these ancient ruins into a central location for a cataclysm like many other games did since (particularly in the case of Sinnoh with the Spear Pillar), it was just a place you visited from time to time with puzzles to solve and new Unown Pokémon to discover. Neither original nor remake really spend much time describing the ruins“ purpose. It was all up to the player to figure out the purpose of the Unown and the message they wanted to communicate. What really impressed me, though: the Sinjoh Ruins. This is a specific part of the Ruins of Alph that you can“t access without an Event Arceus. If you had it, you were treated to whose melody resembles , as well as works in the mysterious whirs of the Azure Flute I mentioned in the Sinnoh Region Spotlight, plus leitmotif from the Spear Pillar and Giratina's theme as well. Even though the Sinnoh region hasn“t been revisited since Platinum, there“s still...so much more mystery to Arceus than was ever described in the anime or games. Bringing Arceus to the ruins leads to him recreating Dialga or Palkia from an egg--a Lv1 Legendary Pokémon. That“s crazy talk! It certainly hasn“t been done since. I wonder...if we“ll ever see something like that again. Lake of Rage/Mahogany Town No, I“m not just going to bring up the Red Gyarados because of my obsession with Shiny Pokémon. Still: there has only been one other instance of a Shiny Pokémon being automatically found in the wild like that one, and said Haxorus didn“t really have anything to do with the main story in Black & White 2. What strikes me about the nature of that Gyarados“s story itself is that it links that Pokémon“s shiny color to its original Magikarp form, saying it evolved too quickly. That“s clearly not the case with any other discovered Shiny Pokémon“s colors, nor is it ever explained that way again in the games. I wonder why Game Freak chose to give that specific Gyarados the story it has. Teaming up with Lance--a face many Trainers who played the first game knew very well from their challenges of Kanto“s Elite 4--was really cool, though. Game Freak has dabbled in working Gym Leaders and the Elite 4 into their stories since then, but...they never really hit the mark as closely as they have with Lance vs. Team Rocket. I think the recent games are certainly onto something with intertwining Steven Stone and Looker into everything so much. But Lance remains one of the most memorable characters because he was closely worked into not one story, but two. After defeating Team Rocket, you don“t just see Lance again at the end. He“s brought up in Blackthorn City, too! Ecruteak City Suicune is awesome, isn“t it? Here“s a fun fact: the is actually . That was a weird thing I picked up on right away. I wonder why the pinball game“s level theme was used for this city (and Cianwood), which focuses less on arcades and more on...antiquity. I guess the composer must have just liked that music, at the time! Like the Ruins of Alph, Ecruteak“s lore is something revisited once or twice during a regular playthrough--not necessarily a huge focus. In Crystal, a Suicune encounter is forced in the city--while the remakes relegate Suicune to Cerulean City. Eusine is an interesting character to note as well. He“s after Suicune, but he doesn“t aggressively try to take over the world to obtain it like most Pokémon villains do. I hesitate to even refer to Eusine as a villain at all, so much as a fanatical trainer obsessed with a certain Pokémon. I love the way the remakes treat this city. The DS brings new life to the surroundings, making the area seem much more antiquated than the original games. The music picks up . The dancing girls are more intertwined in your journey to eventually awaken Ho-Oh. More emphasis is placed on Ecruteak being the epicenter of the game“s “heart” and “soul” symbolism. Ecruteak City is a place where humanity screwed up, but...in the modern era, where hope springs eternal. I like how the games don“t attempt to ruin that hopefulness by making Team Rocket meddle there, or something. It“s left as-is, a place where you visit from time to time...but never to dispose of evildoers. Mt. Silver Gold & Silver aren“t the only sequels Pokémon has done. Maybe one day, if I have an axe to grind, I“ll go into why I felt Black & White 2 were disappointing beyond what I“m about to discuss. But can you believe you go through that entire game without once seeing your past self? BAH! Mt. Silver isn“t just great all by itself--it“s great because of who“s waiting for you on top of it! No words are ever exchanged between the player and Red. They just fight, and that“s the end of it. I don“t understand why The Pokémon Company have never once taken advantage of the pure adrenaline that comes with...fighting yourself, you know? There“s no better marker of how far you“ve come as a Pokémon Trainer than facing what they feel is an ideal representation of your former self, then winning! It“s interesting. Now that this Region Spotlight is over, I realize I“ve spent just as much time discussing Johto“s influential people as I have its places. I hope the next game and region creates just as many memorable characters as it does memorable spots.
  2. Welcome to the fortieth 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. You can check out the previous Region Spotlight here. -------------------------------- Region Spotlight #4 Hoenn Today is the fourth region spotlight! On the first Friday of every month, I pick five things about each region from all six generations of Pokémon games and explain why I find them particularly unique or insightful. This one“s likely a favorite for some of you. Faraway Island I know longtime readers must have seen this one coming. Besides a glitch in the first generation games, this spot (exclusive to Pokémon Emerald) is the only place to catch Mew in the wild without a cheating device. Have y“all seen the showcasing how this guy got a legitimate Old Sea Chart and then found a Shiny Mew after soft-resetting a few thousand times? ...That“s gonna be me, if Faraway Island ever makes its way to the remakes. Mark. My. Words. I“ve mentioned unique ways to catch Mythical Pokémon in many previous entries. This place gets a special mention from me because I“ve never actually seen it for myself. Route 113 I remember thinking this place was really weird when I first discovered it over a decade ago. Snow physics are one thing, and I mentioned those when I talked about Sinnoh last time, but...ash-rain physics? Let“s be real; everyone who“s ever played the originals or the remakes have totally run around in the dirt just because. For the longest time, I didn“t even have a Soot Sack or know about the various flutes. Completionists know all about where to find the soot sack, and how...each bit of grass that contains soot contains a random amount of it. And all this can be exchanged for flutes that have various effects on Pokémon outside of battle, and they have unlimited uses. All your collecting can save you some money on healing items, if that“s your thing. This isn“t the first time Game Freak has attached something mildly useful to an otherwise distracting mechanic that can easily be passed over. Here“s to you, Route 113, for teaching players not all that glitters is gold. Mt. Chimney I always liked the way this area of the game is designed. As a kid, it impressed me that the area required the use of a cable car to even get to. When the developers and design team go out of their way to design a unique transition like that instead of making the player manually climb his or her way up, it kind of goes the extra mile to show how high something is. Without the proper bike, you can really only go down the neighboring Jagged Pass instead of back up. And, of course, there“s the fact that Team Aqua or Magma is here and up to no good. You hear all about their scheme to make the volcano active or dormant, you get to fight the leader, and so on. Returning here in the remakes makes for some cool scenery. Not only do you get the slow falling ash you see in Route 113, but also this giant crater with lava that“s given way more detail in terms of its size and scope than in the original games. This is one of those few instances where I actually wanted to see 3D effects in the remakes for Nintendo 3DS. Having that extra depth thanks to the slider would have made the lava (far) below seem that much more daunting. Sootopolis City And here we have it, y“all. If you“d only played through the Kanto and Johto regions before Pokémon Emerald, you“d never seen something quite like the battle that takes place in Sootopolis City between Kyogre and Groudon. Team Rocket was thwarted consistently in both the generations of games that came before Hoenn, but Archie and Maxie both achieved their respective goals--to their collective dismay, mind you. Pokémon Trainers got to see an actual cataclysm unfolding before their eyes with the Hoenn region. The developers took the time to program patterned weather effects between rain and intense sunlight for not just Sootopolis City, but the entire game world while the Legendary Pokémon were awakened. I was thoroughly blown away by that when I first experienced the game! I know it“s definitely easier to program something like that now, in a wildly huge 3DS remake. But seeing those kinds of effects in the Game Boy Advance days were definitely impressive, to me. The Sky Pokémon ORAS has given players something that no game in the series ever offered before--the ability to fly freely through the air. I“ll get to the Eon Flute and flying through the sky momentarily, but--man, it impressed me just being able to use Fly to go anywhere in the entire game--to any desired route or small niche spot you wanted to visit--is a new precedent these remakes will set for future games, even if actually flying around on your Pokémon is taken away from us. Encountering the handfuls of Legendary Pokémon by meeting special conditions and going off the beaten path to some sub-island somewhere is really cool. The Mirage Islands that change every time you go online and pass by folks playing the game kind of takes it above and beyond, in my opinion. Giving players the entire sky to roam around in is what makes the Ruby & Sapphire remakes among my favorite ever. I really hope giving us the sky is a new paradigm for the Pokémon formula, versus something they take away from us whenever Pokémon Z or the seventh generation of games come along. When you really think about it--ORAS gives us everything. You can freely explore land, sea, under the sea, the sky, and even space! It“s no wonder why the Hoenn region is so many folks“ favorite region, even if there is “too much water”. What are your favorite locations in the Hoenn region? I“d love to hear your thoughts!
  3. Welcome to the thirty-sixth 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. You can check out the previous Region Spotlight here. -------------------------------- Region Spotlight #3 Sinnoh Today is the third Region Spotlight! On the first Friday of every month, for four months more, I“ll pick five things about each region from all six generations of Pokémon games and explain why I find them particularly unique or insightful. The region players explore in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum is up next! Snowpoint City As the your journey unfolds in Sinnoh, you“ll come across a myriad of different places and interesting scenes. While I could choose to highlight Diamond & Pearl“s more sweeping moments, like the Magikarp in Lake Verity, the friendly nature of Amity Square, or anything involving the Emotion Pokémon, I“m going to highlight more subtle, snowy things. Snowpoint City and the surrounding areas like Lake Acuity and Route 217 mark the first time the Pokémon franchise has ever had to deal with actual snow and weather effects that aren“t heavy rain, harsh sunlight, or... weird soot clouds. There are plenty of physics and effects brought about due to actual snowfall, plus the visual nature of it… But the first thing that stands out to me about Snowpoint City is actually the Diamond Dust phenomenon. Long before events were revealed like Darkrai, Shaymin and Arceus, Game Freak teased “something special” happening for Diamond & Pearl players on January 12th of the year after its release. While the majority of the Pokémon community knew not to expect much, it created a slight stir on the Internet when it happened. As it turns out -- the small amount of hype was generated over this tiny aesthetic change that has no real effect on the gameplay. It“s fun to think about its inclusion in general, that snow has a chance of falling in this particular fashion. But it“s even more interesting to note that this phenomenon occurs on Junichi Masuda“s birthday, and that it caused this mild degree of hype when it was first widely discovered. Snowpoint City also holds the key to Regigigas, a gym, music that perfectly embodies its personality, and more. But the real reason I felt the need to describe it was because this unique weather phenomenon hasn“t ever been explained in any subsequent games. It's just... a thing that happens. While snow has only gotten more and more lifelike as the generations and graphics have improved, Diamond Dust is still seen in the games from time to time. And it all started in Snowpoint City. Pal Park Before Pokémon Bank or the... weird PokéTransporter mini-game that had you actually catching your Pokémon using a strange stylus machine, there was the Pal Park. As yet another first for Sinnoh, the Pal Park offered means to actually recapture your Pokémon in the “wild” by encountering them in a mountainous area, in a field, or more environments. You were timed and given a point value, but there was never anything meaningful tied to either limitation. I just like Pal Park because it“s way more engaged than transferring Pokémon has become since. I realize there are way too many Pokémon in the modern era to worry about engaging transfer methods versus efficient ones, but... there was something about the way your former Pokémon came running up to you like a typical encounter to be captured again! Looking back on what the Pal Park tried to accomplish, I“d say it was a successful endeavor that made reacquiring your favorite Pokémon much more meaningful than future variants. You felt like you were meeting old friends again versus the more precise nature of dumping large groups of Pokémon from one box into another. Call me overly sentimental, but...that“s just how I feel, I guess! My hat“s off to you, Pal Park, for not only being the first ever means to transfer Pokémon from one generation to the next, but for actually being memorable beyond that and seen as more of a place than a tool. Canalave City I“ve mentioned this place in a previous Individual Values piece highlighting interesting subplots. But it deserves recognition again for the many stones I left unturned when I talked about it last. To briefly catch you up, I“m initially fascinated with Canalave due to its library, which houses some of the most intense pieces of Pokémon lore in the entire franchise. Want to read about the guy who took a sword to every Pokémon he met, only to have Giratina (or Arceus, but that“s debatable) rise against him and make an example out of violent people? All those texts and more are found on the second floor. Diamond, Pearl and Platinum all find many reasons to bring the player back to Canalave, though. It“s where the Move Deleter resides, so if you“re ever wanting to make a certain Pokémon forget a move, you“re liable to stop by...and maybe check out some books if you feel like wasting time for a while. There“s the gym, which is obviously integral to the story when you first arrive. And there“s Iron Island, which is only accessible by boat... and takes you on a journey with Riley, where you“re given a Riolu Egg at the end. But long after all that, presumably after you“ve entered into the Sinnoh Hall of Fame and ridden the world of Team Galactic... the game takes you back to Canalave City for one last piece of extra story — The Member's Card. This was your means to access Darkrai in the wild, only through a WiFi Event Nintendo offered way back in the prime of the 4th Generation. It“s interesting to note that this otherwise minor city has plenty of points that kept Sinnoh journeyers coming back to it over time. The Underground Pokémon Diamond & Pearl were the first games in the franchise to be released on Nintendo DS. I could probably write an entire Individual Values about how far we“ve come since being confined to Jubilife City for the Global Trade Station and needing Pokémon Centers to experience online battling and trading. That“s certainly for a different day. Sinnoh“s Underground is far more unique to the fourth generation games, and hasn“t really been replicated since then. The Underground was a means to have fun with DS-specific features of the game that involved use of the stylus and microphones. Traps, bases, multiplayer elements, even fossils and other ultra-rare items...this was all found Underground. And it didn“t just limit itself to a single area, but... the entire Sinnoh region. You often had to fly to a specific city or town to get to a particular portion of The Underground to explore it. The various devices you could accidently set off while exploring had you do nutty stuff at the time, like blow away leaves on your screen using the mic. Excavating jewels and fossils involved picking away at the wall with your stylus. There were major game components exclusive to exploring here. I think each game has these types of areas that bring out unique features of the time. The 5th Generation games have the Entralink or Black City/White Forest. Kalos didn“t really offer a groundbreaking “place” to explore, but then ORAS came around and... gave us the skies! I“m not sure whether to call The Underground and the Entralink the final nails in the coffin of restricted multiplayer space, since 6th Gen offers online and wireless capabilities anytime, any place. But I think I“ll highlight the more complex nature of how far Pokémon communication has come in just twenty years of being around...at a later date. The Spear Pillar During the first few moments of for Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, the Game Freak logo appears just after several seconds of whirs and is followed by a strange melody. Did you know that if you return to the Spear Pillar with the Azure Flute (an item only obtainable through hacking; it was never offered via Wi-Fi like the Member“s Card or Oak's Letter)...the melody that plays matches the introduction“s notes exactly? . The whirs that play as the player climbs up the steps to encounter Arceus, creator of the Sinnoh region, kind of makes me feel like Game Freak really did or still does intend to make Arceus, Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina actual “gods”, if the Pokémon World has them. Legendary Pokémon like Kyogre and Groudon control the elements and can shape the world -- but Dialga and Palkia control time and space itself... with Giratina serving as space between, and Arceus having dominion over all three of them. Regardless of stats or competitive play here... just look at what these Pokémon are capable of, and how Arceus had been presented to the player (climbing up stairs to a definite allusion of the Heavenly Throne). Rather than just note the Spear Pillar as the place where the climax of the story took place, and where Cyrus -- the man who wanted to use Dialga, Palkia, and/or Giratina to become a god -- fell... I want to examine the Spear Pillar as what is quite possibly the only...literal sanctuary in all of Pokémon. Never mind the actual church (dubbed the Foreign Building in Hearthome City). The Cave of Origins from Ruby & Sapphire, as well as various towers and secret hideouts you encountered Legendary Pokémon in from each generation of games to the next... has never been quite like the top of the mountain in the center of the world, filled with symbols and the means to awaken beings that can control time and space. I know this kind of talk is too reminiscent of my earlier theories on where they could be taking the next Pokémon games. But the region I think the Sinnoh region is my favorite modern one...is because of how that game“s Legendary Pokémon and the place you encountered them in...seemed holy. I wonder what kinds of things we“ll see if a remake of Diamond & Pearl ever happens. Will we see a fully realized Flower Paradise to encounter Shaymin in the wild again? ...Hey, I can dream. What are your favorite parts and places of the Sinnoh region? Please do share!
  4. Welcome to the twenty-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 morning. -------------------------------- Region Spotlight #1 Kalos I“m going to start something a little different today, something that“s going to last a while. On the first Friday of every month, for the next six months, I“m going to put together what I call a Region Spotlight." I“ll pick five things about each region from all six generations of Pokémon games and explain why I find them particularly unique or insightful. Most of the time, I“ll stick with locations versus concepts, so you can fly, surf or rock climb your way there in your own copies of each region“s respective games and take a second look after hearing what I have to say. I“ll start from Kalos and work my way backwards — that way we“ll hit Kanto just weeks shy Pokémon's twentieth anniversary. Without further ado: Lumiose City What a huge place! Folks who have played Pokémon since the late nineties probably got a good sense of how far the series has come visually from the moment they stepped outside their house in Vaniville Town. But this city is kind of the game“s crowning achievement, in terms of scope. It“s so big, they had to gate various portions of it off in the beginning, and the team continued to make players explore every nook and cranny of this place in the post-game for Looker“s Quest. There are so many cafes, stores, and minor/major landmarks that I still use the Lumiose Cab Company to get myself around. I like how the cab driver tries to tell me where these places are before I pay him — but my pockets are so bottomless, and my look so stylish, that the fare is always cut in half... and I never really have to pay attention to where he“s taking me. With almost all the Pokémon games, I try and figure out where places are and remember important spots for later. But I treat Lumiose City kind of like I treat a real-life city: my sense of direction is typically so poor in big places where all the buildings look the same that I“d be better served just hopping in a car and paying someone to take me where I need to go. I guess art imitates life, in this respect. When you stepped foot into Lumiose City for the first time, what were your feelings? Did you try to explore, only for some dudes to stop you and insist the place was “under construction” while an NPC just ran right by him? Parfum Palace We“ve seen various hideouts, tall city skyscrapers, mystic caves, and other “fantastical” locations in various Pokémon games, but this is the only instance in which The Pokémon Company have put time and effort into creating an actual palace. From just approaching Parfum Palace for the first time through the bunch of trees on Route 6, to the big that takes place in the story — the game picks a handful of moments to zero in on some “regal” visuals. Everything seems to shimmer without actually doing so. I think the only other times you feel a “regal” presence is when you“re in the Champion“s Room in the Kalos Pokémon League, but I“ll get to that in a little bit. To me, it“s worth highlighting because it feels like a place to escape to in the game. Even though nothing truly remarkable happens there, you get the sense it would be an actual landmark to folks living in the region. It“s definitely designed that way, and even though it“s been a long time since I last played my copy of Pokémon Y, it“s still a place that sticks out in my mind for that reason. Glittering Cave Never mind the fact that you ride on a freaking Rhyhorn and burst through rocks to get there — Glittering Cave feels like a modern-day Rock Tunnel. Rather than making you use Flash to see your way around it, the game drops the camera directly behind the player and makes you navigate its twists and turns in what practically feels like a first-person view. This is the first area in a Pokémon game where the team actually uses the game“s camera to dictate level design. It“s easy to get lost in this cave and run into a Pokémon by mistake your first time through. There are a variety of species to be found here that don“t just initiate in random battle sequences, but sometimes drop from the ceiling or actually lie in wait for the player. I don“t just give this area credit because of its visuals or how you come to arrive there — I appreciate it because of the camera-work that actually played a hand in its conception. It makes Glittering Cave, and the Kalos region as a whole I suppose, feel a little more life-like. Don“t you think? Kalos Pokémon League I remember when you could just waltz in and fight the Elite 4 (in a specific order, too) after just a brief screen-pause to close the door behind you. Now The Pokémon League has become a place to showcase some unique visuals to give the Elite 4 (who you don“t encounter elsewhere in any of the games, mind you) a little showmanship. Flames bursting forth. Water cascading down on you. Freaking dragon statues. From to how it“s designed, to the fact that the Elite 4 actually come at you in full costume, the Kalos Pokémon League feels like a “palace” of its own... with Diantha as its regal queen. The name of her chamber is the Radiant Chamber, for goodness sake! The area bleeds light. , rather than being some epic orchestral medley, feels like a calming melody with some impacting moments about it. Your entire battle with her takes place on what feels like an arena inspired by a church“s window panes? Don“t get me wrong, I like Diantha“s theme and everything... but I feel like the Kalos Pokémon League actually highlights its battle arenas more-so than its members“ music pieces. It certainly makes Kalos stand out a little more as a region, to me. Friend Safari I would be crazy if I didn“t close out mentioning this area. I know the Kalos region has a meaty story, and it“s filled with many incredible places. But I“ve spent hours toiling away in the Friend Safari alone, looking for Pokémon with Hidden Abilities, or Shiny Pokémon, or both. To this day, even after making a separate post about it some time ago, I still don“t understand how it works, fully. But... for being unremarkable visually, and only housing two to three Pokémon per Safari, this is the place I come back to the most when I revisit my copy of Pokémon Y. Every time I add a Friend Code onto my 3DS, I check and see if they“ve played these games and unlocked their third Pokémon. Do any of you Pokémon Faithful do the same, despite moving onto Pokémon ORAS as many of us have by now? I“m definitely interested to know. The Kalos region gave us many series firsts — customizable trainers and fully 3D visuals being chief among them. I feel like many areas in X&Y highlight the game“s unique sense of style--whether we“re referring to the Kalos region“s fashion-sense, or the game“s unique visual presentation as a whole. What are your favorite areas of Kalos? Be sure to let me know! And stay tuned for the next “First Friday”, where I take an in-depth look at some areas and aspects of the Unova region!