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The Top 10 Games I Played in 2016

top-games-2016

Damn, what a year! In a lot of ways, it seemed to be one long downer, a year devoid of hope for many. I’m very fortunate in many ways and as this year winds down I’m going to look forward to 2017 and aim to devote more of my time to outlets that benefit others. As it stands now, much of my spare time in 2016 was devoted to video games and related interests. As I’ve done yearly, I’ll compile the ten favorite games I played this year, in alphabetical order. Per routine, this list is not limited to brand new releases but instead is based off what I actually played. When applicable, I’ll link to any articles I wrote during the year.

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Pokemon Y and My Frustration with Roaming Pokemon

Pokemon Y

Roaming Pokémon are the worst. I’ve been nearing the end of my Pokémon Y playthrough and just gained access to one of the few available legendary Pokémon. Unlike the few others that are located in caves, this particular one roams the region. It’s such a pain in the ass to catch though I don’t know that I’ll even put in the time to obtain it. This isn’t a new concept for the series but it is one rarely utilized. I’m generally not one to play armchair quarterback but as my frustration grew Sunday morning, I thought about what I’d do to improve upon the concept. It’s one I theoretically like, especially applied to the Pokémon games, I just wish it was implemented differently in this instance.

Pokemon Y - Map
If actively pursuing a roaming Pokemon, this screen will be seen often. 

In the Pokémon games, beating the Elite Four and champion is one of the core goals; doing so signals that you’re the strongest trainer in the region. Afterwards, there’s additional content that becomes available. It’s generally not much but in Pokémon X and Y, it seems especially barren. Regarding X and Y, every player’s first encounter with a wild Pokémon in the post-game will always be with one of the legendary birds. It’s different based on which starter Pokémon was picked at the beginning of the game. Since I picked Froakie, the legendary Pokémon available to me was Moltres.

This first encounter is just a tease as the Pokémon immediately flees. Now however, the Pokémon’s entry has been somewhat completed in the Pokédex, at least enough to track it and see where it’s currently located. At this point, there’s primarily two ways to tackle this capture: passively try to catch it as the post-game content is naturally completed or while focusing on other objectives, or actively try to pursue it. Since there’s not a ton of post-game content and I’m merely “passing through” this game on my way to Omega Ruby, I actively tried catching it.

The method of actively pursuing a roaming Pokémon I’m most familiar with entails going back and forth between two routes or a route and a town in the hopes that it will appear in the desired route. This becomes a tedious task quickly as the player buttons through layers of menus to get to the Pokédex to locate if the Pokémon is nearby. If it isn’t, cross that border and back into the desired route and check again. Luck is a factor in the sense that it’s rarely on the player’s side when tracking roaming Pokémon. And, something as simple as flying to where the roaming Pokémon is won’t work as it will be somewhere else by the time the player touches down.

If that Pokémon is on the current route, the player can still mess up their opportunity to encounter it. For instance, if the first Pokémon of the player’s party is of a higher level, the roaming Pokémon won’t appear. In fact, if you encounter another Pokémon, say a wild Flabébé 70 levels the junior to the first Pokémon in the player’s party, that roaming Pokémon is now somewhere else. The so-called legendary is afraid to fight something a piddly wild Pokémon will gladly step up to. WHAT!? Even if a weak Pokémon is in the first spot of the party and the roaming Pokémon is in the current route, there’s still no guarantee that it’ll be encountered. And if a wild Pokémon is encountered instead, that roaming Pokémon is likely somewhere else.

It can be frustrating and at the very least, time consuming. The roaming Pokémon in X and Y eventually settles down in a cave after ten encounters. But still, that’s ten encounters when I’ve had trouble getting a second! So, what would I do differently? One implementation stuck out to me immediately and it’s primarily what I’ll posit. There’s plenty of ways to alter this concept too but it’s only now that I’m shifting gears towards constructive criticism that I realize I really just wanted to rant. Still, I’ll elaborate on a different method of including roaming Pokémon that may be less frustrating than the current one.

First off, instead of introducing the roaming Pokémon after the game’s been beaten, I’d instead introduce it during the lead up. I’m of two minds on how to: randomly or through a predetermined encounter. Introducing it through a random encounter would mean a different experience for every player. For some, it may be the first wild Pokémon they encounter; others may not see it at all during their playthrough. This randomness would make the encounter more impactful, like running across a shiny Pokémon, although I’d want the chance of seeing it much higher than seeing a shiny Pokémon (roughly 1/4096 for the current generation). Perhaps the best method would be through a predetermined encounter, with future appearances requiring the hunt; basically just changing the timing of the Pokémon’s initial availability.

The legendary Pokémon almost always appear at a preset level which could break the game’s difficulty if one was encountered early on and somehow caught. They could instead have a scalable level based on when they’re encountered. I’d scale it such that it can still wallop the player’s party but a skilled player may be able to inflict a status condition or throw a Poké Ball. That would entail allowing the player to get a move off whereas currently, the Pokémon flees before the menus on the touch screen even appear. I’ve caught legendary Pokémon by throwing a Poké Ball out as my first move and let me tell you, it’s pretty satisfying!

Pokemon Y - Moltres
How I longed to have this happen.

As I thought, I wound up wanting to rant more than to offer constructive advice. At least, offering detailed constructive advice because really, simply introducing the roaming Pokémon sooner would alleviate a lot of my grief. With my current chase, I feel like actively pursuing Moltres is the only option since there’s so little post-game content. If I was sticking with this game longer, this whole topic would be a moot point. I’ve already got Omega Ruby queued up and if I’m going to spend dozens of hours with a game to complete the Pokédex, it’ll likely be that one since it’s the most recent release. As it stands, tracking this Pokémon down and attempting to catch it is a pain in my ass and likely one I won’t continue to endure.

Pokemon: A Grand Ambition, Update 5 – Pokemon HeartGold

Pokemon HeartGold - Entei UnleashedIt’s been a couple of months since my last ambition update, and as you might intuit, I’m beginning to run out of steam. With my last check-in, I was just beginning to play HeartGold. It’s a game that I originally bought day one, and even wrote about it here way back in 2010, and again in 2012. I don’t recall actually beating it 100% back then, so I did experience more of the game this time around. I managed to explore all of Johto and Kanto and catch every legendary Pokémon available to me, all in about 60 hours.

It was easily the most refined game in the series at its release, and I still feel that way. I definitely preferred it to Platinum. The Pokéwalker was a fun addition too. I could transfer a Pokémon to the pedometer to level it up and collect items. It was a nice diversion at work, but I eventually grew bored of it. While I was going after the last legendary Pokémon, it was definitely getting to be a grind; especially because of the FUCKING ROAMING POKÉMON. I struggled catching Entei, the next to last one for me. Using Retail, my Gengar, I would use Mean Look to prevent Entei from running away. However, it had Roar which made me flee and after dozens of Ultra Balls, I finally caught it.

According to the release calendar of the series, I should fire up Black or White next. Lacking either, my next option would be to play White 2, and the 3DS “game” Dream Radar. That being said, I purchased Pokémon Y last week, wanting to redeem the Shiny Mega Gengar that GameStop was giving away. While there, I also preordered Omega Ruby. I’ve been playing other games for a while now, hoping to diversify my playtime somewhat. So… I don’t know which game I’ll jump into next, but any option will be an entirely new experience. Well, besides the formulaic structure.