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Pokemon: A Grand Ambition, Update 7 – The End?

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I’ve done it! My original stated intention has been fulfilled! Continue reading Pokemon: A Grand Ambition, Update 7 – The End?

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The Top 10 Games I Played in 2014

TopGames2014In keeping with tradition, I’m going to forego writing a best-of list, just like I forgot to do in 2012. Scratch that, I mean I’m going to simply order these games alphabetically instead of ordering them. This list is very Wii U heavy, which makes sense as I purchased the system shortly after Mario Kart 8 released. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the sense that there were plenty of titles available and coming soon that I wanted to play. And of course, this list is diverse with older games as I usually don’t play many new titles. In that regard, this list is unlike any other I’ve constructed.

Bayonetta 2 – Now this is a video game. Platinum Games, Sega, and  Nintendo expanded upon the formula of the original by blowing it out of the water. This was easily the most fun I had playing a game by myself this year.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence – I’ve been a big fan of the series since playing Aria of Sorrow but this was my first foray into a 3D entry. I did’t think the game was outstanding, but the focus Koji Igarashi and his team had was. An enjoyable action game.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – The same can be said for this game – that I didn’t find it to be outstanding. It just hasn’t seemed to age super well. Still, this was a fun game to play through with a friend and I’m glad to finally check it off my backlog.

Gyruss – With this game, my friend and I had a great high-score competition going that stretched from late 2013 into early 2014. We had long breaks in between, but the rivalry was fierce. The game and our rivalry was a great example of the Golden Age of Arcade Games.

Mario Kart 8 – This was the game that pushed me over the edge on the Wii U and what a game! If it’s not my favorite in the series, it’s easily #2, right behind Double Dash. A great selection of courses, great DLC, and solid online wooed me in the early days with my new system.

New Super Luigi U – This was another early adoption title that wooed me. I played through the entirety of this in co-op, and it was such a pleasurable experience. A great blend of traditionally designed platforming stages, with super tough requirements, and fun implementation of the Wii U Gamepad.

Pokémon Emerald – I limited myself to one Pokémon game, so despite the more traditional Platinum, HeartGold and the less traditional XD: Gale of Darkness, Battle Revolution, Ranch, and Trozei, I chose this. Having skipped this game in its time, I was excited to revisit Hoenn and see the things I missed out on.

Scribblenauts: Unlimited – My friend and I haven’t beaten this game. We’re maybe halfway through it. Still, the amount of fun we had brainstorming ridiculous creations was probably the most fun I had with a video game all year. Highly recommended.

Super Mario Bros. – I mean, come on. This game is legendary. I finally beat it this year after many attempts and the assistance of my friend. What a sense of accomplishment afterwards! Talk about checking something off of a backlog, this is more like a bucket list item!

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U – What a stupid name. Still, this is such a highly refined, balanced game with enough content to keep me content for years. Rest assured, I will play this game until its successor comes out and it will be in the mulitplayer lineup that long too.

Pokemon Battle Revolution [Wii] – Review

Pokemon Battle RevolutionHaving done a little bit of reading on Pokémon Battle Revolution before playing it, I tempered my expectations. Its predecessors, specifically on the GameCube, featured drastic changes to the Pokémon formula, while still maintaining the foundations of what a Pokémon game was. And, Genius Sonority was successful in creating full-fledged console Pokémon games after many years of fans wanting them. This game had none of that ambition. Or at least, none of their ambition went towards a single-player component, which was all I was interested in. Because of this, and because I was such a latecomer, I found the game to be very disappointing.

The setting for this game was Poketopia, a theme park of sorts.
The setting for this game was Poketopia, a theme park of sorts.

Instead of a full-fledged story, this game features a set of colosseums. These pit the player against a barrage of opponents, battling in a style unique to the venue. Each colosseum featured a unique rule set, although many were very similar. The rule sets affected the progression structure and the battle style. Many new battle styles were introduced in this game too, or at least, introduced to me. As I felt with Colosseum and Gale of Darkness, the double battles were a high point for this game. In that case, the low point would undoubtedly be the Neon Colosseum which introduced Fortune Battles.

In Fortune Battles, both trainers’ parties were input onto a spinning wheel, and they chose by shooting Poké Balls at it, like darts. Until I got the timing down (I spent two of my twelve hours on this single colosseum) it was maddening. Getting stuck with my opponent’s shoddy Pokémon was difficult enough, but having to restart after making it all the way to the leader? Now that was infuriating! However, most of the colosseums were cakewalks – this was a very easy game with imported Pokémon. After overtaking the leaders of the eleven colosseums, I had my Surfing Pikachu and was content. Replaying yielded new costumes for my avatar, but that wasn’t my bag.

The visuals were noticeably better compared to the GameCube games.
The visuals were noticeably better compared to the GameCube games.

It may have been more of a draw when the online was still… well, online. With the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection now offline, that whole component is nonexistent. Of course, the game also features a robust local multiplayer mode, with support for all generation IV titles, but truthfully, I haven’t tried that yet. I’m looking forward to it though for two reasons. Being able to use the DS as a wireless controller is fantastic and it should allow for more cinematic battles (relegating all or most of the user interface to that system). Also, having the announcer return from his absence in the GameCube games is great! It reminds me of Pokémon Stadium on the N64; plus he’s helping learn the “correct” pronunciation of a few Pokémon!

Ultimately, I think I know why the single-player component of this game was so lackluster. Its release date tells the story. It was released in North America in June 2007 – two months after Diamond/Pearl released, and about six months after the Wii did. More telling though is its Japanese release date – a mere two weeks after the Wii. For all intents and purposes, this game was launch window. I expect Genius Sonority didn’t have the luxury of a lengthy development time. For Colosseum, they probably had a year-and-a-half development time, while Gale of Darkness may have had upwards of two years.

Perhaps for the first time, many of the physical moves actually saw Pokemon making contact.
Perhaps for the first time, many of the physical moves actually saw Pokemon making contact.

Also, in a potentially cramped development window, they had to develop for a new platform which featured improved visuals and fewer limitations on storage, implement compatibility with the Nintendo DS and the generation IV games, and perhaps the biggest hurdle for them was the integration of online play. This was only their fourth title, and their first to include any online functionality. Granted, they are closely affiliated with Nintendo and undoubtedly received much support, but Nintendo wasn’t so sharp in that regard at that time either (and many would say they still aren’t!). I imagine just getting the game out was an accomplishment in itself, but as it is, it’s an entirely skippable release, unless you’re like me and NEED THAT SURFING PIKACHU!!!

Pokemon: A Grand Ambition, Update 3 – Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, My Pokemon Ranch, and Pokemon Platinum

Pokemon Platnum - Japanese Box ArtI swear, I’m so bad about keeping the internet updated on my Pokémon goings-on! How does anyone manage to go on with their day-to-day life, not knowing what I’m doing in the Pokémon video games? Serious kudos’ are in order for all who’ve had to suffer these past three (!) months without a grand ambition update. It’d help me out if I update more frequently, I mean, look at that title! I’ve got a lot to discuss so I’ll get down to it.

Okay, the first major happening since I last wrote about my grand ambition was my completion of Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. I completed it to the moon and back! Nearly, that is. I was able to snag and extract every available shadow Pokémon, caught most of the limited wild Pokémon, and obtained every in-game trade Pokémon – which included a Shuckle! Honestly, the only thing that I didn’t do was complete the Orre Colosseum. It hosted a difficult series of trainers that wasn’t unavailable until after completing the game. I participated in the first round so I could obtain a Lucky Egg – an experience duplicating held item which is very valuable. Having extracted all of the Pokémon, I have shelved Gale of Darkness.

Before diving into Pokémon Platinum, as I had planned, I took a detour. One late night, partially at the heckling behest of a friend, I purchased the WiiWare title My Pokémon Ranch. What a great mediocre poor way to spend ten dollars buy a Mew. Here’s how this software (not a game, folks!) works: players connect their Nintendo DS and either Diamond or Pearl and transfer Pokémon to the ranch. It stores up to 1,200 Pokémon and acts more like a gussied up utility. After depositing 999 Pokémon, players are awarded with a Mew. Believe me, this was no small task and was so gratifying. My friend can attest to that fact as well.

So, after spending hours catching low-level Bidoof and Starly in Diamond, I finally transitioned to Platinum. Side note: I didn’t spend any other time playing Diamond – this has all my creatures from back in the day and I didn’t want to sully this game, yet. At this point, I’ve completed Platinum. In the sense that I’ve beaten the Elite Four; I still haven’t seen all the post-game content that opened up afterwards, so I’m not satisfied with being done with it. In fact, I said to myself that I wasn’t going to catch all available Pokémon in it, and briskly move onto Battle Revolution, but I’m swaying the other way recently. So I may wind up catching all the Pokémon I can in the game. Mind you, I don’t mean obtain one of everyone – simply catch anything that’s out in the wild.

Once I’m satisfied with Platinum, I’ll begin Battle Revolution on the Wii. That should be a succinct adventure as there are only three extractable Pokémon – a Magmortar, Electrivire, and a Pikachu that knows Surf. Perhaps, I’ll play a Pokémon Ranger game or two? I need to do more research towards extracting legendary Pokémon from those games. Depending yay or nay, I should transition to HeartGold, which I’m excited to play again and hopefully complete all post-game content. Until next time!

Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness – Game Notes

Now that I’ve rung practically everything I could out of Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, I’ve decided it’s time to publish the notes I took while playing the game. This article details the dates I played, the time spent, and mostly which Pokemon I snagged. That includes the goofy nicknames that I gave them! It’s probably not that interesting, but I’m going to keep publishing these. So there.

Continue reading Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness – Game Notes

Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness [GameCube] – Review

The 2005 follow-up to Colosseum might be indistinguishable to the layman.
The 2005 follow-up to Colosseum might be indistinguishable to the layman.

Unsurprising to me, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is nigh-indistinguishable from its predecessor. The 2005 follow-up to Pokémon Colosseum takes place five years later and still features Orre as a backdrop. The morally bankrupt Cipher has made a return and they’ve begun foisting their Shadow Pokémon on the land again. Snagging Pokémon remains the major conceit of the game, although there are a scant few wild Pokémon. Double battles are also the primary method of battling, which, in itself is different from the mainline games. This is essentially the same game as Colosseum, which was solid, but not great, and will appeal only to those Pokémaniacs, like myself.

The game's ultimate Pokemon was the shadow Lugia, codenamed XD001.
The game’s ultimate Pokemon was the shadow Lugia, codenamed XD001.

As mentioned, Cipher is making a return in the land of Orre, albeit, under different leadership. They still intend to conquer the world through the use of Shadow Pokémon, but there are those willing to confront them. The nameless (in my case, Sherbet), silent protagonist is simply a shell for the player to experience the goings-on of Orre. His allies are diverse, and mostly new faces, but as was the case with Colosseum, the narrative is very light, and the characters, mostly forgettable. Except for Mirror B…

The player receives the snagging machine that Wes used five years ago and with that, the game takes on the form of its predecessor, verbatim. Double battles still make up 95% of the battles, and I was still a big fan. In conjunction with the great 3D renderings of the Pokémon, the battles were hands down my favorite part. Perhaps in an effort to differentiate itself, or, at the very least, build a common tie to the mainline games, there are wild Pokémon to catch. And, there are, literally, twelve to catch. To do so, bait is left at one of three designated areas and then, when one comes snacking, the player is alerted. I found it to be an insignificant, basically pointless, addition.

One positive facet of this game is the density of the snaggable Pokémon. This game and its predecessor are unique due to the limited palette of Pokémon to compose a party. Colosseum had a little over 40, while this title features more than 80. They’re mostly from the first generation, which may make this title more favorable if one began with the original Game Boy games. Even though it took me six more hours to complete the story, time flew by since my party and collection was consistently changing. Also, purifying the Shadow Pokémon was way easier/streamlined in comparison to Colosseum. You don’t even know!

Purifying Shadow Pokemon was much easier in this game.
Purifying Shadow Pokemon was much easier in this game.

As a whole Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness bears more than a similarity to Pokémon Coloseum – it’s barely anything more but that game! With the only major differentiating feature being a new roster of Pokémon, this game is definitely for the Pokémaniacs only. Both it and Colosseum are interesting takes on the tried-and-true formula on the mainline games, and truthfully, at least one of them would be worth giving a shot. Thanks to nothing more than the larger roster of snaggable Pokémon, I’d probably give this game the edge.

Pokemon: A Grand Ambition, Update 2 – Pokemon Emerald

It’s been a long time but I haven’t dropped this grand ambition of mine. As I mentioned at the end of my last check-in, after beating Pokémon Colosseum, I was due to begin Pokémon Emerald. It was a new experience for me as I skipped out on the game when it originally released back in 2005. My experience was somewhat of a mix between a trip down memory lane and dementia, as I recalled certain aspects and events, but couldn’t really tell what differentiated it from Ruby and Sapphire. Nonetheless, I’ve powered through the narrative, and am passively working on the Pokédex while I actively play Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness – my current challenge.

Currently, I’m close to crossing the 100 hour mark in Emerald. Honestly, I didn’t anticipate spending this much time with the game. I believe I was around 70 hours into it when I decided I’d completed all of the postgame content I was going to complete and thusly, moved onto Gale of Darkness. However, I’ve put another 30 hours into Emerald by playing it before bed here and there and taking it with me into public if I anticipate a long enough downtime to fire it up. In fact, on one such outing (a visit to the emergency room, care of my girlfriend) I caught a shiny Pokémon! It was a shiny Wailmer, which I’m pleased as punch with.

I anticipate completing Gale of Darkness in another dozen or so hours, so I’ll probably spend more time with Emerald before jumping into the next game on my list – Pokémon Platinum! In that time span, I’ll be working towards completing the Pokédex, although I don’t think I’ll be able to fill out the 200+2. That being said, I have many Pokémon to trade between LeafGreen, Colosseum, and Gale of Darkness, so we’ll see. As far as the next stops on this tour of mine, Platinum will follow Gale of Darkness; afterwards I’ll jump back to the console space with the Wii’s Pokémon Battle Revolution. After that, Pokémon Ranger is a possibility before jumping into HeartGold and then the Black/White series. Until next time, which, will be much sooner.