It’s January 2020 and I think I’m hooked on a Pokémon game more than I ever have been, which is kind of wild considering I was obsessed with the series when it was all the rage in the late nineties, and from 2013-2017 I played nearly every iteration in the series as part of a “grand ambition” to, literally, catch ‘em all. Pokémon Sword and Shield, the newest entries and the ones I find myself wanting to play every night, are just fantastic. Their foundational mechanics aren’t all that different from previous games in the series (a blessing and a curse) but Game Freak has introduced engaging new features and implemented smart quality of life improvements. The games aren’t perfect; performance and network issues bog down some of the cooler features for instance, but on the whole they’re masterfully refined and endlessly addictive. Continue reading Pokemon Sword and Shield [Switch] – Review→
Anticipation and apathy; for me, that was the prerelease cycle for the newest entries in the Pokémon series. As a lifelong fan, I couldn’t help getting excited with the reveal of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!, especially since they would hold such a unique place in the franchise. The developers, Game Freak, intended to bridge the gap between the long-running “core” series and Pokémon Go, the still popular mobile game that was a worldwide craze when it launched in July 2016. As information was disseminated however, my anticipation turned to apathy, doubtful about adjustments being made to accommodate features of the mobile game. Then, on the day of its release it hit me: there would be a new Pokémon game waiting for me when I got home! I was excited again, and that excitement remained all the way through my nostalgic journey of Kanto. Continue reading Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! [Switch] – Review→
After spending three hours with Pokémon Dream Radar, I can thoroughly report that it more closely resembles a tech demo than a video game. And if spending that much time with a glorified tech demo doesn’t sound appealing, hopefully the prospect of receiving a handful of legendary Pokémon does, because that’s the true purpose of this product. It plays almost entirely with the Nintendo 3DS’ augmented reality functions, tasking players with collecting orbs and catching Pokémon using the forward-facing camera of the handheld. It’s a novel prospect for the first few rounds but it quickly becomes clear that’s all it is: a novelty. Regardless of my Pokémon fandom, the hours I spent playing this purchasable object resulted in little more than a dreadfully boring grind… and legendary Pokémon. Continue reading Pokemon Dream Radar [3DS eShop] – Review→
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.
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!
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.
I’m disappointed with Pokémon Picross. Or rather, I’m disappointed in my expectations for the game. When it was announced in a recent Nintendo Direct, it was fully detailed as a “free-to-start” title: a game I’d be able to download and play for free. Presumably, there’d be some reason to coerce me to input money, but I didn’t ruminate on that or the potential pitfalls associated with the game’s payment model further. My lust for a new Picross game caused blinders to go up, especially considering this was a new one thematically designed around Pokémon. A peanut butter and jelly combination if I’d ever heard one! Having spent some time with the game, I’ve come back down and am firmly grounded in reality.
Nintendo’s Picrossgames are logic-based puzzlers that task players with filling in a gridded square using numerical hints on each row and column, ultimately revealing a picture. The numbers bordering each row and column indicate how many squares are to be filled in and if they’re connected or contain an unknown space of unmarked squares between them. Using deductive reasoning, one can determine that if a row of 10 squares has a hint of 8, a certain number of squares must be filled in, regardless of where the filled in section begins and ends. Extrapolating this thinking across the entire grid and utilizing squares that have already been filled in is an addictive process with a satisfying sense of completion when complete, especially on the larger puzzles.
Pokémon Picross takes that standard concept and applies some of the mechanics from the Pokémonseries. The puzzles themselves are representative of individual Pokémon that when complete, result in catching said creature. They each have an ability that aids in the completion of puzzles by filling in squares, slowing time, etc. This mechanic ties into another new addition, rewards for completing specific objectives for each puzzle. Each puzzle has a set of unique objectives, such as set Pokémon X or use ability Y. Rewards for completing these were generally Picrites, the in-game currency.
Mega Puzzles make a return after their debut in the digital only Picross e titles, although they’re completely foreign to me. I skipped out on those digital titles not thinking they contained much content (I was wrong, rectifying that mistake… now) but they make total sense in a Pokémonthemed game, considering Mega Evolutions are the new “thing” for that series. Basically, they screw with the hints given and instead combine two rows/columns. Even after going through the tutorial a time or two, I had to wrack my brain to comprehend them. They add a nice change of pace, but are nowhere near as progressive as Picross 3D.
Progression is also portrayed differently, although is structurally similar to previous Picross games. Players navigate the game from puzzle to puzzle as if navigating the varying routes in a Pokémongame, complete with branching paths and different creatures. The difficulty pacing is all over the place, which for a veteran like me is appreciated. While it could be a hindrance for someone unfamiliar with the series (and I could see many newcomers coming for the Pokémonside of the equation), it also further replicates the progression of a standard Pokémongame, e.g. having to return to some cave with stronger Pokémon. Reaching new areas is no small feat and the barriers are twofold: energy and Picrites.
I originally wanted to start this section off discussing one of these mechanics as the lesser of two evils, but they’re both pretty mischievous, but ultimately boil down to one annoyance. Like many free-to-play games, this one utilizes an energy meter. As squares of puzzles are filled in, that meter depletes until it’s empty, halting progress until it’s refilled. The easiest way is to wait for it to refill; this can take a couple of hours and for the player in need of a fix, the quickest way is to refill it (or extend it altogether) with Picrites. As mentioned, Picrites are the in-game currency and are awarded for the completion of puzzles and the completion of objectives. They are doled out in laughable quantities in relation to the amount needed to unlock additional areas and upgrades, heck even an alternate set of puzzles are gated behind a hefty sum of Picrites. The only logical solution is to pony up real money.
This is a free-to-play game (and the core game is damn fine!) but convincing myself to plug in more than a couple of bucks is a tough sell. Admittedly, I’m still one of those luddites who prefer physical media and getting something I can hold in my hands in return. And I understand that many individuals worked on this game and there are plenty of stakeholders who deserve a cut. But, the portrayal of this game as free-to-play is somewhat devious. The amount of Picrites awarded in relation to the tally needed to unlock additional stages is prohibitively high and at some point, progression is gated behind a measly few puzzles that can be farmed each day.
Labels and payment models shouldn’t conjure this much ill will, and I’m perhaps going overboard here, but I would’ve rather seen Nintendo strip away the free-to-play elements and just market a full-price digital title. Obviously they didn’t go that route and I’m sure there’s plenty of evidence to suggest they’d reach more players, and ultimately yield more revenue by adopting the model they went with. And with that “realization” this article has devolved into a codgerly rant about the evolving sales pitch of video games. The kicker is that if you pump in about thirty bucks, all of these elements I’ve whined about go away. I don’t think I’m going to though because I’ve still got a chip on my shoulder on how they marketed this game! The more I write, the more I’m coming off as an entitled asshole, even to myself. So while I’d fit in great in an internet comments section, I’m going to wrap things up here! This is a great game, just go into it with better expectations than me.
Pokémon Trozei! is a game I’ve wanted to play for many years. This comes naturally as I’m a fan of the franchise and puzzle games, in general. Even more so with it being a Nintendo DS game, meaning it was well-suited for bedtime play. I finally encountered a copy of the game for a fair price not too long ago, and have recently completed the single player campaign. It was a brief playthrough, but I found it to be a solid matching puzzle game with a unique style, all its own.
The game followed the exploits of Lucy Fleetfoot – a secret agent intent on rescuing stolen Pokémon. Following the guidance of her commanding officer and equipped with the Trozei Beamer, Lucy was able to track down storage units containing stolen Pokémon, and transfer them to a safe place. Her Trozei Beamer allowed her to see what Pokémon were in the Poké Balls, and when four or more like Pokémon were lined up, safely export them. In gameplay terms, this translated to sliding rows and columns of Pokémon icons around on the touch screen.
Games like this are usually noted as match-three, but this one started off like a match-four, requiring me to match four like Pokémon. But, once a row or column (no diagonal matching) of four Pokémon was matched, a Trozei Chance would happen. When this occurred, the requirements were lessened so I could match three like Pokémon, and if I was successful again, I was able to match pairs. Almost always, this resulted in large chains, clearing most of the Pokémon from the play field. The columns would plummet quickly, and the half-second I still had to line up multiples was ample time to react.
The campaign was void of story beyond the initial setup, although Lucy would do battle with bosses of the rival organization. In these instances, they spouted quick diatribes regarding Lucy’s cause and promoted their nefarious intentions. These quick little segments highlighted the unique art style of the game, which didn’t truly shine in the gameplay. The Pokémon icons were cool too, and highly distinguishable (to a fan like me, at least) but the character designs were evocative of 1960s spy cartoons, circa Nickelodeon during the 1990s.
It took me roughly three hours to complete Pokémon Trozei! and of that time, nearly an hour was spent battling the final boss. I didn’t spend any time with the multiplayer, but it seems like it’d be fun and that there’s some variation in the available modes; plus, it’s has single-card play which is always awesome. There’s a Pokédex of sorts to complete in-game, but it’s nothing more than a listing of the Pokémon, which totaled about 380 when this game was released. I didn’t find it incentivizing, personally. Still, I did enjoy the basic gameplay the game offered. It provided a unique take on the match-three formula and the implantation of the touch screen was perfect.
Having 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.
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 Colosseumand 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.
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.
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!!!
A retread of the region of Sinnoh, Pokémon Platinum is an enhanced remake of Diamond and Pearl – the fourth generation of Pokémon games and the ones that ushered in the era of the Nintendo DS. Released in the spring of 2009, two years after its predecessors, it’s a game that I never played until now. Nonetheless, the remake sticks so closely to its predecessors that little feels unfamiliar. Like everything before it, it’s a solid entry that refines the classic formula but does little to improve upon it.
As I did with Emerald, I started in an uncommon way. Thanks to owning multiple handhelds and games, I was able to start with all three starters. Not only that, since some were traded, they earned 1.5x experience and leveled faster than normal. Due to this, the difficulty ranged from pushover to frustrating. At points, my Pokémon would grow too strong and would only listen to me occasionally. This was very frustrating! About four gym leaders in (out of eight) this wasn’t much of a concern anymore. The only other time I had issues was facing the Elite Four. Conquering them required grinding – but it seemed like less compared to Emerald.
This generation introduced many new features, although for my purposes, there’s little that I wanted to, or could, interact with. Arguably the biggest feature was the introduction of online trading and battling. With the Nintendo WFC shutdown now, this is a nonstarter though. The next most important introduction would probably be the use of the touch screen via the Pokétech. Consisting of twentyish apps, the majority of them are useless novelties. This was the biggest lost opportunity. Naturally, there were more Pokémon introduced and many more gameplay additions and tweaks too.
If the poor use of the touch screen was the biggest lost opportunity, perhaps the second would be the lackluster visuals. The environments – routes, dungeons, and towns – are set on 2D backgrounds, but for the first time, use 3D accents. Buildings, trees, and other objects are displayed in such a way that they pop up and out visually. Battles however, still show off the battling Pokémon in flat 2D drawings that offer little animation. There’s probably more fidelity than in previous games, but it’s hard to tell.
Being three mainline games into my Grand Ambition at this point, it’s very easy for the games to run together and seem less distinct. With the major new addition to the series obsolete today, Pokémon Platinum had little to offer in newness. The most enticing new feature was the Pokémon themselves. Going back and capturing the Pokémon that I did back in high school was a comforting task. Sinnoh wasn’t as memorable a region for me as Hoenn was, but it was still nice to go back. This, despite the fact that most of the additions were either poor or unused by me, as I focused nearly solely on beating the game and capturing the legendaries.
Okay. So I’ve had the required equipment to begin capturing gameplay footage for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that I began attempting to do so with any ambition. That being said, forgive me if the following audio/video quality is low. And not just because I’m playing Pokemon Channel on the GameCube.
Classically, the mainline Pokémon games come in threes. The first two launch together while the third, usually an enhanced amalgamation of the previous two, releases about a year later. Pokémon Emerald is the enhanced remake of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire – the first two Pokémon games on the Game Boy Advance. I adored Ruby when it released in my freshman year of high school. I clocked well over 200 hours with it before moving on. After retiring LeafGreenand Colosseum, I was interested in starting Emerald and returning to Hoenn as it had been ten years since I last saw it.
Returning to Hoenn brought back many memories. As I crisscrossed the expansive island, I remembered specific towns, routes, and completing specific objectives. Not everything was familiar though. I couldn’t remember some of the smaller story beats. The series is host to light and airy narratives though, so this wasn’t a surprise. Whereas players were confronted with Team Aqua or Team Magma in Ruby and Sapphire, players had to contend with both in Emerald. These groups aren’t necessarily evil like Team Rocket, but their goals of enacting massive changes to Hoenn’s ecosystem were potentially world ending.
The Battle Frontier was heavily marketed as the defining feature of Emerald when it released back in the middle of 2005. Personally, the battle facilities that have been introduced in the series haven’t appealed to me too much. This one hasn’t stolen too much of my time either. I appreciate being able to win harder to find evolutionary items and spotlighting the various battle styles is fantastic, but I’ve never put too much time into these. I’m more of a breeder than a fighter. The Battle Frontier is massive though and there is plenty there to entertain diehard fighters.
Really, those are the major differences between Ruby and Sapphire and Emerald. Perhaps the most notable of the minor alterations was Game Freak’s adjustments of wild Pokémon locations and the ability to capture both Groudon and Kyogre. Oh, and the Pokémon battles featured minor amounts of animation, like Crystal did prior. This generation was host to many new additions. Prime among them were double battles, contests, weather, the ability to dive, and many, many other novelties and mechanics.
This awesome building was one of the attractions at the Battle Frontier.
Pokémon Emerald is the first enhanced remake in the series that I’ve completed (discounting LeafGreen and HeartGold, I guess). All in all, the additions and alterations make this the most feature packed between Ruby, Sapphire, and it, but it doesn’t make those games obsolete. I would find it grueling to play this immediately after playing one of those, so if you’re attempting a series playthrough as I am, pick one. The major changes may seem minor, but a comprehensive changelog of all changes would be immense. An older Pokémon game like this isn’t for everybody though, so only Pokémaniacs need apply. I fit the bill too! It’d been forever since I journeyed across Hoenn and it was a pleasant return.