Have started streaming again, so here’s my first new video using my new internet connection.
No Man’s Sky: Diary of a Star-Lit Wanderer.
Have started streaming again, so here’s my first new video using my new internet connection.
No Man’s Sky: Diary of a Star-Lit Wanderer.
The annual E3 gaming show is once again upon with it’s usual bombast, hype & leaks. I usually avoid most of the reporting around E3 related stuff because it tends to be your typical hype-train fuelled by pre-rendered cinematic trailers, short teasers & really really awkward presentations.
Yet something happened with this year’s expo, where each company listened to the complaints of their consumers & gave live demonstrations of their games to much rapturous applause (for some demos at least).
I tend not to care for most company’s announcement but I tend to like what Nintendo does.
This year it appears that they broke all expectations when they showed this. The gameplay trailer for the long awaited Zelda Wii U game.
This is a whole new direction for the long running franchise, that gives the player almost absolute freedom to explore -which includes being able to climb the landscape & monsters. It also introduces the ability to sneak up upon both prey & enemies. From the trailer & hands on from various gaming websites it appears that Link (for once actually coming pre-named) has to hunt & eat to regain health & get status boosts.
The freedom to explore leads to being able to tackle which ever dungeon you want when you can access -which appears to be through a magical book. This new gimmick also extends to using the book to create blocks to climb upon so you can solve puzzles as well as create objects to drop on enemies to reduce their number before ambushing.
Being a Wii U title, it comes with Amiibo connections, which goes back to the Wolf Link figure that was released with Twilight Princess. As seen in the video below.
The game is still set to be released next year & supposedly will also be the launch title for Nintendo’s mystery new console, currently referred to as the NX.
How this will impact the end product & it’s reception is al for speculation.
In my very unhumble opinion Nintendo should release the game in time for Christmas & give the Wii U one last great hurrah.
Regardless of which system it will be dominant on, the game remains utterly beautiful to look upon. It’s vast living landscapes & reactive AI might reinvigorate many Sandbox games but, again, it’s only speculation of a very, very invested fan.
Nothing really more to say except that I wanted to show the trailer & make a quick post before the next article goes up.
After dealing with the useless parcel delivery contractor not bothering to walk up the stairs to my front door & having to walk 4 kilometres to the post office & back, I finally got my hands on my new 1TB PlayStation 4.
I finally bit the bullet on moving up to a current “current gen” console after Target Australia had an unbeatable 25% eBay only sale last week. Meaning that a new model 1TB PS4 with the Uncharted Collection (Uncharted 1-3 remastered for the PS4 with free Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta) only cost me $412AUSD. But I’ll be trading in that game for Fallout 4 next week because I have absolutely zero interested in the Uncharted franchise.
Naturally, I expected the PlayStation 4 to have to go through the usual rigmarole of updating data & patching the games that I had already brought (Metal Gear Solid 5 & Dragon Age: Inquisition) but I was genuinely surprised at how smooth a process it all was when compared to the PlayStation 3.
The major system update took less than half an hour & the individual game updates could be done in the background as you played the games. It seems like Sony borrowed another idea from Nintendo’s playbook but it is very much a welcome one as it means that you don’t have to waste time when you’re trying to waste time.
The interface is a lot smoother for the PS4 as well, with the downloads, notifications & other info tucked up into a top bar. The entire things is a galactic level of speed over the early model PS3s, with even the troublesome PlayStation Store being easier to navigate. Which is handy because of how the PS4 is now so reliant on apps to run small programmes.
The controller also feels very much different from the PS3 movel (which was almost exactly like the PS2 model but wireless). It has a lot more heft & body to it, feeling solid in your grip -missing that breakable sensation that the PS3 controller carried with it. The new buttons & touchpad are confusing at first but work well. The lack of the traditional “start” & “select” buttons is still off putting but the sunken nature of the “options” & “share” buttons means that you’re not catching your nails on them. The touch pad feels like a gimmick but having it as a clickable button is integrated well into the two games that I played.
Overall, the latest model of the PS4 is a welcome step up from the PS3 (which I still enjoy playing) but it’s lack of backwards compatibility will become an issue if anything happens to my PS3. Still, I think with the slowly growing catalogue of exclusive titles that Sony is gathering means that I climbed aboard at the right time. I’ll wait a little before getting an XBone though.
Now, it’s the streaming feature that I’m big on & so I recorded nearly an hour of gameplay from Dragon Age: Inquisition onto Twitch before exporting it to YouTube.
Now, I do want to get more into streaming, so I’d like people to follow me on Twitch but I still need support on my Patreon in order to buy more games, upgrade my headset to one with a better mic & eventually buy a PS4 camera.
Let us know what you think of the video.
Started a Twitch streaming account in preparation for the arrival of my PlayStation 4 next week (hands on critique of that also coming) but also so I can stream lectures & discussions on various Pop Culture things.
To follow me, simply go to : http://www.twitch.tv/andthegeekshall/
Would also like recommendations for people to follow as well as your own Twitch page so I can follow you back.
I won’t be streaming many PC games because of crappiness of laptop but might do some streams of classic games as well as record some Let’s Play stuff for the hell of it. But have to see if I can get things to stream from GOG (no idea how to set it all up yet).
Was meant to have written this a while back but back have been busy with more than a few things of late. Oh, well. Such is life.
Because Nintendo view me as a hyper-consumer of their products, they selected me (& a few thousand others) to test & brag about their demo for their forcoming (re)releases Pokemon Ruby Omega & Sapphire Alpha.
Since there isn’t honestly much to the demos, I’ll take a moment to about the Big N‘s strategy with releasing unlimited demos & special promotions (such as Halloween themes) to their heavily invested consumers before releasing limited versions to the general public through their eShop system.
The main idea in doing this is so those individuals who are already rapid fans of Nintendo & their various products are both kept engaged & are ready to be zealots for the Big N’s cause. Nintendo lose nothing from sending out demos & free bonuses to Nintendo Club members or randomly selected consumers. In fact, they have everything to gain because it is these individuals who are most like to have ways & means (such as I with this blog) to promote these special promos & get other consumers who aren’t as devoted to become jealous &/or intrigued by they aren’t afforded the same deals. That is when, after much internet metaphorical (unless you have a Nintendo logo tattooed on it) dick-waving, Nintendo release a limited use demo for everyone else -such as they did with the recent Super Smash Bros. 3DS demo.
This sort of trickle release in the Age of the Hyper-Engaged consumer means people are always aware of what they are potentially missing out on, so are more able (& eager) to demand their share too (deserved or not).
What people have been neglecting to notice is that Nintendo has been the quiet achiever of the current Console War of sales of the 3DS in Asia & the increase of Wii U sales due to a steady flow of new release games over the past year. Whilst people focus on the current home console battle between Sony (PS4) & Microsoft (XBone) (in which the XBone is being smashed by the PS4) & how rapid the fans get there, almost everyone has a Nintendo platform of some variety (usually a DS or 3DS). Nintendo are the constant of the video game industry, having beaten Atari, Sega & a myriad of other companies (apart from PC game makers), so no matter your current allegiances, the majority of gamers have played or owned a Nintendo console at some point.
Further to this, as previous written about in my Pokemon article, the biggest driven force for Nintendo still remains as the Pokemon franchise. With consumers demanding both new & reimagined games. Which brings us to the crux (it’s pronounced, crue, the X is silent because it is French) of this rambling article: the demo for the forthcoming remakes of Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire.
The demo is extremely limited. Your character is pre-named as Orlando (you can’t customise appearance even in full game, unlike X/Y) & you can only explore Mossdeep Town as well as a few enclosed dungeons (forests, caves & islands), a few battle areas & one semi-proper quest. You interaction with only a few characters, mainly the Pokemon League Champion Steven but cameos from other major characters (gym leaders) appear too. This is all to get you a taste of the new game, showing off the improved graphics (improved even from X/Y in some cases).
The best example of the improvement in graphics is fly mode with Steven on the back of Latios or Latias. From the back of those Pokemon, you can see the entire Hoenn region in 3D (the 3D effect automatically turns off when out of battle & cut scenes). There are heaps of other little graphical details added, such as grass rustling in the breeze & the way the long grass moves as well.
The other much hyped new feature in the demo is the ability to sneak up on Pokemon who are poking up out of the long grass (in the full game these are meant to be harder to catch monsters or ones with different move sets from the normal ones). It’s done like sneaking in pretty much any game: slightly moving the circle pad in a direct so you move slowly. I thought that this would also lessen encounters in the long grass but didn’t find that to be the case.
Unfortunately, you can’t catch any of these long grass Pokemon. In fact, the only one that you can catch is in the only proper mission, where you have to save a Mega Evolving Pokemon from both Team Magma & Team Aqua lieutenants. I was given a Glali but some people were meant to have been able to have captured a Steelix. You can Mega Evolve the Glali into a neckbearded bit of weirdness but isn’t all that great. You also fight with the top evolutions of the 3 Starters, each with the ability to be Mega Evolved as well. You can also transfer Glali into the full game, once you purchase, along with some other bonuses that you can unlock through repetitive plays (though haven’t found any other Pokemon that you can capture & transfer).
I’ve played the demo through about a dozen times now, playing missions that only take a few minutes each (mainly missions to flush a Shroomish out of some long grass without battling it). There isn’t anything special to do or great challenge, mainly just battle several basic trainers or one more special one.
In the end, the OS/RA is just to whet the appetites of eager fans & silence nay-sayers that it’s just X/Y set back in Hoenn. Which does make it kind of pointless because people have been waiting for it for so long now, they’ll already have it pre-ordered or pick it up the moment that it’s out (it won’t break street date though, the Big N is very very strict on that these days). It’s something that I already plan to get but having stuff to transfer into it upon purchase is just a nice bit of spice to an already decent meal.
With not much left to say about it, I await any flaming on providing incorrect info on the Console Wars as well as the general haters having a go (before they are deleted) as I try to conquer my Pile of Shame.
“Siblings Sora and Shiro are inseparable, both in the real world and in the game world. Their individual skills combined make them an invincible team: Sora, with his astute intuition and penetrating insight; and Shiro, with her remarkable intellect that goes beyond prodigy-level genius. In the real world, they are hikikomori, reclusive and unsocial, but in the game world, the siblings together form [ ] (Blank), a mysterious group of undefeated online gamers who win every game they play with unbeatable scores. Because the account names of the players are always left empty, they become simply known as “Blank”. One fateful day, after beating a mysterious challenger in a game of online chess, the siblings receive an offer from their opponent to be reborn in his world, Disboard – a fantasy world where everything is determined by games. When they accept the proposal, Sora and Shiro are summoned to Disboard by that world’s God, Tet, who they discover to also be their former opponent. Together, Sora and Shiro begin their journey in redeeming the weak human race of Imanity and conquering the world to challenge Tet for his title of One True God.”
There is a bad habit in many subcultures to lap up any mention from more mainstream forms -be it positive or negative- as well as lose one’s mind whenever a reference to something that we adore/worship/participate in is shown or mentioned within various media. Often such flashes are negatory in one’s favour yet one does love to have one’s passions & existence acknowledged by greater beings, do we not?
Visual media also loves throwing in as many references & acknowledgements as they can be they intentional or craftily snuck in & we consumers do love our little Easter egg hunts? Go on. Admit it. You look for them all of the time. As both a challenge & as a way to prove yourself superior in some petty fashion. There is no shame in such a thing –we all do it, after all.
Yet this is probably why, in the end, I felt myself a little ambivalent towards No Game No Life.
Because it praised us nerds, geeks & gamers with one hand -showing us as clever, resourceful & deep down well meaning people- & mocked us with the other -displaying us as socially dysfunctional perverts who cannot cope within a game in our hand or a pair of tits to stare all.
It attempts to pander too much to both sides, showering kudos & contempt equally.
Yet, it is not entirely without its merits.
Some reviewers have already praised it highly, even calling it “a must watch for any gamer” yet, as I said as a few lines above, it reeks to I more of pandering then any genuine affection for its greatest audience & consumers. Gamers & the socially inept have always been fair play for ridicule in media but at least NGNL attempts to be even handed.
This is done through the stepsiblings, Sora & Shiro -who are collectively known in the gaming & online worlds as Blank. The undefeatable team who can destroy even the most skilful hacker or cheater with seamingly the greatest of ease. That is because they believe themselves to be a single unit, with super genesis Shiro masters games like chess & FPSs & all that comes with such intelligent or tactical games whilst the older sibling Sora uses his masterful understanding of people to use bluff, cheat or know when others are cheating. But they are both broken by their talents, scorned & ridiculed by their peers, so they locked themselves up in their room to play games all day. That is before the god Tet takes them from our world to the land of Disboard, where games rule & murder can never be committed.
This is actually an interesting conceit because it establishes that Disboard is defined by 10 Commandments set forth by Tet that can’t be broken yet can be subverted. Such as the rule about cheating, where it doesn’t say you can’t cheat, just that you have to face the consequences if you’re caught doing it & it can proven. The Commandments hold everything in check & about Blank to push their plans forward by exploiting & obeying the rules as well as learning how others do the same.
Yet the trouble with this is that when they try to explain the rules for a wager or game & they flash by too fast or are stuck in a bunch of untranslated text (or the text is translated but that translation fucks with your video player something chronic!). It’s annoying that rules that are pretty bloody vital to the plot are rushed by; possibly so you don’t see any holes them or so you don’t try to guess how Blank will win.
My other major issue with the series is. . . Can you guess? Can ya? Can Ya? CAN YA?!
YEEEEEEEEEEEEEES! IT’S HYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYPERSEEEEEEEEEEEEXUALIIIIIIIIIISAAAAAATION!!!
This time perving on a fucking 11 year old (Shiro, who isn’t actually fucking but I can never go past a chance to swear. . . prick).
I honestly don’t mind that she’s rendered painfully cute, with a mouth too small & eyes too big even for anime standards but there must ALWAYS be a line drawn when you draw an 11 year old semi-naked (& fingers should be broken for drawing a naked 8 year old with a fluffy tail!). All the major female characters other than the one time antagonist Clammy are hypersexualised & the reason Clammy isn’t is because she’s mocked for having no breasts & using magic to make it seem otherwise during on of the many bath scenes.
Both Shiro & Sora share a perverted natured, as does the violent angel (Flügel) Jebril. Their usual victim is Steph, the granddaughter of the former king of all Imanity (Disboard’s name for humans) who is depicted as clever in terms of running the day to day functions of a kingdom but terrible at games, losing to Clammy before Blank take the crown away from her. The sight of Shiro wearing Steph’s panties on her head whilst making her act like a dog is monstrously disturbing, more so because Shiro acts so cute & innocent most of the time.
I could beat the Hate Drum a bit longer, but I won’t.
Visually, this series is stunning. Incredible use of light, colour & fantasy settings as well as interesting (yet hypersexualised) designs on many of the characters. Because there are 16 races (equal to pieces on a chessboard), they each have to have very individual designs & they do stand out well. The elves are generic with blonde hair & pointed ears but the Flügel with their wings & halos are pretty awesome; whilst the werebeasts are your standard anthro-beings, which is played up for laughs with Sora -the virgin- wanting to conquer them so he can have a harem of cat & bunny girls.
The relationship between Shiro & Sora is also exceptionally well rendered. With each having absolute faith in the other & going catatonic if they are out of visual range for too long (which is actually genuinely funny). They also back each other up in games & contests when the other is lacking & transfer this knowledge to real life activities -such as running a country based on pacifist route in Civilisation. Even when they are backed into a corner by an opponent, they always rely on & trust each other utterly; drawing upon that the strength to win.
The series also ends on a vexing note of noncompletion story-wise. Just leaves things open to a possible sequel series, which I’m not sure has been announced (unlike other 12 episode series from this season).
Despite how much this series gives with one hand & takes with the other, it was genuinely entertaining & fairly original in its story. There were some exceptionally clever bits as well as well done reference gags (even more than a few quick obscure ones). It is designed for nerds & gamers, especially in its sexual pandering, but it still mocks the culture that supports it. If you can forgive it that trait, you will probably take a lot of joy in the Easter Egg hunts as well as the clever solutions to the games through the series. Although if you enjoy the sexualisation of Shiro & Izuna, I’ve got a couple of bricks that I want to introduce you to!
This is the 1st part of a new feature to And The Geek Shall, articles/interviews with people across various realms of Geekdom -be they gamers, writers, genre fans or just generalist nerds. If you are interested in contributing, either leave a comment or PM me at Twitter: @andthegeekshall (follow me there anyway!) or via the Tumblr link above.
Today’s contributor is Steph, an old friend of mine. She’s a consummate gamer, especially in the PC arena. If you are up to the challenge, her Battle Net ID squidularmy#1683 & her Steam handle is squidularmy (both online ID’s posted with personal permission, so be respectful when asking to add her & no, she won’t be your girlfriend so don’t even fucking ask, twat!).
My name is Steph, I’m a 27 year old female & I spend far too much of my time in front of a screen; during the day I build software, & as soon as I’m home I’m PC gaming exclusively. I could be doing other things, productive things no doubt, but after doing two degrees while working full time I think I’m entitled to spend my leisure time doing whatever I bloody well want.
What made you start gaming?
My first memory of gaming was when I was probably about six years old. During school holidays my father would stay home with me, which meant I would spend all day sitting on a piano stool watching him play Warlords II. It was a good deal for Daddy Dearest, & a great deal for me too – I couldn’t get enough of seeing more & more of the game tactics (or the ganking). This kicked off my interest in top down strategy gaming & probably catalysed my later obsession with the Sid Meier’s Civilization series.
What types characters do you most often play?
I love casters. Mages. Wizards. There’s just something about this tiny unarmoured person acing the everloving shit out of monsters without even touching them that I find appealing. I generally play female wizards too – even though I know I could play a lady paladin, or a warrior or whatever, I feel like being a caster allows me to express femininity, whatever that means, while being a totally destructive badass. Armchair psychologists are welcome to read into this however they like.
What features do you most enjoy in games?
I definitely enjoy breaking games. I love setting myself obscure meta objectives just to see if something can be done. Yes, occasionally I muck around with cheat codes, but only to stabilise certain aspects of the game while I try & achieve something ludicrous. Whether it be trying to create the ultimate mage tank in World of Warcraft, or trying to balance a five-way polyamorous household in The Sims 3 – chances are I’ll be chasing after something dumb at any given point in time. I’ve started having fun with some Steam based software development kits lately to build my own ridiculous scenarios that don’t make any sense.
Following on from that, I can be a bit of an achievement junkie at times. I mean actual achievements, the ones the game designers actually want you to pursue, rather than the “Can Poland successfully invade Germany” style campaigns I design in Civ V. Following the main storyline of a game has never felt too appealing to me, & I like that the achievement system allows me to venture off & obsessively grind at whatever I feel like doing with some kind of arbitrary motivation.
What I don’t enjoy is games that are completely based around a clear storyline or objective chain – I need to have the flexibility to do other stuff & some kind of end game motivation. Game structures like the Mass Effect series have never appealed to me for this reason.
Also I don’t do PvP because I need to be able to beat you or I won’t come to the party.
What are your current gaming activities?
I’ve recently decided to up my game in World of Warcraft & get really good at playing my main, rather than just mashing my mage bomb macro & crossing my fingers. I’ve been researching & experimenting with build, spell rotation & stats balancing. I do a few raids with pick-up-groups each week, which is always a gamble in itself to find a group that doesn’t aggro the whole room for shits & giggles, but I will probably look to join a raiding guild soon, once I’m more confident in my DPS consistency.
I’m also levelling a hardcore character in Diablo III, & determined to get her to the max level without being mortally wounded. So far this is going rather smoothly, however I am noting it’s a funny balance between being super resistant to all kinds of damage & actually being able to kill a boss within an hour of engaging combat – one trades off the other to some extent. I’m quite excited about the upcoming patch to Reaper of Souls & am looking forward to running through the new tiered rifts with my friends during our Saturday night Diablo LANs.
I don’t tend to frame myself as a fanboy of things because I just don’t have that level of obsession or energy to argue that pathetically about something. Although, to be fair, I can get passionate over various preferences that I have but not to the drooling psychotic levels that others do that is lacking both Rhyme & Reason.
Console fanboys are pretty particular to this.
Zealously defending that which does not need to be defended whilst it sucks their wallets dry -like some hideous electronic leech.
Personally, when it comes to the more recent console releases, I tend to -if & when I have the money- either buy the two paragon systems to get the greater range of games (because of all the cross-platform releases) or, in the case of the previous generation when I had a staff discount from a big retail chain- I brought all 3 major releases.
Although, to be honest, that wasn’t all at once.
I got the Wii 1st, then the 360 after the Red Ring of Death issue had been solved & the PS3 after I’d broken up with my then fiancee & brought a big LCD TV with the money I was going to spend on a holiday together, so needed to upgrade things so could watch my DVDs on the larger screen.
That brings us to the current gen -which is still called “Next Gen” for some reason.
A console generation that I haven’t really bothered to get excited about because of my experiences with the previous/current gen console releases.
That being: lack of interesting games, no ability to actually take advantage of the hardware’s capabilities & high prices.
That being said: I did make a single exception for a release day purchase & that was Nintendo’s Wii U.
Nintendo consoles are the only ones that I get really interested in. Something I think stems from being denied an NES when I was a kid & being made by my father to call up every retailer in town to find a SNES just after it was released in Australia (finally managing to snag the last one that David Jones in Belconnen had after 3 days of phone calls to every retailer in the city). My younger brother & I also shared an original Gameboy from the days when you needed to play them under a lamp to see anything & they took so many bloody batteries! So, so many.
At any rate, that all pretty much cemented my preference for Nintendo consoles & games & I have owned every major home release every since (& most of the handhelds other than the Gameboy Advance). To this day I maintain that the GameCube was a thoroughly underrated system that had the most comfy controller ever made!
Yet, at the same time I was indulging in my Nintendo preferences, I always had other systems to compare it to.
I played games on the old Apple Macintosh at home as well classic PC games at my next door neighbour’s house.
At the same time I had my SNES, my best friend (who is still my best friend to this day) flitted between owning a SNES of his own & a Sega Mega Drive (known as a Genesis in the US). He also purchased a Mega-CD but that some massively awful FMV games outside of the (then) amazing Sonic CD. He also later got a Playstation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation when I had a Nintendo 64, so I always had a balance with games. I also owned a GameCube & Playstation 2 simultaneously, because of the exclusive titles that both systems had.
Anyway, bring on 2013 & the release of the much touted Wii U.
I was a Day 1 Adopter, which was brought down by 2 factors.
1: the mandatory update that took several hours to complete but could be done with the TV turned off due to the unique GamePad controller.
& 2: a massive screw-up at my local JB HiFi where a good chunk of the staff weren’t there, so all consoles & games were stuck out back for ages (though the staff who were there did their best to get things sorted as quick as they could, so no blame on the good ones who did more than their job’s worth).
But one HUGE bonus for being at Day 1 Adopter was that every game was only $40 for me. This was due to a screw up with JB head office where they offered all Wii U games for $40 with console purchase but then changed it to selected titles. Despite that, they never rescinded the original offer, leaving it open to staff, so: exploit achieved. Plus they ended up price matching with a rival store, which saved me about $100 on the console. Big score on that on too.
I picked up New Super Mario Bros Wii U, ZombiU, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 & Assassin’s Creed 3 -the bonus mini-game compilation that game packed with the console Nintendo Land. Would’ve gotten a couple more but didn’t have the cash on me at the time & nothing interested me in what they had (some games were delayed due to shipping errors nation wide). Did order Tekken Tag 2 online when I had the cash but that arrived a while later.
So, with two cross platform games & two exclusive titles (not including the mini game compilation), will do a quick review of each.
New Super Mario Bros Wii U: not much can be said for this other then is your basic Mario Bros. Side-scrolling platformer but based more upon the Super Mario World vein. It’s fun & challenging but nothing really new if you played the 2 previous New Super Mario Bros. games. Still haven’t finished it because got a bit miffed by the sudden difficulty spike & having other titles across all my platforms to play.
ZombiU: a 1st person zombie survival game with perma-death, meaning that if your character dies, they get turned into a zombie & you have to hunt them down to get back all the stuff you’ve collected. Still haven’t played much of it because not really my sort of game, just got it for something to play really. Will get back to is sometime soon.
COD: BLOPs 2: Mein Gott!! This is one of the worst games I’ve ever played! Nothing to do with the Wii U version (also had a go on the 360 one & pretty much the same). This game is the reason why I avoid the whole military shooter genre (or Spunk-gargle-wee-wee to give it its proper title). The only reason I got it was because it was cheap. Finished it in a couple of hours, without doing the annoying side missions (which turns out you have to do to get the good ending). The game’s story was pretty much stupid Americans fucking over poor countries with a team of white weaponised Übermensch; with only two non-white heroes, one of which gets killed, the other wounded. All other non-whites betray or attempt to murder our Übermensch protagonist. Funnelled, frustrating gunfights & completely shitty plot. Pretty much the perfect game for Seppo paranoid gun-wank enthusiasts.
AssCreed 3: Honestly don’t know why I bothered with this game. Was boring, frustrating, tediously long with terrible controls & worse characters. Not to mention the shitty missions. I almost broke the GamePad because of the last mission, where you have to chase the last Templar down but if you make the slightest mistake or get knocked back or distracted by an enemy, it’s an automatic fail. I wasn’t invested in the AssCreed franchise much after the frustration of the 1st game & the bad, cut ending of the 2nd (got both because were very cheap & never bothered with 2.5 or 2.75) but AssCreed 3 pretty much killed any chance of me playing the rest of the franchise -despite the praises that the 4th title has received.
Anyway, that’s enough waxing lyric on the early days of the Wii U & my personally gaming history, onto why I think it should be defended & why it’s worth the investment of your time & money.
Here is where many other self-appointed internet critics & pundits would go all fanboi over Nintendo or rant about how the company is basically dead & producing the same thing over & over again.
Which side you fall on has pretty much been decided by which consoles & companies raised you as a child. I grew up with Nintendo, so my Cognitive Bias sides more with them but is mitigated marginally by the fact I’ve pretty much played ever console ever released in my country (apart from the Atari Jaguar but, let’s be honest: no one really played that system).
To start with: The Wii U isn’t a processing or graphical powerhouse like the Xbone or PS4 but does have better graphics then the PS3 & 360. Nintendo have a history of being able to produce exceptionally pretty games, which Mario Kart 8 (as reviewed here) has proved. I personally haven’t seen anything as spectacular on the new rival consoles, despite being early days & the boosts of power that both Sony * Microsoft throw about.
Also, despite what the many uber-fans of the other companies/consoles claim, Nintendo is still the market paradigm when it comes to home & handheld consoles. What they do, the other two companies are soon to try to copy. Whereas before it was the motion control of the Wii, now it’s the touch capacity of the GamePad. The instant that Nintendo announced that it would be making a system with an inbuilt touchscreen, the other Big 2 rushed out their versions. Being Xbox Glass & the PSVita remote play function -neither of which really worked due to the lack of 3rd party support or titles with which to use them with.
Which does lead into Nintendo’s biggest failing: the lack of high end 3rd Party support from the big companies like Ubisoft, Capcom & EA. The former & the later have already stated that they won’t be producing more exclusives for the Wii U or porting other cross-platform titles. The main claim is that it is because of lack of sales of the system but it’s more to do with designing or altering something for the GamePad & its built-in screen.
Bringing us to the Wii U’s biggest feature, draw back & selling point: the GamePad with touchscreen.
FINALLY: we have a controller bigger & chunkier than the Dreamcast’s one.
The entire controller is about the size of an iPad but the screen itself is only 15.7 cm (diagonally across) & made from the same material as the DS/3DS touchscreens (about the same size as a DSi XL unit as well). So no Gorilla Glass or multi-gesture on it yet it still manages to produce a high quality image (nowhere near 1080p or even 720p unfortunately). The controller also features twin sticks which sit up high on the unit -which can be a little vexing for some games but feels natural with others. There are also 6 buttons: 4 configured like the SNES on the front & 4 shoulders buttons. Even with the spread of buttons & the width of the controller, it’s still fairly comfortable to hold & you don’t have to mess around much fiddling with the various buttons (unless, like me, you often get shit mixed up when doing Quick Time Events). The GamePad also features a NFC zone, which is & will be used with collectable figurines that unlock in game bonuses (more on that later), pseudo-surround sound (which actually does sound impressive) & a front facing camera used for the chat app (which I’m yet to use). There is also a DS-like stylus hidden in the top of the unit, each to get out one-handed when you need it for some games.
The GamePad is lighter than you expect but also feels cheap & fragile at times. The buttons tend to make plastic clicking noises. There is also a rattle when you shake it but that might be mine. Still, the lightness of the controller makes it surprisingly easy to use & you can play some games with it resting in its two cradles (the charging one or the display only one) or lie it flat on a table without any hassle. This is no GameCube controller mind (although an adaptor for them will be available with the release of Super Smash Bros. Wii U), so it does crick your wrists & fingers after a while. More so with how stiff the buttons can be; their lack of give hurting your thumb after too much use.
The other major drawback of it is how quickly it chews through battery life but you can leave it plugged in without hassle because the charger cable is very long. You can also rest it in the charging cradle if you go for the Premium pack (which is black, means bigger. . . internal memory); which is handy if you are watching cut scene heavy games. You can also play some games with a Wii U Pro Controller, which looks like a 360 one, or your old Wiimote+ if you managed to keep hold of your Wii.
The real strength & selling point of the GamePad is its ability for what Nintendo calls “Off-TV Play”. That is: the ability to play a full game on the controller rather than use the TV (if other family members are using it is the most touted example as to why it exists). Unfortunately, games like New Mario Bros. leaves this function on all the time, which becomes fairly distracting but games such as Rayman Legends use the touchscreen & remote play exceptionally well for some puzzles & levels. I also find the remote play function handy because my TV is pretty dodgy at the moment, so easier to play on the GamePad as I wait for the TV to come good. Best games for this so far have been Mario Kart 8, Wind Waker HD & Lego Batman 2 but it’s also great for the Virtual Console games that get over-pixilated on a screen as big as mine (46 inches of goodness, baby!). The distance that the remote play can go is pretty far as well; I could go to the kitchen in my old house without losing the signal but have heard tell of people who take it into the toilet like they did their old Gameboys.
The OS is similar to the Wii & 3DS ones, with a tile/window based menu. Upon launch it was slow as fuck! Taking up to a minute to start up some titles but subsequent updates have seen that time cut down to under 20 seconds. The latest update brought a quick start function, which loads the game as the system boots, which saves a heap of time fiddling through the menus when you want to play your favourite titles ASAP. The menu is also divide across the GamePad & the TV; with the controller usually having the menu options & the TV projecting the current discourses within the Miiverse around popular games & apps.
The Miiverse, which is Nintendo’s version of a combined social network, information system & promotional hub, is frankly one of the greatest things on the Wii U. It’s limited & highly monitored in what it can be posted (no rude or threatening language, et cetera) but has produced some amazing jokes as well as art. Because you can use the touchscreen to free hand message, so people use them to produce amazing little black & white artworks. You can also use it to capture in-game screenshots to ask the community for help (hidden behind spoiler posts). Games like Wind Waker HD also integrate it into the game, by allowing you to pick up bottles filled with random messages & pictographs taken by other players. It’s also very handy for Virtual Console games, where you find random silly things or get stuck because you’re too young to have played a game that doesn’t hold your hand for you all of the time.
Like the Miiverse, you also control the eShop & options from the touchscreen, which is handy because it means that you can browse & buy titles without having to turn on the TV. Nintendo are releasing a lot of their SNES & GB Advance range on the system but the Australia eShop is sadly lacking many great SNES titles that other countries have -such as The Secret of Mana– but they have some good unexpected releases, like Breath of Fire II (a massive underrated & basically forgotten RPG from Capcom). Unfortunate all titles are subject to the dreaded Australia tax. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why! As an Aussie gamer, it’s something I should be used to be still annoys me monstrously. You can also store downloads on approved high capacity SD cards or external hard drives but it’s not something I’ve needed to do yet.
The highlight of the Nintendo eShop has to be the release of the cult SNES J-RPG classic EarthBound. This never saw an official PAL region release, so it quickly became the most purchased title on the eShop. I got it as soon as I was able, after playing it on an Emulator years ago but screwed up, so have to start again. Which is the problem with old titles but also part of their charm -in that they can be as hard as a paedo near a preschool. Nintendo acknowledged this & included the official walkthrough with the game & online -all for free.
The other biggest current drawback with the Wii U is the lack of titles at the moment; both 1st & 3rd party. There are some excellent games out, such as Lego City Undercover (which I enjoyed more than GTA V in certain aspects), Donkey Kong Tropic Freeze, Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Rayman Legends & the previously reviewed Mario Kart 8 to name a few.
Unfortunately all the long awaited titles are either due later this year, like Super Smash Bros. Wii U, or next year with the new Legend of Zelda game -which is set to be more of a Skyrim style open world. You also have duel-company developed like Hyrule Warriors, which is made by Team Ninja, so expect massively amounts of hypersexualisation & copious jiggle-physics in all the female characters. There is also an entirely new IP called Splatoon, which is an online multiplayer shooter where players have to splatter as much of the map in goop as they can to win -so follows Nintendo’s limited violence ideology. Which is countered by the uber-hypersexualised release of Bayonetta 2, which brings a whole new level to the fetishisation of female characters within a video game; they’re also releasing it with the original game bundled in, so double the perversion. At least this is countered by Yoshi’s Woolly World, which I want because AWMYFUCKINGAWDITSOKOOOOOOOOOOTE!!!! There are more exclusive titles due but will talk about them in a later article.
Unfortunately no news on any new Wii U only Pokémon titles, that you can use with your 3DS, because that is the long awaited dream. Either an open world MMORPG or another tournament style battle game where you can use your own pokémon on your own 3DS system. Fans have been chewing walls waiting for such a game & it could really move so many consoles in a tiny amount of time -especially with how Nintendo allow free online multiplayer on all their games.
One interesting future release that Nintendo announced via their Direct video is their new line of amiibo figure which work with the NFC system in the GamePad to allow for the transfer of data as well as a limited form of DLC. They work in a similar way to Activision’s Skylanders game, where you buy figures to bring new characters into games. The amiibo are set to work as customisable fighters in Super Smash Bros. Wii U but Nintendo have hinted that it will bring non-Mario franchise characters (like Link or Samus) into games like Mario Kart 8 (which was a desire expressed in my Mario Kart 8 review; I wonder if Nintendo read it?). If they integrate it into a new Pokémon game or other such franchise & they’ll become a licence to print money. When Nintendo reveals what they’ll be used for, how & the cost, I’ll probably end up collecting a few of them because they do look really cool. Perfect design, if the promo versions are anything to go by.
It’s truly unfortunately that Nintendo has taken so long to release so many top tier & highly demanded games but seems to be the trend with development cycles of late; always several steps behind rushed releases.
At any rate, the brand recognition games from Nintendo as well as their bevy of exclusive titles will be on shelves before Sony & Microsoft’s ones; plus the Big N doesn’t have to worry about the cross-platform glut as much as the other two (with some exceptions on franchises such as the Lego games, which come out on EVERY console, home & handheld).
Whether or not you decide to buy a Wii U &/or support Nintendo is ultimately up to you. There are some good deals going on with them & the price is sure to drop in the near future. You can afford to wait if you do want one & aren’t so much interested in the other new-current systems.
It all falls into the glut of gaming that we currently suffer, more so if you factor in all the more Indie PC games & mods out there. Yet I find again & again that my gaming time is spent more & more with Nintendo’s two current flagship consoles -the Wii U & 3DS- because they have the games that I want & the gimmicks that I prefer. You can spin it off as another example of Cognitive Bias but I am not preaching that the Wii U is in anyway the superior system. It is just the most preferable for me at the moment & it may become your’s if you give it half a chance.
16 years ago, on my 18th birthday, I brought a present for myself consisting of Game Boy Pocket & a copy of Pokémon Blue. Fast forward 15 years to 2013 & my 33rd birthday, where I brought for myself a limited edition Pokémon 3DS XL & a copy of Pokémon X.
The years between those purchases have seen the release of 62 games over various Nintendo consoles (mainly handhelds with 23 games being the main franchise), over 800 anime episodes, 16 movies (one released a year), a popular Collectible Card Game & various manga incarnations. Not to mention every form of merchandise imaginable, from clothing to toys to cars & furniture.
All brought to the fore once again by Nintendo’s recent announcement that they shall be re-releasing the Generation III games in the main series, Ruby & Sapphire, for the 3DS in November of this year.
For those who have been living under a rock for the past 17 years, Pokémon is one of Japanese greatest pieces of branded marketing & corporate Soft Power as well as one of the most popular multimedia franchises the world has ever seen.
Very few of us have not been exposed to the nauseating cuteness of the franchise mascot Pikachu or have heard some acapella version of one of its many themes posted online. It is a phenomenon that has well surpassed your average zeitgeist & doubtless it will continue on for many years to come. Or for how long it remains profitable.
Yet what has turned a fairly simple handheld RPG about collecting different monsters into a media & cultural juggernaut?
Well, many academics, critics & fans have written about that but I’m going to ignore them in favour of my own personal journey & experiences with the Pokémon franchise. Because it’s my blog & I can write what I bloody well please.
Like many people my age, I first heard about Pokémon from the urban legend where the anime had caused a series of seizures during the screening of an episode. This led to all sorts of prefabricated outrage out the dangers of children’s cartoons but it also meant that lots of people in the West were eager to watch it but it was added to the list of episodes that were either banned or altered when purchased by 4Kids Entertainment for Western distribution.
To break it down, Pokémon is a portmanteau of the words Pocket & Monster (Poketto in Japanese), which are the titular creatures that you collect in the game. There are over 720 of the little buggers now; the number growing with each new generation released. Each Pokémon has certain elemental or type affinities -like Grass, Fire, Water, Electric, Flying, Fighting, et cetera, sometimes have two types at once -such as Venusaur’s Grass/Poison type or Geodude’s Rock/Ground type. Each type has a strengths & weakness against other types, giving the game play a Rock, Paper, Scissors approach, where you can gain advantage & bulldoze through opponents by having the right types & attack types or similar getting your team handed to you because you choose poorly. The series combines dungeon crawler/exploration style RPG elements with a collecting game play, as you capture wild Pokémon to add to your team & fill out your Pokédex. Each battle gains your creatures experience points, which helps them level up to gain new abilities &, in some cases, new forms as they evolve once they reach a certain level (or have something else affect them like a stone or similar item).
Despite this lack of seizure inducing animation, the games were still due out in the West & come 1998, I had eagerly saved up my money for a slightly improved Game Boy Pocket & a copy of Pokémon Blue. Unlike in Japan, we in the West only got two version of the game at first Red & Blue, where as they had Red & Green (1996) at first & then an enhanced version of Blue in 1997. Plot & game play wise, the games were identical but the mantra of the series form the beginning (other then the marketing phrase “gotta catch’em all!“) was all about trading & sharing with other players (then via the Game Boy Trade Cable).
Supposedly, the games creator Tajiri Satoshi game up with the idea for the series by basing it around the Japanese children’s hobby of catching & releasing bugs (especially beetles) & this is an element that is the core foundation of the series.
Starting with 151 Pokémon (including the special event only monster Mew), each game had a different set that you were allowed to collect plus some evolutions that you could only obtain through trading, so you were actively encouraged to find friends with different versions & trade with them.
Or do what I did & buy different versions of the game & use your old Game Boy to swap pokémon across so that you can come close to completing your collection.
Anyway, these first few games combined with the anime series were popular enough that Nintendo released Pokémon Yellow (1998), which featured their electric mascot character Pikachu as your primary monster (actually follows you around & emotes during certain events) to help promote their new Game Boy Colour system. I ended up getting the game along with the limited edition Pokémon edition GBC, possibly in a bundle, I can’t remember.
The first three games (including Yellow) were all very basic affairs of choose one of three starter Pokémon (Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle), battle your rival (whom most people named rude things), collect different Pokémon, battle other trainers, gain experience & evolve most of your monsters who can evolve, defeat gym leaders for badges which grant special bonuses & eventually go up against the Elite 4 in order to become the Pokémon Master.
Yellow mixed up the formula a bit by adding things related more to the anime, such as battles with Jessie & James from Team Rocket as well as making some of the sprites match up more with the anime depictions.
Blue began my habit of always picking Water Type starters (Squirtle & his evolutions was pretty awesome). I was a dedicated player, collecting as many monsters as I could, smashing Gym Leaders & beating my Fated Rival to become Pokémon Master! Unfortunately I messed up & used the Master Ball on one of the legendary birds instead of Mewtwo but I rectified that when I picked up a 2nd hand copy of Red a couple of years later.
I also got Yellow when it available & found it more challenging then Red/Blue but that was mainly because of Jessie & James popping up when you’ve already battled hard & didn’t have much left in terms of health or PP.
The next main games, after the fun & strangely addictive Pokémon Stadium (2000) (which was great because you got bonus starter Pokémon for beating various cups & could play the normal game on your TV), were Gold & Silver. I opted for Silver because of Lugia on the cover & prefer silver over the colour of gold.
Personally, Silver is still one of my favourites in the series because there was so much to do. More so after you beat the gym leaders & Elite 4 you go back to the Kanto Region (from the 1st games) where you battle all the Gym Leaders & Elite 4 there until you come to the Pokémon Master (technically you from the last games), lonely upon his high mountain. You also had 3 new starters (I naturally went with Totodile, who is still my favourite starter) & new ways to evolve your monsters -including keeping an eye on their happiness (which couldn’t be measured in game for some reason, you had to see a NPC to tell you) as well as 100 new monsters to collect. The game just felt so much bigger then Red/Blue/Yellow -dare I say that it felt epic?- & with such a huge game map to explore you truly felt as though you were getting your money’s worth with it.
When they brought Crystal out (an expansion for Gold/Silver) a little later I didn’t bother with it. Was kind of moving away from handheld stuff for some reason.
Which is why I was late to getting to Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire.
Instead of getting one of the many Game Boy Advances, I instead opted for the original Nintendo DS (a mistake but wanted Mario Kart as a free bundle) & got Sapphire (yes, sticking with the trend of blue over red because blue rocks as a colour!).
Unfortunately I found Sapphire a bit boring.
Nothing had really evolved in terms of gameplay.
Sure, there were more very cool Pokémon to collect but you still had a plethora of the earlier ones plaguing the game. Plus some of the new evolutions & evolving methods were fairly tricky to get around, meaning that you needed a strategy guide to get your head around it all.
The story also hadn’t changed one iota.
You play a mute who everyone says is destined to save the world. You battle Team [Insert Name Here] who wants to steal all the pokémon/destroy some aspect of the environment/control time & space/free all the pokémon/kill every living thing on the planet -which no one else seems to fussed to do anything about strangely enough. You encounter legendary pokémon that you capture & exploit & you beat the Elite 4 & your Fated Rival.
That’s EVERY main Pokémon game plot in a nutshell.
Sapphire stuck to it without variation, just adding a few more bells & whistles to the blundering edifice of the franchise. It vexed me, despite how fun I still found the core gameplay. I honestly just couldn’t bring myself to finish it, so its still sitting in my pile of shame.
Naturally, as soon as the follow up Diamond/Pearl was available, I made sure that I had it on the first day of release.
Unfortunately I suffered through the same doldrums of repetitive gameplay & lack of any interesting plot &/or motivation & wave after wave of previous Gen monsters to wade through before you found the new & interesting ones specific to that generate.
There were a ton more bells & whistles add for distraction but at least a lot of secrets to find & clever little things added to the series to give it more life.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for me & I eventually got bored. Mainly because I got stuck trying to get through Victory Road to the Elite 4, which was a painful grind.
So, four years later, when Black/White arrived, I also picked it up first day of release.
I am nothing if not a sucker for punishment.
Naturally, I went with Black & choose Piplup as my starter.
I genuinely appreciated all the changes that they made to the formula. Add new character dynamics with your friends/rivals, new evolution styles, new types & so on. Plus fancy shiny graphics outside of battle but inside it was just the same old static sprites.
It wasn’t a breath of fresh air but it was a breeze blowing some of the staleness away.
Unfortunately it just wasn’t enough & I soon grew tired of it all. When Black/White 2 was announced I didn’t bother to get one but that was genuinely more to do with how much they cost (& still cost) then not wanting to continue my obsession with the series. It was basically too much like Black/White, so wasn’t really needed to be purchased.
So, that brings up to the present Generation (Gen VI): X/Y (with Z due out next year or so)
I got X first day of release as well as a limited edition Pokémon Y 3DS XL (all red with pictures on it).
With this game they had changed up plenty of the formula to make it more interesting & far more accessible for a new generation of player. Overall, it’s far easier, with a lot of the random challenge difficulty toned down, as are the gym battles. This isn’t a negative in my book but does mean that you can utterly steamroll through the game with a handful of pokémon whom you’ve grinded up well enough. Same as when you get the mega-evolution ability. Using it on something like Blaziken (that you got as a special early purchase bonus) will mean that you can destroy many opponents (unless they are high level Psychic &/or Water types).
They also mix up the new & older Gen monsters a bit better but still vexing to have all the old ones & barely get a glimpse of the newbies. Most of the new ones aren’t incredible but many are interesting in their types & evolutions. Inkay is a perfect example because it reverses any status affects thrown at it (turning negation effects like Growl into a status buff) & you have to evolve it into Malamar by turning your 3DS upside once it hits level 30. Such a gimmick I’d usually find bothersome because there would be no way you could figure it out by yourself but once you’re told about it seems perfectly naturally to evolve it in such a manner.
Unfortunately Inkay/Malamar is the only new monster of this type to evolve in such a fashion but you have the much touted Sylveon, the mascot for the new Fairy Type, who needs Affection (different from Happiness) to evolve from its basic Eevee form. To do this, you need to spoilt an Evee in the Pokémon-Amie distraction thingie by feeding & petting it & then level it up once it’s acquired a Fairy Type move (which is part of the normal levelling progression luckily). This is very fiddly but since there are so few new Fairy Types in this game, it’s necessary if you want that branch of Eevee evolution.
My other favourite new ‘mon at the moment is Helioptile/Heliolisk because he has an ability called Dry Skin, which means he absorbs any Water Type attacks & even rain from moves like Rain Dance to heal at the end of each round. Combine that with his Parabolic Charge move, which drains HP from whomever it hits. Turning him into a sunny loving vampire lizard! Unfortunate due to being an Electric/Normal type hybrid, it has some annoying weakness to Fighting Type attacks.
One drawback to having so many ‘mon to catch & discover as well as all the types there are, unless you have a handy chart to hand, it’s easy to forget what beats what. More so with the recent additions to the series such as Dark (Evil) & Fairy.
They also tried to spice up the story a bit by adding more side characters for your PC to interact with but they aren’t really fleshed out & don’t play much into the plot. Most of them really don’t have a place with one of them appearing towards the end of the game before you’re hit by a massive (& very, very dark) back story to the region that you are exploring.
Unfortunately, the plot still is just what I mentioned a dozen or so paragraphs back. That is definitely something that I hope that they improve upon in the next non-remake game. I don’t want some epic opus or exploration upon the human/pokémon condition but a little more rounding of character, plot & background plus a sense of choice & personal agency wouldn’t really go amiss.
I’m still yet to finish my version of X, despite the main thread of the game being so much shorter & relatively easier then previous Generations but will get around to it eventually. Of course I started with a Froakie but foolishly chose Squirtle for my 2nd starter out of habit because Charizard Mega Evolution X does look pretty boss .
There are also plenty of secrets within the game as well as updates to add more ‘mon & moves that will get me to keep playing. Am basically up to Victory Road but don’t have as much time to play as I would like.
Am still not sure if I’ll end up getting the re-releases of Ruby/Sapphire (entitled Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire) but other people seem genuinely excited by the news (mainly because people have been making memes out remakes for a few years now, pretty much since the Gold/Silver remakes of a few years ago). I’ll probably end up getting them because of the new features they’ll out into the games.
I do hope that they continue with positive progression as the main series continues into the future. I personally would prefer to see an utter clean break with the franchise. Where the next main game ONLY has new pokémon in it & you unlock all the previous ‘mons post game or via trading. That way you can focus on all that is new without getting bothered by all the old mooks who keep getting in your way as you wade through long grass & caves.
Fans are still demanding a Wii U based MMO style game but that honestly would be hard to control, especially if it allows for imports from the handheld versions. Something akin to an MMO Stadium game would work well, with level caps & all that & being able to link your 3DS to your Wii U so you can just use the ‘mon you have already on your system without fiddling around too much.
Outside of the main series, I haven’t really played many of the other recent Pokémon games.
I used to be hopeless addicted to Pokémon Snap despite it being exceptionally simplistic & lacking in any true form of gameplay. This is also a game screaming out for a sequel & seeing one on the Wii U would indeed be most epic!
The other non-main games don’t truly interest me because they often aren’t very good & don’t have the same kind of attention grabbing, life-draining play that the main handheld series does.
I also don’t get into the whole weird things surround the main games.
Such as breeding for natures, EV training and competitive battles at real life tournaments & such.
Also! I’ve been playing for 17 years & I’ve never seen a bloody shiny ‘mon the entire Pikachu-loving time!
Speaking of the fan community: Pokémon still attracts a massive & diverse online fan community. Ranging from art & stories to the ever popular memes, such as the Cheezburger Network channel Pokémemes. Of course there are communities on 4Chan & Reddit dedicated to Pokémon related stuff but I’m honestly not brave enough to endure some of the horrors that people post there these days. & naturally there is a plethora of Rule 34 related items because, as the rule doth state: “if it exists, there will be porn”.
Yet, despite my bagging of it, the fan communities are what keep the entire Pokémon franchise popular after all these years.
They are the perfect example of the invested/dedicated consumer phenomenon because they add back to the culture/community surrounding the franchise. Moving it from a mere game & extended merchandise to a truly global cultural force.
Everything has been related to Pokémon at some point.
Entire stores within Japan exist just to sell related products. Battle tournaments are now global, attracting huge prize purses as well as attention. Not to mention that every new (main) game announced always garners huge amounts of attention -from both media & the fans/consumers.
& of course the anime series & its associated movies are continuing regardless of all other trends within the media. At over 800 episodes & 16 movies, it is one of the longest running anime series ever! & it keeps to a pretty basic formula too, so it’s easy to keep making.
Ash Katchem (stupid pun but he’s known as Satoshi in the Japanese version) & his companion Pikachu travel various regions with their pals (always one female & usually with Brock or another male companion), battling their Fated (regional) Rivals, foiling Team Rockets’ plans, bonding with different people & pokémon, learning life lessons, fighting gym leaders, et cetera et cetera.
Each new series sees Ash & Pikachu leave behind his previous team (mainly so they can get the latest ones for the latest games), Pikachu somehow loses his power which means he & Ash lose to their new rival, they encounter a legendary ‘mon somewhere within the 1st or so ep & Ash finds new friends to travel with which are always a loudmouth girl who is tsundere towards him & a male companion who explains everything.
Ash also never ever becomes a Pokémon Master or wins the huge tournaments (might be a few exceptions) because he’s always go to keep travelling to get the newest series rolling.
I honestly haven’t watched it in years. Mainly because the dubbing & translation are so bloody awful! Not to mention the censorship (which I already did actually). My niece still digs it as far as I recall but she’s becoming an invested gamer, more so after I got her a copy of Diamond 2nd hand for her 4 years ago.
Which pretty much proves how the franchise cross generations.
Hell, I’ve got friends who gave their original Red/Blue version to their kids to play (when they weren’t keeping them for themselves) & actually play each new game with their kids (it’s a great way to monitor what they do play as well as engage with them properly).
I do think that I’ll still continue to collect the games as I grow older. Even pick up a few pieces of merch here & there (mainly cute figures if I can).
I honestly don’t think that Pokémon is going to go away for a long long time.
I just don’t want to be trying to hunt 10,000 of the little buggers when I’m 90.
Title: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Platform: Nintendo 3DS/2DS
Release Date: 22/11/2013
Studio/Developers: Nintendo EAD Group No. 3 & Monolith Soft
A Link Between Worlds is the 17th titles in the series & the first for the Nintendo 3DS (or 2DS if you hate the 3D but more on that later) & a direct sequel to the SNES classic A Link to the Past (1991). Though part of me thinks the terms ‘sequel’ is a bit generous & the term ‘high def copy/paste’ seems more accurate.
But are they the ramblings of a cynical old gamer who has been with the series since the Famicom days (I first played it back on my best friend’s Famicom disc system, in Japanese, & neither of us had any idea what we were doing) or are they true?
Well, in all honesty, a bit of both.
The maps & assets are all almost directly lifted from the SNES game, as is the top down play style. Basically, the game feels like a spit & polish of A Link to the Past but without the depth that made the SNES game so beloved by fans.
One of my biggest bugbears in geek, pop & media cultures is the constant harking back to nostalgia. So many other reviewers of this game (especially ABC2’s Good Game) go all squeeeeeeeee! over many nostalgic properties but I mainly the stance if you want to play a game that is exactly like the one that you love, you should play that game since it is still available to you in one form or another.
Long running franchises, especially with Nintendo’s own properties, need to be able to grow & change without ardent Nostalgists clammering for pitchfolks & torches. Times change, people change & things move on. Grant, not always to better things but oft you have to let go & let a new generation take over. ‘Childish things’ & all that.
OK, with that (soon to be typical) rant out of the way, do I agree that A Link Between Worlds is actually a well done & enjoyable game?
Yes. Of course it is. What kind of idiot says that there is a bad Zelda game out there?
Can the game stand on its own merits & show its own strengths without forever being compared with A Link to the Past?
Well, that’s a resounding “eeeeergh”, complete with waving hand gesture.
Why so flaky on an answer?
Well, that’s because this game is the very incarnation of the old phrase “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”. Which translates as “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.
For every innovation that Nintendo has made within the game, there is another idea that is so fixed in the tradition of the series that it’s almost painful. Too many half measures & not enough boldness to break free from convention. But at least there are understandable reasons for this, at least to me.
A Link Between Worlds seems to me to be an attempt to get a whole new generation hooked on the franchise. It’s more open world nature & toned down challenges designed for younger gamers who’s first handheld is the 3DS. That is similar to what Nintendo & Game Freak recently did with the releases of Pokemon X & Y, making improvements for long term fans but toning down some elements for new entrants into the franchises.
This is actually something that I actively applaud because it means that if the games sell well, we can see more changes, improvements & departures to & from the standard formula because younger games will want things they are yet to experience, where as many gamers tend to think that they want what they are more familiar with. This is merely generalisation of course but oft rings true in my observations & experiences.
So, let us begin with what has stayed the same.
For one: the story.
You play as Link (or whatever name you decide to pick), the protagonist/player cypher/non-customisable avatar who is awoken at the start of the game to perform a mundane task but soon finds himself to really be the Legendary Hero, tasked to free Hyrule from the evil that is plaguing it & rescuing the Princess Zelda from whatever master mind (usually Ganon but not in this case surprisingly) has entrapped her. You do this by exploring various dungeons, collecting various items & defeating various bosses of various sizes, until you have a certain amount of magical MacGuffins that will unlock the final dungeon & boss fight. 26 years, very little change in the overarching narrative or the characters involved. It borrows the mirror world motif from A Link to the Past but doesn’t use it to any great effect. Even the big twists in the plot I had guessed even before the game had begun but it doesn’t really matter because the overall plot is merely a cloth horse upon which to hang the gameplay.
Where A Link Between Worlds does change things is in how you now acquire the items & how you explore the dungeons.
After a certain point, items can be “hired” from the rabbit hooded layabout Ravio, that is purchased & used until you die, where upon they are returned to him & you have to hire out again. You can of course purchase the items a bit further into the game, meaning that you keep & upgrade them without fear of losing them. You can also choose which dungeons to tackle first but if you are a canny player, you merely go through each until you find the unique items within & then uber (overpower) your way through them in which ever order you choose.
Because of the open nature of the game, the different areas aren’t that difficult to defeat & the dungeons themselves aren’t overly large or complex. That isn’t to say that there isn’t any challenge within the game but I found that I only died on the overworld from creatures such as the bomb throwing orges or attacks from off screen or, mainly, my own dumb mistakes & confusions over the controls. I managed to beat most of the boss, almost all of whom are lifted straight from A Link to the Past, without a lot of hassle & pretty much no strategy. Just watched the pattern & wailed on them with my weapons, using bottled fairies to revive when needed.
Against everything negative I’ve been saying, I have to wilfully admit that the dungeons are exceptionally clever at times. How you solve puzzles & get about will keep you quiet entertained, even if you don’t feel challenged by them.
This is mainly because of the game’s primary gimmick: turning Link into a painting upon the wall. This makes you flat & able to move across walls & other similar surfaces, letting you slip through gaps & cracks to find hidden little things or avoid traps or falling. You have a limited amount of time that you can do it (with your Magic Metre draining during its activation), so timing becomes everything when getting about in painting mode. It also has other wonderful little touches, such as the music & other noises going tinny & 2 dimensional when you’re a painting, making it feel as though you’re hearing it through Link’s inky ears.
Other great addition to the game is that you no longer have to scavenge for bombs or arrows or risk running out in the middle of a boss battle. All the weapons & magical items that you use drain your Magic Metre (a purple bar on the left side of the screen), which naturally replenishes in a short amount of time. This does take a lot of the frustration out of pot smash/grass cutting to find everything that you need & means that you do need to employ some strategy when dealing with enemies & puzzles.
But my utter, utter favourite addition to the game are the Maimai, which are the new scavenger hunt creatures in the game -akin to the golden spiders in Ocarina of Time or the Good Will glimmers from Skyward Sword- but these are actually important to get. Instead of giving you something useless like Rupees or a larger wallet, you actually get something important for finding them. Return to Mother Maimai with 10 of her lost children & she’ll reward you with an upgrade to any weapon that you’ve brought from Ravio to a more powerful version. Since all the Lorule dungeons are tied to specific weapons, it pays to know what you want to upgrade & when. The Maimai are also cleverly hidden in both Hyrule & the mirroring Lorule overworlds (so you don’t have to go through dungeons to get them) but they are actually fun, as well as vital, to hunt. Most upgrades give you an advantage with whichever item you improved, some being more practical then others. Such as the bow shooting 3 arrows or the Hookshot doing damage as well as stunning. While some items are useless outside of their specific dungeons, they are still handy to have upgraded.
Another improvement in the game is the actual usefulness of the stereoscopic 3D function. You often need it on to negociate dungeons where you have platforms at different heights to you have to drop down a fair way. I hate 3D (despite owning a 3DS) because it hurts my eyes & I have trouble seeing it easily but the function of it within the game is really handy to have switched on from time to time. Such as trying to get through Death Mountain.
Another nice feature in the game is the music, even though it is lifted straight from A Link to the Past with a couple of remixes from The Legend of Zelda II. Music has always been an exceptionally vital component to the Zelda series & A Link Between Worlds doesn’t let you down in that department. The tunes are layed but catchy, electronic but orchestral, nostalgic but fresh. It is nigh impossible to play & not hum (or, in a couple of cases, sing very very loudly) the immortal overworld theme to yourself.
It’s fun, great to look at & almost hypnotic in how it can suck you into it. You hit a nice rhythm with it but can take things at your own pace. You can pretty much finish your first run in a couple of sittings (battery life not withstanding) but it pays to have fun & explore both the overworlds & all the dungeons. There is some challenge once you’ve done because you unlock the ‘Hero Mode’, which makes enemies tougher, but I haven’t gotten to it yet because ran out to get SquareEnix’s latest Bravely Default (oh, wait for the nostalgia rants that one is sure to generate) as soon as I finished A Link Between Worlds.