one more bit of fluff before i return to slightly more-serious fare. i’d found the free pokedex 3D app on 3DS to be an entertaining diversion, esp. as a complement to the pokemon black and white games, and i thought it would be interesting to try out the “pro” version not because it expands its entries to include all 649 of those little monstas, but because it includes quizzes in a variety of categories as an additional feature. along with the TV series’ “who’s that pokemon” test where you have to name a pokemon based on its silhouette, the game also includes quizzes on pretty much everything pokedex-related you could think of, including evolutions, alternate formes, heights and weights, egg groups, stats, abilities, moves, and cries. identifying cries was one of the more-difficult tasks and has led me to a renewed appreciation of the work that went into them, although being able to match moves to pokemon ended up being the one area that was just too esoteric for me and that i had to resort to looking up to pass. after getting perfect in all the regular quizzes, an additional hard mode is unlocked with additional quizzes. the quizzes were surprisingly fun and addictive, although with obvious limited appeal in terms of both audience and longevity. the app includes all the other features of the original, including AR features, search options, and pretty much all the details you could want to know about the li’l critters. like the original, this functions as a slightly more-portable and attractive reference than a complete bulbapedia wiki page (albeit with less information) and pro players prob. already have all this info memorized anyway, but as a fairly loyal pokemon fan this was a decently worthwhile purchase for me for $5 off, if just to play through the animations of my favorites, although i doubt i would’ve bought it for the full $15. still, for a minimum of a few hours’ entertainment you could do a lot worse, and legions of pokemon fans have probably already fully appreciated this app and justified its creation.
Archive for the 'game freak' Category
for my first game of 2013 i finally finished up pokemon black for DS. although the critics generally seemed to be excited about the newest edition, i’ve taken a much more skeptical view of the amount that the series evolves between releases, and so my expectations weren’t too high. although i did like the fact that they created a whole new roster of 150+ pokemon for the main part of the game, many times the differences felt fairly minor. does it really matter if the bats in the caves are swoobats rather than zubats or that instead of geodudes there are boldores? but there were enough new type combinations (such as joltik, a new bug + lightning type) that it did feel like the designers were making an effort to expand the universe.
another area that people praised was the more-serious story of a crusader trying to free all pokemon from their enslavement. maybe i just didn’t take it seriously enough, but this new type of story didn’t draw me in at all and it didn’t feel much better than the usual “team rocket wants to take over the world” storylines. another of the main new features was the 3-on-3 battles and the rotation battles. these did help shake things up a bit, but they didn’t happen that often and so didn’t force you to focus on designing your team for those types of battle. which was fine by me, since i usually just create a team and stick with it through to the end.
the graphics are better than diamond and pearl (and features a lot of nice 3-D environments that will look great when the inevitable 3DS iteration of the series arrives), particularly in the battles which feel more dynamic due to the pokemon being slightly animated. the battles themselves are noticeably faster-paced than its predecessors with minimal time between messages. one major annoyance (spoiler alert) is the fact that to win the title of pokemon champion you have to battle the elite 4 twice, once to end the first part of the game, and the other after the last 1/3 of the map has opened up. i’d actually beaten the elite 4 the first time a couple of months ago but was really disheartened at having to keep playing to really call the game finished. there’s still a lot to do, though, and the last part of the game goes by without too much tedium. there’s a sidequest to track down the six sages (although it’s somewhat of a let-down that you don’t get anything for doing so, other than TMs), and there are a lot of high-level trainers to go up against, including cynthia (the champion from diamond and pearl) herself
[geeky aside: for those interested, my final 5 consisted of conkeldurr, serperior, chandelure, vanilluxe, and garbodor. the three who had second abilities all didn't have my choice (e.g. conkeldurr had guts instead of sheer force), and oftentimes their natures didn't help much either. serperior was as solid as you'd expect a starter to be, and conkeldurr ended up being a key player with its high physical attacks and HP. garbodor and chandelure were pretty solid, although vanilluxe was fairly weak and had terrible defense.]
another annoyance was that to “see” all 154 pokemon (152 plus victini and keldeo) of the unova pokedex you have to jump through some hoops, namely: train a couple of the pokemon yourself (namely to evolve ferroseed to ferrothorn and deino to zweilous) since you never see a trainer who has them, hatch one (rufflet from breeding a braviary, who you have to get in a trade from pokemon white), and trade several others, although you can do so over wi-fi since they appear within the game (including zorua/zoroark, who was only available as an event pokemon). the most annoying part of completing your unova pokedex is that to catch the final legendary, landorus, you have to have a legendary from the other game of the pair (thundurus or tornadus). luckily i had a used copy of pokemon white that i was able to exploit, but this would be a much bigger problem for people who didn’t and didn’t want to play through the game twice. anyway, this helped me get high enough to beat alder and become the champion, so i guess i can’t complain too much that finishing seeing all the pokemon takes more effort than it did in D/P.
one other annoyance is that pokemon white has an advantage over black b/c the unique area it includes (the white forest vs. black’s city) has pokemon you can catch in it, whereas there are no wild pokemon in the black city. this seems unfair to owners of pokemon black, and i haven’t seen any advantage that black has over white that would counterbalance it.
despite my complaints, this was a perfectly fine, if not revolutionary, entry in the series. what really made the game more enjoyable, though, were the accompanying “games” that enhanced the experience. although the pokemon games have had spin-offs since the game boy color days and the pokemon global terminal website was created to complement D/P, the pokemon global link and pokedex 3D felt fresh. the former provides the same ability as the global terminal did to see trades and various useless stats such as the country that spends the most time fishing in the games, but the global link is much more integrated into the games themselves.
the global link’s dream world provides a way to catch older-generation pokemon from early on in the game with unique abilities (via generally entertaining minigames), and also moves the berry-planting and secret base features out of the games and into the website. this actually turns out to be a great design decision since you can focus your game-playing time on exploring the game world and your time away from your game with more casual activities (well, relatively speaking anyway), and plus you can send items from the dream world back to your game as well. the game developers have tied decorating your house with the number of berries you’ve harvested, and collecting all the different types of berries via trades in the dream world is a fun diversion. i’ve gotten somewhat addicted to collecting all the available pokemon dolls (as you can see in the out-of-date screenshot of my dream world house).
pokedex 3D is less “essential”, but also makes for a very nice diversion. athough the info on evolutions, movesets, and move descriptions, can all be found online, it’s great to see the pokemon in 3D instead of as sprites (previously only seen on console games such as stadium and colosseum and the cartoons), not to mention actual 3D via the 3DS’s unique glasses-free feature. the app tried to play up the trading aspect of pokemon in order to unlock more of your pokedex, but it was more of an inconvenience than an enjoyable task. the app also tried to play up its AR aspects, which i mostly ignored for the same reasons that i ignored the character and mii features of AR games. but in general this was a nice complement to the black and white games: even though it was free it would’ve been worth a few bucks at least. i don’t think i have the need to shell out $15 for the pro version, that features all the pokemon, but knowing me i’m sure i will eventually.
i seem to be saying this a lot, but all in all gen V of pokemon wasn’t revolutionary but had just enough that was new (particularly in its two complementing games) to make it worthwhile. i have zero interest in playing their “sequels” black 2 and white 2 since despite claims they still seem to be more remix than evolution, but hopefully the next generation will actually offer something truly new. hopefully!
minor evolutions in pokemon black and white links:
- bulbapedia continues to be my main resource for all thing pokemon. here’s the link to the page on black and white.
- whenever i play a new pokemon game i often end up reading about training stats and all that, but i never get into it much. but it’s kind of fun to read about effort values and EV yields.
- the comprehensive tier ranking and strategies at smogon university are also interesting to read and i’m sure could be a huge time suck if you got into it. i find that i learn something new every time i dip into it, such as about rarer pokemon like shedinja who apparently has only 1 HP. yes, i know i’m far from being a pokemon master.
- tidbits from junichi masuda’s (the director’s) twitter on the character called “N”
- review at nintendolife.com
- funny connection between munna and the very first pokemon game
- battle tips and original concept art for zoroark and tepig from officialnintendomagazine.co.uk
- entry on wikipedia
it’s only been a few months since i’d put aside pokemon pearl in disgust even though i was only at the halfway point, but i ended up getting sucked back into it and spending way too much time finishing the game recently instead of progressing through pokemon black which i’d also started. the main reason was because my nephew, who has soulsilver, really wanted to trade and battle, and i didn’t have any new critters to trade with him. so being the nice uncle i am i spent a lot more time with the game and wound up exploring features of the series that i usually don’t pay much attention to, including breeding, the safari zone, and online trades. i spent way too much time tending to my honey trees (but after days and days of regular checking twice a day with still no munchlax in sight i gave up on trying to catch one), and i actually saw all 150 of the pokemon in the regional pokedex, a first for me for the series but no doubt made easier by the game itself which requires that achievement before you can import pokemon from the GBA games. completing the regional pokedex became a mini-obsession and i definitely made good progress, although i got to a point where i had to level up too many pokemon that you can’t catch in the wild and my interest waned.
as for the other features i hadn’t previously explored in this game, i checked out the underground in order to find fossils, but as i suspected it seems otherwise completely pointless unless you’re really into building up your secret base (although the multiplayer might be worth trying). i caught all three of the legendary pokemon trio in this game, including the roaming one (also a first for me for the series). in a wi-fi trade i encountered pokerus, the pokemon virus, for the first time, although i still have yet to see my first shiny pokemon (although i saw one listed in a trade). i checked out the battle zone, the post-game pokemon stadium/colosseum-esque area, but didn’t find it to be too interesting, and although i enjoyed playing around with swarms, the poke radar, and the dual-slot mode, trying to complete the national pokedex just seems like an endeavor way beyond my level of interest.
although i came to appreciate pokemon pearl for all that it packs into one tiny cartridge, overall i still felt the same way as i had previously, which is that it, particularly the platinum version, feels like the summation of the series begun with the original pokemon red/blue but that it doesn’t add much that really feels fresh and new. pokemon black/white seems like an attempt to revitalize the series and actually strips away some features instead of adding them. my verdict is still out on that game, but so far i’ve definitely been enjoying it.
to end, as is my custom i’ll give a shout-out to my final crew. yet again it seems that steel pokemon can do no wrong, and bronzong was completely solid, even more so than the starter empoleon. roserade was pretty decent, although rapidash wasn’t a star player. even levelled up, blissey was fairly weak and useless, and it’s going to be a while before i feel motivated to use a normal-type pokemon again.
one more handheld game before i finish up the console games i’ve been chipping away at. late last year i played through pokemon ruby, and even at that time i had been skeptical that its follow-up, diamond/pearl on DS, would be able to add anything significantly new. after finishing more than half of pearl i have to say that for me at least the answer is a resounding no. as evidenced by my previous posts i consider myself to be a fairly avid pokemon fan in general, but this latest iteration is disappointing to me on so many levels. for one, although the game adds 100+ new critters, many of them are additional forms of previous pokemon and the amount of old pokemon used is just way too much. i know i can’t be the only one who’s sick of battling @#$% geodudes and zubats. and even among the new pokemon i didn’t find much to interest me (did we really need another cute electric rodent?). the visuals are little better than the graphics of the GBA games, and there aren’t any important new gameplay elements to make me feel that this was any improvement upon the previous generation. the elements that have been expanded, most of which were introduced in ruby and sapphire, are all the parts of the game that i’m the least interested in, namely, contests, secret bases, berries, and the game post-win. the one part of the game that could’ve been more worthwhile was the global trading network, but based on my cursory look at it, it seems like it’s just not worth the bother of trying to find a fair trade. the accompanying website could have been interesting, but it closed a year ago and no site has been created to take its place.
all in all, it’s only based on the strength of the core pokemon gameplay that i managed to bring myself to play half of pearl. part of the problem may be that i played three generations of pokemon games, originally released over a span of 7 years, in only a year and a half. but comparing the generation III and generation IV games side by side shows that there was a significant drop in innovation, so much so that i would have to rank this as easily my least favorite pokemon game yet. i’m wary of tackling pokemon black/white any time soon, but given that it features 150 completely new pokemon and completely new graphics i’m cautiously optimistic.
wild pokemon links approach!
- my go-to reference for the game is the fantastic bulbapedia wiki. don’t leave home without it.
- just in case anyone might find this useful, i researched the best book pokedex for the generation IV games for my nephew, and it seems that prima’s pokedex for heartgold/soulsilver is the best since it covers not only the pokemon in HG/SS and D/P but all the previous generations also
- i’m clearly in a minority, because the game generally got glowing reviews. here’s a typical review from nintendolife.com.
- entry at wikipedia
- i used ponyta this game, partly in honor of this guy, who has posted one of the most alsome pokemon-related videos ever
- and just for fun, someone put some perspective on pokemon’s abilities and the realities of pokescience
after having been stymied for so long and finally being able to complete a pokemon game earlier this year (pokemon gold), i went ahead and played through another one in the main series, pokemon ruby. one of my main motivations for finishing the game is that that game (with its companion sapphire) led to a huge number of pokemon spinoffs, more than any previous entry in the series, and i was looking forward to playing through those once i had completed the main game.
ruby immediately grabbed me with its leap forward from GB-level graphics to GBA-level, and the host of new varieties of pokemon were as fun and eye-catching as ever. the game’s premise is still the same as always, but unlike gold and silver which felt pretty much exactly the same as the originals but with a few minor additions, the number of new things to do in ruby (and sapphire) kept things interesting. most of the additions were fairly pointless, such as contests, berries, berry blending, and secret bases, but the addition of hold items and pokemon abilities and natures were more worthwhile. the abundance of trainer rematches was welcome, and i also played around with breeding more and spent more time than before trying to track down rarer pokemon.
as for the drawbacks, my complaints were mostly minor. there were so many areas in the game that the different species of pokemon were too spread out and you ended up seeing the same pokemon over and over again in the wild. the sidequests to find the legendary pokemon were too obscure (particularly the golem trio), and there was too much level grinding required for the elite 4. fishing was as tedious and HMs as annoying to manage as ever, and contests were too much a matter of luck. oh, and if anyone’s interested, the 6 shown above were my final team. aggron proved to be a solid player, despite the fact that even though it’s dual type steel and rock it can’t learn any good rock moves. i used a pure-normal type for the first time this game, a type that i still don’t quite see the point of using. bug pokemon seem to be so underpowered in general and electric types overpowered, but in any case the great pokemon designs make all the species fun to use.
all in all i had to debate whether or not i would include this in my list of “favorites of all time”. in the end though, this was such an improvement on gold and silver and given the sheer amount of content i had to go ahead and add it to the list. it’s hard for me to imagine what the folk at game freak could have added to diamond and pearl that would move the series forward, and i have to say i’m a bit skeptical that yet another entry in the series will be able to suck me in, but maybe i’ll be pleasantly surprised. in any case, i’ll be skipping over emerald, fire red, and leaf green and jumping to the DS games next.
sparkling pokemon ruby links:
- sprites above from the still-fantastic and essential bulbapedia
- serebii.net is also still as great a resource as ever
- review at 101 videogames
- while i was looking for pokemon wallpapers i came across this great compilation of all of the ruby/sapphire pokemon
- a link from last year, but now that it’s halloween season again here are some awesome pokemon pumpkins.
- interesting to read about competitions and tier lists. smogon.com is a great site for tier list info. for an explanation of tiers, see bulbapedia’s article.
- there was a lot of info i came across about pokemon online this time, one of which was what a nuzlocke is and what HSOWA means. haha.
- this rhythm heaven/pokemon crossover is frickin’ awesome.
it’s been years since i’ve played a proper pokemon game, but it certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying. i had started in on a copy of pokemon crystal a while back and got more than a third of the way through, but then the battery died. and then i started on a playthrough of pokemon silver and didn’t get too far before the battery died in that game as well. finally i ended up having to take matters into my own hands and i replaced a dead battery in a copy of pokemon gold [i don't know when i'm going to get around to posting details about how to change a game boy (or SNES) battery, but there are guides online and if anyone has any questions feel free to email me].
anyway, it was annoying to have to start from scratch and replay so much of the game again, but once i got over that fact i enjoyed the game. this installment introduced several new elements, including 100 new pokemon, the in-game cellphone, the rare appearance of shiny pokemon, the unown (that i wasted time on since it was only after numerous level ups that i realized they don’t learn any moves grrr), and berries and other hold items, not to mention full-color graphics. the new in-game clock is nice in that in adds more realism since certain events only happen on certain days and certain pokemon can only be caught during the day or at night, but as with the animal crossing games the clock gets to be somewhat annoying since during the week i only get to play at night after work and only getting to see the night aspect of the game gets old. i also didn’t find out about how to do breeding until really late in the game, so i didn’t get to explore that feature very much.
the main thing that somewhat bothers me about the games, though, and that bothers me about many RPGs in general, is that the amount of potential depth in the gameplay in building up a great moveset through breeding or using TMs is lost when the game’s level of difficulty just isn’t high enough to require them. against human opponents more-strategic planning would certainly be more necessary, but i beat the main part of the game with little effort and have no interest in maxing out a team of pokemon to level 100. another problem with this game is that despite its new gameplay elements it really just felt like a retread of the story and settings of the first game. the pokemon series is somewhat known for its tiny enhancements through each iteration, even smaller than most other nintendo series, but from what i’ve played so far of gold‘s immediate follow-up, ruby and sapphire seem to have a little more uniqueness, even beyond the improved graphics.
aside from the lack of major innovations, this was an enjoyable if fairly mindless game. the main draws of the series, namely the “gotta catch ‘em all” mechanic and the great character designs, continue to be engaging, although i’m not sure how much longer my interest will be sustained. and i still think it’s ingenious that the series makes level grinding enjoyable by giving you a purpose, i.e. to catch rare pokemon. one of these days i’ll have to sit down with one of the games and really try to catch them all. hahaha.
shiny pokemon gold links:
- sprites above from serebii.net’s great RBY/GSC pokedex
- thorough walkthrough at psypokes.com
- bulbapedia has tons of info, including a list of pokémon by catch rate
- interesting chart comparing pokemon sales in japan
- a history of pokemon feature at IGN
- with the release of pokémon heartgold and soulsilver there’s been a lot of looking back at the originals. nintendo put out some video retrospectives via the nintendo channel. not sure how scripted they are, but they’re fairly believable. here’s a link to the first one.
- and here’s a link to the iwata asks feature for pokemon HG and SS
i started playing a pokemon game somewhat recently, and that reminded me that i have a bunch of pokemon spin-offs that i haven’t played yet. one of the first spin-offs released was pokémon pinball for game boy color, which came out in japan in 1999, more than 3 years after pokemon red and green and about 6 months before pokemon gold and silver.
i found myself more engaged by this game than the actual pokemon game i was playing (more on that to come in the near future). revisiting the original 151 pokemon was fun in itself, and the character design and “gotta catch ‘em all” mechanics are as engaging as ever. what made the biggest difference, though, is that unlike my experience with galactic pinball, pokémon pinball is significantly challenging. so much so that at first i thought there was too much luck involved in getting a high score, but after i got used to the ball physics (the pinball is a pokeball and is larger and consequently a bit clunkier than in a typical pinball game) and the two boards, i was able to rack up the points pretty consistently.
unlike galactic pinball, in pokémon pinball you’ll have to really pay attention to the direction, angle, and speed the ball is moving in. the game has a surprising amount of depth due to not only its more-complex physics, but also due to its distinct modes. there are the paths you have to hit to activate “catch” and “evolve” modes, and especially tricky targets to hit to activate “map move” mode whereby you travel to different locales in order to capture the pokemon that reside there, not to mention the bonus stages.
one of the most interesting aspects about the game is the “ball saver” mechanic, which when active will allow you to continue using any ball you lose without any penalties. when the ball saver is active you can take more risks in trying to hit difficult targets, but the time is limited so you’ll have to choose what you want to focus on, whether it be evolving a rare pokemon you’ve captured or trying to activate one of the other bonuses, such as the pikachu kickbacks.
in case it wasn’t already clear from my geeky analysis, i ended up spending way too much time on this game. and i still have the stiff neck from playing hunched over my GBA to prove it. the pokemon trappings are vibrant, colorful, and really enhance the basic pinball game; the bonus stages are fun; the two stages have plenty of variety and feel quite different from each other; and although i still feel like executing a map move is harder than any other part of the game, in general the game does a great job of including goals beyond just shooting for the high score. oh, and it features a built-in rumble pack! what’s not to love?
i ended up collecting just a little more than half of the pokemon before setting pokémon pinball aside, although i liked the game so much that i considered placing it among my list of “favorites of all time”. even though it didn’t quite make the cut, i’m definitely looking forward to revisiting this one in the future. must … catch … ‘em … all … … …
abra! kadabra! alakazam! pokémon pinball links!
- official page on the japanese nintendo site
- entry at wikipedia
- entry at pokemon wiki
- craig harris’s review at IGN in which he mentions that the game is built on the kirby’s pinball land engine, which i haven’t played yet. harris preferred that game, but the reviewer at nintendojo.com preferred this one.
- FAQ at gamefaqs detailing the locations of the various pokemon
i’ve gotten a bit behind on posting comments on a couple of the games i’ve finished. one is drill dozer, one of the last games for the GBA, brought to you by the good folk at game freak who were also the masterminds behind all those crazy pokemon games. i’d gotten interested in the game even before its main character made an appearance in brawl as an assist trophy from hearing good things in various places about it being a somewhat new spin on the platformer genre. this post at pressthebuttons.com has a good overview of what the game’s about and is a good example of what seems to be the general opinion, namely that the game’s novel game mechanics and lively characters and graphics keep the game entertaining.
as for my take, i def. enjoyed the game (and the built-in rumble pack!), but all together it’s kind of a strange little package. to explain: first off, the main game isn’t too long or very difficult. and although i started to get a bit weary of the incessant drilling the game element that really kept me engaged was the number of boss and sub-boss battles, a noteworthy amount and for the most part all nicely designed. but, as with luigi’s mansion and his trusty vacuum cleaner, by the end of drill dozer’s main game i felt like the whole drill mechanic had been completely exhausted, and i was ready for the game to be over. (of course i’d be fascinated to see what a sequel of either game would look like, although i don’t suppose either is a very likely possibility.)
but then, post win, the game really started to shine, in a significant way that most reviews (e.g. ign’s) don’t even hint at. i didn’t delve too deeply due to the drilling fatigue i had developed, but each level of the main game has hidden treasures that you can only look for after you beat the game, and you’ll prob. have to visit each one multiple times to find all of them as some are hidden rather deviously. even better are the extra levels you can acquire that take the game to a whole new level, with some sections that are, if you’ll pardon the expression, balls-to-the-wall hard. we’re talking old-school-NES-style hard. in the average platformer a “hard” area may require you to master a complicated series of 5 or 6 button presses, but in some of these extra maps you’ll have to perfectly time some 15 moves with only a bottomless pit below you to break your fall. in what i’ve played through so far the extra maps also require much more thought, and the process of studying your arsenal and exploring your options approaches almost metroid-like levels. if the whole game had been like this second half is turning out to be this would have easily been a game for the ages. as it is, my final verdict will have to wait until i finish playing through all the extra maps and finding all the treasures. but i’m going to have to shelve the game for now b/c, dammit, there’s only so much drilling a man can take!
one link is all you’ll need!
- great walkthrough at IGN