A Little Perspective From Tom Church

Posts tagged ‘games’

A Pokemon Post

Only a few days ago, Pokemon X and Y version were released in America. And even under all of the college schoolwork and studying, even while I sleep and exercise and eat and try keeping up with my TV shows (which are all back in season), I still haven’t been able to escape the ripples it’s made in the gaming community. If I think too long about how I don’t have X or Y, I get a little anxious.

I’m curious as hell, and I’ve decided to look more into it recently; I’ll detail my finds in this post, and hopefully inform some of you guys on why this is so exciting for me. I started by watching “Pokemon: The Origin” which was a miniseries aired on Tokyo TV on October 2nd. It was a back-to-back broadcast of four episodes of never-before-seen Pokemon adventures. Except this time it wasn’t Ash and Pikachu, it was Red and Charmander.

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For those of you familiar with the Pokemon TV show that played in the 90s (and apparently the 2000s but I didn’t keep up with it), you’ll know about Ash, Pikachu, Misty, and Brock. And as cool as they were, “Pokemon: The Origin” instead chooses to focus the story on the exact events of the very first video games ever released in the Pokemon series: Red and Blue Version. Therefore, the characters are Red (the main character, the Ash equivalent), and Green (his rival, the Gary equivalent). Ash chooses Charmander, and Green chooses Squirtle.

This series was released to commemorate the beginnings of the Pokemon video game franchise and was aired only in Japan, and therefore you’ll only find it online with subtitles. However, it was absolutely worth the watch, and made me nostalgic as hell. Its notable aspects include a detailed account of the Cubone story in which its mother died and became a ghost; a look into snippets of Giovanni’s past; and even a surprise ending to the series tying it into the new X and Y series developments, a surprise which I will not spoil for any of you readers.

Okay, so getting back to X and Y: what makes them special? I’m sure that’s what everyone’s asking, and it’s certainly what I’ve been wondering. Trust me, I’ve passed up recent Pokemon DS installments without much of a second thought: Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum Versions all looked strange to me, and I did not ever bother completing them. I never purchased my own copy of any. I bought Heartgold Version and thoroughly enjoyed it, but have not played it much since beating it. And I did not play any of Pokemon Black, White, or Black 2 / White 2. I’ve tried articulating my reasoning before, but haven’t been successful; mostly, I just thought they were slower-paced, had strange Pokemon I was not willing to take to heart, and were not familiar to me.

Pokemon X and Y developers have spent a lot of time and money trying to induce nostalgia and draw its old audience back in with the new. “Pokemon: The Origin” brought everyone back to the 90s, when they’d first started playing Pokemon. In X and Y, it was revealed before the game was even released that the player would receive a new starter Pokemon, and then shortly after, have a choice of Squirtle, Bulbusaur, or Charmander as a “second starter” option. I see it as a direct appeal to people who’ve been playing for a long time, and honestly that’s pretty badass.

(quick sidenote: if you need to get caught up or have your memory jogged on how to actually play the games, I’ve done my best to describe the gameplay involved in Pokemon here, and subsequently here)

All the Pokemon hype has had me playing Platinum religiously. I’ve got a copy now and I’m trying like hell to create a balanced team of Pokemon I’ve never used before, and to beat the game so I can move on to White version. Once I’ve caught up, maybe I’ll be in a position to play X and Y. That’s a bit aside from the point I’m trying to make.

Here’s what makes X and Y special:

1) X and Y have received the highest Metacritic score for any handheld Pokemon game in recent years. Metacritic has kept tabs on the handheld Pokemon game franchise since 2003, or since the release of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire Versions; they both scored an overall critique of 82. Since then, the highest score given to a handheld Pokemon game has been an 87, which was given to Heartgold and Soulsilver; Pokemon X and Y officially received an 88 and an 89, respectively, with user scores slightly higher, making them the best-critiqued handheld Pokemon games to date, according to Metacritic. Gamespot’s user reviews are funneling in, and Y’s average score of 8.8 is lagging behind X’s, which has so far teetered at 9.3.

2) In the past, Pokemon games have differed mostly cosmetically. After the new types (dark and steel) were introduced in Generation II of Pokemon (Gold, Silver, Crystal), there haven’t been many additions to the Pokemon formula. Berries can be grown, the Vs. Seeker allows trainer rematches, the bicycle has two gears instead of one, etc. Ultimately, aside from the addition of one hundred plus Pokemon every generation, the games aren’t too different all the time, if you think about it. They’re still fun, but they tend to bank on success with minimal addition.

X and Y are the most major upset to this trend I think I’ve seen so far. First off, there’s the fact that this game truly belongs on the 3DS because it allows free, 3D overworld movement. You don’t walk on a 2D grid anymore, you can move in any direction the joystick can command. You get roller skates as well, a small and rather basic change, but with some neat uses. This is the first Generation to introduce a new Pokemon type since Generation II: the Fairy type is now in play, some of its more notable members being Mawile, Sylveon (new Eevee evolution), and lots of those “pink” dudes we think are cute. Fairy is super-effective against Dragon. Think about that.

The option to receive a second starter (Squirtle, Bulbusaur, Charmander) eliminates some of that ever-present fear that your rival will kick your ass. The 3D battle animations are much more enthralling and thrilling. The new Pokemon are abundant and presumably fun to raise. And there is an entirely new territory to explore, the Kalos region, which I don’t know much about and don’t want to until I experience it for myself.

A last paragraph about some other innovative features introduce for X and Y: there’s Pokemon Amie, which is a function of the game allowing you to play with, pet, and feed your Pokemon in order to get more accustomed to them. The benefits range from increased experience in battle to a better chance they’ll survive a normally-lethal hit. Also, the Pokemon Bank is a paid service (price not yet revealed) that allows you to maintain virtual boxes full of Pokemon. It allows for the transfer of Pokemon from previous games to the boxes via Wi-Fi, so that the awesome teams you end up getting at the ends of playthroughs are more tangible and not so forgettable. The Internet compatibility of Pokemon games seems to only be expanding nowadays, and some people argue that this is “as close as Pokemon will ever be to a massively multiplayer online game.”

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3) These last two additions are significant enough to mention on their own. The first of which, Super Training, is a new way to level up Pokemon statistics. This seems like more of a competitive-edge type function, for people who tend to level-grind their Pokemon to battle gym leaders or friends. Personally, I appreciate that the option is there, because there were definitely games in the past where your only training options became wild Pokemon or the Elite Four. This function allows you to basically take on the role of a personal exercise trainer, and raise your team’s stats individually (not their levels). It functions like Protein, Iron, and the rest of the Pokemon “vitamin” items that were utilized in the past.

The other new thing is Mega Evolution. This means that many Pokemon in their final form will be able to surpass their final stage of evolution temporarily to look badass and deal some major damage. Mega Charizard, Mega Alakazam, Mega Gengar, and others have been officially released. This adds a brand new battling dynamic and aesthetic to the game. Pretty damn cool. Not only that, but their forms differ between versions X and Y. That means that stats and appearance are completely divergent depending on what game you got.

List of Mega Evolutions documented thus far

So there you have it. That’s about a complete a list of things I can tell you guys without spoiling the hell out of the best parts of the game. I’m sure fans of the series will love it, and from what I’ve heard, even newcomers will find it fun and welcoming (and perhaps a little overwhelming). Happy playing!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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Top Ten Creepypasta Stories

You know what passes the time? Creepypasta. You know what keeps you awake? Creepypasta. You know what keeps you alert? Creepypasta.

Sometimes I find myself in particular situations where I need to pass the time, stay awake, and remain alert all at the same time. I won’t offer an example situation, but I’m sure you can think of some yourself. In those times, I browse Creepypasta, a site/wiki devoted to amassing a wide variety of scary stories/freaky urban legends.

Well, more specifically, I browse “top ten” lists of Creepypasta, rather than surfing through random Creepypasta articles–you’ll find there is a great difference in quality between “random” ones and highly renowned ones. Sure, there’s still the occasional overrated dud… but for the most part, I am satisfied. They’re like…. Skittles. Or, gummy bears. Or something edible.

In the sense that, you consume a few, and some flavors taste better than others to you, but it’s still a matter of opinion… and you can put the food down anytime you want, but you don’t because they’re really good and you’re happy you bought them.

Anyway. Gosh, I actually feel nauseous after making such a miserable analogy. I hope you were able to gain some sort of insight on Creepypasta–any insight at all–from that blasted excuse for an analogy.

Without further ado, here are the top ten best Creepypasta stories I’ve ever read.

Disclaimer(s): these aren’t the scariest Creepypasta, per se; they are the best. Meaning I enjoyed them the most for reason(s) I will make clear, without spoiling the best aspects of the story for you guys. Also I might cheat a little–some of these stories have been taken from the “nosleep” section of reddit, or from independent blogs!

Sidenote: All titles are links to the actual stories, just click them to be taken to the page!

 

 

10) Pokemon Yellow: sickedition

This pasta was originally circulated in the form of a concept, rather than an officially storyfied article. So the best way to read it is in the form of its original blog “comment” on this website. It’s rather long, and it’s a bit of a wall of text, and it’s even grammatically incorrect in several ways and has many spelling errors… but in spite of that, it makes the list, beating out tons of other stories I’ve read. It’s a really fantastic idea, it really is… and playing it would be such a chilling and interesting experience. I wish that there were more officially published games in circulation that simulated the experience described here. Definitely recommend this one.

9)  Pokemon Black Version

Alright, this is another Pokemon cartridge hack idea, but properly “storyfied” and equally, if not moreso, interesting and chilling than sickedition Yellow. I’m getting these two Pokemon hack stories outta the way for you guys so I can start loading you up with truly creepy ones; but these two stories are simply too smart to pass up, and are my personal favorites of any of the “creepy video game” subgenre of Creepypasta. Yes, I’ve read Suicidemouse.avi and BEN Drowned and all that… wasn’t thoroughly impressed. I’ve also read a lot of the “lost episode” stories–Dead Bart, Squidward’s Suicide, the Full House one, etc… they were a little freaky, but not too clever and mostly just playing on shock factor. The stories I tend to enjoy have rad twists, so expect some of those…

8) 1999

This pasta is a really interesting, kind of morbidly realistic one… like, I guess it could potentially happen, and like all good Creepypastas it’s grounded in truth. The premise, though, is more real and more believable than most. It’s sickening, thrilling, and it builds really, really well. It appears unfinished, which is part of the reason I ranked it eighth, but honestly it’s still really good, and deserves a spot on the list.

7) The Gallery of Henri Beauchamp

It’s rare that you find a story so brilliant, so strangely absorbing and interesting. This story is written in the typically lame style of ritual: do this, and then this, and then this, and you will receive this. Like the Bloody Mary story where you turn the lights off and stuff. But! This one takes the cake for the best ritualpasta I’ve ever read, and frankly that I ever expect to read. It was phenomenal. It was somehow classy, freaky, and awe-inspiring all at the same time. Read it pronto.

6) The Russian Sleep Experiment

Here’s another super-immersive, historical fiction pasta that really sucks you in. The experiment is one of the more interesting concepts I’ve ever seen a pasta deal with, and the outcome is gruesome. While it relies a little bit on gore to instill fear–a weak writing tactic, in my opinion–it’s still effective, and will not let you down.

5) The Strangest Security Tape I’ve Ever Seen

This pasta can only be described as smart. It’s just so well-plotted, as if the entire time the writer were just waiting to hit you with their jaw-dropping twist… but they save it. They save it for just the right moment. The story is perfectly paced, and while not the scariest, it’s certainly one of the most entertaining nonetheless.

4) Kagome Kagome

This story is brilliant. It’s another pasta told from a scientific and documentative standpoint (like its counterpart, The Russian Sleep Experiment), but I feel that it pulls it off even better. The concept, while a little bit more far-fetched, is even more enthralling, and the way in which the story tends to creep you out as you read is notable. It was as if, as I read, I tended to become very scared with the most minor of details… as if just the ideas presented were enough to set me on edge, and then when the story actually tried to scare me–that’s when it got really freaky. The ending was a very satisfying thing, for multiple reasons.

3) The Smiling Man

This story is widely regarded as being real (scary in itself once you read), but boy, is it freaky. It’s short, and definitely a must-read for any thrill-seeker. It is found on reddit in the “nosleep” section, and with good reason…

2) NoEnd House

Here is a blogpost pasta that I was referred to via a scary story forum… it didn’t disappoint in the least. It was fantastic, I had Erin read it recently, and she loved it (for the record, her favorites have been this one and The Strangest Security Tape I’ve Ever Seen). It’s both scary, and smart–what more could you ask for? Well, you could also ask for a twist ending… multiple sources of fright that escalate as the story progresses… an almost lucid style of narration… yeah, this story has all that. Enjoy.

1) The Basement

This is, hands down, the scariest story I’ve ever read. Dammit, it hurts just to think about. I even saw the scary part coming, and that still didn’t help… it was the scariest damn thing I’ve ever read, and that means it didn’t need a twist ending… all it needed was a good narrator, good grammar, good pacing and I was immersed. It freaked me the hell out, and my definition of fear has been forever revised.

I hope you enjoyed, please comment with your own favorites!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

The Top 10 GBA Games I’ve Ever Played

Hey all! It’s been ages since we’ve last written and the universe hasn’t imploded, so we’re all okay. Lately I’ve had another hobby shift. I go through these often, Erin can tell you all about it. In any case, ever since the Summer began I’ve been playing games. I’ve been working too, certainly, but in my off time I play games. Old games and new ones, on any console I manage to dig up.

I have a DS and a wide variety of old Gameboy Advance games at my disposal. I’ve found a lot of old favorites that I’m super relieved not to have sold like an idiot when I was twelve. And playing these things has only jogged my memory and made me remember which games were the best, and which ones were clearly the worst. Right now, I’m gonna go ahead and list the absolute best ones I’ve played–and that means played in their entirety, not a halfass thirty minute hit-and-quit. I mean I spent lots of my precious time kicking these games’ ass. I’ll save the best for last.

10) HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN 

A lot of knowledgeable gamers tend to avoid video games based off of movies. Before I myself developed this (unfair) movie-to-game prejudice, I liked this game. A lot. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but I was essentially playing Final Fantasy, but with Harry Potter protagonists, items, etc. Another FF-clone game I had was Eragon, but it was nowhere near as good as Prisoner of Azkaban was.

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Playing through this game the first time was challenging, almost overly so for a preteen boy. But strangely, playing through a second time allowed you to stay the same level you were when you last completed the game. The first time I beat the game, I was something like level 20, and the Whomping Willow was the hardest sonofamother in the whole game. After beating the game five times, I was level 70-something and the tree was my bitch.

9) POKEMON FIRE RED / LEAF GREEN

These games were great for many reasons. Opinions differ on Pokemon games these days, and that’s okay. But I enjoyed the Kanto region of Pokemon much more than I did the Hoenn. Pokemon Leaf Green (my own personal cartridge) offered the Vs. Seeker, which solved the stupid problem of not being able to rebattle trainers whenever I damn well pleased. As a result, the game was easier and lighthearted. I felt that the only way for me to beat Hoenn games was to choose Torchic and power raise him to level 70, leaving no experience for the other Pokemon in my party (they were all HM slaves).

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Pokemon was our favorite RPG before we knew what the acronym stood for. These games got tiresome after a while, but I will say that I’d never anticipated a handheld game so much as I did with Pokemon. While they’ve lost a lot of their magic (old and new games alike, to me), I’m still overcome with weird, tingly senses of nerdy nostalgia just thinking about these games.

8) ADVANCE WARS 2: BLACK HOLE RISING

Here’s a bit of a disclaimer to start us off: I’ve never beaten Advance Wars 2. But in terms of gameplay hours spent chipping away at this stubborn game’s story mode? It’s on par with some Pokemon games. Oh my jeezors, is this a tough game. Lots of Internet fans like to announce that this game’s easy, and that it’s their favorite and they’ve beaten it loads of times. Well it’s not. It’s tough, buddy. So shaddup.

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From the get-go, you just kinda know this game is gonna take all of your smarts. Like, all of it. Because the tutorial levels themselves are a little bit rough around the edges. There are ways to screw the tutorials up, and they’re not at all obvious. Once you get into the main game, though, no one’s helping you anymore. The strategy is not predetermined; it’s up to you to create and assign your units, and if you do it wrong, you suck and you die. It’s a killer turn-based-strategy game that makes eight-year-olds cry. Regardless of its difficulty, it is still a very impressive game and deserves its place on this list. It is one of the few brilliant games that brought me into the world of thoughtful, decision-based gaming.

7) POKEMON MYSTERY DUNGEON: RED RESCUE TEAM

This game was as unique a Pokemon game as ever. It was released alongside Blue Rescue Team, which was for the DS. Because all I had was a GBA, I bought Red Rescue Team, curious to see what kinds of weird changes in gameplay I’d see. In all honesty, there were some things I like more about this game than all of the other Pokemon “version” games. Rescue Team, Conquest, Gale of Darkness, Colosseum, Ranger — all of these are Pokemon titles that have experimented in other facilities than same-old, battle-to-battle gameplay. And in my opinion, Red Rescue Team did a very good job in its own right.

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This game was a new take on Pokemon, with an entirely new formula. It incorporated side quests, dungeon crawling, unique bosses, and limited Pokemon access until much later in the game. I enjoyed being a Pokemon (the story goes that you are an amnesiac human in the body of a Pokemon… hmm…), and having a partner who helped balance out your battling dynamic was definitely a good choice on the developers’ part. It was a great game with great franchise potential, but I don’t think we’ll be hearing any more from it. Recent Mystery Dungeon titles on the DS have scored very poor ratings with critics, the main problem being that people tend to label it a shameless copy of ChunSoft’s “Mystery Dungeon” series, just with Pokemon. While that may be true, the gameplay didn’t hurt a bit.

6) KIRBY’S NIGHTMARE IN DREAMLAND

The Kirby series gets an absurd amount of praise, and I’m not complaining. People seem to like the fact that Kirby, who can copy other monsters’ abilities by swallowing and digesting them, can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants. You can beat a level by swallowing a sword guy and slashing dudes to death; you can finish a level by breathing fire on dudes; you can finish a level by jumping repeatedly, floating up by the ceiling over all the enemies’ heads, straight to the door that exits the level without ever killing anybody. No one effs with Kirby.

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Kirby is a lovable-as-hell, one-of-a-kind platformer that is chock full of bosses, fun powerups, and creativity. The music was great, the combat was great, and the story was… interesting. Might I mention that the myriad of bosses you fight are typically easy as shit, while the final boss is unbearably difficult? It’s like playing Pong, and then suddenly getting dumped into a Mega Man boss fight. Wow!

5) DRAGON BALL Z: THE LEGACY OF GOKU II

This game improved upon many of the obvious flaws in the first Legacy of Goku. And to be honest, the first game was still pretty cool. But it needed work. The second game was awesome. In the first game, you could only play as Goku. The second game gave you five characters, four of which eventually became Super Saiyan badasses that destroyed evil ass. Saving was made much easier; the clunky item system was revised by pretty much removing it entirely; the storyline was better (the first followed Freeza’s story roughly, the second covered Cell); and a great level system was implemented which let you polish the characters you liked best.

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The ass-kickery was noteworthy and the casualties (theirs, not yours) were many. This game was good enough to draw you into the series; I learned much of what I know about Dragon Ball from playing this game.

4) MEGA MAN & BASS

Here’s another one of those “I ain’t beat that shit yet” games. The key word is “yet,” because I still play it… but honestly the phrase that comes to mind when considering Mega Man & Bass is “I ain’t gonna beat that shit ever.” This game is hard. The first tier of bosses is hard. No matter how many damn lives you have, this game is hard.

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But if this game gets any awards from me, it gets the “Most Time Spent Playing in Vain” game award. I played this game to death, and even though I rarely ever beat the levels I was stuck on, it was still somehow fun and fulfilling. Nowadays, I spend my time on Youtube watching “Mega Man ‘Perfect’ Runs” — people beating whole levels of Mega Man & Bass without taking any damage at all. And here I am, getting my ass handed to me. Son of a–

3) SUPER MARIO ADVANCE 4: SUPER MARIO BROS. 3

Super Mario Advance is a line of GBA games that are basically old games that are put into GBA cartridges and sold all over again. If any old Mario game deserved to be resold, that’d be Super Mario Bros. 3.

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This game starts out fun as hell, and then becomes frustrating as hell. But all the while, I think, I enjoyed it. The reason is because when I die, I know it’s my fault. The physics of this game are pretty much flawless. They’re like set-in-stone laws that dictate your exact movements, especially so later in the game. Timing gets to be very crucial, unless of course you wear Tanuki suits all the time in which case you can do whatever the hell you please. You’re a freaking Tanuki. This game is one of my favorites.

2) FIRE EMBLEM: THE SACRED STONES

Somewhere, at this very moment, someone is holding a GBA, playing this game for the very first time. “Holy shit!” they exclaim. “What a compelling story!” That assertion is correct. Fire Emblem is the mafia mob boss of compelling stories. Interesting and commonly known fact: Advance Wars and Fire Emblem are developed by the same group, Intelligent Systems. There are similarities between the two: both are turn-based strategy games. Both typically portray their protagonists in anime-style. Both game series deal with battles between good and evil.

The similarities pretty much end there. While Advance Wars is the more strategic of the two, Fire Emblem retains a lesser level of difficulty that is offset by its myriad of characters, always-interesting plotline, and crucial tweaks in gameplay mechanics. In Advance Wars, you gain resources which you use to churn out new military units. In Fire Emblem, each unit is special. You can’t create them, they just join forces with you; if they die, they’re gone forever. There’s no replacing them.

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Of the two Fire Emblems to ever come out in the US for GBA, I like Sacred Stones the best. The reasons are as follows: because it’s a bit easier (no shame); because I like the characters better; because of the system of characters choosing their classes. As an example for the latter, Amelia the Trainee can choose to become a cavalier or a knight. Your choice in the matter is both pleasing and strategically advantageous. It’s a damn near flawless game.

1) THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE MINISH CAP

It’s a wonder that more people don’t stop to appreciate this game. The fact that Capcom, the developer of Mega Man, was the first team to step in and make a brand new GBA Zelda game–and make it correctly–baffles me. But the music was brilliant, the playing was familiar, the bosses were awesome, the items were both old and familiar / new and innovative… I mean seriously! How in the hell did people forget this so quickly?

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Nintendo rarely ever lets third-party developers goof around with their golden adventure series, and when they have, it’s usually ended in disaster (like that weird-as-shit Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon CD-i game that Nintendo is trying to forget about). But Capcom did so, so well. The story itself was new and innovative–none of that Ganon shit, in Minish Cap there’s Vaati, a wizard jerk who sucks. It was the first handheld Zelda game that actually made me feel compelled to advance in the story because I wanted to know what happened.

And the overhead gameplay? Finally done correctly. It felt awesome. It almost makes me feel like the original game–The Legend of Zelda–deserves an updated, HD remake with better storytelling and graphics and all that snazzy stuff.

Almost.

RESPONSES

Thanks so much for reading my opinions. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you own a GBA, or you’ve owned one before. Here’s a little secret: I have in no way, shape, or form played all of the games available for GBA. If you believe that there are games that easily outrank some of the ones on my list, please list them in the comments and I’ll be happy to try playing them. I may have even played them a little before, but I haven’t beaten them or gotten the full experience!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Pokemon Gameplay Continued

It’s been a while since I’ve picked this up, but I really have been thinking about what to include in this post, as well as what key things are needed to help explain this. The whole Pokemon battling and training thing is actually super, super complicated. I used to think it wasn’t, but after playing through Leaf Green once and having a super awesome Pidgeot who was by far the best Pokemon on my team, and then playing through again and having a Pidgeot that sucked complete and total ass… There’s more to Pokemon than just the name of the Pokemon. There are so many small factors that apply, it’s literally crazy.

I’ll start with the beginning of the game. You name your character, and in most your decide what gender you’d like… then you go through the process of getting your first Pokemon. You always have a choice between three starters (except in Yellow where you get a Pikachu), and those three starters are always grass, fire, and water type. The way I generally view the starters is as follows: grass is weakest (but can always pay off); water is most useful in terms of HM moves that help you navigate and do overworld stuff; fire is most powerful and makes up for its vulnerabilities. All three are always good choices, that’s just my opinion.

You battle your rival repeatedly. He (or she) always gets the opposite of your starter. If you get grass, they get fire, et alii. It’s annoying as hell to battle them unless you pick up a dude who beats their starter. For example, if you make them get grass by choosing water, kill their grass dude with a flying type or something. Not too hard.

Battling gyms is fun, assuming again that you’ve raised the dudes to combat their type. Raising dudes is very tedious and time-consuming, but pretty well worth it usually. Here’s where all the complications come in though: while each Pokemon has many similarities to other Pokemon of the same species, each Pokemon also has MANY differences.

Take a Pidgey as an example. Let’s look at all Pidgeys’ similarities to each other. All Pidgeys learn moves at the same level (Sand Attack lvl. 5; Gust lvl. 9; etc.). All Pidgeys evolve at level 18 (at least in Gen. III). All Pidgeys are the same color and all. All Pidgeys have the same description in the Pokedex, and on, and on. These are all general principles that every Pidgey you find will follow.

But not all Pidgeys have the same nature: there are 25 natures total, one of which your Pokemon can have. Each nature affects the development of two of your Pokemon’s statistics. If my Pidgey were to have a “lonely” nature, it would have a 10% increase in its attack stat, whereas its defense would be lowered by 10%. This is a universal rule: while one stat gets a 10% increase, another gets a 10% decrease.

There are six stats in Pokemon: Attack and Special Attack, Defense and Special Defense, HP, and Speed.

That’s just the beginning. What matters next is the Pokemon you battle. Each Pokemon you defeat in battle gives you one or two EVs, which stands for Effort Values. If you get ten, it equals a single stat boost depending on what EVs you’ve gotten.

I know for a fact that Tangelas give you Defense EVs, for whatever reason. If you were to ruthlessly slaughter ten Tangelas,  you would see (or perhaps you wouldn’t… it’s really pretty hard to tell) a Def +1 somewhere down the road with your aforementioned Pidgey. The thing is, even if you’re leveling up your Pidgey without killing anything, it’s still gaining stats. Just not nearly as much as if you’re killing wild dudes all the time.

The reason it’s still gaining stats is because all Pokemon have a “base stat” value. If you get a Pidgey to level 100 without killing any Pokemon with it (via rare candy, say, or some other cheating way), it would have to see a minimum of 40 HP, 45 Attack, 40 Defense, etc. So some stats need to be raised at least a little, regardless of whether or not you’ve actually killed Pokemon to achieve them.

So, you might ask: “Should I go around killing Tangelas only so as to raise my Defense stat?” No. Actually, I don’t recommend this at all. There are some people who try EV training like that in an attempt to either (a) balance out stats that are severely lacking, or (b) try to maximize a certain stat which is already proficient. It’s time-consuming, boring, and it takes forever to yield any solid results. Chances are, the end product will be a flawed piece of crap.

“What about natures? You said there’s a 10% decrease for certain stats, and a 10% increase for others. Does that mean every 10 EVs I earn, one is subtracted depending on the stat? And one is added to the stat that sees a 10% increase?” No, it doesn’t really work like that either… it’s more like this. The base stats I was talking about earlier are changed. So that Pidgey with the Lonely nature, instead of having a base attack of 45 Attack and 40 Defense, would instead have to have, minimally, 49 Attack and 36 Defense. Because its attack and defense are raised and lowered, respectively, by 10%.

That’s some pretty in-depth shit, innit?

The fact is, I never pay attention to it. All I do is catch dudes and raise them. I keep those things in mind, but it’s not like I act on them. I don’t go around killing Tangelas just ’cause I know my Pidgey will end up having a sick Defense stat. In fact, I don’t really even pay attention to natures at all either. It’s too difficult to find the right-natured Pidgey. If it sucks, it sucks. Too bad. There’s always a weakest link on your Poketeam, bro.

Hope that cleared some shit up.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Pokemon Game Franchise In A Nutshell

I’m guessing those of you who enjoy a good playthrough of the handheld Pokemon games are looking forward to the release of Pokemon and Y. I suppose I sort of am, but I’ve really largely left off on recent Pokemon games since Heart Gold and Soul Silver came out in 2009 (I’ll start explaining some of this nonsense to those who are looking for the ‘nutshell’ part of this article shortly). The new starters and legendaries have been released in the form of concept art, and the game has been announced as a 3DS-exclusive game. This really detracts from my situation because as it is, I waited to buy a DS until I found one at a garage sale for $5 and I really don’t think I’ll invest upwards of $150 to buy a whole new system.

Let’s start talking about Pokemon now.

A lot of this will come as old news to you guys, but I hope I’m keeping it fresh and I also hope that most of you appreciate this recap like I do. The Pokemon franchise is my generation’s livelihood. I could talk or hear about this stuff for centuries. I guarantee that in my old age I’ll be submitting quietly to intense dementia and whispering these tales to myself: how Pokemon started and how it ended, or perhaps how it never did.

Pokemon began with a manga series, as well as an anime television show, about Ash Ketchum/Red, who lived in a sort of Asian alternate universe where Pokemon replaced animals. Pokemon is an English-shortened version of what translates from Japanese as “Pocket Monsters,” due to the fact that these Pokemon could be captured in Poke balls and kept on a belt. That’s pretty much common knowledge.

Ash trains and uses these Pokemon to fight, which is radical. It sounds a little scary, but the Pokemon never actually die. They just faint. There’s no blood and when they pass out there are little ‘X’s over their eyes, and their tongues hang out and all. It’s a kids’ show.

The games and the trading cards followed the series. The games were a huge success. The Gameboy and Gameboy Color had only recently come out as the first handheld video game systems ever, and so when Pokemon Red and Blue version came out in both Japan and America around year 1998, there was a huge consumer influx. They basically became the best games you could ever imagine buying. Yellow followed Red and Blue; it was basically the same game except for certain changes, namely your starter being a Pikachu (Ash’s anime Pokemon), as well as your Pikachu walking behind your character for the entirety of the game.

Pokemon Gold and Silver were released in America in 2000. They were also huge hits because they’d introduced an entirely new ‘generation’ of Pokemon. The first generation had 151, and the second added another 100 making it 251. Also, the region changed from Kanto to Johto. The way the Pokemon were introduced was through regional changing, which still applies today; whenever new Pokemon are to be introduced en masse, a new character and region are created allowing the player to probe all the new stuff. It’s genius and awesome.

If you’re new to all this and you’re still following me, I commend you. So at that point there were two generations. The first consisted of Red, Blue, and Yellow versions. All three were based in Kanto. The second generation was based in Johto and consisted of Gold, Silver, and then Crystal, which was released as a overarching-type game as yellow was. It was very similar to Gold and Silver, however this was the first game in which the player could choose to be a girl. I’m sure this secured a much wider audience.

Generation III was released in 2003 on a new platform: the Gameboy Advance. This platform was superior because it had backlights. Up until that point you had to play with a screen that was super, super dim and it was awful. The Gameboy Advance could play both Gameboy Color games (Generations I and II of Pokemon) and also the newer Gameboy Advance (GBA) games: Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. These games were based in the Hoenn region and brought the total Pokemon count to 386 (with 135 new ones). Later, Emerald was released as a third Hoenn game in 2005. By that time a new platform had been released, the Gameboy Advance SP. It was basically the same thing but, for the first time, people could charge their Gameboy instead of having to buy batteries for it.

Also to be noted were the games Leaf Green and Fire Red which were released in 2004. These games were basically remakes of the original Red and Blue versions, but added many new and awesome features and updated the Pokemon. These are actually considered Generation III games, as they are remakes with huge differences from the originals. These two and Gold and Silver were my personal favorites.

We’re up to three generations, eleven games, and three platforms. Damn.

The Nintendo DS came out in 2005 as well, but it took two years for the release of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, which were the first Pokemon games for the new platform. They were based in the Sinnoh region, and added 107 new Pokemon, bringing the games up to 493. A third game, Platinum, was released in 2009. These three games are considered Generation IV.

Also in 2009 came another remake couple: Heart Gold and Soul Silver for the DS remade the original Gold and Silver and were welcomed gladly, because for many people this was their all-time favorite generation, updated and made new again.

Pokemon Black and White were released in 2010, and were then followed by Black 2 and White 2 in 2012. I have no clue when it comes to these games. In all honesty I have not played any Generation V games, nor Pearl, nor Diamond. I’ve heard very good things and very bad things.

And lastly, we have X and Y, which are the whispers of Generation VI.

I hope this helped and/or was interesting. Next time, I’ll talk about why it’s fun, and why people have been playing it without exhausting it for like, a decade and a half.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Beowulf And Skyrim Parallels

A lot of people play The Elder Scrolls now that Skyrim’s been released. It is a fantastic series, probably best described as the Lord Of The Rings of video games because of its depth and intrinsic lore. It has such an original and compelling fantasy basis that even Call of Duty and other FPS dorks choose to play it sometimes, and that’s saying something. In a sense, playing these games is like reading a book, without actually reading it.

And that feeling comes partially from the fact that these games emulate popular and classical fiction. It’s true that these kinds of things are referenced often; The Hobbit by Tolkien has the same premise as Beowulf because both lead up to the slaying of a dragon. In the 70’s and 80’s, metal bands thought it was totally hardcore to reference dark literature like The Necronomicon and other Lovecraftian creations because it meant that… well, I don’t even think they really know what it meant. Honestly I don’t like bands like that.

But The Elder Scrolls series is relevant to a broader population, arguably, because it’s not every guy these days that likes hardcore death-post sex technotica metalblast dreamvibe sassafras massacre hellscream valkyrie music. But there are a lot of gamers who play Skyrim.

Just google “Elder Scrolls References” and see what you find, honestly. There are millions. They’re often denoted as “easter eggs” and are arranged in order of which book or legend they’re referencing. There are references to LOTR, King Arthur, the Headless Horseman, etc.

But I recently read Beowulf because I found it at a book store for one dollar. I was very thoroughly astounded at how many references I found without even really trying very hard. Skyrim is chock full of them. In fact, it’s safe to say that the entire virtual realm of Skyrim is based off Scandinavia. I’ll remind you that there is a Nordic race in the game, which is basically human, but with special perks and abilities. They are not necessarily better than any of the other eight races, but they have a 50% resistance to frost and cold, and also a battle-cry that makes enemies flee for thirty seconds. It’s kind of fitting, honestly.

As I read and annotated Beowulf, I noted the use of titles: earls, mainly, and thanes as well. Earls are the English translation of the Scandinavian term jarl, which is used extensively in Skyrim. Thane is a term to describe someone of moderate nobility, in between the class of normal citizen and distinguished jarl. You become thane of several cities if you play the game properly and thoroughly.

Also, the main antagonists of Beowulf are mirrored, more or less, in The Elder Scrolls series, starting with Morrowind, or game 3 of 5. The Uderfrykte is a strange troll that you encounter in Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, and which you may kill all three times–it doesn’t seem to affect its appearance in later games at all. The Uderfrykte it seen as Grendel because of a nearby dead man’s journal, which describes his encounters with the Uderfrykte. It also speaks of a Uderfrykte Matron monster which you may find and kill–this is a mirror image of Grendel’s mother.

Also, the final antagonistic creature that Beowulf faces down is the dragon. Dragons are the major and highly difficult enemies found in Skyrim, the “boss battles” that sometimes come randomly. It is apparent that the dragons have been saved as creatures up until this game because the realm of Skyrim is obviously Nordic. It is almost as if the character plays in the time period of which Beowulf is set in, except with certain add-ons like magic and strange creatures, etc.

The presence of mead in Skyrim is prevalent, however its use is kind of absurd. If you drink too much of it, you gain little and lose a lot, because it decreases your strength and ultimately makes you kind of shitty for a while. Mead is kind of useless; I’ve never known anyone to trust in its effects while playing, and I’m assuming the only reason it’s really found is because the culture of the Scandinavians included it so heavily both in life and literature. The great mead-hall Heorot in Beowulf is proof of that.

In the story, Beowulf goes to fight for the king of the Danes, Hrothgar. This is used in Skyrim as the name of not a person, but a place; perhaps the place was named after the person, who supposedly really lived and may or may not exist in The Elder Scrolls. In Skyrim you climb a mountain to reach High Hrothgar, which is an enormous building meant for prayer and ritual. It is inhabited by old wise men. Honestly I don’t get the reference, really, but it’s kind of cool to see the name crop up again. Hrothgar was a sad guy in Beowulf because Grendel was killing all of his men. Eventually he sat alone in his mead-hall because no one visited him anymore, and it stayed that way for twelve years. Beowulf really helped him out by slaying the monsters for him.

My last reference, for this is kind of long and I could go for much longer, is one that I am proud for having found: at the beginning of Beowulf, it talks about the death of Scyld Scefing, or in English “Shield Sheafing,” who was the first of the line of Danish people. It says that he walked the “whale-road” to his death. This is seen in Skyrim as the road you walk on your way to kill dragon boss Alduin, for you walk a road up to the Hall of Valor (representative of Valhalla, or a sort of Norse heaven) that is lined with the rib cages of massive whales.

That’s it for me. If you are interested in any more references, be my guest and look them all up. There are some very good dialogue and physical references to some very relatable works of art and myth to be found in these game.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

 

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem is a Japanese video game that is comparable to Final Fantasy in the sense that it’s drawn out over several games (like, a dozen or something) and has different characters in each and every one. And they’re totally amazing.

I discovered them long ago–about four years ago maybe–when a friend let me borrow a game in the series for the Gameboy. It was called Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones and it was so completely and predominantly sexual that I nearly had some sort of strange visual orgasm. I had to drop it for a while.

When I came back, I discovered what I loved about it most: the characters and their subsequent characterization is phenomenal. Each character is so smoking hot in their own way that it’s like, how do you ignore them? Some characters who fight for you are childhood friends. Others are comrades and long-ago squadmates. Others are lords, ladies, and their faithful squires or pages. Others are young boys and girls who are just now learning to understand their fighting power, etc.

But what’s cool is that even though they fight for you, that’s not really the main focus: it’s really more about getting them to bond with each other. For instance, a weathered knight named Seth, if placed in adjacent panels to his young companion Franz for prolonged periods of time, unlocks a “support” conversation, in which they converse and grow closer. This means that next time they fight adjacent to each other, each one is a little bit stronger because of the bond between them both.

And this is where my description of the game as being “The Ultimate OTP [one true pairing] Game” comes into play. At the end of the game, it gives DESCRIPTIONS of the peoples’ lives together. I’ll give you an example: my favorite pairing, Colm and Neimi (childhood friends, thief and archer), have a short note written about them if you have three support conversations between them:

The childhood friends became lovers at first, then husband and wife. Worried for Neimi’s well-being, Colm gave up his adventurer’s ways. Neimi passed on her grandfather’s skill in archery to her own son and daughter.

Dammit if that is not the most gut-wrenchingly wonderful thing I’ve ever read about the two–I WORKED FOR THAT. I WORKED FOR THAT TO HAPPEN. I PUT THOSE TWO CHARACTERS IN A CORNER AND THEY SPENT COUNTLESS TURNS THERE DOING NOTHING UNTIL THEY WERE ABLE TO HAVE ANOTHER SUPPORT CONVERSATION.

Ahem, well anyway, the game is an “RTS” which means it’s a real-time strategy. The whole game is VERY mind-bending and painfully strategic, and the placement and equipment of your characters is of utmost importance. What’s great is that some characters are weak, and others are exceptionally strong. These strong ones must support the weak ones until the weak are able to take care of themselves, etc.

The characters who are weak are eventually able to “transform”–I’m not sure there’s actually a word for this–meaning that they change classes. An example would be Franz, who I mentioned earlier. He’s young, and he’s pretty cool and all. He’s a cavalier, meaning he rides a horse. Horseriding characters are good because they have a lot of mobility. They can move a lot in one turn, and can usually outrun enemies if need-be. But Franz usually doesn’t need to. He can use lances and swords (the ‘weapon triangle’ is as follows: swords beat axes; axes beat lances; lances beat swords) (this isn’t always the case; these weapons just have obvious advantages/disadvantages against other weapons, but they can still win out).

Franz is a cavalier. If he gets to level 10, I can use a knight crest on him and make him either a ‘great knight’ (which can use axes as well as swords and lances) or a paladin (which is strong, and has greater mobility, but uses no new weapons).

Do you SEE the possibilities?

You will sometimes come across red (enemy) characters who are different than all the other characters on the opposing side. They look as if their portrait art is different than what is normal, and they have a designated name. These characters are either enemy bosses… or they’re recruitable. And recruitable ones are AWESOME. That means you’ve got a new guy on your team, permanently. There are lots of opportunities to recruit new characters. It’s common to get at least one new character each level. You accumulate quite a few… but if one of your character’s health depletes all the way, they die and can never be deployed again. So you have to be very careful when it comes to placement, health management, etc.

Wow. I must sound like I’m working for Intelligent Systems or something, I’m really selling this game. But the point is, PLAY it. If you guys want, message me and I’ll tell you how to play without even having a Gameboy (I play it on computer, you can save games and everything. It’s quite literally my baby, and you don’t even need internet to play, either).

I hope to spark your interest, and maybe later we can have a (support) conversation about these games.

-Thom

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