Pokémon Yellow

pokemon_yellow_cover_art_by_comunello76-d4xfrr5Date Completed: December 28th, 2016

One day one of my college roommates said unto me “Mike, you should try playing Pokemon.  You may think it’s just a game for kids, however I think you will be surprised to find that is is a surprisingly good RPG.”  I trusted my roommate’s opinion so went off to the store to purchase a copy.  The nearest used video game story was a place by the name of ‘Funcoland’ (Since purchased by GameStop) however due to several bad experiences there we usually pronounced the name without the first ‘n’.  My roommate owned Pokemon Blue so I decided to purchase Pokemon Yellow.  After buying the game we went to the adjacent store and found Pokemon Yellow on sale BRAND NEW for 10$ cheaper.  So I bought Pokemon Yellow again and returned the first copy.

 

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Pro Tip : Never type ‘Misty Cosplay’ into Google.

I was surprised to find that Pokemon was a surprisingly good RPG and I played the crap out of that little cartridge.  With my roommate’s help I managed to catch the first 150 Pokemon ( I didn’t know about the Mew glitch so I sadly never caught 151 ).  I really got into Pokemon after that.  I bought Pokemon Gold when it came out, and we had copies of Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Snap in the apartment.

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Morbid much?

I don’t own my original cartridge anymore so when Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow came out for the 3DS virtual console I jumped at the opportunity to take a walk down memory lane.

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Sometimes it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad…

Something I learned about the past is that you can never go back.  Pokemon Yellow has not aged well.  Lots of frustrating mechanics have been ironed out in the many, many games released since generation I.  I forced myself to play all the way through to the end, although I ended up taking many breaks.

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I remember these guys…

I had taken my kids to one of the Pokemon card events at Toys R Us and overheard a portly nerd in the line in front of my discussing the recently released Pokemon virtual console games.  “Of course I bought all three of them!” he explained to another portly nerd.  I’m happy to say I’m not that guy anymore.  I enjoyed the nostalgia but I’m only going to stick with just this one game.

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Charizard FTW!

 

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 5/10
  • Length:  ~20 hours
  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Genre: RPG

Firewatch

firewatch-game-cover-pc-2016Date Completed: February 4th, 2017

Firewatch is more of an experience than a game.  Its similar to the game ‘Journey’ where it tells a story, and any spoilers to that story could potentially ruin it.  I’m going to stay away from spoilers, and instead focus on all of the things I did wrong while playing Firewatch.

Firewatch tells the story of a dude who watches for fires in Colorado wilderness.  When I started Firewatch I wasn’t sure what kind of game it was going to be.  Was it silly?  Was it scary?  Something else?  I didn’t know what to do or what kinds of interactions with the game world would be allowed so I tried stuff.  The first thing I did was pick up the bottle of dish soap from my watch tower and go for a hike.  Once I got out into the wilderness I felt bad about littering so I ended up carrying that bottle of dish soap around for an entire day.  This was super inconvenient because I had to set the soap down every time I wanted to consult my map ( which required both hands to be free ).

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My soap and I enjoying the sunset.

The other thing that really pissed me off about this game was the sound the electric generator made.  When the game started up the first thing I noticed was the constant grinding sound of an electric generator.  I found the generator outside my watch tower and tried to shut it off but this wasn’t allowed.  Sometimes the generator would power down and I’d have a few precious minutes of silence but it would always start up again.  For some dumb reason the generator sound followed me through the entire park.  I’d be miles away from my watch tower and I could still hear it!  I began to wonder if it was a clue to the plot – maybe my character was in a hospital room hooked up to some machine and the whole game was a hallucination of some kind?  Maybe it was a bug in the game?  Either way it was super irritating.  You know what the worst part was?  After I turned the game off for the night I could still hear the noise!!!  This was the moment I began to suspect something was amiss…

Yeah…so it turns out that the kids had shoved a pencil into the pencil sharpener on the windowsill behind me.  It’s about at ear-level when I am sitting down and I was wearing headphones while playing and couldn’t tell it wasn’t part of the game.  It would run for a few minutes before shutting down on it’s own and eventually restarting.  Darn kids.

I would have played the game straight through except after 11PM I figured I should go to bed or I’d be in a mood the next day.  Overall a great game although the kind you only get to play once.  After experiencing the story there isn’t any reason to visit this game again.  Except maybe to find those turtles.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 7/10
  • Length:  3-4 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: First Person / Thriller

Dragon Age : Inquisition

91iutl4hdvl-_ac_sl1500_Date Completed : February 3, 2017

Two years ago – about six months after we moved into our new house – I participated in the “It only happens twice a year gift exchange event” with my college roommates and the one random guy who keeps showing up to our holiday parties.  The rules of the gift exchange are simple.  We all get the same gift, hand it to another participant and continue redistributing gifts until each participant ends up with exactly one.  When it first began we usually purchase each other the same video game such as ‘The Orange Box’, ‘Command and Conquer : Generals’ or ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’.  Since kids and budgets and new game consoles have come along this strategy no longer works so today have a policy of exchanging Amazon.com gift cards.  In late 2014 I still hadn’t purchased any games for my PS4 so I spent my entire gift card on Dragon Age : Inquisition.  I didn’t know anything about the Dragon Age series other than the fact that people seem to like it and it has the word Dragon in the title.  Dragons sounded cool, and I wasn’t aware of anything else coming out for the PS4 any time soon.

My daughter was about 5 months old when I started the game.  To celebrate my newborn child I created a lady elf warrior and named her after my daughter.  I played through the first area of the game but I found the tutorial to be lacking and I never understood what was going on.  I put the game down for a few weeks and when I came back I had forgotten what little I knew.  It’s hard to find the time to play a game with a newborn in the house and it’s hard to feel motivated to do so when you keep forgetting how the game is played.  My enthusiasm for the game suffered and after a few price drops I experienced buyer’s remorse.

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One big giant sand box.

Every once in awhile I picked up the game again and made some progress.  The game consists of several large (and I mean LARGE) areas that you can explore that each have dozens of missions to be completed.  I’d start the game up, run a few missions and then take a few weeks off.  The game is so vast that I usually didn’t feel like I was making any positive progress towards the eventual ending.  Running quests was ‘OK’ but often it just felt like busy work.  Towards the end of the game I was surprised to find that my views on this had changed.  I actually liked completing all of the stupid little missions, and exploring all of the maps.

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On a mission to kill the saddest bear ever. 😦

The game is full of many memorable moments and after I recalled that the PS4 has a share button I started posting a few of them to my Twitter feed.  Once such moment occurred when I was taking a stroll on a beach and happened upon a giant punching a Dragon IN THE FACE.

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Uh…leave me out of this.

It was clear to me early on that at least some the characters in this game had been in previous games in the series.  The back of the game case said ‘Meet Legends’ but I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be a legend or not.  I didn’t know who any of these schmucks were!  You can recruit nine different playable companions to your cause, most of whom seemed pretty cool.  It also turns out that you can choose to romance one of your companions (or some of the NPC characters).  There is even a trophy for committing to a long term relationship.  Since I wanted the trophy I found myself in the somewhat uncomfortable position of choosing a romantic partner for a woman named after my daughter.  I didn’t like it but eventually I settled on commander Cullen, one of the NPC advisors.  He seemed like the most honorable choice that didn’t have a porn-star beard.

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STAY AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!!!

After I started really getting into the game and beginning my final push towards completing it I became obsessed with doing things the ‘right’ way.  Events can unfold different depending on how you handle some of the situations that come up in the game.  Your companions may either grow to like or dislike you depending on how you converse with them.  Whenever a speech bubble popped up I’d always pause the game and look up the consequences of the various answers on the web before continuing.  My goal was to not miss out on anything in the game (especially those trophies) but this ended up partially ruining the experience for me.  I shouldn’t have worried about making the right choices.  Instead I should have owned the choices that I made and lived with the consequences.  It would have been more realistic and more fun.

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Advisors gotta advise…

I usually didn’t let the kids watch when I played this game, unless I knew nothing horrible was going to happen (This game is rated M).  My daughter (who is now 2) was a big fan since the main character was named after her.  She’d walk in while I was playing, point and say “That’s me!!”.  Now that I’ve finished with the game she’s seemed pretty disappointed to find me playing other things on my Playstation.

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Wouldn’t be an RPG without some questionable outfits…

Since I didn’t really know what was going on most of the game I avoided spending skill points, crafting weapons/armor or choosing a specialization until I felt like I absolutely had to.  My inventory was always full of items that I wasn’t sure if I should hold on to or not.  Eventually I’d stored up about 18 unused skill points and spent them all at once.  Suddenly I had TOO MANY skills and it took some trial and error to find a set of abilities that I liked.  My favorite was the ‘Charging Bull’ ability that had my warrior dashing into danger like the late Mr. Jenkins of World of Warcraft fame.

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Leeeroooooy……

My first impression of Dragon Age was poor but after I understood enough about the game to play it intelligently I started to enjoy it more.  It’s a solid game but I can’t recommend it to everyone because there is a time investment required to acquaint the player with how the game is played.  This isn’t a pick-it-up-and-go title, it’s a read-the-strategy-guide-first kind of game.  I don’t plan on holding on to my copy, or playing any other games in the series.  If another Dragon Age game comes out some day I may look into it but for now I’m (finally) done.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 8/10
  • Length:  ~110 hours
  • System: Playstation 4
  • Genre: Action / RPG

The Legend of Zelda : Twilight Princess

81c9da0f-07e4-45fd-a7b2-e7a98b77c1a1_1-e14cbcb4ecd1f43c9b74f04410c4d2c6Date Completed : October 24, 2016

I had been thinking about re-playing Twilight Princess and then BOOM! HD remake!  What wonderful timing!  I think Nintendo has implanted some sort of eavesdropping device in my brain so they can always provide me with what I want, when I want it.  Either that or they’re really good at marketing.

 

The original Twilight Princess came out in 2006 with the launch of the Wii console.  My girlfriend at the time (soon to be wife) tried to buy me a copy of the game and the gentleman at Toys R Us said “We’re all sold out”.  “WHAT?” I said.  “Software never sells out.  Hardware is hard to come by but pressing discs is easy!  How can you run out?”  In the end it didn’t matter, as Nintendo isn’t the kind of company to leave money on the table.  They printed more discs, I got a copy.  The world carried on.

My first play through of Twilight Princess was right after I was married but before we had kids.  I have fond memories of that time.  Many fond memories of sleeping in past 5:30.  Not wiping jelly off my game controllers.  Having time to play.  Perhaps that’s why I look back on this game so fondly.

Twilight Princess is kind of an odd duck.  It has all of the qualities that you’d expect to be present (more realistic graphics, mature story) in the greatest Zelda game of all time, yet somehow it fails to live up to the standard set by Ocarina of Time.  I suppose this game is the proof that we don’t always want what we ask for.  Not that it’s a bad game.  Even an average Zelda game is generally far better than anything else available.  Just in the grand scheme of ranking Zelda games Twilight Princess isn’t in my top 5.

My two boys love Zelda games ( I have taught them well ) so I wanted to make sure to play the game when they could watch.  This policy made it hard to find time to play.  I ended up moving the Wii U to the family room from the bonus room upstairs because I thought it would be more convenient.  It took a lot longer than my first time through the game but I finally finished up in time for the holidays.

So we have come full circle.  My marriage began with Twilight Princess, and now it has brought us closer together as a family.  Even my two-year-old daughter got to enjoy the game this time around (She especially enjoyed Link riding Epona and helping me tap Amiibo figures ).  I’d say that’s money well spent.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 8/10
  • Length:  ~40 hours
  • System: Nintendo Wii U
  • Genre: Action / Adventure

Super Mario Run

Date Completed: December 17th, 2016

It’s Mario on a Smartphone.  Naturally I purchased it immediately after it came out.  I was simultaneously extremely satisfied and very disappointed.  Interesting fact: “Satisfied but Disappointed” could be the official slogan of Nintendo fans.  I could probably make a decent living selling “Satisfied but Disappointed” T-Shirts outside of Nintendo events.  Nintendo has the annoying habit of making the best games in the world with the most irritating caveats. But I digress.

Endless runners aren’t a new genre.  What makes this one different?  In a word: Mario. Mario’s unleashed charisma has made a lot of people who aren’t usually interested in games interested in this game. Prime Example – My Dad. He wanted to know what the whole Super Mario Run thing was about. I tried to explain somewhat futilely:

Me: “He runs forward all the time. You can tap the screen to make him jump.”

Dad: “Is that it?”

Me: “If he jumps into a wall he can push off the wall and move in the reverse direction temporarily. Then he starts running forward again.”

Dad: “…”

There is no challenge.  You get multiple lives on each level and Mario automatically vaults over enemies and small pits.  Each time you play a game you can rest easily knowing that you will win. The only challenge lies in finding and collecting the hidden coins in each level.  Some are out in the open but others require some very specific timing to grab. There are enough coins in the game that I got bored and gave up before I was able to collect them all.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of content in this game. There are 24 levels, each with 15 hidden coins. You also have a world building mode where you can decorate the Mushroom Kingdom with various buildings and shrubberies. Most endless runners have repeating scenery and frequent prompts for you to spend more $$$. Super Mario Run has none of that.

My kids tried playing the game but were unimpressed. “He moves to fast” or “How do I go back?” were common complaints. I tried to explain to them the philosophy behind one handed play, the limitations of touch screen only controls and the need to support Nintendo’s experimentation on other hardware but mostly they’re only interested in playing games they find fun. Kids these days.

Overall I’d say that I don’t regret spending 10$ on this game. I can give this game no higher praise.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 5/10
Length: ~3 hours
System: iOS
Genre: Endless Runner

Hyrule Warriors Legends

250px-hyrule_warriors_legends_na_box_coverDate Completed : 8/14/2016

Not much to say about this game that wasn’t already said in my review for Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U.  The game is essentially unchanged, however there are a few new features that make it much more compelling.

There is a new storyline relating to ‘Linkle’, also known as girl link.  Linkle’s story is told with a series of new missions that appear mixed in with the original missions.  Linkle comes across as a little scatter brained but I found that I preferred her to Link in battle.  She has some crowd control attacks that are very satisfying.

Hyrule Warriors Legends contains a number of other changes but the best, in my opinion, is that you can now control the other characters in battle.  Rather then controlling a single individual you can now use the touch screen to tell the other characters what to do or switch over and control them entirely.  This helps immensely as you don’t have to spend the entire mission running back and forth putting out fires whilst the other characters are lollygagging around.

I found the mobile form of  Hyrule Warriors to be much more convenient for play.  I played much further into the game than I did on the Wii U version and I still have the game cartridge in my ‘active games’ box.

I consider this to be superior to the original in all categories with exception of graphics.  If you have both a Wii U and a 3DS I’d recommend the 3DS version, unless you’re goofy like me and you get them both.

Is it fun: Yes

Score: 6/10
Length:  ~20 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Action

Pokemon Picross

Date Completed: July 28th, 2016

pokemon_picross_logo I’m getting super behind on my blog.  This is almost 6 months late!  I’m going to try and keep things short in the future so writing this thing doesn’t take longer than beating the games!

My wife had played some Picross games in the past and they looked fun but I had never tried one on my own before Pokemon Picross.  My wife had recently mentioned that she was in the mood to play a Picross game again and suddenly Pokemon Picross came out and it was free-to-play!  I immediately downloaded it for both of us.

Since the game is free-to-play you’re limited in what you can accomplish each day unless you pay to unlock everything.  If you don’t spend real money you have an energy bar that limits how many squares you can uncover.  Stages are also locked until you pay to unlock them with ‘Picrites’.  ‘Picrites’ can be earned in-game or purchased with real-world money.  I spent about 5 dollars to buy a pack of Picrites but after that I was strictly free-to-play.  I made playing party of my daily routine.  It made a perfect tea-timer. I spent a few minutes playing my daily training puzzle each morning while my tea was brewing and when I was done my tea was ready.

My wife didn’t end up putting too much time into this game.  She’s a big Picross fan but this game mixes things up by including Pokemon skills and stage missions which often require bringing a specific Pokemon or type of Pokemon along to win.  Hunting through lists of Pokemon to take on missions was a bit too much for my wife.  I think all she was looking for in a Picross game was something to sit down and play without having to worry about the meta game.

Overall it’s hard to not recommend this game as it is free.  It may not be what a traditional Picross player is looking for but if you’re that type of person who likes Picross and Pokemon it’s a no-brainer.

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length: I didn’t measure.
System: 3DS
Genre: Puzzle