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
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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

 

Pokemon Y

Pokemon Y Version BoxartWhen I started collecting vintage video games off eBay I briefly had an infatuation with Pokemon games.  I bought up the N-64 versions of Stadium and I had copies of Pokemon Yellow and Pokemon Gold that I could play on them.  I also had versions of the Gamecube era games including (but sadly not limited to) Pokemon Colosseum, Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Emerald.  I eventually reached a point in my life when I realized that you actually don’t have to catch them all.  After a brief stint in Pokemon rehab I sold all my old vintage games and I stayed clean for a few years.  Then one fateful day in February my kids got sick and I introduced them to Pokemon cartoons on Netflix (My wife was not pleased).  The kids enjoyed Pokemon so much that I started thinking the latest generation of games might be something fun to play with them.

Over the years I’ve collected many rare Pokemon from various events, either at GameStop, Toys R Us or Online.  I didn’t want to loose any of them, or the time I had invested into previous titles so I spent several days with two DS’s on my lap transferring Pokemon.  Almost all Pokemon games have had some mechanism to transfer from previous generations of the game, if you’re willing to jump through several hoops.  This generation requires the Pokemon Transport application, which is included with Pokemon Bank (which is a 3DS application available from the eShop and costs 5$ / year).  Transport can transfer 30 Pokemon at a time but it only works with 5th generation games.  Most of my Pokemon were still sitting in Pokemon Platinum which is a 4th generation game and is not compatible with the Pokemon Transport application.  First I had to transfer all of my Pokemon from Platinum to the copy of Pokemon White I still had laying around, which is a much slower process and is limited to 6 Pokemon at a time.  I spaced the transfer process out over the course of a week and while I didn’t keep detailed records I’m sure it took at least 4 hours.  There is something seriously wrong with you game when you spent more time managing inventory than you spend actually playing the game.

Eventually everything was transferred and I was finally ready to start playing the game.  Last year my third and final child (and my first daughter) was born.  This is relevant because for the first time in Pokemon history I played as a female trainer and I named her after my daughter.  I’ve named all the Pokemon trainers I’ve played since my first son was born after my children and now the trend has continued.

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Lady ‘L’ on her Pokemon journey.

The game itself has gone through a visual upgrade but plays basically the same as it always has.  You wander around catching Pokemon and forcing them to battle each other.  Your goal is to collect 8 gym badges so that you can challenge the Pokemon League and become the ultimate champion.  Along the way a ‘Team’ of bad guys is up to no good and you have to defeat them.  The motivations of the ‘Team’ you face in these games has become progressively more insane over the last six generations.  Team rocket started as a Pokemon stealing ring and now, 5 generations later, Team Flare wants to use the ULTIMATE WEAPON TO ELIMINATE ALL LIFE EXCEPT TEAM FLARE.

Some strange stones...

Lady ‘L’ investigating some strange stones…

I’ve actually liked how the last few generations of Pokemon games have tried to portray a more complicated villain than the first few games.  Each team functions as a cult – they feature a charismatic leader who gathers followers that want to improve the world in some way.  They want to correct some perceived flaw in the world although they resort to extreme and illegal means to achieve their goals.

I thought my kids would enjoy watching me play the game as much as they enjoyed watching the show but they were only interested in small sub-sets of game play.  They basically didn’t care what was going on in the game unless I was naming a recently captured Pokemon, catching a Legendary or involved in a Gym battle.  The rest of the game didn’t hold their interest for very long.

Lady 'L' enjoying the scenery.

Lady ‘L’ enjoying the scenery.

I could talk more about new features such as the new Fairy type and Mega evolutions but these didn’t really do much to change the overall feeling of the game.  If you’ve played, and enjoyed a previous Pokemon title then there will be no major surprises in this game.

Pros

  • More New Pokemon
  • New ‘Fairy’ type
  • New ‘Mega’ evolutions

Cons

  • Transfer process from previous generations sucks (and costs 5$)
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  22 hours
System: 3DS
Genre: RPG

Super Smash Bros. 3DS / Wii U

SmashBoxAccording to WordPress this is going to be my 100th post! So, congratulations to me.

Super Smash Bros. came out for the N64 when I was in college but it was later in the N64’s life cycle and I had already begun moving away from the N64 as a platform of choice.  I might have never tried the game at all, except some of the gentlemen down the hall were REALLY big fans of the game. I wasn’t especially good friends with the gentlemen down the hall, but they enjoyed gaming and avoiding schoolwork as much as I did so we had a lot of common ground. I played a LOT of Smash with those gentlemen, enough to forge some lifelong friendships and move off campus together the next year (where of course we played even more SMASH).  When the Gamecube came out I bought one and we Smashed even harder. Smash became one of the games that defined my college experience, so it is psychologically impossible for me to not purchase new versions when they are released.

This time around Nintendo released Smash Bros. for two consoles, the Wii U and the 3DS. They are NOT the same game as I originally believed although they do have a lot in common. The roster of characters are identical and many of the levels are the same, but there are unique features to each that make the experience for each game distinctive. The games are NOT cross compatible – you can’t play against a Wii U owner with the 3DS version of the game, although in a somewhat unusual move you CAN use the 3DS as an extra controller for a Wii U.

The game hasn’t changed much since the Gamecube iteration. To get started you only need to learn two buttons – attack and special attack. Pressing in a direction with one of the attack buttons will slightly alter which move is performed. All fighters use the same controls so even if you are using someone new you should be able to get a few hits in. This is in contrast to other fighting games (such as Injustice which I recently reviewed) where all fighters have different controls that must be learned separately. I’ve good results introducing new people to Smash by showing them how to jump, and use the two attack buttons. Both of my boys (Who are 5 and 3 years old) were able to play the game and my 5 year old even managed to beat me once or twice (more on that later).  After learning how to use your attacks, advanced players may learn the other two buttons – block and throw.  These are helpful to know but not entirely necessary for enjoying the game.

Fighting games generally aren’t noted for being fantastic single player experiences and Smash Bros. is no exception.  Fortunately Smash makes up for a somewhat lackluster single player experience by including BUTT LOADS (Figuratively) of different modes that can be enjoyed.  These include (but are not limited to) Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, Street Smash (3DS), Smash Run (3D), Smash Tour (Wii U), Event Smash (Wii U), Special Orders (Wii U) and online battle modes.  Completing each of the modes with each of the 50 playable characters will take a significant time investment.

Fight

You can post screenshots through the Miiverse.

 

So, Smash is great, but what was my experience like?  Well, on the 3DS I played through most of the single player challenges myself and the only achievements I have left are the ones like ‘beat all-star mode with every character’.  I tried a few online matches for fun but never really got into it.  One of my colleagues at work got a copy for Christmas (I bought mine at launch) and we’ve had a few cooperative battles on break, which is a lot more fun than work.  Taking Smash on the road is a lot of fun, but the opportunity to play it doesn’t come up as often as I would like.

The Wii U version of the game is all about the Amiibos for us.  I may have gone a bit overboard with Amiibo fever – I signed up for the Lootcrate Amiibo promotion which netted us most of the launch characters.  My boys both wanted Link’s Amiibo for Christmas ( I couldn’t convinced them to ask for different characters – Link is too awesome ) which combined with the Lootcrate promotions brings our household total to about 13.  I thought the game would be too hard for my boys to play themselves so the Amiibo integration seemed like a good way to get them involved.  It turns out that they are both able to play the game with at least some measure of success and they HATE it when their Amiibo beats them.

My 3-year-old son isn’t entirely sure what he’s doing so he generally stands still while spamming the attack button.  Sometimes he decides he’s controlling a different character than he started with (which doesn’t affect his results any), and sometimes he gets bored and wanders out of the room. My 5-year-old son is a bit more hardcore about it.  He and I have an agreement to not attack each other so I’m often left attacking the Amiibos on my own.  Periodically this strategy results in my older son winning as I take all the damage and he shows up to knock the bad guys off the stage.

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My progress with the Wii U version achievements is a lot slower since the boys insist that we play the 2 minute Smash battles.  I’m OK with that though, it’s a lot more fun than playing alone.  I think Smash will be a popular diversion for the boys and I for a long time.

Pros

  • Lots of playable characters.
  • Single player story mode was enjoyable.

Cons

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: 3DS / Wii U
Genre: Fighting

Pokemon White


Pokemon White Box
Date Completed: November 21st, 2012

I’ve been an on-again/off-again Pokemon fan for a long while.  I really got into the 4th generation games (Platinum / SoulSilver) and I was feeling pretty burned out on the series when the 5th generation was announced.  I bought it anyway since Nintendo was offering a special Victini Pokemon as an early buyer bonus and there would be no other way to legitimately catch a Victini.  I bought the game, caught my Victini and shelved the game until recently when I needed something to play on a long plane ride to Iceland (About a 7 hour plane ride, worth a visit).

Pokemon Black and White officially introduce the 5th generation of Pokemon gaming.  The Pokemon formula hasn’t changed since the beginning of the series and Pokemon White is no exception.  You run around the world catching Pokemon and participating in morally ambiguous ‘dog fights’ to increase your level and build your bond with your Pokemon.  In real life you might be called a sociopath and be placed in an institution (either correctional or mental) but in the context of a video game world this turns out to be a lot of fun.  The biggest surprise this game has to offer is that the main plot point actually examines the morality of capturing Pokemon and battling them against each other.  I wouldn’t say the conclusion reached is especially convincing but it does add a bit of complexity to a plot that otherwise is targeted towards a younger audience.

The game starts off normally.  You pick a starter Pokemon of Water, Plant or Fire type and then set off to collet the 8 gym badges so you can challenge the Pokemon League.  There are 17 types of Pokemon and battle is played like the world’s biggest game of rock-paper-scissors.  Fire beats plant, plant beats ground, ground beats electric and so on.

Pokemon White Starter Pokemon

Oshawott, Snivy, Tepig

Several graphical improvements such as partially 3D environments have been included in the game but for the most part this game looks like the previous generation.  Items, moves and the menu system are largely unchanged.  There is a new ‘dream world’ your Pokemon can access that requires online connectivity and (like most Nintendo online features) is a pain in the butt to use.

A 3D street view

I’ve already mentioned that the game is targeted towards a younger audience.  Dialog can be simplistic and explanations drag on far longer than they need to.  There also seemed to be an issue with the random encounter rate.  Some parts of the game seemed to have an enemy encounter EVERY SINGLE STEP.  Eventually I gave up and used Pokemon repellant so I’d be able to move around.  This left my team a bit underpowered at the end of the game but I was much less likely to smash my DS while playing.

I enjoyed the game but the whole Pokemon genre is getting pretty stale.  There are now 649 Pokemon that can be caught several of which (such as my Victini) are only available through special events and are otherwise unavailable.  Nintendo has been irritatingly stingy about how often they release event-only Pokemon, especially outside of Japan.  It’s all a transparent ploy on Nintendo’s part to extort gamers into buying more Pokemon games and attending Nintendo events.  The worst part is how easily it works on me.  I own a game from every Pokemon generation and I’ve picked up (almost) every event Pokemon for the last several years.  I’m pretty sure my wife thinks I’m a loser but thankfully she rarely tells me to my face anymore.

Pros

  • 156 new Pokemon!
  • Improved game engine.

Cons

  • Random encounter rate seemed unusually high.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  ~31 hours
System: Nintendo DS
Genre: RPG

Pokemon SoulSilver

When I first started playing Pokemon titles 10 years ago I was surprised to find that they are actually RPG games.  Not only is it an RPG, but it has the largest cast of playable characters of any RPG I know of.  You get a party of 6 Pokemon which you can choose out of a total of 493 (and growing) available creatures.  Most Final Fantasy titles these days give you a party of 3 and maybe a total cast of 10 characters so Pokemon really has the advantage.

Other than the giant cast of character the game plays like any standard RPG.  You wander around knocking out Pokemon to level up and you learn newer more powerful moves.  Your Pokemon ‘evolve’ into more powerful forms which is roughly equivalent to a ‘Class Upgrade’ that is common in many other RPG’s.

The storyline of this game is pretty standard for Pokemon.  You are a trainer and you want to become the best trainer of them all.  That means beating everyone else in the game.  There is also a sub-plot going on where an evil gang of Pokemon thieves (Team Rocket) is trying to take over the world and you are instrumental in seeing to their downfall.

Morally, making animals battle for your own perverse enjoyment is wrong but the game does a pretty heavy handed job of trying to talk about love and respect so in the end you don’t feel like you’ve spent the day betting on dog fights.

The real killer feature of this game is the GIZMO.  The game is packaged with a pedometer called a ‘Pokewalker’ which you can transfer your Pokemon to and level them up when you’re on the road.  You are given an incentive to exercise, and while many people will just put their pedometer in the clothes dryer and call it good I’ve been stubbornly unlocking everything the hard way – by walking around.

Overall the game is fun, although not quite as good as Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum.  The story is a bit thinner and I breezed through it pretty quickly.  If you want to catch all of the available Pokemon you’ll be busy for most of the rest of your life but I managed to finish this game in about 25 hours.

Pros
* Packaged with a pedometer peripheral.
Cons
* Not much of a plot.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  25+++ hours
System: DS
Genre: RPG