Sorry, OG Fans: Game Freak Will (Likely) Never Make Another Pokémon Game Tailored For You

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I could start this piece about Pokémon‘s historic and surprising rise to worldwide phenomenon, but I bet you’ve heard that told ’round the campfire a few times. Instead, I want to talk about something else entirely. Continue reading “Sorry, OG Fans: Game Freak Will (Likely) Never Make Another Pokémon Game Tailored For You”

Expecting a National Dex With Pokémons Sword & Shield is Insane

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People are crying. They were once overjoyed, blissful of the state of the upcoming Pokémon games, which would grace the Nintendo Switch for the first time in the series’s (mainline) history. Their expectations and hopes were shattered upon the announcement that they wouldn’t be able to transfer all of their pokémon from the upcoming Pokémon Home into Sword & Shield. The reason? The Galar region will not support a national dex, code for “Only a fraction of the total number of pokémon will be available in Sword & Shield.”

The outcry has been substantial. Thousands of Pokémon fans are swearing off their loyalty from the company and the upcoming game. The hashtag “#BringBackNationalDex” has become a symbol of their contempt, a unifying plea for the Pokémon Company to answer. Fans are now hostile, suspicious, and cynical of every detail on the once-beloved upcoming titles. They wish for every pokémon, not just “some.” After all, it’s about catching them all.

What a time to be a Pokémon fan. Continue reading “Expecting a National Dex With Pokémons Sword & Shield is Insane”

Thoughts on the June 5th Pokémon Sword & Shield Direct

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I have been pretty vocal about my dismay with the current direction of Pokémon. Ever since X & Y, I have gradually (but ultimately) lost the armor of passion that the franchise once gave me. The company seemed dead-set on flair and bravado with no substance. Mega evolutions and legendaries and saving the world from unspeakable evil… oh my, was it tiring and boring.

Upon the announcement of a 15-minute Direct showcasing new info on Sword & Shield, I had low expectations. I expected the chain to continue and for the series to be more about “TEH EPICZZ!¡!!” than going around and simply indulging in the simple pleasures of catching and battling. It was inevitable.

So what the hell happened? I’m actually excited for the new games. Continue reading “Thoughts on the June 5th Pokémon Sword & Shield Direct”

Top 10 Least Favorite Pokémon

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Ah, memories. I remember quite fondly the days when I would spend hours everyday on Pokémon Ruby in my youth. Even Pokémon games that I would eventually come to find quite uneven (fourth gen and onward) provide a warm feeling of nostalgia when I peek at gameplay footage anywhere around the internet. A few years ago for my blog’s three-year anniversary, I looked at my favorite Pokémon ever (which is slightly outdated; for example, Dunsparce is now my favorite Pokémon). Today, we will strike the balance between light and dark by looking at my least favorite pokémon ever… but not before a few disclaimers. Continue reading “Top 10 Least Favorite Pokémon”

Pokémon: The Origin Review

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(Originally posted October 5th, 2013 on MyAnimeList. Minimally edited.)

It’s important to remember that when reviewing any topic, one should keep their personal bias to a very low minimum. This is especially difficult when dealing with a monster type franchise such as the Pokémon series, as most—if not all—people have been exposed to either the Pokémon series or games at some point in their lives. To the degree that this affects their opinion of the franchise is what ultimately will decide the fate of the future of the series. Keeping this point in mind, when it was announced that a new anime would be produced that would follow the storyline of the original Pokémon games, it was safe to say that a few people were excited. They were promised a look back at what revolutionized a franchise in the form of a four-episode special. What it was willing to accomplish in those four episodes is the most debatable topic of all.

Once again, when reviewing, one is recommended that they put their personal bias to a very low minimum. Keeping this in mind, I viewed this four-episode special through the mind of someone who has no prior knowledge of the Pokémon series or games. I watched Pokémon: The Origin as if I was playing the first game for the first time through the perspective of the main character. From what was gathered, the story begins with a character named Red, who is passionate about catching and training creatures known as Pokémon. He, along with his rival, Green, is tasked with collecting every species of Pokémon known to that world by the town’s local Pokémon professor: Professor Oak. With his goal set in stone, Red sets out to catch ’em all.

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With only four episodes to work with, there is a guarantee that not everything from the game will be shown in the series. To someone who has no prior knowledge of the game, these time skips do more justice as a form of confusion than anything else. Along with this, the special only chooses to show certain scenes from the game, with some scenes being obvious to the hardcore fan, while random to about everyone else. Due to this, each episode not completely focused on the goal of collecting every pokémon possible or advancing that plot accordingly is viewed more as a filler episode. To those not aware of the Pokémon games, they will also notice a variety of plotholes within the special that don’t make sense unless you’ve played the game. One such thing is the absence of police or the logic behind sending a child out to collect potentially dangerous creatures in order to satisfy the wish of a man no one knows anything about. Without these security blankets, viewers won’t know how to interpret the impact of certain scenes and their importance to the series. These gaping plotholes and the lack of any character development is prevalent and noticeable throughout the entirety of this special.

Speaking of character development, it wouldn’t seem too far fetched to think that the special would focus a little time on developing the main character, Red, as he’s on screen roughly 85% of the time, whether in recaps or otherwise. With the entire series being based on this one character, it’s hard to really enjoy any other character that’s introduced during the time span, that is, unless you’re a fan of the series. I’m sensing a pattern here. The only other character that gets any amount of focus in more than one episode is Green, and even he doesn’t develop into anything more than the rival character. The issue with the lack of depth can be solely attributed to the lack of time and the length of the individual pokémon battles. Whether in recaps or actual battle, Red is shown fighting other characters’ pokémon a big chunk of the time that this special has to offer. It does take the liberty to offer some insight on how Red develops as a trainer through his struggles with certain opponents, and the views he shares when facing someone with far different beliefs. Unfortunately, this is the most that the special is willing to offer.

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What would be an appropriate way to animate a series trying to showcase nostalgic elements? Why, with save screens and in-game text, of course. At the beginning and end of each episode, the viewer is shown a small snippet of animation that plays to the feelings of those who played the original games. Before each episode, one has to load up the save file in order to continue their adventure, and when they’re finished, they have to save their progress. These in-game pop-ups serve as a reminder of how important it is to save the game, what it matters to the quality of the animation is not exceedingly accurate. The recaps that I’ve mentioned before are also reminiscent of the original games as a small text box will appear at the bottom of the screen, explaining the situation that is being spoken of to us by Red. In terms of the animation in general, it’s appropriate, to say the least. It’s not the most spectacular animation one will see from animators of the 21st century, but it’s enough to satisfy both fans and newcomers alike. The battles are vivid and well-detailed, granted the viewer isn’t stricken with how dull the humans look in comparison to the pokémon. Such is only expected from those who know the series.

Taking everything into consideration, if one is a fan of the Pokémon series, this special will probably hold a special place in their heart. It’s respectful to its source material (until the end) and the character Ash Ketchum, who plays the main role of the original Pokémon series, is nowhere in sight. Seeing as I am a fan of the Pokémon series of games, it was enjoyable to view from a fan’s perspective, but that doesn’t erase the numerous problems that are hidden behind the spontaneous animation. Some of these problems are excusable due to the time restraints that a series has with only four episodes, but there have been series that have done more with less, and to excuse something as enormous as Pokémon from doing anything less than possible puts it in hot water with those unfamiliar with the series. Everything else considered, this is the perfect treat for fans of the original games, but its purely restricted to that group in particular.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Thoughts on Pokémon Christmas Hack (2014 Version)

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ROM hacks are fun. It takes an already established concept and allows freedom to whoever chooses to put forth the effort to make their own mark. Almost like fan games, except they’re deliberately taking the code from the original game and tweaking it to their whim. Sounds kind of illegal, doesn’t it? Maybe. Seeing as I’m young and rebellious, I’m willing to look past this and indulge myself in the ideas and capabilities of people outside of the original creators’ intentions. I found out about Pokémon Christmas Hack through a Vinesauce streamer streaming “terrible” Pokémon hacks for the holidays. Thing was, he took names completely at random, so he had no prior knowledge of whether or not the hacks were bad—judging them mostly by their name or online reputation. Christmas Hack was one of the first hacks he played, and even stated that the hack wasn’t even that bad. I, growing curious at the possibilities put forth through the gameplay being shown to me, decided to look up the hack myself and experience it firsthand. The ROM hack isn’t bad at all. On the contrary, the ROM hack is actually ripe with a lot of potential.

Worked on primarily by a single person known as Mateo, Christmas Hack takes place the winter after the events of Pokémon Gold & Silver. Much of the core story remains the same, but slightly altered to reflect the passage of time. Most water sources have frozen over, the trees have a bluish tint to signify ice and frost, and rocks one could originally smash have turned to solid ice. Some architecture of the towns and areas have been altered as well; some important, some simply for aesthetic reasons. While this change in environment is an enormous contrast, the story doesn’t have the same amount of change. New characters and dialogue appear, but the story of a kid setting out on an adventure to catch ’em all remains the same, with a lot of story elements remaining the same. Starting off, the dialogue seems to have changed drastically, along with not one, but two rival characters to face off against. What’s more, these rivals are friendly rivals; gone is the smug jerk that the second-gen used to call its main rival character. Because of this, a lot of the emphasis and tension to start out the story, with the rival character stealing one of the starting pokémon and threatening you with a reason to be on your toes, goes away. The game is pretty easygoing.

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I had noticed that as the game goes along, the effort put forth to change the dialogue within the game begins to decrease. At some point after the visit to a new area called “South Isle,” trainers (and specifically gym leaders all throughout) tend to speak right out of the original games. They remain in the same spot, the same sprites, and whatever else. While I was entranced with the changes to the beginning of the story, there doesn’t seem to be the same input to make the ending just as memorably distinct. In fact, there isn’t really an “end” in this version. Once the Elite Four has been taken down, the game does not continue. It’s still considered incomplete. There were times when I was playing this, especially later on, when I felt I was playing the original games, that the changes in effect were beginning to wear out and there wasn’t enough here to make me feel as though I was playing something else. The work it takes to code out all of these changes is sure to be a time-consuming and strenuous process, but it almost feels like Mateo was burnt out halfway through the process.

Of these changes, what exactly is notable, what exactly is highlighted within the scope of what people have to say? Mateo seems to have had fun creating a number of different ways that people could reflect modern times with their dialect. Specifically: memes. I’ve spotted numerous different references while playing through it, including “The [term] is too damn high,” Frozen references, references to other Pokémon titles, and a disturbingly higher emphasis on brony culture. Talking to a couple in the Radio Tower in Goldenrod City will reveal the boy being referred to as a “bronyta” for obsessing over his Ponyta. The girl next to him states that the boy gave his Ponyta a cutie mark. Hell, there is an entire character dedicated to referencing a specific character from the show! She doesn’t show up more than once, but her abrupt appearance, I’m sure, will leave many scratching their heads. That isn’t to say that this “internet slang” is present throughout the game, as it only appears maybe 5% throughout the game, but it certainly makes the game feel more memorable. Memorably good or bad depends on the player.

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Regardless of the memes, I feel a decent job is done at making trainers and ordinary people feel more lifelike, more unlike the static advice-givers that they are in the original games. I found myself wanting to talk to as many people as I could just to see if their dialogue had changed and what they say. There are times when I feel the dialogue is too unnecessarily comedic, but I suppose it fits with the no-longer-serious nature of the ROM hack. Again, I wish more of the dialogue had changed later on in the hack, but I can’t ask for too much from essentially one person.

Something that really bothered me as I played is that the name of this hack is odd, as the game makes very few references to Christmas whatsoever, at least past the first two gyms. At a certain point, one will likely forget they’re even playing a “Christmas” hack. The title may as well be “Pokémon Winter Hack,” but I understand the relative vagueness of a title like that. Still, to say the hack is Christmas themed is almost a lie, at least when looking at the big picture. Perhaps that’s what attracted it to the streamer.

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Another thing that bothered me was the exclusion of a number of once important areas. Slowpoke Well, Lake of Rage, Radio Tower, Team Rocket Hideout, The Lighthouse; these areas’ level of importance plummet within this hack, with a few of them not even being accessible anymore. What’s worse, one of them still hold the narrative of the original game. The Lake of Rage, which is still home to a red Gyarados despite no Team Rocket interference. The story elements that change to compensate for these now empty areas hardly do enough to fill the void left by their current state. Some, specifically the Burnt Tower, still have a little importance, but the events that transpire are so trivial and quick that one would miss it with a blink, and forget it regardless.

Enough of the narrative and aesthetic changes! What changes occurred with the gameplay? Well, new pokémon! Various pokémon (specifically ice type to match the season) have made their way into Johto, ranging from third to fourth gen. Pokémon like Zigzagoon, Ralts, Snorunt, Mamoswine, Relicanth, and Luvdisc are among the new entrants to the hack, though this also means a number of existing pokémon had to be replaced. None were really all that important, just some bugs and—Dunsparce. Dunsparce is no longer catchable… God damn it. Movesets were also slightly altered, along with updating the Special/Physical meter of the attack listing. It may just be me, but it seemed like grinding was easier than in the original, as I managed to stay within or above level range with current gym leaders without hardly trying. Again, a large majority of the game seemed too similar to Gold & Silver to feel as though I was playing a hack, and much of this is due to the unchanging battle system. It’s also become easier to obtain evolutionary stones, Rare Candies, PP Ups, and BERRIES! Lots and lots of berries!

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One of the drawbacks to not really having much of a theme is the lack of a potent direction. The hack is supposedly a sequel to the Gold & Silver games, however it feels more like a reboot of sorts. Someone’s ambition to, say, update the game with modern Pokémon standards instead of making it their own thing, their own story. I feel a commendable attempt was made, and I had a good time with this hack and the potential is definitely there, but it’s not quite there yet. Some work still needs to be done to make this truly feel like a proper “sequel” as the creator states it to be. Thankfully, Mateo has come out and said that a 2017 version is in the works, promising a re-haul to make it feel far different than its current state. I’ll definitely keep an eye out, as what’s in place now is good enough to be something great with enough focus. As it is now, it’s recommendable for some of the kooky things put in, such as memes, snowy atmosphere, and new pokémon. The narrative focus, however, leaves a lot to be desired.

For those interested in trying out the hack for themselves, I’ll leave a link to a download source directly from the creator herself.