Pokemon VGC 2016: Good or bad for the game?

vgc

Three days ago, Pokemon released the rules for the 2016 national and worldwide Pokemon championships, which will also form the basis of the VGC section on Battlespot. The main difference between 2016 and 2015 is that many of the legendary Pokemon which were banned are now viable for use. Each team can contain up to two of these newly allowed legendaries.

I’m told this this is quite similar in format to the rules of 2010 (long before I got interested in competitive play.) As you can expect, people on twitter and in forums across the depths of the internet have already begun to argue over whether this is a positive or negative change. Despite the fact that pretty much everyone interested will be doing this already, I have decided to some up my thoughts on the changes.

I’ll start off with the negatives. The main issue for me is that in order to be viable competitively, a team is almost definitely going to have to actually use two of the 15 or so legendaries that are now allowed in the format. This presents an issues immediately which is quite likely going to make me not bother with engaging this year. Essentially, in order to get good legendary Pokemon, you have to go through a process called soft resetting. This involves saving the game before a legendary Pokemon, and then catching the Pokemon over and over again, resetting the game each time until you get a Pokemon with the right stats and IVs. This takes a huge amount of time and is very frustrating and unenjoyable. But if you want to play and win, you will almost certainly have to do it. Unless you have a friend generous enough to do it for you or give you their hard earned ‘Mons, you don’t have much of a choice. This just isn’t viable for me. I have a full time job and little enough time in the evenings as it is. Unless Nintendo change the rules to allow conventional breeding of legendary Pokemon (which I doubt) then I really will have to rule myself out of playing.

However, that is just a personal choice for me. I actually think that the changes are, on the whole, pretty good for the game. Some people are claiming that the meta game will become overly centralised, with only a few Pokemon in regular usage, but I don’t buy that argument because that’s pretty much what happens in every version of the meta game, including 2015 (looking at you Mega Kangaskhan…..which I also use.)

Beyond the Pokemon that are still banned (Mew etc) all discoverable Pokemon are now viable for use. This means that actually, in all likelihood, we will see a lot more variety in the teams as people come up with ever more inventive ways of combining legendary Pokemon with less well known and used Pokemon. Particularly with such an emphasis on weather, with Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza all now allowed, many Pokemon which were pretty dump before will actually find their niche.

In short, I’m all for it. I’m just sorry I won’t be able to take part.

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Pokemon Wonderlocke Challenge! Episode 4: The road to the Elite Four

elite 4

I know what you’re thinking, “how can you be at the elite four by episode four of the wonderlocke?”

Simply put, the team became too powerful for the game to offer much in the way of challenge. Since our last episode, gym after gym fell to my team with no casualties to report. I played through the story line of containing Primal Kyogre with little in the way of incidents (although it got a bit hairy at times with the battle against Kyogre.)

I therefore decided to throw myself straight into victory road and the Elite Four to bring the wonderlocke to a climax. The road to the Elite Four proved to be the most challenging part of the game so far, purely down to the volume of trainers and the limited amount of healing items that I allowed myself. Despite some tricky moments with some of the Pokemon living with only a few HP remaining, I did make it through to the Elite Four without suffering any further losses. This means that my team going into the Elite Four was as follows:

Abomasnow, Toxicroak, Gastrodon, Sylveon, Gyarados and Goodra.

The first thing that struck me on challenging Elite Four Sidney was that my Pokemon were almost perfectly levelled, with most being on par with or just below the level of Sidney’s. The second thing that struck me was that I have being playing and watching competitive Pokemon for too long. This sounds a bit stupid but it does mean that I have kind of forgotten that kind of random crap that the NPCs actually run on their Pokemon. A combination of this, and perhaps a little overconfidence on my part, led to my defeat in the wonderlocke.

My Abomasnow went down to a random fire punch Dusknoir, Gyarados to freeze-dry Glalie, Toxicroak to a Blizzard critical hit. All of these combined with the pressure of going in to each successive battle with fewer and fewer Pokemon meant that by the time I went in to the battle with Steven the Champion I only had Sylveon and Gastrodon left. Needless to say this wasn’t enough and defeat was pretty certain by that point.

A disappointing end to the Wonderlocke maybe, but it really has convinced me on the fun that can be had in Wonderlocke and Nuzlocke challenges. It forces you to be more creative with your teams and become far more attached to your Pokemon when you realise that you can’t just run to the Pokemon centre to heal up.

Next up…. Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge: HeartGold!

Top Ten Grass-Type Pokemon!

grass type

Despite grass type being one of the most common Pokemon types of all, I often feel that it is generally overlooked. Possibly this is due to grass being pretty weak competitively, being weak to flying, fire, bug, Ice and poison. This makes it pretty tricky to use, particularly with most teams running an ice attack user to deal with the many dragon type threats which are commonly used (Salamence etc) and the prevalence of Mega-Charizard and Talonflame in the doubles meta-game. Another possible reason for grass type often being overlooked is that there are just so many average looking Pokemon in this type. However, I think it deserves better, so here is my top ten favourite Grass, or part-grass, type Pokemon.

  1. Snivy

snivy

This Pokemon makes the list due to its cutesy charm and appearance of haughty aloofness. It doesn’t hurt that Ash’s Snivy in the TV series really was amazing (once it got its attitude sorted.)

  1. Vileplume

250px-045Vileplume

I loved this Pokemon as a child ever since I saw it in glorious 3D in Pokemon Stadium, pirouetting around using petal dance, smiling away. It earns ever more marks from me by looking bad-ass despite evolving from one of the dullest basic Pokemon in the game.

  1. Chikorita

1878598-chikorita_by_pokesafari

CUTE!! ‘Nuff said.

  1. Leafeon

470Leafeon_BW_anime

I love all of the Eeveelutions. I think they are all so well designed, lots of thought and effort have gone into the look of these Pokemon. They seem to typify their typing in the way that they look, and Leafeon is no exception to this. It’s a pain to evolve if you aren’t sure where to find a moss stone, but well worth the effort. Surprisingly not too awful stats-wise too, with an impressive attack and defence value. Move-pool not too good though.

  1. Bulbasaur

1633835-bulbasaur_by_thunderwest

BULBA-SAUR! I love Ash’s Bulbasaur in the cartoon, its tough and cute in equal measure. I never could understand why Ash leaves it behind…

  1. Cacturne

250px-332Cacturne

Not only is this Pokemon, incredibly sinister looking, its Pokedex is equally disturbing – “Packs of them follow travelers through the desert until the travelers can no longer move.” Looking at its face, I can seriously believe it. Huge style points on this Pokemon.

  1. Abomasnow and Mega-Abomasnow

250px-460Abomasnow

Since I first encountered this Pokemon and its associated mega-evolved form in the snowy cave in the Kalos region, I thought its design was pretty special. Which is saying something as I think that the 6th generation has some really great Pokemon design to compete with, so much so that I wrote a post dedicated solely to this shortly after the release of X and Y (if you missed it, the link is at the bottom of this post.) Who wouldn’t love a giant grassy Ice-monster that looks like it could very well be responsible for all the rumours of abominable snow men?

  1. Gourgeist

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Haunted pumpkin that wanders around cursing people? That’s sounds pretty awesome to me. “Singing in eerie voices, they wander town streets on the night of the new moon. Anyone who hears their song is cursed.”

  1. Ludicolo

250px-272Ludicolo

This Pokemon makes it all the way to the top purely because it looks like it is the most cheerful creature on the planet and dances pretty well. Making it dance slower when it has a status problem was a fairly nice touch.

  1. And the winner is…Trevenant!

trevenant_v2_by_theangryaron-d7758xh

This Pokemon has a great little Pokedex entry, stating that it will willingly protect its forest from harm cause by people and Pokemon, which instantly conjures up memories of Ents from Lord of the Rings or Tree Guardians from the Warhammer Wood Elf army. Add in the fact that its design really is perfect, then this ways always going to be the standout winner.

https://theinverselook.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/6th-generation-pokemon-design/

Awww snap – Pokemon Snap!

poke snap

Everyone has those games which they end up accumulating through various ways and means which never seem to get played. A while back I bought a bundle of N64 which contained a few classics, Donkey Kong 64 among them, which contained a few titles that I had little to no interest in playing.

One of these titles that just sat there gathering dust was Pokemon Snap; it’s not that I thought the game would be bad I just never really got around to trying it out. As it turned out, this was this was a mistake because Pokemon Snap actually is a bit of a gem. For those who are too young to remember, Pokemon Snap is an on rails photography game. Professor Oak is making a Pokemon report and has commissioned you to take photos to add to his report.

pokemon-snap

Admittedly, this sounds terrible, but the game is actually both fun and addictive. You sit in a high-tech vehicle which travels through various terrains and your job is to take photos of as many different Pokemon as possible with points being awarded at the end for the quality of the photographs. Extra points are awarded for the subject being in the centre of the shot, the pose, the sizing and whether there are multiple Pokemon in the photo. It sounds easy, but it is actually quite challenging as they are fast moving and often hiding, attacking other Pokemon, etc.

vulpix

As you photograph new Pokemon, more levels are unlocked and items are awarded for use in helping to photo more Pokemon such as food to lure them to good locations, or Pester Balls to flush rarer Pokemon out of hiding. This makes the game more complicated than you might initially expect, and the frustration becomes so real when you just miss that perfect shot that would give you the highest score. It can be quite painstaking to lure multiple Pokemon to one spot for a perfect shot but the satisfaction of pulling it off is great, as is the lavish praise received from Professor Oak. By throwing balls and food you can also make the Pokemon fight, faint and evolve which prompts Oak to declare your photos as ‘very funny’ and give you extra points. Apparently Professor Oak has a pretty simplistic sense of humour.

I was surprised by how addictive this game is; although the game only has about 7 or 8 levels the longevity is there as it really is hard to resist going back through a level to try and get the maximum amount of points and to flush out new Pokemon. In a way, I suppose the game also teaches you the rudimentary points of photo composition too, although some photos which are clearly amazing snapshots are rejected by Oak on the ridiculous grounds of being slightly off centre. I suppose the compulsion to maximise the points and discoveries is the same drive behind filling out a Pokedex within one of the main entries in the franchise. Perhaps that’s why I am such a sucker for this game; or maybe it really is just a bright and charming (and somewhat odd) addition to the franchise which I regret overlooking for so long.

To get an idea of what to expect, please find a link to the first level below, brought to you by Nintensoft.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BPhFYzX9TY

Pokemon Wonderlocke Challenge! Episode 3: death, grinding and tough choices

eeveelutions

After a somewhat turbulent journey filled with loss and wrath, finally the bright lights of Mauville City beckoned. With my somewhat diminished team I decided that it was time to get some new blood to add to the team before tackling the Mauville City gym, therefore I ventured east of the city to route 118.

Route 118: Voltorb (sent) Feebas (received)

Feebas…not great admittedly but workable, although evolving it into a Milotic might end up being a bit of a pain. Fortunately, this didn’t actually prove to be a problem due to a somewhat unfortunate grinding incident brought on by my own impatience resulting in a fainted Feebas and a feeling of utter shame.

Getting somewhat desperate at this point I took the Magikarp from the box and spent the train ride to work endlessly grinding to evolve Magikarp into Gyarados, or in other words, something useful. Of course this would not help me in the forthcoming gym, Mauville City playing host to the Hoenn electric type gym. As usual, the mooks leading up to the leader offer virtually no resistance whatsoever with Bagon crushing all opposition.

And, as usual, this was followed by yet another dollop of tragedy. I should have known better as I have spent enough time playing competitively and watching Pokemon videos to remember that Magneton has crazy high special attack. I really underestimated the damage that the Volt Switch would do and paid the price.

As I collected my badge and TM from Wattson I decided it was time to leave Mauville and go on a Pokemon catching spree to replenish my party with wonder trades from routes 111, 112 and the Fiery Path.

Route 111 Geodude (sent) Metapod (received)

Route 112 Numel (sent) Pawniard (received)

Fiery Path Numel (sent) Eevee (received)

The Eevee caught me a bit by surprise and this offered a new challenge in deciding exactly what to do with it. I definitely didn’t want Flareon or Vaporeon as this would be totally redundant with my other Pokemon in the party. In the end I decided that Sylveon would be the best all-round choice and offer some much needed bulk to the party. I decided that Pawniard wouldn’t really work as it doesn’t evolve until level 52 which would be a massive pain.

Until next time, cue the music and let the grinding montage begin…..

Current party:

-Quilava

-Combusken

-Shellos

-Gyarados

-Butterfree

-Sylveon

Deceased:

-Zubat

-Bagon

-Feebas

Pokemon wonderlocke challenge! Episode two

250px-262Mightyena

We left last time on the road which leads to Brawly, the fighting type specialist gym leader. Sadly, unlike last time, there was much more grief in this section than I would have liked.

The gym leader and his cronies did not actually present too much in the way of an issue; Zubat’s wing attack/ brave bird combo was enough to see off the gym with no casualties to report. Sadly, this was the last action that Zubat would see due to an unlucky critical hit inflicted by some two-bit trainer on the following route.

The journey to Mauville was similarly not incident free but did allow for two new encounters:

Route 109 Magikarp (sent) Bagon (received)

Route 110 Electrike (sent) Zigzagoon (received)

The Bagon from route 109 turned out to be an excellent replacement for the recently deceased Zubat. Its moveset included dragon dance, and its dragon typing provides a nice resistance to grass, fire, water, electricity etc.

A trainer battle with a trainer on route 117 saw the untimely death of my recently evolved Mightyena. In truth, this was entirely my own fault for risking the chance of not attacking through paralysis, and this is exactly what happened.

Route 117 Zigzagoon (sent) Honedge (received)

I was mightily please to receive Honedge, the eventual Aegislash would be an excellent addition to my team. Sadly, this was not to be. I immediately set about grinding to get it up to the same level as my other Pokemon, only for it to be wiped out to a pursuit from a Doduo. A DODUO for pity’s sake. Devil bird more like. I was switching out to Bagon to take the hit and it used literally the only move that could screw me. Frustrated just doesn’t quite cover it.

Current team:

Combusken

Quilava

Bagon

Shellos

Deceased:

Zubat

Mightyena

Honedge

Wonderlocke Pokemon Challenge! Episode 1

starters

In the absence of a new Pokemon fix to entertain myself, I have decided to embark on a Wonderlocke play through of Alpha Sapphire to keep things fresh.

For those who perhaps don’t know, the wonderlocke rules are as follows:

-Only one Pokemon can be caught on each route.

-The first Pokemon encountered on each route has to be caught, if it faints then you cannot take a Pokemon from this route.

-Each Pokemon caught must be immediately traded on wondertrade and the received Pokemon can be used.

As you can imagine this can lead to some interesting Pokemon being used in your party which might otherwise be overlooked and can introduce Pokemon not native to the region. To keep the difficulty up somewhat, a Pokemon cannot be used if it is received at a level ten above what you traded, and if it faints in battle it can no longer be used.

I am going to regularly post my progress throughout the game with updates on all Pokemon received and lost. Last night I created my character, Lucina the trainer, and made my way to the first gym to battle the leader Roxanne.

Caught and received Pokemon:

Route 101 – Zigzagoon (sent) Bunelby (received)

Route 102 – Wurmple (sent) Poochyena (received)

Route 103 – Zigzagoon (sent) Cyndaquil

Petalburg Woods – Pokemon knocked out

Route 116 – Wurmple (sent) Shellos (received)

The route to the gym leader was fairly uneventful, the only casualty being Bunnelby who I carelessly let faint to a Seedot using bide (embarrassing, but Bunnelby is up there on my most hated Pokemon of all time due to its hideous evolved form so no great loss there.)

The gym itself was rather trickier as I did not get Shellos until just before the leader. The gym was predominantly rock type, and my Cyndaquil and Torchic both suffer badly against rock types. My Poochyena’s defences are terrible and didn’t hold up well at all. Only the arrival of Shellos Waterpulsing the crap out of everything made the leader beatable without casualty (although it was a close run thing.

Next time…..The journey to badge number 2!

Current Party:

-Torchic

-Cyndaquil

-Poochyena

-Shellos

Deceased:

-Bunnelby

A Resident Evil Revelation

If any of you have read any of my posts before you will know that the Resident Evil franchise is one my most beloved video game franchises of all time. Resident Evil Zero, Re-make and Resident Evil 4 (alongside some decent Wii efforts in the form of Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles) are well up there in my list of all-time great games. Re-make in particular has the perfect blend of horror, stunning visuals and an amazing array of scores and sound effects.

Bearing this in mind, I decided to give the previously ignored Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS a go. Why I hadn’t tried it out already I can’t quite explain; perhaps the notion of trying to play a Resi game on a handheld device had just seemed mildly unappealing. Suffice to say, my expectations going into the game were not that high.

Happily, Revelations turned out to be a somewhat pleasant surprise which not only exceeded my expectations but actually holds its own as a good game in its own right. Without giving too much away about the story, the game centres around Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield as they work on behalf of the BSAA combating bio-organic weapon threats across the globe in the aftermath of the collapse of Umbrella. Set one year on from a BOW terrorist attack by a terrorist organisation known only as Veltro, our heroes are tasked with investigating possible signs of a Veltro resurrection in the form of dead BOW’s washed up on a beach in the United States. The investigation leads Jill to an abandoned super tanker adrift in the Mediterranean Sea where all is not as it seems….

The setting of the game is one of the major plus points in its favour; the cramped, claustrophobic air of the abandoned vessel serves only to increase the sense of isolation and horror that you feel on exploring your way through the ship which is, of course, crawling with a new type of BOW. The storyline is also rather good in this game; don’t get me wrong, it’s no Lord of the Rings but there is enough of a decent narrative to hold your interest all the way through the game, including some nice misdirects and surprise revelations (hence the name I guess.)

Unsurprisingly, like other Resident Evil games before it, Revelations looks great, even on the oldest, smallest 3DS. I was actually quite impressed with the level of graphical quality and detail that the developers had managed to squeeze out of the 3DS’s hardware. Throw into the mix a fantastic musical score and creepy sound effects (particularly the new BOWs, they sound terrifying) and you get a very polished, competent feeling game which is highly successful in creating an atmosphere of fear and horror.

There are, of course, some drawbacks to this game, however. First of all, it’s too short. I count myself as being a pretty competent Resident Evil veteran, but even so the game only took me 11 hours to complete, which is too short no matter how good at the game you might be. This may also, in part, be down to the difficulty level, which is not set very high. The game also seems to have not quite found the right balance between combat and puzzle-solving/survival elements, swinging too far towards the combat side of things. Perhaps this is not a fair criticism of Revelations in particular though, but more of the series in general. I favour a move back towards gameplay more similar to that seen in Re-make, but I recognise that I might be in a minority in this regard.

Apart from those two factors however, only the sometimes painfully annoying supporting cast and occasionally cheeses dialogue mar what is otherwise a great game, particularly when you consider that this was one of the first games to come out on the 3DS. I would recommend picking this up from somewhere and giving it a go; it only costs around £10 from Amazon and is therefore incredibly good value for a decent game.

If you are familiar with the Resident Evil franchise, I would love to hear your comments on where you think the series should go next; back towards a re-make style game, or nearer to the gameplay found in 4? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Fire Emblem 3DS: An Awakening Indeed…

Perhaps like many of you lovely gamers out there, when Super Smash Brothers Melee (and later Brawl) came out I sat there looking at the excellent character roster and thinking ‘who the hell are Marth and Roy, and where have they come from?’

Needless to say, my knowledge of the Fire Emblem franchise was frighteningly absent. Happily, last month this was rectified when a friend loaned me a copy of Fire Emblem Awakening on the 3DS. I realised that I have been missing out on a rather excellent franchise for quite some time.

For those of you who don’t know, Fire Emblem Awakening is a turn based RPG based on levels made up of grids with characters that can move certain amount of spaces and can perform certain attacks and actions. Think Advance Wars with ancient style weapons and you’re pretty much there. The combat mechanics are based on a rock-paper-scissors sytem: lance beats sword, sword beats axe, and axe beats lance. Things become more complicated when archers and magic users are thrown into the mix, but essentially the game is highly tactical, involving the manoeuvring of units into favourable match ups while keeping vulnerable units out of harm’s way.

gameplay

I feel like I need to make one thing clear. People who do not like turn based combat games or RPG’s are not going to be won over by this game, but for everyone else this game is well worth a go.

The positives? Well, first of all the character design and cut scenes in this game can only be described as beautiful. The character avatars are full of life and personality, and some of the movie style cut scenes are simply breathtaking. The game also has a pleasing level of complexity after the initial concepts are introduced. To make the most out of the game and to keep units alive, your heroes need to be paired up to lend different strengths and stat boosts to the primary character of the pair and to protect more vulnerable characters. This offers a lot in the way of flexibility for tactical play as you explore which characters work well together and complement each other to for truly powerful units.

lucina

The additional benefit of pairing units up is that if they pair up for long enough their relationship improves, increasing the damage and frequency of multiple strikes/critical hits in combat. Different character combinations evolve to different levels of friendship which again offers a lot of choice in the way you want to play. In certain situations characters can get married if their relationship reaches a certain level. It’s a little disappointing that only heteronormative couples can do this but I suppose it is a Nintendo game after all.

The combat feels smooth and satisfying and the level design always feels fresh and varied. Needless to say, some of the enemy commanders that you will be faced are comedically evil/annoying which makes them a pleasure to defeat. The story is a little cheesy in places but perhaps that is only to be expected of an RPG of this kind.

In fact the only negative comment that I could make is that there is little scope for replayability. Once you have completed this game there really is no reason to be back and do so again. Once you have the knack of the combat system there really is little left to master. This leads me non to my next issue; the game does not reward you for trying to be innovative or for fully utilising all available options.

Mostly this is most apparent in the archer and magic classes. Using them is just more trouble than it’s worth and really just isn’t necessary at all, nor will the game offer any incentive for trying. I always found that pairing up strong physical attackers was always enough to win the day without exploring other options.

That being said, this is a very minor complaint and is hardly unique to this game. I found myself enjoying the game hugely and was continually playing to see how the cheesy plot would unfold. It is also very rewarding to see characters relationships develop. You really begin to care about them. If you play it on classic like I did, where if they die you lose them from your team permanently, each loss is keenly felt.

In short this game is well worth a look, and may well open up a potentially overlooked franchise. If you have already played this game, let me know what your thoughts on it in the comment section below.

Majora’s Mask: Link’s Afterlife

With the hype building over Hyrule Warriors and the tantalising drip release of information concerning the open world Zelda, I decided to revisit my favourite Zelda game: Majora’s Mask.

I have spoken before about why I prefer this game over Ocarina of Time so I won’t go into too much detail on that. Suffice to say is that I think that the overall tone and atmosphere of the game just pops it for me. Obviously many would not agree with me on this.

A while ago someone passed on to me an intriguing article claiming that Link is most likely dead or in some kind if purgatory in the form of Termina. Upon hearing that, and playing through the game again, it is hard to come to any other conclusion.

The whole of Termina is filled with people living with crippling regrets and restlessness of spirit. Whether it is the fratricidal composer brothers, the Ikana residents unable to rest in their graves or Kafei cursed into a child’s body on the eve of his wedding; all the residents of Termina seem to be suffering and obsessed with regret. In addition to this, Termina seems to be infested with unquiet spirits and the restless dead. The endless three day cycle with the threat of impending doom really does have a strong sense of a purgatorial setting. The appearance of familiar figures from the Ocarina world, particularly the departed Koume and Kotake does nothing to dispel this feeling.

But if this true, what then does this make Link? Is he merely another restless spirit? Or something more? The obvious answers seem to be that Link is either being morally tested, or that he is some angel-like figure offering redemption and easing regret filled souls. I’m not sure what answer I prefer, but it is definitely an interesting question nonetheless.

Perhaps this is one reason why I really live this game. The content matter really is very dark and mature, but wrapped up in the colourful charm of the Zelda universe. All I know is that it will take one hell of a game to dislodge Mask as my favourite Zelda game. But an open world Zelda game could come awfully close…