Pokemon VGC 2016: Good or bad for the game?

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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.

Top ten N64 games: revisited

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Many moons ago, when blogging was still relatively new to me, I did what I imagine most games bloggers above a certain age have done and wrote a to ten N64 games list. It was a pretty indulgent thing to do but I nevertheless enjoyed it immensely.

Looking back on this now, I didn’t do the best job, not really justifying my picks in any detailed sort of way. Also, I have played a few other games since then which very much need to be taken into account. Therefore I give to you my latest attempt at singling out ten games, out of a plethora of good N64, as the ‘best.’

Naturally I would love to hear whether you agree or disagree, for that nice feeling of shared experience, or passionately and pointlessly arguing against someone else’s perfectly valid opinion.

  1. Super Smash Brothers

The game that launched a franchise which was destined to become one of Nintendo’s most profitable of all time, this game does not need much in the way of introduction. The success of this game was purely down to its simple concept of throwing together the most iconic characters that Nintendo could find and making them beat the crap out of each other. Not only did this settle some childhood arguments about the relative strengths of different characters, but it also allowed a whole generation to fall out with each other and sulk for days. Satisfying gameplay, simple controls and an addictive re-playability, combined with Nintendo’s triple A intellectual properties made this a smash hit paving the way for later instalments. Unlike most of the games on this list however, it doesn’t hold up so well now. Playing it after being used to its more polished, lightning fast successors really does feel both slow and clunky. Or maybe I’m just not playing it properly. Either way, Link for the win!

  1. Jet Force Gemini

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Perhaps one of the few on this list which could possibly be described as underrated (or maybe not, I just don’t know anyone else personally who owned it.) Nevertheless, this game really did show off the huge amount of talent that Rare had at its disposal. Not to mention that the concept of the game is so good. Space heroes, including a flying dog, out to save small bear-like creatures from the predations of giant ants? Yes please! Add buckets of ant-gore, satisfying action and that dark humour which become so synonymous with Rare, and the result is a really excellent third person action/adventure. The only issue with this is that in order to finish the game an incredibly long and arduous process of saving every tribal and finding all of the scattered space ship parts  has to be overcome and completely de-rails the flow of the game. Still an excellent experience though.

  1. Snowboard Kids

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Possibly a game doomed to fade away into obscurity, this game deserves to be on this list and it really was a coinflip between having this game at seven or eight in this list. This polished snowboard racer really does have everything; chaotic items and weaponry, excellent course design, a reward system for pulling off complex tricks, and one of the best soundtracks to feature in any game, ever. Seriously, neighbours could be forgiven for thinking that you were mid-way through a pretty good rave once this game gets dusted off. Really wouldn’t bother with the sequel though…

  1. MarioKart 64

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Does this game really need its merits explained? Well, lets go over them anyway, if only for the sake of thoroughness. Building on the huge success of the first instalment on the SNES, this game has to go down as one of the best MarioKarts to date. Fantastic track design, which really brings out all of the character of the Mario universe, coupled with frantic races, cheating computers and a battle mode, (not to mention the utilising of a number of Nintendo’s best characters) combined to not only create a good game, but ensured the long term success of the franchise. This remains one of my favourite entries to date despite some slight issues with the somewhat slippery handling. It would be reasonably safe to say that this game was a triumph for multi-player gaming, and has created fond memories and excessive combativeness for a whole generation.

  1. Donkey Kong 64

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Another piece of Rare magic, and another IP which made the transition from 2D to 3D seamlessly, this game took a classic and re-made it into a fantastic 3D platform adventure game. The inclusion of 5 playable Kong’s, the innovative and breath-taking worlds to explore, hilarious special powers, and fruit based weapons, and overall feeling of quality, made this an unforgettable experience. The bright levels, unbelievably good level soundtracks, and awesome boss fights ensured that this game was played over and over again (despite the part of the game which demands beating the original Donkey Kong to get to the final boss being SO FRUSTRATING!)

  1. Banjo Tooie

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Seriously, what was Rare on in the late nineties/early noughties and where can I get some? I agonised for a long time between putting this at the 5 or 4 slot on this list. This is definitely one of my favourite games of all time. As an adventure platforming game, this pretty much has everything. Great level design (particularly like Hailfire Peaks) most amazing, kick ass soundtrack (every tune will have you humming for days after), having a character that can split in two and or travel as a pair assisting each other with their respective skills was pretty refreshing for the time, the narrative was smart and, of course, that wickedly dark Rare humour just oozed out of the dialogue. Banjo and Kazooie have some hilarious and dark dialogue which still makes me laugh every time. This game misses out on being my favourite adventure/platforming game only due to the next entry…

  1. Super Mario 64

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For many, this is game that really launched 3-D platform gaming. On a personal level I will never forget the feeling of watching 3-D Mario leaping out of the pipe and then seeing Peach’s castle looming in all its glory. That’s all before you get inside; greeted by Bowser’s sinister laugh to see all the rooms and corridors sprawling off into the distance. This game, more successfully than others of the time, managed to make every world and course completely unique and engaging, including hidden secrets and stars to find and outrageous world bosses. Rather than go on, suffice to say that this game is pretty close to perfect and is held back only by the limitations of its hardware. Then again, would this really be improved with more technical power behind it? Not really, I didn’t like the DS version of the game anywhere near as much (mostly because trying to play a 3-D game on a D-pad is just dump, and don’t get me started on trying to control with the touch screen.) This game still features in many people’s lists of best games of all time, and deservedly so.

  1. Goldeneye/Perfect Dark

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To some, it may appear heretical to lump these two games together, particularly as they are both such outstandingly good titles. However, I really couldn’t call between the two in terms of my own preference, and they largely provide the same sort of thrills. Perhaps more than any of the others, these two Rare titles are the ones which have become synonymous with N64 quality. It is very difficult to say which the better game is. Technically Perfect Dark has the edge, utilising the expansion pack to give a more polished and graphically superior game. By all other standards though, they both are too close to call. Both offer superb and engrossing storylines and excellent FPS action. Goldeneye has all of the Bond charm of the movie; Perfect Dark captures the essence of futuristic government conspiracy. Both have great multiplayers (possibly slightly better in PD due to the ability to have extra NPC combatants.) The only clear difference between the two games is that the enemy intelligence is far better in Perfect Dark.

  1. The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

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This is the game that really launched my obsession with games and remains one of my favourites to this day. I’m sure there is no need to explain why this game is good; you almost certainly already know why (and if you don’t what was up with your childhood?) This game has literally almost everything. So why is it at second? Well…

1. The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask

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Building on what made Ocarina so good, this game delivers in spades. I know that putting this ahead of Ocarina might be an unpopular choice, but out of the two I really do prefer Majora’s Mask. Sure, it doesn’t have as many temples and the boss fights are a little easy in places, but apart from that I think Mask has the edge. The sheer overwhelmingly large amount of challenges and quests to complete, coupled with the darker, more mature content (dealing largely with loss, regret, fear and death) create a far more immersive world as you get so heavily involved in the lives of the denizens of Termina. The use of masks to give Link different skills and forms adds further depth to an already winning formula. Pure magic.

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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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CUTE!! ‘Nuff said.

  1. Leafeon

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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/

Meet your Doom! Doom 3 that is…

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As some of you may know I have always been a huge fan of the original Quake game released way back in the 90’s (on the N64 in my case) so much so that I did a Halloween tribute to it a few years back and the beginnings of a Let’s Play! On Youtube (links to both at the end of this post.)

It seems hard to discuss Quake without people inevitably making comparisons to the Doom franchise. Therefore I have always avoided playing Doom, possibly feeling that it would be some sort of slur on Quake to do so, but most likely it was more a case of not seeing how it could ever live up. However, when I came across the special edition of Doom 3 for a few pounds in a second hand shop I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out what the franchise is like to play.

To be honest, my expectations of this game were quite high (Quake prejudice notwithstanding) as it regularly makes appearances in people’s lists of the scariest video games. Happily, I have not been disappointed. As a horror game, it’s a very competent effort indeed, and manages to create a wonderfully creepy gaming experience. The opening level sees you on a Martian outpost of a sinisterly powerful corporation tasked with exploring space and conducting scientific research. From the get-go there is a feeling about this place is not quite right. Whether it’s the oddly overly sterile environment, the egotistical overseer/manager of the facility or the disembodied android voices echoing down the corridors, the place just feels like a disaster waiting to happen.

Sure enough within minutes of your arrival everything starts to go horribly wrong and you find yourself tasked with hunting down some employees who have gone missing. The horror and suspense is built up well as you being to explore some of the abandoned sections of the base with only a flashlight and some of the terrified maintenance personnel for company. Naturally when you find the missing staff everything kicks off, with the creepy devil’s heads appearing out of the walls and possessing the hapless scientists and turning the marines into mindless zombies. This doesn’t sound particularly original, and it isn’t, but it is done with polish enough to make it seem both frightening and refreshing.

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It’s quite hard to pin down what makes this game so frightening but here are just a few of the factors which combine to make the overall effect. This game manages to create a perfect sense of isolation; you very rarely run into anyone who hasn’t succumbed to the possessing force which has ravaged the base, and the few who have mostly die pretty quickly. The lighting and level design is used to great effect to further emphasise this sense of loneliness and isolation; the claustrophobic corridors, ventilation shafts and access tunnels lend themselves well to creating an overall sense of dread and impending doom. You also begin the game with very little actual information about your surroundings and narrative; most information in the game is gained through finding personnel PDA’s which hold a variety of voice memo and staff e-mails which shed light on what has been happening in the research facility. The audio effects and monster design in the game are also top notch, managing to be both crisp and yet retaining an almost retro sort of feel; you can see the care and attention which has gone into bringing out the canon in this game.

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Overall, this is a great horror experience. My only real criticism is that the lack of overall narrative and character interaction can sometimes seem stifling at times; but mostly this is a great game and well worth a play through. Does it compare to Quake though? I can’t really answer that as I have not played any of the more recent entries into the series for a fair comparison. I did enjoy playing the original Quake more, but that is not a particular criticism of Doom and may have as much to do with nostalgia as anything else. The Doom 3 BFG edition also comes with the original versions of Doom and Doom 2 so perhaps a more direct comparison would be more appropriate there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcfxPkKwh5I

https://theinverselook.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/halloween-quake-revisited/

Awww snap – Pokemon Snap!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

Top ten mega evolutions!

Sometimes you just need a good top ten and this is one of those times! Just to be clear, this is based purely on aesthetics rather than competitive viability, as some of these Pokemon really are not cut out for competitive play.

  1. Aggron

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Looking like a tank which decided to have a baby with a rhino, Aggron looks like one of those Pokemon which, if real, would be far too dangerous to be allowed to live. All blades, all edges and titanic size, this is somewhat reminiscent of a Dark Souls boss….to be feared.

  1. Houndoom

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Cujo much? Houndoom has a good design anyway and is only improved by becoming mega. The black, white and red colour scheme, coupled with the huge ram horns and pointy tail give more than a vague impression of devilishness. Way cooler than Mega Absol’s emo fringe look…

  1. Steelix

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There is something hypnotic about the tiny shards of metal orbiting Steelix’s face, endlessly moving and supported by seemingly nothing at all. That coupled with Steelix’s serpentine shape and vaguely unsettling grin combine to make this a pretty awesome visual spectacle.

  1. Ampharos

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Because you’re worth it too! Mega Ampharos really does look like an advert for Pantenne or Herbal Esseences with that wavy, majestic hair and ‘I’m so much more awesome than you look.’ Pretty cool, in other words.

  1. Banette

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This Pokemon could quite easily be something fished out of the Warren’s basement or straight out of the mind of Tim Burton. Childhood fear mixed with the everyday made terrifying doesn’t even come close to describing the horror that would be if this Pokemon were actually to exist.

  1. Blastoise

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Huge reptile with a howitzer sized cannon on its back? Enough said.

  1. Altaria

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IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GOING TO DIE!

  1. Beedrill

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All menace, all pointy, all badass! I have always liked the design of this Pokemon, and going mega has only made me like it more edgy.

  1. Charizard X

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I love the colour scheme; the blue balefire streaming out of the mouth makes this design seem to be a little ethereal.

  1. Gengar

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Gengar is one of my most favourite Pokemon designs, so I really couldn’t see how it could be improved upon. The hellish underglow lighting up the Gengar as if it was emerging from the pits of the underworld managed to do it though.

Agree or disagree? Did I miss anything off my list? Let me know in the comments!

A ray of Golden Sun

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If any of you have ever moved out of your parent’s house, part of the sad process is that, inevitably, many of your treasured possessions will end up being stuffed in bags and exiled to some dingy part of the house to make way for a study room/shoe room/shrine or whatever. Or maybe that was just my parents. Upon a recent trip back to my former residence I decided to salvage as many of my treasures as possible which happened to include a long forgotten original GameBoy Advance in a lovely shade of purple.

I couldn’t resist hunting down some double A batteries, hiding from any direct sunlight (no back lighting back in the day) and whacking on Golden Sun to really get the retro-vibes going. If you have read many of my other posts, you will be aware that I hold the Golden Sun franchise in high regard indeed, but have never written on the subject specifically. So here goes nothing.

For those of you who aren’t familiar (or are horribly young and don’t even remember when GBA’s were a thing) Golden Sun is a turn-based RPG strategy game following the story of a young Adept gifted in Psynergy, a magic-like force derived from each of the four elements: fire, water, earth and air. Each Adept in your party will be able to draw on a different element of Psynergy which have different effects: air Psynergy grants the power to read minds and summon whirlwinds, earth magic grants telekinesis for solving puzzles etc. Different elements also allow the use of different spells in combat, and can be supplemented in power and effect by collecting and defeating elemental Djinn which can be found on the world map and in dungeons.

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These Djinn can be mixed in different ways for each character to grant changes in class and stats, available spells etc. So far, pretty solid RPG fare. However, these Djinn can also be used in combat to unleash powerful attacks themselves, but will cause the users stats to drop the more Djinn are used. Once these Djinn are used they are put into standby, where they can then be used to summon massive elemental attacks. It sounds complicated but really it is quite intuitive and engaging as a battle system and always feels fast paced and rewarding.

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In terms of graphics, obviously the GameBoy Advance era isn’t going to cause any jaws in the PS4 era but the characters are all incredibly well designed, the monster avatars are interesting and varied and the bright colours of the world map and battle animations are pleasantly refreshing and, well, artsy in style. In particular, the Djinn summons really are quite spectacular. This is all augmented by a very well composed musical score both on the world map and in dungeons/battle (as many GameBoy Advance had) as well as a storyline which is both interesting and classic (although not necessarily that original, but that’s most RPG’s for you.) Not to give too much away, but the story starts off with your gold old fashioned evil dooers breaking into a sacred sanctum and stealing the elemental stars which causes a chain reaction which destroys our heroes home town. Que dramatic quest to slay the bad guys, retrieve the stars and save the world etc.

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The dungeon design in this game is excellent, particularly in the elemental lighthouses which make up the games main story points, but generally the caves and other locations of battle are also to a very high standard. The boss fights in this game are similarly great, both being challenging and fun in equal measure. Again, as I say pretty frequently in these posts, those who are dead set against RPG games are probably not going to warm much to this game, but for everyone else who is looking for a good retro RPG experience you can’t do much better than this. Unless, of course, you go for the sequel, Golden Sun: The Lost Age which is pretty much more of the same but bigger and more streamlined.