Archive for the ‘DS’ Category

The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation VII

Games
Pokémon Sun
Pokémon Moon
Pokémon Ultra Sun
Pokémon Ultra Moon

Platform
3DS

Region
Alola

New Pokemon
86
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+7. It’s the simple things

I’m starting this one with a catch-all cheat for the first time since my Gen IV post because the seventh generation Pokemon games rolled in at the end of the series’ 20th anniversary year with a swag of smaller changes that truly gave the traditional Pokemon flow a boost in playability. Some of them were flavour-leaning, such as the huge list of Pokemon who suddenly learned new (usually really cool and/or signature) moves on whatever level at which they happened to evolve, the long-absent return of music tracks specific to the time of day in-game, or the (once again) greatly appreciated minor stat boosts bequeathed upon a couple of dozen older Pokemon to bring them more in line with their designs (e.g a bit more Special Attack for Noctowl, much more durability overall for Corsola and the celestial rock twins).

Other, more immediate changes came under the “quality of life” banner, and they were received with open arms by the community at large. The headliner for long-suffering competitive players was the IV Judge feature no longer requiring a visit to a particular NPC to access, nor an intimate knowledge of six specific phrases. Simply open your in-game PC after a certain point in the game, tap an icon on the summary page of your intended Pokemon, and there’s a graph of all six of it’s hidden Individual Values. Laughably easy. In addition, each time you caught a Pokemon in the wild you now had the option to add it to your party right then and there, rather than send it to a PC box. The bottom screen of the 3DS also started pulling more of its weight this generation, displaying new information such as all combatants’ current stat boosts/drops, not to mention the predicted effectiveness of a move on an opposing Pokemon as long as said ‘mon had been encountered before. Someone at Game Freak was paying attention.

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The Games of Not-2018

2018 felt a little different to me in terms of the way I used my free time on videogames. For whatever reason – be it a less intense schedule of new releases that interested me, weariness of the same old drop-everything-to-play-the-new-thing habits, finally acquiring a decent gaming PC, or a combination of all three – I was somehow more OK with the idea of putting time into older games this year. So I feel like it wouldn’t be a full representation of my 2018 in videogames if I didn’t jot down some quick thoughts on them. I also figured I’d include remasters or re-releases on this page too, just to take some heat off the main list.

I’ve listed the games roughly in the order I played them this year. I’ve also listed either the most prominent initial release version of each game or, where relevant, the version I owned or played back in the day instead. Then on the line underneath I’ve noted the version I played in 2018. Stop looking at me like that, I have to catalogue these things properly.

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Pokemon Crystal Version

GBC Release: 2001
3DS Virtual Console Release: 2018
How much I played: Start to finish including Kanto, 25+ hrs

I was super-vulnerable to this release when it hit the 3DS eShop in late Jan. There wasn’t much else to play and I was about to head off on a coastal family holiday. The rest I wrote down in its own separate post which you can read here.

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Final Fantasy XIII

PS3 Release: 2010
Steam Release: 2014
How much I played: The first ten chapters and some messing around in Chapter 11 makes 30+ hrs

Not gonna even try to hide it – seeing this game run in forced 4K on some YouTube video last year was a huge percentage of the reason the dominoes fell and I finally invested in a gaming laptop. After a discussion with a friend about whether FF XIII really did look better than XV in parts or whether that was just our memory of it, I had to jump back in after a decade and it turns out that, despite a truly, ridiculously awful port job, the game’s astonishing art direction sings in higher resolutions. I did play more than half of the game again, hoping to dive into a proper thousands-of-words retrospective, but the gaming calendar moves fast. Near the end of the year Microsoft gave the XIII trilogy a huge Xbox One X-supported backwards compatibility push, so who knows, maybe Square has more plans for a re-release or something. Either way, I will write that post one day. I will.

 

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Happy Fifth Birthday Wii U- Oh, OK Then

Wow, what a nifty device!

Ranking my favourite games on a Nintendo console right around some major multiple-of-five anniversary has been one of the most consistent things I’ve been able to do on this blog, not to mention one of my favourite kinds of post to write. But never before have I been able to so comprehensively make one such list on the first possible milestone. The Wii U is well and truly done and has been for months, but here we are on its five-year anniversary of release in Australia on November 30th, 2012, and I’m already able to count down my ten favourite games on the thing.

I believe it is Animal Crossing: New Leaf that features a reference within Nintendo’s own studio system to the Wii U’s failure. If you obtain a Wii U console in-game and approach it while it’s on display, you get the pithy message “Great artists aren’t always appreciated in their own time.” It’s a chuckle-worthy bit of self-deprecating humour, but it does contain a grain of truth. Due to its terrible opening 18 months, where a combination of hubris, awful all-around marketing and general industry panic resulted in a more-or-less sealed fate, the Wii U’s “time” was short and unimpressive to the masses. Luckily for the few people who did own one, however, not only did the Wii U boast the widest range of first party Virtual Console titles in the retro gaming service’s history and a pretty wonderful social media environment in the form of Miiverse, but when Nintendo’s back was to the wall, the company sure produced some amazing games. These are my absolute favourites.

Just a quick warning: I cheat on this list. Three times. Without regrets. It’s technically a top 13…

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10. NES Remix (1&2)

Right off the bat we start with two games in one entry, but here’s a sobering thought: NES Remix is the only Wii U-exclusive game to see a sequel on the same console. That’s not why they share a position on this list though – That’d be because they are essentially two halves of one package that come with a combined price tag a fraction of what a full retail release costs. The NES Remix twins represent some of the most fun you can have with a group of friends on the Wii U – and without a strict player number cap to boot. Despite an ostensibly single-player presentation, you can lose lives so quickly in these games that they almost beg to be played in a pass-the-controller group setup. That’s almost exclusively how I played it, at least. Chopping up absolute classics with nonetheless dated mechanics and throwing them into a blender with other, perhaps less stellar 1980s games is a surprisingly effective recipe for uproarious chaos, and I really hope we haven’t seen the end of this mini-franchise.
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9. Nintendo Land / Game & Wario

At first glance, this is a devious rule break, but there’s method to the madness. For as long as these two games have been out in the marketplace (so most of the Wii U’s lifespan), I have maintained that if you splice half of Nintendo Land and half of Game & Wario together to make one five-player party game, you get one of the very best and most unique experiences on the Wii U. Though Nintendo Land gets no shortage of hate for its poorly-received launch game status – and Game & Wario tends to get forgotten entirely – there are some genuine gems to be found across these two wacky titles. The Luigi’s Mansion-inspired ghost game in Nintendo Land was played more times in my house than most other entire games, such is its unironically ingenius 4-vs-1 multiplayer slant, and you can say something similar about Game & Wario‘s Fruit – which pits a room of watchful bystanders against one nervous player trying to blend in amongst a screen full of AI characters. Taking into account the Mario and Animal Crossing themed attractions from the former game and the Pictionary-lite mode / insane ring-toss variation from the latter, it really baffles me why Nintendo never officially paired the two collections in some capacity. No first-party release after these two showcased the one-of-a-kind potential that the Wii U’s control setup could offer.  
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8. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Persona. It’s a word that will make almost any JPRG fan sit up and take notice, and it absolutely should have been found somewhere in the rather confusing title of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Despite a premature announcement trailer that hyped up a bona fide Fire Emblem crossover with Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series, the gameplay loop and visual style of this buried gem has much more in common with the storied SMT sub-series Persona, which has only recently broken into the wider gaming consciousness this year. Though it was spoken of within gaming circles as the game to play if you just couldn’t wait for Persona 5 on the PS4, it turns out that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is no mere entree, and despite sharing much of the same structural Persona DNA it has plenty of worthwhile appeal all its own. In fact it is just as effective when played after Persona 5 is over, because its manically optimistic energy seems like the perfect antidote to the melancholy that the 100-hour PS4 epic can exhibit at times. Though Tokyo Mirage Sessions leans into its J-pop industry aesthetic so emphatically that it is bound to put some people off, it has plenty of critical things to say and just as importantly, the battle system, upgrade paths and character arcs are extremely satisfying. And the in-game menus are laced with neon lime green, which is a hearty bonus.

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Switch Hype: Ranking Nintendo’s Ten Main Consoles

My my, I do love a countdown opportunity.

And so it is, dear reader, that we find ourselves here. Here at the dawn of what will be – for better or worse – a new cycle of Nintendo being Nintendo. The impending Switch console has the attention of the gaming world for now, and all the bad news has yet to come. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling for yours truly – one of bubbling excitement, of mildly tempered hope – but one in which I will gladly bask for the time being, if only because that feeling seems to be my number one most reliable source of blogging motivation. And would you look at that – the Switch will be Nintendo’s twelfth (let’s scratch the Virtual Boy) eleventh major videogame device! Yes, a nice, round top ten is ripe for the typing. How good.

I will now attempt to rank the ten major home/handheld Nintendo consoles of yore according to my own personal feelings about them. Yes, this will be a different list to your own, dearest reader. That’s OK. It is not an easy thing at all for a Nintendo tragic such as myself to see some of these wonderful machines placed below others – go ahead, try it – but I have struggled through it anyway. It’s probably worth mentioning that I haven’t owned all ten of these pieces of hardware, but I sure have played a significant portion of the game offerings they brought to the table through various re-releases and chance adventures, so I feel comfortable laying it out for your perusal. I’ve taken physical design, hardware refreshes, game library, nostalgia and all the usual good stuff into account. Here we go.

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10. Nintendo Entertainment System

Australian Release: 1987
My Favourite Games: Balloon Fight, Kirby’s Adventure, Super Mario Bros 2

Yes, the one that started it all is down here. The main reason is a boring one: The NES’ games don’t tend to hold up as well today as other later Nintendo titles, as by necessity they are visually and conceptually basic. Having said that, the very best of the NES crop represents some of the most satisfying, mechanically tight challenges to be found anywhere in videogames, not to mention some technical wizardry when it comes to working within memory limitations. Of the two-and-a-half consoles on this list that I never owned, this is the one whose game library I have sampled most widely, thanks mostly to things like the wonderful Wii U eShop games NES Remix 1 & 2 and the recently released NES Classic Mini console, and particularly in this bite-sized format there is a great deal of fun to be had with NES gems even for the less skilled gamers among us (e.g. me).

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The Best & Worst of Pokemon – Closer

Well, that was fun.

As you wait on the intriguing next development in the Pokémon main series, why not peruse my subjective stances on the six generations of Pokémon games released thus far? The links are all here in one place:
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The Best & Worst of Gen I

The Best & Worst of Gen II

The Best & Worst of Gen III

The Best & Worst of Gen IV

The Best & Worst of Gen V

The Best & Worst of Gen VI

<‘———‘>

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Happy battling.

The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation VI

Games
Pokémon X
Pokémon Y

Platform
3DS

Region
Kalos

New Pokemon
72
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+7. Sweet divergence

The mantra of the development team behind Pokémon X and Y was simple: Bring back lapsed Pokémon players from different generations by capitalising on the headline that the Gen VI pair would be the first Pokémon games to be rendered in full polygonal 3D. To maximise this, an intimidating number of new Pokémon was not necessary – instead the developers decided to give special attention to older generation Pokémon wherever possible, while introducing fresh ‘mons at a nice steady rate. And they started to put this design decision into action very early on in the story. On the first long grass route in the game, you can catch an astonishing six different Pokémon, both old and new, and by the time you hit the first Gym, that number has almost tripled. While this may seem unremarkable to some, it means that Gen VI achieves the exact opposite of the problematic situation I outlined in my Gen IV post – odds are your team will be different from those of your friends in the early game. Ergo, early multiplayer encounters are exciting. And that is a titanic plus in my book.

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The Best & Worst of Pokémon: Generation V

Games
Pokémon Black Version
Pokémon White Version
Pokémon Black Version 2
Pokémon White Version 2

Platform
DS

Region
Unova

New Pokemon
156
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+6. Generous seasoning

I wanted to make an entry devoted solely to the auto-prompt that pops up when you run out of steps on a Repel item in Gen V and beyond, but I definitely don’t have the space.

In a rare example of consistent visual iteration within the Pokémon main series, Gen V built on the significant attention to day-night cycles that Gen IV exhibited so thoroughly by introducing a seasonal cycle. Not quite one-to-one, the cycle saw the region of Unova change seasons at the start of every real-life month, changing up the look of several pivotal routes, slightly altering the encounter rates of certain Pokémon, changing the appearance of Deerling and its awesome evolution Sawsbuck, and even granting/removing access to certain items or events. I kind of wish the developers went even further than they did with the concept, affecting more than just isolated areas, but I’m still very happy it was included.
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