Archive for the ‘GB’ Category

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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Oops, I Finished Pokemon Crystal Again

NOTE: This post is designed as a much shorter follow-on to last year’s revisitation of Pokémon Silver Version via the 3DS virtual console service, so I recommend you read that bit here first.

Nintendo are a bunch of crafty bastards. Releasing a game like Pokémon Crystal at the end of January 2018, without any big-name new release competition to speak of and a bunch of potential customers in holiday mode, was a bit of a guarantee to ensnare people like me. I picked up Crystal on the 3DS Virtual Console because it was cheap and I figured I’d get to it eventually. In actual fact, I smashed through its main content stream – all the way through Kanto and Red – inside two weeks from launch, almost exclusively in the down time between events over a coastal family holiday. This despite completing – in a manner of speaking – three Pokémon games on 3DS last year (Red, Silver and Ultra Sun) and having the gall to complain about all the great new games I wasn’t playing. This series is my kryptonite.

As luck – or something else – would have it, Crystal is a lot more divergent from Silver than I remember it being, making it just as worth writing about. Yes, it’s still largely the same story, but compared to its prototypical predecessor Yellow, the third Gen 2 game packs quite a bit of extra meat on the bone of Gold and Silver, in both obvious and under-the-hood ways. Also, unlike in my Silver run, I decided to go all the way through Kanto in Crystal this time around, because why not? I was in deep enough. All of this extra gameplay left me with the following quick thoughts.
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A Week With Pokemon Silver Version in 2017

I was a few paragraphs into writing this when the SNES Classic came out and ruined everything. I came back to the post afterwards and, naturally, it then turned into several thousand words.

2017 has been an insane year for new release videogames, a fact that has become even more true over the last few months. And yet my most anticipated release date of September 2017 was the 22nd, when Nintendo and the Pokemon Company would – at long last – release Pokemon Gold and Silver on the 3DS Virtual Console (Incidentally just about the only acknowledgement by the big N this year that such a service even still exists – sorry Switch owners). Patched up with wireless trading/battling functionality and wrapped in that gorgeous 3D-compatible faux-Game Boy Color shell, just like Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow last year, they presented a mouth-watering nostalgic proposition for me on paper. In fact as a testament to the sheer value that “comfort food” media can have, I even purchased and finished the VC version of Pokemon Red a couple of weeks earlier when it went on sale in anticipation of the newer re-releases, even though I had already given my full attention to Yellow in a similar manner in 2016.

Unlike Yellow, I no longer have access to my original Pokemon Silver cartridge, so I haven’t touched the original version in any form for almost fifteen years. In light of all the Pokemon generations that have come and gone in the years since, not to mention the glut of YouTube videos, podcasts and articles on the internet praising the second generation for all its once-groundbreaking qualities, I was more than ready to give Silver another go. And then write something about it, so I could feel less guilty about all the hours spent not doing anything else. This post will probably be a little scattershot in tone, and the “screenshots” will be poor and DIY in nature, but I’ll at least try to keep my thoughts aligned with the order of the game’s events.

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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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