Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Pokémon Sun and Moon: Twenty Years and One Review

Remember gaming? Remember this blog? Ha! Well if there's one game to bring us out of apathy-driven retirement it's a new Pokémon game. I've not read many reviews, does anyone do reviews anymore? Is Zero Punctuation still going?

There's something fairly unique about Pokémon video games in that we here at TGAM have been playing them for 20 years now and to the casual Pokémon player who dips in and out, it's easy to think that it's been the same game across all of those 20 years with the occasional roster update.

But for those who are in deep. Too deep. The mainline Pokémon games is 20 years of iterative design and with Sun and Moon they've finally expunged many of the 20 year old mechanics and choreful quirks and built on designs that have been experimented on since Red/Green and Blue. Of course, some old skool players are going to hate these changes. If you've wasted spent hundreds of hours breeding and training that perfect IV shiny Pokémon then yes, it's a gut punch that for kids these days the fuss and indeed the muss has largely been taken out of the process. In fact a lot of it happens when the 3DS has been turned off but I think, in general it is for the better in terms of how we waste our lives on breeding the best fighting cocks for our once every two year battles.

I've played through the game, about 50 hours in. I can sleep at night because I'm back up to a complete living dex (including all the new forms) and waiting for Pokémon Bank compatibility to complete that international dex. Suffice to say, this post contains some game mechanic more than story SPOILERS so do not go on if you're keen not to have elements of the game revealed. I'm going to break the review down into STORY, CORE MECHANICS, BREEDING and TRAINING, ONLINE and most importantly NEW ROCK TYPE POKEMON.

We're totally fine with admitting, the story in Pokémon games has always kinda sucked. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There's a formula and hey, it's been super effective for one of the best selling video game franchises of all time but it's not the kind of stuff that will keep you awake at night because of the life changing, thought provoking narrative.

There's a McGuffin or two, a bit of world-saving, some soon-to-be-appearing-in-anime trope characters and as ever it is friendship, positive feelings and trained killer pets that save the day. So far, so blah.

However, what is vastly improved in Sun/Moon is that the story actively tugs you (steady) along and thanks to some trimmed down core mechanics (see below), it's easier than ever to progress through the 'story' become the champion and enter 'end game' territory. There are less unavoidable vast fields of grass, caves are much simpler (although zubats), it feels like the encounters on the sea are much less frequent and even penultimate trial 'Victory Road' is much less of an ordeal. You're lead through the game almost by the nose, there's no confusing progression blocks yet still enough secret areas to discover or return to and to be honest, the game is all the better for a fast moving story.

I've been replaying Pokémon Yellow on the 3DS virtual console recently and the faster pace of Sun/Moon generally will likely see more people get to the end of the game.

If you played any of the other mainline games there are some tropes of the game design that have been tired almost since red and blue. Remember having to keep a pidgeot and a lapras in your party throughout the game in order to use fly, cut, rock smash, surf, waterfall, strength, flash and (ugh) defog? Carrying two losers around, wasting at least two slots in your party and slots for shitty HM moves that weren't that useful in battling so you didn't have to backtrack to a Pokémon centre every five minutes to smash a rock or cut a reappearing tree down? ALL THAT IS FINALLY GONE. FINALLY.

The HM mechanic was initially a way of metering story progression- you needed to beat gym leaders to use HMs that would then clear the path to the next area but it had outstayed its welcome a mere 400 games later. That mechanic is still in there but it's now thankfully, delegated to a quick menu that you can access all the time. You no longer have to carry around HM slaves at all times, Once unlocked, Pokémon that will smash rocks, push blocks or fly you around are a menu away and again, THANKFULLY you don't have to sit through the full tiresome animation that came with the prototype of this mechanic flying about on mega latios/latias in Pokémon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby.    

Berries are also at last fixed. After a couple of games where you had to tiresomely keep track of where/when you'd planted berries to return to them in real time to the portable but still-not-great berry pot in Pokémon Heart Gold and Pokémon Soul Silver to the clunky berry fields and mulch of Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, all the boring legwork is taken out of berry growing with Poké Pelago. Just a menu option away, the progress of your berry plot can be quickly checked, you don't need to worry about watering them or using fertiliser and all you need to concern yourself with is whether you want to throw Poké beans at speeding up berry growth or not. And Poké beans literally grow on trees (well a giant vine). We're so glad this is finally fixed, it was always a chore to efficiently grow berries in previous games, with the risk of losing berries if you harvested them at the wrong time, leave them too long or didn't tend to them adequately. Now that's all streamlined to one daily check in making it easier than ever to harvest hundreds of berries quickly.

For those with the RPG min/max compulsion or those who want the most competitive Pokémon for online battling you had to get to know the somewhat clandestine process of selectively breeding Pokémon for the perfect combination of perfect individual values (IVs), egg moves learned only through breeding across species, beneficial natures and desirable abilities. I can understand that players who have put in hard breeding time may miss the rite of passage of iteratively breeding Pokémon, finding favourite spots for hatching hundreds of eggs (or alternatively taping/elastic banding buttons down to hatch a handful of eggs) but there was little about the laborious process that was actually fun and a lot of the process was fiddly. Pokémon Go players, you don't even know the half of it.

There's still a bit of faff about breeding and training but it's been made a lot simpler. Up to 18 eggs, once collected from the Pokémon nursery can be placed in hot springs in Poké Pelago with the prod of a stylus and will hatch over real time even with the 3DS turned off. Again, for those who need hatched eggs and need them NOW this process can be sped up with Poké bean investment which are themselves easily collected in vast quantities a couple of times a day. No longer will you have to play the extremely boring game of haring around the world carrying eggs nestled next to some flame bodied Pokémon (to speed up hatching time), hatching a few at a time, running them past the IV checker, checking the IVs and natures, going back to a PC, swapping Pokémon, changing up the parents and collecting new eggs over and over again. Speaking from experience, I must have spent hundreds, almost thousands of hours doing just that ever since Pokémon Silver. That's 17 years of tiresomely hatching virtual eggs.

Now all you need do is collect the eggs (which is still a bit tedious) dump up to 18 of them in the hot springs and then next day, voila they're all hatching. You can then chuck the hatchlings into Isle Evelup on Poké Pelago and choose precisely the effort values (evs) you want the Pokémon to develop one stat at a time and like the eggs, return to it a day later with your Pokémon having trained itself in your chosen stat or even in levelling up. Again, makes us a bit nostalgic for Poké viruses, power bracers and chain battles to speed up ev training but there was little actual challenge in doing it once you knew what you were doing it was more of a trying time sink.

Even with some of the pain taken out of breeding and training, you're given the power to change some of the previously fixed upon birth attributes of Pokémon. Previous games introduced the ability capsule to help a tiny bit with unfavourable abilities but Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon introduce the new items bottle caps which can help tweak (but apparently not truly change) IVs- the previously hard wired 'genetic' differences between individual Pokémon stats. So no longer do you need to go to extreme lengths to get that perfect Pokémon as these new items can help boost IVs here and there for those nearly perfect Pokémon or to take some of the randomness to legendary or event Pokémon which can't be bred. Bottle caps aren't liberally given away but there are enough ways to get them in the game to build up enough of a collection to cut out an element of tedious breeding. Unfortunately, getting the right Pokémon nature will still require soft resets for those legendaries but some of the pain is taken out of breeding.

It's also important to note that Pokémon Sun/Moon removes even more of the opacity from advanced ev/IV/breeding. In Poké Pelago you are told the explicit number that base attack/def etc. has been increased. We're a far cry from the earlier games, where it was only down to dedicated game crackers than the numbers and influencing factors behind these mechanics were revealed at all. Subsequent generations have introduced characters who will give you hints at these hidden values (IV checker and the effort ribbon) and in this generation even more of the curtain is lifted.

There's still room for some more transparency, Unless I'm mistaken you'll still need a pen and paper to accurately keep track of exactly where you've invested in evs, the only visual clue you are given to the investment so far is the very imprecise scatter chart on the Pokémon summary page. Who knows, maybe next game around we'll be able to just see these numerical values?

The online component of Pokémon Sun/Moon is one of the areas where you can easily trace the design heritage from the older games. In this game the festival plaza menu option combines some of the features of Join Avenue from Pokémon Black/White 2 with some elements of the online system in Pokémon X/Y without the triple layered bottom screen menu system of Pokémon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby.

Although O Powers will be greatly missed (but to be honest, hatching power was the key one which is a bit obsolete now- see above) Festival Plaza is much cleaner than the messy menus of Pokémon ORAS. There's less scope for ad-hoc online battles with strangers but more family-audience friendly co-operative interactions through the Festival Plaza missions which earn the Festival Plaza currency to get rare or discounted items. Although old-hats will recognise the elements from Join Avenue such as rotating out shops and stalls, in general, how Festival Plaza actually works will be quite confusing to newcomers to the series who may not realise that it requires quite a bit of investment to develop into something that is useful. The serebii page clears up a lot of the mystery about the Plaza and its attractions.

As ever, there have been some who have complained about the new Pokémon designs. Overall, we like the flavour of the new Pokémon inspired by real animals. As island nations, a lot of the more nature inspired Alolan Pokémon take their cues from insular wildlife so Borneo, Madagascar, Australia and tropical reefs all get a shout out with some of the new designs.

Having said that, as a die hard rock type Pokémon fan, there's slim pickings in the new Pokémon. In fact, yes I've been provoked, triggered even, to go as far to say that it's the worst generation for rock types since the original Gold and Silver (which also didn't have new fossil Pokémon, coincidence...).

There's a paltry four new rock types, five if you include the new Alolan geodude line. Let's take a look at each in no real order to annoy those with OCD.

Alolan Geodude, Graveller, Golem. Golem gets a beard, moustache and a giant magnet, loses the ground typing and gains electric type. Well, thanks but no thanks I guess. Losing the crippling four times weakness to the smallest of puddles and even fairly dull blades of grass is great and as a rock type trainer, having access to same type boosted electric moves is novel! However, combined with losing the ground typing, golem picks up 4 x weakness to ground moves. Is the Groucho Marx new design worth it? The meta game will tell I guess.

Silvally Much like arceus, nobody cares for a type slut. If you can't commit to one type properly, you don't deserve due consideration. Also, not personally digging the design.

Rockruff and Lycanroc. Form funniness continues with two different forms of pure rock type lycanroc; one bad ass edgy werewolf and one errrr straight up wolf I guess. Daytime lycanroc is faster but has less HP and defenses. Fast rock types are still a bit of a rarity (LOVE YOU AERODACTYL) and daytime lycanroc has weather shenanigans in the ability sand rush. The move pool is a bit uninspired on first inspection. As for the flavour, well, the moon is kinda rocky so yeah, rock type werewolf. I guess.

Minior EVEN MORE FORM FUNNINESS in the rock and flying armoured meteor. Seven different colours (eight with the shiny form) and then the shields down form change bullshit. I guess rock types were due a bit of the form fun. But YES YES YES to minior but only if you shout appropriate shields up/shields down Star Trek lines when the form switches. Shields down is such a cool ability- at full HP the defense stats are high, speed is low and minior is impervious to some status conditions. Under half HP and SHIELDS DOWN CAPTAIN, defense and attack stats are swapped, speed is doubled but minior becomes vulnerable to status conditions. My one wish would have been for SHE CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE CAPTAIN to activate when HP drops under 50% rather than at the end of the turn that so in most instances, minior's boosted speed and attack will come too late to make an effective difference against sweepers. Still, cool design, cool flavour. Obviously, baby blue minior is the best.

Nihilego Eh. I should be excited about yet another unique new typing for rock types and poison brings some great advantages but I just don't get why this alternate dimension jellyfish is a rock type at all. I guess maybe it reflects the 'whackyness' of the alternate dimension. I'm also not sold on the Ultra Beasts designs. Again this is probably the point but these designs look like they come from a lesser series. Either way, that awful defense combined with the limited chances to catch these, and no chance of breeding, Nihilego is unlikely to get much play in the TGAM household.

Overall, what do you expect from me? A number in a box? A thing out of another thing? I'm 20 years into this shit. There's nothing but blind affection that keeps me playing this series and pretty much one of the handful of games I even pay attention to anymore. It's not a game, it's a way of life. It's not our fault you're not part of the new world order with us. Now when can I transfer Omastar over?

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Goodbye Hoenn

And so the sun rises, and the moon sets on a new pokemon challenge. And we bid farewell to the ORAS generation of games. Fittingly we at TGAM decided the best way to celebrate this was with a Pokemon Battle. Using only Gen 3 Pokemon.

Here is the annoyingly lengthy, boring and  low quality vids.


Shockingly this actually only counts as our first foray into videos on the TGAM site... well whatevs.. We were bloggers, not vloggers.

Love and Mimikyu
Richie X

Friday, July 08, 2016

Are Mobile Games Any Good Yet? Pokemon Go

Not got enough Nintendo accounts? In between your Nintendo.com account, Pokemon Global Link account, Nintendo ID, Nintendo Online Store account, MyNintendo and MiiVerse accounts, Nintendo has recently launched Pokemon Go which works with your Pokemon Trainer Club account which is the same as but not the same as the Pokemon Global Link account. 

Pokemon Go is a mobile game that lets you catch pokemon IN THE REAL WORLD. Here's our exclusive hands on review:

It's a bit slow to get going but once you login

And then you get to have another go, oh.

Gameplay a tad repetitive but nice image of Golbat 9/10

Friday, May 20, 2016

Freedom Force: A game that came out 13 years ago

Like most people with a steam account, I buy things on a whim... I have around 150 games in my steam library and still complain that, I have nothing to play... One such of these whim-bought games is Freedom Force.

I, at the risk of being one those dicks who say, "OMG this movie came out X years ago, doesn't that make you feel so old!", remember this game fondly when it came out. It wasn't Marvel or DC but it was a comic book style (even though I do not read comic books) game. I remember it being pimped to me as Diablo 2 with Superheroes, even though it is not a hack and slash, nor features any loot whatsoever. I do remember spending until the wee hours customizing and clicking on these copyright infringing polygony superheroes.

So I bought it and loaded it up again, well I say "Loaded up" as with any game on Steam, more than a few days old there is always a bit of jiggery-pokery to make it work, so let me rephrase:

So I bought it, clicked play, turns out the mouse didn't work, pressed alt+f4.... a few months later... I clicked play again, remembered the issue with the mouse, pressed alt+f4, opened Google, Searched for "Frredom Force Mouse issue", Google asks me did you mean "Freedom Force Mouse issue", yes I did Google, thank you very much for passively-aggressively auto-correcting me, found some forums with the same issue, created an icon on the desktop, double clicked it, the mouse worked... huzzah. I'm so glad I paid money already; I'm solving puzzles before the game even launches!

So I mentioned polygons earlier, yeah I did. Polygons is a word that does/should make you feel old. Polygons existed from like really early games but they proper kicked off with PC in the Mid 90s then a bit more so with the PS1/N64. they were the first answer to "3D" before (and after) you had to wear silly glasses to trick your eyes. Anyways nowadays you have many many more and more intelligent polygons. but with Freedom Force there are like, I dunno, 3 polygons... Big flat faces. So not only do I feel old for using the word Polygon, I now feel older still remembering when that was visually passable.

Check those polygon knees, that is just cruel

What the fuck Richie... Shut up!
I will! Just lemmie quickly tell you about the game, does it stand the test of time? No, no it does not, but also yes, yes it does. As much as the rose tinted memory of the gameplay doesn't really match up to today's standards, you can literally just spend hours on one mission, there is also no games quite like it now... Its sort of a campy X-Com with no fluff (they don't make em like they used to!). Will I play this again? No probably not, I briefly had a wee look online about Freedom Force, there is still a hardcore following, mods are still being made (mostly for Marvel/DC universe characters) these mod  sites/communities have been going for over a decade, those are gonna be some OLD site moderators...

Love and Minuteman is not a flattering name,

Richie X

Monday, May 16, 2016

Project X Zone 2: Project X Done

It happens to us all, we hit the end credits and we slowly die inside as various names scroll past our eyes, as 50+ hours of investment in characters and mechanics is being taken away from us. This time it is happening to me, y t again, I am left with a a hollow void in my heart where once lay Project X Zone 2.

It has been a wonderful adventure, All of these characters coming together to save the world from the Deux Ex Machina that is "Dimensions Melding".  It doesn't matter to me! I dig the gameplay but equally love the visual novel aspect... the interactions are priceless:

I'll miss these guys. Roll on Project X Zone 3, (maybe time to go back and play New game+ on Project X Zone?)

Love and KOS-MOS

Richie X

Friday, April 15, 2016

Hyper Dimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed

We may not gave discussed this properly on TGAM but recently we have fallen in love with the amazing series of  Neptunia games. Action Unleashed is a tear away from the time-sink RPG's that are the other Neptunia games...

Its an amazing project, they have taken all the "assets", from the previous game, and made an arena hack-n-slash title, but not only that, they actually kept all the moves, whew in the RPG the EXE drives (limit breaks etc etc) were drawn out separate animations that just do damage  akin to the summons of FFVII and FFVIII. It is an amazing endeavour to have translated an RPG into a hack and slash and kept the same "feeling" when executing the moves or running about. And it still has boobs....

 ...and a weird new "Costume break" function... Which is lovingly explained to you via the medium of fourth-wall breaking visual novel (my favourite way to have anything communicated to me)

Like the last game you can dress up your troops, a must have, we would all agree?
Then you pop in and destroy the hell out of some bad guys, depending on how you do it you get ranked, Which is on a scale of "Meh" to "Godly"
All in all what more do you want from a game about video game platforms anthropomorphised as anime girls?

TGAM gives this 11/10 play this, play this unashamedly, and take lots of screenshots.

Love and Lady Green Heart,

Richie X

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Are Mobile Games Any Good Yet? Miitomo Edition

Not got enough Nintendo accounts? In between your Nintendo.com account, Pokemon Global Link account, Nintendo ID, Nintendo Online Store account and MiiVerse accounts, Nintendo has recently launched MyNintendo the new-all you need account for worse news and updates that independent Nintendo fan sites and the first vehicle that uses the MyNintendo account is mobile 'app' Miitomo

Ninty has been trialling gentle-disgustingly fierce micro-transactions from free to play games like Pokemon Shuffle and Pokemon Rumble World through to not-ware Nintendo Badge Arcade and presumably a lucrative line in customising your handheld with 3DS themes.  

Miitomo, like Nintendo Badge Arcade, takes pay-to-not-really-play to the next level. What is Miitomo? It's a hyper scummy new social network that uses Miis. The app is so blatantly aimed at capturing the social network hype, for example, you can earn large amounts of one of the three new MyNintendo currencies just by linking Miitomo to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. 

But what do you actually do in Miitomo? Well in my limited experience you create your Mii, and then make willy jokes with all the other 30-40 year old weabos. There's daily rewards for 'liking' and 'commenting' on other people's answers to mundane questions and of course there's a clothes shop with limited and rotating stock which can be bought with real and in game currency (another currency than the three MyNintendo ones). It's a very cynical and initially hugely popular app that combines all the least interesting bits of Tomodachi Life, Everybody Votes Channel and the album cover maker from Wii Music

You can however, make images like these:

So you know, 9/10. Buy it today.