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Pokémon 2019 — Evolving on ‘Let’s Go’

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Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee are either a breath of fresh air or an unwelcomed simplification — depending on how rigid or zealous your beliefs towards the original Pokémon formula are. While these unusual hybrids won’t be the blueprint for Pokémon 2019, there are certain elements and experiments within the games that will potentially find themselves in generation eight.

The Tall Grass Hides Nothing

The tall grass has been the home for many species of pokémon since the beginning of time. There was even a period not so long ago when you could find tall grass that was even taller than the usual tall grass, and cutting it would level out the playing field once more (that small grass syndrome was apparent in Pokémon Gold and Silver). Not that the length undermined its effectiveness; before Pokémon Let’s Go, the tall grass would disguise every pokémon from the eyes of every trainer.

pokémon let's go

One of the most popular changes to Pokémon Let’s Go was to relinquish this responsibility from the tall grass and allow the pokémon to be seen roaming freely. Rather than a patch that randomly generates a wild pokémon, the tall grass acts as a spawning site for various species that can then be interacted with at the player’s choosing.

The benefits for Pokémon 2019 are endless — mainly due to the infinite Zubats that can now be avoided in every cave, but also because catching rare pokémon doesn’t need to feel like the onerous task it has been previously. Trainers can now walk around until a Goomy appears rather than endure countless battles with Pidgey and gang.

Uncle Kracker Knows It’s Alright

The Noughties was a particularly bad decade for music, but it did produce the finest Pokémon games of all time: Pokémon Gold and Silver. That view is of course subjective, as Gold and Silver weren’t perfect and did miss a trick that Pokémon Let’s Go made sure it hit.

Pokémon outside of their pokéball was first seen in Pokémon Yellow, inspired by the stubborn Pikachu in the anime. While the idea of walking pokémon would be further explored in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, it has managed to peak with Pokémon Let’s Go via the addition of riding pokémon.

pokémon let's go dragonite

While most of the pokémon outside of their pokéballs are purely cosmetic, the Charizards, Dodrios, and others certainly make an impact by enhancing the interaction with the world; certain pokémon allow the trainer to move much quicker, or even fly over the map entirely. Introducing this mechanic into Pokémon 2019 would actually allow Game Freak to design the world in a much larger, much more liberally traversable way.

This could allow areas of the map to be unreachable until the player has caught a pokémon that has the ability to reach there, which is something The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did remarkably. Legendary pokémon have been too easily obtainable in previous installments, and while it’s nice to catch them all, a little challenge by means of tougher terrain could reinvigorate the franchise itself.

Catch Me If You Can

As divisive as a nudist beach next to a monastery, the catching mechanics in Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee have certainly inspired debate across all social platforms. The fad of Pokémon Go lives on in Pokémon Let’s Go with its catching technique implemented and utilized to great effect, and introducing this mechanic into Pokémon 2019 would probably be incredibly unpopular. What works for Let’s Go won’t always work for a mainline title, and it would certainly cause the demise of moves such as False Swipe and (potentially) Mean Look.

Catching Pokemon

There is a glimmer of hope, however, that changes could be made to accommodate the Pokémon Go mechanic into the mainline games. Catching Snorlax and the legendary pokémon in Let’s Go heralded a battle before the catching phase begins. This creates a strange hybrid between the mainline games and the mobile fad. While this mechanic would still need to be adjusted to suit the gameplay of Pokémon 2019, there’s enough justification for the motion controls to be used when throwing a pokéball in a mainline game. While this could be toxic to a lot of fans, if done correctly it could potentially give Pokémon that unique Switch touch.

No Mystery In This Box

One of the many ways Pokémon games prevent trainers from catching them all is by ensuring certain mythical pokémon can only be obtained by an event. While it can be annoying to have to wait a while to finally get that rare pokémon, they were often free by download.

pokéball plus

Pokémon Let’s Go has changed this sentiment by monetizing the dedication trainers have to completing their Pokédex. It might not be obvious, and it’s certainly sly, but it’s definitely helped to sell additional hardware. In Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, the only wait to get Mew is to buy the Pokéball Plus, a rather expensive controller that only adds to the imagination of the gameplay. It poses the question whether Mew (or any pokémon) is worth the price of new hardware? Probably not.

For Pokémon 2019 to use a similar cash-grab model would be a real shame, especially for a franchise that’s appealing across several generations of people. Every trainer should have an equal chance at completing their Pokédex, and to prevent fans from doing so due to overpriced hardware would be detrimental to the franchise. Let’s keep our mysteries free.

Familiar Faces In Pokémon 2019

As we finish another orbit of our resident star, it’s easy to forget how quickly 2018 has flown by. Pokémon 2019 will soon be on our laps, and Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee will be relics of a growing past. That said, seeing Blue and other familiar faces in Let’s Go has been one of the small delights that the two games have brought with them.

mina let's go

While previous games have reintroduced old faces before, they were never as integral to the story as Blue was in Pokémon Let’s Go. These familiar faces help to close the gap between the games, showing how close each region is to each other, bringing the Pokémon Universe to life. For example, seeing Mina from Sun and Moon outside the S.S Anne is a reminder that small cameos from characters from other games can add a little sweetness to the tea.

***

It will be unfamiliar playing a mainline Pokémon game on a home console, but what Pokémon Let’s Go has achieved is stirring up excitement for Pokémon 2019 next year. We don’t yet know the name of the two games, or what the new region will be, but we might just have tested some of the new mechanics being introduced. Let us hope we won’t be paying for Mew in the future.

Lost his ticket on the 'Number 9' Luxury Express Train to the Ninth Underworld. Has been left to write articles and reviews about games to write off his debt until the 'powers that be' feel it is sufficiently paid.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘The Walking Dead’

A look back at one of the most critically acclaimed narrative based point and click story games of the decade: Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

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The story-based video game has been around for a long time but there has been a spike in popularity in them in the last decade. One of the most influential and critically acclaimed narrative games is the 2012 game Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which initiated a tidal wave of choice-based games that still continues today.

Lee Everett, the protagonist of the first season of The Walking Dead Game.

Telltale Games was created in 2004 and had a significant library of games established — including games based on Back to the Future and Jurassic Park — before the release of The Walking Dead. It was the zombie point and click adventure that shot them to triple A game studio status though. The game took on similar mechanics to their other games but introduced a more cinematic style. Player choice is a key element in regard to dialogue choices and important decisions within the story. These shape the player character, Lee Everett, and change his personality to suit the play style. This was one of the most endearing features of the game, allowing players to experience scenarios slightly differently depending on your choice.

The Walking Dead

Lee and his ward Clementine had a strong connection that led to a lot of the emotional moments in the story.

The depth of the characters and dark nature of the narrative are the best aspects of the game. The player takes on the role of Lee as he is on his way to jail at the dawn of the zombie apocalypse. After a car accident leaves him stranded, he stumbles upon a little girl named Clementine. Lee becomes her protector as they and a group of survivors try to survive in the walker-infested world. This simple story of a man with a troubled past attempting to protect a little girl at the end of the world is incredibly engaging and it is difficult not to get emotionally attached to both Lee and Clementine. The system wherein certain characters will remember Lee’s words or actions is also a nice feature that can guilt trip you over your choices, particularly if you see the words “Clementine Will Remember That”. Lee is an interesting and complex character whose attitude and personality can change depending on player choice and Clementine is a loveable child who doesn’t fall into the “annoying kid” stereotype in most games. Both became beloved video game characters who set a precedent for likeable protagonists in gaming.

The Walking Dead

The cast of characters in The Walking Dead’s first season all had their complexities.

The legacy of Telltale Games and The Walking Dead still continues within the gaming community. Telltales unfortunate downfall in September 2018 was a great loss to story-based gaming but many have been influenced by Telltale’s work since. Dontnod adapted the episodic formula for their Life is Strange games, another fantastic narrative series. Others who had previously worked for Telltale helped bring other great story games to life. The co-writers of the first season of The Walking Dead game set up the company that created the 2016 game Firewatch, for example. More writers of the series launched Night School Studios, responsible for Oxenfree (2016) and Afterparty (2019). The Walking Dead catapulted Telltale Games to stardom, leading them to take on a slew of projects — possibly leading to their downfall. Despite this, the game has carved out a place for itself in history as one of the best point and click narrative adventure games that established a trend of games that encourage strong storytelling and complex characters.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Dark Souls’

Despite the difficulty and learning curve, gamers are still flocking to the Dark Souls series, and the genre it spawned, in massive numbers.

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Dark Souls Remastered Review Nintendo Switch

Over the course of the last decade a lot of games have made large and influential impacts on the medium of gaming but few have done so as significantly or triumphantly as Dark Souls

The pseudo-sequel to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls took the framework of the original title and altered it considerably. Gone were the many individual stages and hub area, replaced by a massive open world that continuously unfolded, via shortcuts and environmental changes, like a massive metroidvania style map. 

Dark Souls also doubled down on nearly every aspect of the original. The lore and world-building were elaborated on considerably, making the land of Lordran feel more lived in and expansive. An entire backstory for the game, one that went back thousands of years, was created and unfolded through small environmental details and item descriptions. 

Dark-Souls-Remastered-Darkroot-Garden

The bosses were bigger, meaner and more challenging, with some of them ranking right up there with the best of all time. Even standard enemies seemed to grow more deadly as the game went on, with many of them actually being bosses you’d faced at an earlier time in the game. Tiny details like this didn’t just make the player feel more powerful, they added to the outright scale of the entire game.

Still, if we’re here to talk about the biggest influence Dark Souls had on the gaming world, we have to talk about the online system. While the abilities to write messages and summon help were available in Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls improved on and enhanced these features to the point where they changed the game considerably. 

The wider player base made the online components work more consistently as well. Rarely were players left standing around for 15-20 minutes waiting to summon or be summoned for a boss fight. There were more messages on the ground to lead (or mislead) players, and the animated spirits of dead players warned of the hundreds of ways you might die while playing through the game. 

Dark Souls

The addictive nature of the game and its rewarding gameplay loop would lead to the establishment of the Souls-like genre. Like with metroidvania, there are few compliments a game can receive that are as rewarding as having an entire genre named for them.

Since 2011, the year of Dark Souls’ release, dozens of Souls-likes have emerged from the ether, each with their own little tweaks on the formula. Salt and Sanctuary went 2D,The Surge added a sci-fi angle, and Nioh went for a feudal Japanese aesthetic, to name just a few. 

Either way, Dark Souls’ influence has been long felt in the gaming industry ever since. Despite the hardcore difficulty and intense learning curve, gamers are still flocking to the series, and the genre it spawned, in massive numbers. For this reason alone, Dark Souls will live on forever in the annals of gaming history. 

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‘Riverbond’ Review: Colorful Hack’n’Slash Chaos

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Sometimes a little bit of mindless smashing is just what people play video games for, and if some light sword-swinging, spear-stabbing, laser-shooting giant hand-slapping action that crumbles a destructible world into tiny blocks sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few hours, then Riverbond might just satisfy that urge. Though its short campaign can get a little repetitive by the end, colorful voxel levels and quirky characters generally make this rampaging romp a button-mashing good time, especially if you bring along a few friends.

Riverbond grass

There really isn’t much of a story here outside something about some mystical leaders being imprisoned by a knight, and Riverbond lets players choose from its eight levels in Mega Man fashion, so don’t go in expecting some sort of narrative thread. Instead, each land has its own mini-situation going on, whether that involves eradicating some hostile pig warriors or reading library books or freeing numerous rabbit villagers scattered about, the narrative motivation is pretty light here. That doesn’t mean that these stages don’t each have their various charms, however, as several punnily named NPCs will blurt out humorous bits of dialogue that work well as breezy pit stops between all the cubic carnage.

Developer Cococucumber has also wisely created plenty of visual variety for their fantastical world, as players will find their polygonal hero traversing the lush greenery of grassy plains, the wooden piers of a ship’s dockyard, the surrounding battlements of a medieval castle, and the craggy outcroppings of a snowy mountain, among other locations, each with a distinct theme. Many of the trees or bridges or crates or whatever else happens to be lying around are completely destructible, able to be razed to the ground with enough brute force. Occasionally the physics involved in these crumbling structures helps gain access to jewels or other loot, but this mechanic mostly just their for the visual appeal one gets from cascading blocks; Riverbond isn’t exactly deep in its design.

Riverbond boss

That shallowness also applies to the basic gameplay, which pretty much involves hacking or shooting enemies and environments to pieces, activating whatever task happens to be the main goal for each sub-stage, then moving on or scouring around a bit for treasure before finally arriving at a boss. Though there are plenty of different weapons to find, they generally fall into only a few categories: small swinging implements that allow for quick slashes, large swinging implements that are slow but deal heavier damage, spears that offer quick jabs, or guns that…shoot stuff. There are some variations among these in speed, power, and possible side effects (a gun that fired electricity is somewhat weak, but sticks to opponents and gives off an extra, devastating burst), but once an agreeable weapon is found, there is little reason to give it up outside experimentation.

Still, there is a rhythmic pleasure to be found in games like this when they are done right, and Riverbond mostly comes through with tight controls, hummable tunes, and twisting levels that do a good job of mixing in some verticality to mask the repetitiveness. It’s easy for up to four players to get in on the dungeon-crawling-like pixelated slaughter, and the amount of blocks exploding onscreen can make for some fun and frenzied fireworks, especially when whomping on one of the game’s giant bosses. A plethora of skins for the hero are also discoverable, with at least one or two tucked away in locations both obvious and less so around each sub-stage. These goofy characters exist purely for aesthetic reasons, but those who prefer wiping out legions of enemies dressed as Shovel Knight or a sentient watermelon slice will be able to fulfill that fantasy.

Riverbond bears

By the end, the repetitive fights and quests can make Rivebond feel a little same-y, but the experience wraps up quickly without dragging things out. This may disappoint players looking for a more involved adventure, but those who sometimes find relaxation by going on autopilot — especially with some buddies on the couch — will appreciate how well the block-smashing basics are done here.

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