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Attending a ‘Pokémon Go’ Meet-Up

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Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. The GPS-based mobile game is slowly becoming one of the most popular apps of the moment, surpassing many others in both numbers of downloads and daily usage. While it has only been released in select countries, many have found a way around that little inconvenience, including us Canadians. As a result, the chart-topping new app has seen wide popularity even here in Montreal. I have had the app for only a week, and I have already encountered tons of fellow Montrealers pursuing Pokémon and challenging Gyms. An old man even stopped me on a busy street to ask if I was playing Pokémon!

Produced by Niantic, the creators of the mobile game Ingress, Pokémon Go is simple enough; players traverse the virtual world by moving about in the real one, encountering wild Pokémon they can catch and interacting with PokéStops to gain items. Upon reaching level 5, players choose to join Team Instinct (yellow), Team Mystic (blue), or Team Valor (red), and can battle to gain control over Gyms. As with Ingress, Go is not unlike a giant game of Capture the Flag – just with more Pocket Monsters.

outside the metro1 mNaturally, a few Montreal Pokémon Go Facebook groups had already sprung up just a few days after its release. As a lifelong Pokémon fan, I immediately started following a number of them to connect with fellow players and share tips and jokes. On July 11, I discovered one group was organizing a real-life meet-up for all Go players the very next day. I had to get in on the action.

As an Ingress player, I had already attended a handful of local meet-ups for the game, and thus had a rough idea of what to expect. The monthly Montreal Ingress events (called First Saturdays, taking place the first Saturday of every month) often drew a crowd of about 40 people or so, but this meet-up was already promising to be larger.

The plan was to meet at a downtown subway station on July 12 at 7:30pm and depart for Mont Royal at 8:00. Once underground, I met another person playing Pokémon Go by complete coincidence, who had been completely unaware of the meet-up. I encouraged him to join me; the group was not hard to find, as we immediately spotted ten or so people on their phones in the sweltering metro station. Cédric, one of the Facebook group admins whom I had spoken with in advance, welcomed me and informed me that most people had gone up to wait on street level. I joined a few people heading up the escalator, happy to escape the heat of the metro.

outside the metro mIt was beautiful outside when we emerged, the heat of the day having died down somewhat. Before us was a crowd of people swathed in Pokémon memorabilia, all glued to their phones. Despite being fairly active in the local Pokémon community, I didn’t recognize anyone there, so I began approaching random groups and making small talk. We were about 50-60 people in total, and the crowd was comprised mostly of young adults in their 20’s and was predominantly white and male. Most people were easy to converse with and wanted to meet new people, and unlikely groups of friends quickly formed. One of the event organizers walked around distributing small, circular stickers in different colours, so we could each wear a sticker corresponding with our team colour.

Around 8:00pm we headed out and began our trek through downtown Montreal. It was amazing witnessing this dense pack of young people slowly shuffling onwards, phones out, as passers-by stared and snapped photos. The meet-up was so huge we frequently got divided at traffic lights, but we always waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. Every so often, people cried out with excitement as they spotted new or rare Pokémon, which everyone then stopped to catch.

Mont Royal Base mWe soon arrived at the base of Mont Royal, a huge grassy expanse lined with paths crossing every which way. At this point, we had to stop for a group photo to document the huge gathering before us. The organizers and photographers climbed atop a pyramid of picnic benches and began directing the group to split up based on the three teams. We got in a few great, if cheesy, photos before getting back on the path leading up the forested mountain.

Mont Royal path 1 mThe ascend started off easily enough, sloping gently upwards at a smooth incline. We could continue playing as we walked, and one person starting to blast Pokémon music from his phone. We soon reached a plateau at a wide gravel road and continued forward. It was only once we reached the staircase leading to the summit that we stopped because we had reached a Pokémon Gym! At this point, all three teams began vying for the Gym, and the spot’s alignment constantly changed from red to blue to yellow over and over again.

Mont Royal path 2 mWe paused there for a good 5-10 minutes, fighting constantly until a few people started making their way up the stairs – presumably because their team had gained control of the Gym, and they wanted to keep it that way. The group begrudgingly joined the ascent, continuously battling for the Gym until we were out of range. The climb was tough, and the staircase felt never-ending, but we kept going, and some people even managed to keep playing in spite of their exhaustion.

Montreal View mFinally, we made it to the lookout at the top of Mont Royal. A few people headed into the chalet to charge their dying phones, while others discovered another Gym to battle for, and the rest went to hunt for Pokémon and admire the view of the city. We remained here for the next couple of hours, playing the game and chatting as the sky darkened and Montreal lit up before us. It was amazing playing with and getting to know fellow Montreal Pokémon fans, and everyone was friendly and happy to share tips and tricks.

The crowd began to thin as it got later and phones began running out of juice, and eventually, those of us remaining finally called it a night at 11:00pm – it was a weekday, after all. Getting back down the mountain was an adventure on its own, but as we reached the bottom and parted ways, I couldn’t help but wish the day could go on and on.

IMG_2016-07-12-21364687The Montreal meet-up was a truly wonderful experience. Pokémon Go not only encourages players to explore their city, but also to meet new people and make friends as they discover the game together. Montreal has a truly vibrant Pokémon Go community full of friendly people, and it will surely continue to grow once the game officially launches in Canada. If you ever have the opportunity to join a Pokémon Go meet-up, be sure to bring good shoes, water, and a portable battery pack for your phone, and get ready to have a good time.

 

The next Montreal Pokémon Go meet-up will be on August 7 at 12:00pm outside of the Palais des Congres. It takes place during Pokéthon, a Pokémon sub-event at Otakuthon, in conjunction with The Silph Road, a grassroots Reddit community.

 

Written by S. Luger

Photos by S. Luger

Always on the lookout for new projects and opportunities, Sarah is driven by her passions for writing, geek culture, and cake decorating. When it comes to Pokémon, she’s a master, and is heavily involved in the community both online and off. She is a nerd for anything relating to gender and sexuality, and relishes in exploring the intersections and connections between her many areas of interest.

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This Heart’s on Fire: ‘Death Stranding’ and Heartman

‘Death Stranding’ has no shortage of your standard Kojima weirdos but one that almost no one is talking about is the eccentric Heartman.

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Death Stranding Heartman

*This article contains spoilers up to and including Chapter 8 of Death Stranding*

Over the course of Hideo Kojima’s wildly ambitious Death Stranding there are a whole cavalcade of intriguing and intoxicating characters for players to meet and acquaint themselves with. From the guy with the weird goalie mask to the lady with the magical umbrella, there is no shortage here of your standard Kojima weirdos but one that almost no one is talking about is Heartman.

Portrayed by writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn, best known for Drive, Heartman brings the game to a dead halt when you finally meet him face to face in chapter 8 but the reprieve comes as a welcome comfort to the player. Having just crossed a treacherous mountain range and survived a second trip to Clifford Unger’s war-torn beach, most players will welcome a little down time, and Heartman is there to provide it.

Death Stranding
It’s immediately clear that Heartman’s home is something special from the moment Sam walks through the door. Lit with a ring of holographic fire, the foyer of the mansion is immediately welcoming in the hostile environment of the snowy mountains. However, it also has a sort of clinical detachment to it. This is by design, as reality for Heartman is merely a distraction — downtime to be filled.

Yes, Heartman comes with the tragic backstory players will no doubt be expecting but, like most of them in Death Stranding, his is a real treat. Delivered partly through voiceover and partly through flashback, Heartman reveals how he lost his family to a terrorist attack while in the hospital for a heart operation. When he flatlined during the operation, though, he was able to find them on the beach before being whisked away back to reality.

Obsessed with finding them again and joining them, Heartman now spends his life in 24 minute intervals: 21 minutes of life, 3 minutes of death. Every 21 minutes Heartman journeys to the beach by flatlining himself with a personal AED, only to be resurrected 3 minutes later. During those 3 minutes though, where time is altered by the elastic effect of the Death Stranding, he seeks out his family and makes observations on how the beaches and the after life work.

Death Stranding
Bizarre as all of this is, it makes Heartman a truly fascinating character. Since his life is mainly confined to 21 minutes at a time, he has collected hundreds of books, movies, and albums which can be experienced during that tiny window of time. His study is brimming with them, stacked on the ceiling high bookshelves that surround his work area. Also in the study are eerie recreations of frozen corpses, old family photos, and a host of other curiosities, each of which will earn the player likes from Heartman for noticing them.

Of course, this is the most interesting part of the meeting. As Heartman continues to explain his theories, a counter occasionally appears in the bottom corner of the screen, showing how long Heartman has before he will flatline again. When the moment of truth finally comes, he lays himself down on a chaise lounge, turns over a golden hourglass and dies before your eyes. As the Funeral March begins playing from an old record player, Sam must keep himself busy for 3 minutes while he waits for Heartman to return to the land of the living. It’s a truly brilliant moment, as a counter appears in the bottom corner again, and the player must simply take in Heartman’s eccentric home from a first person perspective for 3 minutes uninterrupted.

What would be boring as sin under the wrong direction becomes a welcome moment for the player to just sit and absorb this strange, yet comforting, place. Then, after three minutes have elapsed, Heartman reawakens and picks up from where he left off as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. He even breaks the 4th wall as he continues to talk, swatting away the timer when it appears on screen again and adding likes to your counter in real time.


There’s really nothing like the meeting with Heartman in all of Death Stranding — but then, there’s nothing like Death Stranding really in the realm of gaming either. With its long periods of walking between haunted destinations and its deliberately cryptic mythology, the game is like a series of tone poems and intellectual treatises mashed together into a post-apocalyptic courier sim.

Heartman then, with his heart-shaped lake and pink-lit study, is just one more piece of Kojima’s mad puzzle here but what a piece he is. Who would have thought the most normal looking member of Death Stranding‘s bewildering cast would end up also being one of its most interesting? Certainly not this writer. Still, Heartman and his eerie, purgatorial existence make for one of the nicest surprises in the game.

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Five Best New Pokémon Designs from ‘Pokémon Sword and Shield’

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Much like Pokémon Sun and Moon before, Pokémon Sword and Shield is an adventure full of fascinating surprises. Some of those many surprises across the Galar region are the new pokémon you will come up against. While many of the designs in the eighth generation were a sorry sight to behold, here are five that should stand the test of time as welcome additions to the ever-growing franchise.

Flapple

When I first encountered an Applin, there was a stark realization across my mind that Pokémon had ran out of ideas. Here I was, with my then Sobble, about to fight an apple with eyes. It was about as baffling as the ice cream cone back in Black and White, which looked as if it was designed by a child. But for not the first time, I was wrong, and instead of becoming three apples or a pear, Applin actually has a fantastic evolutionary journey.

Throw a sweet apple at Applin, and it’ll evolve into a Appletun, which is an interesting evolution in its own right. But when you throw a tart apple in its direction, it evolves into something so much better, with the result becoming the Flapple we see above. A tiny dragon using the broken apple it burst out of to flap around in the air is a creative concept to say the least, and certainly helped to change my early judgement on the apple core pokémon.

Sirfetch’d

Farfetch’d has been an unfortunate pokémon ever since its illustrious debut on Pokémon Red and Blue. A weak pokémon that was rare by virtue of being delicious, Farfetch’d has been a pokédex filler ever since. Luckily, in the Galar region, the Farfetch’d are a little more feisty, with a new typing to match.

With a little patience and a shovel of goof fortune, you can evolve your Galarian form Farfetch’d into Sirfetch’d if you manage to deal three critical hits in one battle. The odds are increased if you catch a Farfetch’d holding a leek, and then further increased at level 55 when your Farfetch’d learns leaf blade. For what it’s worth, the hard work does pay off. Sirfetch’d is a fantastic design and suits the theme of Pokémon Sword and Shield honorably. The evolution that Farfetch’d always needed has been worth the two decade wait.

Galarian Corsola

For all the demonic ghost pokédex entries and back stories, the Galarian form Corsola hits most close to home. While the change is largely a new colour and a sad face, the reasoning can be a little more tragic.

There are no secrets about the destruction of the coral reefs across the world due to climate change. It only takes a change of a degree in temperature for the coral to expel the algae that gives them their unique colouring and become the bleached white. While the coral isn’t dead immediately, if left in that state, it does eventually starve to death. Hence Galarian form Corsola represents more than the sum of its parts, and its a clever message Game Freak has left in Pokémon Sword and Shield about the destruction of our ocean ecosystems.

Grapploct

Ever since Hawlucha, I have a bias towards Mexican wrestling pokémon. They’re fantastic. Clobbopus and Grapploct are no exception, and the only reason I’ve chosen Grapploct over Clobbopus is because of way Grapploct swam like a hungry Olympic swimmer to announce my destruction.

While its base stats are actually average, the confidence it showed to pursue me on my journey across the sea certainly left a stain. The design of Grapploct itself is so consistent with fighting type pokémon that it’s one of the least lazy designs in Pokémon Sword and Shield, and for all the prayers to Arceus, there are some hopelessly lazy designs in this generation.

Corviknight

This is going to be huge statement that might rile up a number of pokémon fans, but for me, Corviknight is the best designed bird pokémon. The whole concept fits the brief, from the armour on its head, to its seamless fit into the inspiration behind the region.

It’s no secret that the Galar region was inspired by England, from the train system to the architecture, there are pieces of Ol’ Blighty everywhere in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Some of those influences are seen in the pokémon themselves, and none express that more than Corviknight. The raven has a lot of folklore behind it, particularly its presence in the Tower of London. It is said that if the ravens were to leave the tower, then the destruction of England is imminent. As such, not only does Corviknight look like a formidable bird pokémon, it actually has a clever reason behind its design.

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‘Donkey Kong Country’ – Still as Difficult, Demanding and Amazing to This Day

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Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country: 25 Years Later

Back in 1994, Nintendo was struggling with their 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which wasn’t selling as well as they’d hoped it would. With the release of the Saturn and Playstation on the horizon, the Super Nintendo needed a visually impressive and original title to reinforce its market dominance. After three years of intense competition and heated rivalries, Nintendo desperately needed a hit that could prove the Super NES could output graphics on the same level as the forthcoming 32-bit consoles. They teamed up with Rare to produce Donkey Kong Country, a Mario-style platformer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Donkey Kong Country is a game held in high regard and with reason. Monumental! Monstrous! Magnificent! Use any term you want, there’s no denying how important this game was for Nintendo and Rare. The graphics for the time were above and beyond anything anyone would imagine possible for the 16-bit system. For a two-dimensional side-scroller, Donkey Kong Country conveys a three-dimensional sense of dept. The characters are fluidly animated and the rich tropical environments make use of every visual effect in the Super NES’s armory. Each stage has its own theme, forcing players to swim underwater, navigate through a misty swamp, swing from vines, or transport DK using a set of barrels (cannons) to advance. And let’s not forget the mine cart stages where you ride on rails and use your quick reflexes to successfully reach the end. Every level has little nooks and crannies too, hiding secret areas and passageways that lead to bonus games where you can earn bananas and balloons, which you can trade in for additional lives. And in Donkey Kong Country, you’re not alone; your simian sidekick Diddy tags along for the adventure. You control one character at a time, and each has his own unique strengths. Donkey Kong can dispatch larger enemies with his giant fists, while Diddy can jump a little higher than his bulky cousin. It isn’t the most original platforming feature, but it works. The two heroes can also rely on various animal friends to help guide them through their adventure. Predating Super Mario World: Yoshi’s Island, Diddy and DK can also ride on the backs of Rambi the Rhino, Winky the Frog, Enguarde the Swordfish and more!

What’s really impressive about Donkey Kong Country is how it has withstood the passage of time. In 1994, Donkey Kong Country’s visuals were spectacular with its rendered 3D models, lively character animations, detailed backgrounds, and a lush jungle setting, and while some would argue the game is dated, in my eyes it still looks great to this day. Kong has heart, and he’s willing to show it in a game made with wit, excitement and moments of visionary beauty. Meanwhile, the soundtrack by David Wise is guaranteed to win listener’s over. Practically every piece on the soundtrack exudes a certain lyricism that has become a staple of Rare’s games – from its upbeat tropical introduction to the unforgettable climax which secures its place as one of the Super Nintendo’s most memorable boss fights. The result is an apt accompaniment to the colorful characters, tropical landscape, and tomfoolery that proceeds.

What really stands out the most about Donkey Kong Country after all of these years is just how challenging this game is.

But what really stands out the most after all of these years is just how challenging this game is. Donkey Kong Country is a platformer you can only finish through persistence and with a lot of patience. Right from the start, you’re in for one hell of a ride. In fact, some of the hardest levels come early on. There are constant pitfalls and Donkey Kong can only take a single hit before he loses a life. If your companion Diddy is following you he will take over but then if he takes a single hit you lose a life and it’s back to the start of a level. Needless to say, the game is unforgiving and requires quick reflexes and precise pattern memorization to continue. This game requires so much fine precision that it will definitely appeal to hardcore platforming veterans looking for a challenge and those that do are in for one hundred eighty minutes of mesmerization, astonishment, thrills, chills, spills, kills and ills. The only real downfall of Donkey Kong Country is the boss battles. Yes, Donkey Kong Country gave us some memorable villains such as Dumb Drum (a giant Oil Drum that spawns enemies after it hits the floor), and The Kremling King (who is responsible for stealing Donkey Kong’s Banana Hoard), but these enemies have very basic attack patterns and far too easy to defeat.

It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

Donkey Kong Country

Along with its two SNES sequels, Donkey Kong Country is one of the defining platformers for the SNES. The game looks great and sounds great and the platforming, while incredibly difficult, is still very fun. Rare did the unexpected by recasting a classic Nintendo villain as the titular hero and it paid off in spades. It’s one of the rare, great works of art that stands up endlessly despite repeated playthroughs, each time revealing something new.

The beauty of the original is that there’s more to it than the oversized gorilla. Donkey Kong Country is truly amazing!

– Ricky D

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