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Were ‘Pokémon GO’ Raids Really Worth the Wait?



A bustling Starbucks, a wooded trail, a food festival, a popular park two miles from Nintendo of America itself; these are a handful of the diverse locations I’ve attempted Pokémon GO‘s raids, released as part of the game’s one year anniversary celebration.  One of the most highly anticipated elements to the game, the raids came alongside a large update to the gym system which saw more gyms added, a PokéStop at every gym, a new badge or level system to increase the rewards doled out by those PokéStops, a new motivation system to replace the previous prestige system, increased Pokémon-type effectiveness, and some helpful limitations placed on the gyms to prevent teams from laying claim to them for too long and to rekindle the competition.  These positive changes have had an immediate impact, reigniting interest in the game and improving one of the game’s most forlorn pieces.  Unfortunately, the raids, the most enticing and exciting portion of the update, are, in proper Pokémon GO tradition, brilliant in concept but lackluster in application.  Raids may give players a reason to pick the game back up again, but, for some, raids are liable to encourage laying the game down for good.  Raids bring a long awaited social element to Pokémon GO, now if only there were anyone to play with.

GO‘s raids work much the same as the game’s gym system.  Every so often the game will inform players that a raid is beginning soon at a nearby gym.  A giant egg will appear over the gym with a countdown timer.  Once the timer hits zero, regular gym functionality ceases as a giant version of a rare Pokémon hatches from the egg and takes over the gym for the next hour.  Then, rather than tackling the boss solo, like the typical gym experience where a player gradually whittles down the gym’s motivation in the hopes of eventually claiming it and leaving one of their own Pokémon there to defend it, players from all teams from around the area are encouraged to band together with up to nineteen other players to defeat the monstrous Pokémon within the allotted time, all in the hopes of reaping some exclusive rewards and potentially catch a weaker version of the raid boss.  The only things necessary to participate are a character level exceeding five and a raid pass, which players can receive for free once a day by spinning the PokéStop wheel at a gym.

Mechanically, raid battles operate the exact same as gym battles, only fought alongside other players present against one large adversary.  Tapping the screen results in a player’s Pokémon performing a fast attack, which gradually fills a meter.  Once full, player’s can hold down on the screen to perform a charged attack.  Swiping results in the Pokémon dodging, allowing incoming attacks to be evaded, making for an engaging enough timing game involving adeptly timed attacks and well timed reads on incoming assaults.  Also new is the three minute window which players are given to attack the boss.  At different levels, one through four, the monsters encountered vary as do health quantities.  Tier one to two bosses can be handled solo by a competent player, and a tier three encounter, though recommended for thirteen players, can typically be tackled by three fairly regular players or even by one strong player, though the true challenge then is the time limit.

Succeeding in defeating the boss nets players a handful of new, exclusive items such as Golden Razz Berries, which fully restore motivation or make a wild Pokémon much easier to catch on the next attempt, Rare Candies, or TMs which alter a Pokémon’s move set.  It also grants players a certain allotment of premiere balls dependent upon team involvement and which faction controls the gym amongst a few other things, giving players a set number of attempts to catch that particular Pokémon.  These being some of the rarest, most elusive Pokémon in the game, including Charizard, Lapras, Alakazam, and Tyranitar to name a few, Pokémon GO gives players more than enough incentive to participate.  Unfortunately it doesn’t give players equal opportunity to succeed.

For whatever reason (money), developer Niantic saw fit to put a cap on the number of regular raid passes a player can hold at a time: one.  Assuming a player hasn’t gotten a pass that day and they’re already sitting on another, the game does allow players to receive another after they’ve used their original pass.  Players can also purchase an unlimited quantity of “premium raid passes” for 100 Pokécoins, the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.  Since players can earn upwards of fifty Pokécoins a day in game, essentially earning a premium raid pass every other day, that’s not all that egregious a cash grab and does allow players the option of buying in in a pinch.  However, that does discourage participation to an extent, actively countering the social intentions of the addition.  For example, I might pass up a particular raid because I already have the featured Pokémon, am holding on to my daily raid pass in case something bigger and better comes round, or have already used it.  In any of these cases, I’m essentially abandoning fellow players who might not have had the opportunity to catch said Pokémon and leaving them one less ally in what is potentially a challenging fight.  This might not make an impact in tier one and tier two fights, but three, four and, eventually, tier five fights, which are predicted to be legendary Pokémon, tend to require more players.  What’s worse, it’s impossible to tell if anyone is in a raid and joinable, compounding the issue and making me far more hesitant to burn a pass.

The largest flaw with Pokémon GO‘s raids is that it’s simply too challenging to find other players, and the game provides absolutely no tools to assist players in the social arena.  Once the raid begins in earnest and the raid boss appears, players have one hour to challenge the boss.  That’s a large window of time in which countless players will come and go, and with no way to sync schedules, there’s no guarantee players will encounter one another during their attempts, even in densely populated, urban areas.  I tackled two raids back to back in downtown Seattle surrounded by throngs of potential players.  Both ended up being solo raids.  Again, in a massive park, one of the most popular in the immediate Seattle area, one swimming with people and positively brimming with lured PokéStops, gyms, and my pick of raids, I had no way of telling which raids were being attempted by other players, and, despite picking one with one of the most desirable Pokémon, my attempt was miserable and lonely.  With matchmaking times of two minutes and battles lasting no more than three, it’s really no surprise that the true struggle with every raid is merely encountering other players.

The word “raid” brings games like World of Warcraft and Destiny to mind.  Raids in those titles are truly endgame material and some of the most riveting, challenging things players can tackle cooperatively.  That’s kinda the opposite with Pokémon GO.  The recommended player number is way overblown, and typically if the player count matches the tier level, players will have no problem toppling the boss.  In fact, bosses often fall faster than a baby taking their first steps.  Players in suburban and rural areas might be thankful for easier wins, but when tier one and two raids don’t typically require more than one Pokémon, even when soloed, it’s a little questionable.  Perhaps a solution to all of these issues, both social and in terms of difficulty, is raids scaling depending on the player count.  That would allow players in suburban and rural areas to actually succeed in some of the tier three and four raids.  Or perhaps Niantic could introduce some form of online matchmaking system which partners players fighting the same Pokémon in different places together.  The best solution, the one that would actually give the app a true, genuine social element, would be to give players the option to be seen on screen by other players and perhaps allow them to indicate that they’re in route to a particular raid (not while driving, of course!)  In conjunction with extending the range of the “Nearby” indicator for raids, players would have a better selection of raids and could prioritize the teamwork required ones more simply, making GO‘s raids the social experience they were always intended to be.

Pokémon GO is the best it’s ever been, and with raids now live, there’s an even wider variety of things to do and experience out on the go than ever before.  In true Pokémon GO fashion, the latest update is conceptually promising while the actual product is pretty severely flawed.  Raids are a great new addition, giving players even more reason to play than before.  Unfortunately, they’re all too dependent on being able to find other players to play alongside.  With virtually no way to connect with other players in app, the burden once more falls on the players to either find help externally or just not bother.  What should have been a fun, social experience no matter where you are feels a bit too much like another slap in the face of suburban and rural players.  There’s an immense amount of promise here, but without continued improvements and care on Niantic’s end, raids are liable to fizzle out leaving Pokémon GO much the same as it was before, popular, sure, but so far from what it could be.


Tim is not the droids you are looking for. He resides quietly in the Emerald City where he can often be found writing, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. He is the Xbox editor for Goomba Stomp and the site's official Pokémon Master.

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Game Reviews

‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming



Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.



max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter

On November 17th, 2004, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’ was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.



Metal Gear Solid 3

“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”

On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.

The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.

Taking the Narrative Back

Metal Gear Solid 3
“Snake, try and remember some of the basics of CQC.”

Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.

Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsSnake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.

Revolver Ocelot’s gun-slinging pre-boss cutscene was completely animated through motion capture footage.

Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.

Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.

A Whole New Meaning to Survival

When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.

Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.

On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.

The Beginning of Product Placement

Fun Fact: Kojima has gone on record saying that Naked Snake’s favorite CalorieMate Block is the chocolate-flavored line (rightfully for promotional reasons!).

The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.

The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”

When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.

A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank

At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.

Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.

Snake Eater 3D Limited Edition Bundle included a ‘Snake Skin’ themed standard 3DS (only released in Japan).

2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collectiona compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.

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