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Pokémon: A History of Reveals

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Pokémon Sword and Shield have finally been revealed following the announcement of their development in May, 2018 at the unveiling of Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee! and Pikachu! The titles, region, early details, and starters have all been disclosed following the Pokémon Direct on Pokémon Day, February 27, in what may well have been the best new generation unveiling to date. That’s not to say that Pokémon doesn’t have a fascinating history of reveals and releases where the core titles are concerned. Until The Pokémon Company, Nintendo, and presumably Dark Horse Comics provide a much needed Pokémon History and Encyclopedia similar to those The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. received, here is a brief history of reveals for one of the most popular gaming franchises of all time.

The History of Pokémon: The Beginning

In 1996, Pocket Monsters Red and Green had to overcome every obstacle a brand new IP does when entering the market. However, being published by Nintendo has its benefits, especially, in this case, the clever idea to publish the game in two versions, each complete with exclusive Pokémon, a concept courtesy of Mr. Miyamoto himself. The games proved to be an immediate success and sales surged, prompted in part by eager consumers buying both versions. Soon after, Pocket Monsters Blue version (from which Pokémon Red and Blue were localized) was released, further solidifying the franchise as a popular and critical hit, alluring fans with updated artwork and new dialogue. Most intriguing of all, however, was the inclusion of an additional, enigmatic Pokémon, Mew, revealed by game designer Satoshi Tajiri. A legend was born almost immediately as rumor, speculation, and myth swirled around the game and the mysterious new (or ancient?) Pokémon.

It was in this state that Pokémon reached the Western world in 1998, preceded by the equally popular anime and the all-too-valuable word of mouth (particularly in the late nineties), resulting in an absolute frenzy and unprecedented pop cultural phenomenon. While the games were officially announced at E3 in 1998 (then held in Atlanta in May), revelation concerning Red and Blue tended to be far more personal. Unlike now when information is revealed and then regurgitated by countless online sources, in the late nineties, when those countless media outlets didn’t exist, the buzz surrounding something was far more pivotal to success. Visibility was further enhanced by unique marketing campaigns from Nintendo. The ageless appeal, social interactivity built into the core of the game with trading and battling mechanics, emergent myth and legend surrounding the games, and the trading card game following in quick succession ensured Pokémon would persist until the sequel and subsequent entries arrived a short time later.

The Sequel

Pokémon Gold and Silver claim perhaps the most unique reveal in franchise history. The first public showcase of the game was as early as November 21-23, 1997 at the Nintendo Space World video game trade show (a now defunct event Nintendo would host annually in Japan where it typically unveiled new hardware), a full two years before the game was released. It took the form of a demo, reportedly the most popular display of the show. According to Creatures Inc. president, Tsunekazu Ishihara, development for Gold and Silver (tentatively titled Pocket Monsters 2: Gold and Silver) began almost as soon as Red and Green were finished, explaining why this early demo exists. The prototype features two unused starters and several other unused Pokemon designs amongst several other differences between the Space World version and those released to the public two years later. On May 18, 2018 a ROM of the demo was anonymously leaked, giving fans a rare glimpse behind the curtain into a Pokémon game’s development. Paired with a separate leak provided by team Helix Chamber of some prototype data from Red and Green and we have a fascinating perspective into the history of this beloved franchise. While that is an incredibly cool way to reveal a game, for the majority of the public it remained the stuff of legend until the ROM leak of May 2018 and now it’s nothing more than fascinating trivia and captivating history.

The Dark Days

Ruby and Sapphire‘s announcements and development history are not well documented worldwide. They appear to have been revealed via press release by The Pokémon Company, then picked up and distributed by various media outlets. Again, this was before the internet was over saturated with sites and blogs, and information was particularly scarce surrounding the third generation of the franchise. It was notably absent from E3 and most information seems to have come via translated Japanese sources. The original games’ debut has been further buried by the remakes, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.

The CoroCoro Days

The development of the fourth generation of Pokémon was first announced via a Nintendo press release two years prior to the titles’ release in 2006, though that was all that was disclosed. Actual information regarding Diamond and Pearl, including the titles, was provided courtesy of CoroCoro, a popular childrens’ magazine in Japan that Pokémon still often utilizes to make many of it’s reveals, in May of 2005. Four Sinnoh region Pokémon were introduced in the eighth Pokémon movie, Lucario, Bonsly, Mime Jr., and Weavile, which premiered in July, 2005 in Japan and September, 2006 in the U.S., prior to the release of Diamond and Pearl in Japan on September 28, 2006.

Similarly, the fifth gen. was revealed in a press release direct from the Pokémon Company stating that the titles were due out later that year, though no further details were given. The silhouette of the first Pokémon of from generation five was revealed on “Pokémon Sunday,” a Pokémon variety show, on February 7, 2010. This Pokémon was later revealed to be Zoroark, the star of the 13th animated Pokémon movie. On May 9, 2010 the three starters were similarly silhouetted and later revealed via Pokémon Sunday. The games’ titles, cover Pokémon, and release dates were revealed on the Pokémon website later that May.

This seems to be the start of the info drop pattern the Pokémon Company and Nintendo would use on the rest of their new core games: initial reveals at the beginning of the release year in January or, more typically, February, cover art and cover Pokémon revealed in April or May, followed by smaller trailers and teases, typically via YouTube and CoroCoro, leading up to release in the fall, now typically November. Remake titles and sequel entries tend to be revealed later in the year with a shorter gap between announcement and release. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, for example, were revealed in June, 2017 before their release in November that same year. Alpha Sapphire, Omega Ruby, and the Let’s Go titles were similarly unveiled in May, 2018, and released in November, with Let’s Go getting an additional mention and demo in Nintendo’s E3 Direct and show floor.

The Direct Days

On January 8, 2013 Nintendo streamed it’s first ever Pokémon Direct, a Nintendo Direct presentation dedicated exclusively to Pokémon. Though not the primary focus of the presentation, the eleven minute direct culminated in the unveiling of and Y. The stream concluded with the late Iwata San disclosing the Pokémon Company and Nintendo’s desire to finally achieve a global release with the sixth generation of Pokémon games. The Nintendo Direct format, first introduced in October of 2011, gave publisher and developer the perfect format to deliver global updates and news drops to assist in this initiative, allowing Pokémon to be properly promoted worldwide. Since then, all Pokémon reveals, remake, sequel, and new generation alike, have been unveiled via Nintendo Direct except Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire as well as Let’s Go, though the Let’s Go games were part of Nintendo E3 presentation in June.

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire instead made use of some of TPCi’s other direct resources, the Pokémon website and official YouTube Channel, to make their debut. Though some reveals, at least initially, come courtesy of CoroCoro, the majority of additional details concerning new titles comes from these direct, digital sources. On February 26, 2016, for example, a Pokémon Direct occurred which celebrated the twenty-year history of the franchise. In the end of this Direct, the title art for Sun and Moon were displayed as well as some brief glimpses of the game’s development. Sun and Moon truly first entered the light when a trailer introducing the starters and teasing the mascots was uploaded on May 10, 2018, to the site of media channels.

The Future of Pokémon

That, of course, brings us to the reveal of Pokémon Sword and Shield. It can reasonably be predicted that the next reveal will be a trailer in May disclosing the cover Pokémon, artwork, and a release date likely in November based on the franchise’s history. Looking even further out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sequel or remake title announced in May 2020 and scheduled to be released in November as well. Only time will tell.

Pokémon is a franchise with a rich history, from its early days as a pop culture revolution, to its unique history with Nintendo and the publishers most notable figures, to its long record of mythic prototype designs, hidden monsters, eerie urban legends, and glorious glitches. Each game reveal has added an interesting chapter to the IP”s history. If anything is to be gleaned from this, it’s not the ability to predict the future announcements of the series, but that Pokémon, perhaps more than any other franchise, really needs that encyclopedia.

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

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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.

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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.

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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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