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‘Pokémon RPG’: The Eighth Revolution

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Pokemon RPG

Tsunekazu Ishihara announced at E3 that the Pokémon Company was working on an RPG for the Nintendo Switch. Without revealing any substantial details, it’s not clear as to which direction this new Pokémon RPG would be heading. In the likelihood of its release in 2018, it would appear slightly too early for generation eight, as we’ve only just received Pokémon Sun and Moon last November, and anticipating the arrival of Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon later this year. However, it has been known that the Pokémon Company has been working on some serious games for the Switch, and it was speculated that a game dubbed Pokémon Stars would be the first main game on the system. The announcement of an RPG next year seems to suggest that generation eight is impending.

Whilst premature, Pokémon on the Switch offers some exciting changes that could, once again, revolutionize the series. The Nintendo Switch has already pushed our high expectations of the Zelda franchise to untold new heights when it bravely unshackled itself from a slightly neophobic approach and evolved the franchise with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  From this, Pokémon has the opportunity to flatten the boundaries that each previous game has been subjected to and create an opportunity for fans to live the Pokémon adventure they have always dreamed about.

Naturally, the linear approach that has been the standard for Pokémon since its birth in 1996 would have to be reconsidered. Breath of the Wild showed a storyline does not need to be inside the walls of a linear path, and a story can be discovered by the adventure itself. This easily sticks to the framework of the previous Pokémon games, allowing the player immerse into a new region, finding towns and cities at their own choosing. With the chance to create a world as beautiful as Hyrule in Breath of the Wild, the new region could bring a fresh palette of personality, relying on adventuring into the unknown to find pokémon, rather than the percentage chances of previous generations. Different environments would produce different pokémon, rewarding the player that explores every step of the map.

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The linear approach could use shaking up.

And this world should push the boundaries even more so than before. So far we’ve had regions inspired by Japan, USA, and France. This accounts for Asia, Europe, America and the Pacific. The natural step for the new Pokémon RPG would be Africa. The beauty of Africa is its diversity, allowing a creative freedom like none other. Inspiration could be taken from the cryptic pyramids in Egypt to the boisterous Serengeti in the sub-Sahara.

This leads to a unique opportunity to expand on the concept of Alolan forms. Adapting the storyline further, going to the roots of each Pokémon. Africa is the continent of our origins, and it would be fitting to make generation eight about the origins of pokémon. We know some of the story but not everything. There’s certainly room for more diverse fossil pokémon, with much of them appearing as an afterthought. With Pokémon heading further into space, it would be unwise to neglect the stories on its own world entirely. If Ultra Beasts are a concept that is going to be continued into generation eight, then there’s a multitude of stories and fables that could be told with the concept of evolution. If Pokémon Sun and Moon can be seen as a celestial balance, then generation eight could be seen as a natural balance.

Upsetting the balance of nature is where the story could really unfold. There’s always a criminal organization trying to swing the pendulum one way. This could tackle an issue Pokémon has dealt with before – poaching. This in itself could adapt the choices for the player, allowing the concept of a pokémon ranger into the game. This deviates from the linear model that Pokémon has had for so long further, allowing real choice for the player. Becoming the Pokémon League Champion, defeating some criminals, and catching all the pokémon shouldn’t be the standard for every game. Breath of the Wild, once again, did this perfectly by allowing the player to tackle other missions independently from the main storyline. Giving new opportunities to the player will alleviate the franchise into a new era, at just the moment when Pokémon’s popularity is rising.

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The choice between the starter pokémon could be more balanced.

The realization of a beautiful new region, with the ability to take your journey into your own hands, should clear the way for a balanced, creative approach to new pokémon designs. Balance is crucial, especially with the starter pokémon. In Pokémon X and Y, they managed it perfectly. With Greninja, a water/dark type, having the advantage over Delphox, fire/psychic, which in turn had the advantage over Chesnaught, a grass/fighting type, which had the upper hand against Greninja; a perfect triangle. Sadly, the balance of the second typing was lost in Pokémon Sun and Moon. Pokémon RPG has an opportunity to rectify that error and create a much fairer approach to the starter pokémon, hopefully stopping the usual swing of popularity for a certain starter (Popplio deserves more love).

Importantly, some pokémon need some serious buffs, whether through evolution or stat changes. Competitively, some pokémon have become far too commonly used; Mimikyu and Toxapex are nearly in every team at the moment. The day Farfetch’d evolves into a normal/fighting type, with the leek becoming a martial arts weapon, is the day Pokémon finds justice for the weak. Unfortunately, expect to find a pokémon that looks like it should evolve from Farfetch’d, but will end up having no relation to it whatsoever, such is the story of before. And with the power of the Switch, Pokémon RPG could make it notoriously difficult to evolve these weak pokémon from previous generations. Farfetch’d could evolve on a certain day in Spring, at level 99 holding a leek, on top of the highest peak where it’s been training to defend itself against poachers.

In many ways, it would be preferable if Pokémon RPG didn’t add too many new pokémon, and focused on strengthening the pokémon it already has. It isn’t a different variation of a pigeon that we need, but an enhanced pigeon that we could comfortably utilize in competitive gameplay. The revolution will come with the world itself, and how the player interacts with their surroundings, providing more game time exploring rather than sifting through the GTS, ignoring the twenty people searching for a Mew for their Caterpie.

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Maybe Caterpie is a fair trade for a Mew.

This is, maybe, the biggest leap Pokémon could make. Not creating another hundred pokémon, but creating a world that fully immerses you. How many times did you find yourself back at Pallet Town? Probably once more after you were respawned there after the Indigo Plateau. Pokémon RPG has a unique opportunity, on a fantastic console, to produce a world that allows non-competitive players to live a different adventure. Generation eight should be the generation of balance and variation, and it’s in the beauty of the Nintendo Switch itself that we will find how serious this Pokémon revolution is.

 

 

 

 

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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ricky D Fernandes

    April 16, 2018 at 9:31 am

    I’ve played only Yellow and Sun and Moon and Pokemon just isn’t for me. The only way I’d buy the new game on Switch is if it is open world.

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

Awesome Mixtape Vol. 5

It’s that time once again in which I bring to you my awesome mixtape featuring the best tracks from the best video game soundtracks of the year. Last year, my mixtape featured tracks from Triple-A titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and indie darlings like Celeste. In 2017, my picks for best soundtracks included tracks from some of my favorite games including Cuphead, Breath of the Wild and Into the Woods, to name just a few. Well, 2019 has been another banner year for the industry and as always, the games were blessed with an astounding selection of musical scores— some would argue the soundtracks were even better than the actual games at times. As always, it wasn’t easy deciding which songs to include and what to leave out— and as always, I’ve also mixed in some audio clips from various cut scenes while trying to keep it spoiler-free. Feel free to share this link and let me know if you think I’ve missed any great soundtracks in the comments below.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019 Playlist

Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding
: Low Roar – “I’ll Keep Coming”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Life is Strange 2: Seyr – “Colour To Colour”
Life is Strange 2: Jonathan Morali – “Into the Woods”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Sayonara Wild Heart”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Wild Hearts Never Die”
Death Stranding: CHVRCHES – “Death Stranding”
Afterparty clip
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “Title and Credits”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Hades Gonna Hate”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Schoolyard Strangler”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Main Theme
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Cyrus the Scholar
Kingdom Hearts 3 clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Main Theme”
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Blue Skies and a Battle”
Devil May Cry 5 clip
Devil May Cry 5: Kota Suzuki – “Urizen Boss Battle Music”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
FAR: Lone Sails: Joel Schoch – “Colored Engine”
Days Gone: Nathan Whitehead— “Soldier’s Eye”
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Metro Exodus: Alexey Omelchuk – “Main Theme”
Resident Evil 2 Remake clip
Resident Evil 2 Remake: Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama, Shun Nishigaki – “Mr.X Theme Music (T-103)”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Begin Again”
Life is Strange 2: Lincoln Grounds, Pat Reyford – “Morning Good Morning”
Life is Strange 2: Sufjan Stevens – “Death With Dignity”
Luigi’s Mansion 3 clip
Luigi’s Mansion 3: Koji Kondo – “Main Theme”
Ape Out: Matt Boch – “Intro”
Deltarune: Toby Fox – “Field of Hopes and Dreams”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “Loose Cargo”
“Star Wars: Imperial March” Hip Hop Remix
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra
Death Stranding: Silent Poets – “Asylum for The Feeling”
Catherine: Full Body: Shoji Meguro – “Tomorrow”
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: Koji Kondo – “Marin’s Ballad of the Windfish”
Metro Exodus – Alexey Omelchuk: “Teardrops”
Sekiro: Yuka Kitamura – “Ashina Reservoir”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “The Doom”
Medley: Eye of Death / Wild Hearts Never Die / Dragon Heart / Clair De Lune

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Game Reviews

‘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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