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Pokémon Switch Rumor Mill-Tank: Substantiating and Analyzing the Rumors

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Kanto

Lately, the Pokémon community has been in an uproar over the rumors and alleged leaks concerning the upcoming Pokémon titles on Nintendo Switch, supposedly titled Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Pokémon Let’s Go! Eevee.  Purportedly remakes of Pokémon Yellow, the games are said to combine elements of current Pokémon games (such as replacing HMs with the Poké Ride feature from Sun and Moon) and Pokémon GO (ie. wild Pokémon appearing on the map before they are encountered), and enable players to connect the mobile game to the console game in some way.  Developer Game Freak had suggested interest in connecting the main series games to Pokémon GO as early as October, 2016, so news of that caliber isn’t too unexpected.  More intriguing is just how substantial these reports as a whole are, the validity and variety of the rumors sources, and what it means for the next core Pokémon titles.

While fake Pokémon title leaks are more common than Pidgey, weight is being given to the most recent batch of rumors and leaks due to the amount of matching reports and complimentary information from different sources.  Most recently, CSC Corporate Domains, the same entity that previously registered “pokemon-sunmoon.com” for Game Freak and The Pokemon Company, registered “pokemonletsgopikachu.com” and “pokemonletsgoeevee.com,” further substantiating the claims.  Now, fans are circling back to previously dismissed leaks (like the photo below showing a trainer with an Eevee on their head riding a Lapras on what looks to be a Kanto route filled with visible, wild Pokémon) and questioning their validity all over again.  For many, this is more than enough evidence that Pokémon on Switch is everything its been rumored to be, that is, a remake of Pokémon Yellow with some connection to the mobile game Pokémon GO.

pokémon let's go

Does “Pokémon GO” features simply mean visible Pokémon on the map?

While the reliability of all previously mentioned leaks can be debated, far more substantial albeit subtle hints might have been provided by the games’ director, Junichi Masuda, the Poké-man himself.  Prior to the announcement of Sun and Moon, Masuda tweeted a curious picture of the moon still visible in the day-time sky, now accepted as a winking tease of the then unannounced sixth generation.  On May 10, 2018 he tweeted the following picture:

Broken down, it’s a picture of a plush Poké Ball floating near the front of the image, not unlike a Pokémon encounter in Pokémon GO.  Looming in the background is a Pikachu dressed as the Super Mario Bros. character, Luigi, whose catchphrase is notably “Let’s a go!”  Between the ball and the bro are two Pokémon, Eevee and Pikachu.  Taken altogether and considering the source, this could easily be an intentional tease of Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee editions.  Since then, Masuda has tweeted several more pictures of plush Eevee and Pikachu together, including one of the Game Freak team with Masuda in the center holding the two characters up, as well as one of a display of plush at the Pokémon Center in Osaka, a stuffed Eevee seemingly out of place in a bin full of Pikachus; smaller stuffed Pikachus riding Lapras lie just beside them.  This can easily be explained away considering Pikachu’s mascot status and the popularity of Eevee, but strikes me as a little too cheeky to dismiss without thought.

That could be a fun call back to the origins of Pokémon, or, it’s an indication that we’re heading back to Kanto.

Perhaps the most validating sources of all are the games themselves.  Alola, the region in Sun and Moon, has always been juxtaposed with Kanto, the original region in Pokémon.  One of the key features in Sun and Moon is the regional variation of Kanto Pokémon, including Ninetales, Raichu, Sandslash, and many others.  Nearly a quarter of the Sun and Moon Pokédex is Kanto Pokémon, not including those regional variants.  Four of the seven ride Pokémon which replaced HMs in the seventh generation are from Kanto.  Narratively, the game opens with the protagonist moving from Kanto to Alola and *SPOILERS* concludes with Lillie, one of the friends the protagonist makes on their journey, moving to Kanto to help her mother.  The player comes into contact with Samson Oak, brother of Kanto’s Professor Oak, as they travel throughout Alola.  Near the end of the game, *SPOILERS* the protagonist of Sun and Moon comes into contact with none other than Red, the protagonist of, you guessed it, Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow and his rival, Blue.  In Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon the player has a run in with the villains from Kanto as well in the form of Team Rainbow Rocket and their boss, Giovanni and his genetically enhanced clone Pokémon, Mewtwo.  All of that could simply be a fun call back to the origins of the Pokémon series, or, it’s an obvious indication that the games are heading back to Kanto and we all missed it.

Perhaps the easiest explanation as to why so few predicted a remake of Yellow on the horizon is that back in April, Nintendo Life reported on an alleged leak from the Spanish version of the Official Nintendo Magazine discussing Pokémon on Switch.  The leak itself appears to highlight the franchise making the jump from portable consoles to a home console, refer to the titles as the eighth generation of Pokémon, and promise surprising new mechanics.  While the author of the Nintendo Life article is careful to use delicate language like “appears to,””indicates,” and “if true…would suggest” in the story, the piece is poorly titled and leaves the impression that Nintendo confirmed the next Pokémon games to be a new generation (implying a new region and all new Pokémon to catch), when, in fact, as the piece even reminds readers, the story comes from a source with a history of making a few errors.  By the time the story circulated across all media outlets, Pokémon on Switch had all but been confirmed as a new generation in the mind of the public.  In reality, the only thing truly confirmed is that Game Freak is developing a “core RPG Pokémon title” for the Switch as per Tsunekazu Ishihara’s announcement at E3 2017.  While Nintendo Life’s source might not be entirely wrong, some details could have easily been misinterpreted and or mistranslated in the journey from Japanese, to Spanish, and finally to English.  In either case, news of a remake rather than a new generation understandably comes as a disappointment to fans eager for something new.

That’s not to say that the next titles being generation eight isn’t without precedent.  The Pokemon Company and Game Freak have always made the jump to new hardware with a new generation.  Throughout the history of the franchise, there’s also never been a definitive release pattern deciding what’s next for the franchise between a new generation, the “special,” “definitive,” or “third” editions of those generations (ie. YellowCrystal, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon), or a remake title.  Emerald followed FireRed and LeafGreen, for example, while HeartGold and SoulSilver came after Platinum in the fourth generation, so it stands to reason that generation eight could follow immediately after the definitive versions of the generation seven games, Ultra Sun and Moon.

However, if the lifecycle of a generation of Pokémon is defined as the span from one new region to the introduction of another, so that, for example, everything in between Ruby, Sapphire and Diamond, Pearl was considered third gen, including FireRed, LeafGreen (remakes included as extensions of the generation as they typically borrow mechanics, the engine, and typically highlight the latest generation of Pokémon), then each generation of Pokémon has lasted three to four years with the exception of generation one (which was, of course, before the phenomenon was a billion dollar franchise and had any sort of cycle).  Assuming Pokémon Switch releases this year, that would make the seventh generation the shortest in franchise history in terms of lifespan.  While possible, it seems more likely to me that the Switch titles are a continuation of generation seven, perhaps direct sequels to Sun and Moon that were probably originally intended for release on the 3DS but had their production moved to the Switch.

While there’s precedent for the next Pokémon to be a new generation, there’s more precedent for a remake of Yellow.

While there’s precedent for the next Pokémon titles to be a new generation, there’s perhaps more precedent for a remake of Pokémon Yellow.  For starters, there’s the afore mentioned inexplicable link between Kanto and Alola.  Pokémon GO is conspicuously introducing Alola variants of Kanto Pokémon in the coming weeks four generations ahead of schedule.  Further, “core RPG” doesn’t necessarily mean a new title over a remake, especially if that remake is something of a sequel.  Chronologically, one might expect a remake of Diamond and Pearl to be in order, however, it has been even longer since a main series Pokémon game was set entirely in Kanto, the last titles being FireRed and LeafGreen on the Game Boy Advance in 2004!  Considering Pokémon’s popularity with younger audiences, there’s presumably a large portion of the Pokémon community that’ never experienced the most popular (but not the best) generation of Pokémon!

“Pokémon” has come a long way since 2004!

The last games to feature the Kanto region were HeartGold and SoulSilver nine years ago.  Just like the original Gold and Silver, players are given the opportunity to tour Kanto after defeating all of Johto’s gyms and the Elite Four.  It’s a brilliant treat in the post game, but a short tour overall and hardly the triumphant return Gen One elitists have been clamoring for (Cloystering for?), and I’m sure there are a multitude of Poké-fans under the age of nine who haven’t had the pleasure of playing through the games that started it all or it’s remake.  Speaking of HeartGoldSoulSilver, they’re the only games, excluding Pikachu in Yellow, that feature the follow mechanic, which allows players to see the first Pokémon in their party walking behind them in game.  Intriguingly, soon after the release of Sun and Moon, hackers uncovered low polygon models and walking animations for all Pokémon in the games’ code, presumably a follow feature cut from the game!  But why cut the feature when almost all of the work for it appears to be completed?  Perhaps Game Freak was facing a deadline and couldn’t fully complete the feature in time.  But shouldn’t that mean the feature should be present in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon which released a year later?  Perhaps, unless the follow feature was purposely postponed until the remake of the game that introduced the mechanic in the first place!

Assuming all of this is true, what would that mean for the next Pokémon game?  Presumably, a number of things.  Hopefully it means the return of the follow mechanic, with additional animations offered to the titular Pikachu and Eevee, like riding on the trainers head rather than being recalled when utilizing the ride Pokémon.  If the remakes are an extension of the seventh generation, it might also mean the return of some of Sun and Moon‘s key features and narrative threads such as the afore mentioned ride Pokémon, Z-moves, regional variants of Pokémon (Kanto versions of Alola Pokémon!?!), and the return of Lillie and an aged Red and Blue.  We might not get a multitude of new Pokémon, but, if we’re lucky, we might see more Ultra Beasts and maybe even some new Mega Evolutions (for the love of Arceus, please don’t abandon this feature like the follow mechanic, Game Freak)!  Then, there are the rumored Pokémon GO elements.  If limited to light touches, like occasionally encountering a Pokémon visible on screen, it might make for a livelier, more actualized Pokémon world.  Too heavy handed and I think Game Freak and the Pokémon Company threaten to ostracize the main series fans!

Red returns with his trusty Pikachu!

Maybe not as exciting as a new generation, but if the new game ends up anything like described in the paragraph above, it could be exceptional.  That goes without mentioning the potential for the introduction of new Eeveelutions!  That could be just what the doctor Nurse Joy ordered!  So maybe Pokémon on Switch isn’t generation eight, but with a follow mechanic, maybe the ghost Eeveelution I’ve been begging for for years, and some new regional variants; honestly, given the choice between a new generation and a Yellow remake,  I might choose you, Let’s Go! Pikachu.  But actually, I’d probably choose Eevee.

 

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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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