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To Be a Master: Which Pokemon Game is Best?

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2. Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow (Generation One)

You might be shocked or offended at finding Red and Blue close to, but not at the top of the list. Before you do anything drastic like smash the device you are reading this on, or send me stuffed Pikachus with their heads cut off, please read on. As I mentioned early on, this list is in consideration of the game when it was released, and without nostalgia taken in to consideration. This hurts the first generation’s case, as nostalgia is its best friend, and for good reason! While more recent generations have certainly surpassed RedBlue, and Yellow graphically and introduced stellar new features that make it hard to go back, the first generation introduces us to a winning formula that would go on to last twenty years and counting!  And twenty years later (eighteen everywhere outside of Japan), the game holds up just as well as it did then, provides just as much fun, and leaves the player wishing for more. Introduced on the Game Boy, Nintendo’s first portable console, the first generation of Pokémon first appeared in three colorful cartridges. Despite the game’s visuals having no color at all (well, maybe a singular hue), the game is creative, addictive, and enormously colorful in the other sense of the word. The game is captivating from the opening monologue welcoming us to the world of Pokémon, a world full of magical creatures imbued with the powers of fifteen different elements or types that the player is tasked with catching and training in the attempt to be the best Pokémon trainer that ever was. Somewhere in this setup is the magic recipe that has made Pokémon such a lasting franchise.

Red vs. Blue

The original generation’s controls and game mechanics have remained basically the same from the beginning. Starting with either Charmander, Bulbasaur, or Squirtle, a partner with which to progress through the game, the player can build a team of up to six Pokémon. With 150 Pokémon throughout the game’s region, Kanto, there’s a lot of variety and options for teams, while also providing a deep level of strategy, allowing the player to discern what Pokémon type will be most effective. Battling them gains your Pokémon experience, which in turn makes them stronger, and in many instances provokes transformation in the form of Pokémon evolution. Seeing Pokémon grow and evolve is still as immensely gratifying and exciting as it was back then, and its hard to forget the first time one of your favorites reaches the next level. There’s a reason Charizard and Blastoise are so loved. The game’s battle mechanics are also rich, rewarding, and engaging. Some moves hit opponents with seemingly nuclear force, like using your Charizard to Fire Blast a wild Oddish. It’s super effective! Others induce effects on opponents’ Pokémon, like sleep or confusion. Some moves are weak, but guaranteed to hit first, while others are brutishly strong but less accurate. For every six Pokémon in a player’s Party there are up to four moves for endless combinations for optimum devastation to opponents. Or there is the game of patience and calculation that is catching wild Pokémon. Weakening a wild Pokémon makes it easier to catch, but with too much force it will be knocked out and the opportunity is lost. Each and every new Pokémon caught offers a new friend and ally or a new piece to a collection. Both are viable reasons to catch a Pokémon and reasons to play. Mechanically speaking, Pokémon preys upon some of humankind’s most primitive instincts and desires: desires to grow and be strong, desires to collect, desires for friendship, and the pursuit of simple enjoyment. The reason Pokémon is such an enduring franchise is an issue for another article, but it ultimately boils down to a deeply enjoyable game of competition and exploration, wrapped in strategy and personalization, and filled with monsters that, despite their simpler sprites from the time, the player gets deeply attached to.

Gengar vs nidorino

And with the largest singular generation of new Pokémon with some of the most memorable designs, it’s not hard to imagine why most of these Pokémon are still so loved. The games opening cutscene features a dark, round, shadowy ghost fighting either a cute balloon Pokémon or a…bunny…dinosaur…rhino…yeah, let’s go with that – a bunny-dinosaur-rhino – before leading in to a world complete with a fire-breathing lizard, a water-shooting turtle, a bulb-sprouting frog, an electric rodent, a spooky ball of gas, more than one bipedal plant, a fiery fox, a terrifying sea serpent with unlikely origins, a rocky rhino, a genetically enhanced clone of a powerful, mythical, psychic cat hell-bent on destroying you, and so much more! These include household names like Pikachu, names recognized worldwide by people who have never even touched the game! With all of its beautifully designed creatures on top of its fittingly simple story, some of the best musical themes from any video game and the most memorable from the entire franchise, its charming dialogue and quaint, imaginative, and exceptionally inviting world, Pokemon is the perfect portable title, and undoubtedly a classic, timeless video game. It’s easy making a case for the first generation as one of the best, if not the best, generation of Pokémon, if not on its own merit, then for giving rise to one of the best game franchises of all time. Perhaps the only Pokémon games above Red and Blue are the immediate sequels.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Mark

    January 30, 2016 at 7:14 am

    So Donphan is great for being a weird tire elephant, but Blaziken isn’t good because he doesn’t look enough like a chicken? This writer needs to get his stories straight.

  2. Zach

    March 16, 2016 at 4:28 am

    Nah, Diamond us the best total. Personally I hate gen 6, though I do enjoy the new online features… But their new names sucked. Talonflame??? Froakie??? Are these seriously the same guys who named Gengar, Lucario, and Torterra???

    • Ethan Lee

      May 9, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      Really? Says the one with a mewtwo picture, they put as much name into that just like voltorbs evolution form, Gold and Silver ( or HGSS for me ) is hella better than Diamond.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Fortnite’

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Join us all month as our staff looks back at the most influential games of the past decade. This is not a list of our favourite games but rather a look back at the games that left the biggest impact in the last ten years on an artistic and cultural level. After careful consideration, we narrowed it down to ten games that have most defined, influenced and shaped the industry as we know it.

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You know, I never thought I’d be writing this article.

I thought Fortnite was going to be another one of those fads that came around quickly and left just as quickly, a fading blip of relevance like every other AAA game that releases and is buried under something better. Whether that be better looking, better playing, or just plain…better.

That never happened. Instead, what we got was a phenomenon.

There are only three other times in history where I feel like the world “phenomenon” really translates well: the original NES, PokéMania in the West, and the launch of World of Warcraft. However, Fortnite really captures the meaning of that word. It absorbed, and to a slightly lesser extent, continues to absorb large amounts of popular culture, integrating itself into the American ethos in a way that sent ripples throughout the larger, non-gamer market.

It’s hard to quantify the impact of a peak claim of nearly 250 million players. Most games don’t reach a fraction of that player base and those that do don’t often carry the clout that Fortnite accumulated for itself. Oftentimes, when a game is as mentioned and cited in the industry as Fortnite, it’s for unmitigated disasters or fads that quickly fade due to their failure to adapt.

Fortnite, on the other hand, has done nothing but adapt to changing player tastes, pumping out content on a hitherto unimaginable scale on an ever-expanding number of platforms. What started out confined to the typical trio of PC, PS4, and Xbox One soon expanded onto Android, iOS, MacOS, and Nintendo Switch quickly. Well-optimized ports and eventual cross-play enabled players to play with each other despite their own hardware choices. That two friends with an iPhone SE and a GTX 2080ti-equipped PC can play together is proof that Fortnite has done well to integrate players together from varying socioeconomic backgrounds.

If anything, Fortnite has proven right a premise that Nintendo has preached for years: that the more accessible a game is, the greater the success that it can be. Fortnite’s accessibility didn’t stop at its incredibly easy-to-run game engine or its easy-to-learn gameplay loop, but also continued in its actual presentation. For a game ostensibly about hunting down other players Hunger Games-style until only one player remains, it has strikingly bright and appealing visuals. Characters and skins are not only instantly recognizable, but easily marketable, ensuring that all fans–yes, even the middle-schoolers you overhear at your local games store–can purchase physical, in addition to digital, representations of their favorite characters.

In many ways, Fortnite, and its publisher, Epic Games, remind me of NES-era Nintendo.

Did they operate calculating business with a keen eye for profit through manipulating kids’ access to the First Bank of Mom and Dad? Yes. Did they create playground, and message board, conversation starters that create narratives that continue exist long after irrelevance? Yes.

But, in the end, did they create games whose importance changed gaming forever?

Yes.

Ultimately, I think that is the biggest aspect of Fortnite‘s legacy: it is one of the few games that did not shackle its free-to-play players with unfair restrictions or give paying players unfair, buy-to-win advantages. For all that it offered: hours of fun with friends, inclusion in massive social events, and the ability to continue your play across nearly every console, it gave it all for free.

And that, I think, will endure long after all the V-bucks and Battle Buses have faded away.

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‘KartRider: Drift’ is Gorgeous But in Need of Fine-Tuning

KartRider: Drift is Microsoft’s new exclusive racer coming in 2020. Here are hands-on beta impressions from behind the wheel.

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kartrider drift

KartRider: Drift had the odds stacked against it from the outset. Though the KartRider series has been immensely popular in China and Korea for more than a decade, its brand recognition in the West has been largely nonexistent. Thus, when it was showcased at Microsoft’s XO19 event in November, many dismissed the game as a generic Mario Kart clone. In reality, not only is KartRider is one of the longest-running competitive racing games in the world, but its closed beta weekend proved that Nexon is taking the impending Western release very seriously.

Push to Start

Beta players were given access to three modes: online matchmaking, solo time trials, and the garage for character and kart customization. The online interface is simple and intuitive; with a press of the “X” button players can toggle between Solo, Duo, and Squad (four-player) races across Item Mode (featuring traditional kart racer items) and Speed Mode (no items). Switching between different configurations is a snap and, thanks to KartRacer already being such a massive game in the East, I rarely had to wait more than 20 seconds to get thrown into a match. Creating private parties and inviting friends to race is also an option.

Although maps took a while to load, performance was consistently smooth once races actually began. It’s here where Nexon’s investment in Unreal Engine 4 really shines; the tracks are simply a joy to look at. Each manage to pop with personality despite not being based on recognizable IP like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing. Of the nine tracks available during the beta only two stuck out as being a bit samey. Each of the drivers also benefit from colorful, distinct designs and fully customizable win/loss animations. The only portion of the presentation that didn’t impress was the music, which was quite catchy at first, but looped endlessly irrespective of the track.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the actual course design, which is largely serviceable but also initially frustrating. For instance, a forest-themed track features logs that stick up from the ground and stop racers in their tracks. This wouldn’t be too egregious, but the logs are so large that only tiny spaces on either side remain. Nearly half of my races on this map were marred by traffic jams caused by a couple of these choke points. Another map features a jump that must be hit at just the right time to not collide with a building and cost players the entire race.

Even maps that don’t demand unreasonable precision from new players suffer from jarringly sharp edges that make it easy to get stuck on corners. This is only exacerbated by a finicky drift mechanic that takes hours of experimentation and countless losses to nail down. While growing more competent at cornering eventually felt rewarding and worthwhile, the high skill threshold here feels like it’s at odds with KartRider: Drift’s framing as an accessible, beginner-friendly experience. These aren’t necessarily design flaws, but they seem like missteps in a game that’s trying to appeal to as many newcomers as possible.

kartrider drift

Tantalizing Customization

While KartRider: Drift’s core mechanics might aggravate the casual players it’s trying to reach, its customization options are some of the most appealing I’ve seen in any kart racer. Players can choose from a range of skins, emotes, kart types, and wheels to fully deck out their characters. Be it the aggressively adorable Bunny Buggy or skins that turn characters into little baseball and football players, it’s tough not to fall in love with the clean, cutesy charm on display here.

One potential worry is that since the game will be completely free-to-play, it’ll follow the route of relying on premium skins and emotes to generate revenue. There was no store or lootbox-esque system implemented in the beta build, but it’s clear from the “Epic” and “Rare” tags on items that premium customization will surely be a major focus. Considering players gain experience and level up the more races they compete in, there’s hope that at least some items might be unlockables to encourage higher attachment rates.

KartRacer: Drift is an unusual Microsoft exclusive, and yet it’s clear that Nexon has poured a tremendous amount of care and resources into it over the years. Having crossplay with PC this early on was crucial and ensures a built-in online community of millions from the get-go. It remains to be seen if the team makes any track design tweaks or alters the hyper-touchy drift, but what’s already here is at least worth giving a whirl when it releases for free sometime in 2020.

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The Best Reveals of Indie World December 2019

From long-awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in the latest Indie World showcase.

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Indie World

It’s been a banner year for independent games, and Nintendo has closed it out with a new Indie World presentation. From long awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in this showcase. We’ve rounded up a few of the very best reveals below.

Animated GIF

The show started off strong with the reveal of Sports Story, a sequel to 2017’s much loved, golf-obsessed RPG Golf Story. Whereas the first game focused solely on the noble sport of golf, the sequel has a much broader scope, integrating a variety of new sports like tennis, baseball, and soccer, to name only a few. On top of that, the gameplay is expanding with plenty of new elements, including dungeons to explore, espionage missions to sneak through, and numerous memorable characters to interact with. Just like its predecessor, Sports Story will be a Switch exclusive when it launches in mid-2020.

Some of the best indies can be immensely stylish experiences, and such games were well represented throughout this showcase. The first one shown was Gleamlight, a 2D action game created by developers who worked on the recent Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It puts players in control of a sentient sword, tasked with exploring a mysterious world made of stained glass. It leaves players to their own devices, with no UI or dialogue to tell its somber story. Like so many other games in this presentation, it will release in early 2020.

Animated GIF

Another eye-catching title was Liberated, which describes itself as “a playable graphic novel.” Literally taking place across the panels and pages of a cyberpunk comic book, Liberated features a mixture of stealth-based gunplay and action platforming, along with a dystopian story told from numerous perspectives. It will be a timed Switch console exclusive when it launches next year.

Indie World

Not all games were so serious or artistic – some were decidedly sillier. One such game was SkateBIRD, which, as the title implies, is all about controlling cute little birds on skateboards. This intrepid athletes will spend their time “grinding on bendy straws, kickflipping over staplers or carving lines through a park held together by sticky tape,” and if that doesn’t sound like a good time, I don’t know what does. These little birdies won’t take flight until late 2020.

Indie World

To get even sillier, imagine the bizarre bird-based dating simulator Hatoful Boyfriend set to an Ace Attorney soundtrack. As bizarre as that sounds, that’s exactly what Murder by the Numbers is. This murder mystery visual novel blends detective work with pixelated puzzling, featuring characters designed by Hatoful Boyfriend creator Hato Moa and music by Ace Attorney composer Masakazu Sugimori. Releasing early next year, this unusual mashup will be a timed Switch exclusive at launch.

Animated GIF

Procedural generation can feel like a tired trope in indie games. However, SuperMash, which describes itself as “the game that makes games,” looks like it should be a unique take on that style with its inventive genre-mashing style. Players will be able to mash distinct genres together – such as JRPG and platformer – to randomly created entirely new gameplay styles. It has plenty of unique mashing potential, releasing in May next year on Switch.

Animated GIF

It’s seemingly impossible for Nintendo to hold a presentation without a shadow drop or two, and that holds true with this Indie World showcase. The free-to-play multiplayer hit Dauntless was revealed to include exclusive weapons and armor in the Switch version, which also features full cross-play support. Likewise, the deluxe version of the philosophical puzzler The Talos Principle was announced for Nintendo’s hybrid wonder, featuring all the immersive mind teasers and world design that made the game such a hit when it launched years ago. Unlike most other titles in this showcase, you won’t need to wait until next year to play these – instead, they’re both available for download now.

Animated GIF

The presentation opened with a sequel to a fan-favorite indie, and fittingly enough, that’s also how it closed, with the announcement of Axiom Verge 2. Details are currently scarce, but this new title will return to the sci-fi universe of the original 2015 Metroidvania hit, including “completely new characters, abilities, and gameplay.” We’re sure to learn more about this mysterious new sequel ahead of its release in Fall 2020.

These are only a few of the most exciting reveals from Indie World. For everything announced, you can see the full presentation below.

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