A small update

Dearest readers,

I’ve been very busy the past couple weeks. Last weekend I attended the St. Louis Pokemon Video Game Championship Regional, and this past Saturday I attended a Super Smash Bros. Project Melee monthly tournament, and so the time I would normally spend writing I’ve spent completing homework so that I don’t fall behind. So, this coming week I will be spending more time catching up on homework and getting absolutely no writing done, thus – unfortunately –  I will not have a post for this week. Once I get this homework done and my schedule back on track I’ll be pumping out a post every Friday, as usual!

I promise.

Just Sayin’.

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Pokémon VGC 2014 Rules Announced!

If you’re a competitive Pokémon player, I’m sure you’ve heard the news: the official Video Game Championship (VGC) ruleset for 2014 was announced by The Pokémon Company International (TPCi) about a week ago. I’m here to give you my opinion on the format. I will be taking directly from the official document (link will be provided at the bottom).

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9.      Sanctioned Format

Pokémon Organized Play supports one format for sanctioned play: Standard. Sanctioned events are listed on the POP website, and the results are reported to POP after the event concludes.

9.1. Standard Format

The Standard format is the standard tournament format for Play! Pokémon video game events. This format will be used at all premier events unless specified otherwise. The Standard format for the 2014 season will use the following restrictions:

· Only Pokémon X and Pokémon Y Game Cards or downloadable versions are permitted for use.

· Players may use Pokémon from the Central Kalos Pokédex from #001 to #150, Coastal Kalos Pokédex from #001 to #153, or Mountain Kalos Pokédex from #001 to #147.

· Pokémon must be placed in the Battle Box.

· Pokémon are allowed to Mega Evolve.

· Pokémon above Level 50 are permitted, but they are auto-leveled down to 50 for the duration of battle.

· Players may use Pokémon with Hidden Abilities.

· Players may use items that have been officially released via Pokémon X, Pokémon Y, the Pokémon Global Link, or an official event or promotion.

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9.2. Kalos Native

Pokémon used in the Standard Format must be native to the Kalos region in Pokémon X or Pokémon Y. A native Pokémon is a Pokémon that is hatched or caught in Pokémon X or Pokémon Y. Pokémon that have been transferred to Pokémon X or Pokémon Y via Pokémon Bank or Poké Transporter are not native.

So this right here is the “big” news. Rumors had been flying around about the rules being Kalos Dex only, and here it is: Kalos Dex only. What does this mean? A lot of Pokémon in the Friend Safari are NOT allowed. While this may seem confusing and frustrating to those who want to use Togekiss or Breloom, I’m okay with this. I don’t enjoy that they’re restricting Pokemon, but I get it – they don’t want any Pokémon RNG’d from older gens in, and so they’re eliminating that possibility entirely by simply banning them from play.

One interesting thing about this group of Pokémon is the lack of legendaries. Many teams used at least one or two legendary Pokémon from trios because they were very strong, and others would use those such as Heatran, Cresselia, Latios, etc… because of how well they played. In fact, Latios’ Dragon Gem Draco Meteor was THE special move to EV around in 5th gen.

This sudden lack of those legendaries means two things: 1) Casuals who hate it when people use those legendaries may actually decide to play competitively, and 2) the metagame will definitely be shaken up a little. I don’t think it’s going to be a crazy shake-up, but there will be Pokémon that will replace Cresselia, Thundurus, Heatran, Terrakion, etc…

One thing to note: You can breed egg moves from Pokémon transferred from 5th gen to 6th gen Pokémon and have it be legal, so that’s a plus!

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4. Time Limits
Tournament staff is responsible for running a timely event. To assist in this effort, POP has established guidelines for time limits during various portions of the event. Players may take notes at any time during their match but
must begin each match with a blank sheet.

4.1. Pre-game Time Limit

Players will have 90 seconds to view their opponent’s team and select their Pokémon.

4.2. Mid-game Time Limit

Any mid-game effects, such as selecting a move or retreating Pokémon, are to take place within the 45 seconds allocated per turn.

4.3. Match Time Limits

Single-game matches will be 15 minutes. For best-of-three matches, each game in the match will be 15 minutes.

This is the part I’m not super-fond of. I take a long time to decide my moves. You have to think about a lot more than just the turn you’re about to play. Reducing the time from 60 to 45 hits hard – I’ve already had quite a few moments where my turn was decided by the game for me because I took longer than 45 seconds. That’s the only part that I don’t like – 90 seconds for team preview has always been enough for me, and 15 minutes I’m indifferent about.

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Those are the two BIG sections I wanted to talk about. If you’d like to see the full rules document, CLICK HERE.

If you want a list of all legal Pokémon in the Kalos Dex, CLICK HERE.

Just Sayin’.

REVIEW: Pokemon X/Y

I apologize for my three week’s of a missed post – I’ve been swamped with schoolwork and playing the game I will be reviewing for this post: Pokemon X!

Pokemon X and Pokemon Y came out a couple weeks ago, and it’s been everywhere. So why is it so popular? I think it’s because of the new Mega Evolutions and the 3D battle environment, but there’s a lot more to the game that’s changed that I want to review, so let’s dive in!

Let’s get the main story out of the way. It’s yet another “You’re the greatest” story where all you do is win and save the world from some dude who wants to make the world “beautiful” blah blah blah. The story doesn’t really interest me, as none of the games really have. This has been the formula for the Pokemon franchise since the very first game. The only games in the main franchise (I’m excluding Coliseum and XD: Gale of Darkness, both of which I enjoyed) that’ve tried to really have a story are Black/White and Black2/White2, and even then, those didn’t impress me, although it was cool to see the game try to have a real plot.

The game looks very pretty. Definitely the best-looking Pokemon game to-date. The battles are fun to watch, the move animations are very cool and hit a chord (for me, at least) of a time when I played the hell out of Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Stadium 2. Where Black/White and Black2/White2 attempted to merge more 3D into the world, X/Y adds onto it splendidly. The france-esque style is really cool. Love the themed cities.

The music is pretty forgetful save for a few towns, cities, and the INCREDIBLE gym leader music. One of my favorite gym leader themes in the entire series.

Onto the great stuff: NEW TYPE, PIKACHU TALKS, MEGA EVOLUTIONS, AND MORE!

Pikachu actually talks like he did in Pokemon Yellow, my all-time favorite game in the series. If they had shown that in a commercial or something I would’ve been sold right there.

There’s a new type: Fairy. This type is probably the best type in the game, resisting Dark, Bug, and Fighting, being immune to Dragon, and only being resisted by Steel, Poison, and FIre. It’s super-effective against Fighting, Dark, and Dragon. It’s incredible, and with this new type comes some old Pokemon with new flavors, like Mawhile, The Raltz evolutionary line (excluding Gallade), the Marill evolutionary line, and Jiggly/Wigglytuff. It’s cool to see a new type come in, for both casual and competitive players, but as a competitive player I think it’s great to see something shake up the type chart.

While there were only 66 (Or 69, I can’t remember) new Pokemon added to the game, there’s also the additions of Mega Evolutions, special evolutions that certain Pokemon can reach if they hold their respective mega stone. These Pokemon are more powerful and many of them look really cool and give some otherwise unnoticed Pokemon a re-entry into the series, like Pinsir and Kangaskhan. Old favorites like Gyarados, Alakazam, and Gengar were also given Mega Evolutions, and of course, the game’s mascot mega, Mewtwo, is there. Some Pokemon, like Charizard, have two separate mega evolutions. It’s cool, although I’m hoping more are released as DLC like event Torchic with access to the mega stone that transforms Blaziken into Mega Blaziken.

Also, the ability to style your character with clothes and hair styles is a really nice change. When you play a lot of Pokemon, you see a lot of the same avatar. It’s nice that you can put your own flair to your avatar. Also, nicknames appear when doing local battles, which is a really nice addition because some people (like me) put a lot of thought into their nicknames, and to let other people see it is awesome. On the nickname note, the filter is really strict. Sometimes you’ll find a name isn’t accepted because you’re accidentally using a word that is bad in another country, which means it isn’t allowed, but that’s a small price to pay for being able to show off your nicknames!

And probably one of the best additions to the game is Wonder Trade, an online trading service like the GTS (where you could trade with people from around the world), but instead of requesting and offering Pokemon, you pick a Pokemon to offer, and the game randomly selects someone else on Wonder Trade and trades the Pokemon they offered with yours. That’s it. Random trading, and it’s addicting. You can burn quite some time just by Wonder Trading, and sometimes you get some really cool Pokemon. I got a Jolly Charmander out of it just a few days ago.

On the competitive side, it’s very clear that Game Freak and TCPI are trying for competitive growth. It’s been a very gradual increase in helping out competitive players as the competitive side has grown, and now it’s coming out in full force with Super Training, a feature that allows you to make your Pokemon stronger with a kind of fun little mini game, and lets people who have no idea what the term “EV Training” means still have good Pokemon. It’s clear that more competition is wanted, and from what I’ve heard and experienced talking to more casual players, Super Training is pulling off its job very well.

Pokemon X/Y have a lot to offer to new and old players. As one of the Red/Blue/Yellow players, this game is refreshing. Everything is very polished, mechanics have been changed (for the better), and it was just fun the whole way through. I haven’t found myself enjoying an in-game Pokemon experience this much since Heart Gold/Soul Silver, so kudos to X/Y!

The only flaw (and this is a minor flaw) is that the game is way too easy thanks to Exp. Share being reverted back to Gen 1/2. This means that, instead of your Pokemon holding items, it’s an item you turn on and off that gives experience to your whole team. Combine this with you basically getting a team for free (two of which are Lucario and a Kanto starter with their respective Mega Stone), and the game becomes incredibly easy. My entire team was level 80 against the Champion’s level 63 Pokemon at the end. Not challenging at all.

If you’re at all interested in Pokemon, get this game. You won’t regret it!!

Just sayin’.

P.S.: Holding your DS upside down is not a good way to evolve a Pokemon, but that’s how you evolve one.

P.S.S.: If you ever see someone named SwagTrain, that’s me!

OPINION: Smash – the Items, the Stages, the Random

Recently, thanks to the good graces of Smashboards on Facebook, I came upon a Super Smash Bros. for WiiU stage discussion thread. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, in competitive Smash certain stages are banned from competitive play, making stage lists an element when it comes to tournaments.

Generally, legal stages are “flat/plat” (flat or flat with platforms only) stages, such as Battlefield or Final Destination, and this causes a rift between more liberal and conservative (in terms of stages and even items) competitive players. The thread I was reading was basically an amalgamation of these two kinds of players arguing with each other about what stages should be legal (and some even saying items should be included).

I thought I’d chime in with my own opinion.

I don’t like stages with hazards (and when I mean hazards, I mean the F-Zero racers in Mute City/Port Town Aero Dive, the lava on Brinstar, the cannon and bombs on Halberd, the bullet bill on Peach’s Castle (in Super Smash Bros. Melee) and random stage changes (Pictochat, Brinstar Depths, WarioWare, to name a few). To me, I think these introduce a certain amount of randomness that not even the best players can avoid at times, and it leads to unfair advantages at no cost to the player given the advantage.

Some people will argue that these new elements introduce a new layer of depth to the competitive game. A player should not only know his character and match-ups, but also the hazards and timers for each stage (while random, many stages have a “timer” that tells the stage when to spawn a hazard or change the stage). The same case can be made for items.

The other argument for a more liberal stage list and items are that “there’s an equal chance that it will happen to everybody”.

I could have agreed with these two statements…but I also play Pokemon competitively.

Pokemon is a game that, no matter what, randomness is an inherent part of the game. In Smash, you have the option of turning off items and stages. You do not have that option in Pokemon. In Pokemon, there is no choice to learn risk management and randomizer mitigation – you have to to be a successful player. The best players in Pokemon are consistent because of this. Yet, yet, there is always that time that something goes horribly wrong. “Hax” is a term thrown around in Pokemon, namely because of the randomness in the game. While consistent, some of the best players will lose games because of an unlucky critical hit, freeze, extra turn of sleep, full paralysis, miss, flinch, or confusion hit. All of these (except for critical hit) result in a wasted turn.

Despite all the training one can do, when it comes down to it that one critical hit or full paralysis can be completely game-changing, yet it stays at 25% chance for paralysis no matter what. There’s always a 10% chance Ice Beam will freeze, but sometimes it freezes two turns in a row, sometimes it never freezes. Sometimes a pokemon will hit itself 4 times in a row in confusion. It’s an equal 50% chance for every pokemon that is confused, but it’s still random. Sometimes, despite all efforts to mitigate risk and “hax”, it still happens, and you end up losing because of it, despite being the better player.

This is something that competitive Pokemon players have come to terms with, but in a game where you have the ability to test who is better with raw skill only by turning off random elements, I don’t see why you wouldn’t. Pokemon, while popular, can be scoffed at because of its inherent randomness. No one wants to lose a game they should have won because their opponent got the critical hit they needed to win the game (in fact, I lost a game of Pokemon I played this morning because of a critical hit). You’re playing the odds sometimes, and that takes no thought – all you’re thinking at that point is, “If I get a critical hit this turn, I’ll win.” Notice the ‘if’, there. You have no control over whether or not you get a critical hit the next turn. There’s no depth there. There’s a ton of depth in trying to mitigate odds and maximizing your risk/reward safely (which Pokemon has and is what makes it satisfying to play for me), but you can’t ‘mitigate’ odds in Smash. There’s no move that prevents the lava from rising or to make Pictochat have the spikes come and not the trampolines. All you can do is hope that that capsule you just grabbed is an explosive. Hopefully that Pokeball you just got isn’t Goldeen.

There’s something to be said about how Pokemon can deal with risk, despite the inherent randomness involved in playing it competitively. You can make plays to protect yourself from “hax”. There are moves in the game that stop status effects (Safeguard and Taunt, namely). You can’t do that in Smash, but what you can do in Smash is turn off items and stages that have random effects. Turning off items and hazardous stages is the Safegaurd in competitive Smash. It doesn’t matter that there’s an equal chance you’ll both get an item or hit by the stage hazards. There’s a 20% chance for every pokemon that’s frozen to thaw out but some thaw out the next turn, some never thaw out the rest of the match, and some thaw out the turn they’re frozen.

There’s clearly no skill involved in a pokemon being frozen. There’s no depth there. So, I ask you, where’s the depth in that % chance that your capsule’s an explosive one or that once the timer activates, Pictochat spawns the man’s head that blows wind instead of the piranha plant?

I love items in Smash. I love crazy stages that screw people over. I enjoy playing on them them. I do NOT enjoy playing on them when I want to prove that I’m better than someone else. I want to know that I won because I made the better plays; not because a bomb dropped on you while attacking my shield, and not because the Pictochat spikes appeared right as you were jumping to avoid an attack I made.

Just Sayin’.

NSMB2 DLC 2 and more thoughts on Pokémon Black 2

Youmacon, Detroit’s premier anime convention, is happening this week, which I’m incredibly excited for. But, I already wrote about some do’s and don’ts at conventions last Spring, so I’m instead going to post my thoughts on Black 2 (as far as I am), and the new NSMB2 DLC that came out last week. Let’s start with Pokémon Black 2!

Pokémon Black 2

So far, I have 6 badges and am currently stopped at Cobalon (I’m going to RNG him with 31 IV’s and a good nature so I can EV him and hopefully use him in a team if I feel like it), and so far am loving the game.

When I make a team, I generally just look for a team that wasn’t a team caught in the beginning, and try to give myself superior coverage and the like. This time, I decided to copy the team the male protagonist of Black/White 2 in the animated trailer has, and so I have an Emboar, Lucario, and Arcanine (nick-named Slamboar, Dunkario, and Jamanine, respectively). Needless to say, Burgh was a piece of cake thanks to my having two fire-types. To top it off, I caught an Eevee (wild Eevee are incredible), and was going to give myself a Jolteon to destroy water-types, but the one I caught had a modest nature, so I turned it into an Espeon (my favorite pokémon). Coincidentally, I’ve never gotten an Espeon before for an in-game team, so it’s awesome to finally be using my favorite pokémon for the story mode. I normally nick-name my Espeon Anzu, but it’s male, so I named it Slameon. Coincidentally, the next Eevee I caught was Timid-natured, so I will be having a Jolteon soon! I got Genesect (named Genesect because I don’t nick-name legendary pokémon), at the very beginning of the game, and that’s my current team. I have a Ducklett that I use as an HM slave, but once I get the new dragon I’ll be using that on my team.

The game’s story is not too bad. The in-game scenes do not give the animated trailer justice, but I wasn’t expecting anything crazy. I haven’t actually really gotten too deep into the story. I’ve only encountered Plasma a couple times, although the old Plasma team in Driftviel city is pretty cool. Also, it’s AWESOME that you do bump into the other protagonist and that he/she has a purpose. I haven’t confirmed it, but I think she’s the subway boss for the Battle Subway singles, and if that’s true I’ll be really hyped.

Once I finally finish the story mode, I’ll put up my review where I’ll go more into the other cool little features, but those are my thoughts (and my team) so far.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 DLC 2

The two new courses for NSMB2’s Coin Rush are actually really good – they’re much more difficult than their two previous DLC counterparts (which are collect tons of coins and then a more competitive-oriented level). I nailed 30,000 on the first one without breaking a sweat, but the second one I just kinda ran through, but I found a few routes I can use to maximize my score. I need to find a good route for the first level, though. Stupid Boo Houses.

Just sayin’

REVIEW: Pokémon Conquest

When I first heard about Pokémon Conquest, I instantly thought to myself, “Why, it’s Pokémon and Fire Emblem combined!” Now that I’ve had my hands on the game for some time, I can safely say that it is indeed such a combination. Let’s take a closer look at this Pokémon spin-off!

Before we begin, let me say that this is not an actual combination of Pokémon and Fire Emblem, but rather a combination of Pokémon and a game series called Nobunaga’s Ambition, which is a Japan exclusive (as far as I know).

Plot:

The plot is pretty straight-forward: there’s a legend that says that the Warlord whom unites all of Ransei’s 17 kingdoms will have a meeting with its creator, a Pokémon of unimaginable power. This gives way to warlords who wish to unite all of Ransei and seek its creator. Some wish to capture it and abuse its power, others wish to simply unite Ransei. Nobunaga is one such Warlord who wants to abuse the Pokémon’s power to destroy Ransei, and you are the new Warlord of Aurora, now tasked with reuniting Ransei and stopping Nobunaga.

It’s good enough to keep the plot moving as you play, so I’m content with it, but I definitely wish the plot was more involved and tied in with gameplay.

There are extra stories to play besides the main game, but I haven’t gotten to those yet. I do hear they’re pretty good, though.

Characters:

A lot of the other Warlords have personality, but, to be perfectly honest, none stand out because of the way the plot moves forward. There’s nothing really deep about them besides that they act differently. I think Oichi is the most developed character so far, and she doesn’t really stand out, either. The rest of the warriors you recruit are NPC’s with the same patterns, so you get a lot of the same personalities. I understand why, but it definitely takes away from the game for me, a little.

Atmosphere (Music/Graphics):

The music is very medieval Japanese times, which is awesome for me. The battle music is great, and it definitely got me into each battle when I went to take over a kingdom, but other than that only a few pieces in certain levels really spoke to me. The world map music changes as you progress, which is nice because it gets a little bland at times. The graphics are decent overall, but the new character art for the Pokémon are awesome, which makes up for the graphics. A lot of the same kinds of areas are used, too, but the Warlord arenas are all pretty cool.

The atmosphere could have been incredible, but it’s just sub-par. While it is Pokémon, so 6-on-6 is the norm for battling, I wish the game could have used its plot more effectively and made you really feel like you’re raising an army as you conquer kingdoms. Before you even battle, you walk up to the opposing Warlord and chat with them. I would’ve preferred them just going in and invading like a true army.

Gameplay:

This is easily the best part of this game. You engage in (usually) 6-on-6 Pokémon battles with kingdoms as you conquer them, and are given certain conditions for victory alongside a time limit. It’s very cool, and the way the battle system works is great, with the whole host of Pokémon types and moves coming in and playing a part. It makes the game a little easy because each kingdom has its own type with one deviation to throw you off, but generally if you bring a team of a type that is super-effective against it, you’re going to win without even breaking a sweat.

There’s also an energy system which raise and lower a Pokémon’s stats, but these are negligible, at least for me. I’ve never had these greatly help or hinder me, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Recruit warriors and catching Pokémon are interesting, but ultimately simply and easy. Just beat a warrior’s Pokémon in less than 4 turns, with a super-effective move, or a critical hit to recruit them (with one extra requirement for Warlords), and for Pokémon, you walk up to them, click the “Link” button, and press the A button a bunch of times.

What’s cool about that, however, is the way the link system works. Each warrior has a “Perfect Link”, or a Pokémon they can reach 100% link with, meaning they are at their strongest. If you don’t have a perfect link, the % may be anywhere from 40% – 90%, which means they won’t be as strong. You can try to link with more powerful Pokémon by linking warriors with their suited types. Finding perfect links is part of the challenge, as building an army of perfect link Pokémon will be long, but it will make your army incredibly powerful.

What I don’t like about the link system is one thing: sometimes the evolution of a perfect link won’t be a perfect link, and that, to me, seems ridiculous.

What really makes this game shine for me is the delegation system and world map AI. As you conquer kingdoms, the CPU will actually start to invade you, and if you don’t have any warriors there, it will be taken and you have to re-conquer it. To prevent this, you can leave up to 6 warriors (including any Warlords you have recruited) at any kingdom you have conquered, and you can instruct them to train, search for Pokémon/warriors, or develop your army by searching for gold and raising their Pokémon’s energy. Careful delegation can lead to awesome results, and it’s cool when the AI invades and you’ve got a beefed up army waiting since you delegated.

There’s so much more to this game than just that – you have to pick and choose who goes to which kingdom to maximize your gold and training, who should you recruit, what Pokémon to link with, and so on and so forth. It’s actually an incredibly deep system.

Pokémon Conquest is a game that gives you a lot in terms of battling, but could’ve delivered more on its story. Still, as a Pokémon and Fire Emblem fan, I love the game, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Pokémon or Fire Emblem.

Score:

Plot: 5/10

Characters: 4/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Gameplay: 10/10

Final Score: 7/10

Just sayin’