Category Archives: Video games

Review: Touhou Eiyashou: Imperishable Night

Th08cover.jpgCover art.

Can we agree at this point that making games easier doesn’t make them more fulfilling? I ask this because someone showed me his new copy of Mario Kart 8 that rewards him for playing a no-lose mode without input.

The Mario Kart in question isn’t the only offender in this regard. There was a recent Mario game that awarded the player with invincibility if they lost enough times on one level. I think that the best games to represent this generation of gamers would be the clicker games, which award players with prizes just for clicking, and sometimes even allows them to play without input.

Because of this, I’ve decided to write up this review of Touhou Eiyashou: Imperishable Night, the eighth entry in the Touhou series. It’s a game that harkens back to a time when men were men, women were women, and Burger King cashiers were who-knows-what.

Touhou 8 is a Danmaku Shooter, which means that you’re going to have screens full of bullets coming at you, and the real test is in your ability to avoid beautiful patterns of projectiles.

touhou 8 stars.pngDeal with it.

If you’re the kind of guy who thinks himself above games that look cute, you missed out on the masterpiece that is The Wind Waker. You’d probably also let your guard down because you’d think this game is easy just because of its art style, only to get whooped on the easiest setting. Let’s not kid ourselves here, Touhou is hard. Like, monumentally break-your-face hard. I wanted to get that out there before someone decides to give it a try only to discover that it’s actually challenging to win, and then complain to me because this game about anime girls that can fly and fight each other with fireworks made them feel bad.

When it comes down to it, that’s the great thing about Touhou. It’s challenging from beginning to end, and there’s no way to cheese your way through it. So if you want to beat the game, you actually have to be good at it. It’s not like the American education system that gives you credit just for showing up and reciting Marxist propaganda. So when you make it to the ending where these girls are celebrating with rice wine (Just how old are these girls?), it actually feels like an accomplishment in which you can take true pride. You’ll have earned the right to see the ending, and it’s more rewarding than just finding the results of a simple Google image search.

Touhou 8 has four difficulties:
Easy: The difficulty for newbies and those who want to chill, but is still hard,
Normal: Usually ignored.
Hard: A tertiary setting that’s usually ignored in favor of the next one.
Lunatic: Touhou at it’s most rewarding, most YouTube runs are probably on this setting.

Aside from multiple difficulty levels, Imperishable Night offers variety in gameplay in the form of having four teams to choose from, with one character being the lead, and the other swapping in when focusing. A playthrough has different possible bosses depending on characters selected and certain other conditions, such as the fact that the true final boss doesn’t show up unless you’ve beat the game already and didn’t use a continue on the current playthrough. It’s another way in which you don’t beat the game unless you actually get good at it. There’s also an extra stage which is harder than anything else the game throws at you, which is unlocked by beating the main game.

touhou 8 mokou.pngNot many players make it to this part.

For those who think that games like these are too hard, there’s a practice mode that allows players to take on stages or specific attacks, so that players can improve and play more consistently. It’s not about making it easier on the player, so, once again, if you want that rewarding thrill of having beaten the game, you actually have to get good at it. This isn’t one of those click-and-win travesties that’s passing for video games nowadays.

The main thing that Touhou 8 tests is the player’s focus. There is actually more to the gameplay than “the screen fills with bullets”. There are actually patterns to attacks, and each attack is unique. Not only that, the attacks are pretty well telegraphed, so that when the player loses a life, it feels like less of a cheap shot and more of a mistake on the part of the player. After all, Touhou is a game of skill, not of rote memorization. There is no being trapped in a no-win scenario, but if that does somehow happen, it should be pretty obvious to the player how they could have avoided it. As hard as the game is, if you lost, it’s pretty much your fault. There’s no excuses, and excuses don’t let you win, anyway.

Another great thing about this game is the music. The game’s soundtrack has a nostalgic oriental theme to it, and it’s very fast-paced and upbeat. I don’t know what the consensus is when it comes to video game music, but to me, it’s a valuable part of the experience. When I ask someone who has played a game what they think of a certain track, and they tell me that they had the sound off, they’re telling me that they missed out.

While the same general thing can be said for each of the Touhou games, I picked out Imperishable Night for this review. Why this one? It’s my personal favorite because of a combination of different factors, such as the theme of the game being more epic (Searching for a moon that goes missing and battling an immortal princess? Cool.), and this one introduced some of my favorite characters, such as Reisen, which is an interesting character on several levels, and her concept is very appealing to me. It shouldn’t be hard to understand why.

Th155Reisen.pngReisen – her gun has bunny ears.

So if you want to take a stand against the oversimplification of video games, a great place to start is by purchasing a copy of Touhou. And by that, I mean actually support the guy who makes these games by buying one. Touhou is one of those games which, like Cave Story, is genius even though the whole thing is made by only one guy. Yeah, this guy who goes by the moniker ZUN has written, composed, and programmed the Touhou games by himself. So if you want to play his games, go ahead and support him by buying them so it’s easier for him to buy beer.

Score: 9 / 10

Pokemon Sword version: first impressions

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I’ve started playing Pokemon Sword, and I’m a few badges in. Here are a few first impressions:

NOTE: If you care about spoilers, there are some mild ones ahead. But because you’re using the internet, you’ll likely have come across some, anyway.

  • The rabbit, Scorbunny, is my favorite starter. By the looks of it, it’s the right choice, as it seems to have a clear edge against many early-game opponents.
  • The wild area is big, and you gain access to it early on. Don’t expect something immense like in BotW, however. Still, open wilderness areas are something I’ve wanted to see in Pokemon for a long time, and they’ve finally done it.
  • Even though there’s a large area that connects some locations, there are still routes that are connected to towns, and the gyms must be taken on in a certain order. So there is still linearity in this game.
  • Trainers have to be endorsed to take on the gym challenge, which does come up as a story element.
  • Hop is your main rival in this game. He’s a friendly guy who seems very enthusiastic, but gets in your face often and can get kinda annoying. But at some point, someone says something that gets under his skin, and it has an effect on him. At that point, how he develops becomes kinda interesting.
  • The use of UK slang is an intermittent reminder of the game’s setting. It also makes for somewhat difficult reading at times. Other English speakers let the British brag about the way they do English, but when we have to read it, it becomes apparent how generous we’re being.
  • The Wild Area is a dangerous place. Shortly after the game’s outset, you can battle wild pokemon 20 to 30 levels higher than yours! It’s easy to get into a difficult situation in which your team can get quickly wiped out.
  • You might have the idea to catch a high-level pokemon and quickly breeze through the game. In Sword and Shield, the level of pokemon you’re allowed to catch depends on how many gym badges you’ve obtained.
  • As far as power-leveling goes, unless someone discovers a way to cheese a super-strong wild pokemon, battling trainers close to your own level seems to be the most consistent way to go about it.
  • Dynamax may be impressive, but it’s not game-breaking. I’ve had an ordinary pokemon hold it’s own against a gym leader’s Gigantamax pokemon until it reverted.
  • PSA: If a Dynamaxed pokemon switches out, it reverts back immediately. Also, a Dynamaxed Golisopod’s ability still activates while Dynamaxed. Therefore, General Grievous Golisopod isn’t a great choice for Dynamaxing.
  • When booting up the game with a save file, a skipable animation plays. Skip it, and the save file loads up from where you last saved, immediately. No menus, no title screen, you get right into playing. Just as I would have it.
  • There are NPCs that dress up as Eevee. They are cuter than any pokemon I’ve found in this game, so far.
  • The bad guy team in this game is actually another trainer’s cheering team. The trainer that they’re cheering on seems indifferent and perhaps kinda annoyed at what they’re doing. This is both hilarious and sad.
  • It seems like every pokemon can Dynamax, but only specific ones can Gigantamax. What’s more, they can only Gigantamax if they were obtained under certain conditions. I’m kinda disappointed that the first Alcremie that I obtained isn’t eligible.
  • Those leaked pokemon turned out to not be as bad as I thought. There’s a difference between seeing a still image of a character and seeing that character in action in the game.
  • There is a Thunderstone located in a wild area near the start of the game, and Pikachu can be obtained early on. You know what that means…

dynamax raichu.jpg

To address the National Dex controversy, I don’t see it as a big deal. There have gotten to be so many pokemon that it was likely to happen at some point that not all of them would be coded into a game. When it comes to that point, it’s more expedient to prioritize pokemon that are more relevant to the setting, among other considerations such as game balance and popularity of certain characters. Sword and Shield aren’t the first games to have done this, that distinction would go to last year’s Let’s Go games, which didn’t receive nearly the backlash in spite of there being a far more limited selection of pokemon.

The availability of every pokemon that’s ever existed wouldn’t matter to very many players except a few fans who might actually have some kind of disorder. I suspect that much of the noise we’ve been hearing about this can be attributed to this remote and vocal minority. To normal players, omitting certain pokemon isn’t likely to make much difference. When it comes to playing a game, the experience is more important than some collection chores that mainly appeal to the overly-obsessive.

So far, I’m really liking Pokemon Sword and Shield. GameFreak did pretty well based on what I’ve seen so far.

These Pokemon Sword and Shield leaks are probably fake.

EIbzslLWsAAORLq.jpgI don’t know about this…

There have been numerous alleged leaked pokemon from the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield games which have been appearing on social media the last couple days, apparently originating from this Twitter account.

While the “leaks” look professional and convincing, there is a possibility that they could be fake, as fakes of such high quality can be produced by ordinary people. A prominent example would be the “leaked” starter pokemon concept art from over a year ago which were supposedly of the gen 8 starters, complete with the confidential stamp which was already known to be used for internal GameFreak documents:

pokemon_gen_8_leak_potential_grass

That really had the fans going, but when the real source came forward, it served as proof that just one guy and his friend who knows Japanese can trick a collective.

But what really makes the latest “leaks” more convincing is the use of quality 3D models, such as this one:

EIaw-h9XUAAL3oS.jpg

The reason I’m not convinced is because it is possible for an ordinary person to create a 3D model, texture it, and animate it, as shown in the following video:

This was the work of a first-year student in 3D modelling and animation, and he was able to produce something of demonstrably higher quality than the official models, and he did this to spite an ignorant commenter.

The other type of possible fake going around supposedly comes from a yet-to-be-released “Trainer Handbook”:

EIYkKrGX0AEyWp6

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If the guidebook is legit, then there’s a huge problem with the guidebook itself: it’s a terrible guidebook. Most strategy guides, particularly for RPGs such as the Pokemon games, are packed with helpful statistical information, movesets, and typing information. This particular guidebook would seem more concerned with filling pages with illustrations of pokemon.

As you might remember, the official strategy guide for Pokemon Platinum was the size of a phone book, even though the pages were thin and the font was small. It stands as a bulky example of just how complex the Pokemon games have become, and this was from a few generations ago.

pokemon platinum strategy guide.jpg

Another problem with these leaks is the recurring use of blurred photographs, which have been used to create the impression of taking a hasty photograph with limited opportunity, but is used to cover up possible flaws in the designs:

EIVzYSTXkAAYYk1.png

There is another problem, and this is a huge one: if these leaks turn out to be true, then GameFreak succeeded in making a bunch of pokemon that I’m not really interested in capturing. The following montage image showcases some of the images being circulated:

EIUVyfQWoAMLt5G.jpg

Most of them don’t really have the kind of appeal that is normally associated with Pokemon. The Galarian Meowth looks goofy, and its inclusion is confusing considering that we get to see a Gigantamax variant to Meowth introduced. And that weird thing next to it is supposedly a Galarian Persian.

That purple dragon-looking thing looks more Neopets than Pokemon, and seems out of place. Then there’s the red fox, which looks like it doesn’t want to be there. Also, that Farfetch’d is supposedly a Galarian variant, with the difference being a larger leek. Most regional variants have radically different designs, so why does Farfetch’d get such a half-hearted treatment?

I could keep going with what’s wrong with these designs, but you see them. Not only do I doubt that these leaks are real, I want them to be fake. If they aren’t fake, then the gen 8 pokemon designs will easily go down as the worst in the series.

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I actually like Scorbunny, so I don’t want its final stage to look so bland.

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another moth

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I’ll grant that these “leaks” are very convincing, but that’s not very comforting considering that what we’ve seen from them so far looks pretty bad.

This is an interesting time for entertainment media, because social media has resulted in a rise of a culture of leaks. People love the attention that comes with having something exclusive, and there are people who like crafting a convincing ruse. It really isn’t anything new to Pokemon. Some who have been at it for a while remember the Shaymin Sky Forme “leak” from 2008, which was eagerly posted by Pokebeach with their watermark, even though it was made by a DeviantArt user called PurpleKecleon:

shaymin-sky-form.jpg

The same thing is happening with other media franchises, such as Star Wars, with communities speculating wildly about the contents of the next film in the series, The Rise of Skywalker. In the case of Star Wars, hoaxes have been carefully crafted around information that’s already available to make them sound more believable. Such has been the case with Pokemon, too. The hoaxes have gotten more sophisticated, resulting in fandoms that have to be far more cautious than they have been in times past.

UPDATE: The Twitter account that has been posting these leaks has been suspended. It’s possible that Nintendo requested this suspension because they didn’t want these pokemon leaked. Some of the designs have grown on me, but whether they’re legit remains to be seen.

Pokemon Masters: First Impressions

Pokemon Masters.jpgCool, but you can’t obtain most of those characters in the game, yet.

Pokemon Masters has been out for a few days, plenty of time to get some first impressions and make some observations. Here are some of mine:

  • I’m liking that the focus is on the trainers in this game. In times past, it seems like they got ignored in favor of the Pokemon themselves.
  • If you plan on playing this game for more than a few minutes at a time, get ready for your phone to get hot. Also, it chews through the battery like a beast.
  • This game is a gacha. The player is guaranteed certain characters as they progress through the main story, but there are also random characters that can be purchased with in-game currency.
  • The paid currency is a supplement to the in-game currency, and functions the same way. Players that pay can get more attempts sooner, without having to be patient.
  • This game is similar to other character-based RPGs, such as Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, in that the players collect and rank up characters.
  • It’s harder to come across the currency used to purchase chances at characters as the game progresses. No surprise there, as many FTP games use a similar approach.
  • Progress in games similar to this is usually limited by a resource like “stamina” or “energy” which replenishes with time. However, in Pokemon Masters, you can play as much as you care to at a time. There are already players that are complaining about running out of things to do, but they would be the ones that already rushed through the available content.
  • Rosa is a broken character, and she’s available from the outset. She remains an indispensable character from the beginning and well into the postgame. I wonder how intentional this was on the part of the developers.
  • Evolution Crystals become immensely more expensive after the first batch. I regret using my first ones to get Empoleon, because now it takes a huge amount of grinding to get Serperior.
  • I’m not kidding. This game is ridiculously tight-fisted with Evolution Crystals. I know that most FTP games include a resource that is difficult to amass in quantity, but the coin cost for just one Evolution Crystal is crazy.
  • The idea of smuggling things in afros actually came up:

Iris hair storageBy the way, she actually does this in the show.

  • Spending 100 Skill Capsules on a single Gym Leader Notes seems like a bad deal at first, but considering how many you’ll rack up while grinding for the other items needed to achieve max levels, it’s actually a sweet convenience.
  • Raichu (with Hau) is one of the best characters in the game, and I’m okay with that.
  • I’m one of the few who managed to get Karen within the first few days of the game’s release. It’s too bad that she was outclassed days later with the inclusion of Blue.
  • I’m liking the animations, especially for the trainers. Their personalities are on full display, and some of them were characterized very well. I especially appreciated Agatha’s backstory, which provided a lot of insight into her history with Professor Oak that we didn’t previously have access to.
  • I can understand withholding the rest of the story until a future date, but did they have to leave us on a cliffhanger? It’s almost as bad as the ending for Halo 2.
  • I’m so thankful that DeNA decided to include Auto and Fast-Forward buttons for battles, which makes grinding demand a lot less attention. I know that those are standard features for games like this, but still.
  • If Barry has Piplup, what pokemon is Dawn going to have at the point she’s introduced into the game? Buneary?
  • It seems like the real challenge of the post-game is in the scheduled Supercourses, particularly the Very Hard ones. Even at maxed levels, they’re not a guaranteed win when autoing.
  • Speaking of Auto, it’s probably no surprise that Auto is no substitution for using strategy, and the computer often uses some very dumb moves, such as failing to use Potion when needed, or waiting to use a higher-energy move when the battle can be won with a move that’s already available.
  • For some reason, the 5∗ Power-Up has an expiration date. I suspect that this was an oversight, as it would make more sense if it applied instead to the event ticket used to purchase it. It’s hard to think of a reason to limit a player’s ability to stock up on this resource.

Pokemon Masters is brimming with style, and it has a battle system that’s far superior to that of Pokemon Go (though that’s not a hard hurtle to clear). It wouldn’t be surprising to see some quality-of-life updates down the road, and some content additions designed to keep players coming back. The Pokemon lore has gotten extensive over the decades, so there’s a lot of potential for expansion.

So far, I’m liking it.

Theft of the Wild

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Genshin Impact, recently announced as coming to the Playstation 4, is causing quite a stir due to certain creative decisions. To get right into it, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Nintendo Switch title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

That’s not an understatement, as Genshin Impact looks almost identical to the hit Switch game. For example, the picture above is not a BotW mod with anime characters, that’s an actual screen of Genshin Impact.

Gamers have taken note of this, and they are not taking it well. At ChinaJoy, where a trailer was shown of Genshin Impact, gamers responded by taking a picture of the trailer, including in the frame their copy of Breath of the Wild and one of their own hands flipping Genshin Impact the bird.

kenshin impact the bird.png

That seems like a careful expression of polite indignation compared to how much further another fan has taken it: by actually destroying his PS4.

kenshin impact PS4 impacted.pngSource: Daniel Ahmad on Twitter

While such brazen imitation can be interpreted as disrespectful to the source material, it need not be. Breath of the Wild was an award-winning game, and is therefore a natural choice for imitation. Having said that, there is a certain expectation that someone involved in creative media actually exercise this thing called creativity. While creative works are emulated in media all the time, it’s not usually so blatant.

kenshin impact not botw 2.jpg

On the bright side, it was a feat that the atmosphere of Breath of the Wild could be so faithfully recreated short of copying the assets directly. Also, among the choices that game maker Mihoyo made for imitation, they made a pretty solid choice. It’s also a game starring cute anime women, and it’s hard to object to that.

What is it that they call the sincerest form of flattery?

The Pokedex Meltdown from My Perspective

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A few weeks ago, during E3, the staff of GameFreak has revealed that not every pokemon from previous Pokemon games will be making it into the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield. Considering how entitled that people are becoming, it’s not hard to imagine that some of them would throw a fit when faced with the prospect of not getting everything they want.

What I didn’t anticipate was just how important it is to certain fans to collect over 800 of something, most of which won’t have any meaning to them outside of the act of collecting them. The sheer unreasonability of these interesting persons is exemplified pretty well in a reply that I got to an observation that I’ve made on this matter:

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This self-professed overlord of lunatics is taking the news so poorly that he’s willing to destroy the game company that gave them the game that he enjoyed to begin with. If there are any geese out there that lay golden eggs, this news might just put them on edge.

Now that the temper tantrums are dying down and the mouths emitting them are finally tiring out, we can finally start hearing voices of reason on this matter.

When I heard that not every pokemon from previous games would be making it to Sword and Shield, it really didn’t bother me much at all. This has to do with my previous experience with Pokemon, and with similar games.

When I first got into Pokemon, it was when I watched the first episode of the anime in 1998, when it debuted in the States. Since then, I also played the video games and the trading card game.

The Pokemon Trading Card Game (Pokemon TCG) was and is similar to other trading card games in that a few new sets are released every year, and that it didn’t take long before the multitude of different available cards made it difficult for new players to emerge onto the competitive scene, and making it challenging for the game makers to maintain a balanced game that’s fun to play.

To cope with this, the game makers introduced the concept of a standard competitive format which saw older cards rotated out, usually on a yearly basis. Seasoned players had to adapt to a continually changing competitive game, but that wasn’t much of an issue for them, because they remained interested in the game enough to continue buying new cards, and new players had an easier time getting into the game without having to concern themselves with hundreds (possibly thousands) of old cards that were no longer competitively relevant.

It’s because of this concept of rotation that the idea of leaving some less-relevant or meta-breaking pokemon out of a new Pokemon game makes intuitive sense to me. I’ve been playing games long enough to see the same principle applied to numerous other games, including the Pokemon TCG.

What’s more, we saw a similar practice in the Pokemon anime. Ash and Pikachu have been recurring characters, but eventually Ash got in the habit of leaving his old pokemon with the professor and focusing on new pokemon as he traveled to different regions. Even human traveling companions such as Brock and Misty have long-since gone their separate ways, and Ash’s core circle of friends have changed with time.

1484032488-3214bb8e28a979d1e3e0fe9b6cab30f5Not pictured: Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle.

It’s a simple fact of life that as time goes on, the resources available to a person changes, and these changes can result in a different life experience. If a person leaves one job and finds a different one, they’re no longer doing what they previously did for a living, and they might be making a much different amount of money. Their last job is no longer a factor in their living. If a person moves to a different area, they may have a different climate to become accustomed to, what’s convenient to them might change, and they’ll have a different set of neighbors.

One of the challenges of playing games like Pokemon is that they test a person to make better judgements over the course of the game, even as the amount of resources available to the player during gameplay changes, usually increasing, but in some cases decreasing.

Another matter relating to this to consider is that sometimes a game maker faces challenges while making games alongside Nintendo. This is due to a long-held practice Nintendo has had where, when they notice that a game is stalling in development, they’ll throw out all the assets and restart development from scratch, with only the ideas behind the game to go on. Game makers have come to refer to this practice as “flipping the table”, and it conjures an image of an abusive Japanese father getting upset and flipping a table over, allowing everything on it to fall onto the floor.

While this sounds extreme, Nintendo is usually justified in doing it. Sometimes, during the course of development, a game gets to be bogged down with features and other elements that weigh down the experience, or don’t significantly contribute to it. Development on a game can seriously slow as game makers struggle to decide which elements they can justify keeping, and a lot of time can be wasted on endeavors that turn out to be counter-productive. Sometimes, flipping the table is just what it takes to get development more focused, and the prospect of it happening may be daunting enough to get game developers focused on their projects to begin with!

With this in mind, let’s consider a few things we know about Pokemon Sword and Shield:

  • Mega evolutions aren’t going to be included in the game.
  • Neither are Z-moves.
  • Some character models, such as Wingull, aren’t animated very well.
  • There are poor textures on certain models, such as the trees.
  • Not every pokemon from previous games will be present.
  • All this in spite of the fact that a Pokemon game for Switch has been hyped for a long time.

When you consider all this, it becomes evident that Pokemon Sword and Shield have been stalling in development as the game makers have been struggling to incorporate gameplay elements from previous installments while at the same time trying to maintain a balanced game with a competitive element.

To those who don’t know Nintendo very well, the Sword and Shield gameplay demo, along with the news that certain pokemon and features won’t make it into the game, is considered evidence of GameFreak being lazy. But to those of us more familiar with Nintendo, it appears more likely that GameFreak has been struggling to include characters and features from previous games while still making a balanced and coherent gameplay experience that is to Nintendo’s liking.

While it’s easy to blame Nintendo for (possibly) obstructing progress on Sword and Shield, Nintendo usually only steps in to flip the table when progress stalls. When it comes to games that Nintendo licenses, their reputation is on the line, so there’s something in it for them to ensure that a quality product is released in a reasonable amount of time.

While there’s more that can be said, I think that perspective provides plenty to consider when it comes to the Pokedex Meltdown, or the National Dex Fiasco, or Dexit, or whatever you call it. Obviously, not everyone is taking the news well. If you happen to be in the Barboach fan club, it might be a tough time for you.

The Right Way to Play Pokemon Black and White

pokemon black and white soundtrackThat’s right, it has a soundtrack.

If you’ve made the choice to play Pokemon Black or White, you’ve already made a great choice. It has aged well as a true gem in the Nintendo DS lineup. You may be playing it, but are you playing it right?

To play a game of Pokemon right involves choosing the right team for a playthrough. After all, what says that you’re great at a game quite like beating it quick? Not only that, you’ll be quicker to open up the postgame and get right down to the finer aspects of competitive play.

A lot went into making this guide. Most in-game teambuilding guides for Pokemon games seem to focus on meeting an arbitrary requirement for filling out all six team spaces. There are a few problems with this, most notably, that late-game experience doesn’t spread as well among a team of more members. For the most part, you’ll be better off having a team of a few slightly over-leveled battlers than a full team that doesn’t quite measure up. Not only that, but many teams don’t seem to consider dedicated HM users, which can increase the player’s mobility. Without HM users considered when teambuilding, players might have to place team members in boxes to seek out ways around progress-hindering obstacles.

Pokemon Black and White does shake things up, however. For one thing, the way EXP works in this generation is changed so that the EXP a pokemon gains is multiplied using a formula that involves their level compared to the level of their opponent. A lower level pokemon gains more EXP than a higher level pokemon defeating a similar pokemon of the same level. This makes it easier for freshly-caught pokemon to catch up to the rest of your team, and it also makes it harder to over-level.

Not only that, HMs aren’t as necessary for a playthrough as they were for other games in the series. The only HM that’s needed to progress is Cut, which is used early on. After that, HMs are pretty much optional, and usually just take you off the path. There are two that make things easier on Victory Road, but even then, they aren’t a necessity.

Teambuilding for this guide got trickier still when it comes to just how many pokemon in the 5th generation are great battlers. There are a lot of pokemon that almost made it onto the team, that still would have made great choices. So if a pokemon that you chose didn’t make the team, you might still have a pretty effective team.

Much of this guide focuses on pokemon that would be of help when facing Ghetsis’ Hydreigon. Hydreigon is the main opponent that players complain about when playing through this game. Yeah, Ghetsis is the final boss, and final bosses tend to be challenging, but Ghetsis with his Hydreigon has proven to be a little much for numerous players.

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Hydreigon is a vicious pokemon, and it’s a winner even in competitive play, with great typing, a wide movepool, excellent stats, and a helpful ability. Ghetsis’ Hydreigon is right up there with Whitney’s Miltank in terms of challenge, and enough players have voiced their frustrations that it’s justifiable that this guide places a focus on helping them out. As challenging as the gym leaders are in this game, they’re still trivial compared to Ghetsis, mainly because of his Hydreigon.

Now, onto the team choices:

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Name: Oshawott
Location: Starter
When obtained: Outset
Evolves: at Level 17 and again at 36

How this little guy came to be so adored is an interesting story, but it also happens to be the most practical starter choice, all things considered. Because its physical and special Attack stats are both usable, it’s actually reasonable for Oshawott to have two Water moves on its moveset, allowing it to grill statistical weaknesses of a variety of opponents with moves based on its type. By the late game, this guy clearly tends towards the physical side of things, particularly with access to the excellent move Swords Dance, which gives Oshawott the ability to sweep entire teams.

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Name: Pansear
Location: Dreamyard, as a gift (requires having selected Oshawott)
When obtained: Before obtaining first badge
Evolves: With Fire Stone

Rainbow Monkeys! Pansear is a pretty bad pokemon, but he’s got some selling points for an early game of Black or White. For one thing, he’s got a type advantage against many early opponents, which makes up for how pathetic his attacks otherwise are. He also is a convenient option to teach Cut, which is necessary to use just once in a playthrough. Teaching it to Pansear will keep moves available for the rest of your team.

Pansear is mainly useful against the first and third gym leaders. Against the third, he does really well if you evolve him with a Fire Stone, which can be obtained in Castelia City from a scientist. The scientist gives you a choice between three stones, so if you goof and get the wrong one, you’d have to obtain a Fire Stone from somewhere else.

After the third gym, you should probably box this guy, because he won’t be contributing much more to your team, otherwise.

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Name: Drilbur
Location: Wellspring Cave (dust cloud)
When obtained: After obtaining first badge
Evolves: Level 31

Drilbur is like the Wolverine of Pokemon: he may be small, but he means serious business. Drilbur learns a variety of useful moves, including Dig, which is seriously strong for the point when he obtains it. And once this guy evolves at level 31, that’s when things get even better: he’ll pick up an additional Steel typing, which gives this little guy a pile of resistances. What’s more, he’ll be levels away from learning Earthquake, one of the best moves in the game, and Swords Dance, which allow him to demolish most opponents.

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Name: Scraggy
Location: Route 4 (higher level at Relic Castle)
When obtained: Before third badge
Evolves: Level 39

Simply OP. Scraggy is such an excellent pokemon that it may quickly become your team’s MVP. Fighting and Dark are great types, but putting them on the same pokemon gives it an immunity to a type that would normally be trouble to one of them. They’re great attack types, giving you an advantage against three of the members of the Elite Four. Not only that, but the moves this guy learns are relatively powerful. And if you get one with the Moxie ability, that alone can help him build momentum which can make him unstoppable against many in-game opponents with larger teams.

The main drawback to Scraggy is that he is a little on the slow side. But that really doesn’t hold him back by much.

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Name: Archen
Location: Somewhat complicated, see below.
When obtained: After third badge
Evolves: Level 37

Players were at first quick to write off Archen because its ability was more of a penalty than a benefit. But then they noticed that its excellent Speed and Attack stats allowed it to wipe out numerous in-game opponents with Acrobatics, which it could learn early on without the need for Skyla’s TM, thank you very much. That alone is justification for having Archen on your team, but there’s more: his move selection is excellent. Crunch? Shadow Claw? Rock Slide? Archen can really bring a whoopin’.

About that ability, it only kicks in when its HP is at half or less. Because you can stock up on healing items like Lemonade from vending machines, it’s a snap to keep this guy’s morale up.

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Name: Herdier
Location: Cold Storage
When obtained: Before 5th badge
Evolves: No need to worry about it.

The main point of having Herdier on your team is that it’s a nice, convenient pokemon that can learn both Surf and Strength, two moves that make the trip through Victory Road much easier. There’s no hurry to get one before then, so you can come back for it. It pretty much helps you through the use of these HMs, but they aren’t even mandatory to get through Victory Road.

It’s spoilers from here on out, so it’s up to you whether you read on and ruin the surprise. They begin immediately after the picture of the two legendary pokemon below:

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Name: Reshiram (Black version), or Zekrom (White version)
Location: N’s Castle
When: Immediately after the Elite Four
Evolves: They don’t, and don’t really need to.

Wow, your league challenge really got derailed, didn’t it? Now it’s time for an epic throne room showdown that seems somehow reminiscent of Gilgamesh. But first, you’ll need a legendary pokemon to face N’s. It’s pretty much a scripted event, and the catch rate for the legendary is pretty high (no need to use the Master Ball). Afterwards, if you already have six pokemon on you, you are given the option to immediately box one so you can add the legendary directly to your team.

Nothing really needs to be said to sell anyone these legendaries, seeing as they have to be caught to advance the story (a few clever players have found a way around it, but it’s really not worth the effort just to say you did). They’re both strong Dragon types, but with some differing characteristics:

  • Reshiram, the white one, is exclusive to the Black version. It’s a Fire type, and is more inclined to being a Special attacker,
  • Zekrom, the black one, is exclusive to the White version. It’s an Electric type, and is more inclined to being a physical attacker.

After catching it, you can have it in your party for the next two battles. If you immediately add it to your party, it will take point, so it will face N’s dragon right away, which he leads with. N’s dragon seems programmed to continue using a move until your own legendary dragon uses it’s own equivalent, which is actually to your advantage. The two dragon’s signature moves go that if they both use them on the same turn, the one to attack after the first gets a power boost. N’s pokemon is a couple levels higher, and very likely goes second. So go ahead and grill that weakness, because the game seems to want you to.

Outside of that, N’s team doesn’t have much to challenge you. Be warned that he has a Zoroark on his team, so there’s potential for mistaking one of his pokemon for another.

In case you’re concerned, you do get your team healed before the battle with N, and before the battle that immediately follows. Yeah, it’s Ghetsis that’s up next. That and his famous Hydreigon. Thankfully, you have plentiful strategies to get you through him, but they take planning, and not every player plays through with a confrontation with him in mind.

First, the stats on Hydreigon:

Hydreigon
Level: 54
Nature: apparently random
Item: None
Ability: Levitate (grants immunity to Ground-type attack moves)
Moves: Dragon Pulse, Fire Blast, Surf, Focus Blast

Hydreigon has decent bulk, a nice Speed stat, and a high Special Attack stat for those special attacks to come off of. It has a set of very strong moves with excellent coverage, so it’s little wonder that it wipes out the teams of many a player who felt confident after beating everything else up to that point. You know that super-powerful Dragon-type legendary pokemon you just caught that supposedly has enough power to destroy the Unova region? Ghetsis just laughs at it. Hydreigon is not a joke.

As much as I wanted to use some damage calcs in this, it appears that the nature of most trainer’s pokemon in Black and White are random, with those of Ghetsis included. Because of that random element, there may be some wide variation in the outcome of the battle with Hydreigon. You might get off well and he doesn’t get a nature that benefits Hydreigon much, or he might get a Modest nature and wipe your team out easily.

Also, be aware that Ghetsis can use Full Restore up to 4 times during the battle. If you count the number of times he uses one, that could make the battle more predictable.

If you plan on taking on Hydreigon the old fashioned way, you’ll want the pokemon that you’re saving for it to remain at full HP until the time comes for them to face it, otherwise, it’s going to be hard for them to tank its moves and return fire. Many of your best choices Hydreigon will likely outspeed, which makes it much harder to go blow-for-blow with the thing.

There are a couple fine Fighting types that might serve you well if you go with them: Sawk and Throh. If you choose to go with either of these, they’d likely replace Scraggy on your team. I recommend Scraggy because it’s better against more of the game’s opponents. Between Sawk and Throh, which one is easier to find depends on the version you’re playing, but they are both available in both games.

If you go with Sawk, it will be preferable for it to have the Sturdy ability. This will allow it to survive one of Hydreigon’s moves, and get an attack in. At level 46, Sawk can get a likely 2HKO with Brick Break, but you’ll be much better off with Close Combat at level 49. If Sawk reaches level 55, it gets a very likely OHKO with Close Combat.

Throh is superior as far as its defense stats go; it’s out of OHKO range by about level 39 (of course, crits can happen). At around level 48, Throh gets a 2HKO with Storm Throw. It learns Superpower at level 49, but has to be brought up to a high level of 58 to get a likely OHKO.

You can still attempt Scrafty, though. The main move to watch out for would be Focus Blast, which it’s weak to, but because Focus Blast has an accuracy of 70%, it’s a risk that can pay off. Use caution if going for Hi Jump Kick, as it has an accuracy of 90%, and if it misses, Scrafty takes a big blow. Scrafty is such a heavy hitter that a Hi Jump Kick can do 50% of Hydreigon’s HP by around level 40, and at level 58, it’s a OHKO.

Samurott is usable, as it’s not weak to any of Hydreigon’s moves. It’s still likely to take over 50% damage due to how strong its attacks are, but at least it can tank a hit and get in one of its own. Revenge would be a prime choice, because Hydreigon is weak to it, and it does more damage if the user took damage already on the same turn. Hydreigon only has attack moves, so Revenge might serve you well. Samurott is likely out of OHKO range by level 46, and Revenge can take a decent chunk out of Hydreigon.

However, levels like 55 and 58 are kind of hard to reach, unless you have a stock of Rare Candies to spend right before battling the legendary (your last chance to use them if you plan on beating the last bosses on the first try). Your team may be at around level 50 by this point, so it would take some power-leveling to reach such high levels, which doesn’t really lend itself to an efficient playthrough. But there are other strategies that you could use.

One fun and somewhat cheesy strat is to immediately switch to Excadrill at the start of the battle, as Ghetsis leads with Cofagrigus. Cofagrigus uses the Toxic/Protect strategy, but because Excadrill is a Steel type, it can’t be poisoned. What’s more, Excadrill resists Cofagrigus’ attack moves, so there isn’t much it can do about Excadrill.

Preferably, you want Swords Dance and X-Scissor (which Hydreigon is weak to) on Excadrill’s moveset. The idea is to use Swords Dance until Excadrill’s Attack stat is as high as it can get, then use X Speed on it a few times so it can outspeed anything on Ghetsis’ team. Use healing items as needed. You might also want to use a couple X SpDef to make up for the Special Defense drops that have a chance of happening due to Cofagrigus’ moves. Once you’re ready, you can have Excadrill go ahead and attack. Excadrill will likely be able to wipe out Ghetsis’ entire team by itself, Hydreigon included.

There is another strategy you can use, and it’s easily the most reliable and hilarious of what’s available. I’ve tested it, and I can tell you through experience that it works.

You’re up against an oppressive and tyrannical force. And your weapon is Roggenrola.

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Name: Roggenrola
Location: Various, but preferably Wellspring Cave
When obtained: After first badge
Evolves: Don’t worry about it.

Roggenrola gets Sturdy as its ability, so if its HP is full, it can withstand an attack move with 1 HP remaining. If Roggenrola is low enough in level, then you can easily replenish its HP with a cheap item like Fresh Water, which you can buy at vending machines. See where I’m getting at?

But you’re not just stalling out Hydreigon’s moves, you’re messing with it. As it so happens, Roggenrola learns Sand Attack, which it likely has when you catch one at Wellspring Cave. So not only can Roggenrola withstand Hydreigon’s attacks, it can also lower its accuracy. If Hydreigon can’t get a move in, it won’t matter how strong its moves are. Six uses of Sand Attack will be all it takes to bring Hydreigon’s accuracy to its minimum.

But it gets better. Roggenrola can be taught Toxic by TM, so it quickly loses HP as it swings away at Roggenrola in vain. Better still, Roggenrola can be taught Protect, which puts it in a better position to stall out Hydreigon as its HP drains away. If Ghetsis uses a Full Restore, just use Toxic again.

One thing that can potentially go wrong with this strategy would be that Fire Blast might cause a burn, which could take away Roggenrola’s last HP. If you still have a Rawst Berry which you can get from Pokemon Rangers, you can give Roggenrola one to hold as a precaution, in case things go wrong.

The TM for Toxic can be reached once you have a pokemon with Surf. It’s on Route 17, and can be easily reached. As for the TM for Protect, you can obtain one from Professor Juniper at her lab once you’ve seen at least 60 pokemon. That’s pretty easy to accomplish through the course of the game.

So, there you have it! Now you know how to beat Ghetsis and his Hydreigon, and in so doing, beat Pokemon Black and White. Then you might be ready for the postgame, where you face some seriously overleveled opponents, including a buffed-up Elite Four.

Hey, Pokemon Black and White are great games to play if you’re looking for a challenge.