Category Archives: Video games

Terraria Developer Blocked From Stadia, Withdraws From Platform

The developer of Terraria, Andrew Spinks, has been banned from the Stadia platform and from other Google services. The developer retaliated by declaring the bridge burned by Google themselves, and decided to no longer develop for the platform.

If you’re wondering what Stadia is, it’s like a streaming service for video games. There’s no need to download the games, they are just streamed, and you play them on your device. I can justify digital download games, and that’s primarily what I’ve been doing on Nintendo Switch. But the dealie where you don’t even store the game digitally comes off as some creepy Great Reset mushugganah where you’re expected to own nothing and somehow be happy.

The news of Spinks’ decision to withdraw from the platform (after apparently being unfairly banned from it) comes days after Google decided to pull the plug on its own internal game development studio.

I’ve never had to interact directly with Google personally, but from what I’ve heard, it’s just about impossible to get a human being at Google to actually see your complaint. Therefore, it’s a challenge to get an account reinstated if it got a strike, or worse, a ban.

This is ironic considering that Google is enormous, and rich enough to easily buy their own country, if they so wished. Certainly, they could afford to pay the wages of a few more staffers who would interact with customers. You know, customer service? But as companies get bigger, they can upset more of their own customers, and not see much in the way of backlash. It’s a way large companies become too “big-picture” for their own good.

Here is what Andrew Spinks has to say about the matter on Twitter:

This wasn’t just a simple banning, thousands of dollars in content associated with the account has been lost, and his associated material linked with Google (Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive) has been lost. And, to make it all worse, Spinks hasn’t even gotten an explanation.

What I’d be pointing out here may be obvious, but perhaps his business should not have leaned so heavily on Google, or any external company, for that matter. While having a YouTube account is understandable, even small businesses have gotten custom email accounts. Then there’s the decision to store sensitive company information on the cloud; why would a person do that? If you have your own personal data storage, why wouldn’t you use it? To go to Best Buy and get an external hard drive would be trivial, and it would certainly be far more secure than storing files on the cloud.

But now, Google messed with the wrong guy. Terraria is one of those games that’s ubiquitous, available to play on smartphones, game consoles, PCs, and even graphing calculators.

But now, not through Stadia. Stadia has become one of the few platforms that the developer of Terraria won’t support.

It’s a matter of personal philosophy, but I suspect that Google could use this idea to solve their own problems: When making a product or offering a service, you make sure that the customer is getting a quality product or service. You don’t take the risk of upsetting the customer, whether it’s someone big, or an apparent nobody. While this may rub some people the wrong way, efforts to offer a quality product is of greater priority than most company policy. Managers usually have this understanding when resolving customer disputes.

If you take risks where it becomes more likely that you lose the customer, you don’t just risk losing the sale, you also risk losing future business. Not just from that customer, but from potential or current customers that that customer may interact with.

Your company policy is not more important than your customers, or the quality of the product that you offer. Google is likely to learn this lesson the hard way, soon.

“Those who sit up high have the farthest to fall.”
-Egyptian proverb

In the Early 2000s, Microsoft Tried Buying Nintendo

When Microsoft’s Xbox brand was first getting started, things weren’t looking so great. There was relatively little third-party support, for a long while after launch the number of triple-A titles on it could be counted on one finger, the company had a poor corporate image, and cracking the Japanese market was a difficult hurtle.

Microsoft decided to do something about it, and they decided to shop around for second-party support. And it so happened that Nintendo was one of the companies up for consideration. So Microsoft sent some reps and approached the old Japanese company, and it went about as well as you’d expect.

Nintendo pretty much laughed at the offer. Hard.

Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft president, explained it this way: “Like, imagine an hour of somebody just laughing at you.”

Because, of course they did. While explaining as much may only benefit the random boomer whose gaming outlet is strictly PC, Nintendo is not merely some random game development studio, they are one of Japan’s oldest, richest companies.

While PC gamers may chalk it up to it being Nintendo wanting to do things their way, there’s more to it than that. The fact is, Microsoft has nothing Nintendo would want. Nintendo has already been a massively-successful company, for a long time. Not only that, Nintendo has so much money that they can fund their own projects, and not have to turn to external financing. If you can imagine a person being so rich that they can just buy a car outright, or purchase their entire college education up-front, it’s like that, but on a much larger scale.

One can imagine the confusion of Microsoft execs who, after having thrown their money on the table with the full expectation of compliance with their wishes, were instead met with laughter.

When American companies meet Japanese companies, the difference in cultures becomes apparent. As I’ve pointed out before, the Japanese are more strongly characterized by a desire to produce a superior product. While Americans tend to view profitability as justification for a company’s existence, the Japanese tend to be more altruistic in philosophy. Japanese companies usually justify their existence in their belief that society is a better place for the services and products that they provide, and Japanese workers are generally sincere in their desire to excel at what they do, whatever they do. Exceptions to the generalities exist on both sides of the ocean, of course.

When Microsoft initially tried winning over SquareEnix, they ran into some hurtles at first. Mostly because the Microsoft reps sent over to Japan to SquareEnix treated their meeting like an American business meeting. You know the kind: where a bunch of overpaid suits loudly boast about being “in the money”. The Japanese weren’t as fond of that, and the SquareEnix employees distanced themselves from them, resulting in a huge setback between the two companies.

After the meeting, a SquareEnix rep met with a Microsoft rep, and asked him, “What is your philosophy” when it comes to game-making. If you understand Japanese corporate culture, you’d understand such a question for the blow that it is.

Considering all this, it becomes clear why a company like Nintendo would not allow a company like Microsoft to purchase them, though one wouldn’t expect an ethically-challenged American conglomerate to admit as much: For the owner of a Japanese company to sell his company to a company like Microsoft would be like betraying all the people in his employ who count on him to maintain the company’s cultural identity.

On a related note, Sony Computer Entertainment became headquartered in California, USA. Now, you see the game company tending more towards western notions of woke culture, alienating the company’s initial Japanese culture, who is turning more towards Nintendo for games.

Oh hey, I’ve got an excuse to use this piccie, again:

As the situation with SCE develops, it’s likely to become yet another case study in what happens when a company compromises with its culture.

The fact is, corporate culture does matter, and there are people out there that wouldn’t give up their company’s identity, even if presented with a huge mound of money. I don’t know how many of America’s wealthiest people would understand that, but I suspect that it might not be very many.

The Right Way to Play Pokemon Sword and Shield

This was not an easy guide to write. It’s obvious why; it’s because shortly after the outset of the game, you’re placed into the Wild Area, where you get so many team choices, it’s easy to be sunk by indecision.

This guide takes on the difficult task of determining the best team to use to play through the game out of the many, many different pokemon available. It’s not about building a competitive team, it’s about picking among the most practical choices for a fast, efficient playthrough so you can quickly get to the meaty, delicious postgame.

This guide makes the assumption that the DLC bonuses found due to the purchase of the Expansion Pass aren’t being considered. If they were, the matter of smashing your in-game opponents would be largely trivial. If you have access to the Crown Tundra, you’d have access to randomized over-leveled legendary pokemon, and much of the game wouldn’t pose any challenge.

If you’re in a hurry to win, but wanted someone else to do the nerding-out for you, then this guide is for you.

The first pokemon on this team is Sobble, and it’s easy to find, as it’s a starter pokemon, and the starter for this particular run. If you pick one of the other two, you might be getting a pokemon you prefer, but then this team might not work.

As much as I’d like to recommend Scorbunny for you, the starter for this run would be Sobble. It’s great on it’s own, especially thanks to the fact that its final form, Intelleon, is fast and hits hard. But Intelleon works well with the rest of the pokemon on this team, so the nod goes to Sobble.

Shortly after starting out, you’re going to be heading to the Wild Area. The place is huge, but it’s possible to get to the next destination quickly. But before you do, there’s a couple items you’ll want to seek out before leaving.

One of which is the Thunder Stone. The Thunder Stone is located on an elevated area on the northeast of the Lake Miloch area. It’s in a red item ball near a cliff.

The other is the Fire Stone. The Fire Stone is located in the Motostoke Riverbank area, north of the bridge, on the west side of the area by a group of three pipes. It’s also in an easy-to-find red item ball.

Both these items will come in handy for other pokemon on this list, and when you have them, you’d be glad you had these items on hand.

The next pokemon on this team depends on which version you are playing: Vulpix (the Fire-type Kantonian variant) if you are playing Pokemon Sword, or Growlithe if you are playing Pokemon Shield. Either one can be found on Route 3.

These two pokemon may have been overlooked when GameFreak was balancing the game, and both break the game in the same way. Either one can be evolved immediately after you capture it using the Fire Stone, giving you a pokemon with end-game base-stats before the first gym, albeit at early-game levels.

As if that weren’t sweet enough for you, you can teach these pokemon any move in their level-up learnsets, for free, at any Pokemon Center. Both can learn Flamethrower, but Arcanine can learn Crunch and Flare Blitz, and Ninetales can learn Nasty Plot and Extrasensory.

Also, they have a type advantage against the first gym.

The next pokemon for this team is Tyrogue, which you can also find on Route 3. The idea is to evolve the guy into Hitmonchan. However, Tyrogue is one of those pokemon with an abstract evolutionary method, and it might end up becoming something you weren’t planning on if you weren’t paying attention.

Tyrogue starts evolving at level 20. If its Defense stat is higher than its Attack when it starts evolving, it’ll become a Hitmonchan. There are a couple methods you can use to help this to happen. One is to catch a small handful of Tyrogue, and go with one which has a Defense that is significantly higher than its Attack. Also, you can send your Tyrogue to a Defense Seminar Poke Job to give its defense stat a boost.

Hitmonlee is a great pokemon for its high Attack and Speed, but the reason Hitmonchan works better for this playthrough is because it learns punching moves of different types which can help Hitmonchan against a variety of opponents. Ice Punch is super-valuable, and if it also has Thunder Punch, Hitmonchan will have coverage that most opponents won’t be able to resist. Hitmonchan learns these moves at level 24.

Drilbur is located in Galar Mine. No ridiculous evolution method required, Drilbur evolves to Excadrill at level 31. But when that happens, Excadrill picks up the super-useful Steel typing, and its attacks come harder from its high Attack stat. At level 40, Excadrill learns Swords Dance, giving an already-mighty pokemon the ability to sweep entire teams with ease.

Are you skeptical that Pokemon’s signature hug-em-squeeze-em, Pikachu, made the team? Remember the Thunder Stone you picked up in the Wild Area? Because we’re about to pull a Lieutenant Surge and use a Thunder Stone on a Pikachu right after catching it!

Now, why would we do that? Because Raichu benefits similarly to Ninetales and Arcanine, that’s why! You’ll have a long list of awesome moves to teach it at a Pokemon Center, including Thunderbolt, Nasty Plot, Nuzzle, the list goes on.

You’d have yet another endgame tier pokemon with an excellent moveset, with the only drawback being that it has early-game levels. And you still haven’t made it to the first gym.

By the way, if you’re playing the Shield version, you might want to settle for an Eevee, instead. It seems GameFreak decided to be cute and made the Sword version into the Pikachu version, and the Shield version into the Eevee version, by giving Pikachu a 5% appearance rate in Sword, but only 1% in Shield. The rates are the reverse for Eevee in the Shield version, so it might not be a bad idea to go with Eevee in the Shield version. Jolteon is still a strong Electric type, but it takes longer to teach it it’s power moves. But hey, you’d save the sanity you might have lost searching for a Pikachu.

This team is rounded out by a Morgrem you can catch much later on in Glimwood Tangle. You can also catch an Impidimp in the same area, but Morgrem is already evolved, and comes at a higher level. Morgrem evolves to Grimmsnarl at level 42.

If you can obtain a Morgrem with the Prankster ability, that would be strongly preferred, because then he can help you turn things around against strong opponents by giving priority to status moves. Aside from that, his typing makes him an excellent choice against this game’s many strong Dragon types, as well as Psychic, Dark, and even Fighting types that appear often in the late game.

That team should get you through the game, with power-leveling at a minimum. But here’s the point in which some of you might be asking, “But what about…” There are a lot of great pokemon that could have made this team.

A. Lot. Of. Them.

The Wild Area gives options, and plenty of them, and much of the difficulty in writing this guide had to do with considering from among the many pokemon that are available there. There are many viable pokemon that could have made the list.

Some players might be wondering why I didn’t include Zacian or Zamazenta. Those two are seriously strong pokemon, but neither of the two are available until the post-game, so they don’t get considered for a playthrough. Eternatus is another strong pokemon, but by the time you catch it, you’re one battle away from the post-game, and it’s comparable to what would already be on your team.

Do you like Scorbunny? So do I. But Ninetales and Arcanine offer amazing power for the point in the game that they become available, and it’s hard for another pokemon of the same type to compete with that. Gyarados packs a wallop, and it boosts its own stats with Dragon Dance. Gengar hits hard and fast, and comes with helpful type immunities.

And there’s more. The list goes on and on.

But hey, now you know what works, so you don’t have to guess around.

The Pokémon Company to Start Banning Cheaters

I’ve repeatedly heard the sentiment that if Nintendo didn’t want us to cheat, they wouldn’t have made certain Pokémon so hard to get.

Cheating has long been an ethical dilemma among gamers, though among game makers, the matter is pretty clear. But if only there were some way that game makers could make their stance clear…

…Oh, hold on. Yet another one is doing just that.

The Pokémon Company has just announced its plans to roll out bans for those who used “altered data”. These bans would impact Pokémon Sword, Pokémon Shield, and Pokémon Home. These bans would be either temporary or permanent, and no refunds would be issued in the instances in which violators were using paid services.

What I can say about this is, it’s about time. Pokémon was already the single highest-grossing intellectual property of all time, and with it, there’s a huge competitive community. There are yearly competitions, some of which live-streamed, to audiences all over the world.

If The Pokémon Company wants their games to be taken seriously as a competitive e-sport (as much as one could take such a thing seriously), they cannot allow cheaters to continue to run about unchecked.

This is an especially serious issue for Pokémon Home, elements of which are renewable paid services. Particularly impacted would be the GTS (Global Trade System), the economy of which is driven by the rarity of certain Pokémon. If players could duplicate rare Pokémon at will, their rarity becomes diminished in a sense comparable to over-inflation, and any incentive to use the paid service for long becomes effectively diminished.

As it has been, Pokémon Home’s GTS feature is like a game of hot potato, where players pass around an obvious hack until they get something they’re willing to settle for, in exchange for the legit Pokémon that they deposited to begin with. Somehow, I doubt that that was the kind of experience Nintendo had in mind when publishing Pokémon Home.

But now they want to do something about it? It’s about time. In fact, they could have done something about it a lot sooner. Because in doing so, they’d be enforcing their own Terms of Service. You know, the rules of the game that people are paying to play and use Nintendo online services for?

But if banning a bunch of kids will make them cry because it turns out that there are consequences to cheating, then maybe Nintendo is going to be the ones teaching them the lessons that their parents aren’t.

And maybe the games will become a lot more fun once the field is thinned out by banning those with no regard for the spirit of the game.

Win: Study Finds No Link Between Violence and Violent Video Games

Most of us would likely file this under “No Kidding”, but a study out of UTA has found that there is no causal link between violent behavior and violent video games.

The study found that the only correlating factor was due to the fact that males, who were more likely to play video games, are naturally more predisposed to committing violent acts.

I think we can agree that this study would have been more helpful a decade or so ago, when the virtue-signaling moral busybodies were making an issue out of this. However, a 10-year study would have been more valuable in providing insight into the longer-term effects of video games. It’s like the difference between waiting a year to hear “you’re right” versus waiting 10 years to hear “you’re definitely right”. At least we’ve won that battle in the time since the study started.

But here’s an idea: Why don’t we wait until after we have the conclusions of studies before considering placing restrictions on content creators?

The usefulness of this study doesn’t just apply to video games. Other forms of entertainment and artistic expression benefit from the case being made that people aren’t influenced by entertainment media. This study bolsters the case strongly, by flying in the face of the expectation one may have that video games might do more to influence one to violence, by their interactive nature. As the study finds, they don’t, and it really seems to be the case that sadism comes from within.

That video games don’t influence a person’s outlook is obvious (putting aside the rare cases of those who are especially delusional). This is because video games are obviously just made-up, and usually don’t even serve the purpose of cultivating a person’s expectations.

I’ll be honest, I had no expectation that I could beat people up with colorful laser-beams and space-ninja acrobatics.

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

pokemon sword zacian.jpg

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

EIVwyGPX0AElSG-.png

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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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?