Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby: The Trouble With Mega Evolution

Pokémon

It’s an irrefutable fact of poké-life: these games don’t change much. Pokémon is one of gaming’s most beloved franchises, yet it’s also one of the most stubbornly stick-to-its-laurels-ish. (Yes, that is a thing).

Each installment adds a subtle twist or gimmick to the formula. We’ve seen contests and pokéblocks and all manner of other distractions. Oftentimes, these take the form of minigames, quick distractions you can try out in one of the towns or cities. Nothing substantial, just some new feature or other that can be splurged across the back of the game box.

For Pokémon X and Y, the biggest of these was the Mega Evolution mechanic. This allows certain pokémon to undergo a temporary evolution in battle, changing their appearance and bolstering their abilities. It’s performed via a held item, which reacts with an accessory the trainer is wearing.

But anywho, pokéholics know all of this. They’ll also know that an interesting range of candidates were given the power to mega evolve. Fan favourites Charizard and Mewtwo were the only ‘mon granted two different forms, each exclusive to a version of the game. Through this mechanic, Charizard became viable again, Kangaskhan (of all damn things) became a horrifying powerhouse and Mewtwo grew even more ridiculous.

Mega Evolution is a fascinating concept. When utilized well, it’s a perfect opportunity for previously craptacular pokémon to become decent team picks again. In the aforementioned Charizard case, the fiery lizard had been ignored by competitive players for years. Its mediocre power and the savage beating it takes to the face from Stealth Rock sealing its fate. Suddenly, Mega Charizard Y is claiming souls and whupping butts all over the place with the sun it summons. Who saw that coming?

Yep, this has happened.
Yep, this has happened.

The freshly-released Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby took that idea of elevation and ran with it. In the run-up to release, we were seeing Mega Pidgeot, Mega Sharpedo, Mega Camerupt, Mega Audino and all kinds of madness. Yup, freaking Pidgeot.

All of these are sorely neglected (or plain damn awful) ‘mon who have been patiently awaiting their chance to unleash a whup-ass can or two. I never thought I’d see the day when Pidgeot would become a fearsome special attacker, armed with deliciously spammable No Guard Hurricanes.

But there’s the rub. While this makes these oddities usable again, they’re in danger of remaining sub-par choices in the faces of Mega Salamence and monsters like that. You can only have one mega evolution per team, and there’s so much competition for that slot now. It’s great to see Mega Camerupt rampaging on a Trick Room team, I’m just afraid that you won’t see it enough.

Is ‘Super Smash Bros’ the Biggest 3DS Game Yet?

Super Smash

The 3DS, as we know, had a fairly humble beginning. Words like ‘disastrous’ and ‘reputation-mangling’ could be used, and there were many nervous Asian businessmen in Kyoto for a while there. What with the price, and rumours that the 3D super smash effect was made by the devil himself and will melt your eyeballs in their sockets, things were looking bad.

Three years later, the console is almost unrecognisable. After its price cut and that Ambassador business, its fortunes improved. Today, the enterprising handheld sports a generous crop of great titles, and is doing really rather well for itself.

And now another sure system seller joins the ranks: Super Smash Bros. 3DS.

For many of us, the fact that this is a portable Smash installment is all we need to know. That’s an exciting concept, right there. This is the first of the dual 3DS/Wii U releases, with the home console equivalent hitting this holiday season. But this is no stunted port.

Veteran Smashers know what an event a new series release is. This is hundreds of hours of ridiculous entertainment, and what many consider to be the greatest party game ever devised. It’s a fighting game with a brilliant Nintendo twist, and a heaping helping of fanservice thrown in. The hype train had been steaming alone the rails for months, and this was perhaps the most eagerly anticipated installment yet.

Smash Bros 3DS 2

That’s an absurd amount of pressure for a handheld to bear, and it does so with aplomb. As I’ve said, you’d probably expect all kinds of concessions to make this work. But there simply haven’t been any.

The full roster of almost fifty characters are here, and some eccentric new choices there are too. Just in case they’re still considered spoilers at this point, I shan’t mention them, except to say –in some cases– what the hell? The 3DS version has its own exclusive stages, a Tekken Force-esque mode that won’t appear in the Wii U edition, and a different crop of collectibles.

The game may not be as feature-packed as its predecessor, Brawl, but that’s not an issue. Some of the extraneous additions from the Wii game have been removed simply because… they sucked. Those 50 second demos of the original Zelda or F-Zero were a nice little touch, for instance, but nothing we’ll really miss. In this way, we’re able to focus on the core experience, which is what we love and what we’re here for after all.

Smash Bros. 3DS truly is the full Smash experience in miniature. There’s an extensive list of trophies to collect, some new minigames, and the return of the usual series favourites. Multi Man Melee and Home Run Contest are here. There are far too many challenges to beat, for those achievement addicts. The online modes are rather simple but perfectly formed, with separate modes for competitive play (an item-free, Final Destination type affair) and the crazier side of Smash.

In short, this probably would be the biggest release on the console so far, in all kinds of ways. It’s a huge package, certainly, yet it’s also simply the most significant game the handheld has seen to date. Not everybody is a fan of Smash Bros, of course, but unless you’re really averse this is nothing less than an essential purchase.

The Games You May Have Missed: ‘Tomodachi Life’

Tomodachi Life

Some video games are just uniquely Japanese. They have an inimitable sense of the wackily charming and the charmingly wacky. This same spirit brought forth the Miis, the adorable little player avatars of the Wii and 3DS. And now, here they are in the fairly obscure release Tomodachi Life.

This Eastern handheld sensation is best described as The Sims with Miis. For lazy buggers. It certainly isn’t as ‘involved’ as that famous franchise, but it’s an odd little life sim with potential to do great things. Let’s take a look.

In Tomodachi Life, you are the owner of a small tropical island. Your personal Mii is its only occupant at the beginning, residing in the first room of a sizable apartment block. From there, naturally, your goal is to coerce others into moving in. You can directly import them from Mii Maker or StreetPass, or design them from scratch in-game. Once your best friends, your girlfriend, your grandma and Adolf Hitler are all settled in together, the experience begins.

Nintendo big boss man Satoru Iwata in a bathtub?  Why not?
Nintendo big boss man Satoru Iwata in a bathtub? Why not?

Tomodachi means friends, and the whole experience is based around these relationships. As your tiny human farm experiment goes on, the Miis will interact with each other, visit others’ rooms and spend time together. All of this fosters friendships and strengthens bonds, to the extent that some will even marry and have children.

It sounds ambitious and complex, but much of this happens automatically. You select food, outfits and gifts for your Miis, and advice them on certain choices, but it’s a very passive experience beyond that. You’re an onlooker for the most part, it is a much less directed experience than The Sims or Animal Crossing.

Some will hate it for that, of course. Some cheeky buggers will complain that this isn’t a game at all. It’s a real time investment, the idea is to ‘check in’ each day to run little errands, see what new items you can add to your growing collection and watch those relationships gradually form over time.

Think of it, if you will, as Nintendogs with humans.

The Games You May Have Missed: Nintendo Pocket Football Club

Football

This time, we have an obscure hidden gem from the Nintendo 3DS eShop. The service is often criticized for its pricing and such, and this is one of its most expensive offerings of football, but it’s one you’ll want to take a look at. So chew on this for a coincidence: that’s exactly what we’re doing today.

Feast your eyes, ears and… everything elses on Nintendo Pocket Football Club.

Football management sims, as we know, are a fairly nerdly genre. What with their pie charts and stat-pages-amundo, they aren’t the most accessible of games. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing Nintendo do well, it’s making such things all cutesy and welcoming. They worked their magic on turn-based strategy games with the much ballyhooed Advance Wars, and they’ve done just the same here.

In a toontastic little introduction, your 3DS Mii becomes the manager of a football club. You select your team’s name, design a horribly garish home and away kit (a spangly little purple and pink striped number was my choice), and begin training up your no-hopers to be league winners.

Run, tiny dude! RUN!
Run, tiny dude! RUN!

In the adorable wee hub area, there are some screens to be fiddled with. Here, you’ll change your squad composition, scout for players, bolster the abilities of existing ones and arrange matches. It sounds like standard Football Manager fare, but everything is wonderfully streamlined and welcoming. Matches themselves even more so.

On the pitch, as you’d expect, everything runs on automatic. Some light bottom-screen fiddling is in order, to make substitutions or other quick changes where necessary, but it’s all very simple. Touchscreen controls work wonders in this regard; it’s really intuitive to perform on-the-fly changes with a casual stylus poke. This same spirit is carried over into the development of your players.

This is done via training cards, which you receive during games. You build your squad members in various stats, and change their specific abilities and strengths in this way. In short, Nintendo Pocket Football Club boasts just enough of the virtues that so enthral genre fans, while presenting it in such a way that won’t overwhelm newcomers. It’s quite an achievement in this sense.

You Can’t be SeriouZ: Six Terrible Suggestions for Smash Bros Wii U/3DS Characters

Wii

If you’ve been following this much ballyhooed brawler, you’ll know that it’s all getting a little mad around here. We haven’t been allowed to suckle at Sakurai’s sweet, sweet info-teats for very long, but certain snippets have been released. We’ve seen the yoga instructor from Wii Fit added to the roster, as well as the Animal Crossing Villager. Little Mac was more logical, but otherwise: just what’s going on here?

To celebrate such controversial decisions, let’s don our snarky hats –mine has purple frilly bits on, it’s rather handsome– and take a look at some truly terrible possibilities for more newcomers.

Smash Bros Characters 1
1. Goomba: Making this thing playable would be sucktacular for various reasons. First and foremost, the same one that keeps it from making an appearance in Mario Kart: it doesn’t have any darn arms. If it can’t turn a steering wheel, it certainly can’t punch faces in the face. Coupled with its tiny size and general ‘as threatening as a one-legged kitten with a limp’ looks, this would be hilarious. If only to see it leap onto other combatants and gnaw at them.

Smash Bros Characters 2
2. Dark Link: If we’re being pernickety, this guy already exists in Smash Bros. Brawl as one of Link’s alternate costume colours. But hell, what with the cloneiness of Young Link and Toon Link, let’s go nuts. This fine use of a character slot plays absolutely identically to regular Link, except his HYAAAHs, HUHs and YAAARGHs are much manlier and deeper.

Smash Bros Characters 3
3. Magikarp: Many Smash fans are clamouring and/or foaming at the mouth for Mewtwo to return. This mutated death machine seemed a little underwhelming in Melee, but that does nothing to quash our enthusiasm. As one of Nintendo’s most prolific franchises, you can bet that a Pokémon or two will always be featured. So why not the most notoriously pitiful ‘mon of all? Its single attack, Splash, could distract a pointing-and-laughing opponent long enough for a teammate to beat on them. Meanwhile, a Final Smash could involve a transformation into Gyarados and a insta-death rampage that takes out every foe on screen. Even though, with no means of destroying the Smash Ball, it’d never get to use it. But such is the life of Magicrap.

Smash Bros Characters 4
4. Slippy Toad: GAH! Not Slippy Toad! By this point, Smash Bros’ proclivity for clone characters is legendary. Ganondorf and Captain Falcon having the same darn special moves –with a fiery aura substituted for a purple-y ‘evil’ one– is, let’s be frank, fairly terrible. But then there are the assorted Links, or the worst offenders: the Starfox crew. Brawl brought us Wolf o’Donnell, and the third blaster/illusion user. But hell, as Grandma always said, “You can never have too many blasters and illusions.” So let’s get this dude in there too. This would also grant us the boon of allowing us to kick Slippy in the plums whenever we want.

Smash Bros Characters 5
5. ‘Toilet Paper Hand’ (The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask): While we’re being eccentric with our choices (Wii Fit Trainer? Wii Fit Trainer?), let’s try this one on for size. This freakish hand-dude from Majora’s Mask has no known official name. I like to think of this as a cameo appearance from the Addams Family’s It. In the N64 game, it lives in the inn, and will exchange the piece of heart it holds for some toilet paper. This, quite plainly, is the most important role in the history of Nintendo games, and so ‘Toilet Paper Hand’ demands inclusion in the upcoming Smash Bros. Just how it will fight is a mystery, but perhaps it could team up with Goomba. Thus solving both their problems.

Smash Bros Characters 6
6. Yourself: Oh yes indeed. In the impossibly obscure ‘Famicom Detective Series,’ you played as yourself. It was tedious text adventure, and the only characteristics you could edit were your age and where you lived, but still. A character from the series, Ayumi Tachibana, surfaced in Smash Bros. Melee as a collectible trophy, so Nintendo haven’t quite forgotten about this weirdness. Still, this wouldn’t work in any possible way.