Detective Pikachu Releases in Japan Next Week

In late 2013, Game Freak showed off early development of a Pokémon spin-off game where Pikachu would take the role of a Sherlock-styled detective and would be able to talk.  The concept footage put many fans off due to the inclusion of facial-recognition software to give Pikachu motion-captured animation that fell deep into the uncanny valley.  News on the game has been nonexistent since that early reveal and many assumed that it was an abandoned early concept.  As it turns out, not only is the game coming out, it will be releasing in Japan next week on February 3rd.  Great Detective Pikachu: The Birth of a New Partnership will be released as a downloadable title exclusively for the 3DS.  It will cost 1500 yen, which is roughly equivalent to $12.68 USD.  Whether or not there are any plans to give the game an international release is currently unknown.  The amount of translation that a dialogue-heavy game like this would require would be a great deal of work, but the combination of the Pokémon brand and the simple, morbid curiosity for a title this bizarre is likely to secure enough sales to justify it.

The game will star Detective Pikachu and his assistant, the human child Tim Goodman, as they investigate mysteries in Rhyme City affecting people and Pokémon alike.  There are few details on how gameplay will work or what the story will entail, but it’s worth noting that the showcase in 2013 mentioned the idea of a blue Pikachu acting as the antagonist.  There’s no hint of the blue Pikachu in the trailer, so it’s possible that this idea was scrapped.  Then again, they may also be saving him as a surprise.  What we do know is that, while Detective Pikachu can talk, he’ll still be a rare case in the game as we see another Pikachu only saying its name in the familiar voice we all know.

You can check out the official trailer here.  What are your thoughts on Great Detective Pikachu?  Do you hope to see it available outside of Japan?  Has Pokémon officially jumped the Sharpedo?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Pokemon – Still On The Pokeball

In 1996, Game Freak introduced the Pokemon game franchise into the gaming community, a game franchise that even today revels in high demand and levels of enjoyment spanning over a variety of age groups. The franchise possesses a simple yet addictive objective of catching various monsters known as ‘Pokemon’ in order to befriend them, train them up and battle against other Pokemon trainers.  The franchise has adapted over the evolution of Nintendo consoles, becoming more intricate, gaining better graphics and deepening the content upon each release of a new installment. Originally, there were only 151 Pokemon and today we presented with now over 700. It is apparent that even after so many years that the demand for this game refuses to slack, so the ultimate question is, why are we still relentlessly trying to ‘catch ’em all’ after so much time?

still on the pokeball 1

 

Pokemon Is In Our Hearts 

The beauty of Game Freak is they know how to capture the hearts of a mass of age groups and they do well to maintain their interest in this beloved franchise. By expanding Pokemon further than just the main game series, Game Freak have allowed Pokemon to not only maintain fans, but also to gather more.

One of the first spin offs within the Pokemon game franchise was the Pokemon Trading Card Game (Gameboy). This targeted the fans more interested in the physical Pokemon Trading Cards, allowing them to build and alter decks and compete in game.

 

still on the pokeball 2

 

 

Some spin offs became a series in themselves, taking the Pokemon Ranger series for example. It allowed players to indulge in a different perspective to the Pokemon games in which you do not catch Pokemon as such but take care of them and see they coincide with the humans in the world. The games are quite hands on in regards to battles as opposed to the turn based  style of the main series and again allows the opportunity for different types of players to indulge in the Pokemon franchise. Then there’s the Mystery Dungeon which series allows players to play as a Pokemon themselves. Again, another expansion to the franchise to cater for another different type of player.

 

still on the pokeball 3

 

More recent spin offs have targeted specific addictions in the gaming industry. Pokemon Shuffle is a puzzle game quite clearly aimed at the mass of Candy Crush Saga addicts. So whilst remaining to be a fun game for younger generations it can also snatch up some older generations who like to play puzzle games when they get a little free time on their hands.

The greatest part is the spin offs not only engulf new fans but it is also fun for the more general Pokemon fans that love the series as a whole. The diversity within the Pokemon franchise is truly one of the reasons it is still standing strong today.

 

Everlasting

There is always a distinct feeling of despair when you finish a game as although feeling accomplished for beating the game, there is a hint of sadness in respect to the fact it’s over. Game Freak however, like to ensure that there is still plenty to do upon finishing a Pokemon game. Even after beating the Elite Four (a selection of the best Pokemon trainers in a specific region) and completing tasks only available post-game, there is always another Pokemon you can train differently or a new battle you may partake in.

In recent installments Pokemon has become more competitive. In being able to battle and trade with players worldwide, it has opened up an inlet for more strategic and focused Pokemon training. Players now train highly planned teams of Pokemon that have been bred to perfection in order to battle with players all over the world. There are also tournaments in which players may win prizes for doing so. This is a lovely addition to the Pokemon franchise as although aimed at more dedicated and competitive gamers, it doesn’t take anything away from the franchise itself. It is a fun, addictive addition that allows players to continue their journey in a more sociable and competitive manner.

 

Pokefans Speak

I asked some Pokemon fans to tell me what they thought kept the Pokefire burning, Pokemon-personalities from Tumblr wrote:

 

tumblr answer 2 why pokemon lives on

 

It is true, Game Freak are now adapting recent installments and remaking older games in order to not only expand the series further, but to also keep the fans of the older generations hooked and excited about the franchise. Game Freak understand their audience and the whole ideal that ‘it wasn’t as good as the originals’ can be overcome in some shape or form by incorporating the old into the new and engaging every part of their ever growing audience.

Also from Tumblr, Perditus-bliss writes:

 

tumblr answer why is pokemon lives on

 

This point does highlight how the uniqueness to the series appeals and is important to fans. It also draws attention to the fact Pokemon may be hitting adults in the sweet spot, the part inside of them that wants to relive their youth and it is truly heart-warming and moving that this video game franchise has the power to do that.

 

One Of A Kind 

The whole ideal behind Pokemon is extremely unique in itself, as well as being every child’s fantasy. A world in which from a young age you are given a Pokemon partner and allowed to journey the world, free of parents, no school (except Trainers School which actually sounds rather fun) being able to decide what you want to do and where you want to go. This concept is radically different to any game out there and therefore will always remain to be intriguing.

A game that started with a choice between three cute little monsters has transpired into one of the most successful and indulgent game franchises to date. Game Freak has the profound ability to snap up fans old and young and also maintain them. This is evident in their immense sales and the fact that the vast majority of Pokemon installments will hardly ever lose their value. I know the Pokemon franchise remains to be a video game I am emotionally attached to, and I’m sure that it is a common feeling among ongoing fans of the series.

still on the pokeball 4

What do you think keeps the Pokeball rolling? Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion. 

Pokemon Shuffle Review

Pokemon

With Nintendo’s recent announcement that they will start venturing into mobile development, there is endless speculation as to what kinds of games they might develop in the future and how they will use (or possibly abuse) the free-to-play models that the devices are known for.  Fortunately, we already have a glimpse of how Nintendo may tackle the mobile market with Pokemon Shuffle, a free-to-play 3DS game that can best be summarized as “Candy Crush with Pokemon“.  That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have a few of its own twists on the formula; it’s just abundantly clear where the business model for this title was taken from.

Pokemon Shuffle is a your typical match-three puzzle game with a few unique mechanics.  For one, you’re matching your own team of four Pokemon that you select from your collection at the start of each stage.  Each Pokemon has a type, attack value, and special effect that can trigger when they’re matched.  Using Pokemon will earn them experience and level them up, gaining more attack power.  Pokemon won’t evolve over time and their evolutionary forms have to be caught seperately, but certain Pokemon can Mega Evolve during a stage if you have its Mega Stone and place it at the front of your team.  To start a Mega Evolution, you’ll need to fill the Mega Gauge at the side of the screen by making matches of that Pokemon.  Mega Evolution lasts for the remainder of the stage and gives that Pokemon more power and a more valuable effect.  The new and old ideas meld together well and make this a distinctly Pokemon-styled puzzler.

Now the question is how you actually add Pokemon to your collection.  Each stage in the game is represented as a battle with either a wild Pokemon or a rival trainer.  Defeating a wild Pokemon will give you a chance to capture it while trainers will challenge you with a mega evolution and reward you with the corresponding Mega Stone upon victory.  Building an optimal team for each stage requires strategy as certain Pokemon will be significantly more useful on certain stages.  There is a option to have a team automatically optimized for you, but this will only account for type advantages and attack power with no regard for effects.  The most skilled players will be able to balance out the values of various effects to truly optimize their teams on their own.  Effects do have a great deal of significance as enemy Pokemon won’t just stand around while you line up combos.  Some will occasionally disrupt your board by freezing your some of Pokemon or replacing them with stone blocks or weaker Pokemon.  Others will only allow you a scarce few turns before they flee, forcing you to chain strong combos immediately.  Many stages are genuinely difficult and will demand an optimized team to get through.  The one major issue is that there isn’t any kind of preview for the stage that you can build a strategy off of, so tactics for harder stages will have to be built through trial and error.  Also, the cascade effect is still a big factor and massive combos will result more often from luck than from tactics and the biggest chains won’t really feel earned.

Story is nonexistent as the game focuses simply on the “gotta catch ’em all” motto of the franchise.  Even the rival trainers you meet are represented as black silhouettes of characters from the main line of games.  It’s a bizarre decision that only reduces the game’s personality as opposed to what it might of had if it they’d just directly ported art assets.  There’s also little sense of exploration as the campaign follows a strictly linear path from start to end save for the unlockable expert stages.  The only facets of personality that the game has come from the adorably minimalistic artstyle and the somewhat bland musical score.  The intended tone is best set by the Mega Evolution theme, which is less like an elevating point for an intense battle and more akin to the goofiest carnival music you’ve ever heard.  Pokemon Shuffle is structured like a casino machine and it’s not ashamed to embrace that with its aesthetics.

The most vital factor to consider a free-to-play game is the business model and, fortunately, Pokemon Shuffle handles it quite well.  Spending real money will get you virtual jewels, which can then be exchanged for hearts or coins or can be used to keep going on a stage that you’re about to fail.  Hearts are needed to play stages while coins can be exchanged for consumable power-ups or Great Balls that are twice as effective at catching wild Pokemon as the default Pokeballs that you have an unlimited supply of.  Both hearts and coins can be acquired without having to spend jewels as a heart will automatically be given to you every thirty minutes if you have any less than five.  Coins are even easier to get as you’ll receive some every time you win a stage and when you check in online daily.  Even jewels can be acquired without spending anything as they’ll be awarded the first time you defeat a trainer and during special events.  These are rare, but it’s the sentiment of generosity that helps make the game more enjoyable.  There are also regular free content updates and daily challenges that provide plenty of replayability.  You’re bound to feel the paywall hit whenever you run out of hearts, but Pokemon Shuffle is as generous as it can be while still expecting to make a profit.   Given that cosmetic items like those seen in League of Legends and Team Fortress 2 can’t work in a game like this, the business model couldn’t be much kinder to consumers outside of just making the game outright free.

Pokemon Shuffle works best as a bonus game for the 3DS that players can turn to in-between rounds of full games and makes for good bit of variety.  It’s certainly worth downloading; just don’t let it nickel-and-dime you too much.

VgamerZz_1

Final Score: 7/10

What Does Tembo Mean for Game Freak?

Tembo

The newest game being developed by Pokemon developer Game Freak is certainly a strange one and not just because it stars an elephant in commando gear named Tembo.  What’s strange is that the game is being published by Sega and that it will be releasing on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and NOT the Wii U.  Obviously, something is going on between Game Freak and Nintendo, but what it is exactly is anyone’s guess.  It’s possible that this is just a one-time fluke that will come and go without any long-term impact.  Conversely, this could be the beginning of the end for Game Freak’s long partnership with Nintendo.

Of course, that raises the obvious question of why Game Freak would potential break away from Nintendo when their current relationship has been so profitable for the last nineteen years.  One possibility is that Game Freak simply wants creative freedom with this title that they couldn’t obtain through Nintendo.  Perhaps Nintendo wasn’t too keen on the cartoon violence that the game presents or the fact that there is a curse word in the game’s official title.  Maybe the game is expected to be larger than the Wii U download service is able to support.  Maybe Nintendo insisted on rebranding the game with Pokemon characters and Game Freak is tired of working off of the same property so many times and is just looking for a change of pace.

The more extreme possibility is that Game Freak is tired of working with Nintendo altogether and this is their first step towards breaking away from them.  While milking the Pokemon franchise for years to come would be the wise choice from a financial standpoint, that kind of repetition is torturous for creative minds.  It’s only natural that the members of Game Freak would want to experiment in new ways and take chances that Nintendo would be against.  Now, Game Freak has worked on non-Pokemon games since the series has had its explosion in popularity, such as Drill Dozer and HarmoKnight, but none of them have caught on like the collectible monsters craze.  Admit it, how many of you had even heard of either of those titles before I brought them up?  Nintendo may have given up on Game Freak’s side-projects and the only way something like Tembo or any future titles outside of the Pokemon series will see the light of day is through collaborations with other publishers.  Game Freak may even decide that these passion projects are worth more to them than the fortune that the Pokemon series is making them.

If that is the route that they decide to take, it is certainly a risky one.  Time has shown that the Game Freak brand is not as financially successful as the Pokemon brand and focusing on these more experimental endeavors could be enough to sink the company.  That’s an extreme possibility, but it simply isn’t likely that Game Freak can make lightning strike twice.  Depending on who they build a new partnership with, their success could rely entirely on that as Game Freak’s reputation leads the publisher to overhype their first outing in ways that they can’t deliver on.  As nice as it would be to have optimism in Game Freak’s ability to stand on its own, there is plenty that could go wrong with a departure from Nintendo.  This is especially risky considering that they would no longer have the Pokemon series to fall back on at that point.

Before you think that there is any chance of Game Freak pulling the Pokemon license away from Nintendo, know that there is absolutely no chance of that happening.  Nintendo owns a majority share in Game Freak and The Pokemon Company and is already being pretty generous in allowing Game Freak to pursue this partnership deal with Sega in the first place.  However, Nintendo would never allow one of their most successful franchises to slip away just because Game Freak wants to break it off.  Nintendo let Rareware keep the rights to most of its franchises when it was sold to Microsoft, but they made sure that they still owned Donkey Kong and Star Fox in their entirety.  If Game Freak has any desire to part ways with Nintendo, then they would have to sacrifice the rights to Pokemon to them in order to make that happen.  Expecting Game Freak to have any chance of getting out of such departure with Pokemon intact is like thinking that Bungie had any chance of keeping Halo when they broke off from Microsoft.

As a side note, I’d like to mention that Game Freak’s decision to partner with Sega for this endeavor is unlikely to be any sort of jab at Nintendo.  Whatever rivalry the two companies had was buried years ago.  It’s more likely that Game Freak turned to Sega because the two actually have a history together.  Prior to the creation of Pokemon, Game Freak developed a game titled Pulseman for the Genesis/Mega Drive that was published by Sega.  That history is likely why Game Freak turned to Sega for Tembo.

There is a lot worth speculating on with the Tembo’s announcement, but only time will tell what will actually become of the relationship between Nintendo and Game Freak.  Maybe Game Freak will decide that it’s time to leave Pokemon and Nintendo behind.  Maybe their just exploring new possibilities and nothing will really change in the grand scheme of things outside of seeing odd concepts like Tembo pop up every now and then.  What are your thoughts on the possible future of Game Freak?  Are they better off playing it safe or taking a risk on what they love to do?  Leave a comment below and let us know.

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.