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?

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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.

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

The Best Games You’ve Never Heard Of: ‘Soul Bubbles’

Soul Bubbles

Nintendo’s consoles, as we know, live and die on their first-party offerings. The lofty likes of Mario Kart and Soul Bubbles, released earlier, could have singlehandedly hauled the Wii U out of the craptastic mess it’s currently in. When you make the purchase, it’s safe to assume that you’re doing so because you want to get your Mario/Zelda on.

Nevertheless, there are the occasional third-party jewels on Nintendo platforms. A lot of which are cult classics, the kinds of games that critics rave about yet no bugger actually buys. Today, we’re taking a look at Soul Bubbles, which kinda-sorta fits into this very category.

The game was released for the DS in 2008, an obscure-yet-brilliant puzzler from Mekensleep. As with many of the system’s titles, it’s predominantly (read damn well only) stylus-controlled. As with alarmingly few of the system’s titles, the touchscreen isn’t just shoehorned in to the detriment of gameplay. It feels right, and that’s a beautiful thing.

In Soul Bubbles, you take the role of a tiny, floating freak-dude, a young Shaman-in-training. As we know, apprentices get all of the crappy jobs nobody else wants, and it’s no different here. Except, instead of fetching cups of coffee and unblocking the toilets, this little guy has to ferry lost souls to their place of eternal rest. Which sounds like, if I may say so, one hell of a responsibility for a novice. Give me a plastic glove, a bucket and an unflushable bowel movement any day.

They look like Navi, but you DON'T want to kill them. Everything else around here seems to, though.
They look like Navi, but you DON’T want to kill them. Everything else around here seems to, though.

Anywho, the gameplay basics are rather simple to grasp. You first draw a bubble around each stage’s souls at the beginning point (they look just like regular soap bubbles, but are presumably much, much soul-ier), in which you can transport them. From there, you’ll have to traverse each little maze with careful stylus strokes. These represent our Shaman ‘blowing’ the bubble to safety, and he’s going to need a lot of puff.

As you play through the campaign, you’ll acquire different tribal masks, each of which enables you to interact with the bubbles in a different way. Depending upon the obstacle at hand, you’ll have to split, shrink and expand your bubble, or make more. All of the familiar elements are out to oppose you, by bursting it and endangering the lives of the sweet, sweet soul-y goodness that dwells within. They won’t survive long outside it, you understand.

Soul Bubbles struck a chord with me for its adorably toontastic art style, its unique premise and the great use of the DS. It isn’t a very long adventure, but it’s one with real charm. It’s a shame that it didn’t get much attention.

The Best Games You’ve Never Heard Of: ‘Big Bang Mini’

Big Bang Mini

The retrotastic shoot ‘em up is one genre that will never go out of style. Among certain indie developers, there’s a real passion for producing sumptuous 2D art which does such games the world of good. There’s a timeless quality to the gameplay of Asteroids, Space Invaders, Galaga and their ilk, which just needed a dash of 21st Century sexiness.

Few games extol these virtues better than the obscure, utterly mind-bending Big Bang Mini.

What you have before your very eyes right now is a psychadelic shooter with fireworks. Literally, you are shooting fireworks at any array of marauding aliens/skeletons/leprechaun-freaks. It’s mad, it’s great and it’s bright as balls, so sunglasses at the ready and we’ll take a closer look.

Big Bang Mini was released on the Nintendo DS in 2009. It’s entirely stylus controlled, and your objective is to send your colourful missile from the bottom screen to the top with a well-aimed flail of the touchpen. Early in the console’s life, this kind of crap was merrily shoehorned into many games, but it feels right in this case. All kinds of right.

Yep, this is what a boss battle looks like around here.
Yep, this is what a boss battle looks like around here.

Fair warning, though: the gameplay is a little more complex than your standard-issue SHOOT EVERYTHING IN THE FACE WITH YOUR SHOOTY BULLETS OF PAINFUL PAIN. As you may know, fireworks have a tendency to… freaking well explode. As such, the debris from your shots will rain fiery vengeance back down onto the touchscreen, endangering your own ship. This mechanic adds an extra challenging dimension to the gameplay, and it also discourages mindless shot spamming.

But don’t think this makes it all cerebral and think-y. Big Bang Mini is, first and foremost, a ridiculous riot of colour. The Arcade Mode takes you from Rio De Janeiro, to New York, to Paris, to the African savannah… in space. Each ‘zone’ has its own crop of stages, and is populated by peculiar neon enemies and some of the nuttiest bosses you ever saw.

In this budget buy, you come for the cartoon crazitude and stay for the generous bounty of game modes. The main campaign aside, you can also try your hand at various challenges, the single cartridge multiplayer, or the Mission mode. After that, you can enjoy Relax Mode, which is simply a fireworks display which you can control yourself or automate. As the name suggests, it’s a calming end to a nutty Big Bang Mini experience.

Whatever Happened To… The Unrivaled Crazitude of ‘Project Rub’?

Project Rub

Hard as it is to comprehend now, the DS’s touchscreen blew minds left, right and centre when it was announced. In the early 2000s, this was pretty well unheard of, and particularly so with regards to a games console. Generally, any screen-touching at that time would only result in that weird rainbow-coloured-warpiness effect.

It was new and unfamiliar territory. We tentatively began to paw at the DS’s display like a cat when a mouse appears on TV. Confused and intrigued and a little hungry. What we needed was a comfortable and entertaining introduction to this brave new world. A game that would deliver on all of Nintendo’s ‘intuitive’ prattle.

That title was Project Rub. Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, there’s a heaping helping of madness right here.

As we know, regardless of the console, minigame compilations are nothing new. This peculiar effort from Sonic Team is another of them, but it has all the quirky charm it needs to be forgiven. It’s a love story at its heart, with you playing the role of an anonymous hero who falls in love with a passer-by. From those rather cliched beginnings, we embark on a lunatic tale indeed.

Just another day in the life.
Just another day in the life.

Said minigames see you massaging a man’s stomach to free a trapped goldfish, poking at rampaging bull-men to ‘pop’ them, and… pawing at your lady-love’s body in all kinds of bizarre fashions. Project Rub was deeply eccentric and oddly compelling, and its silhouette artstyle only added to its charm.

Its sequel, The Rub Rabbits!, expanded upon all of this. Here, your character has his own smitten admirer, and the love triangle makes for an entertaining narrative. But that’s not really why you’re here, as the games took a further turn for the crazy-ass. At one point, you’ll have to turn your DS upside down to navigate a crop of palm trees, which are being attacked by a giant marauding mecha-crab. That’s not a sentence you get to hear very often, which pretty well says it all.

The travesty, then, is that there has been none of this since 2005. The original was –ironically– the game that made me fall in love with the DS, and this fairly obscure series has a cult following. Will we ever see another?