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. 

Everyone Should Keep a Free-to-Play Checkbook

Just in case my numerous articles haven’t been enough to tip you off, I am currently obsessed with the free-to-play digital card game Hearthstone.  It’s a great game with a bright future that I’ve already put more time into than I care to count.  To date, I’ve put exactly $40 into the game, which is exactly as much as I would happily spend for an enjoyable budget title like this if it was being sold in retail.  Team Fortress 2 is another free-to-play game that I have lovingly poured hundreds of hours into, but no more than $5 in microtransactions at this point.  Pokemon Shuffle, which I recently reviewed, hasn’t cost me a dime.  Now, I want to ask how much you’ve spent on any given free-to-play game that you’ve enjoyed.  Have you put in $1o, $20, or maybe nothing at all?  Have you spent anywhere from $60 to even $100?  Have you carelessly spent thousands on a title that was supposedly free?  If you can’t give me an exact answer, give or take five to ten, then you have a problem.

I think that free-to-play is one of the greatest innovations that the gaming industry has had in the last generation.  It has undoubtedly been a boon for countless multiplayer games by lowering the barrier of entry and raising the active community.  Given that these types of games live and die entirely based on their player bases, this can save a game that may have otherwise fallen through the cracks and make the big games even bigger.  It’s also a godsend for avid gamers who can’t afford the latest systems and all the AAA releases.  Free-to-play opens up incredible new possibilities that leave everyone better off.  At least, it’s a great model when both sides are using it wisely.

The major downside of free-to-play models is their nasty habit of nickel-and-diming their players with microtransactions.  In some cases, it is the fault of the game developers.  Games like Marvel Heroes put up massive paywalls for getting the heroes you want to play as while never allowing you any inclination as to whether or not you’ll actually enjoy playing as that character outside of simple brand recognition.  Mobile apps like Super Monster Bros have purchase pop-ups for $100 in the diabolical hopes of scamming unsuspecting children.  These kinds of practices are certainly abhorrent, but they’re not the only ones responsible for some of the most outrageous purchases made through microtransactions.

Too often, players will spend frivolously on microtransactions with little regard as to how much they’re actually paying in the grand scheme of things.  With microtransactions being such small purchases, it’s far easier to spend without putting much thought into how much you’re actually getting out of your purchase.  Even when a game has the most generous business model to it, it’s easy to splurge on little things here and there.  Before you know it, you end up spending up to hundreds of dollars on the type of game that you could have just bought outright for only twenty.  With every free-to-play game that you play, you should keep track of every microtransaction you pay for to see the bigger picture of how much your spending.  Compare how much you’re spending on a free-to-play game with the fixed prices of other games and consider how much value you are really getting.  If the free-to-play game is strong-arming you into paying more, then that should be a sign that you should stop playing it.  There’s no shortage of free-to-play games that will treat you better and there are plenty of traditionally priced games that offer plenty of replayablity at a cheap price.

With all of that said, there’s no shame in intentionally spending a little extra on your favorite games.  Free-to-play should be seen as a system where you pay as much as you want for a game.  If you really love what the developers are doing, then by all means show your support with in-game purchases.  Honestly, my only regret with Team Fortress 2 is that I haven’t spent more on it at this point.  Also, it is your money and how much it’s really worth is going to be your choice.  My point is that we should all take responsibility when using these sorts of business models and know how much we’re investing into our hobbies.

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