Tatsumi Kimishima is the New President of Nintendo

Tatsumi Kimishima

Tatsumi Kimishima

In a company-wide restructuring following the tragic passing of Satoru Iwata earlier this year, Tatsumi Kimishima has been appointed the new global president of Nintendo.  Kimishima is certainly fit for the position as he already had 27 years of corporate experience at Sanwa Bank of Japan before becoming the Chief Financial Officer for The Pokemon Company in 2000.  He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming President of Pokemon USA Inc. in 2001 and President of Nintendo of America in 2002.  Prior to his recent promotion to global president, Kimishima had served as Managing Director of Nintendo Co., Ltd., as of April, 2013.  Given the fact that Kimishima is already 65, it seems unlikely that he is intended to hold the position for long and is serving as an interim president as Nintendo works to restructure itself.  Here’s hoping that Kimishima leads Nintendo down the best path he can in his time.

There have also been a number of role changes made for other executives around Nintendo.  General Manager of Finance Shigeyuki Takahashi has also been given the role of Supervisor of General Affairs Division and placed in charge of the Quality Assurance Department, and General Manager of Marketing Satoshi Yamato has been placed in charge of the Advertising Department.  However, the most interesting change is that Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, and one of the lead developers of the Wii, Genyo Takeda, have been assigned the titles of Creative Fellow and Technology Fellow respectively.  The title of Fellow, according to Nintendo’s official statement, indicates a Representative Director with “advanced knowledge and extensive experience, and holds the role of providing advice and guidance regarding organizational operations in a specialized area”.  This is a new title within Nintendo’s corporate structure being put in place with this restructuring.  It’s an odd choice for a corporate title, and one has to wonder if this may be intended as a more hands-0ff, advisory position as these two industry veterans approach their respective retirements.  Then again, it may simply be another one of Nintendo’s quirky moments.  This restructuring seems to just be the first step as Nintendo prepares itself for the future.

Top 5 Pokken Pokemon

Pokken

It’s finally happened. Since it’s announcement for arcades across Japan, Wii U owners everywhere have been praying for Pokken Tournament to come to consoles. Now Nintendo have given the green light with a release due in Spring 2016. Cheers cried out throughout the planet. Not only are we getting a new Pokemon game but we are getting a console one. A very rare occurrence.

Already announced are big hitters like Pickachu,  Charizard, Machamp & Lucario but who else could be among these “elite four”. Sure Gengar and Blaziken are nice inclusions but who really are the Crème de la crème of Pokemon? Who deserves to battle it out in gorgeous HD? Now of course this is my own opinion. I have however took into consideration what the general Pokemon community want along with some unexpected and therefore fresh faces. So hopefully there’s a strong mix that gives an even stronger collection.

Let’s get this (Poke)ball rolling:

Blastoise

Pokken Blastoise

How can this character not be included? Yes you could argue if Charizard and Blastoise both make appearances then so should Venusaur. I would agree but out of the two Blastoise would get the nod. The large turtle with two shotguns on it’s back seems a likely choice and would be a popular choice among fans.  Flooding the field with Surf, bashing opponents with a Skull-Bash or simply sending them flying with a devastating Hydro Pump. As one of the main faces of Pokemon we would also get to recreate the infamous final battle between Ash and Gary; Blastoise Vs Charizard. It’s something we all want. This is without mentioning the new mega-evolution…

Dragonite

Pokken Dragonite

We may already have one dragon but as you know with Game of Thrones one is never enough. Dragonite descendant of the first generation gets overlooked from time to time, so now is the perfect opportunity for the small winged dragon to make an entrance. Dragonite has a great variety of moves that could be incorporated. From a chilly Ice Punch to a obliterating Hyper Beam this Pokemon has it all. One other thing to note is it can fly faster than the speed of sound. Plenty of room to improvise and create a worthy move set.

Muk

Pokken Muk

Another overlooked Pokemon from generation one. In the anime series Muck was always known as the comical one. Suddenly smothering any person it could gets its hands on (in a good way), Muk is due for a return. The stick, amorphous Pokemon is filled with poison making him a unique addition with plenty of attacks. Whether using Sludge, Poison gas or my personal favorite Mud-slap Muk is guaranteed to raise a few smiles. Controlling a giant purple sludge has always been a dream of mine. I cant be the only one right?

Electrode

Electrode

By this point you can tell I heavily favor generation one, anyway my next choice is the upside down Poke Ball will a short fuse. Now, no matter how many times I’ve played through a Pokemon game I dont think I’ve ever caught an Electrode with intent of actually using it as one of my mains. This is Pokken though and I think ticking time bomb could be amazing. First it’s a ball so rolling around the field could be enjoyable in itself. Yes another electric type but the main draw of Electrode is its unpredictable nature. Imagine the fight is not going so well your beach ball friend is taking a right beating. It’s time to bring out the big guns. Unleashing a Self-Destruct that eradicates everything in sight before clouds parts leaving nothing but a huge grin.

Groudon

Groudon 2

Finally another generation. Quite possibly one of the most badass looking Pokemon to ever grace the game, Groudon has always been a fan favorite. We’ve seen him explode out of Poke balls enough times in Smash Bros so it’s about time we actual get to control this beast. Similar to Godzilla in stature Groudon really seems like he could do some serious damage. Possibly too much in fact with the legendary having the ability to control continents to his desire he may pack too much weight for a one on one. At the least he needs to invade or affect the battlefield in some way. Then again Suicune has been added so there is a chance. To put it simply I think he would be cool; I mean look at him

Honorable mentions: Mewtwo, Tyranitar & Venusaur 

Obviously these are my choices but i’m sure we will see many more inclusions to the roster in the coming months. Which Pokemon do you want to see added to Pokken Tournament? Leave us a comment below and tell us why.

Wii U Release for Pokken Tournament Announced

Pokken Tournament, the new Pokemon fighting game from the developers of the Tekken series, has been confirmed for a Wii U release.  The game was originally released exclusively in Japanese arcades and there was a deal of concern over whether it would release on the Wii U or not.  All worries can be laid to rest as Pokken Tournament will release on Wii U worldwide in the spring of 2016.

We also have a new fighter announced for the roster (sort of) with Pikachu Libre joining the cast.  It’s certainly a controversial choice as there are literally hundreds of fan-favorites that could have been focused on instead, whereas Pikachu Libre easily could have just been an alternate costume for the Pikachu already on the roster.

Still, looking at the layout of the select screen suggests that there will be at least four more characters added to the game by the console release, and there’s always a chance of more either at launch or as DLC.  Which Pokemon are you hoping to see enter the ring?  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. 

Remembering Satoru Iwata

On July 11th, 2015, Satoru Iwata, the president and CEO of Nintendo, passed away due to a bile duct growth.  His passing is a great loss not only for Nintendo, but for the gaming industry at large.  Iwata was a rare breed in this industry where most executives are placed based on their general business prowess rather than their knowledge of game development itself.  Iwata was, first and foremost, a game developer and a gamer who just so happened to also be a clever business man.

Iwata’s work in game development began with an unpaid internship for Commodore Japan and doing freelance work for HAL Laboratories.  After graduating from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, he began working full-time at HAL to develop games for Nintendo systems.  Along with working internally at HAL on games like Vegas Stakes and the Kirby series, he also worked with several of Nintendo’s research and development departments as a programmer for games like NES Open Tournament Golf and Balloon Fight.  It was all a controversial move for him personally as his family didn’t approve of video games as a career path.  In an interview with Game Center CX, Iwata discussed how his father refused to speak to him for half a year because of his decision to work at HAL.  However, Iwata would prove himself in time to be both a talented programmer and a vigilant leader.

Iwata helped found Creatures Inc., the studio most famous for their cult-classic RPG Earthbound, and acted as both the programming director and co-producer for their landmark title.  Iwata also shared his skills with the people at Game Freak for some of the Pokemon games.  For Pokemon Stadium, he was responsible for recreating the battle code simply by studying the source code of the original Gameboy games in roughly a week.  With Pokemon Gold and Silver, he developed the compression tools that made it possible to include the entire world map from Pokemon Red and Blue as an end-game bonus for these new installments.  Iwata knew game development inside and out, and that experience served him well once he became the president of Nintendo.

On May 31st, 2002, Iwata took up the role as Nintendo’s president following the retirement of Hiroshi Yamauchi.  Iwata was the company’s fourth president and the first not to be related to the company’s founding Yamauchi family.  Nintendo was at a low point when Iwata took the reigns, currently in the midst of a lukewarm reception to the Gamecube following the similarly poor sales of the Nintendo 64.  However, Iwata had already brought HAL back from the brink of bankruptcy once before and he was determined to put Nintendo back on top.  His method was to venture into bold new directions for consoles and handhelds alike.  First came the DS, which broke new grounds with two separate screens and opened the door for innovative games that would have been impossible otherwise.  Reception was cold at first, but sales quickly escalated and it has since become the second highest-selling video game system to date with over 154 million units sold worldwide.  The success of the next system, the Wii, was much more immediate.  While its weaker processing power turned off many core fans, the introduction of motion controls drew the attention of millions of new casual gamers.  The Wii easily outsold the competition with over 101 million units, while the Xbox 360 and Playstation 4 each sold 80+ million units.

Unfortunately, lightning didn’t strike twice as the Wii U has continuously struggled to excite hardcore and casual gamers alike.  Despite being the first of the current generation of home consoles to hit market, it is currently locked in third place.  When the time came to make cutbacks, Nintendo’s executives opted to cut their own pay rather than cut entire jobs at the lower levels.  Iwata took the hardest hit of them all by cutting his own salary in half.  That kind of dignity and selflessness is such a rare thing to see in the business world.  He strived to keep Nintendo at full strength in its darkest time, even at great personal cost.  For him, game development was never a matter of profit alone; he saw games as a way to create joy.

IwataContemplatesBananas

In his public appearances, Iwata always maintained a welcoming demeanor that would only grow more playful with time.  He ran a series of developer interviews called Iwata Asks that brought attention to the ins and outs of various games and systems.  When Nintendo introduced their series of Nintendo Direct video presentations, he would regularly take center stage and give his own charming spin on the announcements.  Perhaps his most infamous joke came in the Nintendo Direct held in preparation for E3 2012 where he intently stared at a bunch of bananas without any context.  There was no setup, no punchline, and not even a Donkey Kong announcement to tie in with the gag, but the awkwardness of it all and the seriousness it was presented with gave it a surprising amount of appeal.  Not only did the joke spread across the internet, it became a running gag within Nintendo Directs themselves.  Iwata’s jokes would rarely be that simple again as E3 2014 brought the reveal of the Mii Fighters for Super Smash Bros in the form of an over-the-top fight scene between Iwata and Nintendo of America COO Reggie Fils-Aimé.  Most recently, at E3 2015, Iwata and his colleagues had themselves represented as Muppets that transformed into the cast of Starfox with Iwata himself taking the form of the wise yet jovial Peppy Hare.  It’s a surprisingly fitting send-off for a man like Satoru Iwata; someone filled with experience and knowledge, someone who makes for a noble and capable leader, but, at his core, is really all about bringing happiness to people.

“My first creation was a baseball game.  I don’t think anyone can say it had bad graphics because it had no graphics.  Gameplay was represented only by numbers.  But when I saw my friend playing that game and having fun, it made me feel proud.  To me, this was a source of energy and passion, and that passion for games began to blossom.  I think my life course was set.”

-Satoru Iwata, GDC Keynote 2005

OP Or Not OP, That Is The Question: #4- Mega Kangaskhan

Mega Kangaskhan 2

Kangaskhan

How times change. Kangaskhan has long been relegated to the forgotten, craptastic tier of Pokémon, completely outclassed in every possible sense. The mama ‘roo simply didn’t exist in regular competitive battles, and hadn’t been seen since the days of Red and Blue, where it loved to be a pain in the butt to catch in the safari zone.

With the advent of Pokémon X and Y, a simple mega stone turned this thing into an absolute monster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it crushing Tokyo into spam alongside Godzilla and his buddies. So what the hell happened there?

Mega Kangaskhan happened, that’s what. Hold on to your underpants, we’re taking a closer look.

At first glance, Big Mama’s House doesn’t sound all that fearsome. She gets a nice all-round buff to offensive and defensive stats, but nothing that sounds excessive. A jack of all trades, if you will, well-rounded in both areas but not excelling in either. Or so you’d think.

The kicker here is the almighty ability it gains. Parental Bond adds a second hit to Mega Khan’s attacks, with 50% of the power of the first. This, essentially, is a free Choice Band, without the downfall of locking it into the first move chosen. But it’s more powerful than that. Two seperate hits make strategies involving Focus Sash and the Sturdy ability useless, and give Kangaskhan an extra shot at a critical hit. It’s just not fun at all.

In addition, it gives it a damaging Swords Dance in the form of Power-Up Punch, will will hit twice and get the attack boost both times. By so doing, this ‘mon can become completely terrifying in a single turn.

Mega Kangaskhan

It isn’t the fastest, true enough, and shares a speed tier with a lot of common ‘mon. It is also, as a predominantly Normal/Fighting attack user, very iffy versus ghosts. But for the most part, it can circumvent both of these issues with powerful priority in Sucker Punch.

Despite all of this, its OPishness is kind of a grey area. In singles battles, certainly, it’s one of the most dominant forces the series has ever seen, and was swiftly banned by Smogon. In that environment, there’s little doubt that it is OP. But doubles matches are a completely different issue.

In VGC, the format used in official doubles tournaments, Mega Kangaskhan is very much allowed. As a general rule, only mythical Pokémon and box legendaries are not. The faster pace of these matches, along with the possibility of double targetting and Khan’s lack of resistances, makes it much easier to handle.

2015’s ruleset allows a whole variety of new threats to it too. Most notably Terrakion, which will outspeed and one-shot it under normal circumstances. Sucker Punch will do little in return, being resisted, and will even grant the rock warrior an attack boost (twice) via Justified. Then there’s the common Rocky Helmet item, which will drain health twice from Kangaskhan and quickly take its toll.

Read more about online games.

In sum, as incredible (and so incredibly common) as Mega Kangaskhan is, it is managable. It is also a bit of a judgment call, as it can be OP and can not be depending on your perspective.

OP Or Not OP, That Is The Question: #1- Talonflame and Gale Wings

Gale Wings

It’s the golden rule of gaming: losses are never our fault. There’s always lag or hax or some damn thing to blame. Some cause to fire grammatically-questionable rants to each other through Xbox Live. Another popular one? The cry of OP.

Which is an interesting point. Actual broken mechanics/characters/suchlike are often mere ‘noob killers’ in disguise. Smash Bros’ Little Mac for instance. Early in the game’s life, the cries, howls and gnashings of teeth about the tiny boxer were something to behold. His balancing is all kinds of wonky, there’s no denying that, but Mac is not the unstoppble insta-win button he may have appeared at first glance.

On Pokémon X and Y’s release, a similar case arose in the form of Talonflame. Upon first catching this thing as Fletchling, I laughed at it. I mocked like the mocking mockster of mock I am, because it was a Route 1 Bird. This has been a Pokémon tradition since Red and Blue’s Pidgey: one of your first catches will be a horribly craptacular bird ‘mon. It’ll get you through the story, but in any form of competitive battle it will suck. And suck hard. Forever.

Staraptor, that feathery ballistic missile fueled by fury, power and raw hatred, was the only exception to this rule. But then… Fletchling evolved.

Talonflame’s stats are suitably Route 1 Bird-ish across the board. Its speed is stellar, I’ll concede, but it has all the defenses of a one-legged kitten in a coma. Its power is average at best too. It was another instant write off… until it got its hidden ability.

Gale Wings. Gale freaking wings. It’s exclusive to this thing’s evo line, and is the one and only reason for its popularity. Gale Wings grants priority to all Flying-type moves, and coupled with Brave Bird this makes me a very sad panda. It’s pretty nifty for setting up Tailwind too, and that’s all you’ll really ever find Talonflame doing.

Talonflame 2

Priority moves in the games have always had a very low base power, because they are priority moves. Sucker Punch may not, but it has the drawback of failing entirely if the opponent isn’t readying a damaging move. So Brave Bird, the strongest physical Flying attack (the two-turn Sky Attack notwithstanding), has no business having priority.

As I’ve said, this fiery bugger’s power is pretty middling. But with a Life Orb or Choice Band, and its high speed, anything that doesn’t resist Flying is going to take a good hit before it can move. Choice Band Talonflame is a born revenge killer, a one trick pony that’s so damn good at that one trick that it makes me cry a little inside.

This simple yet powerful concept gave rise to the early X and Y strategy of ‘bird spam.’ This simply meant abusing the new-found power and coverage of Flying-type STAB attacks, and was a real player favourite.

Talonflame is certainly still a top pick for these reasons, but is it truly OP? Some Poké-players still insist that it warrants a banning, but I’d say not. The metagame adapts, and bird spam has died down considerably. As with Little Mac, a little inside knowledge goes a long way.

The blazing bird’s Achilles heels are its typing, frailty and predictability. With regards to the former two, Flying/Fire STAB leaves it unable to do much of anything to Rock types. There isn’t much else in its repertoire either, unless you’re using something odd like Natural Gift (which uses up a berry you’re holding to give you a one-shot different type attack). Tyranitar doesn’t like taking a U-Turn to the face, true enough, but that’s really Talonflame’s only option when faced with these guys: run for your life.

Then there’s that 4x weakness in return. Not to mention Stealth Rock, sapping half of its HP just for switching in. Ouch.

More generally, its half-assed defenses leave it threatened by bulky pokémon. If an opponent can survive that first hit, Talonflame isn’t likely to be able to take what comes back at it. All in all, it’s a fearsome force, but there’s so much clipping its wings. There are two sides to the argument, but I wouldn’t say it was broken.

On Mewtwo’s Return to Smash Bros.

Smash Bros

Yep, Mewtwo. Back in Pokémon Red and Blue, this guy was something to be feared. The ultimate pokémon, a creature born from horrific experimentation and the splicing of Mew’s DNA. It was a being of unparalleled power, ability and rip-your-scalp-off-and-wear-it-as-a-daring-fashion-accessory fury.

This formidable feline foe was the last challenge for any trainer, accessible only after defeating the Elite 4 and becoming Pokémon Champion. It was, back in 1998, an unholy pain in the ass to catch. The Psychic type, you might remember, was pretty well untouchable back then as it was, and Mewtwo was the best of the best.

With all of this in mind, you’d probably have to pity any opponent meeting it in Smash Bros combat. You’d expect them all to be trampled hideously, send home in a blood-leaking matchbox like the victims of a Mortal Kombat fatality.

You’d think this unless you’d actually played as Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. Melee, that is. Because he sucked.

You can see where they were going with making the character, I’ll concede. The Genetic Pokémon is a being of intense mental power; physical strength isn’t its forté. This is usually the case with Psychic types, but it didn’t seem to translate into Smash Bros. very well. As a Smasher, Mewtwo is unfortunately floaty, light and tall. This is a really awkward combination of traits, allowing it to be comboed and such easily.

Mewtwo 2

The character was all-round underwhelming. His special attacks, while completely unique among the cast, were a little questionable too. Mewtwo’s selling points were his powerful throws and great recovery, and not much seems to have changed in its transition to Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS.

Naturally, we can’t tell much from the scant days the character has been available. How it’ll match up with the rest of the Smashers, viability and such are going to take time to explore. We do know, though, that Mewtwo’s specials remain unchanged.

Shadow Ball is a simple, very powerful charged projectile, a la Samus’s Charge Shot. Teleport deals no damage, but adds to the character’s long-ranged and unpredictable recovery and movement. Disable has little range, but its ‘stunning’ effect is brilliant for follow ups, a property it didn’t quite have last time around. Finally, there’s Confusion, which will put opponents to sleep like a safer version of Jigglypuff’s sing. It’s perfect for delivering the coup de grace.

Mewtwo’s repertoire of smash and aerial attacks have been tweaked a little, offering both stronger and slower moves and faster ones. Up smash and forward air are particularly interesting new tools.

This guy is a real fan favorite, being offered two separate mega evolutions alongside Charizard in Pokémon X and Y. There was a lot of hype around its return to Smash, and players around the world are getting to grips with its new incarnation as we speak. As I say, it’s much too early to know anything about how it’ll compete, but I’ve always seen it as among the most unique characters in the series and it’s great to see it back.

The VGamerZ Monster Files: Darkrai (Pokémon)

Pokémon

Ghost Pokémon, as we know, are already darn creepy enough. Take the likes of Phantump, the cutesy little pumpkin dude. It looks about as malevolent as Casper in a coma, but then you read its Pokédex entry.

“According to old tales, these Pokémon are stumps possessed by the spirits of children who died while lost in the forest.”

That’s dark, right there. And you know what else is dark? Darkrai, the Pitch-Black Pokémon. That’ll be why it’s called that. You don’t mess with this thing. It’s not a Ghost-type, true enough, but it sure looks like a ghost. And reminds me of the Dementors of Harry Potter fame, which is already more than enough to add this bugger to the feared ranks of the Monster Files. But that’s not all.

Dex number 491, this mythical Pokémon (not to be confused with legendary, Poké-nerds) was introduced in a Diamond/Pearl event in 2009. It serves as the counterpart to Cresselia, bizarre pink moon-duck that it is, and is the other member of the lunar duo.

Darkrai

Unlike most ghost ‘mon, this guy doesn’t just look a little creepy, like Gengar and his buddies. Darkrai is a monster in every sense of the world. With great power, speed and a dastardly bag of tricks, this fiendish spectre was banned to ubers by the great God of Pokémon (Arceus, Smogon, y’know, whichever) and will remain there.

Darkrai’s signature move is Dark Void, a status attack to put foes to sleep. In doubles and triples matches, this is particularly horrifying, able to put both or all three opponents to sleep in a single –and very fast– shot. This thing’ll need to be a priority target for sure if it ever crops up in those formats, that’s for sure.

Smeargle, of all things, is feared in doubles matches purely because it also has access to the move. And if you know how craptacular Smeargle is, you’ll also know what a big deal that is. Darkrai is, and has created, a monster.

This vile shade is very frail, the type you’ll often find hiding behind a focus sash so it can survive a hit. By so doing, it gets even more opportunity to buff its power yet further with Nasty Plot and wreak some havoc. You can take it down quickly, sure, but you’re going to need to.

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