First Impression: We Happy Few (PC – Steam) ~ Pop Goes The Joy

Wikipedia pageSteam pageOfficial website

Being happy is a wonderful thing. Now imagine that you can take a happiness pill that makes you happy and joyful all the time. And on top of that, imagine that participation is mandatory, and you live in bliss… That’s the situation we have in We Happy Few, the game I want to talk about today. Now, to say that this game had a rocky release with a lot of bugs and glitches is an understatement. But, now that the game isn’t in early access and out for several years and the last update being from 2019, I think it’s the best time to take a good look at this game and if it’s really worth our time or that we should pop a Joy to cover up this game. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. Ready, let’s go!

Pop goes the Joy

In We Happy Few, we take on the role of Arthur. Somebody who is working for the newspaper and censoring unhappy articles. When he suddenly sees a picture of his brother, he gets a lot of flashbacks that makes him stop popping his mandatory Joy. What is Joy? Well, like I explained in the introduction paragraph of this article, it’s a drug that makes people extremely happy and that’s mandatory to take or else you will be killed or exiled to the slums. People who don’t take Joy and don’t see the dangers of the world be camouflaged by the drug’s effects are called Downers and are shunned by all the Joy takers.

Now, how did the world get to this place? Well, that’s something for you to find out. The concept and setup of this game is excellent and I personally think it’s amazing. I feel like I’m playing a game like Bioshock or Prey again. Somewhat open-world yet linear-ish games that take you on a journey through a deep and rich story. And from what I have played so far, We Happy Few certainly delivers upon that front in my opinion.

Couple this with amazing voice acting that really helped me to get even more immersed into the world and the game, I don’t have any complaints about the story and the delivery. The pacing is also good. Everything gets some depth, but it doesn’t stay on one subject for too long. Some sections feels a bit too small in my opinion but thinking about it again, it would ruin the great world building that this game does.

I can forgive the fact that there are a lot of lines repeated when you talk to the townsfolk because the way the towns are populated adds so much to the atmosphere, and it makes the game even more immersive. The fact I can interact with every person on the street, and they play a random line with the accompanying animation, it’s delightful. If this concept is tried again, I think it would be great if it had a bit more lines and variations between the townsfolk.

Anyways, that’s more then enough about the story and the setting. Let’s talk about the other aspects of this game. It’s possible that even when this game has a nice story and setting, the game isn’t fun to play. Remember that I talked about various technical issues in the opening paragraph of this article? Well, I’m sad to say that there are still several technical issues. Thankfully, most of them are visual oddities but nothing game breaking anymore. I once had a dead enemy instead of dying, t-posing and following me around the map.

Only I time during a mission, I was afraid that my save file got cursed by a technical glitch, but exiting and restarting the game solved that issue with me loosing only 2-ish minutes of progress, since that isn’t too bad. The auto-saving in this game works miracles! And you can still manually save whenever you wish in 10 save slots just in case you want to experiment in this game. Or want to make a safety save or make a safe you can use whenever you want to also finish side quests.

Emotional Telephone Booths

You could play this game without using any Joy, but I highly recommend against it. Simply because it isn’t that much fun always running from everybody, and the stealth in this game isn’t that good to hide away. Since, when you are seen, you can’t hide until you are off the radar, and you find a good spot. And if you think, let’s fight the enemies then… Do think again. Since, when you get violent, people act like Zombie Pigman in Minecraft. They make other people around you hostile, and you quickly get piled up.

In those moments, it’s recommended you find a telephone booth to pop Arthur’s favorite strawberry Joy and try to go to an area where the folks people aren’t angry at you. Since, the Joy is a timed mechanic. At the upper left part of your screen, you see a sort of timer that indicates for how much longer you under the effects of Joy. When that meter runs out, you better find a source of Joy OR hide from the surrounding people, since not taking Joy is a crime. Oh, and don’t overdose on Joy either since that’s going to be a bad trip.

So, how does this game play like? Well, this game is more a sort of adventure game. You can pick up various items to either play this game more stealthy, or play like me and go all in and don’t care about what happens. The difficulty of this game highly depends on how good you understand the mechanics of this game. Do you understand the crafting system and where each item spawns or do you understand how to skill tree works and how to use your points to buy the best abilities…

Something that you will have to understand is how the compass at the middle of your screen works. It tells you a lot about your situation and nearby quests. You can even select which quest you are tracking, like in the Fallout games. I wish other games had that too, since in Prey for example… You have several tracks on the screen that all lead to your active quests. Sometimes markers even say: “multiple objectives”.

There are several other mechanics in this game like a hunger, thirst and sleep system. While those meters can deplete, they don’t affect the game too much, sadly. Most of the effects in the game you have from this system is that your stamina depletes a bit faster, and you have to attack more. It’s a shame, really, since it could be an amazing mechanic. It feels undercooked and it shows. The fact that finding food and drinks in the world isn’t easy, or beds for that matter.

So, when you lose all your health, you get set back at the latest checkpoint, and you can try again. Overall, the game is somewhat forgiving in my opinion. I have seen games that are more difficult. I personally felt I was able to breeze through the game somewhat and if I did die or hit a roadblock, just trying it again from another angle seemed to help. During my playthrough, I didn’t have a lot of weapons, so I had to improvise and running in the open fields with a quickly recharging stamina bar helped me quite a lot. Since, most enemies aren’t THAT fast.

Something this game does quite well in the UI. I find the UI spotless and to the point. You get a lot of information without it having too much information or getting confusing. Some things in the UI are a bit clunky, like how you can’t multicraft or discard multiple items at once when you are overburdened, but I got extremely quickly used to it.

While this game has some minor negatives, I find this game quite enjoyable to play. I really like solving the puzzle in taking just enjoy Joy and the right items to craft the right things, so I can survive another mission and encounter. Since, experiencing the humor and world building that this game provides is so fitting for the gameplay and so enjoyable.

To Joy or not to Joy

I could start and go nitpicking on how certain animations look a bit weird or how some bodies ragedoll extremely weird, but honestly, I think it doesn’t really matter because the art team of this game did an amazing job on this game. Not only does this game run smoothly on my 1050Ti, it also looks pretty good.

I really have to applaud the effort in the difference you can see if you are or aren’t under the influence of Joy. It looks very differently depending on if you take or don’t take any Joy. And it even looks different when you overdose or take drugs. Speaking of which, I really like the intrusive messages that discourage drug use in real life. It talks about how your combat abilities in the game are improved, but it has very negative and different effects in real life.

Apart from some very occasional nitpicks, visually this game looks great, and I’m sure it’s going to hold up for quite a while. The lush fields and the amazing cities with a lot of attention to detail are really commendable. No wonder that with so much visual stuff going on, that sometimes residents are sitting on the air in front of a bench. You can’t simply account for every edge case. If I can give one sort of nitpick in terms of the visuals, I think a bit more character models for the citizens would be great since once I tried to get the whole city to chase me and I did see a LOT of duplicates… I don’t mind duplicates, but if you have 10-ish of the same guy chasing you… ah well, it ruins the good character model just a bit.

On top of this great visual design, you have some amazing sound design. The sound effects in this game are great. They fit the art style and the atmosphere quite well, and it gave me the right information to assess the situation. And not only that, it helped to immerse me quite a lot into this game. The little sirens for example to let you know you are caught and people are looking for you are a great tool to know you have to escape and hide until the sirens stops.

If you have read my blog in the past, you know I find the music in a game quite important. And does this game deliver? Yes. Yes, it does. The soundtrack is quite pleasing and fits the atmosphere quite well. It wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to add the soundtrack to my playlists after I have played the game a bit more or if I have beaten it. Actually, I think I might just add it to my playlists after publishing this article.

All in all, this game highly surprised me when I saw the trailer, and I was afraid when I heard the news of the technical issues. But, then I gave this game a try and I have to say that I really like this game. It has its quirks that I had to get used to but it didn’t take long before I was running around with the fluent and responsive controls. I might have to learn the combat system a bit more, but I panic too easily in those sorts of situations and I tend to “mash the attack button and strafe” mostly. Whoops.

Do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys playing adventure games in the genre of Bioshock, Prey, Alice in Wonderland… but might want to have a bit less shooting action in the game. It’s a unique game that really deserves a chance. It won’t be a perfect, flawless experience, but it doesn’t matter. And no, I didn’t take a Joy to write this segment. I really do enJoy … sorry, lame pun. I really do enjoy playing this game and can’t wait to see how it continues. Together with Prey, this game is going to fill my summer quite nicely. A summer full of joy and amazing adventures, one in space but this one… it’s an adventure on earth were not following the norm is going to move you forward and it teaches some nice life lessons when you think about it in that way.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review: Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (GBC) ~ Speedrun Time!

InfernalMachineGBCWikipedia entry

Times can change quite a lot. Way back in 2014, I wrote an article about one of my most favorite childhood games ever made. Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You might think, why am I reviewing this again? Well, in today’s article I’m going to review the port to the Gameboy Color. I still remember getting my copy for one of my birthdays. Since I wasn’t allowed much time on the computer and I saw I was able to take the game on the go with me, the solution was easy. My godmother aunt bought the game for me and gave it to me when I was sleeping over at her place. A few days later, I want to my cousin who introduced me to this game and he got so jealous of my copy that he started to beg his mother for a copy as well. Amazing memories. Anyways, now that I’m also speedrunning the game (both this version and the PC version) and that I have fully finished this game, I think it would be a neat idea to review the GBC version of this game. Is it a good game or should we ignore it? Let’s talk about that while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: want to see runs of this game? 

So, what happened?

3If the developers of this game were able to cram the whole PC game into a Gameboy Color game, I would be amazed. But we all know how powerful the Gameboy Color was a playing a 3D game on that wasn’t fully realized yet. There are a few 3D titles on the Gameboy Color but not too many. So, some things had to give. But, how much had to go and did we still have a good game left? 

Let’s first talk about the extremely strange cuts into the story of this game. When you are used to playing the PC or N64 version of this game, the story in the Gameboy Color game is quite strange to say the least. There is so much less story in this game that if you would only play the Gameboy Color game, you might be unable to follow along.  

The best example is almost the whole ending cutscene after the first level is cut out of the game. You don’t get an explanation on why Sophia was looking for you and the whole setup of the story falls in like a cake you take too soon out of the oven. Yet, when you have played the PC/N64 version, you’ll recognize the story beats right away and know where in the story you are. 

So, since the gameboy wasn’t powerful enough, some sections and even entire levels have been cut. For example, there aren’t any final bosses in this version and Palawan Temple, Jeep Trek and King Sol’s Mines are missing in this version. Instead, we got a new level, the Russian Border. This level is a sort of extended version of the Tian Shan River opening section. 

The story in this game is a mess. I don’t really advise that you try to follow it if you haven’t played the PC/N64 version. It’s a shame since the story of the original versions is great. It really makes you feel that you are playing through an Indy movie. Fun fact, did you know that this game was first going to be about aliens before it got veto’ed because the script for the 4th movie was in development? That movie some Indy fans don’t talk about.

So, is this 2D or 3D?

indjgb004Even games with a messy story can be quite fun to play. So, is this game fun to play? Well, in my honest opinion, I’m having quite a lot of fun in playing this game, but this game has a lot of special quirks you need to get used to, to be able to enjoy this game to the fullest. The first one is that this game is sort of 2,5D game where you look at Indy from above. Thanks to the good use of shadows and different textures, you can be able to quickly see when you are approaching a cliff. 

While you can explore in this game, this game is somewhat linear. There aren’t a lot of moments where you need to backtrack. There is a certain order in which you have to play and beat the level but finding that out is half the fun. Now, as soon as you get a hang of the quirks of this game, it really opens up. Together with the extremely responsive controls, this game is challenge to play. 

So, when I started to speedrun this game, I hadn’t beaten the whole game yet. I had beaten the first 3 levels in my childhood, but the 4th level gave me a lot of trouble. When I actually started to run the levels I hadn’t played yet, I challenged myself and I tried to finish them without looking at the guide. To be honest, I was extremely surprised how the knowledge of the PC version helped me in certain sections and that this game also has unique sections and puzzles. 

Is the game difficult? Well, in a certain degree, yes it is. Healing items are more scarce in this game and there are no checkpoints in this game. When you die, you have to restart the level. A difference in terms of difficulty in this game is that poison can run out. Yes; it can run out. Oh, and med kits don’t heal poison. Only venom kits (green medkits) do. 

Surprisingly, the machine parts have the same use as in the PC/N64 version. The Azerim (flying) tool works a small bit differently but has the same concept behind it. So, knowledge of the PC/N64 version can be extremely helpful in this game to not get stuck. Since, like the original game, the GBC version doesn’t have a tutorial. It doesn’t help you in explaining the controls and the fact you can interact with certain things. A big piece of advice from me, if you are stuck, use the hand on anything strange. If a certain tile on the floor looks strange, use your hand on it. Since lifts aren’t always clear that they are lifts. 

So, the controls. Earlier I said they are extremely responsive. Now that I have quite some experience with them thanks to speed running this game, I have to say that they are precise but can feel a bit floaty. It’s something that has to click with you, or you will have some trouble with it. The D-pad is used to control Indy, the A button interacts with the selected item and B jumps. Start opens the inventory and Select cycles through your tools. 

For this review, I have played quite a lot on my Gameboy Advance as well and I have to say that I can’t decide if I like the fact that I run on an emulator since it gives me more screen space and I can connect my XBOX controller for finer control, or if I enjoy the charm of the game on a smaller screen with a bit more stiff controls. The difference in controls might have to do with the fact I’m running this game. 

Another big difference you might have noticed between the PC/N64 version and the GBC version from the inventory screen you can see a bit higher in this article is that you can only carry 5 of each healing item. You can’t carry more of them. You can purchase more of them with the treasures you find at the end of each level. But, here is something interesting. You can sell your healing items. For example, when you want more medkits, you can sell your green medkits. 

So, what is the gameplay here? This game is an adventure game where you have to platform your way to the end. All the while you have to solve puzzles, fight enemies and avoid traps. This adventure takes you through 15 levels that quite closely follow the structure of the N64/PC version. The red bar is your health and the blue bar is your stamina. 

To beat this game, you have to pull blocks, jump and swing over gaps and solve some puzzles. Most of the puzzles have to do with using the right item on the right location. Sadly enough, picking up and using items can be a bit pixel perfect which is annoying during runs. 

Sadly, you don’t have a map in this game for the larger levels. But, all in all, the levels won’t take you that long to beat. The longest level is Nub’s Tomb, which took me around 11 minutes in my speedrun. Now, certain levels can be beaten in under a minute if you know what you are doing. If you hold up while Indy is moving over a ladder, he can climb it… No matter how long his fall is going. And this game uses that mechanic in certain levels as well. 

All in all, the gameplay is quite addicitive. Especially if you enjoyed the original game. But, I can understand why people would get frustrated and lost in this game if they haven’t played the PC or N64 versions of this game.  

It’s fine

gfs_44058_2_11Now, visually this game looks fin in my opinion. There are better looking games on the Gameboy Color yet, I find the atmosphere the developers created with the visuals is quite nice to look at. But, it looks the best in the correct ratio. It doesn’t look bad in a bigger screensize, but you will have some blur here and there. 

Sadly enough, sometimes certain things like breakable walls or places where you can swing with your whip blend in a bit too much in the background. I’m certain that if when you play this game in a darker room or if you suffer from colorblindness that you’ll be unable to see them sometimes. Which is a shame. I wish they stood out a bit more since things like this give the neat visuals a bad name. 

As said earlier, there are a lot better looking games on the Gameboy Color but with the “weaker” visuals, they still pull off an amazing atmosphere. One of my favorite levels visually is Nub’s Tomb. It also has the worst puzzle in the game with the music puzzle. And let’s not forget the jump over the lake bit and if you miss one jump, you have to restart that whole section.

Are there glitches in this game? Well, not a lot. I found a few spots where the game gets confused so you are able to stand on places you aren’t supposed to stand and if you fall into the liquid in the Infernal Machine level and you are holding a direction button while facing a wall, you don’t die until you release the movement button. 

Now, going back to the visuals. There are also animations in this game. These animations are good. They really add to the game, all the while they don’t feel out of palace. They really blend into the created atmosphere really well. I always enjoyed seeing Indy swing over large pits and always hearing that amazing melody is just icing on the cake. But, let’s not mention how tricky it is to get in the right position to whip over a pit. 

Sadly, in terms of sound effects and music, this game lacks quite a lot. Apart from the main theme at the start and some short tunes, there isn’t a lot of music in this game. In the later parts of the game, there is a bit more music but it mostly aids in the puzzles or certain a bit more tension. I wish these moments were used a bit more. And there aren’t a lot of sound effects either. If I didn’t have to focus on my gameplay, I would play this game while listening to music. It’s a shame since when this game has music, it’s amazing chiptune goodness but it’s so sparingly implemented it’s annoying. Thankfully, the walking sound effects of Indy aren’t annoying. 

There are 15 levels in this game and when you play each level optimally, I think you can beat this game in 4 to 5 hours in your first run and without using a guide. Currently, I’m griding for a full run of this game and I estimate that it will take 2,5 hours if I don’t make too many mistakes. Granted, that’s when I skip all the treasures that are in most of the levels. Apart from, I think, 2 levels, there are 10 treasures hidden in each level. But, in this version of the game, they are a bit well less hidden compared to the PC/N64 version.

The final thing I want to talk about is the password system. As a speedrunner, I’m a bit on the edge on this mechanic. Before I started running this game, I hated this system. Why couldn’t I use the save system like in the Zelda games and other Gameboy Color games. But, now that I run this game, it’s quite helpful in training certain levels or trying to set a new level record. So, yeah. 

Anyways, I think it’s high time for a conclusion is it not? Let’s wrap up this article with a nice conclusion to summerize my thoughts.

Summary time

The good:

+ Enjoyable gameplay with exploration and nice puzzles.

+ Decent visuals (for the most part)

+ …

The bad:

-Butchered story.

-Too little in terms of music.

-Some sections are a bit too pixel perfect.

-Lack of tutorial.

Final thoughts:

Is this game worth your time? If you enjoy games like the old school Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, I would say yes. If you enjoy unique and special old mobile games, I would also recommend this game. But, know that this game is a niche game and it has it’s quirks.

Two things can happen. It can click like it did with me and then you have a nice experience all the while you see the flaws and issues that this game has. The other thing is you realize that this game isn’t your cup of tea and you don’t play it. 

I honestly think that it’s quite impressive how they were able to cram a somewhat solid version of the PC/N64 version into a small Gameboy Color cartridge. I mean, the rom file for this game is only 1MB! This whole game is 1MB and it can provide you with a decent Indy game..? Sign me up! 

Now, if you are on the fence about it, just give the first two levels a try. If you notice that it’s not your cup of tea, then skip this game. If you enjoyed playing the first two levels, I would highly recommend you continue to play this game. 

Granted, I think that the nostalgia for this game might have placed a lot of rose colored glasses on my eyes and I might see this game in a better light then it actually is but should that matter? I think this game is a nice gem in the Gameboy Color library and I would recommend it to people who enjoy adventure games. All the while, I would warn it’s an unique and special game with it’s own flaws but it’s still enjoyable. If only the story was a bit more intact… 

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 80/100

 

Review: Pokémon Pinball (Gameboy)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Game Boy Color (playable on DMG Game Boys, and Super Game Boy for Super NES)
Developers: HAL Laboratory & Jupiter
Publisher: Nintendo
Release dates: Japan – April 14th 1999, North America – 28th June 1999, PAL – Australia July 13th 1999 and Europe October 6th 2000

pp_box_art_hires

– US box art.

pp_japan_box_art

 Japanese box art –

 

 

 

 

A Pokémon pinball spin-off makes a lot of sense, not least because the Pokéball is round like a pinball. Let us look back at some of the unique features of the first Pokémon Pinball game.

pp_main_title

– Title screen.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pokémon you are catching are of course from the original Generation One game, Blue and Red (as they are known to Western audiences). The game has two separate tables, called Blue and Red, featuring the Pokémon from the relevant game. Unlike other Pokémon titles, you do not need to trade to unlock all 151 in the battery-backed Pokédex – but it is possible to trade high-scores via the Game Boy Color’s infrared port, as well as print out high scores if you attach a Game Boy Printer. There is a unique screen surround when playing on the Super Game Boy attachment for Super NES. Although the cartridge can be played on earlier DMG models of Game Boy, certain features are disabled (including the animated Pokémon in the Pokédex) and the graphics are of course textured monochrome rather than full color.

ppblue_supergameboy

– Super Game Boy surround with the Blue table.

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_DMG_capture – Playing the Red table on a DMG Game Boy.

 

 

 

 

 

The game was a joint development between HAL Laboratory and Jupiter, under license from Game Freak. HAL is of course known for their work on the Kirby games, with former employees and then President Satoru Iwata moving on to become Nintendo’s president. And in 2020 HAL moved part of its staff into Nintendo’s Tokyo Building, meaning it now shares offices with Pokémon creators Game Freak, 1Up Studios, and Nintendo EPD Tokyo. Jupiter is based in Kyoto, with a Tokyo sub-office. The company’s motto translates as “Let’s Play! Let’s Smile!” and it has a long history of releasing games for Nintendo’s handheld consoles – from Game Boy to Switch. Jupiter also worked on the -Game Boy Camera’s built-in software and created an unreleased Pokémon Picross game for Game Boy Color (which was uncovered in the recent large leak of Nintendo data, after only being known about through a few magazine articles of the time).

pp_us_cartridge

– The Pokémon Pinball cartridge with its distinctive shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first glance, the Game Boy Color cartridge for Pokémon Pinball is much larger than normal. At the top is the cover for a AAA battery. This powers the rumble motors inside the cartridge, much like the force feedback found in more recent controllers. This feature is disabled when playing on the Super Game Boy. The Japanese and American versions allow you to switch the Rumble, so it is either on or off. The European cart offers a choice of strengths – Off, Mild or Strong. It is one of a few unique Game Boy cartridge designs with extra hardware inside, alongside the likes of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, Wario Ware Twisted, and Yoshi’s Universal Gravitation.

 

ppblue_field_complete

– The complete Blue table.

The complete Red table – ppred_field_complete

How do you go about catching ‘em all in this pinball spin-off? There are common modes to both tables, so it is best to look at the first and then explain the differences. The player can enter Catch ‘Em Mode by flipping the Pokéball over the GET light two or three times. A different type of Pokémon will be available to catch if you light it three times. Then the mode is activated by hitting a particular target – Bellsprout on Red and Cloyster on Blue. A silhouette of a Pokémon will then appear at the bottom of the table and must be filled in by hitting the pop bumpers (at the top of the table – Voltorbs on the Red table and Shellders on Blue). This will fill in the silhouette and make the Pokémon itself appear in the middle, so it must be hit three times to light up the word CATCH! (This is shown as GET in the Japanese version). Each Pokémon caught is recorded in the Pokédex, and awards one of three Pokéballs needed to reach the Bonus Stage (lighting up in the middle of the table). If you encounter a Pokémon but do not capture it, its image appears as a shadow in the Pokédex until you capture it another time.

ppred_abra_reveal

– Abra is being revealed for capture.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_zubat_reveal2

– Zubat is almost revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_bellsprout_2hits

– Bellsprout has taken two hits.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_zubat_0hits

– Hit Zutbat three times with the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_abra_2hit

– One more hit to capture Abra.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have caught a Pokémon, the EVO light must be passed over three times to light it up and enter Evolution Mode by hitting the target (Ditto on Red and Slowpoke on Blue). The player uses the flipper buttons to choose between any Pokémon already captured that can evolve. Arrows will guide the player to where the necessary EX (Experience), Evolution Stone, or Link Cable are hidden on the field. The player must collect three of these items; hitting the wrong location will mean the player must send the ball around the outer “loop” of the table or wait 10 seconds for a fresh item to appear and the Pokémon to recover from “fainting”. Both Evolution Mode and Catch’ Em Mode are played against a time limit that gradually counts down. Get the three items in Evolution Mode before time runs out and a hole appears in the middle of the table; flipping the ball into it will secure the Evolution for the selected Pokémon and fill in its new Pokédex entry.

ppblue_choose_evo

– Here on the Blue table, choosing a Pokémon to Evolve.

 

 

 

 

ppblue_evo_ex_token

– An Experience Token to be hit.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_evo_1ex

– One EX token down, two to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Once the player has three Pokéball icons lit from captures, the Bonus Stage can be activated by hitting the open center hole. Red has Bonus Stages based on Diglett and Gengar, while Blue has Meowth and Seel. Completing both Bonus Stages on either table will then open the special Mewtwo Bonus Stage. Diglett requires the player to knock down all the Digletts and then hit Dugtrio at the top three times; the player only gets one ball on this stage. Gengar is played against a 1:30 minute time limit in the graveyard. Hitting Gastly ten times will launch Haunted; hitting Haunted ten times will see the player facing a huge Gengar, which must be hit five times to complete the stage. Meowth throws coins around, and the player must collect them with the ball; hitting more than one pile in a row increases the multiplier (the first coin is worth 1, the second is worth 2, and so on). Dropping (draining, in pinball parlance) the ball resets the multiplier and costs four coins. Against a one-minute time limit, the player must collect 20 coins to complete the stage. Seels swim around underwater, with their heads “popping up” every so often. Hit ahead with the Pokéball and a point/icon is earned, with the chance to earn multipliers as in Meowth’s stage. The player has 1:30 to collect 20 icons but can continue to earn points after they reach 20 until time runs out.

Mewtwo’s Bonus Stage is more challenging, as the Legendary Pokémon is surrounded by six moving black circles. Hitting a circle earns a million points and hitting Mewtwo himself earns 50,000,000. With just 2:00 to play, the player must accumulate 25 hits on Mewtwo to capture it. Fortunately, each hit also removes a black circle. A clever player can fail and replay Mewtwo’s bonus stage to earn huge scores.

To simulate a Trainer moving around the region, Map Move is used. The starting location is chosen at random from a shortlist, with different areas for each table. Each area also has its own types of Pokémon available. Red requires you to hit Diglett twice to enter Map Move, while Blue requires three hits on Poliwag or Psyduck. Once these triggers on the table are hit, the player has 30 seconds to hit key targets and make a Map Move. This means a player will play three locations from the “Area 1” list, two from the “Area 2” list, and then the sixth and final area visited will be Indigo Plateau on both tables. Mew can be encountered on Indigo Plateau, but its strength means it would take 1024 hits to capture – and so its entry is added to the Pokédex on finding it rather than capture.

ppblue_mapmove_mtmoon

– The trainer has arrived at Mt. Moon.

 

 

 

 

 

At the top of each table, above the bumpers, are three channels. Dropping the ball through a channel lights one, and the position of lit channels can be cycled with the flippers. Passing over a lit light will turn it off again. Note that on the Red table, hitting Staryu toggles whether the player can upgrade the ball using the channels. Once all three channels are lit the Pokéball upgrades, giving a higher score multiplier. The basic Pokéball becomes a Great Ball (x2 multiplier), then an Ultra Ball (x3), and finally a Master Ball (x5). Combined with the basic table multiplier this can rapidly increase your score. However, each ball only lasts a short while and will change back to the previous strength – and draining the ball off the bottom of the screen reverts to the standard Pokéball.

ppblue_masterball

– A Master Ball with its x5 bonus multiplier.

 

 

 

 

 

Also on each table are the CAVE lights (HOLE in Japan) that can be lit up by the ball passing over them. Once all four are lit, the Slots feature becomes active (but only if the player is not in another mode – i.e., Catch ‘Em, Evolution, or Map Move). The slot machine is started by putting the ball into the center hole. The reel spins to offer an upgrade, with the reel slowing down once the player presses A. Among the upgrades are Small and Big Scores, a Pokéball upgrade, or an increase in score multiplier. The ball Saver protects the player for either 30, 60, or 90 seconds (or until the ball is drained twice), while the Pika power-up can be handy. Normally a Pikachu will sit in one of the two drain channels at the bottom of the table and can be moved between them with the flippers. If his power meter is fully charged – by hitting the spinner on the outer loop, filling the thunder icon – then he will fire his Thunder Strike to act as a kickback, saving the ball from draining. If you get the Pika bonus you have two Pikachus, protecting on both sides and able to charge. The Slots can also award an extra Ball (life) or automatically start a mode – Catch ‘Em, Evolution, or Map Move.

ppred_slot

– The Slot is open.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_slot_smallbonus

– The Small Bonus awards a miserly few points.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pika_bonus

 – Gaining the Pika bonus

 

 

 

 

 

 

The player starts with three Pokéballs, but once all balls are lost it is Game Over. Helpfully the Ball Saver is activated for 30 seconds at the start of each life. There is a separate high score list for each table, and as mentioned you can transfer these scores to another Game Boy Color via infrared for your friend to beat. Stats are shown after each ball, awarding bonus points for the number of Pokémon caught or evolved with that ball (times the score multiplier in effect), as well extra for turning the spinner multiple times. As well as flipping the flippers, the player can tilt the table to shake a stuck ball loose – but it is not often needed.

ppred_ballsaved

– Ball Saved! Launch it again.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_slot_saved

– I was going for the Slot but missed the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

Positive reviews of Pokémon Pinball give it a GameRankings average of 81.73%. This included 32 out of a possible 40 from legendary Japanese magazine Famitsu. GameSpot’s 8.7 ratings praised the display and presentation but did feel the physics were poor – and the rumble was just a “nice novelty”. CNET was more positive, calling it one of the best pinball games for the Game Boy Color and “more than a shameless cash-in on the Pokémon phenomenon”.

Looking back, these reviews seem fair. The major problem with the game – as in several Game Boy pinball titles – is the way the viewpoint “flicks” between two halves of the table. Although other Game Boy Color pinball games managed to achieve scrolling tables, the 8-bit processor was slow for moving a large table around. The physics are mixed but for the most part, the ball moves realistically. The flippers take some getting used to as there are limited angles, so it is more about controlling the speed of the ball when you hit it to get the right target. And I found the fixed launch speed unusual; most pinball games simulate the spring-based “plunger” which gives the possibility of different launch speeds and skill shots. Graphics are pleasing with some cute, animated Pokémon – although they do not move around (except in the bonus rounds). It is of course the long-term challenge of catching ‘em all that will keep you playing. Personally, I prefer the Blue table, but both are great fun to play in short bursts.

ppred_hiscore

– Red table high scores, storing the top five scores.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_hiscore

– Blue table high scores, with the names of the companies involved.

 

 

 

 

There are some other interesting problems and changes between regions, beyond the obvious Language selection menu for Europe. Japanese and American versions allow the player to reconfigure all the controls, but European users are limited to a choice of three pre-set control schemes. The Pokédex entries are taken from Red and Blue with a full stop added at the end. But there are spelling mistakes and translation errors in there. The Japanese text in-game displays the Romanised Japanese names (Poppo for Pidgey, Pawou for Seel) but the Pokédex itself shows the names in kanji. The Cutting Room Floor website (https://tcrf.net/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pinball) reveals unused graphics that could have been a third table or layout, as well as an unused Japanese font. Entering the Game Genie code 000-21D-E6E unlocks a hidden Debug menu that allows you to switch between Game Boy Color and DMG mode for earlier Game Boys.

ppblue_keyconfig

– The Key Config screen from the US game.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pokedex_geodude_anima

 

– Geodude animating in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pokedex_shadow_meowth

 – I encountered a Meowth but failed to capture it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_abra_text2

 – The second page of text for Abra in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

 

 

The music by Go Ichinose is particularly good for the hardware, reusing familiar themes from the games and the anime. Interestingly the Blue Table’s background theme has a melody that appeared in Pokémon Gold and Silver when visiting Ecruteak City and Cianwood City – games that were released seven months after Pokémon Pinball. Red’s background melody meanwhile is from the Generation II games, when visiting Kanto province. Catch ‘Em Mode on the Blue table uses an instrumental version of “Aim To Be A Pokémon Master” – the original opening theme of the anime.

If you have never played Pokémon Pinball, I can recommend it. For pinball fans, there are some quirks to be endured, but Pokémon fans will get a real kick out of it.

OVERALL: 8/10

ppblue_gameover

 – Game Over!

Curious for more? Well, this article is part of a collaboration between various content creators where we took a look back together on the Pokémon franchise. Feel free to read all the other articles by following the links you can find in the hub article.

 

Review: Pokémon Pinball Ruby and Sapphire (Gameboy Advance)

By Merman (@merman1974)

pprs_logo

Console: Game Boy Advance (also playable on GameCube’s Game Boy Player, Wii U Virtual Console)

Developer: Jupiter

Publisher: Nintendo

Release dates:

Game Boy Advance in Japan – 1st August 2003, North America – 25th August 2003, PAL – Australia 26th September 2003 and Europe 14th November 2003

Wii U Virtual Console in Japan – 10th December 2014, North America – 1st January 2015, PAL – Australia 12th December 2014 and Europe 11th December 2014

pprs_intro – Part of the colourful intro animation.

 

 

 

pprs_us_boxart – US box art.

 

 

 

 

pprs_japan_boxart – Japanese box art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game Boy Advance hardware gave it more power, equivalent to the Super NES in a handheld console. It also gave Game Freak the chance to revisit its earlier generation of Pokémon games as well as the new Ruby and Sapphire games for Generation III – featuring the Hoenn region Pokédex. This would be echoed by this follow-up to Pokémon Pinball developed by Jupiter featuring the Johto and Hoenn region creatures. Its later Wii U Virtual Console release would make it the first Pokémon game released on that format. The Game Boy Player’s Rumble feature (through the GameCube controller) was supported by the Game Boy Advance Cartridge. Five special eReader cards were made available in Japan, allowing players to scan the card and trigger tricky in-game events; players had to attend the official Pokémon Centers or live Pokémon events to obtain these special cards.

pprs_title – The title screen.

 

 

 

pprs_config – Configuring the controls.

 

 

 

pprs_field_select – Choosing the Ruby or Sapphire tables before starting play.

 

 

 

The major change from the original is the smoothly scrolling table. Where the original flicked between two halves, the new game had a much bigger vertical playfield. There was a choice of two tables, one for Ruby and one for Sapphire with each having unique features. The modes of play carried over from the original – Catch ‘Em, Evo Mode and Map Move. The Bonus sections were an even bigger part of the new Pinball title too.

pprs_ruby_field – The full Ruby field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– The complete Sapphire table. pprs_sapphire_field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the Hoenn Pokédex is featured in this game, there are only actually 205 of the 210 available. Deoxys cannot be found and captured at all, while Chikorita, Cyndaquil, Totodile, and Aerodactyl are unable to be evolved. If you encounter a Pokémon but fail to capture it, its entry in the Pokédex will appear as a shadow. The battery backup remembers which Pokémon you have caught. From the Pokédex you can transfer a captured Pokémon to another player’s console and their copy of the game via the Link Cable. You can also transfer the high scores you have achieved, with a separate list for each of the tables.

pprs_pokedex_mightyena– Mightyena in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

pprs_pokedex_transfer – Ready to transfer a Pokémon via the link cable.

 

 

 

The player launches the Pokéball from the plunger (the spring-like Spoink) by holding a button to set the power, and then uses two buttons for the flippers. This time it is possible to tilt and nudge the table left, right, and up – helpful to guide the ball into a target or knock it loose from an awkward point. On both tables there are sets of ramps to send the ball around a Pokémon Mart to purchase extras with Coins earned from the table. (Plusle and Minun create an electrical barrier protecting the Sapphire table’s Mart – both must be hit with the ball to make the barrier drop). Pikachu returns in the drain channel, moving left and right with the flipper. Hitting the spinner charges up his Thunder Strike, acting as a kickback to keep the ball in play – but it must then be recharged. The Ball Saver physically picks up the ball and flies it back to the Spoink plunger to launch again; on the Ruby table, it is the Legendary Pokémon Latios, while the Sapphire table’s Saver is Latias.

pprs_ruby_spoink – The Pokéball sits on Spoink, ready to launch.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_ballsave – Latios swoops down to save the ball on the Ruby table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_launched – The ball has launched on the right-hand side of the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_saved – Latias zooms in to save a ball on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

New to this game is Egg Mode. On the Ruby Field the player must knock Cyndaquil backward into its cave a few times to hatch the egg. On the Sapphire Field, the ball must travel up the right-hand ramp to light the lights surrounding the egg. The next time that ramp is successfully climbed, the egg is hatched. Once hatched, the Pokémon inside will descend to the lower half of the table and can be captured by hitting it twice with the ball. This counts towards the capture limit for opening the Bonus Rounds.

pprs_ruby_hatching – The Egg hatches to reveal Trapinch…

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_trapinch – …and Trapinch is caught.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_egg – Light the four clamps to hatch the egg on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_hatching– Ralts is hatching from the egg (Sapphire table).

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_ralts_capture – Ralts being caught by the Pokéball.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_ralts_caught – Ralts has been caught.

 

 

 

Catch ‘Em Mode works in a similar way to the original Pokémon Pinball. The player must first light two or three GET lights on the right outer loop. Then on the Ruby table the ball must be hit into Sharpedo’s mouth while the whale-like Whailmer activates the mode on the Sapphire table. Once started, the player must hit the pop bumpers (Chinchou or Lotad on Ruby, Shroomish on Sapphire) at least three times to fill in the silhouette. Once the Pokémon has been fully revealed, it can be captured by hitting it three times with the Pokéball. Lighting up three Pokéballs in the center of the screen opens the Bonus Round (see below). Catching 15 Pokémon earns an extra ball.

pprs_ruby_catchem – Catch ‘Em Mode is activated on the Ruby table.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_shadow – The Pokémon appears as a shadow until you hit the bumpers.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_poochyena_2hits – I have one more hit to catch Poochyena.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_poochyena_caught – Poochyena has been caught.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_catchem – Catch ‘Em Mode on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_shroomish_multihit – Achieving multiple hits on the Shroomish bumpers rapidly reveals the Pokémon in Capture Mode.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_taillow_appears – Taillow has been revealed.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_tailow_capture – The Pokéball captures Taillow.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_taillow_caught – Taillow has been caught, ready to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_reveal – A chance to capture Voltorb.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_voltorb_2hits – I have two hits on Voltorb.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_voltorb_caught – Voltorb has been caught.

 

 

 

Evo Mode allows you to evolve a previously captured Pokémon. On both tables, the entrance to the Pokémon Mart gains the lit Evo arrow once you have completed three trips around the outer left loop. Starting Evo Mode gives a choice of Pokémon to evolve. The player must then collect three items – including EX (Experience) and Evolution Stones – and sink the ball in the central hole to evolve the chosen Pokémon.

pprs_ruby_evomode – Entering Evo Mode on the Ruby table.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evo_select – Selecting which Pokémon to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evo_complete – Enter the Slot to complete the Evolution.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evolution – The Pokémon is evolving!

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evomode – Time to evolve a Pokémon on Sapphire.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evo_taillow – Choosing Taillow to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evo_ex – The EX token is sitting near Wailmer.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evolution – The Evolution is complete!

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_swellow – Taillow has evolved into Swellow and is added to the Pokédex.

 

 

 

Travel Mode – the renamed Map Move – acts in a similar way to the original Pokémon Pinball. The starting area is chosen at random when the player launches the ball.  Collecting three Gulpins on the Ruby table starts Travel Mode, while collecting three Seedots is necessary on the Sapphire table. Once activated, the player must send the ball round an outer loop and into the central hole within one minute. The next area chosen is selected depending on whether the loop hit goes left or right. The player can decline to change area if they wish to stay and catch more creatures. Each area has a particular set of Pokémon based on their type. The player will ultimately travel through seven of the nine areas available, with the Ruins only available on both tables after the sixth journey. A neat touch is that Volbeat (Ruby) or Illumise (Sapphire) will fly in to “paint” and reveal the new area reached.

pprs_sapphire_travel – Entering Travel Mode on Sapphire.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_paint_travel – Illimuse painting the new location.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_travel_painted – Volbeat has filled in the new area on Ruby.

 

 

 

There are five Bonus Rounds, with Kecleon and Groudon on the Ruby table and Dusclops and Kyogre appearing on Sapphire. Completing Groudon or Kyogre rounds will then give access to the Rayquaza Bonus Round on both. Kecleon will turn invisible and must be knocked over to register a hit; fortunately, the tree contains a Devon Scope that can be shaken loose and collected to “see” the invisible creature. Once knocked over Kecleon must take ten hits inside two minutes to capture him. Groudon shakes down rocks, creates pillars of fire, and throws fireballs at the Pokéball. Rocks take three hits to break and the pillars take four, trying to stop you from hitting Groudon itself 30 times inside 3 minutes. Sapphire’s Dusclops round starts in the graveyard, where you must knock down 20 Duskulls. Then Dusclops itself will appear, and it must be hit in the back or while moving five times to conquer it; mistime a hit and it will swallow the ball and throw it back at the flippers. Kyogre uses Sheer Cold to freeze the ball and creates whirlpools to stop the ball from moving. Its final move is to dive under the water, with bubbles giving a clue to where it will rise again. Hit it 15 times in three minutes to win.

pprs_sapphire_bonus_open – The Bonus Round is open on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_bonus_duclops – Tackling Dusclops in the Bonus Round.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_enter_bonus– You can choose not to enter the Bonus Round – but miss out on big points.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_kecleon_spotted– Kecleon is briefly visible thanks to the Devon Scope.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_kecleon_surrender – Ten hits later and Kecleon surrenders.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_kecleon_bonus – Big bonus points for beating the Kecleon Bonus Round.

 

 

 

Rayquaza must be beaten twice to capture it, meaning the player must play through and complete the first two bonus rounds a second time to get back to it. When it bounces left and right, the ball will pass under it. It will pause to cast Thunder at a slow-moving ball and paralyze it, while the ExtremeSpeed move causes two tornadoes to appear – these will send the ball flying helplessly into the air for a few seconds. Fifteen hits on Rayquaza are needed inside three minutes, but it does award a juicy 99,999,999 points for winning.

Lighting up the HOLE lights at the bottom of the table activates the slot machine, entered by putting the ball into the center hole. This can be stopped by pressing the A button – or grabbed by Zigzagoon on the Sapphire table to award the current prize. Small and Big points bonuses and Coins can be awarded, Get starts Catch ‘Em Mode and Evo starts Evo Mode automatically. Ball Saver starts saving the ball for 30, 60 or 90 seconds depending on the value and the player can also be advanced automatically to the next Bonus Round.  Extra gives an extra ball while Max upgrades the current ball to a Master Ball (see below). The Pika bonus in this game sees Pichu joining Pikachu in the drain channels, charged in the same way to act as a kickback.

pprs_ruby_slot_hole – The Slot is open, ready to offer you a bonus.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_slot_reels – The Slot reels are spinning.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_slot_zigzagoon – Zigzagoon is jumping to stop the reels – on the Small Bonus, unfortunately.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_pikachu_charged – Hitting the Spinner charges Pikachu’s energy levels.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_pikachu_thunderstrike – Pikachu stops the ball from draining with his Thunderstrike.

 

 

 

On both tables there are the three upgrade channels that can be lit, but as in the first game running over a light already lit turns it off again. The flippers rotate the upgrade lights and the HOLE lights too. The upgraded ball offers a larger bonus multiplier for a short time – x2 for the Great Ball, x3 for the Ultra Ball and x4 for the Master Ball – but the ball will drop back down a level after a while and revert to the basic Pokéball if the player drains it. There is a separate table multiplier that can be increased through the slot machine. Once the ball has drained (dropped off the bottom of the table) then stats for that ball are shown, including the number of Pokémon caught and evolved and the number of spinner turns. These subtotals are multiplied by the bonus multiplier in play at the time. Starting with three balls, when the player runs out it is Game Over – and if they have earned enough points, they can enter up to four initials in the high score list for that table.

pprs_sapphire_upgrade – Upgrading the Pokéball gives higher bonus multipliers.

 

 

 

The game was first revealed at the E3 Expo in 2003, with GameSpy describing it as “much more than a pinball game”. When the reviews arrived, they were as positive as those for the original Pokémon Pinball – currently giving it a Metacritic rating of 82/100. Martin Taylor of Eurogamer surmised that “only the most demanding of pinball wizards would be right to turn their nose up at Pokémon Pinball [Ruby & Sapphire]’s a charming slant on the genre.” It earned an IGN Editor’s Choice award with an 8.8 score, Craig Harris calling it “the greatest pinball game for the Game Boy Advance.” Famitsu in Japan scored it an impressive 34 out of 40.

pprs_sapphire_hiscore – Entering a name on the Sapphire high score table.

 

 

 

In an interesting bit of trivia, the American company Personal Pinball Inc. created a one-of-a-kind real-life pinball table based on the game. It was made for Pokémon USA and was housed in the New York Pokémon Center. Selling more than a million copies on the cartridge, the game would have a second life on Wii U’s Virtual Console. The Cutting Room Floor website (https://tcrf.net/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pinball:_Ruby_%26_Sapphire) has some interesting finds. There is a GameShark code to activate Debug Mode (allowing you to press L to freeze and then move the ball around, with R resuming play) and an unused Bonus Round Select screen. The eReader screen found in the Japanese version is still present (and its text translated) in other regions, but it was disabled for the later Virtual Console release.

pprs_language – European Game Boy Advance titles usually offered in up to five languages, with a selection screen.

 

 

 

This is still a game I pick up and play, as both a pinball and Pokémon fan. The improved physics and scrolling table make it better than the original. There are more motion and animation than the original, with the hatching Pokémon from Egg Mode being particularly adorable. Control feels smoother and it is much easier to achieve the loop shots. I can certainly concur that it is one of the best pinball games on Game Boy Advance and should definitely be in your collection.

OVERALL: 9/10

pprs_ruby_game_over – Thanks for reading! Want to continue your retrospective look at the Pokémon franchise? Well, take a look at the hub article where I and several other content creators made more retrospective content about the Pokémon franchise.

 

A Pokémon Retrospective – Creator’s Catch Hub

Pokemon_Creators_Catch_Logo

It has been 25 years since the Pokémon series started its life on the Gameboy in Japan. When the series came to the west together with an anime, a huge phenomenon happened. The west got hooked to Pokémon so hard that it even got a name. Pokémania, which even got a French Wikipedia page about it. So, if you have read my blog in the past you might have seen that I sometimes do a huge collaboration with various other content creators and/or fans of the series to look to the history of the series together. Today, I want to present to you a group of people who looked back with me to various Pokémon games, and this time, we also looked at some of the spin-off games. Just like the Zelda and Tomb Raider collab I did, this collaboration will take you through various other websites with amazing articles by amazing writers. So, pack your bag and grab your Pokéballs and go on a journey with me through the various Pokémon regions and let’s take a look back together at the Pokémon series, and let’s celebrate the 25th anniversary together.

How does this collaboration work? Well, this is the hub article that leads you to all the games we have covered in this collaboration project. If you click on the name, you will find a page on Bulbapedia with information on the game. If you click on the underlined text, you will be taken to an article written by somebody who was a part of this collaboration. All of these articles will link back to this hub article where you can go to other games as well.

1996 – Pokémon Green/RedPokémon Red/Blue & Yellow (Gameboy) + 2004 – Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen (Gameboy Advance) + 2018 – Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee (Nintendo Switch)

474px-Pokémon_Red_and_Blue_cover_art.webp

The Gaming Omnivore takes us on a journey where it all began.

Like I told you in the introduction, 25 years ago we were able to set foot into the Kanto region for the first time. For many people, this game was their first introduction to the series, and what an introduction it was. A lot of those people have very strong nostalgic feelings about the first generation that there is even a name for it. It’s all “Gen One’s”.

But does the first generation still hold up today or should it be left as a relic of the past? This game is the most remade game in the Pokémon series with two remakes under its belt. Is that justified or should Nintendo focus on other games in the series to remake? Let’s take a look at the memories that our friend the Gaming Omnivore shares with us on his blog.

1999 – Pokémon Gold / Silver / Crystal (Gameboy Color) + 2009 – Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver (Nintendo DS)

gold-silver-169-en

Krista takes us on a double journey. Literally, through two games and two regions.

What a surprise it was when the second generation came out. Let’s just say that the number of improvements that the second generation brings blew a lot of minds.

To name just a few: genders, berries, day and night cycle, rematching trainers, events on certain days… And let’s not forget to mention the fact that we got another journey through Kanto in these games.

Before I hand it over to Krista to talk about her memories with the 2nd generation of Pokémon, I want to talk about a personal story. I remember one time I was on holidays in France where somebody shows me how that the cloning glitch worked. How I was able to clone Pokémon and items. Sadly enough, that glitch did a number on my save battery and my save file. It corrupted on the way home. Thankfully, I got the saved battery replaced and all is fine now. Apart from the battery running dry recently when I was playing through my Gameboy Color collection. Oh well, the memories are huge for this generation and I’m curious what other people are going to share about this generation.

2002 – Pokémon Ruby / Sapphire & Emerald (Gameboy Advance) + 2014 – Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire (Nintendo 3DS)

images

L-One-X takes us on a journey of secret bases, oceans, and volcanic lands.

The 3rd generation of the Pokémon series was something special. It was one of the biggest visual upgrades we have ever seen so far. The biggest difference between the first and second generation was mostly color in terms of the visuals.

The third generation also got a more involved story and if you research the message and the inspiration of the story, you will be quite surprised at the message of this game. I learned about it from Tama Hero.

This generation is one of my personal favorite generations. I still remember how people were drawing maps and sharing them during recess since bringing your own Gameboy to school wasn’t allowed. Man, those were the days. Just talking about Pokémon with kids you barely knew. But hey, those are just a few of my personal memories with the 3rd generation. Shall we take a look at what our friend L-One-X remembers?

2006 – Pokémon Diamond, Pearl & Platinum (Nintendo DS)

dppt-soundtrack

McKenna takes us on a journey through Sinnoh. Where there are places where space and time can get wrapped.

Man, I still remember how I got introduced to the Nintendo DS and the 4th generation. I heard about the Nintendo DS through the Legend of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass but through “The Gameboy Club”, I was able to play on a friend’s DS and I learned about how good the game was.

A unique mechanic of the 3rd generation was returning in this game in a more evolved form. We got secret underground bases that allowed a sort of multiplayer capture the flag mode.

In any case, shall we take a look at what McKenna is going to share with us? Let’s dive right into the interesting story that McKenna has written about the 4th generation. The first generation that brought online functionality to the series.

2010 – Pokémon Black & White + 2012 – Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 (Nintendo DS)

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Khinjarsi takes us through the lands of Unova.

It’s a shame to admit, but I skipped the 5th generation at first. I can’t really say why exactly I skipped this generation at first.

Now, I did play the games a few years ago when Pokémon Sun & Moon was in development. And I’m so glad I did. This generation brought so many enjoyable moments, I can totally understand why this game was quite well received.

Now, at this moment in time, this is the only main series Pokémon game that got a direct sequel that expanded on the story of the original game so much. Now, was this sequel well deserved or should Nintendo just made Pokémon Gray or something and called it a day?

Well, that’s an interesting question to ponder upon while we take a look at the article that Khinjarsi shares with us.

2013 – Pokémon X and Y (Nintendo 3DS)

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TriformTrinity takes us on a journey through the first “3D”-region.

The first game on the Nintendo 3DS and the shortest names in the series. Pokémon X and Y.

I was so surprised to see that this game took heavy inspiration from the French region. That region hits quite close to home since I live in one of the neighboring countries Belgium.

When I was looking for writers for this collaboration, TriformTrinity picked up this game. He has never played these games and wants to share his opinions on these games without having nostalgic feelings towards the games. So, let’s find out what his opinions are, shall we?

2016 – Pokémon Sun & Moon + 2017 – Pokémon UltraSun and UltraMoon (Nintendo 3DS)

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DanamesX takes us on the bittersweet final journey on the Gameboy / DS line of systems.

I still remember the bittersweet feeling when it was announced that this game would be the “final” main series Pokémon game on the GameBoy and (3)DS line. After these games, Nintendo would move on to console Pokémon. So it’s the final portable game.

Well sort of, kind of. Granted, the Nintendo Switch is portable so technically it wasn’t the final portable Pokémon game but on the other hand, I felt that it was the end of an era. But it was the end of an era in more ways than one. Since this game also flipped the who Pokémon formula up its head.

In this game, we took a “vacation” to a new region with a new adventure that takes us to several islands and gives us several challenges. It also did something quite unique with the day and night system. If you bought Pokémon Moon, the whole day and night cycle was flipped from your real-life location.

Now, I think it’s high time to take a look at the article that DanamesX wrote about the 7th generation. Shall we join in on exploring this holiday? I have already packed my bags and I’m ready to go and just waiting on you to click that link above to read the article.

2019 – Pokémon Sword and Shield (Nintendo Switch)

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NekoJonez takes you on a tour of the country, old chap.

Oh, is it my time to shine? So, just like with the Tomb Raider collaboration, I took the final main series game.

When this game released, I tried several times to write an article about this game but I never wrote something I felt that would tell my opinion on this game.

Now, I challenged myself to write a nice article for this collaboration and I’m quite curious what you are going to think about it while I am a bit bummed out that two of the neighboring countries of my home country got Pokémon regions based, France and England, upon them now while Belgium is sitting in the middle forgotten. Oh well, maybe one day. (In before our German neighbors get the 9th generation.)

It’s spin-offs time

Sadly enough, we didn’t find enough writers and enough time to take a look at all the spin-offs. So, I’m very sorry if the spin-off you wanted to read about isn’t in this collaboration. We mainly focused on the main-series games and we wanted to give these spin-off games an article to give a nice bonus to this collaboration.

1999 – Pokémon Stadium (Nintendo 64) + 2001 – Pokémon Stadium 2 (Nintendo 64)

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The Gaming Omnivore welcomes us in the stadium to watch the Pokémon battle.

It’s not a secret that when the first Pokémon games got released, we all wanted a 3D version of the Pokémon games. And in 1999, we got exactly what we wished for.

A 3D-battle simulation of the Pokémon games. Not every Pokémon was included but hey, just seeing these Pokémon in 3D was enough to blow our minds. So, shall we let our friend the Gaming Omnivore talk about this experience? I’m ready to cheer him on from the sidelines of the stadium.

2004 – Pokémon Colosseum (Nintendo GameCube) + 2005 – Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness (Nintendo GameCube)

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DanamesX takes us on a very special journey that spans two Pokémon games on the Nintendo GameCube.

While I love playing the Pokémon games, I have to admit that Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon Gale of Darkness XD flew under my radar.

Sadly enough, they currently cost an arm and a leg on eBay to buy and play for me so, I’m waiting to pick them up for a more reasonable price. But, I’m quite curious to see what people think about this game. Should I still try to hunt these games down or should I let it slide? I think that the article of DanamesX will help me greatly in deciding that.

2016 – Pokémon Go (Mobile devices)

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Eric Fellner takes us on a walk through our neighborhoods.

To say that Pokémon GO was a hit is an understatement. Pokémon GO still is quite popular, I see various people on the train and students at the school I work for play Pokémon GO.

It wouldn’t surprise me that this game is less popular now than before but it hasn’t died just yet. Now, when Eric Fellner contacted me to talk about this game and told me his personal story about the game, I was hooked. So, without spoiling anything, I think it’s time to give the spotlight to Eric so he can talk about his story with this game.

1999 – Pokémon Pinball (Gameboy Color) + 2003 – Pokémon Pinball Ruby & Sapphire (Gameboy Advance)

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Andrew Fisher plays the first pinball game.

Andrew Fisher also goes to the Hoenn region for the second pinball game.

So, Pokémon Pinball. I still remember getting the big box for Christmas and being surprised that the games now needed batteries to function.

Little did I know that battery was meant for the rumble feature inside the cartridge and not a replacement for the save battery.

Now, this battery didn’t take away the number of hours I spent playing pinball in this game. As a kid, I wasn’t able to get quite far but I kept on trying and trying.

And years later, I learned that this game got a sequel about the Hoenn region. I was only able to add that game quite recently to my collection so, I haven’t played it too much. Thankfully, Andrew Fisher is here to talk quite in-depth about the two Pinball games. Let’s see what he has to say about the games!

2001 – Pokémon Pinball Mini (Pokémon Mini)

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Andrew Fisher takes us on a journey to the Pokémon Mini and playing Pinball on that.

So, in 2001, Nintendo released the Pokémon Mini. An extremely small handheld with cartridges where you could play various Pokémon mini-games on.

Surprisingly, this handheld also got a pinball game on it. So, should Andrew Fisher took a look at this pinball title and let’s see if it’s worthy to add to your collection or should you ignore it? Well, you will be able to find out thanks to Andrew’s amazing article.

2006 – 2020 The Mystery Dungeon series (Gameboy Advance, Nintendo (3)DS and Switch)

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NekoJonez takes a look back at the Mystery Dungeon series.

So, one of the biggest spin-off series is Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. In 2006, we got Red & Blue Rescue Team which got remade in 2020 for the Nintendo Switch under the name of Rescue Team DX. In 2007, we got the Explorer of Time, Darkness, and Sky Mystery Dungeon games. 5 years later, we got our first 3DS game called Gates to Infinity in 2012.

In 2015, we got what we thought was the final game in the series Super Mystery Dungeon on the 3DS. But yeah, a remake on the Switch happened in the first game. But why are these games so popular to get so many sequels? Well, I’m going to tell you in a nostalgic look back on the Mystery Dungeon series.

2006 – Pokémon Ranger + 2008 – Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia + 2010 – Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs (Nintendo DS)

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WCRobinson is taking us on a journey through the land of the friendship circles.

I never imagined that drawing circles around Pokémon could be so much fun that Nintendo was able to make a trilogy of games about it.

I have to admit, that I got cramp in my hands and almost destroyed a touch screen while playing these games. I got into this game way more than I expected. If there was one series I wanted to have covered in this collaboration, it was the Pokémon Ranger series. Now, I was already taking the Mystery Dungeon series and the Sword and Shield games to cover so the Ranger games would be a bit too much. Thankfully, WCRobinson picked up these games and wanted to write a piece about them.

So, thank you WCRobinson for covering these games. Now, I’m curious to see if those loops of friendship influenced you in your opinion on the games or not. Let’s find out together and join WCRobinson on his journey as a Pokémon Ranger.

1998 – Pokémon Trading Card Game (Gameboy Color)

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Solarayo takes a look at the card game… on Gameboy.

One of the biggest pieces of merchandise that this series gave us is the Pokémon Trading Card game. It’s still quite popular on YouTube and worldwide.

Now, it does surprise me that Nintendo and Game Freak only made two games about them. And on top of that, the sequel to this game was only released in Japan.

In any case, I think it’s high time to let Solarayo talk about the game and if you should just stick with the physical game or if you should consider playing the Gameboy Color game as well. Maybe I should pick it up for training since I barely know anything about the card game… Hrm, there is thought while I start reading her article.

1999 – Pokémon Snap (Nintendo 64)

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Solarayo takes pictures of Pokémon and gets judged by Professor Oak.

So, while we were preparing for this collaboration we had no clue that a new Pokémon Snap game was going to come out in 2021.

It’s a nice surprise to see a spin-off getting a sequel on modern hardware. But, how is the original? Is it any fun or should we skip taking pictures of Pokémon in the Nintendo 64 game? Well, Solarayo is going to tell us all about it in her article on this game.

2015 – Pokémon Shuffle (Nintendo 3DS / Mobile devices)

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TriformTrinity swipes the Pokémon away.

There was this one game called Pokémon Trozei on the Nintendo DS that is a sort of Bejeweled clone with Pokémon.

In 2015, Nintendo released a free-to-play version and not only released it on the 3DS but also on mobile platforms.

So, let’s swipe Pokémon to safety together with TriformTrinity while he tells us all about the game.

2015 – Pokémon Picross (Nintendo 3DS)

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Khinjarsi puzzles away with the Picross game on 3DS.

Man, do I love solving Picross puzzles. They are so much fun to solve. I don’t have any drawing skills but seeing a drawing come together from just solving a puzzle is such a rewarding feeling!

So, I’m curious to see if Khinjarsi also feels rewarded by solving these puzzles, or was there something wrong with this game? Or did I just make up the last question to create some tension to try to get you to click the link to read the article? Who knows? Well, you would know if you read the article!

2000 – Pokémon Puzzle League (Nintendo 64)

And on the day of this collab releasing, the Gaming Omnivore streamed this competition.

Long-time readers of my blog know that I’m a game collector. One day, I was walking around on a garage sale and found a ton of amazing games.

When I was almost out of the budget I had set aside for that garage sale, I went to eat a burger with my mom who walked with me in that garage and yard sale.

Then, I suddenly saw in the corner of my eye a boxed and complete copy of Pokémon Puzzle Challenge for the Gameboy Color. The guy who was running the stand didn’t know the value of that game I was able to pick it up for 2€. I was so happy to add that game to my collection.

Now, why am I telling you this? Because I didn’t have a Nintendo 64 and I always wanted to try and play the Pokémon Puzzle games. And when I saw it for the Gameboy Color, I was so happy that I was able to grab a copy of it in that yardsale.

So, when preparing this collaboration, the Gaming Omnivore said in one of his streams that he wanted to stream the N64 version of the game on Pokémon day. So, let’s take a look at how this game plays? I loved watching the stream while I was counting down for this collab to release.

Closing words

This collaboration was a lot of fun to put together and do. I met so many wonderful writers through this collaboration and I’m so happy to be able to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon with such an amazing group of writers. I want to thank everybody who helped in this collaboration and make it turn out amazingly.

I want to thank: Gaming Omnivore, Krista, L-One-X, McKenna, Khinjarsi, TriformTrinity, DanamesX, Eric Fellner, Solarayo, Andrew Fisher, and WCRobinson.

The impact that the Pokémon series has on today’s gaming culture and climate can’t be understated. This collaboration showed me that I’m not the only one who has so many amazing memories with the Pokémon series.

So, I’m quite curious to see what is going to be next for the franchise. Will we finally see Pokémon 2? Sorry, I just wanted to make that silly joke somewhere in this article. But for real, what will we see after New Pokémon Snap releases in late April? Will we see a special celebration game for this big anniversary? Sadly enough, we can’t be sure with the current pandemic throwing a lot of schedules in disarray.

Now, I might go and repeat myself here but the amount of memories this series created with the main series games and the spin-offs is something that can’t be understated. This series is one of the biggest series that my generation grew up on. And since the 25th birthday was coming up, I wanted to gather other Pokémon fans to do something special together.

Did you enjoy this collaboration? What did you think of it? Did you find new bloggers and writers to keep an eye upon? Currently, I want to say in name of the whole group who worked together to create this collaboration: “THANK YOU SO MUCH! Thank you for reading and enjoying our content. We hope you enjoyed reading this and feel free to leave a comment on our articles so we can talk together and reminisce together about our memories on the Pokémon franchise.”

And with that said, I want to thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading this hub article and I hope to see you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care! And happy 25th birthday Pokémon! Thank you for all of the amazing memories and here are for all the memories to come!

Review: Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch) ~ Want Some Tea And Battling Biscuits?

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Official websiteWikipedia entry

Before I introduce the game, I want to mention that this article is a part of a collaboration with other content creators for the celebration of the Pokémon series, Creator’s Catch. If you want to read more Pokémon content on this 25th anniversary of the original Pokémon games in Japan, there a hub article with more information. In any case, one of my pieces for this collaboration is a review on the latest main series Pokémon games called Pokémon Sword and Shield which released in late 2019 and got two expansion packs in 2020. Now, should you play this game or leave this game at the wayside? Was the “Dexit” controversy right, when not all the Pokémon were going to be included, to boycott the game or shouldn’t they worry? Let’s find out in my review of Pokémon Sword and Shield. I have played the Shield version and most of the DLC for this review. So, what is your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article, let me know in the comment section down below!

Want some tea?

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This game takes place in the Galar region. This region is based on a place that’s extremely close to me. I just have to cross the pond for it. Our above neighbors Great Britain were the inspiration for this game. In terms of story, the structure of the game is extremely similar to the original games. There is less focus on a more unique attempt at gyms like in Pokémon Sun & Moon.

So, you start out in your home town, picking one of three starter Pokémon to set out on a journey to discover the secrets and the evil lurking over the region by going to each and every gym and trying to defeat the Pokémon league.

I’m going to be blunt and honest here. While the story has some fun and quirky characters, it’s way to stripped down of anything that gives some tension to it. There isn’t even an “evil team” in this game. The motivations of the antagonist are weak at best. The biggest flaw is that the story lacked depth.

I finished these games last year and to remind myself what happened in the story, I had to take out my strategy guide and skim through it to get the gist of it. Now, there are a few moments that stood out during the story but these moments were far and few between.

It’s a shame really, since the writing and potential for a better story are in the game. I’m not going to argue that the previous Pokémon games always had a very in-depth story but I’m going to argue that the story was more engaging and gave a better atmosphere to the game. For example, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire tell a story about the climate in terms of the balance of land and water. Pokémon Black and White told a story about the moral of capturing creatures to help in work. Pokémon Sun and Moon told a story about how power can go and make you mad.

I can’t tell you what the moral or message of the Pokémon Sword and Shield games are. In a matter of fact, the actual climax and buildup is so see through that I’m quite sure that even a young child is going to see the twist at the end coming from a mile away. The DLC thankfully takes a step in the right direction, they feel a bit more fleshed out and still have a story to tell instead of something quite generic that the main story is telling.

I think I could ramble on and on about the story, but I think I should focus on review this game and talk about other elements as well, so let’s take a further look into this Pokémon game and let’s see why the fans of the Pokémon franchise are so divided on this game.

Some biscuits, please!

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Even when a game doesn’t have an enjoyable story, the game can still be quite fun. Now, let me first tackle the “Dexit” controversy. There was a group of Pokémon fans who were quite angry when it was announced that not all Pokémon would make it over into the Pokémon Sword and Shield games. I can totally understand from where these people are coming from but I can totally understand the viewpoint of the developers.

It’s a bummer for the fans that they might be unable to catch their favorite Pokémon or carry their Pokémon over from older games. I can totally understand the fear that it’s now possible that Pokémon are going to be locked behind a DLC-paywall. I would totally agree with that fear if the developers implemented a pay per Pokémon scheme, but thankfully enough, they didn’t. Thankfully in the DLC we got 200 Pokémon that were returning to the game for a reasonable price.

Now, what do I personally think about the whole Dexit controversy? Well, to be honest, I don’t mind the fact that not every Pokémon is in the game. And I’m going to explain myself. I think it would have been a huge workload to make close to 900 new models and make them work in the new game. In addition to that, I think it’s a great way to force players to experiment with the new Pokémon. Since why should you catch or try out the new Pokémon if you are able to catch all the ones you know?

Just thinking about the workload that adding 900 Pokémon in one game is going to bring is making my head spin. Not only you need to make sure that there is the right balancing, but you also need to make sure that every Pokémon has it’s use and reason for existing. And let’s not forget the fact that you need to animate them in a large dynamax form as well. Also, just imagine that you had an extremely low chance to catch a certain Pokémon just because there are too many in one route.

It would bloat the game beyond belief. I think that it’s quite possible that when the next generation comes out, we are going to have close to 1000 Pokémon. So, you could start to argue that maybe we shouldn’t have new Pokémon in the next generation but discovering the new Pokémon is just half the fun of a Pokémon game isn’t it.

Anyways, I think it’s time to focus on Pokémon Sword and Shield’s gameplay isn’t it? So, how does this game play? Well, in terms of gameplay, nothing really changed. If you have played Pokémon games in the past, you know what to expect in this game. You train your Pokémon during Pokémon battles in routes and cities and try to defeat 8 gyms that specialize in a type to gain 8 badges to defeat the 5 strongest trainers in the region. Meanwhile you discover the truth behind the legend of that region’s legendary Pokémon(s).

For some veterans, the formula is getting a bit stale. I still enjoyed going through the whole game but I’m a bit disappointed that they are returning to the old school gym design. The trail challenges in the previous Sun and Moon games were such an amazing breath of fresh air. In this game, it’s a strange mixture between the old school gym design an a sort of challenge based design. It’s a step in the right direction to make gyms more fun but something that did surprise me is the fact that there are differences in the gym depending on the version you are playing. Finally, there are more differences between the versions then just the Pokémon you can catch. For example, in Circhester, you fight Gordie who uses rock Pokémon for the 6th badge if you play the Sword version. But in the Shield version, you fight Gordie’s mother Melony and she uses ice Pokémon to challenge you. Sadly enough, this happens for one other gym. I would love to see more in the future. More differences between the versions instead of just the Pokémon you can catch and/or some minor visual/text differences.

There are two unique mechanics in this game. The first is dynamaxing. With this mechanic, you can dynamax your Pokémon in certain criteria. You can use this mechanic during special battles basically. When you dynamax your Pokémon, they grow quite large and they can use extremely strong attacks. I could explain it in detail, but if you want to know more, Bulbapedia has an amazing in-depth article on it. This mechanic really puts an interesting twist on battling but I feel that this doesn’t scream Pokémon to me. It feels like just a spin on Mega Evolution which is basically Dynamax Lite now.

The second unique mechanic are the wild areas. These areas are basically quite open routes where you can do just a little bit more than just battle trainers, battle wild Pokémon and go from one place to the next. If all the routes were more as open and as large to the wild area, then I would applaud the developers. Now, the wild area feels painfully underdeveloped. You can camp and cook in these areas but that is just a small distraction at best. The things you can do while camping feel extremely limited and the cooking mini game is enjoyable but I rarely came back to it.

In the cooking mini game, you have to combine berries and a core ingredient to create all sorts of curry. You can find these ingredients in the wild area. These curries can give a boost to the friendship you have with the Pokémon and other very minor boosts. One of these boots can be to experience gain.

There is a multiplayer aspect to camping and cooking but to be honest, I haven’t used it nor have I experimented with it that much so I’m not going to comment on it. Feel free to talk about it in the comments since I would love to know if it’s fun or not.

Something I feel rather mixed about is the fact you can easily access the boxes anywhere in the world. So, that means you can easily swap your team members on the fly. Thankfully, they don’t fully heal if you switch them in and out of the box during your adventure, since that would have broken the difficulty of this game even more.

This brings me to the point of the difficulty of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Balancing a game just right is something quite tricky to do. I have written a lengthy article about it in 2019. Now, I’m sad to say that this game doesn’t deliver in that department. You have to go out of your way to make the game more challenging. There are various video’s and articles floating around on the internet to give you tips and tricks to make the game more difficult. I’m just going to give some examples: TheGamer and NintendoLife.

The aftertaste

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Now, it might seem that I’m ripping this game apart. Complaining about the story, the unique mechanics and the difficulty of the games. I think I’m going to run ahead of the conclusion of this article but I feel that Pokémon Sword and Shield could have been so much better, miles better in fact. The potential is there in the game.

The game controls amazingly well. It’s the first mainline Pokémon game on a console and it made the transformation quite well. While I got some minor slowdowns during some intense senses and during some battles after selecting a move, they weren’t too bad and the framerate got stable again quite fast.

Something I really liked in this game is the soundtrack and the audio design. Some tracks in this soundtrack like the battle theme of Bede or the battle theme of Marnie are absolute bobs. I also listen to the soundtrack from this game from time to time while at work and while writing articles. I enjoy it just that much. The sound effects add to the atmosphere of the game as well. For example, you feel that moves having the impact it should have to draw you in into the world of this game.

I can totally understand that some people are somewhat disappointed with the visual presentation of this game. Especially since some attacks have a 2D animation while some attacks have a grand 3D animation. To be honest, I didn’t mind it that much. I rather have a generic animation that can be used for every Pokémon that can learn or execute that move instead of the developers having to create a separate animation for each and every Pokémon that can learn the move.

This game is quite colorful and detailed. The visual presentation of a steampunk Great Britain is rather well executed and well done in my opinion. I really like the fact that battles with gym leaders are in a grand stadium, it’s something I always imagined as a kid. Then again, I wonder every gym battle can draw those huge crowds if this region where real. But that’s nitpicking beyond belief.

In terms of visuals, I have been comparing character models of Pokémon from Sun & Moon and Sword & Shield. I have to say that it’s a huge improvement and they look a lot better with better lighting and details in Sword & Shield. Now, you can clearly notice during the game that the developers hit the limits of the 3DS in Sun & Moon, so we should only get better models in the future. It’s also amazing to see that you can see the first Pokémon in your party to follow you in the overworld.

HM moves are a thing of the past in this game. This is something I really feel mixed about. It’s something that could be used to gate players from progressing too fast in the game in more unique ways instead of just blocking the road with various people. It also created more interesting puzzles by sliding blocks or having to dive under water. It’s something I’m going to miss to be quite honest yet I totally understand why it has been done. This way you don’t have to have a Pokémon in your party that’s simply your HM slave and make the world more open to exploration.

A huge positive in this game is the fact that they finally fixed the random battle system. You can finally see all the wild Pokémon in the overworld and avoid them if needed to catch a certain one. In addition to that, you can see which moves are effective against the Pokémon you are battling if you have fought the Pokémon before. If only there was an option to turn it off for more veteran players, that would be awesome. Like an option to disable the always on experience share or turn it in another mode would have been great as well.

This game also has a few online modes like raids and versus battles. But I’m not that big of an online gamer so I’m going to comment on those very much because I haven’t experienced them enough to talk about them. Now, you can do raid battles solo and those are fine but you feel that these are more enjoyable when you do them with friends or strangers online.

Something I’m totally forgetting to talk about is the fact that there is a way you can ease of the griding of your Pokémon! Since you can send them on jobs. In the Pokémon Centers you have a machine where you can play the Pokémon Lottery but more important, send your Pokémon on certain jobs. The better they preform on a better, the more experience and rarer items they will bring back. You can also choose for how long you will have to miss your Pokémon. It’s a sort of free daycare system.

That brings me to how content is somewhat locked in this game. The further you get in the game, the more items unlock. So, even if you were to cheat and go out of bounds towards another city’s Pokémon Center to go to the market, you won’t be able to buy more powerful items. It’s the same with collecting the League cards, which is just an immersion mechanic in the game.

Something new in this game is that there is an autosave feature. So, the days of manually saving are over. Surprisingly enough, there is an option to enable to disable the autosave feature. Now, I have mostly played this game without the autosave feature since I felt that my game ran a smidge better with it off.

The last things I want to talk about is the postgame and the DLC’s. Let’s start with the postgame. There is a minor silly additional story you get after becoming the champion. I’m sorry but I can’t take the characters in this story chapter seriously, I find it a bit ridiculous and silly. Apart from that, you can learn unique moves and do various other things. A nice list has been created by gamewith.net. Personally, I find the post-game content rather enjoyable apart from the silly story of course.

So, the DLC. I honestly have to say that it’s totally worth a purchase. The base game provides around 30 to 40-ish hours of content if you want to play the main story and the extra’s. If you add the two DLC’s on top of that, it’s another 10 to 20 hours on top of that. If you want to fully complete the game, you are looking at an adventure that takes close to 130 hours to complete.

The DLC is also amazing postgame content. It adds unique mechanics and is a step in the right direction when it comes to game difficulty. So, if you enjoyed the base game, I think that the additional 30€ is worth it for both DLC’s. They might be a tad bit on the expensive side but they add more then enough content to justify the price in my opinion.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to talk too in-depth about them, but one DLC is a whole new island to explore with a fun quest to find all the Digletts and to train a Pokémon to fight in one of two towers to choose between which legendary Pokémon you want in addition to the biggest wild area in the game. The other DLC gives a whole new boss rush rouge like mini game for legendary hunting and another new wild area.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for my conclusion. Since this review is getting rather lengthy isn’t it?

Conclusion

The bad:

-Rather underwhelming story.

-The game is too easy.

-Some parts of the game feel underdeveloped and underused.

The good:

+ Amazing visual design.

+ Interesting new spins on the gym battles.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ …

Final thoughts:

After I had beaten the main game and played parts of the DLC, I started a review of this game multiple times and scrapped it each and every time. This game has so many underdeveloped good and fun elements it hurts to see them dragged down by the two biggest downfalls of this game and that’s the weak story and the game being too easy for it’s own good.

I still enjoyed my time with the game but sometimes I felt that these games are becoming a shadow of their former selves. I honestly think that if the story had more depth and there were difficulty options, this game wouldn’t have divided the fanbase so much. Of course, you have the whole Dexit controversy thing, but as I explained before, I don’t find it too big of a disaster.

The game is still a blast to play with an amazing soundtrack, new and fun mechanics like the wild area’s and a lot of accessibility features like seeing the effectiveness of moves. Also, we are finally seeing more differences between both versions that just simply the Pokémon you can catch in the wild.

This generation took a few steps back and a few steps forward and I’m quite curious to see what we are going to get in the future. What games are we going to get in this anniversary year of Pokémon? Since I would love to see the franchise continue and thrive since this game proves that the formula can still be quite a lot of fun if it’s handled well.

So, should you pick up this game? I would recommend it but I would warn players that they shouldn’t expect an expansive story and a lot of challenge expect they create their own challenge. But, it’s still a great and enjoyable Pokémon game where you can sink a lot of hours into.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 70/100

Remember, this article is part of a huge collab of content creators to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon in Japan. Want to read more articles and content? Click here to go to the hub article where we all take a look at the main line Pokémon games and various spin-offs.

First Impression: The Wizard – WizHarder Edition (PC – Steam) ~ Now With Less Rhymes

headerSteam Store linkOfficial website

Remember last year when I started talking about an adventure game where everything was in rhyme in the old school ASCII-art? Currently, the 3rd episode of the Pepper Prince hasn’t been released yet but Hypnotic Owl hasn’t stopped making games. In a matter of fact, last month they released their second game in early access called The Wizard: Wizharder Edition. The developers send me a press code and asked me to write an article with my honest opinion on the game. When I saw the press materials, I must admit that I was hooked right away. I wanted to play this game and write an article about it. Sadly enough, my personal life was quite too busy to finish the article around the time of the launch of the game. So, that’s why I’m writing about it a month late. During that time, the game got various updates bringing it to v0.3.11 which I have played to write this article. Now, I want to invite you to look together with me to this game to see if this game should be finished or should the developers move on to other projects? Let’s find out!

Now with less rhymes

20201226190151_1In this game you play as Kevin, who awoke from his slumber in the middle of the night. He was woken up by a strange feeling on his face. When he wanted to touch it, he felt nothing. An empty black void with two dark red dots for eyes was there in its place. He was able to confirm that by looking in the mirror. So, your face has been stolen. Kevin jumps into action since he hears a noise in his hallway so the thief couldn’t get that far.

To avoid spoilers and since this game is still in early access, I’m going to refrain from going deeper into the story. I found it amusing to read the story since I got flashbacks to the unique 3DS title Miitopia where you played with your Mii’s to recover their stolen faces.

From what I have seen so far of the story, I’m under the impression that the story is going to take a backseat and is just a way to set up the world and characters for this game. Which isn’t a bad thing since this game is a puzzle game. And a story in a puzzle game is quite difficult to pull off right. It’s either too involved or too absent. So far, this game is hitting the right balance between the two.

The only thing I would advise to the developers is give it a bit more “life”. What I mean is, don’t display the whole text in one time and play a bit with some sound effects to draw the player a bit more in. I personally feel that it would give the game a bit more atmosphere. Then again, currently it’s in a book format as if you were reading a journal which can be fun as well.

Something I find quite surprising is that this game is already translated into German. Because my native language Dutch is in some respects a bit close to German, I played the tutorial level in German. Let me tell you that the translation has been well done and I’m quite curious if they are going to be more languages added into the full build of the game. (But the game being translated in German isn’t that surprising since the developers are German after all…)

It’s a tile game.

20201226193504_1The controls of this game are quite simple. If you don’t have a mouse, you won’t be able to play this game. This game uses the left-click button to its full potential. The controls are quite responsive, easy to understand and fun to master. The only thing I would improve in terms of the controls are keyboard shortcuts. It would be so nice to move Kevin with the arrow keys or something since the number of times I misclicked and started a spell instead of moving, I can’t keep count of that.

Before I go more in-depth about the gameplay, I first want to mention something that has to do with the controls and the gameplay. I would love to see in the full version, three features to perform some actions quite fast. The first key would be just a simple “undo” key. If you did an action you regretted, you could simply undo the move and try again. Maybe this “undo” can cost points each time you use it, and you need a certain amount of points to use it.

The second key would be a key that reset the level back to your latest checkpoint and the third key is of course, a total level reset. The second and third key would be a nice quality of life feature in my opinion but the first feature, the “undo” key would be a bit more than a nice quality of life feature. Because currently there is no “undo” feature. If you either die or want to erase a wrong move, you either must restart from the checkpoint or the start of the level.

Thankfully, at the start these levels are quite short and easy to conquer, but I’m afraid that without an undo key, it might get frustrating if you get bigger, more difficult and larger levels. At one hand, I totally understand that there is no “undo” key since it might be a part of the challenge of this game that you must think of your every move but at the other hand, I think that accessibility in this way wouldn’t hurt the core experience. You even could have an option to disable it completely if people want the challenge. Think “Classic” and “Casual” modes in Fire Emblem.

Granted, you can work around this a bit since there can be only one checkpoint active at one time. So, if you want to make sure you don’t have a redo a certain fight, you can walk back to a previous checkpoint to activate it. Then again, if you are faced with several enemies, this might not always work as well.

Any who, let’s focus on the gameplay of this game. In this game you must get to the end of the stage. Each stage is divided up into tiles. You can drag Kevin to start forming a spell to attack or you could drag the green squares beside him to move to another spot. When you either successfully attack or move a tile, the enemies can do as well. The enemies only move when they have spotted you or get hurt, otherwise, they will sit in place.

By clicking anywhere else, you can drag around the map and look at what’s to come. This helps plan out your next move. You play this game at the speed you want to play. If you want to take your time and plan every move, you can do that. If you want to kill the least number of enemies to go to the next stage, you can do that as well. It’s all up to you. This gives some replay value to the game.

In terms of gameplay, I do have one complaint and that’s about the health system and potions. Currently, there is no bag or anything of the sorts, so that means that when you pick up a health potion at hull health, the potion gets used and disappears.

A big hint I can give you is to make sure that you draw the right spell. Currently, there is no way to undo or stop the spell when you drew the wrong one. I learned this the hard way.

Oh, maybe one minor thing about the controls. The camera and dragging mechanic stop you from going off screen. Maybe being able to follow it would be quite nice. But that’s a minor complaint after all. Since as soon as I got the hang of the game, I fell in love with the game. Honestly, I think I’ll keep an eye on it since I really want to see where the game goes next.

Into The Sewers

20201226184144_1Visually, this game has a lot of pixel-art of pixelated visuals. And they look amazing. I think they would look even better when they are a bit more animated but hey, if these are the final pieces of art for the full game, consider me extremely impressed already.

The nice visual presentation extends to the great animations in this game. As if it’s a theme in this article, I think that the game would be better if there were a bit more animations. For example, to give the enemies a bit more life.

It’s always quite difficult to give your opinion on a game that’s in early access and in full development since you never know what developer art is and what’s already finalized. But I really hope that the audio is finalized since the music and sound effects in this game are excellent.

If I didn’t know better, I would say that this game is almost complete. Apart from the game lacking some polish here and there, this game is enjoyable to play and I would recommend it to everybody who enjoys playing strategy, adventure and/or puzzle games.

Now, there is one more thing I would like to touch upon and that’s a few strange UI things. First, when you press “ESC” in an option menu, you don’t go back one level but go back to the pause menu. I would love to see this changed to the “ESC” button going back one level.

But the biggest mistake of this game is that there is no logo at the main menu yet. I found this extremely strange since everything else has been carried over from the original. Yes, you read that right. This game is a remake of a browser game. Well, calling it just a remake would be a dis-service. It is an extended version of the original game. If this game looks interesting to you, you can give the original game a try for free in your web browser by following this link.

Now, why would you pay 19€ for a game that got a graphical upgrade and more music when you can play a free version? Well, that’s because there are a lot of things coming to the full version of the game. Things like a level maker, a roguelike challenge mode, more levels… So, yeah. I honestly think that this will be 19€ well spend if you are interested in the full version and the additional upcoming features. Honestly, I’m quite curious to see what the “Mario Maker style Level Maker” means. Will this mean we will be able to share our levels through the Steam Workshop? Will we be able to make a level pack? Well, only time will tell.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

NekoJonez’s Favorite Gaming Music -SPECIAL- ~ It’s Podcast Time

It has been quite some time since I wrote about my favorite music tracks in video games. So far, I have written 24 articles in this series. Today I have a special spin-off article in this series. I was a guest on the “Untitled Game Music Podcast” by Alexander Sigsworth. Today it’s finally live and to give it some publicity since this series is amazing and I highly recommend that you all listen to it, this week’s article is simply going to be an embedded version of the podcast. Please enjoy and feel free to leave a comment here or on Alexander’s channel!

Game Quicky: Grood (Switch) ~ Not That Three One.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 82Steam versionNintendo.com pageOfficial website

Drageus Games is at it again, they published a new game called Grood. Not to be confused with Marvel’s character named “Groot”. Fun fact, groot is actually a Dutch word as well. When you literally translate it into English, it means big. Anyways, I’m getting off track. Drageus Games provided me with a press copy to take an honest look at this game and in this article I’m going to take a look at this 2,5D side scrolling shooter by CC_Arts. Is it any good or should you skip this indie title for 5€? Let’s find out while I invite you to shoot me a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this (game quicky) article. 

Editorial note: this review has been written while playing v1.1.0.

Load the canons!

the-woods1

The story of this game is short and simple. There are a lot of enemy robots and machines out there, so you build a big attack ship called Grood. You want to take on the enemy with this ship and you set out on a mission for it.

In terms of story, there isn’t much more. On one hand, this can be seen as a negative by some people but I personally see it as a positive for this game. The focus of this game is the gameplay and not telling a story. So, it doesn’t get in the way at all. Also, this time it’s in the game instead of only in the description of the game in the eShop.

Something that I found a huge positive for this game is the fact that there is a co-op feature. It would be a huge ask to have an online co-op as well, but hey. I’m surprised that there is a co-op mode. I do have a small nitpick about it, but I’m going to talk about that in the negatives section of this article.

Let me tell you, this game doesn’t fool around. The epilepsy warning at the start of the game is a serious warning since there are some flashing imagery in this game. This game is anything except a cakewalk. At first, I was afraid that this game would use a lot of unfair or unbalanced ways to make the game “more difficult” but I was pleasantly surprised.

This game hits the right balance at being challenging but not too challenging. The pattern of the enemies are easy to learn and avoid. This game doesn’t go into bullet hell mode or spawn a ton of enemies you have to damage through. In most cases, there are one or two enemies who are a bit too cheap in my opinion. At the start of the 3rd level, there is this ship that shoots lazers without too much of a warning in which direction making it too much of a cheap shot.

The damage system is quite interesting as well. The more damage you take, the less color there is during gameplay. Yet, this game throws an unique wrench in the mix. It simulates a broken screen so you have to also think where to aim your bullets since you can’t line them up properly anymore.

There is also this slow motion mechanic. Once you have defeated a certain amount of enemies, you can go into slowdown mode. Everything, even your own ship, slows down so you can plan out your shots even more. You notice how much more time you have in the slow-motion mode with the battery next to your score. It has to be full before you can start it and it has to be depleted to exit out of the mode. You can’t start or stop the slow-motion at will.

You could think that this game can be cheesed by hanging at the bottom at passing through the levels quite easily. Yet, you shoot yourself in the foot with that tactic. Since this game also focuses on high scores. There is even a leader board in the main menu. I only wish it told me on what platforms these scores where achieved since I would love to see which platforms have the highest score.

Visually, this game looks extremely nice. In terms of animation and visual presentation, I don’t have any complaints. The animation of text appearing is a nice touch and pleases the computer scientist in me greatly. The game runs quite smooth through the detailed terrain and I rarely experience frame drops or slowdowns.

Speaking of impressive visuals: you can play this game in “90’s love modus”. If you enable this option in the options menu, you go from the 3D visual artstyle to pixelart with the same attention to detail that the 3D-style brings. This makes the retro gamer inside of me extremely happy. I do have two minor complaints about it and that’s the score isn’t readable enough in TV mode as well as the health bar. But these can be fixed with a minor patch I think.

This game feels quite gratifying to play. The quite responsive controls is another part the helps achieve that fact. Add an nice metal soundtrack with great sound design and you get a game where you have that “one more round” mentality.

This game has been localized in 4 languages. Which I find a bit strange, since usually Drageus Games has more languages then 4. This game can be played in English, Russian, Spanish and Italian. Since I only speak English out of these 4, I can’t review or talk about the quality of the translation.

Let’s forget about the cannons

philosopher-path0No game is perfect, and this game made a few mistakes. Since I only played the Switch port, I can’t say that these issues appear on other platforms but these things were a bit of a downer on my experience.

First of all, let’s talk about the health situation. While the draining of color is a interesting mechanic that has been used in other games like Tomb Raider, sometimes it’s quite unclear how much health I still had left. This made me play too careful sometimes.

Secondly, let’s talk about that silly “continue” feature. I can understand that you only have one life and when you are death, you have to restart the whole game. But, I think it would make the game more accessible and ease the tension a bit when the player had more or infinite lives. With the consequence, that when a player died, there score was reset to 0 or they could “pay with their score” to revive. That way people can still finish the game but try and get a high score to get higher on the leaderboards. Also, that would provide a solution that you could only continue when you have beaten level 4.

Thirdly, let’s talk about the UI. It makes a few mistakes alright. While the visual design is quite cool and interesting to use… It suffers in the usability department. Take the credits for example, these are unreadable while you are in TV mode due to the angle of the menu.

Another bigger example is the options menu. Each option brings you to a submenu. Apart from the vibration option, that can be set in that menu. Now, if only you could feel a sample of the vibration and we would be set.

But the biggest issue with the UI I have is something quite simple. I find it extremely strange that you can’t go back to the main menu during gameplay. You either have to restart the game or have a game over.

Fourthly, in this negatives section of this article I want to mention that there is no overview of the controls. Since the tutorial only appears the first time and doesn’t appear after that, that means you have to figure out the game on your own if you take a break or let a friend play.

Fifthly, why o why isn’t there a sort of level leaderboard? Wouldn’t it be cool to know which are the high scores per level? Or in what level a certain high score was achieved?

And finally, let’s talk about the co-op mode. I do have one gripe with it. Earlier I talked about the health situation. Image that issue but now you have two ships and you are unable to tell who is almost dead and who has still a lot of health points. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that there is no tutorial in this game so your partner has to figure everything out from either you or trail and error.

So, let’s save or not?

Is this game worth it or should you skip it? Well, it depends. There is a lot going for this game. It’s challenging and fun. It has that one more round mentality and it has a lot of competition with the high scores and leaderboards. Yet, with only having one live, this game can feel quite unforgiving.

The biggest mistakes are made in the UI department. There are some things that really bothered me and made me quite thankful that the Switch has some features to easily reset the game.

Would I be able to recommend this game to anybody? Yes! I would recommend this game to anybody who enjoy side scrolling shooters. This game quite well done and has a lot of love put into it. It does have a ton of minor issues that make the game a bit less enjoyable but apart from the one live – restart situation, most of the things shouldn’t get too much in the way of enjoying this game.

I have left out one mechanic from this review for those who want to give this game a try and want to still have a surprise left. I’m rather curious what you guys and girls think about it. But, apart from that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game.

So, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 3.5/5

Review: Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch) ~ Fold And Turn

Official websiteWikipedia entry

2020 is quite a strange year. Back in May, we got a trailer for this game and to everybody’s surprise, the game dropped a few weeks later. The game has been out for around a month now and I have finished the game a few days ago. So, I want to talk about this game. Especially, since some people are quite curious how this game holds up compared to the previous entries in the series. The two previous entries in the series weren’t that well received, so will this game “save the series” or will it divide the fanbase even further like Color Splash? Let’s take a look at the game while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Fold The World

So, the story starts a bit similar to Sticker Star. A festival is held in the (paper) Mushroom Kingdom and something goes horribly wrong. In this case, the princess is converted to origami and suddenly, you meet an evil origami character called Olly that wants to fold the whole world to origami.

In your journey to save Princess Peach and save the Mushroom Kingdom from certain destruction, you team up with the sister of the evil origami character called Oliva. She is able to grant you special powers that aid Mario in his quest.

To avoid spoiling the whole game or sections of it, I’m going to try to keep story explanations to a minimum. But, I do want to give my honest opinion of the story. The writing and the dialogues are pretty good, the pacing is excellent as well. I barely felt that any sections were filler or padding. But, the story isn’t thrilling at all.

The structure of the story is somewhat like the Pokémon anime series. Just replace the gym badges with the streamers and you have the structure of the story in this game. Barely any of the characters, apart from the main duo, of course, go from one section to another.

The next point I want to bring up with the story is that it’s a bit too predictable in my eyes. I can’t pinpoint exactly why but I felt that I experienced this whole story somewhere before or that I had seen the arcs. I think that the main issue with this game is that it barely does anything creative story-wise.

Does this game have a bad story? Well, yes and no. Apart from the predictability and the “safeness” of the whole story, the charm of the story is so great. I have a few ideas that could have improved the story. The first thing is the world-building, I felt that wasn’t done enough. For example, you have an area called “Picnic Road”. Why o why are there no picnic benches? I mean, one of the previous areas had a whole barbeque setup…

The second suggestion I have is that there could have been a bit more side stories. A great example is with Luigi. Side-arcs, side quests, or just things to explore on the side. I know that you can free toads, fill in Not-Bottomless Holes but in most cases, those don’t affect the story that much.

It almost feels that the developers just cut out several sections to improve the flow or the pacing but with that, they also cut out too much. Sometimes a bit of padding or filler doesn’t hurt.

Oh, and before I go to the next section, I usually talk about the voice acting and voice work right after the story. And I can finish my opinion quite fast. That’s something where I think they could have done more but on the other hand, the animations are so good during dialogues that the very little voice work is “replaced” if that makes sense.

Turn Your Way To Victory

One of the biggest criticisms of the previous two entries in the Paper Mario series was the battle system. The games before those had an RPG style battle system. Then in Sticker Star and Color Splash, we got more of a sort of puzzle system.

I think it would make this review too long if I start to analyze the flaws of the two previous battle systems. For the sake of going forward, let’s focus on the battle system of this game. There is no real RPG-style battle system in this game. But, something that does return somewhat is the buddies from previous games. Now, before you get too excited, the buddies just provide a chance of an attack after you finished yours. And that’s it.

Before I talk about the puzzle battle system, I do want to mention a huge improvement compared to the previous two titles. At certain moments, you can find a health improvement. Besides having more HP, these improvements have other implications on the mechanics of the game. For example, after a few upgrades, I was able to just jump or hit these Goomba’s with my hammer and I didn’t have to go into battle. The only downside is that you don’t get all your coins like you would have defeated them in the puzzle battle. But, it does save your weapons for each little encounter.

Speaking about weapons, I barely had any problem with those. At the start of the game, I just stocked up on weapons and healing items and I do have to say, I barely had to go to the shops in the game to stock up on items. The game is quite generous with items to use in battle. A bit too generous for my liking.

The game is a bit too easy. Apart from some scripted sequences, I barely saw the ‘game over’ screen. Also, quite rarely, I felt challenged during the battles. Even when I was unable to solve the puzzle in front of me, I was almost always able to beat the enemies with relative ease.

Now, what is this “puzzle battle” I’m talking about? Well, if you look at the screenshot a bit higher, you might notice that Mario is in a battle area with four rings. Your goal is to line up the enemies in a line or in a group of 2 by 2. You can do that by either rotating a ring or move planed vertically.

In order for you to solve the puzzle, you have a limited amount of moves and time. But, here is where some amazing game design shines through. During the adventure, you can buy various items that give you more time, health and defense during battles. You can enable or disable all of these items in the pause menu. On top of that, you can invest your coins in more time or cheering. Now, what is cheering? Well, that means you can invite the Toads you have rescued during the adventure to aid you in healing or solving the puzzle in front of you. The only moment where the Toads don’t solve the puzzle is during the boss battles. But more on that in a minute. So, if you find the game too easy, you can challenge yourself more by disabling all these support items and not cheering or buying more time during battles.

So, do you HAVE to solve the puzzles to be able to attack the enemies? Oh no, you don’t have to. It just gives you an attack bonus that can one-shot most enemies. Otherwise, you have to rely on your partner or block the attacks and try again. Also, just like the previous games, when you time your button press correctly during the attack, you do more damage to your enemies.

I could talk more in-depth about the battle system but I want to avoid that this review gets too long. So, I’m going to link you to an interesting article of a great blogging buddy of mine Adventure Rules, who talks a bit more in-depth on the battle system on his blog. Be warned, there are some spoilers in his article. (And yes, I know that he is going to read this article… And no, the fact that I’m shouting him out here has nothing to do with it… Maybe… Maybe not. 😉 )

Now, let’s talk boss battles. These battles are the highlight of the game for me. The sheer creativity in these battles is just amazing. Each boss throws a unique challenge your way that changes up the battlefield or the way you have to solve the puzzle. It’s really amazing stuff. I’m not going to talk more in-depth about it to avoid spoilers but I found myself saying out loud, several times, “wow, this is creative and unique.”.

Speaking about creativity, I’m still surprised at the huge amount of different puzzles in this game. Rarely I had similar or the same puzzle during the game and if there were, I barely noticed. I always had to think about how to line up those enemies to win.

Stardance

This review is getting quite long and I have only talked about the story and the battle mechanics. There is still so much to talk about in this rather enjoyable game. For starters, let’s talk about the Starman Theme in this game. I’m just blown away by the amazing remix that has heavy metal influences and electronic influences.

And the rest of the soundtrack, my lord. These tracks are just amazing. I think that this game might have my favorite soundtrack of 2020. If the soundtrack ever comes out on CD, you can be sure that I’ll add that to my collection. The soundtrack is even part of my playlist when I’m writing or games like Minecraft. Now, the sound design of this game is equally as well done as the soundtrack.

Overall, this game is visually quite impressive. In very rare cases, I found that some textures weren’t the best or that the scene had a tad bit too much lighting, but I think that most players won’t notice the moments that I noticed as a hobbyist critic.

The theming of the areas are quite well done as well. So yes, the visual presentation of this game is something to enjoy. It really shows the power of the Nintendo Switch in my opinion. The art style is also quite consistent, vibrant, and colorful. Couple that with great animations and you have a great and smooth running game. Speaking of smoothness, the only time I noticed some slowdown was during the loading of some battles.

The UI of this game is extremely well done. The only minor complaint I have is that you can’t change your weapons during a battle, but that isn’t such a big issue because you just need to remember to swap your weapons after a battle.

One thing I loved in this game is the mechanics in place to help players who have trouble with the game. The electronic manual is quite easily accessible and on top of that, there is a training area for when you need to practice your timings to hit enemies and such.

In most of this review, I have been praising this game and pointing out some minor flaws. To end off this review, let me talk about some things that I didn’t really like. The first thing is the overall running speed, I found that a tad bit too slow. After seeing how fast you can go to the Boot Car or on the ship, I found it a shame that there was no run button. That’s the biggest complaint I have about the controls.

The other issue I have with the controls is that it sometimes was a bit too tricky to hit some enemies with the hammer. But I think that the issue is that you are unable to interrupt the animation and most of the time I wished that I was faster with my hammer because I barely missed the enemy.

A nitpick I have about filling the Not-Bottomless Pits, I found that sometimes it was a bit too tricky to get in the right position to fully cover the hole with confetti. Thankfully, this problem occurred maybe two or three times in the whole game.

One of the biggest irritations in this game is how the bells work. You can buy three bells, one for hidden Toads, one for treasure, and one for hidden blocks. They ring when one of those is close, but I can’t tell the radius of those rings. Especially now when I’m trying to find some parts I have missed during my main playthrough.

But my biggest disappointment is the lack of a completion reward and post-game content. There is barely any post-game content to find and the completion reward is just a 5-second extended ending that changes barely anything. Oh, yes. You get a gold star instead of a silver star on your profile.

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave certain things out of this review because I wanted you to have some surprises when you play this game. So yeah, it’s time for the conclusion.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-The bells can be a bit irritating.

-There is no post-game/completion reward.

-The walking speed can be a bit slow.

-Overall, the game is too easy. You have to create the challenge yourself.

The good:

+ Charming story (even when there was more that could have been done with it)

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles and battle mechanics.

+ …

Final thoughts:

It’s quite possible that you will see this game on my top 10 games of 2020 list. This game came out of nowhere and really blew me away. I was expecting an “okay” or a fine game but I was blown away. I can understand that Paper Mario veterans expected more out of this game, but I don’t think we are going to get an RPG Paper Mario in the near future.

I think that this game took major steps in the right direction of an enjoyable adventure game. I enjoyed my time with this game and I can recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or puzzle games.

The biggest flaw of the game is that there is just a major lack of depth. There is so much more that could have been done and the game is over after 20-25 hours of gameplay. But, these 20-25 hours are quite enjoyable.

But this game gives me high hopes for the next Paper Mario game. Since if this is the direction that they are taking with the series, I’m carefully optimistic about the series again. While there is a very vocal veteran fanbase that wants the old school style of Paper Mario back, I think that is better suited for the Mario & Luigi series. I think that Paper Mario is better suited for games like this. But, that might be just me, I still have to beat the original Paper Mario trilogy.

But, I’m trying to see this game apart from the whole series that it originated from. And when I look at this game as a standalone game, I’m quite impressed with the game. Compared to the two previous games, this game makes a ton of improvements that make the game more enjoyable and entertaining to play.

Any with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 85/100