Pokemon LeafGreen: The Bulbasaur Solo Run

It had to come to this: a solo run with the granddaddy of all Grass Starters, the venerable and immensely popular Bulbasaur. And oh boy, is that immense popularity well deserved. I though Treecko was the best Grass Starter the series had to offer; but it turned out that Bulbasaur is even better, and by a couple of leagues to boot. It's sadly ironic that GameFreak managed to nail the Grass Starter formula perfectly the first time around, only to squander their knowledge in the matter and deliver a host of unbalanced Grass Starters as gens went on.

Bulbasaur is the utter embodiment of what I've always thought Grass Starters should be: a late-blooming 'Mon with stellar defensive stats and decent attack stats, who slowly but surely grow into a powerhouse as levels pile up. That process is neatly symbolized by the growth of the giant flower on Bulby's back — a coincidence that's too perfect not to be intentional. My first steps with the grassy creature were definitely tedious: while the early Gym Leaders were a cinch, I was routinely hindered by the most unlikely opponents of them all, namely the Bug Catchers littering Kanto. My Bulby (fittingly renamed Hibiscus) was way too weak to take down those pesky insects in one turn (or even two or three, for that matter), especially with his non-effective Grass Moves and the infuriatingly inaccurate Tackle; as a result, battles dragged on, and only Bulby's natural sturdiness prevented him from being knocked out cold before the end of hostilities.

Only after Misty's Water Gym did my little Hibiscus become powerful enough to one-shoot the opposition; and from then on, there was no turning back. The rest of my run was a complete cakewalk, with Gym distribution in my favour and random Trainers quickly and neatly submitting to Hibiscus' indomitable strength. The only true issue I encounter while cruising Kanto was PP depletion, which forced me to backtrack to the nearest town on a regular basis; but since I was fortunate enough to get hold of both Fly and the bike early on, those forced detours hardly hurt. But back to combat: I only struggled ever-so-slightly during the Pokemon League showdown, which forced me to strategize for a change; and after hours spent blazing through Kanto with nary a worthy opponent to hinder me, that change of pace at End Game's doors was most welcome.

My Move pool was a complete Grass fest: Leech Seed, Vine Whip, Bullet Seed, Giga Drain and Razor Leaf all came to adorn it, and Solar Beam would have too if not for its two-turn nature that makes it totaly unfit for solo endeavours. I was a bit miffed not to be granted an offensive Poison Move that would have taken advantage of Bulby's secondary Type; but with Gen I being Gen I, I cannot even pretend I was surprised by that oversight. I stumbled upon Return by complete happenstance, and was more than delighted to get rid of bloody Tackle; then, I snatched Earthquake in the Viridian City Gym, and slapped it on my Bulby in lieu of the immensely useful but weak Bullet Seed. Better late than never, indeed! Tiny yet eminently efficient, that's how I'd describe Bulbasaur's learnset — especially in Kanto.

Since I'm mentioning Kanto, that region was even more impossibly grindy than in my memories — which, as you may imagine, totally delighted me and soon put me in the sweetest trance. What had failed to imprint in my memory, on the other hand, was the annoying segment on the south islands. First, I was forced to cross the darn tedious Pokemon Mansion before I was allowed to tackle the Fire Gym; then, before I could Fly back to the mainland and the next Gym as I planned, I was kidnapped by Bill and sent on a unskippable fetch quest while he drank beers with Celio. Was that part always that irritating? I guess it was, although I failed to remember it. Oh, well.

Suck it up, b*tch.
At any rate, I'm now done with the Kanto Starters, and I understand better Bulbasaur's enduring popularity. Not only is his design top-notch and totally cohesive with his slow growth, but said slow growth also perfectly complements Charmander's lightning fast one. I'm now itching to replay the Gen I remakes with Squirtle and see if he falls perfectly in the middle. And with that, dear fellow gamers, the 2019 Pokemon Summer Season comes to an end. New gaming shores await! As for blogging, I'll be cut from internet during the next two weeks, so don't worry if you don't hear a peep from me. Or, to quote one sore loser I've vanquished not so long ago: smell ya later!


Pokemon Y: The Raichu Solo Run

This is it, dear fellow gamers: after Pikachu and Alolan Raichu, I'm now tackling regular Raichu and clearing my unfinished business with the Pikachu line. And in yet another entry, no less! I've seen enough of Pikachu in Gen I to not want to handle him again in that gen; not only is his battling prowess there pretty underwhelming, but cruising Kanto with him again would be boring as heck. Better let him strut his stuff in mellow Kalos indeed, all the more so as he can be recruited before the first Gym!

Since I already have a honest-to-god non-evolved Pikachu solo run under my belt, I had no qualms about letting my kalosian Pikachu cross the evolutionary Rubicon as soon as I got hold of a Thunder Stone. I had even less qualms when he started showing signs of weakness around Ambrette Town, with the Rock Gym being a particularly low point. Only a fiendish combination of Battle Items, avoiding Trainers, the Rocky Helmet, Rock Smash and heaps of luck got me through that roadblock; and as soon as I snatched the Thunder Stone on the outskirts of Cyllage City, I let my Pikachu evolve with a giant sigh of relief.

From then on, it was pretty much smooth sailing, with only the occasional tricky battle here and there to ruffle my slick progression. Regular Raichu's learnset is even more impossibly shallow than Pikachu's and Alolan Raichu's, with the use of the Thunder Stone preventing the acquisition of any new Move through leveling-up. My Move pool was pretty much set at the halfway mark, with Return, Grass Knot, Thundershock and Thunder Bolt; I knew from my experience with Pachirisu that such a Move pool worked quite neatly for an Electric 'Mon, so I had no complains at all.

Since I really itched to pet Raichu a bit in Pokemon Amie, I used the opportunity to test something I had wanted to verify for the longest time, namely if the XP-boosting effect of the Two hearts of affection and the Lucky Egg add up. The answer is: yep, they do add up. Now that's pure insanity! I rushed through the second half of Kalos like never before, skipping tons of Trainers and racking up Gyms like it was going out of fashion. I also finally dared to give many complimentary areas a pass, just to see if I would miss the items they hosted. The answer is: nope, I did not. Only now can I allow myself to admit how much the overabundance of items in Kalos irritates me, and how much I hate going out of my way just to get a crappy Ball or an healing item I can buy by the dozens. I swear that from now on, I'll only make detours to pick up the Rare Candies and Evolutionary Stones.

And with that, I'm done with the Pikachu line for good. What's my verdict, you may ask? Well, good ol' regular Raichu is the best by a long shot, with its one and only Type weakness that makes it superior to his Alolan counterpart and his buffed-up stats that give him an edge compared to his pre-evolution. And talking about this: what was all that fuss about Pikachu not wanting to evolve in the anime because he would get slower in the process? With a speed of 270 at lv.100 without any Nature benefits, my Raichu was crazy fast, and certainly much faster than he was as a mere Pikachu! Ah well, that wouldn't be the first time the anime contradicts the game's lore, now would it? And with those fatalistic words, my work with the series' mascot is done. And also my X&Y adventures for the summer, because I've had my fill of Kalos indeed. I have one more solo run to cover before the 2019 Pokemon Summer Season is over; and then, dear fellow gamers, we can sail together towards new gaming shores!


Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory: Smooth sailing

35 hours, 13th chapter. By all accounts, I should see the credits roll around the 50-hour mark, which still kinda surprises me — for even though internet wisdom claimed that HM offered 50-ish hours of play, I somehow didn't want to believe it. But hours fly as missions and chapters roll by, and I finally fathomed that the Digimon series is not going to deliver the same kind of compact, swift runs I've come to expect from the Pokemon series. Which, by the way, is totally fine. It's actually quite awesome to get such different experiences from both series, and to know that each of them can profusely scratch gaming itches that the other one can't come close to reaching. Now I'm dying to try Yo-kai Watch and see where it falls between Digimon and Pokemon.

Another thing that wildly differs between HR and your average Pokemon entry is the relationship I'm building with their resident creatures. While I always get that strong, intense bond with my One and Onlies in the latter, I find it a bit harder to get genuinely attached to my team in the former. It's not just the fact that my party is currently teeming with Digis-in-training, with a perverse inverse correlation between the size of my crew and the intensity of my affections; it's also the fact that all the back-and-forth between Digivolutions and the sometimes wild form changes involved in said Digivolutions make it harder to get attached to Digis. I don't really feel — and really don't feel in some cases — like I'm dealing the same creature at all, and it seriously does a number on my fondness for the involved Digi. To alleviate that feeling of alienation, I'm trying my hardest to stick to similar forms into a given Digivolution line, with reasonable success so far. But more on my winning team later!

For now, I want to say how much I love the story. I though I wouldn't care whatsoever after a couple of hours, but the opposite is actually happening: I'm getting more and more emotionally involved by the chapter. Oh, how it's gonna hurt when I get slapped in the face by the sad ending — because there's no way this game can end up otherwise than very badly indeed. (Minor spoilers!) My heart already kinda broke when poor Chitose was left with Eden Syndrome; and while I fervently hope there's a way to cure him down the line, I have a hunch that it's gonna involve some heart-wrenching sacrifices. Also, I'd bet my arse that K is actually Yu in disguise; and the though of it really breaks my heart in advance, because I've gotten attached to that shy friend of mine. Or not-so-shy in some cases: I swear my heart skipped a couple of beats during the ferris wheel sequence. Why, I could totally feel the intensity of the boy's repressed lust, and the sheer entanglement of his complicated feelings towards Keisuke. This is not just otome level — it's better than 90% of the otomes I've played.

Oh, Yu animal.

And oh, Erika. Forget the whole 'Defrosting Ice Queen' theme: she was the one who pierced my heart, as I found myself tearing up during the hugging scene at the end of chapter 11. This was not your usual dere-dere moment, when you're supposed to feel all happy that the cold b*tch finally opened her heart; it was a genuine emotional cracking, a character folding under the pressure and letting it out before composing herself again and getting back into fighting mode. And my, did it feel raw, intense and most, importantly, authentic — the kind of thing that does actually happen IRL. Seriously, my heart totally belongs to Erika and Yu now, which was probably the writers' fiendish intent all along. (End of spoilers.)

Also Erika, because I cannot choose. Can I have 'em both, game? Pretty please?

Anyway, I followed my fellow gamer Kumiko's wise advice regarding Digi growth; and my team now comprises three PlatinumNumemons that make XP rain on us all. Oh, the glory! Seeing my crew rack up levels so fast all of a sudden had an hypnotizing effect on me, and I'm currently deep into a bout of level-grinding. I'm concurrently starting to figure out the mechanics of skill learning, and thus I'm going to use the opportunity to switch between Digivolutions and have my Digis learn a couple of neat skills for the fights to come. It's pretty safe to assume that my team has now reached its final form and that no new recrue will join the fray in the next five chapters — although you never know, of course; so I'll wait a bit longer for that post about my awesome crew. At any rate, it's back to the grind now — see you later for more juicy Digimon tidings, dear fellow gamers!


Nintendo Switch Lite: Now we're talking

This is it, dear fellow gamers: the much-fabled, much-speculated-about portable-only version of the Switch is about to become reality. And I'm thrilled to bits.

The handheld gamer in me is happy beyond belief with that new development. This is not just Nintendo trying to milk their loyal fans by releasing multiple iterations of the same system as usual; the release of a Switch model that's not only smaller than the regular Switch, but also solely portable, is immensely meaningful in the grand scheme of gaming things. This can totally be interpreted as Nintendo acknowledging, if only in a veiled and slightly reluctant way, that handheld gaming is their strongest suit and that they have little to no business anymore in home console gaming. I compare this to the silent ditching of the 3D feature during the 3DS era: first envisioned as the system's main selling point, it quickly became a gimmick 90% of developers couldn't be bothered with, before being unceremoniously sidelined by Nintendo themselves with the release of the 2DS line. Only time will tell if the Switch line follows the same trajectory and if Switch TV playing winds up being the marginal way to play the system; but if things ended up that way indeed in a couple of years, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest.

And then you have the Switch Lite's specs. Not only is it hardly larger than a Vita, but it also boasts a pleasant compactness that screams 'dedicated handheld'. As far as my hands and eyes are concerned, the Switch Lite is the genuine article: a true-blue portable console, with all the cosiness and sweet, sweet sense of intimacy that come along such pieces of kit. And I'm not even talking about the presence of a D-pad and the forever ousting of detachable Joy-Cons. Oh, the joy! (Lousy pun a million times intended.) I absolutely hated playing my big-arse beast of an original Switch; but my hands are now itching to get a hold of the Switch Lite — in every darn sense of the word. And that name! My, it's literally dripping with DS-era nostalgia. Smart move, Nintendo — you sure as heck know how to pull at an handheld gamer's heartstrings when you want it. 

If the handheld gamer in me is happy, that's nothing compared to the collector in me. A portable-only, one-unit Switch changes literally everything as far as my collecting is concerned. No detachable Joy-Cons means no future connectivity issues, which in turns means more sturdiness and thus more potential perennity. This means that I can now collect for the Switch Lite, confident that the console will stand the test of time long enough to justify the investment. And let me tell you: that's exactly what I'm going to do.

So here's the plan: first, I'm gonna get someone (read: my beloved sister, i.e. my partner in gaming since the dawn of times) to give me a Switch Lite as a Christmas 2019 gift; and then, I'm slowly but surely gonna start collecting for the thing, focusing on games I really crave with all my gamer's soul — with the price tag of Switch games being so routinely high, I want my future Switch Lite collection to comprise only the crème de la crème. I didn't expect things to turn out that way at all; but it seems that my collecting days are not over yet indeed, and that makes me ridiculously happy. Lovely times ahead!


Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory: A whole new world

There am I, taking my first steps into the second most famous monster-collecting franchise of them all. And my, how auspicious those first steps are indeed! I can totally feel that this game is about to become my new obsession for the next two weeks, oooh yes precious.

Granted, the very first steps were not that auspicious. Dare I say that they were a teeny-tiny bit tedious? Yup, I'll say it. The game's weirdly disconnected mission-based structure didn't sit well with me, all the less so as the first missions were aggravatingly boring and handholdy. But then I got some welcome leeway to explore dungeons and build up my team, and things instantly got better. My love for the game has grown stronger ever since, and I expect it to grow even stronger in the next hours: because lo and behold, HM is a dungeon crawler, and dungeon crawlers are me life. Now sure, it leans on the lite side of dungeon crawling, with its pint-sized dungeons, its forgiving random encounter rate and its heavy emphasis on storyline; but still, there's definitely some crawling going on there. I wish the dungeons could be a bit more varied in terms of looks and layout; however, I have to admit that they fit the digital theme perfectly. And it's not like bleak-looking dungeons have ever been a deterrent to roaming&crawling as far as I'm concerned, now is it?

I'm still busy discovering the evolution mechanics of that brand-new beastly universe, which seem to have little to nothing in common with the Pokemon ones beyond the basic notion that more levels = more badass creatures. I really like the whole surprise factor involved in Digivolution — although I can already predict that this is gonna lead to a lot of save file reloading. I can also already predict that I'm going to have a hard ride getting used to the ugliest Digis out there, because I'm usually a sucker for looks in those monster-collecting games. But hey, we'll see! The idea that I can choose my own evolutions to a much greater degree than in the Pokemon series is pretty alluring, and it's certainly worth stomaching a couple of weird-looking Digis in the process. For now at least, my little critters are cute as buttons, as they're still lounging in the early evolutionary stages.

Did you notice that I wrote 'they're still lounging'? That's right, dear fellow gamers: no solo run in sight here! HM is a game that makes the very concept of a solo run ludicrous, as is liberally grants the exact same amount of XP to all the Digis in the party, regardless of their number. After years of solo runs, I'm more pleasantly surprised than ever when RPGs do that — because it is rare, very rare indeed. The fact that a monster-collecting game, of all RPG subgenres, allows me to do just that is priceless, because it gives me the all-too-rare opportunity to experiment with party dynamics without having to sacrifice my party's growth. This is exactly what I was missing from the Pokemon series, and you can bet your sweet life I'm gonna make the most of it — all the more so as there's no micromanagement involved when it comes to Digi care. How did I get to be so lucky here?

What else? The story looks quite decent, but I know myself: I'm probably gonna get stupidly engrossed in crawling and lose track of all things narrative before long. And to be honest, I'm much more interested in the relationships between the characters than in the overarching story right now. Like, is there some actual romancing in HM? I'd sure like to try defrosting my ice queen fellow Hudie hacker Erika, or to get that bromance going with BFF Yu. Pretty please, game? Overall, I must admit that I'm really fond of MC Keisuke: he's kinda bland and goofy, but in a really sweet and endearing way; and his naivety and kindness are cute and refreshing. However, I can sense from the game's tone so far that there's some nasty shit in store for him before the credits roll. My best guess would be Ryuji and/or Erika kicking the bucket, or Yu turning against Keisuke — or all of that at once. It's pretty obvious that we're dealing with a somewhat darker brand of monster-collecting RPG here, and not only on the narrative front — as proven by the 'Game Over' that was shoved in my face when all my Digis fainted. Ouch. After years of running to the next Pokemon Center with no loss of progression whatsoever, that kinda stung.

But anyway — so far, so good! I'll see you soon with more progress reports and detailed impressions of my first foray into the Digimon franchise, dear fellow gamers. Thanks for reading as usual, and drop by anytime!


Pokemon X: The Zangoose Solo Run

When I mentioned in my Seviper solo run report that I expected the snake and the mangoose of the Pokemon world to be polar opposites in terms of capabilities and fighting style, little did I know how utterly right and on the mark I was. While Seviper is a total pushover with useless features and very few good fighting options, Zangoose is a powerhouse with stats that go through the roof and the widest learnset of them all. This is a 'Mon tailor-made for solo runs, and I had tremendous amounts of fun cruising Kalos with that feline bipedal creature. In fact, I daresay that not only is my Zangoose solo run one of my best Gen VI solo runs, but it's also one of my best Pokemon solo runs full stop. Zangoose is on par with the best of them 'Mons — think Piplup or Primarina levels of brokenness and awesomeness — and can pretty much one-shoot its way through any obstacle. Heck, now I want to cruise solo with it in Ruby and see if it's as irresistible in its home region as in Kalos.

Zangoose's two main assets stats-wise are its high Speed and its ridiculously high Attack, which pretty much always allow it to strike first and one-shoot opponents — because hey, who wouldn't one-shoot everything that moves with an base Attack of bloody 115? My Zangoose had a Naughty Nature to boot, which meant an even impossibly higher Attack. At the end of my run at lv. 100, she boasted an attack of 331, which I'm pretty sure is one of the highest Attack — if not the highest — of all the 'Mons I ever ran solo with; Roggenrola and Charizard, which were already pretty broken in that department, don't even come close to my Zangoose's sheer offensive power. And what better to compliment such an impossibly high Attack than a learnset bristling with Physical Moves — and ludicrously powerful ones at that? All, and I mean all the offensive Moves Zangoose learns by levelling up are Physical Moves: no trolling à la Pidove, Zangoose is a pure physical attacker — and a beautifully efficient one at that, with Moves that boast a lot of PP and insane accuracy (100% for all Moves, bar two with 95%).

All this talk about Moves segues nicely into the next segment, which will be all about Zangoose's Type coverage. More like Zangoose's insane, ludicrous, completely broken Type coverage, really. Fun fact: before that run, I was pretty sure that Zangoose was an Ice 'Mon, due to his fluffiness and colour scheme. I was a trifle disappointed when I realized that I was actually dealing with a Normal 'Mon; but that disappointment evaporated upon discovering the sheer scale of Zangoose's learnset. Zangoose has its fingers in so many pies when it comes to Type coverage that it's actually faster to quote the few Types it cannot dabble in — and that would be Psychic, Water, Dragon, Fairy and Steel. This means a 72% coverage of the Type spectrum, and that's nothing to be sniffed at. While Zangoose's offensive leveling-up learnset comprises solely Normal, Fighting, Bug and Dark Moves, it can gain access to the other nine Types through TMs. For the record, I settled upon Rock Tomb, X-Scissor, Shadow Claw and Return in the late stages of my run, after experimenting with many Moves just for the sheer fun of it. And my, was it a blast.

My ode to Zangoose's sheer awesomeness wouldn't be complete without mentioning my intense fondness for that 'Mon. As a solo runner, I'm bound to get attached to my One and Only no matter what; however, there are undoubtedly 'Mons that I end up loving more than others, and Zangoose scores very high on my personal 'Mon Love Chart. So very high, in fact, that it can now claim the honour of being one of my favourite 'Mons ever. I love everything about the Cat Ferret Pokemon, from its colour scheme to its haughty air, without forgetting its wonderfully fluffy tail. I find it unbearably lovely despite its aggressive demeanour, and I couldn't resist petting my little Ivoire a bit in Pokemon Amie. (Although I got her affection up by two hearts only, that was enough to grant her extra XP in battle; combined to her erratic level-up rate, this allowed me to skip many Trainers during the last third of the game, confident that I would hit the big 100 anyway.) And sure, Zangoose is a bipedal 'Mon, and I'm usually not too fond of those; but unlike other 'Mons I won't mention here to preserve their dignity, it's not anthropomorphized to the point of looking ridiculous.

Long story short, I love Zangoose to pieces, my solo run with it was pure delight from beginning to end, and I'm totally going to cruise with it again. Heck, I'll even cruise with it in all the games it graces with its forbidding presence if I can pull it off. Thanks for reading as usual, dear fellow gamers, and drop by anytime!


Pokemon Y: The Seviper Solo Run

For some reason, I really like 'Mons that go in pairs. After having cruised Kalos with its two resident fossils Amaura and Tyrunt, I decided to lavish my attentions on Seviper and Zangoose, a.k.a. the sworn ennemies of the Pokemon world. With a long-running feud as a backstory, I expected that pair of 'Mons to sport opposing battling styles and Move pools, and I was curious to see what they had in store for me. I decided to start with Seviper, because I've been wanting to run solo with a pure Poison 'Mon for, like, ages. At the end of that much-awaited run, my main question was: why? Why does Seviper perform worse on the poisoning department than a 'Mon with Poison as secondary type such as Venipede? Why is Seviper such a one-trick pony, and a pony that cannot even pull out its main trick most of the time? Why so much wasted potential? Why, why, why?

Don't get me wrong, dear fellow gamers: I cruised Kalos just fine with the Poison snake, and reached the heights of the Pokemon League without breaking a sweat; so we're dealing with perfectly decent solo run material there. On the other hand, I just cannot wrap my head around how pointless Seviper is on the battlefield. Sure, he has high offensive stats, with a perfect balance between Attack and Sp.Attack; unfortunately, my Seviper's Moves were just a tad too weak to one-shoot everything with abandon, unless a Type weakness or particularly low defensive stats were involved. Seviper is also painfully slow probably because despite what his name implies, he's actually closer to an anaconda when it comes to measurements. As far as my run was concerned, this means that blows were traded more often than not: and with Seviper's HP and defensive stats being as crappy as they are, I suffered quite a lot of damage on a regular basis. Hits from opposing 'Mons routinely drained a good third, if not half of my Seviper's life bar, and I had to keep him on a constant potion diet I used more than 100 potions during that run, and that's my personal record in a Pokemon solo run. And mind you, all that happened with the benefit of overleveling. That probably means that in a regular run, Seviper can hardly ever strike first and cannot survive even one hit in most cases. So I have to ask: what's the point of that 'Mon? What's his fighting niche?

He's not a good poisoner, that's for sure. He doesn't have an awesome auto-poisoning ability such as Venipede's Poison Point, and his poisoning Moves fail most of the time because of the low probabilities involved. Take Poison Jab, a Move I spammed during most of my run: I can honestly count on the fingers of two hands, three at most, the number of times I managed to poison something. This means that Venoshock, a Move my Seviper also wielded and whose power is increased in case the target is poisoned, never got to live to its full potential. And weirdly enough, none of Seviper's Status Poison Moves can inflict poisoning: they are solely buffing and debuffing Moves that affect stats and abilities. Whats' the point of such Moves, when it's not even guaranteed that Seviper can strike first and survive the first hit? And how come a Poison 'Mon can poison so little? It doesn't help that Seviper's learnset is on the narrow side, with mostly Poison and Dark Moves at his disposal; as for his Shed Skin Ability, it would have been awesome if not for the fact that it only has a 30% chance of triggering. I can honestly count on the fingers of one hand the number of times Shed Skin triggered over the course of my run.

So let's sum up: serviceable yet not outstanding offensive stats, low defensive stats and low speed, Status Moves hampered by said low speed, shitty poisoning capabilities, narrow learnset and borderline useless Ability. We have to face the sad truth here: Seviper sucks hard, and I can only hope that Zangoose fares better when it comes to fighting prowess and overall balance. Let's check that without delay, now shall we? Until then, dear fellow gamers, thanks for reading as usual, and drop by anytime!