My recent Pokemon addiction is still roaring and shows no signs of abating. On top of polishing off Blue, I've been trying to tie up a couple of loose ends in other Pokemon entries these last days—with more or less success. Without further ado, here's a round-up of my late Pokemon activities:
run ended as quietly as it had started, after an anticlimatic final showdown with newly anointed League Champion Red. As I didn't mention in my last post, my run of Blue was a Squirtle solo run, and it was too ridiculously easy to be truly entertaining. Nobody could resist the massive blows of my overleveled Squirtle and the fact that Gym Leaders nearly never resorted to potions made my progression even more boringly effortless. I have nothing interesting to add about that run, so I'm going to explain the reasoning behind my Squirtle's nickname instead: I'm playing the French version of the game, and Squirtle's french name is "Carapuce", which is a pun on the words "carapace" (shell) and "puce" (flea). I decided to extract the last part of the name and to transform it into "pupuce", which is a lovely nickname that can be translated into "honey bee", "pumpkin", "sweetie" and the like. Hence a delicious irony when my lovely Pupuce evolved into an enormous monster of an fortified turtle. Now that's Poke-linguistics for you!
—Pokemon Black: I learnt some time ago that unbeknownst to me, I had accomplished a feat of sorts by clearing solo runs of Black and White with two 'Mons belonging to the Neverused Tier, i.e. Liepard and Samurott. Or rather nearly cleared in the case of Black, since I stopped playing after the first encounter with the Elite Four; however, knowing that I had managed to make my way through Unova with two 'Mons deemed as crappy fighters filled me with pride and prompted me to pick up Black again and finish the job. I leveled up my Purry all the way to Lv.100 and I'm now trying to tackle the Elite Four a second time around. It's not working too well so far—especially against the Figthting Champion, as you may imagine—and I may have to allow fainting&reviving if I want to overcome that hurdle; but I'm quite convinced that beating the Elite Four with my Liepard is an attainable feat. I'll keep trying, I promise!
Heart Gold by exploring revamped Kantoh. I progressed without a hitch through a much more lovely and colourful version of the mother of all Pokemon regions; however, I got bored after a while and ditched the game yet again after beating the Fuschia City Gym Leader. Kantoh is overall a pretty dull and uninspired region—especially compared to regions from latter entries—and extra colours and details cannot work miracles and single-handedly make it breathtakingly interesting.
That's all for this play-in-progress report, dear fellow gamers. A bit heavy on the Pokemon side, maybe—but that is bound to change, as I'm currently pondering several games belonging to others franchises for immediate playthroughs. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
I'll be blunt: from what I've played of Blue so far, I totally and utterly fail to understand how that game could single-handedly drag the Gameboy out of its early retirement and sell millions of cartridges around the world. I fail even more to understand how it could take Gamefreak nearly six years to come up with that game— notwithstanding that the development phase was an on-and-off process. Because what I'm seeing and playing right now is nothing more than a half-baked, clunky and overall barely decent RPG. For all the praise nostalgic players lavish upon it, the first Pokemon generation is shockingly unpolished compared to later generations and to other Gameboy RPGs—and here's how:
—It takes but a glance to realize that Blue's graphics are shockingly primitive, even by Gameboy standards. Such over-simplistic graphics would have been acceptable in the early stages of the console's lifetime; but in 1995, they were horribly dated. This is worsened by the fact that Tajiri and his team obviously didn't put a lot of effort into embellishing their game world; voluntarily or not, they did only the bare minimum in that regard and left it at that. Trees look like boulders, tall grass looks like sprouts and so on. Good thing that I knew beforehand that Tajiri intended to channel the lushness of untamed nature in Blue/Red, because I certainly wouldn't have guessed it from seeing Blue's graphics.
—While the inventory is horrendous, the move management is nothing short of calamitous. I just cannot believe the fact that there is absolutely no way to check the elemental nature of moves, their base strength and, last but not least, their effects. What were they thinking, seriously? Were players supposed to test moves at random and reload their save files if they were not happy with the results? Heck, I guess that's exactly what they were supposed to do. It's pretty obvious that elemental complementaries and strategy as a whole were but an afterthought in the first generation and that the meat and potatoes of Red/Blue was the completion of the Pokedex.
Let's wrap this up: I'm not impressed by the early stages of the Pokemon series. I'm so totally not impressed that Blue can now claim the dubious honour of being my least favourite Pokemon entry. While this game obviously delights the retro gamer in me with its old-school trappings, it leaves the Poke aficionado in me pretty unsated. Without nostalgia to make the heart grow fonder, the first generation is nothing more than a passable try with a lot of room for improvement. And boy, was there indeed improvement! Playing Blue made me fully realize the extent of the vertiginous progress that took place throughout the series. The Pokemon formula has been beautifully and cleverly refined over time; and with all due respect to nostalgic players who discovered the series with Blue/Red, the latest Pokemon instalments are the pinnacle of sophistication compared to these coarse beginnings. With that, dear fellow gamers, I rest my case. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Halfway between reversible clothing and drawings hidden under manga jackets, two-sided cover foils are the new en vogue gaming Easter Egg. I discovered the existence of that trend as I was checking my newly received copy of Trillion God of Destruction: my sharp eyes spotted unaccountable patches of colours through the box' interstices, and a keener examination revealed the unthinkable: the cover fold was illustrated on both sides! I was so elated by that unexpected discovery that I immediatly started inspecting the rest of my Vita collection; and to my utter delight, I uncovered more of these recto-verso covers. Here are the most memorable ones in all their colourful glory!
In addition to these exclusive covers, I also found some interesting variations on other games. Illustrations devoid of text are featured behind the cover folds of several Hyperdimension games, Trails of Cold Steel's cover fold sports both the European and North-American art for the game (Trillion does the same with the Japanese and Western art) and the Asian version of Moe Chronicles has a reversible English/Chinese cover. But what about 3DS games, you may ask? Well, although they are not as keen on that trend as Vita games, I managed to extract two gorgeous examples from my collection:
These alternative covers are often strikingly more beautiful than the official ones—so much so that I decided to leave a couple of them in place. They also tend to be starker and more sober, evacuating text and logos to focus on a more unified and stylish overall look, and they don't hesitate to wallow in kawaisa and moe-inducing designs. (This culminates in the cover of Stranger of Sword City, whose sole gimmick and purpose is to offer a kawaii version of the original character designs to moe-hungry players.) It's fascinating to see how the simple act of shifting a game cover can give a totally new vibe to said game; this is the kind of exquisite detail that makes physical games valuable and provides excellent incentive to purchase them, on top of adding a nice element of surprise to the discovery of new games. Now that I'm aware of the existence of that lovely feature, I'll keep my eyes peeled and check every new Vita game for a hidden cover design. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Purrloin, yet he remains undeniably inferior to his Diamond/Pearl counterpart Piplup. What you can expect when cruising around with the samurai otter alone is a neatly balanced solo run, neither too painfully hard nor too boringly easy.
To my utter delight, this solo run of White was much more pleasant that my recent solo run of Black. The in-game weather played a huge part, as Spring Unova is definitely cosier and more welcoming than Winter Unova; and since I knew what to expect from Unova as a whole, I was not repulsed anymore by its urban and slightly barren vibe. Heck, I even came to love it to some extent! Not only is industrial Unova a pretty consistent region in its own right, but it also brings some welcome variety to the Pokemon region pool. I also tolerated Cheren and Bianca a lot better after figuring out that their behaviour had a symbolic meaning tied to the game's overall message: Bianca and the obvious limitations that she's forced to acknowledge embody the Truth, while Cheren and his drive to succeed and be the best at all costs embody the Ideal. That doesn't make them lovelier or more likeable, but their polarized and seemingly unreasonable behaviours are not as hard to swallow once one knows that they are supposed to be personifications of concepts rather than kawaii sidekicks.
Purrloin solo run and one about my overall impression of the game. I will thus leave it at that, even though it makes that post look more like a glorified footnote than like a true run report. My Oshawott solo run was a jolly good one that somehow reconciled me with the Fifth Generation as a whole, and I'm now more thrilled at the prospect of playing White 2 and Black 2 than, say, at the end of my solo run of Black. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
A couple of days ago, I finally received my elusive and much-awaited physical edition of Summon Night 5 after many a delay. I was surprised by the presentation of the thing: although the description at Play-Asia seems to imply that this limited physical edition is a Special of sorts, with the use of the world "bundle" and an appetizing list of featured items, the final product is actually more akin to a low-budget custom-made edition—which is exactly what it is, en passant. As a result, there was no outer box and the game and OST were sent separately, unceremoniously bundled by a rubber band:
The box contains a full-colour booklet and a reversible poster:
This is really just a regular PSP game with a poster and a soundtrack CD on top, but it's remarkable as one of the last of its kind and as a true work of love and passion. The fact that the UMD is a proprietary format that is no longer produced nowadays means that there will very likely be no more physical releases for the PSP and that the homebrew scene for this console will be emulator-based. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Gajinworks had to ditch the planned limited physical edition of Class of Heroes 3 for an impossibility to procure UMDs. But let's wait and see—and hopefully play! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
PS: The North-American PSN code that came along with my physical edition is still there for the taking, by the way!
Purrloin solo run of Black and was treated to a pleasantly different experience. Heart Gold and Black may belong to the same franchise and be hosted by the same console, but they are far from being similar games. As a matter of fact, although Heart Gold looks every bit like a DS Pokemon entry, it takes only a little playing to realize that it actually hails from an older and less sophisticated gaming era.
Indeed, Heart Gold is a enhanced remake of Gameboy Color instalment Pokemon Gold, and this antiquity shows quite vividly despite the brilliant revamping and rehauling that the game went through. The major difference that immediatly struck me is how tinier the Johto region is compared to Sinnoh and Unova. Not only that, but it's also incredibly cosier and more homely. Johto treated me to the most mellow, friendly and heartwarming atmosphere I ever basked in in a Pokemon game. In fact, cruising around Johto feels more like taking a stroll in a glorified backyard than like roaming a vast unknown world in which adventure and excitement await at every corner. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you: I love the series first and foremost for its sweet and comforting vibe, and Heart Gold sure has that vibe in spades.
|Still getting some nice catch—but for how long?|
This evolution shouldn't be too surprising, mind you. The main motivation behind my collecting was twofold: collecting was partly driven by a burning desire to overcompensate for my years away from gaming and to fulfill at long last my childhood dream of being able to purchase games to my heart's content, and partly driven by a firm intention to constitute a pool of gaming systems and games that would be there for the (re)playing in years to come. It's hard to deny that after five years of intense—and intensive—collecting, these two objectives have been reached several times over. My old frustration of not being able to indulge in my wildest game purchasing fantasies has been totally erased and is now but a distant memory; and with five gaming systems and hundreds of games at my disposal, I have enough gaming material for decades. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if I grew bored of gaming or if arthritis caught my thumbs and wrists before I'm done playing all the games in my collection.
On top of that, collecting games is slowly but surely losing its edge over the years to become business as usual, so to speak. The initial thrill of hunting for games has been dampened by time and hundreds of gaming purchases and I've become a trifle desensitized to the whole thing, going from browsing Ebay and Amazon for hours on end to hunt for the perfect bargain to placing preorders and grouping purchases in a perfectly blasé way. Long gone is the time when getting a good bargain on a game could illuminate my whole day; now I'm purchasing games in a rational and dispassionate way, methodically shearing my wishlist of the moment. Gaming purchases are still a great source of joy and I've not grown jaded towards the whole thing yet, but I could very much become so in the years to come. Heck, I'm already completely burnt out on special editions—what's the next step? I don't want my collecting to go down in my personal gaming history as something that I surfeited myself with, but rather as an pleasant endeavour that I wisely stopped before I got sick of it.
This led me to an crucial decision: I'm going to stop collecting games in the years to come, while collecting is still enjoyable. More specifically, I will ensure that my collecting stops with the 3DS and the Vita. Once these two bail out, I will not shift my collecting to other systems but rather deliberately stop collecting altogether. That doesn't mean that I will stop buying games entirely: I will very likely keep purchasing the odd game here and there, but that will become an isolated occurrence rather than a regular activity. But what about next gen handhelds, you may ask? Well, if there are any AND if I decide to invest in some of them, I will do so in a more carefree and less involved way. I will not collect for them and I will only purchase and play the very best games they have to offer. In a nutshell, future consoles will be nothing more than side dishes, the main courses being my five current handhelds—Vita, 3DS, PSP, DS and GBA, a.k.a. the Fab Five.
The announced end of my collecting endeavours obviously doesn't mean that I will stop playing games and blogging about them—let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, shall we? My precious collection is sizeable enough to provide gaming and writing material for many years to come, so I won't retire from gaming and blogging any time soon. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
I've been pining for a Western release of DS RPG Ni no Kuni for years, praying that a publisher would treat us to a late release à la Summon Night 5. However, it's now been three years since the DS was discontinued and it's becoming painfully obvious that such a miraculous late release will not happen. I thus decided to import at long last a Japanese copy of the game, which was quite the smooth task: even nowadays, finding a cheap brand-new copy of Ni no Kuni is surprisingly easy.
The DS version of Ni no Kuni is famous for sporting a companion book and thus nearly qualifying as a special edition in terms of size and content. From what I've understood, the book is more or less mandatory to enjoy the game to the fullest, which may have played a part in the decision to not bring Ni no Kuni to our shores. It also makes the outer box quite imposing, resulting in the use of cardboard in lieu of plastic. The box is wrapped in a paper sheet similar to a classic videogame cover, which can be peeled to reveal the box underneath and its gorgeous motifs:
The book is a true work of art as well as love. It sports a luxurious gilded hardcover, and the inside is no less beautiful: pages are made of a beautiful ancient-looking brown paper and bristle with splendid illustrations completed with gracious adornments and curlicues. See for yourselves the beauty of that thing:
The variety of subjects covered in this splendid tome seems to be staggering, ranging from spells to a complete bestiary to an exhaustive description of all the game's items—and much, much more. I particularly appreciate the fact that the pronunciation of all kanji is included, which will be of great help for the Japanese beginner I still am.
In a nutshell, Ni no Kuni is a valuable addition to my precious collection and I am utterly delighted by that purchase. I can only encourage players who have even the slightest interest in that game to make their move and order it whilst there are still many cheap copies available. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Yes, Agnès. The crystal Vestal herself. Although this theory may seem ludicrous at first sight, there are actually a lot of elements that support it in the game itself. Here are my five proofs that the player does in fact possess Agnès:
Proof#1: It may seem like I'm stating the obvious, but Agnès is the true main character of Bravely Default. She's featured prominently in the game's official art—including the European cover of the game, which shows her in the foreground—and the game's story revolves around her quest to reawaken the Crystals. Tiz may be the first party member to be introduced, but he joins Agnès in her mission, not the opposite. Since she's the main character, it only makes sense that the player should possess her rather than one of her sidekicks.
Proof#2: The opening AR sequence shows Agnès begging us, the player, to intervene in order to save the world. Since she's the one who's begging and since the world's rescue is directly tied to the Crystals that are in her care, it makes considerably more sense that the being from another dimension incarnated by the player should choose to possess her body in order to lend a hand in saving the world rather than the body of a random boy who has no link whatsoever with the Crystals. Now, one could argue that the AR movie closes with Agnès uttering the words "become my Warrior of Light", which obviously refers to another person who's very likely Tiz; however, this was "added in translation", so to speak. The original Japanese text ends a bit differently, with Agnès begging you to save the world "as a Warrior of Light" ("Anata ga Hikari no Senshi to shite"). Not her Warrior; a Warrior. And since all four party members are referred to as "Warriors of Light" throughout the game, this term can technically apply to every one of them—including Agnès herself. Moreover, it's worth noting that Agnès is the only party member who interacts with us during her AR sequence. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Proof#4: During the final fight, Ouroboros dons Tiz' form and addresses him, claiming that a celestial lurks within him. One could easily assume that said celestial is the player; however, Ouroboros describes the celestial realm as "prosperous, full of love, beneficent, reverential and orderly" and adds that "it knows no war or strife". That description can hardly apply to our world, which means that the celestial must be someone else than the player. (On top of that, the idea that Ouroboros could want to destroy our world is totally absurd and would fall flat in the most pathetic way.) It makes sense to assume that the celestial is Airy's sister, all the more so as the nature and origin of the Crystal Fairies is never precised in the game; Airy serves Ouroboros, but nothing prevents her from being a celestial. And if Airy's sister occupies Tiz' body, then the player must be hosted by another party member—i.e. Agnès.
Proof#5: A.k.a. the ultimate proof: the possession of Agnès by the player is totally and utterly consistent with the events unfolding in the game's alternate ending. Not only does the uninterrupted pressing of the x button correspond to an in-game action performed by Agnès, i.e. the injection of energy into the Crystal, but the rest of the crew states in no uncertain terms that they will align with Agnès' decisions and support her actions. Tiz being the party member possessed by the player would totally undermine the importance of that alternate ending and create a massive contradiction: it would make no sense at all that the game's supreme gift of free will to the player would be performed by another character than the one supposedly possessed by said player. Moreover, this argument can be expanded to all the rituals of awakening performed on the Crystals throughout the game: the player is one with Agnès during these phases and is very literally lending their energy to her by pressing the x button. If Agnès is channeling us during the rituals of awakening, then it only makes sense to assume that she's doing so at all times.
I like to imagine that this setting was designed as an Easter Egg of sorts, a plot twist that can only be uncovered through a minute examination of the game's story. Of course, I could also be completely wrong; but I fancy thinking I'm right on this one. The proofs are here, and let's be honest: the idea of being hosted by the authentic main character of Bravely Default is indoubtedly more alluring than the idea of playing second fiddle into one of her sidekicks. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!