Nintendo: A matter of perception

Internet is swarming with reactions to the Nintendo Switch these days. These reactions come in all shapes and sizes and levels of intensity, ranging from gamers screaming gloom and doom while frothing at the mouth to starry-eyed gamers finding no flaw whatsoever with the system, with the vast majority of us standing somewhere in the middle and professing our interest for the Switch while confessing our worries regarding its future performances.

But no matter the intensity and nature of reactions, some gamers out there seem to have a very deep and intense love for Nintendo; a love that goes way beyond your average appreciation of your favourite console manufacturer. This is the kind of love that makes people utter sentences such as "I really want Nintendo to succeed" or "We have to support Nintendo and make sure the Switch is a success by purchasing it en masse" or even "The gaming industry needs a thriving Nintendo". Apart from their seemingly boundless devotion to the Big N, these vocal gamers have another thing in common: the vast majority of them hail from North-America. And while they cannot mention Nintendo's possible retirement from the console manufacturing industry without tearing up, European gamers usually just shrug at the idea and let out a wistful sigh, saying "Sure, that's sad — but hey, c'est la vie". These vastly different reactions confirm my long-running hunch that North-America and Europe nurture drastically different perceptions of Nintendo.

In North-America, the Big N is more than a mere console manufacturer: it's a gaming institution. In fact, the very surname "Big N" hails straight from the USA. The story is the stuff of legend: Nintendo came up with the NES in 1986 and single-handedly revived the gaming industry, which lay in shambles after the horrendous Video Game Crash of 1983. Nintendo actually did more than just revitalize the moribund North-American gaming industry: they somehow recreated it from scratch by introducing innovations that still perdure to this day, such as the D-Pad or the idea of bundling a game with brand-new consoles. (How ironic that they giving up on these concepts with the Switch; but I digress.) They took center stage right from the NES' release and became the king of the gaming hills, basking in unparalleled domination from 1985 to 1995. Sure, Sega of 16-Bit Console Wars fame rocked their boat somehow in the early '90s; but despite their legendary boldness and aggressive marketing, Kalinske's teams only ever managed to topple Nintendo temporarily — not to mention that they were always seen as the outsider challenging the top dog rather than Nintendo's equals. Nintendo was so encompassing and ubiquitous in North-America that the brand's name basically became synonymous with gaming — with a capital G. A whole generation of gamers grew up sitting in front of a TV with an NES controller in hand and owe their childhood gaming memories to Nintendo exclusively. No wonder, then, that these gamers do not want The Big N to retire from the gaming landscape; because if Nintendo goes down the drain, so do their cherished childhood gaming memories. I can fully understand why North-American gamers who were introduced to gaming by the NES are clinging so desperately to the hope that Nintendo will endure against all odds. Because somewhere deep in their minds, Nintendo is gaming and always will be.

The situation in Europe couldn't be more different, and that boils down to a single factor: there was never any gaming crash in the Old Continent. Quite the contrary; gaming was thriving in Europe in the '80s, with dozens of systems to choose from — from the ZX Spectrum to the C64, without forgetting the Amstrad GX4000 (I still remember the advertising for that machine) and virtually dozens of other pieces of kit. When Nintendo unleashed the NES upon Europe, not only were they not hailed as the saviour of gaming like in North-America, but they had to face immediate and ferocious competition from the Sega Master System, which was quite the hit in Europe. (I remember playing Alex Kidd at my cousins' house and failing to go beyond the first level because of those cursed eagles. Stupidly hard game — but I digress.) Sales figures are quite telling: the Master System had sold 6.8 millions units in Europe as of 1993, which is a far cry from the paltry 2 millions sold in North-America; the NES, on the other hand, is said to have sold a mere 3.5 millions as of 1993 — although European sales numbers are curiously hard to find, probably due to Nintendo whitewashing their poor European sales. Nintendo were never a gaming messiah in Europe, nor were they the king of the gaming hill: they were merely one of the players in the sprawling European gaming industry, and that initial perception endured ever since. Sweet nostalgia cannot even help their case, because Europeans gamers who grabbed their first D-pad in the late '80s are just as likely to owe their first gaming memories to Sega than to Nintendo — without even mentioning the plethora of other systems available at the time. As a matter of fact, when it comes to pure probabilities backed by sales figures, these European gamers are more likely to owe their first gaming memories to another system than the NES. And this is why European gamers can mention Nintendo bailing out of the console manufacturing industry without batting an eyelid: for us, Nintendo was always just one console manufacturer amongst many others. We were able to bid Sega consoles farewell without too much drama back in the days, and so would we be able to bid Nintendo consoles farewell in the same quiet way. We're used to it, after all: we've seen countless console manufacturers exit the gaming scene over the years, and we came to develop a nearly fatalistic attitude towards the console manufacturing industry. Systems come and systems go, but gaming always endure — that's our stance.

So there you have the full picture as far as perception of Nintendo goes on Western shores. North-American gamers cling to Nintendo as the symbol of their happy gaming childhood and the very reason why they are able to play games today, while European gamers go with the flow and lose little time musing over the many console manufacturers that graced Europe with their offerings since the dawn of gaming. It's no coincidence that Nintendo never released the Power Glove and the Virtual Boy in Europe: European gamers were never as devoted to the Nintendo brand as their North-American counterparts, even after the number of gaming systems available in the Old Continent shrunk dramatically in the early '90s. Would we be sad if Nintendo went third-party in the years to come? Sure. Would it be a blow to our gaming morale? Certainly not. There are other console manufacturers out there, and someone could certainly fill the void left by Nintendo if they bailed out. As long as there will be a dedicated console market, there will be companies to occupy it. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Pokemon Moon: The Oricorio solo run

A.k.a. The Run That Shouldn't Have Been. See, I initially wanted my first Moon solo run to be a Popplio one, and that's actually what it was at first. Unfortunately, I was unlucky enough to be given a Popplio with a Sassy Nature. A bloody Sassy Nature, on a 'Mon that already has a pitifully low base Speed by default. What do you think happened? Heck, you guessed it: despite being overlevelled, my Popplio always acted second in battle. This quickly got on my nerves, to the point where I seriously considered erasing my save file and restarting my playthrough with a Popplio more fitted to solo run endeavours. But as I was pondering that possibility, I happened to encounter a wild Oricorio in Melemele Meadow; and hot on the heels of that fateful encounter came the idea of recycling my Popplio solo run into an Oricorio solo run. I had already come that far and Oricorio was one of my potential candidates for future solo runs anyway; so why not use the opportunity and spare myself the waste of a couple of hours of play? And that's how I found myself running solo with the dancing bird while I put my Popplio into early retirement on Poke Pelago. Sheesh, guess Lusamine was totally right about Trainers being cold-hearted pricks that get rid of their 'Mons when said 'Mons don't perform well enough in battle.

"Don't perform well enough in battle" is definitely not a sentence that applies to Oricorio in any of her forms. Gosh, that bird packs some serious punch and is just a perfect 'Mon to tackle a solo run. She levels up fast and boasts perfectly balanced stats, with no crippling weakness and two major strengths, i.e. Speed and Special Attack stats that go through the roof. The form change feature is just the perfect tool to tackle Trials without having to resort to a massive amount of battle items, and it's quite a nice diversion to boot: staring at the same 'Mon for hours in a solo run can be a a trifle monotonous, but Oricorio's four forms bring in a nice bit of visual variety. I switched at will between the three forms that were available during the main game (shame on you, Game Freak, for stingily sticking the most awesome form of the bunch behind the postgame wall), finally settling on the Baile style for most on my run. And boy, was it a blast to cruise Alola with such a powerful and stylish 'Mon.

That being said, I wouldn't deem Oricorio a perfect 'Mon by any means. In fact, Oricorio is pretty much a missed opportunity: she is quite a fine 'Mon as she is, but she could have been an outstanding 'Mon with a bit more effort on Game Freak's part. What drags the dancing bird down and prevents her from reaching the pinnacle of Pokemon greatness is her crippingly, ridiculously, infuriatingly limited Move pool. I though Rowlet was bad in that department; but oh boy, had I seen nothing yet. I had yet to meet Oricorio, i.e. The 'Mon That Can Solely Learn Two Move Types by Levelling Up. Yup, you've read that right: apart from Agility, which is a Psychic Status Move, Oricorio can solely learn Normal and Flying Moves by levelling up. Could it get any worse than that? Is there actually a 'Mon out there that has a worse move pool when it comes to Move Types  apart from your usual Magikarp or Cosmog, which are bound to evolve into kick-ass forms? Oricorio does not evolve and must endure being on a virtual Move Type diet for all eternity. And don't think that the colourful bird has it better on the TM front: she has to endure serious restriction there as well, with only a couple of Status Moves and a paltry two offensive Moves not belonging to Normal and Flying Type at her disposal. This is pure Move Type starvation, that's what it is.

It may seem like I'm nitpicking there, especially given that Oricorio's severe Move Type limitations didn't hinder my progression in the slightest. But mind you, there is more at stake here than a mere cosmetic issue (i.e. me growing blasé after 17 hours on a Normal and Flying Move diet): this Move Type restriction makes Oricorio's Double Type Variation gimmick virtually pointless. Like probably every Sun and Moon player, I assumed at first glance that Oricorio would be able to learn Moves belonging to her secondary Typing, and was seriously disappointed when I realized this was not the case; but it turns out that as a solo runner, I actually had more use for Oricorio's Double Typing than my fellow party runners. Although the dancing bird has obviously been designed to assume the role of the resident powerful Flying 'Mon in a party setting, her inability to learn Moves that tap into her secondary Types means that the sole advantage of said secondary Types is the array of Resistances tied to them. That leads us to a situation where in a classic party setting, Oricorio will be the best choice only when facing an opponent that is weak against Flying and belongs to one of the Types she's resistant to in any of her forms. How often is that likely to happen? Clearly not enough to justify the existence of the Double Type Variation gimmick as it is. Like I said above, this gimmick can only be of any use in a solo run, where all Trials have to be tackled with Oricorio alone; and even in such a case, it's far from being a game-changer. I switched my Oricorio's Type two or three times over the course of my run to make Trials easier; but knowing that I could have obtained the same results with a couple of Battle Items, being restricted to two Move Types during my whole run was too steep a price to pay for a couple of Resistances. In the end, Oricorio's form change gimmick is just that: a form change gimmick, bound to please the eye but with no real use in battle whatsoever.

I cannot fathom why Game Freak decided not to implement Moves belonging to Oricorio's secondary Typings, and I see only two possible reasons for that glaring omission. The first is that it may have proved too hard or even impossible to program; but in that case, Game Freak should have created four separate versions of Oricorio, each with its own Pokedex entry, and ditched the Nectar trigger altogether. The second is that it would have made Oricorio completely overpowered; but in that case, Game Freak should have given the bird access to more Move Types in order to make her more versatile and useful on the battlefield. In the end, nothing justifies the chosen implementation of Oricorio's Double Type variation; this is just bad Pokemon design and a massive missed opportunity.

That being said, I still enjoyed my Oricorio solo run and definitely recommend that 'Mon for a solo run, providing that you can stomach the lack of Move Type variety. Before I wrap up this post, here's one last anecdote for the road. When I play pairs of Pokemon games, I usually play as both the resident male and female Trainer, one for each version; and the choice of which Trainer to play in which version usually boils down to chance or to my mood of the moment. But in the case of Sun and Moon, I was intent on playing as the male Trainer in Moon. Why, you may ask? Well, because of Evangelion. More precisely because of the famous Evangelion art book called Der Mond, which I never owned but heard off, like basically anybody who was an anime fan around 2000. I remember thinking that it was just so damn cool that the word "moon" was a masculine word in German, while being a feminine word in most latin-derived languages; this detail kickstarted my interest in linguistics and has been stuck in my memory ever since, prompting me to pick a male Trainer for my playthrough of Moon nearly twenty years later. And on that colourful note, I'm wrapping up that post, dear fellow gamers. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Sonic Boom - Fire and Ice: Nothing new under the sun

Let's get straight to the point for once: this game could as well have been subtitled "Shattered Crystal 2". It's a virtual copy-paste of the first Sonic Boom entry on the 3DS: it sports the same aesthetics, the same cast of characters, the same physics, the same gameplay, the same weirdly vague zone themes, the same lacklustre soundtrack and the same overall atmosphere. Everything I said about Shattered Crystal applies to that game to a T, and that's why I'm going to focus on the  very few — new features that Fire and Ice brings to the table.

Let's start with the game's main selling point, i.e. the fire and ice gimmick. It's actually quite good for what it's worth, and it completes nicely the already existing Sonic Boom mechanics; but unfortunately, it's also completely underexploited. I fully expected the world of Fire and Ice to be solely composed of fiery and wintery zones that would have pushed that new gameplay feature to its limits; but instead, we have a potpourri of very classic and cookie-cutter zones in which the fire and ice gimmick is used only sporadically. Not only is that poor use a missed opportunity, but it also dilutes the impact of the character-specific gameplay mechanics introduced in Shattered Crystal. Fire and Ice could as well have featured Sonic alone for all the use it makes of the rest of the crew's abilities — and in my opinion, it definitely should have featured the Blue Blur alone in a land of fire and ice so gorgeous it would have made Georges R. R. Martin green with envy.

Mind you, the fact that character-specific abilities take a backseat in F&I is not entirely negative. It does away with one of SC's most annoying elements, namely the obligation to clear levels over and over again with different characters in order to be able to progress at all. This infuriating display of fake longevity is absent from F&I, replaced by a fluid progression that lets you rush forward to your heart's content. That makes F&I more akin to a genuine Platformer, while SC felt and played more like some sort of weird mix of Platformer and Action-Adventure game.

F&I is also noticeably harder than SC, which really took me by surprise  before I started huffing and puffing about it, that is. This added difficulty doesn't please me in the slightest, all the more so as it destroys what was in my opinion the strongest point of the Boom series' gameplay: its very un-Sonic relaxing quality. SC's gameplay was casual and thus pleasantly soothing, in an oddly unexpected way; F&I's gameplay, on the other hand, is more demanding and ends up being quite irritating. I am not ashamed to admit that I ragequit a couple of times and that playing that game felt more often like a exercise in frustration than like a relaxing outlet. And mind you, the level of difficulty involved is as bad as it can be: it's high enough to get on one's nerves, yet not high enough to be challenging and thus genuinely thrilling. This becomes painfully obvious when considering the Challenge Rooms, which are small bonus stages featuring some really tricky platforming; said platforming is so well-crafted and demanding that clearing these stages is truly exhilarating, and that's all the difficulty that game needed in my opinion. Just give us those nerve-racking challenges in small doses and let us luxuriate in that mellow trademark Boom gameplay.

All in all, I really can't fathom why this sequel was released at all. It was delayed by a whole year, and one could have thought that Sanzaru Games put some major work into the project; instead, what we got is a copy-paste of the first game with an underused gimmick added. What's the point of even developing such a game? Mind you, I know what the point is: the target audience for the Boom subseries are kids, and kids have long forgotten everything about the first entry and are no doubt treating F&I as a totally new and fresh game. For those of us who have longer memory spans and still own Shattered Crystal, Fire and Ice is an entirely dispensable purchase. It brings too little to the Boom formula and takes away too much from it to be worth playing, and that's coming from someone who genuinely enjoyed Shattered Crystal. I'll probably sell my copy of F&I at some point and hold onto SC for future replays; because SC is really all I need if I want to get a fix of that soothing Boom signature gameplay. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Nintendo Switch: The Great Game Drought

The damage control around the Switch is still going on full force, with Nintendo die-hard fans, optimistic gamers and gaming journalists trying to whitewash and gloss over the console's flaws. And granted, maybe we're all being overly dramatic about the Switch; after all, many of the system's initial flaws can be managed and even entirely erased. Sure, the battery life is pitiful; but trust Nintendo to produce another more endurant model down the line. Sure, the idea of a paying an app for voice chat is ludicrous; but trust Nintendo to backpedal and make the thing entirely free if gamers are becoming too angry and vocal. Sure, the console, games and accessories are ridiculously overpriced; but trust Nintendo to lower prices massively if their stuff doesn't sell, just like they did with the 3DS. There is, however, one glaring flaw that cannot be mitigated or sugar-coated, and that flaw is the shocking lack of games. And this time, you cannot trust Nintendo to come up with a magic fix, because they've proven with the WiiU that they were unable to produce more games or to bring in third-party developers even if their life depended on it  and in a way, it did. But that doesn't prevent the damage control brigade from bandying all sorts of disingenuous justifications and excuses for the Switch anaemic's launch line-up, such as:

"But we already have a meaty AAA game at launch, and that's Breath of the Wild! A game that huge and amazing should surely occupy you for many months, right?" Well, I hate to point out the obvious and piss on your bonfire, but we don't know yet if BOTW is going to be a game meaty enough to occupy us for several months. For all we know, it could have a 5-hour-long main quest with tons of fluff and filler on the side. But there is more: we don't even know yet if that game is going to be good at all. Nintendo have built up the hype around BOTW so skillfully that we all assume that this game is going to be a masterpiece; but for all we actually do know at that point, it could be just a mediocre or barely satisfactory game. To bet so much on a game that we still know so little about and that has yet to be reviewed is just unreasonable, especially considering Nintendo's recent track record when it comes to their own IPs. The latest entries of Animal Crossing, Star Fox and Paper Mario were deemed quite mediocre; and Ninty has not exactly been delivering on the Zelda front either, with only four HD remakes, a derivative follow-up to a 1991 entry and a clunky multiplayer spin-off released in the last console generation. And even if BOTW turns out to be the best Zelda entry ever released, there are gamers out there that don't fancy the Zelda series and/or open-word games with tons of crafting and running around, and BOTW won't make these gamers warm up to the idea of purchasing a Switch day one.

"There are enough great games slated for release as it is! How many games do you need exactly? Just stop piling up stuff and focus on one game at once!" While it's true that my backlog could use a bit of shearing, this argument doesn't hold water in the current gaming landscape. In the early '90s, a single high-profile game could easily unify all gamers under its overbearing and encompassing greatness. Things were simpler back then: the overwhelming majority of gamers followed the dominant gaming trends with a enthusiam only matched by their zeal to get rid of games that were not trendy anymore, and it was easy to feed them any killer app. Nintendo themselves gave birth to some of these massively successful and highly revered crowd-pleasers: Super Mario 64, Super Mario World, Ocarina of Time, you name them. However, the gaming industry has changed since the '90s, and so have gamers' expectations. The meteoric rise of indie, retro and portable gaming has created a gaming landscape in which every gamer can find games tailored to their tastes, no matter how niche or quirky these tastes happen to be. We gamers have grown used to being pampered and treated to the exact games we want, and we're not going to renounce cherry-picking our games just because Nintendo cannot be bothered to release games catering to all gaming tastes  not when there are others console manufacturers around. My point is: in today's gaming scene, you need a wide array of games covering many gaming genres to bring a large audience to your console. You can't simply release one high-profile game every three month and call it a day. Heck, you can't even get away with releasing one high-profile game and five digital indies every three months like Nintendo is about to do until the end of the year. This kind of publishing policy simply doesn't cut it in 2017, and no gamer beyond hardcore Nintendo fans are going to be content with that.

"A huge launch line-up doesn't automatically imply success! The Vita failed with 25 launch games, and the Game Boy soared with only 5!" Sure, numbers don't lie, and those facts are pretty much undeniable. But someone coming up with this argument has to be either extremely disingenuous or naive beyond belief; because once again, these wild variations boil down to gaming eras and concurrent expectations. While Nintendo could still afford to release the N64 with only two launch games in North-America in 1996, such a behaviour would be nothing short of suicidal nowadays. The PS4 struggled to gain traction despite its 25 launch games, and the 3DS' 15-or-so games left gamers so unimpressed that the system very nearly died in its first months of existence. What was still perfectly acceptable two console generations ago  the PS3 launched with 14 games and the DS with just 7 in North-America  is totally unthinkable nowadays. As I mentioned above, most of us gamers want many games to choose from; and if a game manufacturer don't provide enough games for our tastes, we will simply jump ship and take our business to the next console manufacturer or to PC. We're not willing anymore to purchase a console bereft of games and grind and bear it until games start arriving, especially not when other consoles with bulging game libraries are courting us.

"Third-party devs and Nintendo themselves are cooking up some games as we're speaking! Just you wait until E3! There will be tons of games released before the end of 2017!" No, there won't. If tons of games had indeed been in the pipeline, they would have been shown at the Switch presentation. Why on earth would Nintendo present us with mere concept art, declarations of goodwill and trailers totally devoid of any gameplay if they had games slated for release in 2017? It's not like they wouldn't know about these games at that point, now would they? And why would third-party developers themselves be so hush-hush about their upcoming releases for the Switch, in a gaming era where games are teased years before their actual release? (Kingdom Hearts III, anyone?) And why would Nintendo themselves feed us so many ports of already released games if they had some new material nearly ready for launch? Sure, Nintendo and third-party devs are indeed cooking up some games right now; but these games won't be released before 2018, maybe even 2019 for the slowest developers. (If we see Octopath Traveller before the end of next year, I'm ready to eat my special edition of Bravely Second.) The only developers that could pull off 2017 surprise releases while having no material ready at the time of the Switch presentation are super-niche developers à la Experience Inc. and indie devs, and there's nothing to expect from them; the former are too busy crafting games for the Vita and the latter usually need months of Kickstarting before they can even write a line of code. Let's face it, people: what we've seen at the Switch presentation is what we'll get in 2017. There will be no releases coming like a bolt out of the blue, and the whole Nintendo E3 conference will be devoted to showcasing footage from Super Mario Odyssey. And that Pokemon Stars game we were all waiting for? I'm pretty sure it's not coming before 2018. If it's coming at all.

"Nintendo just published a list of all the upcoming Switch games, and now we have 106 games to look forward to in the next years! There's nothing to worry about!" Fair enough; but unfortunately, a good two thirds  if not three quarters  of these games still don't have a release date. Heck, I'm sure that the development process for those games hasn't even started yet, which means that we won't see them before 2018 or even 2019. And mind you, just because third-party developers are announcing their intention to release games on the Switch doesn't mean that these games will actually see the light of day: those developers are simply keeping their options open, and they will be quick to pull out the plug and cancel these games whose development has probably yet to start if the Switch doesn't sell well enough. The exact same thing happened with the WiiU and is even more likely to happen nowadays: no game is safe anymore and any game can be cancelled without mercy, as the Scalebound fiasco abundantly proves. So until these games have release dates set in stone, we can as well consider them as gaming potentialities rather than actual games.

Mark my words: the Switch is a console starved of games and will remain that way for a very long time. Heck, it could even remain that way forever. If the WiiU debacle has taught us something, it's definitely that no console can thrive without a solid library of games and that not having enough games available in the early stages of a console's lifetime can scare away third-party developers and create a vicious circle in which the number of games developed for the console steadily decreases over time. Too bad Nintendo didn't learn that lesson as acutely as we did and didn't bother securing third-party support and developing a slew of first-party high-profile titles long before the Switch's release. They're obviously being stingy, lazy and complacent when it comes to the Switch; and that stinginess, laziness and complacency may be their downfall. The Switch launch could have been the most epic, glorious and flamboyant console launch of them all, with games up the wazoo and Nintendo making their second coming; instead, it's a dud of massive proportions that has the audacity to line up even less games than the WiiU did. Damage-control all you want, but there's no escaping that dire reality. And let's remember, people, that the WiiU actually had a rather good launch before third-party devs deserted it and made it the failure it is today. If the WiiU failed despite its more consequent launch line-up and stronger initial third-party support, what hope is there for the Switch to soar and be Nintendo's saving grace? Only time will tell. I'll be waiting for the games to appear; and if they don't, I'll pass on the Switch with no regrets. With that, I rest my case. Thanks for reading, dear fellow gamers, and be my guest anytime!


Nintendo Switch: The state of the hype

I can't open Youtube these days without being greeted by a Recommended tab swarming with Nintendo Switch-related videos. Negative Nintendo Switch-related videos, should I say, because the overall tone of this abundant material is not exactly positive: rant videos make the bulk of the Switch-related content, with beaming and optimistic videos being few and far between. As videos and articles about the Switch keep piling up on the internet, it's now time to examine the state of the hype surrounding the upcoming Nintendo Switchand Nintendo's prospects in general.

Let's face it, the situation is quite dire. The Switch hype has pretty much deflated like an overcooked soufflé since the now infamously lousy Switch presentation, with all the excitement generated by the system since the october trailer virtually evaporating in a matter of daysif not hours. I don't think I've ever seem the hype surrounding a gaming system collapse so quickly; and yet, as Youtube is flooded with "Switch will fail" and "WTF is Nintendo doing" videos, a lot of damage control is simultaneously going on.

I should rather say sheer denial, actually. Defending Nintendo's atrocious approach to the Switch and giving it a positive spin does require metric tons of denial and wishful thinking, but some gamers seem to have no shortage of these things. I've watched videos of starry-eyed gamers postulating that the reason Nintendo revelead so few games in the Switch presentation is because they are keeping some high-profile projects under wraps for E3 2017. That's a lovely theory, but there are virtually no chances that this is indeed the case. Nintendo have not performed game reveals on a massive scale at E3 for years, and I seriously doubt they will do so in 2017. Let's face it, folks: the most likely reason Nintendo revealed so few games during the Switch presentation is because there are no games to reveal. They had no qualms about announcing that Super Mario Odyssey would be released at the end of 2017, so why would they be coy about other games? That "Shelving Games for E3" theory doesn't hold water, especially when considering Nintendo's E3 track record these last years.

This game issue leads us to another newly sprouted topic regarding the Switch and Nintendo in general. Some gamers are starting to speculate about the Switch's possible failure and its most likely consequence, which is none other than Nintendo retiring from the hardware business and going third-party full force. Such conjectures were unthinkable two console generations ago when the Big N was soaring along the Wii and DS, and they were pretty much taboo while the Wii U and 3DS were struggling to gain traction; but now that Nintendo seems to be failing to read and ride the gaming zeitgeist once again, gamers are no longer shy to discuss Nintendo going the Sega way. Some are even bolder and assert that this would be the best option for everyone, including Nintendo themselves: they could stop wasting resources on woefully underpowered consoles and pour all their energy into the development of mind-blowing games, milking their popular IPs for generations of consoles to come. How awesome would it be to play an HD Mario game on the PS5 or the XBox Whatever-enigmatic-name-Microsoft-come-up-with? How wonderful would it be to get all Nintendo IPs on one's console of choice without having to worry about the lack of third-party support? That sounds stellar indeed, and I can understand why so many gamers are slowly but surely warming up to the idea of Ninty going third-party.

There's only one teeny-tiny problem with this dream scenario: Nintendo doesn't seem to be able to produce games properly anymore. They were not even able to get a new Mario out the door for the Switch release, and Zelda "forever" Breath of the Wild has been in development for so long that it was initially supposed to be the resident WiiU entry of the series. Most of the time, Nintendo doesn't even bother doing the bare minimum when it comes to long-running games series, i.e. releasing at least one new instalment on every new console they produce. And the stuff they do manage to get out the door is becoming increasingly derivative and superficial. Titles like Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival and AC: Happy Home Designer are barely games at all, Paper Mario: Color Splash is widely said to be the most casual entry in the series and all the recent canon Mario games revolve more around collecting Stars than around clearing increasingly complicated levels like back in the days. And that's without even talking about Nintendo's readiness to recycle their own winning gaming formulas: Star Fox Zero is basically a reboot of the original Star Fox with a cumbersome control gimmick added and every Mario entry released on the WiiU and 3DS is a rehash of old Mario games. Will they be able to dazzle and make big bucks as a third-party developer with such an anaemic game production? Heck, I don't think so.

Moving on to the Switch's marketing pitch, one sentence that's being bandied around more and more often since the presentation is the "Play AAA games on the go" motto. Some gamers utter this like it's the market positioning to rule them all, the magic formula that will guarantee the Switch's success. But wait, doesn't this sound eerily familiar? Didn't somebody try this marketing ploy before, assuming that all gamers wanted to play AAA games on a handheld? Why, obviously: this used to be the main selling point of the Playstation Vita back in 2012. Did it work on the long run? Nope. And mind you, the Vita actually had a very good lauch, with no less than 25 launch titles including big-profile games. What's more, the Vita didn't underperform because Sony stopped supporting it; instead, they stopped supporting it because it didn't perform well. And why didn't it perform well? Could it be because gamers don't care about playing AAA games on the go after all? Could it be because portable gamers are purchasing handhelds first and foremost for the exclusive and highly specific brand of gaming offered by such systems? Heck, I'd wager that 95% of the current Vita install base is made of niche games aficionadosand that obviously includes yours truly. Sony failed to understand that handhelds are not mere hardware options but rather self-sufficient gaming ecosystems that appeal to a certain audience, and it seems that Nintendo is failing to understand this as well. Will the 3DS install base move over to the Switch? If the franchises they used to play and love on Ninty's handhelds do not move over to the Switch themselves, I seriously doubt it. Heck, I know I wouldn't do it.

So, that's where we are today. The hype has deflated, and most gamers have adopted a cautious "Let's wait and see" stance that more often than not involves not purchasing the console at launch and waiting for more games to be released. No matter how you look at it and no matter how much of a Nintendo fan you are, it's hard to deny that the Big N is in a precarious position right now. We'll see how things evolve in the months to come, and I'll probably write more posts about the Nintendo Switchbecause let's face it, I'm kinda hooked on all that Nintendo drama now. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Pokemon Y: The male Meowstic solo run

My Rowlet solo run showed me that defensive 'Mons with a reduced offensive move pool can nonetheless be decent solo run material; and in the wake of that discovery, I suddenly needed to tackle a male Meowstic solo run. The deed didn't seem so impossible after all, especially considering how shamelessly easy X and Y are.

No sooner said that done; I stuck my still unplayed Y cartridge into my 3DS and before I knew it, I was roaming Route 6 and hunting for Espurrs. I must confess that I actually had this wild fantasy of attempting to cruise Kalos with a shiny male Espurrnevermind the fact that I never ever encountered a shiny 'Mon in any of my Pokemon playthroughs. However, after it took me roughly two hours to capture a dozen male Espurrs, I realized how futile this hope was and moved on with my run. Now, why capture so many Espurrs, you may ask? Well, because I wanted to take advantage of another feature I had failed to take into account until then; and that feature is none other than Pokemons' Natures. See, I wanted to give myself as good an edge as possible and to compensate for my future Meowstic's unavoidable weaknesses by choosing the most fitting Nature. I didn't go as far as to hunt for a specific Nature, mind you; I recruited a bunch of Espurrs and chose the one with the Nature that best fitted my purposes. The lucky winner turned out to be an Espurr with a Quiet Nature, which was quite a good bargain considering that Meowstic's Speed is fairly high and could thus tolerate a bit of lowering; and since Meowstic's most powerful offensive moves are Special moves, an increase in Sp. Attack was definitely most welcome.

The ensuing run went incredibly smoothly and was pure delight from beginning to end. Despite the fact that male Meowstic does indeed has a ridiculously tiny offensive move pool, I managed to end up with a quartet of offensive moves belonging to four different Types by the end of my run, which was more than I had dared hope for and allowed me to handle pretty much all battle situations. Since this is Pokemon Y we're talking about, my Meowstic obviously reached the big 100 level-wise before the credits rolled and could take care of the Elite Four without breaking a sweat. Now that's a job well done, especially for a defensive 'Mon.

Cruising Kalos again right after Alola was a bit of a trudge, I must admit. The fact that you simply cannot get rid of those cursed roller blades is infuriating, and the sheer abundance of towns in Kalos still doesn't sit well with me. And gosh, Serena is the less stimulating rival ever. Not only did she seem less than enthusiastic to spar with me, but her incredibly sorrowful expression at the end of battles made me feel horrible for repeatedly beating her. I want my Pokemon rivals to rile me up, damnit, not to make me want to hug them and rub their back after every fight! Good thing Game Freak ditched the rival pattern entirely for Sun and Moon instead of offering yet another half-hearted rival.

On the other hand, playing Y right after Sun made me realize how painfully slow the latter is. I knew that already, but being thrown on Kalos' roads literally two minutes after starting the game really drove the point home. And we're not talking solely about the general pacing: battles in Y are also ten times snappier and brisker than their Sun and Moon counterparts, with their endless intros and slow-emptying life bars. On the other hand, Y sports considerably more of these annoying caves full of Zubats, and I was none too happy to be reunited with them. The swift and flowing pacing also deteriorates in the second half of the game, which is way too drawn-out for my taste. So if I had to pick up my favourite pair of games between X/Y and Sun/Moon , I'd still choose the latter over the former despite their diluted pacing and combat that feels likes you're battling through molasses.

I actually wonder if Game Freak may have been somehow testing the waters with X and Y before rehauling the Gym system in Sun and Moon. The Gym distribution in Kalos is quite unusual when compared to former entries, with Gyms seemingly popping up randomly in townsso randomly, in fact, that I always lose track of the number of Gyms I've cleared at some point and invariably end up surprised when I'm told that I can now challenge the Elite Four. Gone is the rock-solid and long-enduring "One Town, One Gym" pattern, and in its place comes a much less linear repartition of the game's famous eight milestones. Could this more haphazard Gym distribution have been envisioned as a way to break the traditional Gym mould and subtly introduce players to a different structure while gauging their reactions, or is it just me reading too deep into matters? We can't know for sure, but I really fancy thinking that Game Freak had things mapped out long before the first line of code for Sun and Moon was even written.

With that, I'm done with my male Meowstic solo run. It was an incredibly pleasant run that made me want to attempt even more solo runs with 'Mons that may be considered poor solo run material at first glance. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!