Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, I was in the mood for a retro rampage and decided to take a trip even further down memory lane by replaying The Game That Started It All: Super Mario Land, a.k.a. The First Video Game I Ever Purchased. I was an industrious kid and saved my pocket money on a regular basis, and that's how I was able to purchase a brand-new copy of SML very quickly after getting my Game Boy, saving myself from an dreary Tetris diet in the process. I cannot remember why I picked up that particular game, but I'd reckon that it was both because it was wildly advertised and because it was one of the very few Game Boy games available at the time. I didn't know what to expect from SML, but I sure hoped for the best. Alas, the best didn't come.
In the end, my relationship with SML is still pretty complicated to this day. This was my very first game, and I have to acknowledge its importance and meaning in my gaming career; but on the other hand, I really don't like that game and don't think I ever will. So I'll probably put it to rest one way or another and wisely abstain from ever touching it again. Bad gaming memories are better left undisturbed, all the more so in a present that's brimming with fulfilling gaming experiences. I'd be curious to know what your very first game was and if it was a lacklustre experience or an amazing one, dear fellow gamers; so feel free to let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Sieg's innocent question in a comment: "Will you ever try out a Nuzlocke Challenge?" My first impulse was to answer that there was no way I'd ever go back to playing party runs in Pokemon and that as a result, the probability of me ever tackling a Nuzlocke challenge was virtually inexistent. But then I paused and asked myself: could there be a way to tweak Nuzlocke rules in order to make them work for a solo run? My interest was seriously piqued; and before I knew it, I had devised my own solo run version of the Nuzlocke Challenge, which goes as such:
- The solo run must be attempted with the first 'Mon captured in the very first patch of grass on Route 1. If recruitment fail during the first encounter, it has to be performed during the second encounter and so on until it succeeds, without moving from the first patch of grass.
- The whole run must be 100% solo, with no other 'Mon in the team. A 'Mon can be recruited only for mandatory Double Battles and must be released immediately after.
- As a consequence of the aforementioned rule, the use of Revives is strictly forbidden.
- No healing in Pokemon Centres.
I was seriously pondering if I should treat fainting as death, but I decided to shelve that rule for another Nuzlocke solo run (because indeed, there will be more of these). What I wanted to achieve with that very first attempt was what I would dub a "Route 1 Crappy 'Mon Solo Run". Let's face it, dear fellow gamers: none of us has any sort of respect or even consideration for Route 1 'Mons. They are used as convenient training fodder to level up our Starter before the first Gym, and we capture them solely to fill up our Pokedex. And when we keep them in our team for more than five minutes instead of sending them straight to the PC, it's usually for the sole purpose of padding said team before better and cooler 'Mons become available. In a nutshell, Route 1 'Mons are universally viewed as the very embodiment of genericness and mediocrity — in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if dictionaries featured a picture of Rattata along the definitions of these two words. And because they are so widely sniffed at, I was curious to see for myself if they could be decent solo run material.
That being said, it took some time to get there. I was none too happy with my new recrue at first: Pikipek looks like your generic Flying 'Mon, the kind you've seen a million times before in Pokemon games. His middle form left me even more unimpressed: not only is it just as generic as his initial form, but it's quite ungracious to boot. But when Pikipek's ultimate form appeared before my hopeful eyes, I had a total change of heart and fell in love with that form on the spot. Mean-looking Toucannon is just positively hilarious, with his giant colourful beak and evil eye; and I couldn't help but run to the Name Rater and change his name to "Big B". I had to! Toucannon is hands down one of my favourite final evolutions in Sun and Moon so far, and cruising Alola with him was an absolute delight.
Popplio solo run, and I love Alola so much that I'll be drawn back to it eventually. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
— especially when compared to latter Tales entries and their distinctly hysterical storytelling.
So yes, I do love Tales of Phantasia. I love it so much that I would be hard-pressed to find a glaring flaw in that gem of a game; but if I had to nit-pick about something, that would probably be the fact that the random encounter rate is a trifle too high in dungeons and a trifle too low on the world map. I would have preferred to get either the opposite or a more balanced encounter rate overall — all the more so as dungeons are labyrinthine and bristling with puzzles, and it can be quite hard to keep track of what you're doing when you're interrupted every five seconds by a random battle. I could also mention the stiffness and slowness of the fighting system, which makes retaliation or escape impossible if you happen to be stuck in a bad pattern of enemies cornering and chain-hitting your team. But since it was a first try, I'll be lenient and forgive the fighting system's shortcomings, all the more so as it's quite efficient and entertaining overall.
— 35 hours is a perfectly reasonable playing time for an RPG, and I've been pouring many more hours than that in many RPGs — but rather the fact that Tales games don't have the necessary resources to sustain such long playthroughs. They usually feature pretty small game worlds, which makes backtracking mandatory in order to stretch playing time beyond the 20-hour mark. Likewise, dungeons are quite tiny despite being mazy, so the random encounter rate must be cranked up to eleven to ensure that these dungeons last longer than five minutes. And last but not least, the fighting system is only skin-deep despite its steep learning curve. Once you've mastered the art of positioning your characters and timing your attacks, you're pretty much set; and the only thing you'll need to learn afterwards are the resident foes' move and attack patterns and the range of your new Skills. Basically, what you do during your very first battle in the Forest of Spirits is what you'll do throughout the whole game, only with flashier and more potent Skills. I genuinely love ToP's unique brand of fighting; but for all the flashiness of its name, it's hard to deny that the "Linear Motion Battle System" is definitely not deep enough to provide 35 to 50 hours of continuous enjoyment.
And so I'm quitting Tales of Phantasia before it becomes stale and aggravating; but I'll probably come back to it one day, if only because I enjoyed it so much. That being said, I wonder if there is a Tales entry out there that lasts less than twenty hours; if such a game indeed exists, then I would gladly get my paws on it, because a Tales entry that doesn't overstay its time and keeps things nice and short would most certainly be a blast to play as far as I'm concerned. Feel free to fill me in in you know anything about the matter, dear fellow gamers. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Surprisingly, BBCC stood the test of time pretty well. I only wanted to clear a couple of levels before writing down a password and picking up the game later, but I found myself playing it for two hours straight without a shred of boredom, irritation or lassitude. Not only was playing BBCC genuinely fun, but it was also quite interesting from an historical point of view. BBCC was released in 1990, and it reflects faithfully the gaming trends of that very year; and yes, I'm zeroing on a single year there, because this was the time when the gaming industry took quantum leaps every passing year. And since BBCC was one of the very first Game Boy games, it also marks the beginning of dedicated portable gaming and is thus doubly fascinating.
|When engrish ruled in games.|
Gaming often moves in mysterious ways. Games that are critically praised sell only a handful of copies, consoles and games that are snubbed at the time of their release gather a cult following as time passes, games that no one of would have bet two cents on become massive hits; and last but not least, games that don't have a shred of originality in their code become the starting point of a thriving franchise that's still going strong twenty years later.
— but I digress.
So if ToP is that run-of-the-mill, uninventive 16-bit RPG, how could it achieve what countless other more original 16-bit RPGs, from Bahamut Lagoon to Secret of Evermore, failed to achieve? How could it warrant no only a sequel, but fifteen of them — and that's without even counting the spin-offs? Well, I have my own theory about the matter. I'd wager that the first and most minor reason ToP became the first entry in a series rather than a mere one-shot is its very title. The Tales of- structure can lend itself to all sorts of variations and potentially give birth to a infinity of games, and it carries an aura of mystery and whimsical sophistication to boot. Now that may seem like a petty and silly reason to transform an isolated game into a full-blown series; but let's be honest, stranger things have happened in the gaming industry, and we all know how important a striking title is in establishing a gaming series' brand.
In a way, even ToP's utter genericness may actually be a strength, thanks to its all-encompassing quality. This is the kind of genericness that stems not from a lack of inspiration, but rather from a true love for its own genre and a desire to be inclusive and comprehensive. I already commented on the fact that Tales of Hearts R felt like a compendium of all modern JRPGs; and since the same holds true for ToP, I'm starting to think that this is an overall characteristic of the Tales series. That makes that series a perfect flagship for the JRPG genre; as a matter of fact, if I had to recommend a JRPG to someone who never played any, I would probably go for the Tales series. Tales games pack all the tropes and trappings of the genre while offering a compelling fighting system that should draw in players allergic to turn-based combat, they involve little to no level-grinding and last but not least, they are mercifully shorter than your average Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, clocking at roughly 35 hours on average. Heck, you could easily get your regular fix of over-the-top JRPG-ness solely by investing in the Tales series.
I've poured 14 hours in the GBA version of Tales of Phantasia so far, and a future run report is obviously in the pipeline. I'll keep the suspense intact by shelving my feelings about the game until then — which basically means that this post is a wrap. See you soon for a more personal take on my ToP experience, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Hell is in the details, as they say; and so is heaven, as I often add. When it comes to games, my keen eye tends to linger on the most uncanny details; and my feelings for a game can often grow fonder or colder just because of a minute element that may pass the next gamer completely by. You probably know where I'm going with that, dear fellow gamers; without further ado, here's my list of all the details that charmed me and irritated me in Pokemon Sun and Moon. Enjoy!
|"Lurid Ranger, go!"|
The "Gimme more":
- No HM moves. This is totally the feature I've been dreaming of without even knowing it. Gosh, how heavenly it is to be at long last able to dispense with HM slaves that clutter your team and serve no purpose beyond occasionally clearing the way. I fervently hope that this change is here to stay and that HM moves are now buried in older Pokemon entries for all eternity.
- Being able to lie down in random people's beds, and getting informed comments about the state of said beds. Gee, how I dig up feeling like some kind of perv and sneaking into NPCs' intimacy. MCs in RPG can usually do whatever they please in NPCs' homes, but rolling around in bed sheets and burying your nose into pillows take that impunity to a whole new level.
- The sound effects at the Pokemon Center Cafés. Hearing these deliciously realistic pouring, slurping and gulping sounds invariably makes me want to pour myself a warm cup of tea—which I usually do. I swear that my daily tea consumption has tripled since I started playing Sun and Moon.
- The Team Skull encounter theme, as well as their battle theme. And the wonderfully silly way they wriggle when they talk. Oh, and their no less wonderfully silly battle pose. Heck, I love everything related to the hilarious Team Skull; they're my favourite villain team ever, period.
- The Z-Moves poses. They remind me of the Power Rangers TV show I used to watch when I was a kid; and watching my Trainer flail about in such a cheesy yet totally heartfelt way really puts me in an upbeat and combative mood. Had I been ten years old, I'm pretty sure I would have reproduced the moves while playing outdoors.
- Encountering a tanned, long-haired version of Professor Oak as I was cruising around Alola. Boy, did I have a shock when I recognize him! And yeah, I know this guy is supposed to be Oak's cousin; but I prefer to picture him as the original Professor Oak, and I'll stick to that version.
- The '80s-inspired colourful clothing in stores. I'm a sucker for bright colours, garish prints and '80s fashion overall, and it was pure delight to deck up my Trainer in outfits so gaudy that they could make one's eyes bleed.
|Oh, the joy of sneaking into strangers' beds.|
The "Get outta here":
- Not being able to engage in double battles without having at least two 'Mons in my team. Like, why on earth? Isn't it my right to be a daring masochist and take two 'Mons single-handedly if I feel like it? This stupid feature soiled my solo run by forcing me to recruit an extra 'Mon just to partake in these battles.
- Too many doors that cannot be opened. I don't remember having seen so many doors used as mere wall decorations in older Pokemon entries. What's the point of teasing me with these doors if I cannot see for myself what's behind them? This frustrates the explorer in me, it really does.
- Changing the battle protocol on the fly. Most of the time, you get the opportunity to save your progression before an important battle. However, the game sometimes gets a flight of fancy and throws you into battle right after an unskippable cutscene without giving you the opportunity to save. It's absolutely infuriating to get trapped in one of these vicious battles when your 'Mon's health is at its lowest; and given the game's difficulty, this can easily lead to defeat and having to redo the whole battle.
- The english traduction present in the European version of the game is horribly lacklustre. Very little humour and wit, no puns on 'Mons' names, no effort made to enhance character's personalities by tweaking their vocabulary. On one hand, it makes sense to make the english traduction as neutral as possible given the prevalence of the english language; but on the other hand, this is the European version and it would thus have been perfectly acceptable to pepper the english text with purely British references.
- The TV broadcast is utterly dull and uninteresting. The only thing you'll ever hear on Alolan TV are lame commentaries about malasadas that let you know that sweet malasadas are sweet and sour malasadas are sour. Why, thank you, Captain Obvious! After the delightful interviews in Sinnoh and the Japanese lessons and move explanations in Kalos, this lack of substance really stings.
|Look at me, cool as a cucumber while the world is crashing down around me.|
And there you have it, dear fellow gamers: the details that enthralled and enraged me in Pokemon Sun and Moon. And with that, you also have my last post dealing with overall aspects of the games—so to speak. All future posts about Sun and Moon will be solo run reports; and given how much I love these games and how many 'Mons inspire me and make me want to cruise solo with them, I'd wager that there will be a couple more posts about Sun and Moon down the line. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!