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 as 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 with the same creature at all, and it does a serious 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!