A Return to Pokemon April 2, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Nintendo, Pokemon.
Tags: Nintendo 3DS, Pokemon X & Y
I can hear some of you groaning even now. Hush!
While 2014 might be the Year of Faff elsewhere, around here it seems more like the year of renewal and return to past happy times. Nothing new around these parts. I am bland about The Elder Scrolls Online, completely indifferent to WildStar, and can’t think of any other new games that have sparked any real interest in me. No, it has been all throw backs to paths already traveled of late, what with the return to World of Warcraft, poking about in EVE Online, running up some time in Diablo III, dragging out the revamped version of Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, and even revisiting Warcraft III.
Which, on reflection, does sound like a lot of time spent faffing about, so my year might actually be in tune with the godmother’s. Might have to go grab that Year of Faff logo.
Anyway, with the year shaping up as it has, why not add in Pokemon?
It was just about six months back where I was ready to bid a final farewell to Pokemon.
But as Christmas approached, my daughter had a change of heart and put a Nintendo 3DS XL on her wish list… because that is what grandparents are for. And, sure enough, at my dad’s house on Christmas Day there was just such a unit (in red) under the tree for her, along with a GameStop gift card from my sister.
We had to get out of the house right away after Christmas to get some games. GameStop is a very busy place the day after Christmas. And while my daughter was primarily interested in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, she did also pick up a copy of Pokemon X.
Still, I am not sure that we had shaken the malaise that Pokemon Black & White put us in. (Some long term veterans of the series reported similar feelings.)
Pokemon Diamond & Pearl was where we started. The game was fresh and exciting. Pokemon Platinum came along, the traditional interim remix of the previous titles, and we were still engaged. Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver, remakes of Pokemon Gold & Silver, were the peak of our time with the series. The game, the details, the Pokewalker (which I wore every day for a couple years) were all great. That was when I actually sat down and caught them all. At that point, “all” meant 493 Pokemon.
We were excited for Pokemon Black & White. We went to events, pre-ordered the games, and were ready to go on day one. And things kind of fell flat. Some combo of having played through several versions of the game already (and the base game is always nearly identical at a certain level), missing elements like your lead Pokemon walking with you in-game or the Pokewalker, and something of a general coming of age for my daughter and her becoming interested in more “girly” things than playing video games with dad contributed to this.
There was no spark there. We tried a couple of times to go back and finish the game, but we both sit at 6 gym badges out of 8 and no further. Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 were pretty much ignored by us.
So when my daughter started on Pokemon X on the 3DS XL, I was interested to hear how she liked it. While she gave it generally favorable reviews, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm behind them. She was much more interested in Animal Crossing.
So it sat for a couple of months. I liked the idea of the 3DS XL and its big screen as well as another shot at Pokemon, but there didn’t seem to be a enough interest from my daughter for me to take the plunge. And then a couple weeks back, suddenly she lit up on the Pokemon X front. She seemed to be quite into it, so I looked around and saw I had enough gift card credits at Amazon to pick up a 3DS XL myself.
Gift card money at Amazon is a special resource to me. If somebody gives me money, it goes into the general fund and gets used to pay bills or buy cat food or whatever. But credit at Amazon feels like it is uniquely mine. I can’t use it to pay the mortgage or the phone bill. I can set that aside and used it on something for me.
So I splurged last week and spent my credits on a black 3DS XL, which for some reason was $10 cheaper than the other colors along with a copy of Mario Kart 7… because Mario Kart. Well, actually, I needed to but the 3DS XL and another title to get a “free” copy of Pokemon X or Y as part of a promotion Nintendo was running.
Last Wednesday the unit arrived.
I unboxed it, started it charging, then began setting it up. I had get it on our wireless, then create a Nintendo eShop account, then link that account to my Club Nintendo account, and then get everything registered so I could get my code for a copy of Pokemon Y that could be downloaded from the eShop.
As annoying as that might sounds, it actually went pretty quickly, mostly just worked, and was still a lot easier than getting one of the old DS Lite models up and connected to Nintendo WiFi back in the day. (One of the most common email questions I got for quite a stretch was, “How do I get Nintendo WiFi to work?!?!?!?!”)
I was a little hesitant to only have a downloaded copy of Pokemon Y. The tradition is to have the physical cartridge, and we have at least 10 such Pokemon games in our storage box along with just about everything else purchased for the DS series. The 3DS line, which can use the DS series cartridges, stores data and downloaded games on an SD card.
The SD card thing is probably good in the long run. The 3DS XL came with a 4GB card and you can upgrade it to a 32GB card if you need more space. The upgrade process is a bit… simple? You take the card out of the 3DS, copy the files to your PC, then copy those files to the bigger SD card, and then put it back in the 3DS.
But that just makes it software, which can go away, be erased, or otherwise corrupted, as opposed to being burnt forever(-ish) into a ROM in a plastic cartridge. Such read-only media traditions go back to the days of the Atari 2600 for me. Something about it being on writable media makes me twitch a bit. Old habits.
But the game itself… is great.
It is, of course, straight from the traditional Pokemon mold. Youth with surprisingly permissive parents allowed to go wander the world, filling up their Pokedex for the local tree-named Professor of Pokemon Studies (Sycamore this time), battling various oddly focused gym leaders, thwarting an eccentrically dressed evil organization (Team Flare this time), all while on the way to becoming the Pokemon champion of the region… and collecting them all.
And the number for “all” is now 719. Oh my.
But while everything is the same, everything is also different… or better… or bother.
Everything is now represented on the big screen with 3D model… and when I say “3D” I mean it in the way we mean it when we talk about EverQuest or World of Warcraft. There is also the 3D movie effect of depth, but like most everybody else, I turned that off once the novelty faded and it started making my head hurt.
And the new models and motion in the world and the world itself… just work.
There was no moment of “Oh, now this is much better!” Instead it was just a sense of things being as they were meant to be. In fact, I was rather shocked when I went back to Pokemon Black & White to check where I had left off. Things were much flatter and pixelated just one version ago. Samples gleaned from the internet, because you cannot take screen shots in Pokemon games. (You can, in a very, very limited way in Pokemon X & Y, but that is for another post.) More is the pity.
And just to show the progression over the last decade, the first Pokemon game on the DS platform and the last one on the GameBoy Advance platform.
A lot of work clearly went into Pokemon X & Y and it represents a considerable leap in the rendering technology used for the game.
And while I can be Mister Nostalgia and long for the good old days, I have to say I am very happy with the updated graphics. Of course, that might have something to do with them being tuned for the 3DS screen… and the big 3DS XL screen especially. That screen looks really nice, Pokemon X & Y render beautifully on it, and it is big enough for me to play the game without wearing my reading glasses!
Can’t do that with my faithful old DS Lite.
I will have more to say about Pokemon X & Y in future posts, as well as the Nintendo 3DS XL hardware (besides the fact that it may be the best made handheld unit they have ever produced) in future posts. This post can basically be summed up as:
Pokemon is back! There will be posts! You have been warned!
A Farewell to Pokemon October 15, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in DS, entertainment, Nintendo, Pokemon.
Tags: Nintendo 2DS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS Lite, Pokemon X & Y
We were out shopping on Sunday. For some reason my wife asked me to come along and for equally inexplicable reasons I said yes. I do not like wandering around the mall “shopping” and begin to behave like an 8 year old in making up games and distractions to pass the time. This, in turn, annoys the crap out of my long-suffering wife, so clearly neither of us was thinking straight on this call.
But as we made our way through the electronics section of Target, my daughter went over to the Nintendo section and spotted the new Pokemon X and Y games.
She actually seemed both surprised and excited to see a new Pokemon game out. I knew it had shipped. I still get email updates from Nintendo and was aware that the new games were releasing world wide this past Saturday. I just hadn’t said (or written) anything about it. (Keen and Graev have some posts about the new games.) But I have to admit I have been interested in the game.
Pokemon used to be one of our things.
My daughter was attracted to the game a long ways back, when we saw a Nintendo DS on display at a store with Pokemon loaded up. It was colorful, the basic functions were immediately comprehensible to her, and the idea of capturing little pets and making them battle held an attraction for her. She was into bugs and dinosaurs and animals when she was that age. (Now, however, she screams bloody murder if there is a moth in the shower with her.)
Of course to play Pokemon you had to buy the hardware, a Nintendo DS. That was the stopping point, until we were about to go on a trip and my wife gave me the mandate to go buy one to keep our daughter entertained on the plane for five hours. So I went out and bought a pink Nintendo DS Lite along with LEGO Star Wars, Mario Party DS, and Pokemon Diamond.
I could have skipped the first two. We spent the whole trip playing Pokemon. My daughter was in kindergarten at the time and needed help reading some of the text in the game… this was before she had been trained by World of Warcraft to skip all quest text… so I spent a chunk of that time reading the game text aloud to her. That was a bit of a chore for me, but got her motivated to read.
The game was such a success that a couple of months later my wife bought me a cobalt blue Nintendo DS Lite and my own copy of Pokemon Diamond and we were off.
We played through that together, went on to Pokemon Platinum, and really hit our peak during Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver. We were wearing out Pokewalkers everywhere (and cheating a bit using physics and LEGO). There were mishaps and tragedies and meddling cats, but we were into it. We went to the Pokemon regional championships, played with Pokemon Ranch, and in went to the Pokemon Black and White tour when it showed up at a local mall. I even caught ‘em all, nabbing all 493 Pokemon that were available in the series up to that point.
But then Pokemon Black and White came along and we were not quite as interested. In part that was because we had played so much Pokemon up to that point. We might have been a bit burned out having burned through all the predecessors on the DS, plus a couple of the GameBoy Advance versions, which also ran on the DS Lite.
Then there is also the fact that all Pokemon games are very much alike at some basic level. You start out in the world as a youth, you meet some Pokemon expert, you get your first Pokemon, and you head out into the world to catch Pokemon, battle gym leaders, and eventually take on the regional champions, all while battling a rival and some oddly dressed organization bent on evil. And all of it takes place in a world completely obsessed with Pokemon and where all conflict is resolved by Pokemon battles.
After a few runs through that, you might get a little tired of it.
And then there are the special features each game brings to the table. My daughter and I used to enjoy playing together in the underground in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. It was a shared environment you could link up in on WiFi. We were also fond of the Pokewalker and the way your lead Pokemon would walk around with you in HeartGold and SoulSilver. In Black and White the key features were the graphics, which were improved, 150 new Pokemon (groan), and a lot of online WiFi connectivity (like Global Link) that did not really click with us. Neither of us finished Black or White and we never bothered with Black 2 and White 2. (Which I still think were dumb names.)
Finally, there were just other distractions. Other games to play, other things to do. My daughter was growing up and little things like Pokemon were no longer quite so important. So we have not been playing Pokemon for quite a while. I would say that we are at least two years past the last time either of us played with any read drive.
But the memory of those times, of playing together, of figuring out where to go next, of catching and trading Pokemon, that all remains. And I think some of that came rushing back to her when we were standing there at the counter looking at the new Pokemon. She was gushing a bit when she asked, “Can we get it?”
I had to tell her we could not.
While Pokemon X and Y have the usual range of features and even a slick way to transfer your old Pokemon over to the new games via the internet (assuming you have them all in Pokemon Black or White) using a feature called Pokemon Bank, there was a problem.
Pokemon X and Y are the first versions of the main line of Pokemon games that are exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS generation of handheld gaming devices. Our Nintendo DS Lites are now pretty much obsolete. When Nintendo stops shipping Pokemon on a platform, it is done.
There certainly seems to be some hunger for a version of Pokemon on the 3DS platform. It is on track to be a big seller, moving 4 million units on its first two days. The top Pokemon games of all time are Pokemon Diamond and Pearl which together move nearly 18 million units.
My daughter had an immediate solution to this problem, which was to buy new hardware!
I have clearly failed to instill any sort of sense as to the value of money in my daughter.
I had to tell her that wasn’t going to happen either. At least not right then. Something like a Nintendo 3DS is a Christmas/Birthday present (or maybe a going on long trip present) and not something we just buy on a whim while at the store on a Sunday afternoon. Even the more moderately priced Nintendo 2DS, about which I am a bit dubious given what I have read (turns out it has just one big LED panel for both screens), falls outside of the impulse buy price range in my opinion.
My daughter’s response was in the “Oh well” range of emotions. She didn’t seem all that put out by it and I somehow doubt that a Nintendo 3DS is going to make it to her Christmas list. And if it did, I think she is more interested in Animal Crossing: New Leaf than Pokemon.
So I suspect that we have had our time with Pokemon.
Augmented Reality Pokemon for the Nintendo 3DS October 4, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in DS, entertainment, Nintendo, Pokemon.
Tags: 3D Pokedex, Augmented Reality, Nintendo 3DS, Pokedex, Pokemon Black, Pokemon White
1 comment so far
That seemed to me a bit of a gimmick, though at least it was a freebie. And people who bought 3DS units right away probably need all the support they can get, what with the short battery life and such.
This allows you to print out what they call and “AR Card,” place it at some real, physical location, such as on your kitchen table, and then, when you view that through the 3DS, the Pokemon whose AR Card you have appears to be there, on the table.
Again, something of a gimmick in my mind. People have played with this sort of thing. Apparently, the side of the card you print out dictates how big the item will be when viewed, so there was a story over at Kotaku about people printing out poster sized cards to insert life-size Marios into the world.
Nintendo even has a poster sized AR Card that will let you view your Mii (yes, the 3DS has Miis) in full, human scale height.
Not having a 3DS as yet (call me when they get to the second generation… and only if they improve battery life) I do not know exactly what you can do, other than view the images and take pictures of them. Though that might be enough. I’d put a giant Mario next to my car for a photo op if I could.
But the Pokemon AR Cards also give you something else.
Use the AR Viewer in Pokédex 3D to view Pokémon projected into the real world! When you point the camera at these special Pokémon AR Markers, you’ll be able to see and take pictures of Pokémon in 3D. In most cases, when you view one of these Pokémon AR Markers you will increase your chances of receiving the Pokémon that you’ve scanned. But if you scan certain Legendary or Mythical Pokémon’s AR Markers, you will receive those Pokémon instantly!
Okay, you can only see Pokemon you already have. And using the AR Card for ones you do not have will increase your chance of getting that Pokemon as part of a SpotPass.
But if you view a legendary or mythical Pokemon, and you do not have it, you will receive it immediately?
I hate to cry “welfare epics,” but isn’t stalking and catching those rare and elusive Pokemon part of the reason to play the game?
Okay, I suppose when the obsession is upon you, you will do many things to fill that Pokedex. I know how that mania feels, and the lengths to which you will go to catch them all.
I can even go along with the SpotPass option, as it is one of the ways of getting Pokemon that are not in your version of the game. (Black and White each have their own exclusives.)
But handing out legendary Pokemon for printing out an AR Card?
That seems… hollow.
At least to me.
Yes, I have gotten my share of legendary Pokemon from download events. But at least those were out of the house, limited time, go somewhere and see other Pokemon players activities.
Ah well, gotta sell those 3DS units somehow I suppose. I bet some Pokemon fan is even now planning to buy a 3DS just to get the legendary Pokemon.
Nnitendo 3DS $170 – DS Lite $100 July 29, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in DS, entertainment, Nintendo, Pokemon.
Tags: Netflix, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS Lite, Nintendo DSi, Nintendo DSi XL
Well, Nintendo dumped the price of the 3Ds by $80 just four months after its release.
Apparently, sales were not meeting internal estimates according to Nintendo. And then there is the whole Sony PlayStation Vita thing. No doubt Nintendo wanted to win on price there early. But slow sales are registering as the primary concern.
I am tempted by that option, though I am held back when I start thinking about when I would actually use it. Am I really going to watch that much Star Trek: The Next Generation sitting in bed?
Otherwise, from what I have seen, in person and in the news, there is no killer app for the device quite yet.
Of course, if you own a 3DS already, you might be a little miffed at the drastic price drop. But Nintendo plans to make it up to you.
Meanwhile, if I were in the market for a DS right now that was just right for what I play most on the handheld gaming device, I would be looking at the DS Lite, which Nintendo has aggressively priced.
Sure, the DSi has access to the online Nintendo store and the DSi XL has a larger screen (at the same pixel resolution), but the good old DS Lite has the best battery life of the product line and it is the last of the DS line to have the GameBoy Advance cartridge slot. That last piece is key for the truly obsessive Pokemon fan, as it gives you access to several more generations of Pokemon games.
So I am not sure what Nintendo marketing thinks they are doing.
They dropped the 3Ds price right on top of the DSi XL price point. The DSi is sitting not that far behind as well in price. Meanwhile, they are sending out ads for the DS Lite at a price that pretty much pulls the rug out from underneath everybody.
That is some good work there Nintendo.
The Nintendo 3DS… I’d Buy One March 27, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in DS, entertainment, Hardware, Nintendo.
Tags: Nintendo 3DS
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The Nintedo 3DS goes on sale today in the United States and I am considering getting one.
But not today.
I got to play with the 3DS at GDC earlier in the month. I did not mention that in my GDC post. I’d like to say that I planned that in advance, holding back until the 3DS launch, but actually I just forgot.
In my 10 minutes of play I got to try out their augmented reality demo, which uses the two cameras on the back of the unit and some cards placed on a table top to create 3D images that appear to be on your table. I then had to move the unit around to target and shoot things.
As a compelling game, it wasn’t so good, but as a technological demonstration it was interesting. While everybody talks about the 3D aspect of the unit, it also has a 3D axis gyroscope and accelerometer so that the motion of the unit can be used as an aspect of game play. If you have an iPhone, this is no big news, but it does add something new to the Nintendo platform. Already one of the launch with one of the titles, Steel Diver, a submarine game, you can sit in an office chair and rotate your periscope by spinning around in the chair. I expect (and hope) that we will see more of this sort of thing. Some of it will be used as a gimmick, but somebody will find new ways to have us play games with this tech.
And there is also the expanded wireless capabilities. The Nintendo DS line has always had wireless built-in, but it has not always been exploited very well. The DSi models added in the ability to buy games for Nintendo points via a wireless connection. But the new CrossPass technology along with some very Wii-like features, such as a Mii and a Virtual Console library that will feature games from past GameBoy generations moves things another step forward.
Then there is the 3D screen, which is a beautiful 800×240 resolution unit for the upper display. The current Nintendo DS model line has a resolution of only 256×192 on both upper and lower screens.
And possibly the best thing about that new screen is that you can turn the 3D off and just have a nice big display.
Not that the 3D is bad. The augmented reality game certainly showed that 3D works well enough without glasses. And I watched the 3D trailer for the movie Rio on the 3DS. I happened to have seen that trailer in the theater in 3D already, so I was able to compare quality.
It looked VERY good on the 3DS screen.
The 3D was okay. At times the three dimensions seemed to be “near, middle, and distant,” but on good effects it blended together nicely.
But the GDC announcement that there will be a Netflix streaming client for the Nintendo 3DS this summer is what has me really excited. I could totally see watching movies on that screen.
But since that is not coming until summer, I am content to wait a bit. By then there will be some more titles available. Any problems will have been identified. And maybe they will have done something about the battery life, which is a bit short compared to my current Nintendo DS Lite.
Of course, I do have one worry.
If I get one then somebody else in our house will want one… or will want to use mine all the time.
Another reason to wait a bit.
[Addendum: See, it is this sort of thing that makes me shy away from newly released hardware.]