Category Archives: Nintendo DS Hardware

The New Nintendo 2DS XL

Gamers of all ages can play in style with the New Nintendo 2DS XL system. It gives you the power of the New Nintendo 3DS XL system in a streamlined, affordable package—and plays a huge library of games in 2D.

-Nintendo, The New 2DS XL page

If I were planning to buy a new Nintendo handheld system today (in order to play Pokemon of course), I would be all over Nintendo’s newly announced 2DS XL.

The new 2DS XL

This new unit, revealed this past Friday, would give me everything I wanted… the updated processing power of the revised 3DS XL that made it to North America in 2015 along with the additional controls… at a price $50 less than its sister unit.

The buttons I am missing on my older unit

Now the question is, what does this mean for 3D?  Is this Nintendo’s admission that 3D is dead?  It certainly never seemed like more than a gimmick to me.  Does the 3DS XL have much of a future?

At least it does seem to make the statement that the Switch isn’t going to take over for both the home console and handheld line.  Pokemon will remain on a small portable screen.

Anyway, it is a sharp looking unit and should be coming our way some time in July,

The Next Pokemon Release Will Be…

My guess is that the next Pokemon title will be a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl.

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl is where I joined Pokemon

And when I say “next Pokemon title” I mean the next release of the core RPG game that runs on the Nintendo handheld platform and not some subsidiary title riding on the Pokemon fame like Pokemon Snap or Pokken Tournament.

So why remake Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

The core Pokemon franchise has been one of patterns over the years.  They are not always consistent, but they seem reliable enough to give one insight into what might come next.

The pattern started off with a release of a pair of titles… Red & Blue, Gold & Silver, Ruby & Sapphire, followed by a third title that represented a revision of the initial pair, respectively Yellow, Crystal, and Emerald.

Once Nintendo moved from the GameBoy and GameBoy Color to the GameBoy Advance and then the DS hardware, GameFreak used that as an opportunity to remake titles.  So Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen, HeartGold & SoulSilver, and Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire came to be, reviving old locations and old foes (and already existing Pokemon) on new hardware with new features.

Having recently released a pair of titles set in a new location with new Pokemon being added to the Pokedex, it seems logical that the next title they go with will either be a remake of a past title or a third title to go with Pokemon Sun & Moon.

There are actually rumors of a Pokemon Stars out there, rumors that even I have heard, and I don’t pay much attention to much outside the official press releases for Pokemon. But that name sure fits the theme.

However, the rumors seem to be about this title coming to the Nintendo Switch as opposed to the 3DS platform.  If that is the case, it doesn’t count in my book.  Meanwhile, the whole “third title” pattern seems to be in decline.  The last true “third title” was Pokemon PlatinumPokemon Black & White got a Black & White Version 2, which stayed in the same region but which was a different story line, so that was sort-of a third (and fourth) title, but not in the spirit of past releases in that mold.  And then Pokemon X & Y, the first 3DS-only title, got no follow on third title, even though they had a Pokemon setup already for feature in a possible Pokemon Z.

Because of this, I think third titles might be out for now, which leaves a remake as an option.  So when I went to look for the oldest Pokemon generation that had yet to be remade, Pokemon Diamond & Pearl was the result.

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl seems about prime for a remake.  It came out in Japan over ten years ago, and is coming up on its ten year release anniversary in other regions soon.  That makes it feel like it is about due, as previous remakes were of titles 8-10 years in the past.

One difference however is that you can still play Pokemon Diamond & Pearl on the current 3DS hardware.  The flip side of that though is Nintendo looks to have stopped shipping the DS only titles, likely because the infrastructure to support those games, the old Nintendo WiFi and such, has been dismantled. Nintendo is up there with EA in closing stuff down as soon as the next title comes out.  So while you can find copies at Amazon or eBay, but they aren’t on the shelves at Target, WalMart, or Toys R Us for a reason.

And when it comes to that Pokemon Bank integrated National Pokedex of which I wrote last week, there is no official way to buy Pokemon Diamond & Pearl (and Platinum as well) in order to obtain the full range of generation 4 Pokemon.  And, unlike the Pokemon Black & White games, even if you have a copy you can’t get your Pokemon straight into Pokemon Bank.

Of course, there is another alternative.  Since Pokemon Diamond & Pearl already runs on the current 3DS hardware, Nintendo and GameFreak might decide to simply spruce the titles up a bit and put them in the Nintendo online store as Virtual Console titles the way they did with Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow back at the 20 year anniversary of the franchise.  Then it would be back to the old school look.

Pokemon Diamond back in the day

That wouldn’t be horrible.  I might buy a copy if they included Pokemon Bank integration, which I am sure they would would.  But I would really rather have a remake title the way they have done in the past.

No matter what is coming next for the Pokemon franchise, I bet we won’t hear an announcement until autumn.  I will just have to wait to see if my guess is correct.

From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun

I did it.  I finished the Alola Pokedex in Pokemon Sun.

Alola Pokedex at 100%

It took a bit of work.   I ran the final series of missions that send the player off to catch the ultra beast Pokemon.   The missions send you out to catch five different ultra beasts, along with having to engage in three trainer battles to prove you are up to the task, before you are done and rewarded with 1,000,000 in the local currency for the effort.

I did the missions and caught the five ultra beasts.  The catch is that there are seven ultra beasts, two of which only appear in Pokemon Sun and two which only appear in Pokemon Moon.  So, in order to get all seven, which is required to complete the Pokedex, you have to trade… trade or own two copies of the game or, in my case, use your daughter’s copy of the game.

So I grabbed my daughter’s 3DS and looked into doing the missions on her copy of Pokemon Moon, since she had no interest in doing so herself.  She finished up the main story back in December, long enough ago that she couldn’t remember if she had defeated the Elite Four.  It turned out she had, though with a really odd team… odd to me anyway… so I ended up trading my team over to her game to run through the missions.

Once I completed them I traded my team back to my copy of Pokemon Sun, then swapped two of the Sun-only ultra beasts for two of the Moon-only ultra beasts (you end up catching multiple of both) and the Alola Pokedex was finally complete.  You only need 300 for that, but I hit 301 because of the Magearna download, which you get by using the QR scanner.

I then went to the GameFreak office in the game and got my trainer book stamped to mark the achievement.

Achievement notarized

After that I figured it was time to unlock the National Pokedex.  The ritual for that in past Pokemon titles generally involved going to speak to the local tree-named Pokemon Professor to get them to unlock the National setting on your Pokedex.  But when I spoke to the shirtless Professor Kukui, he was still giving me the same line he had last time I spoke to him.  There was no mention of a Pokedex upgrade.

After poking about a bit more, I headed to Google to search up the answer.

As it turns out, there is no National Pokedex within Pokemon Sun & Moon.  This was a bit of a let down.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to attempt it, but being denied the opportunity stung a bit.

I was instead directed to Pokemon Bank, Nintendo’s Pokemon cloud storage application.  It had been upgraded back in January to integrate with Pokemon Sun & Moon, something I mentioned in a Friday bullet point post.  The app has its own rather sparse site here.

How things line up now

One of the features I did not notice… and which really wasn’t called out all that well… was the integration of the National Pokedex option into Pokemon Bank.  That is all you get with Sun & Moon.

I have Pokemon Bank, because of course I do, so I went in to check it out.  If you launch it, choose Pokemon Sun or Moon, and go to the menu, there is now a Pokedex option.

Accessing the Pokedex

This went off and catalogued what I had collected in Pokemon Sun and gave me a total.

My total for Pokemon Sun

That gave me a total of 330 Pokemon, both caught and seen.  I had moved some of the legendary Pokemon from last year’s distributions last year over to the game along with a few of the starter Pokemon from past titles in anticipation of a National Pokedex hunt.  330 isn’t bad, but the total is over 800, so I was far from there.

Pokemon Bank also lets you view the Pokemon in a table view by generations if a simple number isn’t enough for you… it certainly isn’t enough for me.

First gen Pokemon, Bulbasaur through Mew

As you can see, I moved some over, but Pokemon Sun & Moon also included a lot of Pokemon from past generations as well, which was a good thing I think.

In all it was kind of neat… though after using the new box interface in Pokemon Sun & Moon, navigating felt very awkward… but was I really going to have to move everything to Sun & Moon to finish the National Pokedex?

But then I wondered… since it didn’t actually say this anywhere… if this was actually a cross-title National Pokedex.  If I had it scan other Pokemon Bank compatible titles, would those sum up into a single National Pokedex?  So I had it scan Pokemon Y and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, and the answer is yes, it is a single cross-title National Pokedex.

My totals across the three titles

So there it is.  Across the three titles I have caught 512 types of Pokemon and have seen 650.  That gets me a little closer to the past 800 number of the total National Pokedex.

Pokemon Bank also gives you some stats as well under Adventure Records.

Wild Pokemon Encounters

You can tell the game I worked on the Pokedex hardest.

This also means that if I want to work on the National Pokedex, my best option is probably to go back to Pokemon Y and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and finish up the regional Pokdexes in those games.

My Pokemon Y stats… and see, National Pokedex built-in

The problem there is that going back to earlier games means giving up whatever UI and control improvements the current generation has introduced, and Pokemon Sun & Moon really went far in improving controls, especially for simple things like handling Pokemon in your storage.

Still, that might be a thing to pursue.  I am pretty much done with Pokemon Sun since I don’t do battles and such.  Catching them all is generally the end of a title for me, and I haven’t caught them all yet in the past versions.  So it is play older titles or wait for the next new title to be announced.  The thing is, I think I already know what the next title will be.  But that is a topic for another post.

The Alola Pokemon Binge Continues

Enough about EVE Online this week, time for important topics, like Pokemon.

I have carried on in Pokemon Sun. with my pursuit of the Alola Pokedex largely because I have managed to make fairly steady progress towards finishing it off.  Since I last checked in on this, I have gone from the 57% marker to 83% of the way complete.

Once again, screen shots take of the 3DS with my iPhone

Once again, screen shots take of the 3DS with my iPhone

In actual numbers of Pokemon I went from 173 caught at that last post to 250 caught as of last night, and increase of 77 Pokemon over a 10 day period.  So I caught about 8 new Pokemon a day.  That is the sort of progress that keeps you hooked, keeps you going, keeps you opening up the 3DS every night for an hour or two.

Current Pokedex details

Current Pokedex details

As part of that, I managed to finish up the Melemele island Pokedex, having caught all 120 Pokemon that appear on that island, including the ones that don’t actually appear on that island or that only appear on the island in Pokemon Moon.

I “saw” all the Pokemon for the island first and was curious to see if that was enough to get credit.  In past versions of the game, the regional Pokedex could be considered complete if you simply encountered all the Pokemon on the list.  That doesn’t cut it for Pokemon Sun & Moon.  You get a little silver crown when you have encountered them all, but you only get the gold crown and the official stamp when you have caught them all.

My stamp for Melemele... be nice if it was dated

My stamp for Melemele… be nice if it was dated

That is one island Pokedex down and three to go.

All the Melemele Pokemon

All the Melemele Pokemon

And the other islands are pretty far along.  How I have been making that sort of progress has two branches.

First, I still had a pile of Pokemon that just needed to be leveled up or traded while holding a specific item.  Leveling up is fairly easy and I can do that while watching TV and not lose track of any dialog.  There are plenty of Pokemon that fall into that category.

The trading while holding an item required me to get my daughter to cooperate, which wasn’t easy.  Eventually, after days of “I don’t want to do it right now” and “I don’t know where it is, I’ll look for it later” I had to make her find her 3DS and hand it over so I could do the trades myself.  That was something of a bonanza day.  I took that oppotunity to pass Solgaleo and Lunala, the legendaries from Sun & Moon, back and forth between our games so we each have both covered.

I still have a number of Pokemon where I haven’t obtained the item yet, so couldn’t to the trade.  More work to do on that front, but that generally just involves some patience and a tolerance for a lot of wild Pokemon encounters.

But there are always some Pokemon that are difficult to obtain or where how to obtain them is not clear. (The Alola Pokedex site I have been using has been wrong, or at least at odds with the official guide, on some Pokemon such as Tirtouga.)  For those I have been relying on the Global Trade Station.

The GTS continues to be very good to me, and players in Japan especially so.  I would not be nearly as far along as I am had I not had access to it.  However, one of the long standing features of the GTS, something from the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl era, is that you cannot ask to trade for a Pokemon that you have not seen yet.  If you haven’t seen it, you don’t know about it, you can’t ask for it.  If it is just a generic blue Pokeball icon on your island Pokedex or question marks on the main list, you have to find a way to see it.

That icon, I don't know about THAT Pokemon

That icon, I don’t know about THAT Pokemon

Now, to be fair, the game is very good about showing you lots of Pokemon, generally via battles with all the trainers you pass by during your travels.  This is why it is important to not skip fights.  I got lazy for a bit and bypassed a couple of optional areas during the main story line, something I am paying for now.  It wouldn’t be hard to go back and do those fights now… my main party is all up past level 70 at this point, with my Snorlax at 80… it is more a matter of figuring out what I skipped.  There are even a few Pokemon that NPCs should have given me along the way that I somehow missed.  Sloppy.

However, Nintendo has something of a back door for dealing with Pokemon you haven’t seen yet.  If you have a friend that has seen the Pokemon in question, they can display a QR code on their screen, which you can use the camera on your 3DS to capture.  That gives you credit and you can now trade for that Pokemon.

Of course, if you are like me and have no real life friends playing Pokemon (or a child that won’t do that grunt work for you), the internet will provide.  Over on Reddit there is a post about QR codes for Pokemon.  This links out to several galleries on Imgur.com that have the QR codes.  So when I really wanted to setup a trade for a Pokemon, I went and used that.  See, you don’t need friends when you have the internet!

Of course, even with all of that you need to have something to trade.  I started out breeding Dratinis, the first evolution that leads to the ever popular Dragonite Pokemon.

Dratini to Dragonair to Dragonite

Dratini to Dragonair to Dragonite

That seemed to be a popular enough Pokemon to get me trades.  The evolution process just requires leveling it up and Dragonite is a strong Pokemon.  However, you can simply catch Dratinis in the game, so I wasn’t sure this was my strongest play.  But I used one to get my hands on a Sliggoo, the middle evolution of three that is more difficult to obtain.

The Sliggoo progression

The Sliggoo progression

Then I started breeding that, which is the only way to get its first evolution, Goomy, and then started trading those.  They seemed to be a hit and I seemed to be able to get any trade I asked for… though I am always conservative on that front… in no time at all.  Plus the Sliggoo was friendly with my breeing Ditto, and that relationship dictates how fast eggs are produced, so I was trading away.

Some trades

Some trades

That Gabite was a big trade for me, as it is another annoying one to get in the game.  Having a bit of backstock on Goomy, I switch the Gabite in to breed… also friendly with my Ditto… and started getting eggs for that.

Now the Isle Avue, the hot springs island in the Poke Pelago where you can leave eggs to hatch rather than dragging them around in your party for 5K to 20K steps, is filling up with eggs.

Eggs waiting to hatch... hope they don't hard boil...

Eggs waiting to hatch… hope they don’t hard boil…

Once those start hatching I am looking at a weekend of trading to further my cause.  So long as I keep making progress, I should be able to keep focused.

Of course, eventually I will get to the last hairy few, the difficult ones.  Back when I did the then 485 strong National Pokedex in Pokemon SoulSilver I spent quite a bit of time getting those last few, with the last one requiring an item to be held to evolve.  And then I went the full completionist and got the last two for the full 493 achievement which required me to play Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs to acquire a Manaphy to transfer over to SoulSilver so I could breed it to get a Phione.

I am not sure I have that much fortitude anymore.  I should be able to hang tough through the Alola Pokedex.  I haven’t given up yet.  The full National Pokedex though, which stands at 802 Pokemon as of now, that might be too much to ask.

Alola Pokedex Binge Time

Sometimes I wonder how my brain works, why something is fun one day and not the next.

For stretches of December and January I couldn’t be bothered to pick up Pokemon Sun, or when I did I played just a little bit and then put it down again.

Coming in Q4 2016

Sun and Moon

I finally got in the mood to play and managed to get through the main story line, as I noted last week.  But I did that mostly just to get to the end and say I got there way, heading straight down the final path and not exploring anything off to the side until I was champion.  This past weekend however, I suddenly got in the mood to play… or at least do one specific thing, which was work on the Pokedex.

For those who do not play, the Pokedex is the list of Pokemon in the game.  There is the game specific Pokedex, the regional Pokedex, which in the case of Pokemon Sun & Moon contains 302 Pokemon.  You get credit for just seeing a Pokemon on that list.  And then there is the National Pokedex, which is all Pokemon ever and contains 802 Pokemon.

I am worked on the Alola regional Pokedex in Pokemon Sun, though I am trying to catch them all as I go just to be the completionist.  So far I have caught 57% of the Pokemon in the game, up from the 41% I reported last week.

Rotom say 57% caught!

Rotom say 57% caught!

That basically equates to going from 123 to 173 caught, or about 50 new Pokemon.

On the overall front of just seeing all the Pokemon I am going even better.

Alola Pokedex stats

Alola Pokedex stats

The first number is caught, the second number is seen, so I am at 259 of 302 seen, which is about 86% done.

In the Pokemon Sun & Moon version of the Pokedex it is also broken out by islands, which isn’t totally necessary… I suppose it narrows down where to hunt… and is kind of neat.  It even gives you a graphical representation of all the Pokemon from a given island.

All the Pokemon from Melemele island

All the Pokemon from Melemele island

Those that are in shadow I have yet to catch.  There is only one I have not seen, which I believe is Salamence.  Have to go find him.

You can actually “see” all of the Pokemon in the game if fight every trainer you pass and go through the story completely, without avoiding and side paths.  I failed on that at points, so that has been part of my replay action.  But catching them all, that requires you to do some trading.  Some of the Pokemon can only be caught on Pokemon Sun OR Pokemon Moon, but not both.

Fortunately there is the Global Trade Station.

The GTS came in with Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, as the DS series came with WiFi build-in.  It was pretty clunky back then, but it has gotten better with each generation of the game.  With Pokemon Sun & Moon it is pretty easy to get what you want… at least if you have the right mindset.

One of my gripes about GTS is that people often want things way out of proportion to what they are offering.  For example, I went onto the GTS to see if I could trade for a Persian, one of the Pokemon shaded in that picture above.  Not a tough Pokemon to get, but you have to raise up friendliness on a Meowth and then level it up before it will evolve into one.  Takes a little time, so I was hoping to skip that with a quick trade.  However, the trades that were up wanted legendaries in exchange for this rather run-of-the-mill Pokemon.  I saw somebody asking for a Dialga, the one-per-game final legendary from Pokemon Diamond.  Yeah, that is gonna happen.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to put up reasonable trades, they get filled pretty quickly.  There are a lot of like minded people out there looking to fill up their Pokedex.  So, for example, I put up a trade with a low level Drifloon, which is only in Pokemon Sun, asking for a Misdreavus of any level in trade, a Pokemon Moon exclusive that spawns in the same area.

Sun only for Moon only Pokemon

Sun only for Moon only Pokemon

That trade went through pretty quickly, as did a number of similar parallel offers. (If you register your copy of Pokemon Sun or Moon at the Pokemon Global Link site it will show you your trade history.)

Likewise, there are a number of Pokemon that only evolve into their final form if you trade them.  So I had a stack of those that I listed over the weekend.

A selection of trades to evolve

A selection of trades to evolve

Each of those evolved into a new form upon completion of the trade.

So the GTS was out there doing some of the lifting for me, but for the most part I was out running through tall grass to try and find wild Pokemon.  I played such a long stretch on Sunday that I got the low battery warning at one point.  The 3DS XL is good for quite a few hours of play, so that says something.

Of course, even knowing where to go takes some time.  The in-game help just puts a splotch on the map for you if you’ve seen the Pokemon already, but doesn’t provide you any details.  The official Pokemon Sun & Moon Guide book has some more info, but can be sparse on relevant details.  For a few I had to fall back on the internet to figure out if I was even close to doing the right thing to catch certain Pokemon.  (I found a good Sun & Moon Pokedex online here.)

For example, I wanted to catch a Happiny, a pink blob of a Pokemon that has two additional evolutions, so catching that one will eventually fill three slots in the Pokedex.  However, you can’t just go and find a Happiny.  It turns out it only shows up when another Pokemon calls for help, what I gather is called an “SOS battle.” (The guild uses this term, but doesn’t define it on the chart where it appears.)

So to get the Happiny I had to go down to Hau’oli City and troll through tall grass until I finally got a Pichu to appear.  The Pichu has a low chance of appearing, so it took a while.  That took a while, but eventually hit.

Then, once that fight was going, I used an Adrenaline Orb, which is an item that makes wild Pokemon more likely to call for help.  Since calling for help is often a more annoying than fun trait in a wild Pokemon, I was wondering why anybody would ever want to encourage that.  Now I know.

After using the orb, I then had to drag the fight out until the Pichu called for help AND a Happiny finally showed up. (I got another Pichu on the first couple of calls.)  Then it was time to defeat the initial Pichu, hit the Happiny with the move Hold Back, which my now level 71 Snorlax has just to catch Pokemon, and which will never reduce a Pokemon below 1 hit point (same as False Swipe), then throw Pokeballs at it until it was caught.

I got the Happiny then evolved it through to a Chansey and then a Blissey.  Three Pokemon down.

However, I still have a few on my list that require similar SOS battles.

And I also have a few Pokemon that only evolve to their final form on a trade, but which also require that the Pokemon in question is holding a specific item.  Since you can’t request a Pokemon and an item through the GTS I am going to have to get my daughter to trade with me at some point, since I don’t want to lose items.  I only trust the GTS when it requires both sides to do something.  I can see myself getting the same Pokemon in return, but without the item in question, so no evolution.

Ah well.  So that is what I spent a lot of the weekend doing, including most of Sunday, Pokemon hunting.

The Pokemon 20th Anniversary Finishes Up with a Meloetta Event and More

As the end of 2016 looms, the final download event for the Pokemon 20th Anniversary celebration is at hand.  The last mythical/legendary Pokemon on the list is Meloetta.

The last anniversary download

The last anniversary download

Meloetta was introduced as a special event Pokemon in the generation V games, Pokemon Black & White and Pokemon Black Version 2 & White Version 2.  Since then, the only way to get it into the generation VI games was via the Poke Transporter part of Pokemon Bank.  So if you missed it back then, now is your chance to get one.

This is another direct download event, so there is no need to visit GameStop for a card.  The instructions for downloading Meloetta are on the Pokemon site.  As usual, the event is for Pokemon X & Y or Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire on the Nintendo 3DS or 3DS XL.  I thought it *might* work on Pokemon Sun & Moon this month, but no such luck.

Still, there are things to get in Pokemon Sun & Moon.  There is a level 5 Munchlax still available for download until January 11, 2017 and the special Ash-Greninja that you get at the end of the demo version of the games that you can then transfer over to either Sun or Moon.  And just this past week they announced that the mythical Pokemon Magearna is available.

Magearna in Sun & Moon

Magearna in Sun & Moon

Magearna is not a download however.  Instead, once you finish the main storyline and defeat the usual champions at the end, you can scan a QA Code to get Magearna.  The details are available here.

I haven’t finished the story yet in Pokemon Sun & Moon yet.  I have been moving at a slow to moderate pace, trying to get to the next waypoint each evening.  But there are all sorts of side tasks to do as well, so I have been taking my time.

And then there is Pokemon Go, where the news has been leaked that the game will be teaming up with Starbucks for a promotional event starting today, with what sounds like a special Pokestop or Gym in every Starbucks location.  There is also a rumor that we may soon get an update that will add second generation Pokemon to those in the wild, giving people another 100 to catch.  I’ve only caught 100 out of the first batch of 150.

On the Run with Pokemon Sun (and Moon)

I’m not sure what that title really means, but there it is.

So, yes, there are a pair of new titles in the line of core Pokemon RPG games, Pokemon Sun & Moon.  They came out back on the 18th and my daughter and I got our copies from Amazon that day and immediately started playing.

Coming in Q4 2016

Now Playing at Our House

I let my daughter have first pick and she went with Moon, so I got Sun.  She was into the game right away, picking Litten as her starter.  As I sat down on the couch with her to start myself off, I announced that I, too, was going to choose Litten, the fire Pokemon always being the safest choice.

Which one will you choose?

The usual grass, fire, and water starter Pokemon

She objected strongly to this, pointing out that the house tradition was that we never, ever choose the same starter Pokemon.  I had to admit that this had been the case, which explains why I have never had the fire Pokemon as my starter, since that is always her choice.

Ah well.

Once again I was left with the choice of water or grass and, as I have generally done, I went with water.  Rowlet is cute and all, but grass always seems to be the weak option on the list as I recall from that time I chose Bulbasaur as my starter.  You choose grass and the Ponytas start coming out of the woodwork.

So I started off with Popplio, an escapee from an Italian circus act and the water starter.

As a starter he is cute enough, but the tradition for Pokemon starters is that they get strange as they evolve.  So he starts as a cute seal, then goes a bit further down the circus act.

Ongoing circus acts

Ongoing circus act

And the final evolutions for all three defy the cuteness they all started with.

An anime co-player, Thundercats, and Trump's anime wife

An anime co-player, Thundercats, and Trump’s anime wife

I think the final Litten evolution is the best looking of the group, though it still loses all the cuteness factor.  And so I have taken to hitting the B button every time Popplio, whom I named “The Popo,” starts to evolve.  I am far enough along with him in the game now that he should be in his final evolution, but I still have little Popplio with me.  I’ll have to evolve him at some point, you usually don’t get your best moves unless you evolve, but for now I’ll keep him cute.  I think I did the same thing with Piplup back in the day.

I was also quick to get a fire Pokemon into my party, having been denied one as a starter.  Fortunately Growlithes are easy enough to find early on.  And I also put the Munchlax, a download for those who purchase the game in the first couple months, into my party as well, starting off in the world with the following lineup:

  • Popplio – water
  • Growlithe – fire
  • Munchlax – normal
  • Drowzee – psychic
  • Ghastly – ghost
  • Magnemite – electric

So far that has given me a team that has somebody strong against whoever I am facing.

As for the game itself, I am enjoying it.  My daughter seems especially into it and actually finished the main story line last night. (There is still plenty of end-game content to go for her though.)

I saw a review of the game that described it as being very good for people new to the series, and I would have to agree.  The game guides you carefully to start off and does a good job of keeping you on track.  (Though, if you’re an old hand, the start can seem a bit slow.)

Your rival doesn’t even get the starter Pokemon yours is weak to anymore.  On choosing Popplio, I found that Hau, who fills the traditional rival role, though he isn’t as into the rivalry as some past players of that part, took Litten.  Water puts out fire.  It was actually planning for my rival that got me to add a Growlithe to my party as soon as I caught one.  I didn’t need him for that, though having a strong fire Pokemon in your party is never a bad thing.

And the game does its best to keep you supplied with various necessities as you start out and you get the experience share item early on, which favors lower level Pokemon, so keeps your party all around the same level.

There are also a whole host of quality of life improvements that showed up with Pokemon Sun & Moon.  Aywren has a post covering much of that.

If I had to pick one of the improvements, it would be the changes to storage management which, once I saw them, I wondered why they hadn’t done this already.  The whole storage system was still working about the same way it did back on the original GameBoy.  With Pokemon Sun & Moon it looks like Game Freak finally discovered drag and drop was an option with the 3DS touch screen.  I just hope this isn’t one of those features they do for one game and then don’t carry it forward to the next one.

Of course, there are some things that annoy me.  None of these are rage inducing game breakers, but rather little reminders that the world is not perfect.

Of course, there is the call for assistance that wild Pokemon get.  That seemed like a good idea when I first heard about it.  I even mentioned it as something I was looking forward to.  However, when you’re in a battle in the wild and you just want to capture that one Pokemon and they keep calling for help… and getting it… what was once an easy battle becomes this epic struggle to no great benefit.  I think it is probably good for the trial battles, where you fight one main opponent, but the battle is drawn out by the assistance, because those are supposed to be tough fights.  Fighting some wee Pokemon in the tall grass on your way somewhere shouldn’t be.

And speaking of things that I only expect in big fights, when did every trainer on the side of the road get handed a full restore?  Game Freak sought to extend those battles as well I guess, as if you knock their Pokemon down into the red, they’ll pop a potion and be full health again.

My daughter was a bit disappointed to find that the Pokemon Daycare of past games is now just for breeding.  It used to be a tradition to leave a couple Pokemon there while we moved on through the game, only to come back later and find them leveled up a bit.  Not a huge loss, but a change.

I’m also finding Team Skull to not be much of a force for evil in the world, acting more as comic relief.  Nice rhymes, but no threat.  But I am only about half way through the story, so maybe I haven’t gotten to their prime point yet.  Or maybe they are just a distraction from some other villains.

I’ve also found it awkward that the D-pad is no longer used for movement by default.  Yes, like the old Pokemon storage methods, the movement via the D-pad is something rooted in the ancient GameBoy history of the game  The analog Circle Pad, now your movement control, is just above the D-Pad has not only worked for movement over the 3DS era, but is arguably better for movement. (It is also quieter. My 3DS D-pad has an audible click to it.)  However, after getting out of a battle or a transaction, my thumb still falls naturally onto the D-pad and I spend a second or two wondering what is thwarting me from moving.  I’ll get used to it eventually, but for now my thumb just lands on the D-pad first almost every time.

But probably my biggest gripe and/or concern is about performance.  I have one of the original model 3DS XL units, as does my daughter, and the game gets noticeably laggy at points when there is a lot going on in the game or when it does a close up on a 3D rendered character. (Such a close up lags and lingers long enough for you too see how crude the texture over polygon looks up close.)  And load times seem to drag on much more so than they did with Pokemon X & Y or Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire.

The game is still playable.  In fact, most of the time there is no performance issue at all.  But when it happens, I see it.  It makes me wonder if this game, or future titles in the series, really need the updated version of the 3DS with the 804 MHz quad core processor that the new models have rather than the 268 MHz dual core processors of the original models.  Or maybe Game Freak just bit off more than they should have with some of the 3D stuff.

Anyway, we continue playing at our house.  While I haven’t been as diligent as my daughter… I have been moving at a slower pace, trying to fill up the Pokedex as much as possible as well as playing a lot of Minecraft… I am still going.  I finished the final challenge on the second island and just arrived on the Aether Foundation’s artificial island.

Alola Region Map

That white platform in the middle of the islands

I will carry on from there tonight.