Category Archives: Nintendo

Refresher in the Hoenn Region

Pokemon Omega Ruby was pretty much the only video game I spent any real time playing this past weekend.  I did log into EVE Online to keep my planetary interaction operations going, and I updated and played a match in World of Tanks, but that was about it.

Of course, part of that was because my wife and I have been binge-watching Breaking Bad over the last week or so.  Binge watching TV means sitting on the couch, away from my computer.  But the 3DS handheld and Pokemon can sit with me on the couch.  I listen to the dialog from the TV as I play, putting the game down to watch the show when talking leads to action.

The combined activities meant I was able to get through the first six gyms in Pokemon Omega Ruby as well as resolving the main Team Magma/Team Aqua plot point.

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

That is one of the differentiation between the two games.  In Omega Ruby you fight Team Magma and are somewhat assisted by Team Aqua, while in Alpha Sapphire the reverse is true.  Both teams have a Bond villain scale plan for exploiting the powers of a legendary Pokemon in order to change the world and both realize the folly of their ways and come to you, the young hero, to resolve the problems they have wrought, all before you’ve even finished the last two city gyms.

It does feel a bit odd… or maybe anti-climactic, though since you the Hoenn region was facing a cataclysm, that term might be a bit too on the nose… to resolve what is ostensibly the main story line so far ahead of facing the elite four and winning the Hoenn league championship.

Then again, the real story line is, as ever in Pokemon, your own.

The whole thing has been a good refresher for the pair of games.  When they came out back in late 2014 I was coming off of the binge cycle and only played part way through, so when Pokemon Sun & Moon were looming I quickly picked up my copy of Alpha Sapphire and finished off the last essential bits… story line, elite four, and championship… before putting the game down to pick up Pokemon Sun.

Having run through it again I now know where I stand in the context of both games and can probably go chase down the post-championship legendary Pokemon in the pair.

Of course, going back to Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire meant doing without some of the game improvements that came in with Sun & Moon.  I do miss the simplicity of storage box management in the new games and it is a pain to have to return to gimping your team by having to make them learn specific HM moves like Surf and Fly in order to be able to move around the world. (Teaching a Pokemon an HM also used to lock it into that game.)  I also keenly miss the ability to remove status conditions after battle via the refresh option (have to drop a potion instead) and being able to put eggs into the Poke Pelago to hatch them.

On the flip side, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire have some nice features of their own.  The built in region map is good and the local map that tells you whether or not you have caught all the Pokemon types that spawn in the vicinity is very handy.  The ability to soar over the landscape on Latios/Latias is  pretty spiff, and the Pokemon stats training is nice, though not as convenient as the Poke Pelago.

The one thing Nintendo does do is kill most of the back end support for a Pokemon title once a successor has been shipped.  While download events still happen, all the title specific special items have been turned off as has the social connectivity and the Global Trade Station access.  So if I want to wheel and deal and trade Pokemon I get from the game I need to use Pokemon Bank to get them into Pokemon Sun, at which point I can use the GTS there.

Anyway, I am still plugging away at Pokemon for now.

Nintendo and the NES Classic Edition

I cannot decide if Nintendo is stubborn, crazy, or just knows something we all don’t.

Yesterday’s “WTF Nintendo!” news was that they were killing off the NES Classic Edition console.

NES Nostalgia for only $60… if you can find one

If you have tried buying one of these consoles in the fives months that they have been for sale… well, you’re probably at least a bit angry.  They have been selling out like crazy and the short supply has led to speculators snapping up all they can find to resell them for 3x or more their list price on the gray market.

As a company, what do you do when you have a product that is so popular that you cannot keep it on store shelves?  At a minimum you keep producing it to exploit that demand.  Maybe you even refine the product or make some minor addition that allows you to charge more for it.  I mean, how many variations of Atari 2600 classic consoles and game packs for various platforms have there been over the years?  Atari has been milking that nearly 40 year old cow for at least 30 past its peak.

While I am not at all in the classic Nintendo fan club… I was on my third or fourth computer by the time the NES came to the US… this sort of nostalgia console and how it plays in the market still grabs my attention.  I figured it was popular enough to have a nice long run.

But Nintendo cancelled it, with this statement going out to the Americas market:

Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product.

I do not understand.

I have seen a number of theories as to why Nintendo has cancelled the NES Classic console.  They include:

  1. It isn’t profitable, or profitable enough
  2. Licensing issue with one of the non-Nintendo games
  3. It is taking attention/resources/shelf space from the Switch
  4. More profitable to sell these games a la carte on Virtual Console
  5. The fact that it can be hacked for other uses
  6. They have something else planned (SNES Classic?)
  7. Some other Nintendo reason we cannot imagine

The reason could be any one of those, some combination of them, or some reason not on the list including, as Ars Technica put it, Nintendo hates money.

When I think of Nintendo, three different things come to mind.

Nostalgia farmers – They have worked and re-worked Zelda, Metroid, Pokemon, and, above all else, Mario for decades now.  You buy Nintendo hardware to play these franchises.

Hardware focused – As somebody who has worked for hardware companies before, from the outside at least they betray all the signs of a firm that measures it value in terms of hardware units shipped.  It was a huge break with tradition for Mario and Pokemon to appear on smart phones.

Bad at Forecasting – Having demand exceed supply is a good problem, but only if you handle it well.  And Nintendo has had the reverse problem as well.

Odd Man Out – In the console wars if often seems like Sony and Microsoft are battling each other while Nintendo is over in the corner wondering what Mario should do next, unaware that it has competitors.

Unfortunately, these characteristics can be mixed and matched to come up with almost any of the suggested reasons for why Nintendo decided it was time to cancel the NES Classic Edition.

Why do you think Nintendo made this move?

The 3K Blissey Problem in Pokemon Go

As noted in the monthly review posts, I have kept going with Pokemon Go so far.  I started the game late and haven’t been the most active player, but I have managed to make progress, hitting level 27 last month and I still enjoy bringing up the app daily.

My continued progress… and my still playing at all… is probably related to the fact that there are six Pokestops in a 600m loop at the campus at which I work and three Pokestops easy walking distance from our home.  That, the daily bonus and weekly streak bonus, along with the various events have kept me playing and helped me get as far as I have.

That I am still playing isn’t to say that I am doing well.  My top combat power Pokemon are not exactly a majestic sight.

My Top Nine

But their mediocre combat power hasn’t really been a problem.  When I go off to do a gym battle I have always been able to make progress.  The game was set up so that even a modest group of Pokemon could challenge the inevitable 3K CP Snorlax at the top of the local gym.

You might use up five of your six Pokemon bringing him down, but so long as you had a couple of effective Pokemon and a large supply of heal potions and revives, no gym was unassailable.

And then came the second generation Pokemon and Blissey.

Blissey almost 3K

I first ran into a 3K CP Blissey after dropping my daughter off at rehearsal for the school production of Leader of the Pack.  I rolled up the street from the school to a level 3 gym, parked, and thought I would take it down.  I like to earn some coins now and then so I can buy a lucky egg and go on an evolve binge.  That is generally how I level up.

The Gydrados and the Snorlax in the gym were doable, but every time I went after the Blissey, I could make no progress.  It wasn’t killing my Pokemon and I managed to put together a team whose attacks were all super effective.  The Blissey just sat there and absorbed all my attacks, its health bar barely moving, until the 90 second battle timer ran down and I lost by default.

I couldn’t take it down.  The best I did was about half way before time ran out.

And I haven’t figured out a winning approach with my current collection of Pokemon.

So the game went from any gym being assailable if I had the time and patience and medical supplies to sustain an attack to simply having to pass on any gym with a Blissey of 3K CP or so.  My wife, who is level 30 and has better Pokemon than I, has the same problem.

We might have to go from concentrating on breadth of Pokemon caught and levels to pumping up the combat power of some of our Pokemon.

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.

Switch Day Arrives!

Today is the day the Nintendo Switch is finally available!

Nintendo Switch, for your TV and elsewhere

Nintendo Switch, for your TV and elsewhere

I am generally not much of a console gaming person.  Our Wii, heavily played for a stretch, now gathers dust, while our PlayStation 3 is pretty much exclusively used to stream/play video.

I am not even a big Nintendo fan.  I already had a personal computer long before the NES of such nostalgia was available in the US.  And while I have a 3DS XL, it should have “For Pokemon Use Only” stenciled on the side.  I bought Mario Kart for it at one point, but only played it a couple of times.

I am still interested in the Switch.  It doesn’t quite have the lure that the Wii did a decade back when the combo of a new user interaction paradigm and a low price relative to its competitors made it extremely attractive.  This time around you can find XBox One and PlayStation 4 packages priced below the Switch base price of $299.

But Nintendo has gone in a different direction from the Xbox and PlayStation Bobbsey twins.  I am not sure it is the “New Era in Console Gaming” that Nintedo is claiming, but it is a divergence.  There is no hard drive, the unit having returned to the use of cartridges to distribute games. (Which may leave an unpleasant taste in the mouths of some.)  Nintendo has also fiddle with the controller idea again with a new gimmick.  And then there is the portability aspect of the unit.  As somebody in a single television household, not requiring the TV to play games is actually a pretty big bonus.

All of that is interesting, and the price isn’t a huge barrier to entry.  It is the games that will make the decision for me.  I haven’t played the Zelda series, so a new entry there doesn’t help much, nor will the inevitable Mario titles.  A REAL Pokemon title might lure me, or a Pokemon title that integrates with the 3DS like the Wii and the DS connected.  So I am just keeping and eye on the whole thing.

How about you?  Is the Switch on your list?  What is the big selling point?

There is a poll embedded above this line of text which may get snipped out by add block.

Mostly Mobile Friday Bullet Points

Another Friday post about minor items of interest.

Candy Crush and Pokemon Go Slip

Superdata Research put out their monthly chart for December 2016, which showed Pokemon Go slipping down to 4th place on the mobile list.

December 2016 Numbers

December 2016 Numbers

I think I am mostly surprised that the game is still holding out in the top five now that winter is here and that the game has clearly worn on some people during its first six months.

Also of note, Candy Crush Saga is down in 10th place.  While lower than it has been previously, I remain surprised that it is still on the list more than four years down the road.

Superdata also has a 2016 summary report that you can get for free which puts some dollar amounts to a few of their charts.

Pokemon Go Expands

This week sees the addition of creatures from Pokemon Silver & Gold into the mix players can catch.

Now featuring the Johto Region

Now featuring the Johto Region

Eggs have been hatching certain Johto Pokemon for a while, but now you should be able to find new Pokemon out and about in the world.

Pokemon Bank Update

On the 3DS hand held side of the franchise, Pokemon Bank has finally been updated to work with Pokemon Sun & Moon.  You can now move Pokemon from previous 3DS Pokemon RPG titles into the latest game.

How things line up now

How things line up now

In addition you can get the Z-crystal for Mew by scanning the QA code in the linked announcement.

Hearthstone on My iPad

After dumping Candy Crush Saga from my iPad, I found I did not really have a good “sit on the couch and play while I watch TV” sort of game left.  With the fancy new iPad able to run more modern games, I started poking around at the App Store to see what I might download.  I also went down the list of games I had already tried and found Hearthstone.  So I grabbed that.

HearthstoneWhite_450

I had not really played it since the game came out, and I only played it then because Blizzard offered up a mount for WoW players who won three games.  I had put it on the old iPad 2 as well, but never got into it.  This time around things have been a bit different.  So far it sort of works as a replacement.  I am not into collectible card games at all, so it being a dumbed down version of whatever probably means it is well suited to me.  I barely remember how the game works, but I seem to win once in a while, so it is working out.

Also, looping back to a previous bullet point, Superdata reports that Hearthstone is the highest grossing collectible card game, with the money quote being:

Hearthstone earned roughly four times as much as its closest competitor in 2016 and is forcing the digital CCG market to transform

And so it goes.  I still don’t plan to spend any money on the game myself unless I somehow really get into it.

EverQuest II Down

And,as a final item, it was reported over at EQ2 Wire yesterday that EverQuest II had to be taken down unexpectedly yesterday and problems logging on still persist as of the latest update this morning.

That is it, on towards the weekend.