Category Archives: Nintendo

Further Mining of Console Nostalgia

One of the nostalgia stories of the year so far has been how deeply Nintendo underestimated the demand for their Classic Nintendo Entertainment System retro console.

NES Nostalgia… for the lucky few

This apparently bottomless pool of demand was bound to spark some sort of reaction.  Nintendo itself plans another jaunt into the retro-console pool with a SNES Classic Edition come the holiday season.

But there has been word of other attempts to cash in on this sort of rosy glasses wish for days more innocent.  And last week a company called AT Games announced two such ventures, one for the Atari 2600 and one for the Sega Genesis.

I actually owned both of those consoles… which is saying something since I have never really been a console gamer.  As I noted previously, I have no nostalgia for the NES because I already owned a PC before it ever saw the light of day.  But what about these two stand outs from an otherwise console avoiding past?

Let’s talk about the Atari 2600.

Flash Back to This

This was a breakthrough console, a success, and back in 1977 I wanted nothing so much for Christmas as to find one of these under the tree.  And I got one too, despite the steep price for the time of $144.

And I played the hell out of it.  Well, out of some of the games.  The sad but true story though is that a lot of the games for the 2600 really sucked.  And the marketing was shameless, promoting cartridges with 27 games when most of the games represented minor variations on a theme.

I’m looking at you Air-Sea Battle

And that wasn’t even the worst exaggeration.  I think Space Invaders might hold that title.

You lying sack of shit! There is ONE game here!

Not that there were not some good games out there.  We could play Adventure endlessly, and Surround and Raiders of the Lost Ark kept us going.  I even liked Space Invaders.

We could find fun in this!

But I also remember saving up birthday money and my two dollar a week allowance to walk up to Long’s Drugs to buy Slot Racers for $30 in 1978, only to be so horribly disappointed that I feel the shame of it to this day.

I knew that the time that the technology of the 2600 wasn’t up to the standard of the arcades, but there were still some games that were shockingly bad even for the low standards of the medium… and I never even had a copy of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

But the real problem here is that I don’t feel much nostalgia for the games.  Somebody wrote that the internet would eventually kill nostalgia because nothing would ever really go away.  You could always go back and read up about Quisp cereal or popular events or fads or video games any time you wanted.

And the Atari 2600 has been way ahead of the curve on this front.  While the unit was introduced about 40 years ago, it has come back in some new cheap-ass retro console form a few times already.

Furthermore, even if we leave hardware aside, emulated software packages featuring “Atari Classics” have been around for about 20 years on their own as well.  I own a couple of those, so I can play the half dozen games I want to remember any time I want.  And even if I were to lose those somehow, I can wander over to the Internet Archive and play them.

Basically, for me, this aquifer of nostalgia couldn’t have been pumped drier if a California almond grower lived on top of it.  So why would I want more clutter around the house?

Ah well.  So what about Sega then?

More Flashing back

My feeling about this is a bit different.  The Sega Gensis was never a console I sought out, and I have written the tale about how I ended up with one.

The games were not bad at the time.  Playing on the Sega Genesis back in the early 90s didn’t feel like a let down from the arcade, which probably helped speed along the demise of the arcades by the end of the decade.  But they still lacked the depth of what I could play on my PC.  I had friggin’ Civilization to play back then.

There are a couple of titles that might tempt me down nostalgia lane for the Sega Genesys.  NBA Jams or Desert Storm or Populous might fit the bill.  The problem is that none of the titles I would be interested in made the list for inclusion.  Instead the titles available are heavy with Sonic the Whorehog in his various forms, and the problem with Sonic is that Sega has already reproduced any of his titles on every platform possible.

All of which seems to go back to the point I referenced a few paragraphs back, nostalgia requires some absence, and Sonic, like the Atari 2600, never really left.  As an ex-girlfriend of mine used to say, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away!”

So neither of these retro consoles seem ripe for me, as both are attempting to mine nostalgia that just isn’t there.  But then again, I am probably an outlier in that regard.  I am sure there is somebody out there who remembers the 2600 or the Genesis fondly and hasn’t seen or played any of the games from them since back in the day.

Pokemon UltraSun and UltraMoon Coming plus Pokemon Gold and Silver on Virtual Console

Nintendo had a brief series of announcements early this morning.  The expected Pokemon Stars, rumored to be the first Pokemon title for the Nintendo Switch was not on the list.  Instead, the Switch gets its own version of Pokken Tournament.

On the Nintendo 3DS front, Nintendo announced that the next titles in the core Pokemon RPG cycle would be Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon, which will be available on November 17, 2017.

UltraSun and UltraMoon

These titles will feature a new story line in the Alola region and will allow players to capture Pokemon not available in the original Pokemon Sun & Moon games.

This development hearkens back to the Pokemon Black & White and Pokemon Black & White Version 2, where the same landscape was used to tell a second Pokemon story.

There was also a Virtual Console announcement.  As I predicted back in January, Nintendo is carrying on with the old school Nostalgia by bringing Pokemon Gold & Silver to the 3DS via the Virtual Console.

For the GameBoy Color

The second generation Pokemon games will be available on September 22, 2017 and will, like the Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow versions of last year, be Pokemon Bank compatible.  No word on Pokemon Crystal however.

Pokemon Gold and Silver

My wish for a return to Sinnoh via a remake of Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, & Platinum will have to wait for another year it seems, though I hold out hope that we will get there eventually.

As for whether or not the Nintendo Switch will take over the core Pokemon RPG game line, that seems to have been refuted,  Nintendo seems committed to the 3DS/2DS handheld consoles.

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,

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.