Pokémon Sun – Session by Session Review – Sessions 1 and 2

Pokémon Sun and Moon are now out and I was very happy to get a copy of Sun on the day of release. Professional reviewers likely had it before the release date so in the interest of getting this out quickly, I will review as I go, session by session. It might not give the best picture of the overall game, but hopefully will make up for it with a clear image of how it plays over time.

 

Session 1 – Phew that is a long introduction

I should start this by saying I am very familiar with the Pokémon adventure games, so I have a familiar issue with the opening hours of this game. Anyone who has played the previous generations will know what I am talking about. These games are designed for a wide range of ages and skill sets. It is great that the games make effort to allow accessibility for young and new players. But for us veterans, the tutorial sections of a new game is very much like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs.

 

It strikes me in this first session how much the developers have looked to grow the Pokemon experience. There seems to be much more in the way of story cut scenes. The game opens with a sequence involving one of the main character escaping some kind of lab. And the early sections pull away from the gameplay to show conversations and action in. It feels like there is less of the characters standing around talking at each other and more of the kind of acting we would see in animation and PC or console games.

Already this was looking to be one of the most immersive, original and detailed instalments of Pokémon. Alola is a beautiful place and is full of life. The people of Alola seem to have their own culture and mannerisms that seems a whole lot different to any of the previous regions. The place feels very natural, helped in large part by the move away from a square grid. Gone are the patches of wild grass growing is neat lines. Paths and patches of long grass flow more like they would in nature.

I followed the usual introduction and tutorials common to these games, frankly getting a little bored. It was a relief when I was let loose to explore the trainer school and have a few battles. Whilst the battles themselves have not changed much, they have made further improvements to the interface. Everything is laid out on the touch screen to be very clear. And the game now keeps track for you of any stat changes, which is helpful. Another useful feature, though I am not sure I appreciate it, is the indicator of move effectiveness. I enjoyed the puzzle in the past of working out which move was best to use against an opponent, memorizing types of Pokémon to best calculate which move would do the most damage. Sun and Moon somewhat takes all that away. Once you encounter a Pokémon for the second time, all your moves will show how effective they are. There is still much to consider to be the most efficient in battles, but by effectively giving us the answer to type match ups, it has taken away some of the challenge.

I also had a brief look at a couple of side features. One being the Care function, here you can feed your partner, pet it, and tidy it up after battle. I am not sure if there is a penalty for not drying off you Pokémon after a fight with a water type, or for not combing the fluff out of its fur, but they seem happy when you do. Then there is the Festival. At any time you can warp to the festival to meet other players, purchase items and services, or take part in battles. It is reminiscent of the Join Avenue feature in Black and White. There is not much to either feature, but they are sort of fun.

 

Session 2 – Just me and my Rowlett

My second night playing the Pokémon Sun showed more promise. After petting a Turos to clear a blocked road (They are really running out of ideas to segment areas now.) I moved along to areas with more gameplay. I found myself skim reading a lot still as characters insisted on showing me all the shops and services of the first big city, but I was given a bit more freedom to look for wild Pokémon and explore.

It was in the city that I had my first run in with Team Skull. Every generation has had a group of ne’er do wells to hamper your progress, and Team Skull are proving so far to be my least favourite. They rather annoying with their over the top patois and break dance swagger. I’ll leave it to the SJW’s to rant about cultural appropriations, these characters just look to me like white kids who listen to too much hip hop. Although annoying as they are, it somehow works. It is satisfying to beat such arrogant hooligan and see the wide-eyed shock that they were not able to back up their big words. I even took to messing with them in the dialogue options and their responses were amusing.

Another annoyance for me was the game’s inclusion of a lot of wild Pokémon from previous generations. I only encountered a handful of new creatures, otherwise I mostly encountered Rattatas, Drowseys, Wingulls and Ghastlys which I have been catching in games for years. The Alolan forms gave a bit of variety but I was still left craving something new. What was new did not appeal so I currently still have but a single ‘mon in my party. Good thing I like my starter, my Rowlett, now evolved to Dartrix is cute, strong and a lot of fun to travel with. I fear I will need to venture further to find any wild Pokémon I deem worthy to join the team.

 

After exploring the first routes, I came to the first trial of the game. Here is where the game introduces the biggest mechanic changes to the game. For a long time now, Pokémon games have followed the same formula for many years: Meet a professor, get a grass, fire or water starter and some running shoes, walk around, beat eight gyms, take down some organised criminals or terrorists despite looking like an eleven year old, catch the mascot from the game box and beat the elite four. Although much of that is still there so far, it is refreshing to see them try something new.

My first trial was to explore a cave and find and defeat several wild Pokémon, followed by a show down with a stronger find creature. In some ways it still felt like the gym battles of old, I will be intrigued to see how other trials differ. The next new feature was the concept of wild Pokémon calling for help. This can seem to happen in any wild encounter, basically it involves a Pokémon calling for back up, bringing a weaker ally to fight alongside it, effectively switching to a double battle mid fight. A nice addition.

Finally there is Z moves. It is like mega evolution for moves. They certainly look epic when used, but I am not sure it adds much to gameplay, essentially, once you set up to use a Z move, it is a button that makes a move hit harder, which begs the question why anyone would want to ever not press the button (well, I suppose if you wanted to catch a wild ‘mon and didn’t want to kill it). If anything, they are a bit long winded.

 

I may sound like I have been a bit down on parts of the game so far, but despite a few annoyances, I am enjoying it. I am still on the first island of Alola and found it a great place to explore, I have found a few option areas already, this could be the most expansive map in a Pokémon game yet.

Big credit goes to the designers of this game. Lots of effort has been put into making everything as smooth a process as possible. It’s the little changes that help, there were so many niggles in the past. Remember when you went to the PC in the pokemon centre and had to go SOMEONE’S PC then ORGANIZE BOXES, then the interface was a mess. Now if you want to swap out a Pokémon, you go to the PC and are straight into the boxes. Your party is on one side, the box on the other and you can drag and drop intuitively. Also when you tap any Pokémon, you get a quick view of its moves. It is changes like this that are ironing out the kinks in the games series’ once clunky interfaces.

 

 

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Enjoying Video Games With Your Girlfriend

Whether you are wanting to share your love for video games with your girlfriend or just get your girlfriend to view your playing video games more positively, I aim to show you how you can share your love of video games with someone who might not have previously considered playing them, be it your girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, mother, father, sibling or whoever.

Because this is cmdALTgamer, I’m going to take an alternative look at the situation, because one of the biggest mistakes in introducing a girlfriend to video games is to assume she is going to be bad at playing them. Truth is, a huge number of women, especially younger ones are already playing games. They may not have a console and put 80 hours into an RPG, but they are playing games. Even if they don’t think of themselves as gamers, most people nowadays have some experience with gaming. Video games may still be looked down upon as a childish art form but really it has crept into a large part of society. Social games, iPhone, the Wii, DS, it really is everywhere.

With that in mind, I’m going to take you through some of the games I’ve found to have been a great experience sharing with my girlfriend, and I’m not simply going to list a bunch of cutesy or easy games, because you never know, your girlfriend may be better than you at video games. I’m also not just going to list games that you have to convince her to play as player two, she may be reluctant to take up a controller and take you on and you shouldn’t try to force her, I will list a selection of games that have varying levels of involvement and interactivity for your girlfriend. A great example of this is my first game.

 

L.A. Noire – Good for backseat gamers

L.A. Noire is a detective drama set in post-war Los Angeles. You must find clues and interrogate suspects in order to solve a bunch of gruesome murders. It has an engaging story with great acting that draws you into the cases. I heard you crying “A single player game with graphic depictions of violent murder victims, how can I play that with my girlfriend?” I did say I was going to take an unconventional approach to this didn’t I? Obviously if your girlfriend is the type who hates media depicting gore, racism, abuse and general nastiness then probably give this a miss, if not, then hear me out. This is a perfect game to share with someone who has a phobia of controllers, because basically they can be a backseat gamer. Yes there are car chases and shoot outs in this game, but the main experience of it is the story and solving the mystery. Neither of which necessarily require a controller to enjoy.

One can take control, doing the driving and shooting and all the other technical bits, whilst another can simply watch and enjoy the story and get involved in cracking the cases. The backseat gamer can discuss clues, suggest places to search and assist in solving puzzles, but the best part comes with the interrogations. Every suspect and major character in this game has had a performance captured from a real life actor and it’s your job as the detective to spot when they are lying. Together with your partner you can decide on lines of questioning and whether to accept your suspects answer or push them harder to get to the truth.

A similar backseat gamer approach can also be applied to

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Dripping with story everywhere you turn and a genuinely exciting dialog system there is much someone could get out of this game without actually playing it. Granted there is a lot more gameplay between the story and dialog “battles” but it’s during those dialog decision moments that it really shines as a shared game. The choices of conversation that you make have real consequences, you need to assess the personality of the character and make judgements on how they will react to different kinds of responses and questioning. Getting the dialog choices right can be the difference between someone helping or hindering you, depending on what you say a hostile character might surrender, kill a bunch of hostages, attack you or share with you important information.

 

Scopa

Okay, so maybe I’m mentioning this with a bit of sarcasm but I really have enjoyed playing this with my girlfriend. Scopa is an Italian card game played with a forty card deck (you can use a standard deck just remove the 8’s, 9’s and 10’s). For anyone interested here is the Wikipedia entry explaining the rules.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopa

The version of the game I learnt from my grandmother is no doubt (much like the dialect of italian she speaks) not something the rest of Italy would easily recognise. Yet the basics are the same.

 So why am I suggesting this game, well firstly, a big barrier to a novice playing with a seasoned gamer like (I’m assuming) you are, is not how well they will be able to play, but how much better than it you are at them. Scopa is a great example of how competitive games can be fair and fun even between people with varying levels of experience. Basically what I’m saying is that although there can be a lot of tactics in the game, luck still plays a huge part, and luck will help the lesser skilled player feel they have a fighting chance, and often let them win.

When I first pick up a fighting game like Tekken or Marvel Vs Capcom my friends are happy to play against me, once I’ve learnt a bunch of combos and specials, suddenly nobody wants to play me, they feel like I’m too good, that I’ll beat them easily, which is never fun. But in a game based largely on luck, you rarely get that far ahead that you intimidate others into not wanting to play.

If you want to play competitive games with someone unfamiliar with video games, the look for games with this luck factor. Peggle is a good one, so is Bomberman to an extent.

Secondly I’m suggesting that if you have trouble getting someone you love to play computer games with, then there are countless traditional games you can play. Some of the ones I play include; Yahtzee, hangman, Pokemon the board game. It may even prove as a good stepping stone towards simple video games. Even if you can’t get your girlfriend to play on your Xbox or PS3 with you, wouldn’t you still like to have fun playing games with them.

 

The LEGO Series

These games are simple to learn, have great puzzles and are full of tons of unlockables and secrets. But best of all the range of movies and characters the games cover means almost anyone can find a LEGO game themed on something they like. For my girlfriend it was Harry Potter, together we played through the entire thing getting 100% completion and it was incredibly fun. Especially in this game it felt like you had a lot of freedom to do what you liked, often we’d just end up casting head shrinking spells on each other and breaking furniture.

 

Pokemon Games

The Pokemon games are great in the way that you can enjoy them as a solo experience but having a friend who also plays can add a lot of extra fun to them. Particularly with the Black and White games, there are many ways to interact with a friend provided they have the game and a second DS. Aside from the obvious trading activities like pokemon and battling each other, with the new C-Gear feature you can journey into another persons game, gain special powers and invite the characters from their game to visit yours. But if you really want to get in the good books of your girlfriend, catch their favourite Pokemon, breed an egg from it and send it to them, it’ll be a nice surprise when it hatches.

Pokemon games are in my mind one of the best examples of a games design allowing people of almost any skill to enjoy it and be challenged. Because you never really take any significant steps backwards when you fail (your Pokemon will always get stronger) you can with enough persistence make your way to the end of the game. Yet if you want more of a challenge, you can set your own goals, apart from beating the elite four, there are also a number of very tough trainers to find and battle, international tournaments and even the daunting task of collecting nearly 700 Pokemon. You decide how much of a challenge you want to take on.

 

Rayman Origins

This game is a whole lot of fun to play with friends; it has beautiful art work, easy to get into game play which builds into a brilliantly challenging experience with later levels, not to mention the fact that everyone speaks in pig-latin. Seems that this game has been over looked based on the fact that it’s a full retail game but it’s in 2D. Well there are plenty of 3D games out there that are awful, and you know what? Games like Sonic and Mario were some of the best games ever made despite being simpler than the glorious HD games we play today. Adding a third dimension or high resolution textures wouldn’t make Rayman any better (infact it would probably be worse). The local multiplayer is really solid in this game, everyone just does their own thing, bouncing around, slapping each other, reviving bubblised friends and going after lums. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much playing a video game.

 

Beautiful Katamari

One of my favourite games of all time. The premise is simple, you have a big sticky ball, you roll up stuff smaller than you, which makes you bigger and lets you roll up more stuff. Wonderfully whacky and colourful this and any other Katamari games you can find are well worth trying.

The controls are beautiful in their simplicity, so that almost anyone can pick it up with ease; just imagine the left stick is your left hand and the right stick is your right. Now imagine you are rolling a big snowball to make a snow man, push forwards with both hands and the ball rolls forwards, push more with the left hand and you’ll steer to the right. Pull with one hand and push with the other and you’ll turn on the spot. Simple enough right. That is really all you need to start playing and enjoying these games. As for playing with a friend you can play head-to-head, take it in turns completing levels and beating high scores or try co-op mode in which two players have to work together to guide a single ball, usually quite badly and hilariously.

 

I hope I’ve covered enough games there and given you some good ideas. Mainly what I wanted to do was to help people think differently about the problem. If someone isn’t that into video games then chances are you won’t get them to stay up all night playing COD multiplayer. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with video games and someone who isn’t that into them. If you want to share your hobby with your girlfriend, then talk to them, let them choose their level of participation, like I suggested with LA Noire, they may not even need to pick up a controller.