Stuff I’ve Been Playing Recently

Wow. Been a while since I did this.

Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 (Switch)

I’d finished it with Gunvolt previously, but now I’ve completed it with Copen. Who, despite feeling like the game was much harder with him, actually turned out to be much easier as, if you pay attention, he’s pretty much invulnerable. He does have some tricky platforming bits Gunvolt doesn’t, though.

After that, it turns out you have to beat the final boss again, as each character again. So, with that boss dead as Gunvolt, you then face Copen, and vice-versa. Gunvolt vs Copen was really difficult (Copen vs Gunvolt was a walkover), so I was stuck there for a while, but finally did it. Both True Endings get!

Code of Princess EX (Switch)

Another 3DS game I loved, and it’s just as good on the Switch. Unlike Gunvolt, everything here has been redrawn so there’s no jagged pixels. They’ve also taken out the bit where you spend gained stat points from level increases on better stats – it’s all done for you now. Not sure if that’s better or worse – you don’t need to bother with it and sometimes choice is paralysing – but also some stats aren’t of any use to some characters so I wouldn’t “spend” my points there.

I’m about half way through the game, although I’ve also played most of the unlocked quests in that extra mode, and also played in two player co-op, which I never did in the original for obvious reasons.

Pokémon Sword (Switch)

Went back to this for a bit, mainly to get the DLC promo Slowpoke, but have also started getting the various Milcery and Eevee evolutions.

Pokémon Sword (Switch): COMPLETED!

It’s another Pokémon game, and yes, it’s very much like all the others. In fact, it’s probably more like the slightly older games, like X and Y, rather than Sun and Moon as it returns to the gym setup those games had and Sun/Moon ditched.

What is different, is that there’s a new Wild Area, er, area. This massive (for a pokémon game) part of the map is full of wild pokémon which change depending on where in the area you are, and the current weather. There are also dens here and there with giant pokémon in them which you can battle and catch not completely unlike the raids in Pokémon Go.

The other difference, is that it’s the first mainline game in the series to not include all the previous pokémon in the Pokédex. I don’t know how many are missing, but there are still hundreds available plus all the new ones that have been added. Frankly, I don’t really care but I know there are grown adults on the internet who have taken offence to this because it’s the internet.

I’d seen that the game was very short, with some people completing it on launch day in under 8 hours. So imagine my surprise when I got to the game’s credits after just 51 hours. And I’d not spent forever training pokémon or “catching them all” or anything like that. Sure, I didn’t just stick to the story, but then why would you? Plus there’s a new story that opens up after you’ve finished the game, although I don’t know how long that is yet, I admit.

The important thing is that I really enjoyed the game, like the new quality of life features (you can now swap pokémon in and out of your box pretty anywhere, for example), and the “Britain but not” Galar region setting is funny. Other than that, it’s more pokémon, with nothing to really change your mind either way if you’re a fan of the games or not.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! (Switch): COMPLETED!

PETA’s favourite game returns for more family-friendly forced animal abuse.

Many, many years ago, I played a game called Pocket Monsters Green on my Personal Computer using a Game Boy Emulator.  I have now, essentially, just completed it.

Of course, this isn’t the same Pocket Monsters Green. It’s actually more Pocket Monsters Yellow, the modified version that came with Pikachu, only with the more familiar western “Pokémon” branding, and all the modern stylings and conveniences the yoof of today enjoy and appreciate. Yes, it’s many steps forward from the Game Boy title from last century, but it’s actually many steps back from more recent Pokémon games.

Lapras giving me the side-eye.

For starters, being a re-imagining of the first title in the series, there are only the original set of 151 monsters in your pocket. This also means it’s a straightforward and already known story. Then there’s the loss of actually catching them properly: Previously you’d battle a wild beastie until it was almost out of HP, then you’d use a pokeball on them. Now, the mechanic is borrowed from popular telephone distraction app Pokémon GO!, with a “throw” of the joycon approximating a finger swipe. But guess what?

High-fiving Dave, my eevee, is amazing.

It’s fine. It’s all fine. I only missed these things for about ten minutes, and once I had an eevee on my head I was won over. These changes, and others (like not needing a specific Pokémon for world-usable moves, such as surf) streamline the game and speed up the grind. Progress through the game is swift, and as a result I’d beaten the final trainer in under 27 hours. That’s quick, for a game in this series. I’m torn as to whether that in itself is a problem, because of course it’s short, but there’s a lot of post-game content to get through too that makes up for it. All the rest of the creatures to enslave, for one, and a load of new expert cockfighters have sprung up and need defeating too.

Elite Four? Wiped on the floor, more like.

Pokémon: Let’s Go! is a hybrid. It’s a simpler game than the “main” series, designed to pull users of the mobile game over (clearly proven by their close
interoperability – you can even pull your Pokémon over from your phone). It’s more in-depth and complex than the phone game though, adding a world, story and characters appropriated from the original Pokémon Yellow. It’s trying to be accessible to everyone without coming across as too cut-down for the full-fat game fans or too elaborate for the casual phone-prodders. Somehow, against the odds, I think it manages to occupy a sweetspot. Certainly, I could see what was “missing”, but I don’t miss it. I would have enjoyed a new story, but I’m not upset it’s a retelling. The lack of excitement for new areas and monsters discovery is tempered with reminiscence. Like someone remade your favourite slippers only now they have wheels and can toast bread.

Krusty the Clown’s decapitated head looks horrified as a dead Snorlax is found washed up.

Pokémon Quest (Switch): COMPLETED!

Aha! Take that Nintendo! I completed your IAP’d up game without paying a single penny!

Although I should temper that with two things: 1) I never saw the need to pay any money, and 2) where do you even pay money anyway? It was, however, a bit of a grind for the last two worlds due to me not having any decent psychic or electric pokémon.

I think I probably spent around two-thirds of the entire time I played just trying the final few levels on worlds 9 and 10 over and over, slowly levelling up and gaining slightly better power stones, whilst making meals to coax more pokémon into my garden just to use them up in training.

After finally beating those levels, the final boss was actually a walkover taking just three attempts, and then that was it.

Now I’ve some sort of NG+ unlocked, but I don’t think I can be bothered with it. Pokémon Quest started out fun but if it wasn’t for the fact I could stick it on Auto and let it pretty much play itself I’d have given up on it quite some time ago. Even with that, I’ve had enough now.

Detective Pikachu (3DS): COMPLETED!

Just a brief post about this because I said a lot more on the ugvm Podcast, but since recording that I’ve completed it.

The main thing to mention is that in the intro to the game, I thought I’d figured out what had happened to Tim’s dad. However, you never actually find out as the game ends with a sequel setup. It’s slightly disappointing, but only because I was expecting closure.

The rest of the game was enjoyable, in a narrative discovery sort of way. There were puzzles and stuff but unless you fail to see things you can never actually go wrong.

Definitely hoping for a sequel soon!

Pokémon Sun (3DS): COMPLETED!

I am best at cockfighting

That was excellent! Quite a different game to Pokémon Y, although not in the way it is sold: No gyms! No gym leaders! No HMs! No, except trials are almost exact replacements for gyms, captains are virtually the same as gym leaders, and the Ride Pager replaces HMs. Net difference, almost zero.

What’s actually different is how the UI has been improved, with tweaks like being able to immediately put a caught Pokémon in your party. And the streamlined box management, simpler local trading, being able to see move effectiveness (against Pokémon you’ve already fought or have caught) – stuff like that.

Mega Evolutions are gone again, but Z-Moves are really pretty similar replacements. All of the PSS has sadly been stripped out and although the system that is here as an alternative (a mix of the Festival Plaza and Poképelego) is good, it lacks the always-on abilities, Streetpass, and the online web-based games you can play outside of the main game. Since the full announcement of the Nintendo Switch – which doesn’t have Streetpass, but does have a version of Pokémon Sun/Moon coming for it – it’s perhaps clear why this is the case. Anyway. The new features are great for levelling up a load of Pokémon at once so it gets a pass.

As for the game itself, 66 hours is a lot. Not far off twice how long it took to complete Y, in fact, and I’ve not even started the post-game content. I assume there is some (other than just filling the Pokédex), anyway.

Pokémon Sun (3DS)

I have reached Po Town! Which is a bit grim. Imagine Team Skull were secretly evil Inklings, and it rained all the time. That’s Po Town – dark, covered in paint splatters, and a bit wet.

You even have to pay a dodgy lady who definitely is not Nurse Joy $10 to heal your pokémon! Pff.

Pokémon Sun (3DS)

I’ve got eight Z-Crystals now, having just beaten Sophocles and the electricity totem. I thought Ground moves were super effective against Electricity type Pokémon? Mine certainly weren’t, rendering my sexy Dugtrio mostly useless. Fire seemed to be the way to go, for some reason!

Pokémon Sun (3DS)

Alola Pokédex 25% complete.

Pokémon Sun (3DS)

That’s the fire captain in the volcano beaten. Pretty bizarre that was, all the dancing and stuff. And the hiker photobombing.

And I’ve discovered Poké Pelego, which is weird and addictive. Combined with also being addicted now to the Festival Plaza which I previously rubbished, I’m concerned I may never complete the main game.

Pokémon Sun (3DS)

16 hours in already! I’m on the second island, and have just taken part in the four-way battle with Hau, Gladion and absolutely not the Professor in luchador gear.

I’ve also spent a lot of time in the Festival Plaza, which is a bit weird but oddly addictive.

Off to Route 7 now, to meet the captain who lives in a volcano. Uh huh.

Things I’ve been playing recently

All games. All the time. GAMES.

Well, where “recently” is “any time in the last couple of months” and “things” is “games I’ve not completed as I’ve already posted about those”. In no particular order:

Spec Ops: The Line (Mac)

This was free, but only if I played it enough to get £1 credit back from Green Man Gaming. At first, I really struggled as it misdetected my PS4 controller and everything literally spiralled out of control – see this video, in particular from the 7 minute point:

With that fixed (I used a mouse and keyboard instead), I then worked through the first level, or mission, or whatever. It’s OK, but nothing special. It’s also difficult to play with an Apple mouse, because you can’t click the left and right buttons at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll play it more.

Paper Mario Sticker Star (3DS)

A lot of people seemed to be quite negative about this, but I’m really enjoying it. It removes almost all of the RPG elements (perhaps this is why it has the reputation it does), but the story and the combat are great and it looks lovely. Also, that Wii U one is out now and I thought I’d do this while waiting for that to magically appear in my possession.

Letter Quest Remastered (PS4)

Incredible Boggle/RPG hybrid. You’re given a bank of 15 random letters, some worth more than others (sort of Scrabble-like) and you make words out of them. The more powerful your word, the harder your attack is on your foes. You can level up abilities, making 6 letter words worth more, or double letters more powerful, etc. and it’s very addictive.

Assault Android Cactus (PC)

I set my Steam Link up again and this is one of the titles I played, having heard good things and getting it for virtually free in a recent Humble Bundle. It’s not bad, but I don’t think – so far at least – it deserves all the praise. It’s just a quite bland twin stick shooter with average graphics but with some great characters. I’m enjoying it, but not as much as I expected to.

Lego Dimensions (PS4)

I actually bought this a while back, but still had Lego Marvel Avengers on the go. With that finished (although not 100%ed) my daughter and I broke it out and yes – it is excellent. Jumping from world to world (we’ve had The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz, Ninjago and Doctor Who so far) is great, and the references to other Lego games (such as the Joker Titanbot rematch) are awesome too. Playing shuffle-the-characters on the portal is less fun, though, but we’ve negated that a little by moving the portal to the sofa between us.

Pokémon Y (3DS)

With over 70 hours on the clock now, and still about 30% of my Pokédex unfilled, there’s a lot of game here. Not least when you consider I “completed” it at around the 35 hour mark.

Pokémon Y (3DS): COMPLETED!

How do you get Pikachu on a bus? Threaten to knife him.

A brief history of my time playing “main” Pokémon games:

1997: Pocket Monsters Green, a badly translated ROM on a Game Boy emulator. I had returned to university early from a holiday in order to spend a few days revising. Instead, I spent a few days playing Pocket Monsters Green, non-stop, reaching the Elite Four and realising my chosen team were no match for them. I never beat them.

1999: Pokémon Blue, on a Game Boy. I obtained the first 4 gym badges, then stopped playing. I don’t know why.

2001: Pokémon Gold, on a Game Boy Advance. As with Blue, I obtained the first 4 gym badges. Then I stopped playing.

2003: Pokémon Sapphire, on a Game Boy Advance. Once more, after obtaining the first 4 gym badges, I stopped playing.

2016: Pokémon Y, on a New 3DS. Completed!

After the earlier false starts, I’d given up on playing any more in the series because I assumed they’d all go the same way. After 13 years, however, and my 7 year old daughter wanting to play Pokémon X, the time was right to get back into the main series Pokémon games.

pokémon

It was fun playing alongside her, mostly progressing through at a similar rate, with me occasionally helping out by sending her Pokémon or using O-Powers to augment her abilities temporarily.

Since the last game I played, things have improved greatly. The graphics, of course, but also there has been a lot of streamlining. Early on in Y, you obtain an item that allows you to share XP with all your party, meaning you no longer have to start with a Pokémon you want to level up and then swap them out immediately. Item management is easier, and trading your Pokémon is so much easier – and can be done over the internet. There’s even an online “swap shop” for them, where you can browse “wants” or offer your own Pokémon up. Or, you can do random trade matchups where you don’t know what you’ll get. I’ve used this a lot with duplicate creatures, and obtained some great stuff, like a high level Pikachu, a Shiny Oddish, and plenty of others I’d not seen myself at all.

pokémon

All that is great, but the core game is the same as it ever was. Travel the region, fight the gym leaders, Be The Best. No bad thing, especially to someone who hasn’t played Pokémon in such a long time, and there are so many ways to make it easier (the trading, the online “Pokémiles” shop, the XP sharing, O-Powers, Mega Evolutions) that the frustration of grinding – perhaps a reason I gave up on the earlier games – doesn’t happen. Indeed, I beat the Elite Four, the Champion, AND the *spoiler* with my team of mainly Legendary level 100 monsters (and level 90+ Greninja and Charizard) taking down every opponent Pokémon (bar one, who was Sturdy) in a single hit each without taking any damage in return.

Too easy? Possibly. Did that matter? Not at all. Did I complete it before my daughter finished X? Hell yes. And isn’t that all that is really important?

pokemon_y

Things I’ve been playing recently

Roundup!

Mega Man 7 (Wii U)

Precious_memoriesIt’s been a few months since I started Mega Man 7. I think, after ploughing through Mega Mans 1-6 I may have had a bit of Mega Man burnout, and I was a bit disappointed with 7 anyway as it didn’t feel right. Anyway, I’m back on it now and have taken down the first lot of four Robot Masters. I’m enjoying it, and it does feel more like the NES games than it did a few months ago. Perhaps I just needed to give it some time?

StreetPass Zombies (3DS)

Nintendo released two more StreetPass games! In this one, your passes equate to weapons that you use to see off the (cute, Nintendofied, egg-headed) zombie hordes. It’s a lot of fun, and actually quite difficult.

StreetPass Fishing (3DS)

And this is the other game. Passes translate as different bait types which you use to catch different fish. There’s a sort of RPG element as you can level up and improve your rod (and get other rods), and a lot of “gotta catch ’em all” with the fish. Really enjoyable.

Pokémon Rumble World (3DS)

tumblr_nmxy9tydoi1svmpf2o1_400Another Free-to-Play Pokeymuns game from Nintendo, this time based on (read: almost exactly the same as) the Pokémon Rumble series, which despite being repetitive, I’ve had fun with in the past. This one has a real money mechanic where you can only attempt so many levels before your hot air balloon mode of transport deflates, and you have to wait or use jewels to re-inflate it. And jewels cost money. I’m open minded though – Pokémon Shuffle had jewels too and gave away so many for free it was unnecessary to buy any.

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

I’ve progressed a little further, moving onto Kiryu’s part of the story. Another incredibly unlikely coincidence occurs (another character washes up on Kiryu’s doorstep) and then another (Kiryu goes to the police station and happens to bump into “Lily”), and then some fighting. I’ll just say this: that head prison officer bloke from Saejima’s prison is pretty much immortal, isn’t he? No mere man can be smashed to pieces that many times and not only survive, but actually come back stronger!

Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! (Wii U)

Food_is_where_the_hearts_are_A few more levels finished on this in co-op. It’s a bit shallow, but is essentially Gauntlet, so I’ll let it go. The only real annoyance that I have, is that you can only quit the dungeon and save the game every five levels, meaning you really don’t want to die in that time or you have to do it all again.

Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

WarioooooooooooooThe new tracks that were available this week are fantastic. Ribbon Road, in particular, goes way above a simple reimagining of the original GBA track by being probably the best looking part of any game ever made ever. Ever. I’ve not unlocked the new 200cc mode yet, so had to put in a bit of work to do that by improving my scores on some of single player mode. Never a chore, mind.

Bernband (Mac)

Screen_Shot_2015-04-12_at_14.51.37Technically, I’ve completed this. I’m not recording it as completed though, as there’s no real goal – you just explore a purposefully low-res alien city, see the sights and hear the sounds, and that’s it. There’s not even all that much to see, and I took the lot in in well under an hour. There’s no interaction, nothing to collect, no items to collect or anything like that. Still, it was funny and absolutely well worth a wander around. Download it for free here.

Things I’ve been playing recently

Roundup time!

Yakuza 4 (PS3)

It’s been a while since I played Yakuza 3. I did really enjoy it, but never got round to picking up Yakuza 4, probably because it was a PS3 game and I don’t really like playing PS3 games, however good they are. However, for reasons I won’t explain, I got a PS+ subscription and with it came Yakuza 4.

I’m a few hours in, and have spent most of the game so far watching cut scenes, playing with UFO Catchers, opening lockers, and buying clothes for girls. And a few fights, but not many. It’s good, but so far it seems to just be Yakuza 3 with a new story and no mobile phone camera. The asset reuse is high with this one.

tumblr_nl4ekp2aky1svmpf2o1_4003D Shinobi III (3DS)

When 3D Outrun was released this week, a few older 3D ports were reduced in price. I picked up Altered Beast (I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry) and Shinobi III. I was pretty sure I’d played Shinobi III before, but it appears not. I don’t recognise any of the levels so far, aside from seeing screenshots in magazines. It’s great, and not as hard as I was expecting (Revenge of Shinobi was virtually impossible, I seem to recall). The levels disjointedly follow on from each other with no obvious link, but that’s par for the course for games of this age, I suppose. I’m only a few levels in, but really enjoying it so far.

Pokémon Shuffle (3DS)

Still playing this off and on. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve completed the game, but I do return to have a few goes at the special stages or to try and capture a few missed pokeymens.

tumblr_nkwzzkxtr71svmpf2o1_1280The Swapper (Vita)

I’m not sure if I’m enjoying this. I sort of like the setting, but the way you generate clones and can transfer into them feels slightly too vague to control. Also, some of the puzzles are such that completing them feels like you’ve kludged it or brute forced it rather than actually found a solution. I also don’t like how you have to turn your man around by using the on-screen pointer rather than just pressing the opposite direction like in almost every other game ever. Still, it’s a free PS+ rental so I’m not too bothered if I don’t play it again, although I suspect I will.

How_do_I_get_up_to_the_chains__t_httpt.cobVSTh02HMeCastlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum)

Someone made a Castlevania game for the Spectrum. Oh my. And not only that, but it’s polished to within an inch of its life, it plays flawlessly, looks fantastic, and even – somehow – fits into the normal Castlevania timeline. At least, until Konami rebooted it with Lords of Shadow, anyway. I’ve beaten two bosses, collected the double-jump artifact, and am generally loving it.

Various Crap Games (Spectrum)

Somehow I have become involved in the comp.sys.sinclair Crap Games Competition again. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, as I’m having to play some terrible, terrible games. Intentionally terrible games too. I think they’re driving me a little bit mad. Take a look here.