#378: The Shield, Part 2

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Here I’ll be continuing my blog about the newest Pokemon game, Pokemon Shield. I didn’t buy the double pack or the Sword edition this time, as it felt appropriate to just stick with one for now. Also, if you haven’t read the previous blog post, you might want to, just so that this one makes more sense to you. I’ll be jumping right into it.

So, another great thing about the new games is the addition of gym battles taking place in stadiums. I feel like the battles are so much more triumphant and interesting now that they’re these huge spectacles, with chanting fans and blasting music all over the place. It definitely captures the sense of a huge battle going on, and I love the atmosphere that’s created by it. I definitely endorse this game so far as being a great purchase, and I can’t wait for Alex to get the chance to play it too. She’s currently in the middle of playing Luigi’s Mansion 3, which has been a blast too.

Another great thing about the new game is all the modern conveniences added to it. Exp share is automatic now, which I know some people aren’t a huge fan of, but I love the ability to just level without having to swap my Pokemon around in the middle of a battle. It saves so much time and effort now. There’s also the Pokemon Camp, which I haven’t explored that much of yet, but it’s been nice to just interact with my little Pokemon without having to be in the middle of a huge battle. It makes playing the game seem less like a chore and more like an adventure with all these options around. I definitely support this game now that I’ve played it myself and gotten caught in all the hype.

#377: The Shield, Part 1

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So, time to talk extensively about the new Pokemon game. I know I mentioned it a bit in the previous blog post, but it’s time I actually dive into why it’s meaningful to me and how great it’s been to experience it online.

Being the kind of person who’s put himself on the Internet recently, I know for a fact how widespread the controversy involving this game has been. Half of my timeline seems to hate it, while the other half seems to really be enjoying their time with it. So many people seem to be divided on this game, mostly because of the Dex cut and some of the graphical issues going on with it. However, I’ve still been having fun with the game in spite of those issues. It’s been a blast to experience Pokemon on the big screen, and with updated graphics. The graphics aren’t outstanding, but I don’t usually play Nintendo games for those anyway. I’m here for a good time, more than I am here to marvel at the graphical fidelity of it all. There are more important things for us to worry about, to be honest, like the Dex cut, which I’m still not super happy about in spite of all the good stuff in this game.

For example, I’ve really been enjoying the wild areas. I think they’re a brilliant new addition to the games, and the ability to catch tons of different types of Pokemon all over the place, with varying levels and abilities and moves, makes the wild areas so diverse and available for anything. I love that my Shedinja is able to tank all the hits from all the crazy high-leveled Pokemon, which allows me to power level my guys super quickly through whatever obstacles are in front of them.

#376: The Handheld

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The previous blog post was about video game consoles and their various personal attachments and histories to me. This one will be about handhelds, specifically the Gameboy, GBA, DS, and 3DS. Being able to carry games around with me makes the experience of playing games that much better. I remember playing so many games on my handhelds back in the day, primarily Pokemon games. I bought the most recent Pokemon game, Pokemon Shield, on release day, and it’s been amazing so far. Can’t stress enough how good it feels to invest myself in a Pokemon game again, while other people are sharing their feelings about it all over Twitter and beyond. Pokemon is a tradition among gamers, and casual players always seem to flock to the newest Pokemon game even if they’re not huge gaming fans. It’s just a part of all this.

But back to handhelds. I’ll talk about Pokemon in another blog post, when the time comes. Handhelds are great primarily because of their portability, but the Switch, the newest console from Nintendo, sports the option to use it in handheld and TV modes. I’ve been using it primarily in the TV mode to play Pokemon, but having the option to use it differently is great regardless. I love being able to sit on the couch and play Smash Bros from time to time, you know?

I carried my Switch with me to Anime NYC 2019, but I didn’t end up using it for much. That’s because there wasn’t space on the train for us to sit down when we first took it to Grand Central. There was space on the way back, but I didn’t feel like playing at the time as I had other things on my mind that needed to be settled first. It’s crazy how our minds occupy ourselves even when we’re busy with other things.

#375: The Console

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Back when I first started playing video games, I would always request consoles for Christmas. It became an annual tradition to wake up and see some new video game console under the tree, whether it was an Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U, 3DS, DS, whatever, you name it. There was always something there, and I made it a habit of requesting consoles because it opened up the amount of gaming opportunities I had in front of me. Whether it was playing Call of Duty online with friends on Xbox Live, or whether it was playing Assassins Creed: Brotherhood online multiplayer on my PS3, there were tons of new things for me to do that were opened up thanks to having new consoles at my disposal. I didn’t use them all as well as I probably should have, but in the end, it’s the experience that matters.

The first console I was given was the Nintendo 64, and I remember my uncle giving it to me when I was around 5. It became a huge part of my life almost immediately. I was whisked away into the world of Super Mario 64 and made it my mission to beat the game, even though I never officially completed it as a kid. I had high aspirations, but those Bowser levels were super tough back then. I remember also playing lots of racing games with my dad, who loved the opportunity to bond with me back then. Cruisin’ Exotica, for example, was a family favorite, along with the other Cruisin’ games. I remember my dad loving the main theme song. We also played this off-road racing game, whose name I forget. But basically, racing games are in my blood for that reason.

Those were fun times, but my dad and I didn’t play much together after that. Not until Wii Sports, which he tried his best at.

#367: The Haunted

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Have you ever played a game called Luigi’s Mansion? It’s one of my favorite games of all time, and I think I’ve written about it before. Regardless, I’ll be writing about it again, and hopefully under a new title this time!

Luigi’s Mansion is one of those games where, regardless of how many times you play it, the gameplay never gets old. It’s a game whose gameplay is timeless and plays fluidly regardless of what year you’re playing the game in. The core of the game, sucking up ghosts into your super-powered vacuum and turning them into portraits at E Gadd’s lab, has stayed the same throughout all of its iterations. But the nature of the game has adapted over time, leading us to Luigi’s Mansion 3, which has really turned the series back to its roots more than before. Instead of it being about five different haunted places with individual levels and segments between each place, this new game returns to one big haunted place for you to explore and discover treasure inside. It’s truly capturing the feel of the original in a way that makes me pretty happy.

Luigi’s Mansion also has some personal history behind it, and I think I’ve mentioned this in the other blog post I did about the game. My friend Jimmy and I used to speed run through the game, and we took turns beating each other. I used to beat him more often than not, though, and I learned the ins and outs of the game quickly. It’s the kind of game that incentivizes multiple playthroughs because you earn a larger and more elaborate mansion at the end depending on how much money you collected and how rare the portraits are. Essentially, the game may be short, but you are expected to play it more than once to get the full experience. I kind of love that about games.

#306: The Banjo

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This blog post won’t be about actual musical banjos, though I did have to look up whether the plural of banjo was banjos or banjoes in order to write this sentence.

My very first video game system was the Nintendo 64, which my uncle got for me on my fifth birthday (I think). I remember being incredibly engrossed in Super Mario 64. I still hold a certain nostalgia for 3d Mario platformers because of that era. And there were so many games like it that came after! Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo & Kazooie are the two that spring to my mind quickly, and they’re both modeled after the genre Super Mario 64 practically invented. Banjo in particular feels nostalgic to me because I used to love that game, even though I never beat it. The music, with its classic country twang, feels right at home in this type of game. It makes sense and it fits Banjo’s aesthetic. The people behind Rare Studios really took Super Mario 64’s mold and created their own colorful, energetic game out of it. I’m not saying that Banjo-Kazooie is a fantastic game, but it’s recognizable to me the same way Mario and his games are. The game is full of magic.

So, when news dropped a couple months ago that Banjo & Kazooie were coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I was totally excited. Banjo was my biggest pick for Smash for a long time, and I knew it was unlikely because Rare Studios was traded over to Microsoft years ago. Microsoft is of course a rival gaming company to Nintendo, but to see them cooperate to allow this to happen shows that these video game companies are willing to put aside their (financial) differences to make great moments like this happen. I’m grateful for that, and I wish others would take their example.

#296: The Crimson Flower

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Playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses was an emotional experience. The ending almost made me cry, and reading all the different paired experiences for each character combination gave me just the kind of cathartic feeling I was looking for at the end of the game. Certain characters traveled the world and adventured together, some became romantically involved in unlikely combinations, and other characters went solo for a bit, accomplishing their dreams in their own ways. It was inspiring and made me feel things for my team that I had worked so hard to protect throughout each and every mission. I made sure to keep all my characters fairly overleveled through the repeatable battle missions.

My friend finished the same campaign, but the majority of his cast died in the process in that fateful final battle against the archbishop in her dragon form. The only surviving members of the Black Eagle house were Linhardt, Ferdinand, Edelgard, and the professor. I feel bad for him, but at least it was the final battle and at least he made it to the end after all. I’d feel bummed if I made it that far and couldn’t beat the game after all my effort and time spent building up my team.

The music is bombastic, epic, and over-the-top in all the right ways. It draws you in and gets you invested in the story of each mission, fitting appropriately next to the atmosphere they wanted to create.

The story was engrossing, nuanced, and memorable. It’s one I’ll remember for awhile. I’m also pretty glad I happened to side with Edelgard in this conflict, considering her philosophy was pretty agreeable (besides the obviously questionable parts of it, like waging war against your former classmates to reshape society). But overall, I liked the shades of grey that the story presented and I feel that the designers did a solid job of capturing that.

#278: The Plot Twist

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What do you remember the most from the plot of the most recent piece of media you consumed? Probably the climax. It’s the pivotal moment of the story, what all the narrative has been hinging upon. A story with a middling climax leaves people feeling dissatisfied and, in worst cases, betrayed. Look at how people have reacted to the most recent Game of Thrones season. There was an uproar, almost deservedly so, over the decaying writing quality over the course of the series. Seasons 7 and 8 were seen as low points for the series, whereas the beginning and middle seasons appeared to people as hallmarks of the good old days. It’s almost a shame how the climax left so many people wanting more and expecting higher, though the story was bound to disappoint at least some section of its audience regardless.

But the point here is that people will cling to the story’s end, whatever left the most recent large impression on them. To me, a recent game that had this effect was Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I spent the majority of the story slowly understanding it, but not making too much of an effort to pay attention. When the plot twist came along near the story’s climax, I felt totally unprepared for it because I wasn’t expecting such a major, narrative-shattering moment to appear. I won’t spoil it for people who are reading this but haven’t played the game, but I recommend picking it up for yourself so you can see what I mean. It might have the same effect on you! It definitely has the potential to. The game itself is completely worth picking up, especially if you’re new to the series, as I think it’ll astonish you. A plot twist like the one coming up in this game might leave your mouth agape, waiting to be picked back up from the floor.

#267: The Strategy, Part 2

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During my last post about Fire Emblem, I mentioned the battle system and how it’s more prevalent in this game than in Persona. You can more easily enter a battle, without having to worry about going through six hours of narrative beforehand (cough, Palaces 4-5, cough).

With all this being said, Fire Emblem: Three Houses (on the Nintendo Switch) is more akin to chess than Persona. You have to think many, many turns ahead in order to save your units while also working within the game’s timer and battle conditions. You have to think ahead when instructing your students, and you need to have a plan in mind for each unit, a path or goal they’re striving for. For example, at some point in the future I want to train Edelgard to wear heavy armor, which I think would be an awesome upgrade for her. In order to get her to that place, though, I need to be careful about how I instruct her during class, what lessons I teach her, and what equipment I give her to train with. You have to think ahead, essentially, in order to do everything in this game, and it never lets up on you. If you don’t have a clear plan in mind, the game will start to challenge you more than it did previously, and you will feel a bit overwhelmed by the battles. Your units will become listless and unmotivated without proper guidance.

But despite these obvious pitfalls if you’re not paying attention, the game does a great job of teaching you how to avoid them. It almost makes it impossible to not advance your units, and no matter how poorly you teach, you’ll still come away with some reward, or experience, or lesson learned from it. The game is pretty forgiving, in spite of everything that makes it seem otherwise. I’d highly recommend it.

#266: The Strategy, Part 1

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Fire Emblem is a game series known for its intense strategy. When one of your units dies, it dies for good, and to get them back, you have to return to an earlier save file. The recent games in the series have offered optional difficulty settings that do away with this age old tradition, but the challenge remains for players who want a taste of the original games. The feeling stays the same in those situations, and I’m glad they included them.

Not counting the mobile game, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the first entry in the series that I’ve played, and so far, it’s been enjoyable. I like the thoughtfulness that goes into the combat, and all the small details alongside it, such as the way the music speeds up in intensity when units are fighting each other. I like the characters, although they haven’t pulled me in as much as they did in Persona 5. I hear that they get more complicated as the story goes on, but a certain element of Persona’s characters is tied closely to the setting. As in, the fact that the game takes place in the 21st century makes the characters more interesting to me. You can feel their struggles more closely, considering you’ve experienced them too, and not too long ago.

However, the games are different in many regards, and shouldn’t necessarily be compared and judged just based on how relatable their characters are. That wouldn’t be fair to either game. Fire Emblem is more gameplay-focused, I think, and less time is spent on dialogue and narrative, even though the two are heavily focused on still. Fire Emblem has more consistent gameplay moments, such as the mock battles and the battles at the end of every month. They’re weaved into the story experience moreso than in Persona 5.