Unpopular Opinion: I Don’t “Love” Pokémon Sun/Moon

Hey gamers!

So this might be a spicy banger of a post, but it’s a topic, that I need to share. So here it goes…

I don’t love Pokémon Sun/Moon.

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I’m not saying it’s bad, or I hate it, but I don’t love it.

Allow me to explain!

THE INTRO

Oh my God… The intro to this game is brutal. As a long time fan, the last thing I want to do is to have my hand held through the first several hours. I get that it’s catered to new fans of Pokémon, but come on… It’s excruciating.

I am a big believer that they way a game interacts with the player and it’s world, is indicative of the trust that the developers have in those who play it. Pokémon Sun and Moon guide you through ONE of the FOUR Islands, in it’s entirely.

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There are several games that lost me in the beginning because it’s introduction was tacked with tutorials and interruptions, and Pokémon Sun and Moon almost made that list…

THE NEW POKÉMON

Okay, let me preface this by saying that not all of the new Pokémon are ugly or bad, but good lord, some of them are atrocious.

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I’m not expecting every new creature to be a 10/10, but I expected some of them to look at least pleasant enough for me to catch, instead of ignore completely. I honestly think that some of the designs deterred me from catching or battling wild Pokémon, just because I didn’t want to see them again.

Like look at this “thing“:

avK4VLp.pngEven it’s name is ugly: “Bruxish“. Ugh. No thanks.

THE UNWANTED CHANGES

So these next few things are personal, obviously.

I really liked the Super Training mini-games that allowed trainers to beef up their Pokémon that was introduced in Pokémon X and Y. Sun and Moon completely remove them, and force players to raise the EV’s in the wild, often via prolonged critter battles.

This is a harder way to track the stat changes, and it’s often a more boring way to do it.

Also, not a big fan of the changes to the gym leader format. I admired what the Kahuna and Trial Captains were as characters, but their challenges or “boss fights” were often lame and uninteresting. I miss the intensity of the gym leader battles from previous games.

In the end, my gripes are my gripes; they may not be fair for everyone but they are specific to me. I still enjoyed my play-through of the game, but I really don’t see myself returning to the region of Alola anytime soon, at least not on 3DS… 😉

Until next time gamers, it’s been a slice!

  • Chris Pie
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Soundtrack of the Week: Majora’s Mask

What’s up, gamers?

In a little segment I like to call “Soundtrack of the Week” (original, I know), we will be delving into the world of video game music. I usually talk about gameplay, story and graphics so often in blogs and podcasts, I figured it would be borderline criminal to ignore the tones that accompany the video games we love so much. So let me begin this new and exciting segment with a classic!

This week, I want to highlight the music behind one of my favourite games OF ALL TIME! The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is one of the most unique Zelda titles in the series, and its music is no different. Despite displaying the iconic, yet presently dated, electronic tones that it’s Nintendo 64 counterpart produced in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the music of Majora’s Mask is constantly thematic and never disappointing. Each track perfectly captures the tone that the game developers were trying to achieve. To summarize what is a genuinely dark and gritty game within a light-hearted adventure franchise, Majora’s Mask centers around the former Hero of Time, Link, as a child attempting to locate a lost and beloved friend from one of his previous quest. The game sees Link journeying through the Lost Woods only to stumble upon a mask-possessed Skull Kid, who not just disfigures our hero, but holds a small town and the entire world hostage.

Koji Kondo, Composer and Arrangement Director for the game knew just what parameters he was working within, and delivered some of the best pieces of cinematic music to date. He knew just what the developers were envisioning and he wanted to create music that would be a perfect soundtrack to Link’s perilous adventure to save Termina.

The theme of the game was about healing, forgiveness and grief, and the soundtrack embodies those themes. Kondo incorporated various other Zelda music inclusions that would bring joy to fans of the series, while introducing songs that directly affected the plot of the game. Songs like the “Song of Healing” provided restorative relief to those suffering in the games plot.  A good example is when Link finds and rescues a struggling Zora in the Great Bay waters. Mikau, the previously mentioned and injured Zora, explains that he was trying to save his band-mates future offspring from sea-faring pirates, but was mortally wounded while doing so; thus asking Link for mercy and assistance in the form of the “Song of Healing”. In turn,  Mikau’s spirit is put to rest, knowing that he can trust Link with doing what he could not. It’s kind of gruesome if you think about it, but the simple notes within the “Song of Healing” detail just how painful loss and suffering can be.

I could sit here and spit-ball all day about each and every track within the game, and I wont. However, what I will do is briefly detail some of the most notable tracks and explain why they are perfect for the game. Keep in mind, these are all of my opinion, and you are welcome to disagree, like always! (Links included, and puns intended!)

  1. Clock Town (Day 1, 2 and 3)
    I realize I kind of cheated right out of the gate by putting three songs in one, but it’s the same song, just arranged differently depending on the day in which it is being played. It helps to understand that Link is given three (3) days to save the land of Termina before Skull Kid crashes the moon into the earth. So it’s interesting to see Kondo arrange this track to accurately reflect the ever growing desperation that the characters, and the player feel while looking up in the sky at the gloom-and-doom moon. Its when Day 3 arrives, that you realize that you only have so much time left to do what’s needed, before ultimately resetting time, or challenging the powerful Skull Kid yourself. As the stakes increase, so does the tempo of the songs!
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0kXVfqPrLs
  2. Final Hours
    This is another piece of music that is heard primarily within the boundaries of Clock Town. Once the third and final day has concluded, the game REALLY, REALLY wants to set the mood by letting  church bells echo throughout the region, only to be met with absolute silence. That deafening silence is what makes this piece so epic, because the player realizes that there isn’t really anyone left in the town, because they’ve all abandoned ship and fled to safety. Essentially, you come face to face with the fact that you are the only thing standing in between the safety of the world, and it’s cruel destruction.
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e056R97svz8
  3. Stone Tower Temple
    Talk about eerie… This track from Kondo accurately portrays the life and struggle of the Ikana Canyon. The area is described as the canyon of death, and this song echo’s a chilling sense of mortality. The final, and most difficult dungeon in the entire game has this song playing throughout it’s corridors, and to great effect. The unnerving sounds of the Ocarina as it plays on top of a ritual-like hum, drums and tambourine will quickly send chills down the player’s spine. The song’s bars capture the psyche-testing challenges and puzzles within the dungeon in pure melodic form.
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab60XEyA5OQ)

As I said, I could do this all day, but I want to save a little bit of Majora’s Mask excellence and brilliance for another post! Feel free to comment what you’re favourite Majora’s Mask song is. Hey, I’d even open it up to what your favourite thematic piece of video game music is!

Until next time guys, it’s been a slice!

– Chris Pie

One Gamer’s Perspective: Has the age of turn-based RPGs come and gone?

With the release of Final Fantasy XV (FFXV) this past November, we’ve come to see another evolutionary step within the JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) genre. Japanese role playing games are often very stylized, thus easy to pick out from a crowd; usually having a spiky haired and emotional protagonist with a big sword on an epic quest with a bunch of companions. These tropes of JRPGS are often associated with the core concept of turn-based RPGs. This style of game usually revolves around the player and the game each taking turns attacking, defending, summoning or healing themselves or their teammates.  Final Fantasy used to be the king of turn-based RPGs in the gaming industry’s teenage years, but even the adventure fantasy giant has changed the way they want to play.

Now that we’ve been thoroughly engrossed in three-dimensional gaming, the turn-based style of RPGs have faded in obscurity, to say the least. It wasn’t always this way. The turn-based RPG used to be one of the most popular and celebrated genres in gaming back in the late 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, when graphics and console horsepower could only handle semi-still animated character sprites and models. Now that gaming has nearly matched a level of pseudo-realism in terms of graphics and appearance, the genre is no longer the force it once was, with RPGs favouring to opt into an action/strategy RPG hybrid. To be fair, I’m not trying to bash on contemporary RPGs for their style and direction. I just want to be able to have my cake, and eat it too!

The platforming genre went through a mild renaissance these past few years with a ton of amazing side-scrolling platformers hitting Wii U and Steam, while also seeing the generation give birth to great 3D platformers across all mediums. Some could say that the platforming genre is right there with the RPGs and arcade-puzzle games that really started the video game resurgence in 1987. My point here is that I recognize that genres and styles evolve and change with gamer interests and new technology, but why can’t there be both? It’s clearly been done before!

Nowadays, I find it difficult to name more than just a few franchises that have and are continuing to invest in the turn-based RPG genre. Some examples include the Persona series, the South Park next-gen games, and the obvious Pokémon series. There are various off-shoots of the original formula, like Fire Emblem, and X-COM where the strategic element is a core principle to the game’s style of play, and Ubisoft’s Child of Light, where over-world action elements are critical.

It seems so long ago that turn-based RPGs used to rule the industry. Games like Chrono Trigger, Xenogear, , Dragon Quest, Paper Mario, Secret of Mana, Golden Sun, Earthbound, Super Mario RPG, were all at one point considered to be masterpieces of their craft and templates for games to come. (Keep in mind I didn’t mention a single Pokémon or Final Fantasy game in that list…)

We have some games now expanding on that genre and adding new things to it, since we have had so many great games to look back at with inspiration, but I was always told that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. So at what point did we look at the genre and label it ‘broken’? Ultimately, I wanted to ask where all the turn-based RPGs went, but it might not be quite that simple.

Aside from technical advancements, which are certainly a contributing factor in the change of artistic direction with the genre, I believe that at its height, the turn-based RPG’s popularity is what ultimately soiled its future, and not some mortal flaw in particular.  During its hay-day, the genre was so over saturated that there was very little chance for every game to be unique or truly great; gamers saw that there was so many titles on the shelves of their local video store that they couldn’t decipher which games were good and which games were bad. This is just a theory, but wouldn’t that hurt sales for those games in general? I realize that it’s never a good idea to paint with broad strokes in discussions like this, but if you look at any of the games I listed above, you can find a quick turn-around of sequels that followed in the wake of their original success. It wasn’t just knock-offs or market capitalizers that soiled gamers on the genre, but the recognizable staples that we all know today. I truly believe that it isn’t much of a stretch to wonder if the genre got too close to the sun, and had its candle wax wings slowly melt away from the exposure.

As I said earlier, I love the RPG genre as a whole, I really do. If I didn’t I wouldn’t make a post this long detailing a seemingly non-issue. We have so many great games to play and celebrate today, with different ideas and innovations being introduced each time. Today, I can pick from a variety of different games within different sub-genres of the RPG classification. I should be elated! Yet, the greedy gamer in me wants to see a return to form to what made the genre so great in the first place.

Please feel free to let me know in the comments what some of your favourite turn-based RPGs are, or just RPGs in general. I’d love to hear some classic discourse from fellow lovers of the medium! So if you wanna pause your journey with Noctis in FFXV, and dust off your nostalgic buster sword, feel free to join in on the conversation!

Until next time, it’s been a slice!

– Chris Pie