Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It Doesn't Matter If My Pokémon is from Blue Or Black

Recently, I've hit a lull in writing for this blog. So I went to the wonderful world of Twitter (the Pokémon world has something similar called Pidgey-er) to ask about what I should write about. One guy suggested talking about why people hate on the second generation. I was taken aback; how can anyone think little of Gold and Silver? I might have taken this a little too personally because second gen was my favorite, but then it hit me. Every time a new generation comes around, there are always haters. You got people who claim that the "first 150 were great and everything after is just garbage." Then you have those who claim that through better stats and typing that the newest Pokémon are better. And then you have everyone else in between who greatly favor one generation and completely bash on the rest. But why? At the end of the day it's Pokémon! Every generation has their fair share of game mechanics and Pokémon that make it awesome in its own respect.

So let's start with the first gen games, Red and Blue. These games set the precedent for what trainers could expect with Pokémon. Catch creatures in the wild, collect the eight gym badges, stop the evil team, defeat the Elite Four and become the champion. A big complaint about these games were that the Pokémon looked creepy in comparison to later games. To be fair, this was before the look of Pokémon were fully established. By Yellow, the sprites looked pretty normal and a lot like their show counterparts. But there's still that charm that comes from Red and Blue's grotesque sprites. These oddly disproportionate sprites might look weird, but they have attitude.

 Another complaint is that Red and Blue had more glitches than you could shake a Farfetch'd's stick at. Again, these games were the first. For the most part, game series improve overtime. I'd even argue that the glitches in Red and Blue are fun to exploit. Everyone and their mother at one time or another used the Missingno. glitch to duplicate items. With so many glitches in the game, lies like the ability to catch "Pikablu" or Togepi were believable. It's actually quite possible to catch Mew, but the glitch takes some serious work to pull off. The gameplay of Pokémon has been polished over the years, but it's still fun to mess around with glitches in Red and Blue.

Don't catch it! You'll game will become %$*q"%2{ 

Honestly, I can't see how people can complain about the second generation. Gold and Silver took the original formula and made vast improvements. First off, Gold and Silver were direct sequels to the originals. So not only did you get to collect the badges in the Johto region, but you also got to collect the badges in the Kanto region. That's 16 badges in all! What's even more cool is that the final battle is against the original trainer you played as in Red and Blue. Time was also a big factor in this game. If you played at night, wild Hoothoots would appear instead of Pidgeys. With 100 new Pokémon, two new types, the introduction of held items, new methods for evolution, shiny Pokémon, breeding, a chance to rebattle trainers and so much more, Gold and Silver added so much to make Pokémon better. I honestly can't find a reason why people could complain about this gen. Maybe they didn't even try it? It's a shame really, they've missed out on one of the best Pokémon games. 
The most epic battle is about to unfold

And now we get into the 21st century with the launch of the third generation. Out of all the games, I think Ruby and Sapphire received the most hate. For one thing, there was no backwards compatibility between the previous generations and this one. While it was somewhat of a letdown, it makes perfect sense once you see how vastly different the game mechanics changed. For one thing, IVs or individual values of a Pokémon increased from 0-15 to 0-31 (up to this point they were called DVs). Other attributes such as gender and shininess were calculated through a different set of numbers instead of being reliant on IVs. This led to the possibility of getting a shiny female starter, which was impossible in the first two generations. The third generation also fixed the clunky PC system. Instead of saving everytime to switch a box, you can just scroll through boxes until you find the Pokémon you're looking for. The third generation overhauled the system to make Pokémon games easier to play.

The biggest improvement that third gen brought was in respects to battling. I already mentioned how IVs increased in range, but the effort value system allowed further customization of a Pokémon's stats. Basically, how you train a Pokémon can increase certain stats. There are plenty of articles online about how to EV train, so I won't go into further detail here. There's also the addition of natures which gives a further boost to a Pokémon's stats. A Modest Alakazam is better than a Adamant Alakazam because a modest nature boosts Special Attack (which Alakazam uses) while an adamant nature boosts Attack (which Alakazam doesn't use). And of course, who could forget about abilities! Abilities are special attributes that a Pokémon has that give them an edge in battle. A Pokémon's ability is a major part of strategy in competitive play. Your Gengar has a nasty weakness to Ground? It has Levitate so it can avoid hits from Earthquake! Need to patch up Gyarados's weaker defense stat? It has Intimidate to automatically lower its opponent's attack. Natures, Abilities and EVs have made Pokémon a more competitive game. Without the third generation, this couldn't have happened. That's why I like to refer to Ruby and Sapphire as the "fathers of modern competitive battling."

Oh yeah, and third gen was the first to remake older Pokémon games. If that doesn't convince you that third gen was awesome, then I don't know what will. 
Third gen game mechanics with first gen scenario and story? Yes please!

Now we move on to the not-so-distant past with the fourth generation of Pokémon, Diamond and Pearl. I personally love this generation mainly because this was when my brother first got into Pokémon. Besides family bonding, fourth gen brought great changes to the table. For one thing, fourth gen introduced the Physical/Special split of moves. Before, moves were classified as either physical or special based on their type. Now, moves are either physical or special depending on their own classification. So what did this mean? Hitmonchan could finally use the elemental punches effectively, Moltres could now use stronger flying moves, Arcanine could bite things with Thunder Fang. You get the idea. Basically, Pokémon gained movepool diversity. You'll notice that back in earlier generations, movepool coverage was pretty limited. Pokémon were lucky if they could use their STAB (same type attack boost) effectively. You could say it's super effective! ....All bad jokes aside, fourth gen did a great job in giving Pokémon a boost. This was also when I started playing Pokémon competitively.
Arceus commands you not to bash the fourth generation!

The DS was a warm welcome for Pokémon games. With the DS's internal clock, time was reintroduced in the Pokémon world. Furthermore, the touch screen made it easier to select attacks, switch Pokémon and use items. Granted, the way Diamond and Pearl organized the now limitless bag was kind of clunky, but Heartgold and Soulsilver cleaned up the interface. 

An easier interface to navigate
Speaking of HGSS, they are possibly the best games around. With the original story of the second gen and the gameplay mechanics of the fourth gen, HGSS put the best of both worlds together. I simply LOVE these games; there's no other way to put it. If anything else, the fourth gen should never be bashed simply because of HGSS.

So now we're here in the present with the fifth generation of Pokémon. Just a year ago, Pokémon Black and White hit shelves in the U.S. and Black and White 2 are coming later this year. Like every other generation, this one is greeted with the same old "eww, new Pokémon are ugly! I like the originals!" Really? If Nintendo only kept the original
 Pokémon without adding new ones, what's the point in making new games? It always surprises me how Nintendo can still make creative creatures, and the fifth generation is no exception. In fact, I might be inclined to say that fifth gen has some of the most creative Pokémon around. They went crazy with the type combos this time around. Steel/Grass, Ghost/Fire, Bug/Electric, Dark/Fighting, the list goes on and on. While fourth gen added movepool diversity, fifth gen added type diversity. It was a smart move to only have new Pokémon catchable until after you completed the main story. It gave time for me to appreciate the newcomers. I have to admit, it took me awhile to accept the new Pokémon. But I'm glad I gave Black and White a try.
What's not to love about Scrafty? It's a straight up gangsta!
The fifth gen is still going strong with the inevitable release of Black and White 2. Now I can go on and on about all the awesome features like the story being a direct sequel, fighting old gym leaders from past games, catching wild Eevees, new forms of Pokémon and all that. But instead, I'll show you why the fifth gen is awesome with an animated trailer. *Note: turn on captions for English subs.

This sums up my feelings on Black and White 2 in six words:

Really, every generation of Pokémon has been great. While it's understandable to have a favorite gen, it doesn't mean that every other generation besides it was terrible. It has and always will be an entertaining video game series, no matter which version you play. No matter if it's Black or Blue, I'll always love Pokémon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

VGC- An Adventure through Victory Road

Two weekends ago, me and my brother finally competed in the Pokémon VGC tournament again! For those of you who don't know, VGC is the Videogame Competition that Pokémon holds every year. Last year, my brother Scott qualified all the way to Worlds in San Diego. This year, we trained harder than we ever trained before in hopes to win it all.

The tournament rules for VGC were different than last years. Instead of single elimination, the tournament was conducted in Swiss Rounds. Instead of being eliminated, players would continue to battle each other. The players with the highest win-streaks would fight each other until only one would have an undefeated record. The juniors played for 6 rounds while the masters played for 8. The juniors had about 48 contestants while the masters had about 148.

We got up pretty early to get to the Hilton on time. The tournament location was about an hour away. I was excited to try on my N costume. My mom's expression when she first saw me was priceless. She said something along the lines of "you're going to change right?" Not likely, because I've been working on the costume for a couple of months now. Besides, N's outfit is the most normal looking in Pokémon, which is really saying something.
See the resemblance? We're like twins!

I wanted a Hydreigon, but hey it's still cool.
We got there around 8 in the morning. My brother promptly registered and went straight to grab some breakfast. While my family was chowing down like a couple of Snorlax, I couldn't eat. Fear was gripping me. What if we forget what moves work best on what Pokémon? What if we run into a threat we didn't predict? What if his DS dies during battle? I clutched my commemorative Shelmet card as we walked in. I could only hope that he would do well.

Scott chatting it up with another competitor. He always has a calm demeanor going into battles.
Unlike me, Scott is pretty calm. You might say he has a high Special Defense! Get it? Because in the game, having a Calm nature boosts your Special Defense and...forget it. Anyways, after a close first match my brother claims victory! I don't remember how the match went, but they took out Scott's main sweeper. Still, he kept a cool head and emerged victorious. His other matches go well and Scott continues to defeat trainers each round. We get into the finals, and this is when things start to heat up.

 Last year at regionals, my brother fought a kid named Kobe (not Bryant, I don't think he even plays Pokémon) and lost. When the announcements for the final pairings came up, you bet I had Butterfrees in my stomach when I saw my brother had to fight Kobe. It was like facing your rival in Red and Blue; the entire Pokémon journey was leading up to that fateful battle. Only one would be declared a champion.

Scott and Kobe before their final match.

Honestly I had no idea how the battle went until my brother was done. One second, my brother was smiling, the next his face was buried in the DS screen. It was a close match, but in the end my brother clenched victory for a perfect 6-0 record! At the end, they were both beaming and shook hands. It was an sincere act of sportsmanship. After the battle, Scott told me that Kobe was a really good friend. It's moments like these that really make me love Pokémon; games like these have the power to bring out the best in people.

My matches weren't as good. Granted, I was using last year's team so my strategy was pretty antiquated. Still, I walked away with a 4-4 record, which isn't too shabby. I always got beat by people who used shiny Pokémon. I guess I couldn't attack pretty looking Pokémon. Darn you shiny Volbeat! I want one! Anyways, here's my last battle of the evening. I got pretty lucky at the end, but it was a great battle nonetheless.   

So what now? Well, since my brother won we'll be going to Nationals this June in Indianapolis. He's already called me up and we've started planning changes to his team. Hopefully when school ends, I'll have time to build my own team. We've met a lot of cool people at regionals and overall had a great time. We've survived the trek through Victory Road. Up next, the Elite Four! They'll be plenty of fierce challenges ahead but I know we'll be ready for them. 
My brother's trophy and hat. Congratulations Scott! You deserve it :)