Friday, August 9, 2013

A Mega Mistake

Yesterday, a new type of "evolution" was revealed.
Is that Blaziken?
Now you might be thinking "is Blaziken evolving? It's already part of a three-stage evolution!" Indeed you're right, but this isn't an ordinary evolution. This is called a Mega Evolution, a transformation that happens only with a specific item. When I first heard about it, I was confused myself. I thought it was an entire new evolution.

To make things clear, here's how it works. During battle, when a Pokémon is holding a specific Mega Stone, the Pokémon will Mega Evolve. So when Blaziken holds a Blazikenite, it'll Mega Evolve into Mega Blaziken. The transformation ends when the battle's over. So it's not an evolution per say, it's more of a form change.

Before this, we were already introduced to a Mega Pokémon. The new form of Mewtwo is actually a Mega Evolution.
This is Mega Mewtwo. I still call it Majin Mewtwo.

From the title, you probably guessed that I have a problem with this new battle mechanic. You bet I do! First off, quit calling it an evolution! It's a form change! Even if a Pokémon's stats get better, it doesn't make it an evolution. Black and White Kyurem have a higher base stat total than Kyurem, but that doesn't make it an evolution. Evolutions are permanent, form changes are temporary and reversible.

Form changes in the middle of battle aren't "new and revolutionary", it's been done before. Remember Darmanitan's Zen Mode? Or Meloetta's Pirouette Form? Those are triggered through an ability and move respectively. Sure this is a first time a held item is the trigger, but that doesn't make this mechanic ground-breaking.

Changing forms in the middle of battle before it was cool.

Speaking of held items, that's another issue I have with Mega Evolution. I can see the game play balance of giving up your Leftovers or Choice Scarf to get a Mega Evolution, but thanks to the Mega Stones being species specific, Item Clause won't limit how many Pokémon on your team can turn Mega. It doesn't seem like Mega Pokémon are addressing a balance issue. At least Fairy-type was created to address how powerful Dragon-types have become. 

The initial release of Mega Pokémon obviously shows this mechanic isn't supposed to bring balance to the game play. Blaziken, Lucario and Mewtwo have all been dominating forces in Pokémon battles. In fact, Blaziken was banned from standard play thanks to his newly acquired Dream World ability, Speed Boost. Lucario remains a relevant threat in standard play and is quite the Pokémon to deal with. And you're an idiot if you think Mewtwo is "weak" and needs any buffs. Mewtwo single-handily won a good portion of my battles in Global Showdown. Sure, Ampharos and Mawile appreciate the boost to their strength, but they could have been buffed through new abilities and moves instead of a haphazard form change.

Instead of buffing old Pokémon through new abilities and moves, Game Freak has opted to throw in a frivolous game play mechanic. Form changing in the middle of battle, regardless of stat redistribution, has proved not very effective in the past. Mega Evolution is a poor solution to the evident power creep in past generations. I fear that Mega Evolution is just the beginning of potential gimmicky battle mechanics that will make the game needlessly complicated.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Ultimate Showdown on a Global Scale!

Last weekend, I fought in 70 matches while competing in Pokémon's online tournament, the Global Showdown. Global Showdown was my first online tournament and the last for Black and White 2. With school and moving out of my apartment, I didn't have much time to prepare a team. So I got some old Pokémon, changed a few movesets, and threw this together:
Sheik, Waluigi, Dhalia, Raymond, Bolin and Macho Man "Mewtwo" Savage are ready for battle!
So I know what you're thinking. "Smiles is using a Mewtwo!? Isn't that cheating?" Actually, no. The Global Showdown allows for any Pokémon to be used (except oddly enough Chatot). If I wanted to stand a fighting chance against Kyogre, Arceus, Kyurem, and opposing Mewtwos, I had to pack a Mewtwo of my own. You might also notice that some of my Pokémon come straight from my VGC team. Like I said, I didn't have much time between school and moving out, so I quickly threw them in. They actually performed pretty well.

 The first day of battling went well. I had a few wins here, a few losses there. It was definitely a learning experience fighting against Uber legendaries, but I got the hang of it. My first win against a full legendary team was a huge confidence booster, and I owe my thanks to Sableye.


For the most part, I was able to use strategy to get out of tough situations. My most memorable battles however come from Lady Luck. Sometimes, a dose of good ol' fashioned hax is all you need to get out of a sticky situation. I, however, did rely on Lady Luck more than I'd like to admit.


Lady Luck can be a cruel mistress. Just as easily as she'll flinch your opponent, she'll flinch you right back! This is one of the reasons why I hate the Wishmaker Pokémon Jirachi. I just wish I didn't have to deal with it.


The worst thing that can happen during an online tournament is that your WiFi stops working. The second day of the tournament, my WiFi stopped working. I went insane! I was having so much fun and didn't want to stop competing. I decided to scour the area and bum WiFi wherever I could find it. My search led me to Big Bite, the greasiest place in town. Let's just say their slice of pizza has enough grease to create Muk. I bought the healthiest thing I could find and sat there for five hours playing Pokémon. It was glorious. 

A grilled cheese sandwich with tomato was the healthiest thing available.

Like before, I had my fair share of wins and losses. But that day, I felt that it was easier to pull off  my strategies. It was like the Big Bite grease was a good luck charm or something. Originally, my Volbeat was more of a gimmick that Baton Passed his Tailglow boost to Mewtwo for a clean sweep. Obviously, there's so many things that could go wrong with this, but I was surprised how often I pulled it off. Especially when I faced a full team of legendaries.

Probably my most memorable match was against a really bulky Lugia. I barely scratched it with a Super Effective Ice Beam! It planned to outstall me until I would struggle myself to death. However, a few good hits on Kyogre gave me the advantage as far as health is concerned. So what did I do? I planned to outstall the clock! It was a bloody war of attrition as his Lugia kept on using Substitue, Protect and Roost. Luckily, he gave in when we had 8 minutes left. Still, this was my most difficult match yet. I had to fight him and the urge to use the restroom! This battle took over 40 turns, so I suggest you make some popcorn if you want to watch the match below.

I had a blast competing in my first online tournament. Sure, I had a few disconnects (looking at you Rocky from Texas!), but for the most part I enjoyed the competition. It was great to see all the creative teams and movesets from trainers around the world. And to top it all off, I ended up with a 1547 rating! Basically, that means I won more than I lost. My biggest regret is that I didn't compete in online tournaments sooner. Hopefully X and Y continues the tradition of hosting fun tournaments.

Feel free to watch some of my other battles on YouTube