Monday, January 27, 2014

Hokus Pinkus: The XY Prerelease

Back when I went to my first trading card prerelease in 2011, I wanted to take my brother to one. I had a blast last time and wanted to share that experience with him. Plus, bringing him along would mean more cards for our collection :P. So yesterday, we attended the Pokémon X and Y prerelease over at Strikezone.

Basically, a prerelease is a tournament where you pay $30 for 6 packs of cards from the upcoming set. From there, you build  a 40-card deck and play 3 matches. Afterwards, you receive 2 more packs and a promo
card. I highly doubt the $5 entrance fee increase from last time was due to inflation, but what can you do.

We arrived at Strikezone around 12:30 and signed in. Mike, the event coordinator, surprisingly recognized us. It took me a second, but I realized he knew us because of my brother's back-to-back VGC regional titles.

When we received our cards, Mike suggested new players to go to the far table if they needed help. I looked over at my brother, and he just gave me a sly smile and stayed seated. A few minutes later, I had to walk over and helped him build his deck. Why is that boy crazy?

He managed to get good pulls, including a Venusaur-EX and Xerneas. While Venusaur is one of my favorite Pokémon, that card looks U-G-L-Y! His girth can't be contained in such a small card border. The trading card artwork never can capture Venusaur's grace. Regardless, it's a good card and helped my brother win 2 out of 3 matches.

I was equally lucky in my pulls. The first card I got was an Yveltal-EX. I then got Shadow Circle, a stadium card that takes away weakness if your Pokémon has Dark energy. Like my brother, I won the majority of my matches, but I never once pulled out Yveltal or Shadow Circle. So how did I win?

Wigglytuff has an interesting move called "Hocus Pinkus." For 3 energies, Hokus Pinkus inflicts 60 damage and prevents the opposing Pokémon from attacking next turn. 60 damage is good enough to knock out Basic Pokémon and is a great way to stun your opponent. Originally, Wigglytuff was meant to stall until I set up Yveltal, but she managed to win on her own. The only match I didn't get Wigglytuff was the time I lost. What can I say, you can't handle the power of Hocus Pinkus!

Afterwards, my brother and I traded some cards to help complete our collection. My personal favorite was Wobuffet. He looks just like an action figure! We then had a quick battle with some folks on the 3DS, traded some more, and left. It was great to bond with fellow Pokémon trainers and expand our collection, but I had the most fun because of my brother. Afterall, Pokémon is a shared experience. I honestly couldn't have asked for a better prerelease. Well...maybe if I got a Slurpuff card, that would have been sweet.     

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Run on the Pokébank

Back before X and Y hit stores, Game Freak gave details about Pokémon Bank, an application on the 3DS that allows trainers to store over 1,000 creatures in online boxes. In addition, Pokémon Bank comes with PokéTransporter, which allows trainers to transfer Pokémon from 5th generation up. The original release date was December 27th. It is now January 17th, and Pokémon Bank still isn't available.

So what happened? Initially, the original release date was postponed due to server crashes the Nintendo eShop suffered with so many new users logging in with their 3DS's and Wii U's they got for Christmas. Those lucky enough in Japan could download Pokémon Bank, but it was quickly taken down before the rest of the world had access. Since then, the eShop has been fixed but Pokémon Bank still remains unreleased, without even a new release date given at the time of writing. I usually wouldn't complain about a delayed launch; it's natural in the video game industry. But the Pokémon Company has put itself at odds with its fanbase for a lack of clear communication.

Does that mean no Pokémon Bank?
 Much of Pokémon's communication through Facebook and Twitter is about anything but Pokémon Bank. There are updates on the released Heart Gold/Soul Silver soundtrack, the Mewtwo special airing on Cartoon Network, and even fun caption contests, but nothing about Pokémon Bank. The most information we've received is a cryptic tweet stating "more information will be announced in the future." I understand that the people managing the social media accounts might have just as much information as we do, but couldn't someone higher up cue them in so they can stop giving vague answers?

A tweet sent out by Nintendo on January 10th. There hasn't been an update since then (at the time of writing).

The greatest cause of frustration is the fact that those who already downloaded Pokémon Bank can still use its services. It's an obvious unfair advantage when some trainers can bring Pokémon unavailable in X and Y. Sure, you might get lucky and trade for a Totodile you can breed, but good luck facing Arceus and Lugia when you don't have your own. The video below shows exactly how Pokémon Bank works. Props to SqishyRina for the video.

The fact that Pokémon Bank still works for those who download it means there's not a functionality issue. At the moment, it takes some time to connect to servers, so I'll give Pokémon the benefit of the doubt and assume that's what they're working on. But if that's what they are doing, why don't they just say it?! My biggest fear is that the delay of Pokémon Bank's launch is meant to wait out the free initial trial period originally promised and start charging the annual $5 fee. Of course, that would be one of the most notorious moves in the video game industry, so it's highly doubtful. But fans are getting impatient, and rightfully so.

Whenever Pokémon posts anything on social media, they're met with angry fans clamoring for news on Pokémon Bank. Who can blame them? Nintendo and the Pokémon company have fell silent about addressing this issue and further alienates its fans with vague responses. Meanwhile, Pokémon still promotes everything else under the sun and trainers are receiving an unfair advantage online. It's understandable that Pokémon Bank is delayed, but fans are hanging on empty promises when a company fails to address issues head on.

Pretty much how I feel right now