Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pulling the Iron Curtain over Battles

Getting off of work early, I rushed to my room and turned on my 3DS. Yeah, sounds like any other day. But the 2014 April Friendly, an official Pokémon battle competition, was already underway and my team wasn't ready yet! After a 4-hour grind session, my Pokémon were ready to proceed online. I could only pray that my hastily built team could pull some victories.
My team for April Friendly. I didn't have time to nickname them.

The rules of April Friendly differ from previous VGC rules. Each battle is singles, where trainers choose 3 out of 6 Pokémon per battle. Every Pokémon in the Kalos Pokédex were eligible. Yep, that means legendaries like Xerneas, Yveltal and Mewtwo were permitted to wreck havoc on unsuspecting trainers.

The legendary deer in all its glory
I always say fight fire with fire...just make sure you have coverage against Fire-types. With that, I picked Xerneas as my legendary of choice. The set wasn't anything special, just the usual Power Herb+Geomancy combo. Geomancy is Xerneas's signature move that increases its Special Attack, Speed and Special Defense by 2 stages. It usually requires 2 turns to activate, but consuming a Power Herb changes that to 1. As this set was common, I had to prepare myself for counters like Scizor and Talonflame.

Mega Aggron, the Greatest Wall of Ever
And thus, I give you the star of my team, Mega Aggron. He's more of a "Super Ultra Mega Titan Behemoth" Aggron. Seriously, Close Combat tickles him. The idea was to use this Great Wall of Pure Steel to slowly wear down opponents until Xerneas could come in and proceed to sweep. When Mega Aggron's HP got low, I just used Rest and Sleep Talk. Very few Pokémon can reliably 2HKO him. I mainly paired Mega Aggron with Florges or Rotom-Wash to deal with really strong special attackers.

Besides that, I had a Greninja and Talonflame whose task was to break down walls. While straightforward, they did their job well.

Delirious, I recorded my first set of battles. I look quite pathetic, so feel free to laugh and cringe as I perform my rendition of "New York." First match in, I throw away a 3-1 lead by clicking Psyshock instead of Moonblast! I'll never live that down.

The next day, I managed to maintain a winning record. While most of the teams consisted of the same standard Pokémon, I was impressed by the few creative movesets I ran into. Rest Quagsire, a Greninja with King's Rock, and even a Pikachu! Unfortunately, Pikachu couldn't scratch Aggron, but it's the thought that counts.
Sorry Pikachu, you just don't mess with Mega Aggron.

The number of matches dwindled on the last day of battling. Don't get me wrong, I had fun competing. But after fighting match after match of faceless opponents and recording virtually every match, competing became a chore. With my Pokémon-playing friends out of town and my brother deciding not to play, it got lonely. This competition lacked the atmosphere and excitement of a live competition. There was one brief shining moment when I convinced my mom to commentate a battle with me. I felt bad though; I constantly talked over her and I could tell that half the things I said went over her head.

For throwing my team together at the last minute, I managed to squeeze in a decent record and placed in the top 9%. I earned a final rating of 1647 with 27 wins and 18 losses. The inclusion of legendaries was an interesting twist, but most trainers stuck with standard teams. This battle competition was fun, but maybe it's time I take a small break from Pokémon. My fighting spirit has all but vanished, and the time away might be just what I need to reflect and refresh myself for the next competition. At the very least, April Friendly gave me the opportunity to experience Mega Aggron's girth, and I look forward to using him in future teams.
You can watch more battles on my YouTube channel (

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Smashing Surprise

My doctor warned me about taking in too much info about the next Smash Brothers game. Not one to heed advice from a medical professional, I watched the Smash Bros Direct anyways. A heart attack, trip to the hospital and transplant later, I'm back and fully recovered. While there was a good amount of general information revealed, Pokémon received generous attention and it all started with this cleverly teased picture.

Presents for all the good Pokémon fanboys and girls
In addition to the usual Pokeball item, Master Balls were introduced. Master Balls contain legendary Pokémon such as Arceus, Palkia and Xerneas. They might have a limitation similar to Assist Trophies where only one legendary Pokémon can be out at a time, but there hasn't been any word on
that yet.

Go Gogoat, Go!
Many Pokémon were recently revealed as Pokeball items. Out of the newly revealed ones, Gogoat is my favorite. As the goat that goes, Gogoat lets you ride on it as it rams into opponents. I was the guy who spammed Wario's bike, so this will be quite fun to exploit. Returning Pokémon like Snorlax, Entei and Metagross don't change from past iterations.

Imagine Shadow Lugia as a stage hazard
Besides the already revealed Prism Tower stage for the 3DS, the Wii U is treated to the Kalos Pokémon League as an exclusive stage. While it looks drop-dead gorgeous, I'm disappointed. I know X and Y are the most recent games, but where's the love for 5th gen!? I've always wanted to fight at N's Castle. Or what about Tin Tower from HGSS or Citadark Island from Pokémon XD? In my opinion, too much emphasis is placed on 6th gen in the new Smash.

 Now, let's look at what everyone cares about: the characters. First, Lucario's Final Smash was revealed to be Mega Lucario. Makes sense. While Mega Evolved, Lucario's Aura is always at maximum strength. Lucario's Aura abilities also got a significant buff.

Watch the power of Aura!

You got to be quicker than that, Mac.
Character transformations were confirmed not to make an appearance. Zelda/Sheik are now separated as Zelda and Sheik. This means that Pokémon Trainer, one of my mains from Brawl, won't be coming back. It's only fitting that Charizard, the Pokémon I least used, will be returning without a trainer to boss it around. At least he won't have the tire out mechanic. The reveal trailer showcased some new moves including a stronger aerial attack. Mega Charizard X is also confirmed as his Final Smash. It's unknown yet, but hopefully Charizard Y will also be included.

Mega Charizard X is ready to battle!

And now, the biggest surprise and the last shock that triggered my heart attack.

Meowth, that's right! Greninja, the final evolution of Froakie, is a playable character. I'm still in disbelief. A while back, I made a list of likely Pokémon to be included as playable characters like Mewtwo, Zoroark and Blaziken. But never did I imagine that Greninja would be chosen. Greninja is one of my absolute favorite Pokémon and the main reason I picked Froakie, so I obviously welcome Greninja with open arms. It does make it difficult to decide whether I should play as Greninja or Little Mac my first match. Decisions, decisions...

The trailer showcases Greninja using swift water attacks like Water Shuriken and unorthodox moves like Substitute. What Greninja's addition means though is that the chance of Mewtwo returning became slimmer. Pokémon most likely won't overpass the Super Mario series in character representation, so I wouldn't expect more than 5 playable Pokémon. We already have 4 and I suspect Jigglypuff will be taking the 5th slot. Both Jigglypuff and Mewtwo are viable with their new techniques in 6th gen, but Jigglypuff has more history with Smash. I could be wrong, but my hunch says Mewtwo isn't coming back.

The Smash Bros Direct brought a ton of news for Pokémon fans. While I hope more emphasis will be placed on previous generations, the inclusion of new items and Greninja blew me away. Pokémon is going strong in the next Smash Bros!