Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Get Ready for the Next (Pokémon) Battle!

Namco and Pokémon officially announced their marriage of fighting games and Pokémon, two of my favorite things in video games, and I couldn’t be more excited! Pokkén Tournament, a mix of Tekken gameplay with Pokémon, is planned for an arcade release for Japan in 2015. There’s no confirmation of a console release yet, but judging by Namco’s history of releasing fighters like Tekken on arcades first, it’s safe to assume a console release is inevitable. Worried that Pokkén Tournament will remain a Japan-exclusive? Pokémon Conquest was a cross-over between Pokémon and Nobunaga’s Ambitions, which is a rarely known series outside of Japan. If that got an international release, I’m sure Pokkén Tournament will.

 The first trailer show Lucario and Machamp duking it out in the countryside. A flurry of punches an Aura Spheres are thrown in this otherwise peaceful backdrop. While Pokkén Tournament’s fighting style is similar to Tekken, there also seems to be a hint of Dragon Ball Z fighting games like Raging Blast. In one scene, Lucario’s back is completely turned to the camera as he wales on Machamp. While characters in Tekken can circle around an opponent, their back never turns completely against the camera. Taking cues from DBZ fighting games might be a good way to balance the projectile-based attacks used in Pokémon.
Side-by-side comparison of Pokkén Tournament and DBZ Raging Blast
Ready to bust a move! Credit to Zweilous on Tumblr
Character selection make or break a fighting game, which Namco in the past has handled well. We already know that Lucario, Machamp, and Blaziken (teased at the Pokémon Game Show in 2013) are confirmed, so there’s definitely an emphasis on Fighting-type Pokémon. With that in mind, Hitmontop and Heracross would be my top choices for contenders. Yes, I’ll admit my choice is biased due to being my favorite Fighting-types, but they would bring welcome diversity. Hitmontop just screams Eddy Gordo! Heracross could play a mixed set, utilizing physical contact moves like Close Combat in his normal form, and then Mega Evolve to use more projectile attacks like Pin Missile.

If he can fight in Smash Bros, he can fight here
Hopefully, Pokkén Tournament will expand its roster to include more than Fighting-type Pokémon. It’d be a shame to miss out on powerhouses like Charizard and Tyranitar. It wouldn’t even take much to imagine their moveset. They got claws, they got a big tail, Charizard can fly and breathe fire, Tyranitar can throw rocks and cause earthquakes, they got all they need to be perfect fighters. Other hopefuls for me include Greninja, Mewtwo, and Shiftry.

*UPDATE: Pokkén Tournament producer Katsuhiro Harada confirmed via Twitter that other types besides Fighting will be represented. There's hope for Charizard! 
Tekken does a great job of including joke characters like Kuma and Roger Jr. and still making them play well. At first, I couldn’t think of a Pokémon that would work well in this game while being somewhat of a joke. Then it hit me, like a stick to the head.

It’s not a farfetched concept to imagine. Farfetch’d could use his stick to attack, kick up dirt with Sand-Attack, and peck things with his bill. The hype would be unreal if Farfetch’d won EVO! While the final decision of characters is up to Pokémon and Namco, a man can dream. But Farfetch’d would be pretty sweet.

While there isn’t much information, I’d expect in the coming months to hear more about Pokkén Tournament and what the King of the Pokémon Fist Tournament will bring. I’m excited about the first Pokémon fighting game, and know it’ll do well in Namco’s hands.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Become a Pokémon Master (In Real Life)

Pokémon Worlds. In a sense, it’s like challenging the Elite Four and Champion at the Pokémon League. The countless hours training are put to the test fighting against the best of the best. There’s no turning back, you can only hope for the best with the team you brought and just keep moving forward. While I didn’t attend this year’s competition, I enjoyed watching the stream and seeing how much the community has evolved since my last foray in 2011. Pokémon Worlds offers the highest level of play, so how does one prepare for the biggest battles and become a Pokémon Master in real life?
The coveted Worlds trophy. They even give you a card!

Know the game. This goes beyond knowing what moves are super effective. It’s about knowing the trends of the metagame and what to expect before the first Pokéball is sent out. Looking at player statistics from Pokémon's Global Link, Charizard ranks as one of the top used Pokémon in doubles. Thanks to its useful Mega Evolutions, Charizard is a force to reckon with. When building your team, ask yourself “what do I have to take down this threat?” If you don’t have a good answer, go back to the drawing board. It’s impossible to deal with every threat, but be prepared for the common ones like Charizard, Kangaskhan, and Garchomp. Plan on using a Charizard of your own? Know ways people tend to counter it and address those issues. Maybe have a Wide Guard user to stop Rock Slide, speed control like Icy Wind or Tailwind so Charizard outspeeds opponents, Pokémon like Marowak who can switch in and redirect Electric moves that threaten Charizard, things like that.
Do you have a plan in case of Charizard?

Once you know the metagame; take past assumptions and turning them upside their head. A great example of this is Germany’s Markus Lie and his Machamp. When one sees a Machamp in Team Preview, they’ll most likely come to the conclusion that:

·       Machamp will abuse No Guard and Dynamicpunch to spread confusion with a strong move

·       Machamp will support his teammates with Quick Guard and/or Wide Guard

·       Machamp will be slow yet bulky and physically strong
Markus’ Machamp went against convention to emphasize speed over power and support. By holding a Choice Scarf, Machamp was able to outspeed threats like Charizard before they could hit first. Many Charizard players, including myself, are familiar with Wide Guard stopping Heat Wave. One way to stop this is to single-target Machamp, letting it waste its turn with Wide Guard while I knock it out. With Machamp out of the way, I can continue to spam Heat Wave for game. So you happily hit the Air Slash or Overheat button only to have Machamp knock you out before you can move.
Look how fast he goes!

But the surprises don’t stop there. Instead of No Guard and Dynamicpunch, Markus’ Machamp uses Guts and Close Combat. While usually an inferior choice, the current metagame makes it a superior option. As I mentioned earlier, Kangaskan is a huge threat. One of the ways to deal with physical hitters is to deliver a burn to half their attack power. For this reason, Rotom is a prominent Pokémon thanks to Will-o-Wisp and other support moves in its arsenal. Naturally, one would burn Machamp to weaken it, and this is true if it was the No Guard variant. However, Guts actually boosts Machamp’s attack when afflicted with a status effect. Players will instinctively burn Machamp, only to make Machamp even stronger. A hindrance for physical attackers becomes an advantage for Machamp, and the choice of Guts over No Guard is a great metagame call from Markus.
Competing in live events differs from online competitions due to human interaction. While it might seem weird to have a “strategy” for it, human interaction can prove either helpful or hurtful depending on the way you look at it and should be something to keep in mind before going into battle. For one thing, you don’t want to go blabbing your mouth about how trainers won’t anticipate your “Choice Specs Gyarados” only to have your strategy fall flat on its face.

Quit your blabbing and start battling!
That example seems obvious, but even subtle hints before you fight can be detrimental. During VGC Nationals 2013, one trainer I fought was talking up about one Pokémon on his team no one really expects. During Team Preview, I saw an Electabuzz and thought “he’s probably means that.” Sent out my Landorus first turn and “surprisingly”, he led with Electabuzz who immediately ran tail.

Of course, one could argue that someone could bluff you with prebattle talks, so it’s best to avoid those mind games to begin with. I find it helpful to introduce myself, shake hands, and maybe throw in light banter to help people relax. During battles, it’s all focus. I don’t say much and tend to just look at my screen when making moves. At the end, I’ll extend my hand for another hand shake and compliment my opponent (Good prediction with your Abomasnow’s Safeguard!).  When you’re less nervous, it’ll help you think clearer in battles, so have a plan to go in with a calm mind. Raise your Special Attack and Special Defense by one stage!

Be calm young one.

Probably the most helpful advice I can give is practice. A LOT. Coming up with winning strategies doesn’t happen by only reading articles online or watching a few matches. You can only level up through experience. In a previous blog post, I mentioned how Kangaskhan caused significant problems for my team. So I battled and failed, multiple times, until I could finally secure a strategy to effectively take her down. I might not have a trophy of my own, but I don't plan on giving up anytime soon. It took Se Jun Park, the current World Champion, five years to finally claim his title. Any champion can tell you their success comes from their failures. So never give up! Go out there and battle to become the very best like no one ever was!
Always a joy to see my boy Pikachu