Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pokémon the Movie: I Don't Choose You

*This post may contain spoilers for the new movie. So yeah, spoiler alert.

You might be surprised to know that they're 20 main Pokémon movies. Crazy when you think about it since the Pokémon anime been around for about 20 years now -- that's a full fledged movie every year! Since the fourth movie featuring Celebi, we over in the Unova region ... I mean United States, rarely get Pokémon movies released in theaters. So when it was announced that Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You was getting a theatrical release for a limited time, I thought it'd be a nice treat to go. I casually mentioned it to my sister, and she wanted to go for her birthday. After all, we went to the first Pokémon movie in '99 for her birthday -- it'd be a nice full circle.

From random trailers and chatter online, I explained to my sister that this would be more-or-less an alternate take on Ash's original journey -- Brock and Misty wouldn't be in it, but Ash will do things like rescue a Charmander from a mean trainer and release his Butterfree. A little different than I expected, this movie was sort of new story but with random set pieces and moments in the show repeated. It felt too safe since it so heavily relied on nostalgia. For instance, Ash meets up with Verity, a sassy female Water-type trainer, and Sorrel, the medic and chef on the team. Doesn't this sound like Misty and Brock? I'm pretty sure they're just Misty and Brock but with most of their personality stripped away. Verity and Sorrel are so unforgettable, I had to look up their names on Serebii.net.

So on the right is ... you know, just forget it.

Like I said, Ash will go through many situations like he did in the show like letting go of Butterfree and saving Charmander. When we were first introduced to Charmander and the Pink Butterfree, my sister predicted what was going to happen next. It was clear that these moments were intentional to play on nostalgia. This movie was meant as the 20th anniversary celebration of the anime after all, so it made sense. However, events weren't always consistent. When Charmander evolved into Charmeleon, it was expected that Charmeleon wouldn't listen to Ash. However, this was never the case. It was surprising to see which moments were cherry picked for the movie.

With all Pokémon movies, we can talk about the plot of Ash being the "chosen one" or something and having to fight a legendary Pokémon or work with them to save the world. That's pretty much what this movie was about, and it honestly wasn't bad. However, the dialogue and pacing made this movie not land for either of us. There's a scene where Sorrel recounts a time when his family's Luxray died in the snow trying to protect him -- he couldn't make friends with Pokémon afterwards until he met Lucario. Ash's response? "That's awesome!" Really. That's awesome. Your friend just told you a deep and personal story about having the family Pokémon risk its life and dying, and you say that's awesome? Do you just not have any emotional intelligence? How about just keeping your mouth shut?!

With regards to pacing, the lore of the Pokémon Marshadow was pretty much rushed with the old professor's rash explanation literally in the last three minutes before the climax. I'm too lazy so I'm not going to look up the professor's name. And likewise, this movie was lazy to rely on telling rather than showing. And it did a terrible job telling cause my sister and I still were confused and had to piece it together! I told her that Marshadow attacked Ash because it didn't discriminate between humans, but I just made that up cause I wasn't sure. Don't tell her.

Stuck forever in the shadows.

And now, for the biggest reason why I don't choose this movie: Pikachu talks.

You've probably seen this scene floating around the Internet. Right when Ash and Pikachu are about to be obliterated by the Hyper Beams of like 6 Pokémon, Ash asks Pikachu to get in its Pokéball. Pikachu refuses, saying in the most annoying, squeaking voice that "it's because I always want to be with you." Laughter shouldn't be the response you have at the most emotional part of the movie. But yes, the entire theater abrupted in laughter. All the cringe aside, it felt that the movie was forcing itself to be emotional rather than let it happen naturally through a build up of plot. Like I mentioned, part of the explanation of the movie felt rushed, which made this scene just fall flat. Then there's this whole dream sequence of a world without Pokémon Ash goes through, and it's just weird and a lot to unpack.

Ultimately, there were a lot of missed opportunities to add context and drive real emotion. Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You relied more on nostalgia than building a plot, which made it a miss for both my sister and I. I don't really think much about Pokémon movies, but it was a bit disappointing since I was looking forward to this one. But hey, we had a fun time, and that's what counts. Besides, maybe the 21st movie won't be as bad? You really can't beat Keldeo ...

I'd rather not talk about it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"I'm Addicted To You, But I Know That You're Toxic"

It was a Saturday like any other Saturday. My Snorlax-self lazily used Rollout out of bed to take a shower and Refresh my Sleep condition. But what would this weekend entail? Endless naps, Netflix, and a jar of queso awaited me, but then a sudden realization. I quickly looked at my calendar and remembered there was a pre-release for the new TCG expansion, Burning Shadows, happening that day. I've been an avid collector of the cards. However, I reached my goal and got at least one card of every species ... until Sun and Moon. As you know, collecting 'em all is a liiittle more expensive than catching 'em all. But would I take the plunge and get back into this addiction? You're reading this blogpost, so the answer's obviously yes. After all, going to a pre-release would be a great way to get a lot of Alola-native Pokémon, right? Well, not exactly.

There were no legendary contents inside.

Ah yes, the fancy Ho-oh box carried not a single rare card. The pre-release operated a bit differently where you start off with four packs and an evolution pack with predetermined cards so you had something playable, but I was still ticked off. I mean, when your rarest card is a non-holo Slowking, you'd be salty too! But of course, too much sodium in your system is toxic, so that became the inspiration for my pre-release deck.

The evolution pack came with two Toxicroaks, which had the ability to poison the opponent and do 30 damage for two energies. That might not seem like much, but I also managed to pull a Seviper and get another one in the evolution pack. Seviper's ability, More Poison, adds an additional counter to a poisoned Pokémon. Since they stack, Toxicroak could reliably do 60 damage per turn. Thanks to Nest Ball and Timer Ball being able to search out key Pokémon, this strategy was relatively easy to pull off. I also added a Meowstic and Bouffalant for additional attackers -- they proved helpful in certain situations.

For such a bad pull, I surprisingly did well! My first opponent had a full-art Marshadow-GX (jealous!), but it was easy to take down due to its Psychic weakness. The next two decks I fought had Dark Pokémon, so I unfortunately fell to one due to not setting up on time. The other, however, was heavily damaged since I got both Toxicroak and Seviper out. My eventual win condition was to power up Meowstic with his Hand Kinesis attack. The attack does 10 damage for each card in your hand, which was easy to power up thanks to draw cards like Professor Kukui. The last match featured a Toxicroak, but I got mine setup first to outpace my opponent and hit for weakness. Winning three out of four matches, I qualified for top cut which meant I got an extra pack!

Speaking of packs, check out those abs!

So what did this mean for pulling rare cards? Absolutely nothing! Yes, the only rare card I got from the extra pull was a holo Zygarde. And yes, I did get some Alola Pokémon, so that means I'm back to collecting. Darn you, Burning Shadows. Your trap was super effective.
Well, here we go again!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Pokémon: Ultra Deluxe Addition

Once again, Game Freak found a way to sneak in a big announcement. What started as an announcement for a new Pokémon Direct escalated in some pretty big news. But rather than me just talk about it, go ahead and watch the trailer:

I've talked about this before, but I adore the more human-based trailers. In a sense, it makes the Pokémon journey feel more real. But putting all that sappiness aside, the trailer revealed two new titles: Pokkén Tournament Deluxe and Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Later during the Direct, there was also the announcement that Pokémon Gold and Silver are coming to the 3DS Virtual Console. So yeah, pretty hefty stuff. But what's my take in all this?

Let's start off with Pokkén Tournament Deluxe! Not gonna lie, I am a bit salty I bought the first one a little over a year ago. This happened when I first got Marvel vs. Capcom 3, only for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to be released later that year! Granted, this is a bit further out so the sting's not as bad. This title brings in four Pokémon that were included in later iterations of the arcade version. That would have been cool enough, but they also bring in Decidueye to the fray! New Support Pokémon seem to also be confirmed -- Litten appears as a support in some screenshots. It is a shame that Greninja didn't make the cut, but it's understandable they want to focus on the latest Pokémon. Most likely, I'll check it out -- I did have fun with the original Pokkén. One thing to note is that this is the second "Deluxe" title after Mario Kart 8. It's possible that we might see more updated Wii U games make their way to the Switch. Smash Bros Deluxe announced for E3? If it is, you heard it here first.

Up next: Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon! Ignoring the clamoring for a Diamond and Pearl remake (which I'm all for, but am willing to wait for), I'm pretty hyped for these titles. As you can tell from the new legendary forms, they take a page from Black and White 2's book. It's unknown whether it's an enhanced version of Solgaleo and Lunala or Necrozma, but it appears to be some sort of fusion similar to how Kyurem fused with Zekrom and Reshiram. The Direct mentioned that this is "an alternate story in the world of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon," so it's more of a "third version" rather than a direct sequel. It'll be interesting to see where the story goes, but one big question remains: Will there be new Alola-form Pokémon?! Honestly, it'd be cool to get some Alola-form creatures beyond Gen 1.

Finally, we have Gold and Silver announced for the 3DS Virtual Console. If you followed me on Snapchat, again I want to apologize for all the screaming. As Johto is my favorite region, you know I was all up on this! Pokémon Bank compatibility was also announced for these titles, so the transfer mechanics to Sun and Moon should be the same as Red and Blue. This means there's an opportunity to get more Hidden Ability Pokémon (can you say Regenerator Ho-oh?). These games also allowed you to glitch for items and Pokémon eggs, so that'll be fun to mess around with.

I can see why other fans wouldn't be. After all, these aren't new titles per say -- they're enhancements of previous games. Still, I am excited for these games and know that I'll at least have fun with them.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Challenging Return to Competitve Battling

A new generation, a new competition. As you can probably tell, things have been pretty busy. My last post was 16 days before Sun and Moon came out! But that's life. Between work, family, paying bills, and everything else in this overrated thing called "adulthood", I haven't had time to keep up with this blog. And likewise, I haven't been able to keep up with competitive battling. It's certainly been a while, and I was itching for a fight! Luckily, the announcement of the February International Challenge gave me an opportunity to use Scratch! The International Challenge also follows VGC 2017 rules, so this served as perfect practice for upcoming live events.

McGonagall, Ivan Ooze, Soos, Ariel, Bullseye, and Magneto are ready to battle!

The team originally was about allowing Pheremosa to sweep, but I decided to drop her and instead focused on defense. Besides, Tapu Lele provided more than enough offensive pressure! As Mudsdale, Alola Muk, and Gastrodon are tough to break through, I added Magnezone and Alola Persian for additional disruption. This proved a lot more successful than I anticipated, but there are a few kinks I'd like to address.

Remember how I had that thing called adulthood? Well, turns out it also gets in the way of training a proper team. Thanks to a few matches on Pokémon Showdown, I knew essentially what I wanted to use. But ... breeding takes time. Luckily, my coworkers didn't judge when I pulled out my 3DS during lunch. After finally wrapping up prep work on Saturday, my first few matches went great! I pretty much executed on every Parting Shot, Knock Off, and Scattered Psyche to earn commanding victories.

It was a roaring good time!

With strong wins, I was confident ... a bit too confident. Just as much as I swept opponents, I got swept back. It was clear both Garchomp and Kartana caused quite a bit of trouble. I had ways to deal with them individually, but it was difficult fighting them together. A single misplay usually cost me the game. There are always exceptions, however.

Besides defeating a Garchomp + Kartana combo, there were other things that made me proud of this team. Trick Room, for instance, wasn't too threatening since most of my team was slow. In fact, I often outsped some Trick Room threats, which surprised some opponents. At times, opponents would also miss the fact my Magnezone was carrying an Air Balloon, so they'd tirelessly spam Earthquake to no effect. Rain teams without a Grass-Type didn't pose much of a challenge either -- it was easy to bring in Gastrodon and disrupt an opponent's momentum. There's no greater feeling than Gastrodon coming in on a Hydro Vortex. Learning from my matches on Showdown certainly helped.

The face when you waste your Z-Move.

But there was still plenty of learning to follow! Extra coverage moves Pokémon had were the bane of my existence. For instance, Alola Ninetales will often carry Freeze Dry to hit Pelipper hard. This also means that Gastrodon can get hit hard. Furthermore, some Pokémon like Bewear would have interesting item choices like Choice Scarf which caught me completely off guard. And don't get me started on the Oricorio + Lilligant combos. The fact you can get off three attacks between two Pokémon in one turn makes zero sense! Not gonna lie, still a bit salty about that. But, now I know the full effects of Dancer and that it allows Oricorio to use BOTH Petal Dance and Air Slash in the same turn. Hopefully I can find a good way to discourage it.
Don't be fooled -- this thing's a jerk!

For the limited prep time I had, I gladly walked away with a 25-19 record (and that one disconnect). While I wish I could have gotten a stronger win record, I learned a lot about the meta game and am feeling much more confident about future competitions. Once I reaccess the team and modify it a bit, I know I can get a better record the next time around! Besides, anything's possible when you put your mind to it.