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Pokémon Shield: A Review

Calling all trainers, old and new: Pokémon is back with another fun-filled, action-packed game! And finally, one that can be played on the big screen. With the release of the Nintendo Switch in 2017 came the release of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! a year later.

While exciting for many fans, others were disappointed that they weren’t receiving a traditional, main-franchise Pokémon game. Fans of the game finally got their wish with the release of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield in November of 2019. This is the first time that fans have seen a game for console that follows the formula of the main handheld Pokémon games. The game takes place in the Galar region, modeled after Great Britain, and introduces players to a host of interesting and unique characters and Pokémon.

Basic Overview

In the Galar region, Pokémon Tournaments are widely viewed and enjoyed as one might follow a sport. After choosing your character (still limited only to male or female), you learn that you and your friend, Hop, have been personally endorsed as Pokémon trainers by Leon, Hop’s older brother and the current Pokémon Champion.

This game introduces the second female Professor in the history of the Pokémon games, Professor Magnolia. She specializes in the research of Dynamax, or the transformation of Pokémon into much larger and more powerful forms of themselves. You also meet Sonia, Professor Magnolia’s granddaughter, who is appointed as the next professor by Magnolia later in the game. Players also meet Chairman Rose, the chairman of the Pokémon League.

The starter Pokémon in this game are Sobble (the water type), Grookie (the grass type), and Scorbunny (the fire type). Players with previous save files for either Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! will also receive their respective Pikachu or Eevee, and it is important to note that these Pokémon cannot be evolved, even with the use of stones. After choosing your starter Pokémon, you’ll be on your way to competing in the gym challenges, some of the gym leaders being different depending on what game version you have.

What’s New?

Aside from the different Pokémon introduced in this 8th generation, there are many new features in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. The most obvious of new features is the Wild Area, a new way for players to train their party and encounter new types of Pokémon to fill their Pokédex with.

Game developers took a page out of the Let’s Go book by making many Pokémon visible in the grass, while still allowing others to be seen by nothing other than an exclamation point or question mark in the grass and remaining as random encounters. This feature is cool because you can see the Pokémon to scale, some of them being much larger or smaller than they may have been perceived previously simply because you can walk up to them and compare their size with that of your player character.

You also receive hints that help you locate Pokémon you still need to fill your Pokédex. You can see these hints by visiting the Pokédex in your menu, and there it will show you recommended Pokémon and where they can be found on the map. There is also the Pokémon Camp, which allows you to set up camp and interact with the Pokémon in your party.

In the camp, you can play with toys with your Pokémon and cook curries for yourself and your Pokémon, filling out a Curry Dex as you discover new recipes you can create using berries and ingredients you can find or buy. You start out with two different toys to use with your Pokémon, but as you expand your Curry Dex, you may receive new toys from an NPC who will rate your Curry Dex.

This game also adds League Cards, which are cards that you will receive throughout the game from Gym Leaders and other Tournament competitors as you meet or compete with them. The League Cards feature the picture of the Gym Leader or Competitor on one side, and a description of them on the other side. You can customize your own League Card as well, choosing your character’s pose, facial expression, and the backgrounds for the card.

This is a new, interesting way to display your individuality with the styling choices you use in deciding hair, make-up, and clothing for your character. You can exchange League Cards locally with friends playing near you, or through an internet connection with international players (for which you will need a Nintendo Online membership for the Switch, which is only $19.99 for an individual 12-month membership, or $34.99 for a family 12-month membership).

The new form that Pokémon can take during battle is called Dynamax, where Pokémon transform into larger, more powerful forms of themselves. Many of the Galar region Pokémon and some earlier generation Pokémon have unique appearances when Dynamaxed, these are known as their Gigantamax forms.

One of the last big, new thing in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield is the Raid Battle. Peppered throughout the Wild Area are wishing wells that glow and some of them have light streaming out of them. When you visit those wells, you will receive some number of Watts, which are used to buy rare items and certain teachable moves for Pokémon, and then you will have the option of battling a mystery Pokémon.

This is where veterans will benefit from years of “Guess That Pokémon” because you will only be able to see the silhouette of the Pokémon as well as its type. You can only take one Pokémon into a raid battle, but you have the option to switch from the head of your Pokémon party to any other Pokémon that you’ve caught, whether it’s currently in your party or not.

You can also invite others to battle with you through your online connection. If you choose not to, you will be partnered with three NPCs to help you battle the Gigantamax Pokémon. Participating in these Raid Battles allows you to catch the Pokémon if you defeat it. Your Pokémon will not level up as a result of participating in the battle. However, successfully completing a battle usually provides you with items, many of which can be used to give your Pokémon experience points, resulting in a post-battle level up.

Cons

(SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)

I wanted to address the things that I disliked about the game first because there weren’t too many, and I also wanted to be able to spend more times talking about what I did really enjoy about the game.

Those who have played Pokémon games in the past will know that there is a common formula for each game that the developers never really stray from. You have your character, the friend who goes on the journey with you, the Gym Leaders, the Pokémon Champion, the Team that seems always to get in your way at any moment, and the well-meaning but misguided and sometimes secretly evil Villain.

This game, as expected, didn’t stray from that tradition. However, my disappointment in that came from the way that the story unfolded, and how it seemed for the briefest of moments that it was going to take a slightly different direction. The game seems to try to mislead you, presenting three possible “villains.”

There’s Competitor Bede, who was personally endorsed by the Chairman himself and basically just conducts himself like a pretentious ghoul throughout the majority of the game. There’s Marnie, the little sister of one of the Gym Leaders, whose following calls themselves “Team Yell,” that classic gang of bumbling goons who are terrible at winning battles. And then there’s Chairman Rose, the one in the position of power, the one controlling the course of the Pokémon Tournament, and the one investing in the research of Dynamaxing.

And although the game does try to subvert expectations by throwing a couple of possible antagonists your way, it remains clear as the story progresses that there is something fishy going on with Chairman Rose. The story in this game is an interesting and poignant nod to real-world climate change issues, and Chairman Rose’s character development fell short.

To spoil a bit of the ending, the Chairman is adamant about using Dynamax research to summon an ancient legendary Pokémon in an attempt to save the environment. Cue my disappointment. For a split second, I thought that the developers were throwing us a curve-ball, and turning the well-meaning but misguided powerful character into the one who would help save the world. His passion for saving the environment would have been a really interesting change from the previous format of Pokémon games.

I thought it would have been cool to see the powerful character team up with the player’s character and their rag-tag team of friends and helpers, but instead he fell flat and right back into the predictable mold they used to make him. He was, of course, actually the bad guy, who now suddenly wants to save the world… by destroying it?

I feel that Game Freak really missed out on giving players a new, unique, and compelling story. It essentially ends up feeling like a palette swap: same suit, different colors. On top of the lack of depth in the story, it does feel as though the player’s hand is held throughout the whole thing. It isn’t lost on me that the target audience is primarily children, however veteran players may find it frustrating that it feels like there are almost no stakes at all.

And this wouldn’t be an issue if flying through the training of Pokémon and the defeat of gyms helped to guide the player through a compelling story, but it isn’t that. It just thrusts the player quicker through a story that feels familiar, and not in a fun, nostalgic way. This game also only has around 400 Pokémon that players are able to catch in-game, leaving out more than half of existing Pokémon, and many fan-favorites at that.

Pros

Still with me? Good. Because I do believe that there is still plenty to love about this game, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy getting to play another Pokémon game.

After all that I said about the predictable storyline, it is easy to feel at ease while playing this game and knowing exactly what will happen throughout the course of it. If you are a person who has enjoyed past Pokémon games, this does have plenty of similarities so as not to alienate those who may be returning after not having picked up a Pokémon game in a while.

That is to say: if you like Pokémon games, you’re probably going to like this one.

The expansive Wild Area is captivating, and the design—from Pokémon to landscapes to clothing options—is all beautiful and visually interesting. My favorite area in the game is the picturesque altar to the Sword and Shield Pokémon located deep in the Slumbering Weald.

There are plenty of new Pokémon, some adorable like Yamper or Wooloo, and some badass like Corviknight or Eternatus (a legendary Pokémon). I’m always a sucker for character customization too, which is why I really enjoy all of the options for character clothing and hair and the ability to customize your League Card.

The Pokémon Camp is another main draw for me, as I enjoyed in the newer games the ability to spend quality time with your Pokémon. The addition of the Curry Dex to this game reminded me a lot of the cooking element in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, although I don’t believe it is as vast as BotW’s menu.

I enjoy getting to spend time in the Wild Area a lot, simply hunting for new Pokémon to catch, camping, and doing Raid Battles. Although some may dislike it, I do enjoy how easy it is to level up Pokémon in this game; it makes it a lot easier to integrate a newly caught Pokémon into your party without having to turn it into a total grind-fest to get a level 16 Pokémon on par with level 70 Pokémon.

Raid Battles also award you many different TMs and TRs that you can teach your Pokémon, so it’s a lot easier to switch out moves if you don’t like the current move set. The Pokédex guide for finding Pokémon makes filling the Dex way easier and way more bearable, which is great for someone like me who never previously completed a Dex primarily because I was too lazy to try to figure out where I could find all of the Pokémon I hadn’t caught yet.

I think the Legendary Pokémon in this game are also really cool; Zacian (Pokémon Sword) is a Fairy and Steel type, Zamazenta (Pokémon Shield) is a Fighting and Steel type, and Eternatus is a Poison and Dragon type. This game also features diverse character design; there are many characters who are people of color, elderly characters, plump and curvy characters, and of course, there are two women who work or worked as Professor for the Galar region. It’s refreshing to have major characters who are women in positions of power, and many other characters who are diverse and unique.

This game also makes it a lot easier to play and connect with many other players all over the world. You can even visit each other’s Pokémon Camp. And to top it all off, Game Freak recently revealed that they will be releasing the Expansion Pass, which will introduce all new Pokémon and game play. “The Isle of Armor” expansion is set to release on June 30th, and “The Crown Tundra” expansion is set to release on November 30th. Even if players choose not to spend the $29.99 for the expansion pass, they won’t be totally left out as new release Pokémon will be introduced for all players.

Verdict

Although I may have seemed rather critical, I genuinely enjoyed Pokémon Shield and would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in trying it out. Those who are new to Pokémon will be able to easily adjust to the play style of Pokémon games, while veteran players will be able to jump into the familiarity of previous games, and explore the new ways they can grow as trainers.

On a 1-10 scale, I would rate this game an 8.5, and I’m really hopeful that the extended game play offered by purchasing the expansion pass will reignite the love and joy I felt while playing this game.

Thanks for reading, now go out there and catch’em all.

Pokémon: An Anime Review

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There are some anime that really need no introduction. It takes a very special kind of story to captivate audiences for over twenty years. It would have to be the kind of story that has a little bit of everything that makes a story great.

That is exactly what Pokémon is, an anime that came at the right time with all the right elements for a great story. The anime first aired in 1997 and hooked fans from the start. The story had an interesting group of “pocket monsters” who were inspired by real animals and creatures. While starting in Japan it also became a huge hit in the United States. The television series spawned spin-off movies, trading cards, stuffed toys, games and all kinds of toys. New seasons of the show are still going, helping to inspire new trainers everywhere. 

A young boy named Ash is on his way to make his dreams come true. His world is full of amazing creatures called Pokémon. Pokémon can be tamed and trained to fight with the help of their human trainers. Most trainers form a very strong friendship with their Pokémon. Each Pokémon has special abilities based on what type of Pokémon they are. They can also evolve into a more powerful version of themselves. Ash and his new friends have many fun adventures in store as they gain new Pokémon allies and, of course, try to fend off the sinister group called Team Rocket.

Pokémon utilizes the tools to make a great story. The character’s have wonderful and sometimes even whimsical designs that intrigue the viewer. The real design stars, though, are the Pokémon themselves. They are drawn from real creatures and myths so so they, like the show itself are both something we know but also something magically different. The music is perfect with what is happening with the story line. The characters are interesting. They, like their Pokémon, also evolve throughout the series. 

I, like many other anime fans, grew up with Pokémon. It is a great anime that showcases the power of friendship and learning. I would highly recommend it to anyone. It is kid friendly but also funny enough for anime fans of different ages. It also has a fantastic theme song. 

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: Detective Pikachu (the movie)

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Is Pokémon: Detective Pikachu the very best video game movie, like no one ever was?

Well, the competition wasn’t exactly fierce.  But, yes.  Yes, it is. While I’m no longer the huge fan of Pokémon that I used to be, I had a good time watching this movie.

It’s interesting, based on the different reviews that I’ve read and watched, how many people don’t seem to realize that this “video game movie” is based on a specific video game in the Pokémon franchise: Detective Pikachu for the Nintendo 3DS.  I played and reviewed the game in anticipation for the movie’s release and really enjoyed it.  The film is a loose adaptation that follows the premise and some of the major story beats, but mostly does its own thing.

Tim Goodman, a young man who once dreamed of becoming a Pokémon trainer, travels to Ryme City after hearing that his father was killed in a car accident.  When he gets to the apartment, he discovers his father’s partner: a talking Pikachu that nobody else can understand.  Pikachu claims that Tim’s father, a renown detective, is still alive somewhere, and proposes that they team up to solve the mystery of what happened to him.  After a few mishaps, Tim reluctantly agrees.

A lot of reviewers have praised the film for bringing the world of Pokémon to life, and I’m going to join the chorus.  Wow.  I’m also not alone in saying that I would have been satisfied with a film that showed long, extended shots of this world and absolutely nothing else.

Detective Pikachu takes the game’s concept of Pokémon as partners and combines it with the more familiar world of the main series and the anime.  It’s established that kids like Tim do traditionally leave home and go on adventures to capture Pokémon.  Tournaments exist.  The Kanto region is mentioned.  However, none of the usual rules exist in Ryme City, which is specifically designed to be a place where battles are banned.  Pokémon and humans live side-by-side, as they do in the 3DS game.  It’s a treat to see all of the different Pokémon fitting in this live-action world in ways that you might expect to see them if they existed.

There are fun shout-outs to different parts of the franchise.  I know I missed a lot of them, having been out of the loop for so long, but there was still plenty for this Gen 1 fan to love.

Although this film did a wonderful job of realizing the world of Pokémon, it wasn’t perfect.  It started out strong, but I had some issues with the pacing of certain scenes.  Right as Tim meets Detective Pikachu for the first time, some Aipom attack the apartment and a chase ensues.  Immediately following said chase, Tim goes back to questioning why he can understand Pikachu.  And Pikachu, as voiced by Ryan Reynolds, makes nonstop quips throughout the scene. It all happens so fast that it’s hard to follow at times.  It wasn’t until the underground battle with Charizard when I really started to become invested again.

Speaking of which, that live-action battle was thrilling.  All of the action scenes were fun to watch and kept me interested in what was happening. And while many reviewers have stated that they found the story twists to be a bit too obvious, there were a few moments that caught me off guard.

And now I’m going to get a little controversial and admit that I didn’t find Ryan Reynolds to be as funny as I anticipated.  I thought he fit the role of Detective Pikachu better than his video game counterpart (Kaiji Tang), and I definitely laughed during the movie- just not as hard as I thought I would.  The character that got most of the best jokes was Psyduck.

But Reynolds did have some great chemistry with Justice Smith, who plays Tim Goodman.  And just as I predicted, I liked Smith’s version of Tim much better than the protagonist of the 3DS game.  He and Pikachu have some very heartwarming scenes together, as well as funny moments.

If you love everything about Pokémon, you should love this movie.  If you hate everything about Pokémon, then this movie’s not really for you.  Detective Pikachu embraces the source material instead of poking fun at it.  It’s not a perfect film, but it is fun, and I hope there will be sequels.  I’d rate it 7 out of 10 Pokéballs.

Review: Detective Pikachu (The Game)

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Between the movie adaptation coming out and one of my friends highly recommending the game to me, I finally decided to play Detective Pikachu.  It’s a spinoff of the Pokémon franchise for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS that’s not as bizarre as it sounds.  I had no idea what to expect from it.  What I got was a fun game that kids and diehard Pokémon fans should enjoy.

Detective Pikachu follows the adventures of a teenage boy named Tim Goodman, who’s looking for his missing father.  Harry Goodman was a famous police detective who went missing after a suspicious car accident.  Only his partner, Pikachu, could be found at the scene.

By the time that Tim arrives in Ryme City, two months after the incident, his father’s Pikachu has somehow gained the ability to speak- but only Tim can understand him.  He presents himself as “the Great Detective Pikachu” and wants to help Tim find his missing father.  Unfortunately, Pikachu isn’t much help in one respect: he suffers from amnesia and can’t recall what happened during the accident.  So Tim and Pikachu team up to investigate Harry’s last case and figure out why he disappeared.

The game is divided into nine “chapters,” each concerning a unique case.  Tim and Pikachu work together to solve crimes by interrogating suspects and searching the crime scene.  Pikachu gives the duo an advantage by talking to all of the Pokémon witnesses and translating their testimony for Tim.  It’s all very straightforward and you’re not likely to get stuck on any point in this game.  If you’re looking for a serious challenge, don’t expect to find one with Detective Pikachu.

Don’t expect to collect any Pokémon or engage in battles either.  In the world of Detective Pikachu, most people have one Pokémon as their “partner,” similar to Ash’s friendship with his own Pikachu.  The secretary at the Baker Detective Agency has a Fletching that delivers mail for her, a talented violinist works with a Kricketune that helps her practice, and a police office partners with a Manetric that uses his nose to solve crimes.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get as much out of the world building or the Pokémon cameos as I ought to have.  As a kid, I stopped paying attention to the Pokémon franchise after the first movie and I’m only just starting to regain interest now.  My knowledge of Pokémon begins and ends with Gen 1.  As it is, I liked the game’s setting and the Pokémon that I encountered.  Lifelong fans will probably love everything about them.

This game does an impressive job with episodic storytelling.  Each case leads directly into the next and has some importance to the whole plot. When I think of other video games or TV shows that try to do this, they usually follow a certain format: the premieres and the finales are where all the important stuff happens.  Then you get a lot of “monster of the week” episodes in between that are loosely connected to what the characters hope to accomplish.  Without going into spoilers, I can say that that’s not the case with Detective Pikachu.  Granted, not every mystery directly ties back to Harry and his investigation.  But Pikachu and Tim always have a reason to be where they are and they find clues in every case that help them piece together the larger mystery.

Speaking of Tim and Detective Pikachu, they had a nice partnership and I liked all of the human characters in the game.  However, I found Tim to be a little too flat and generic.  As of this writing, the movie hasn’t come out yet, so it’s too early to pass judgment on who will ultimately give the superior acting performances.  Still, based on what I’ve seen in the trailers, I’m enjoying Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith much more.

Overall, Detective Pikachu is a solid game and I recommend playing it if you have a Nintendo 3DS (or 2DS).  It’s simple to play, which makes it a good choice for young kids to try out.  Fans will enjoy the story, the setting, and the many different kinds of Pokémon. Enjoy it before you watch the movie!

Review: Pokemon Snap

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By: Iris the Keyblade Master

Ah, Pokémon Snap, the only Pokémon-related video game that I ever got to play when I was a kid.  It was made for the Nintendo 64, but it’s also currently available on the Wii U Virtual Console.  I recently bought a copy for my N64 and found that it still held up for me as an adult.

First, I told myself that I just wanted to test the game out to make sure it still worked.  About twenty minutes later, I had furiously headed back to the Beach level to prove to Professor Oak that the size in my pictures was NOT “so-so!”  It’s one of those games that is so simple and yet so addicting at times.

Unlike other Pokémon games, you don’t get to capture, train, or trade any of the wild Pokémon that you find in the different levels.  You take pictures and send them to Professor Oak, who then gives you points based on its size, position, how many of the same type appeared in the shot, etc.  (And boy, does he have high standards for “size!”)  However, to get to the next level, you must complete a variety of objectives.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of taking a certain number of pictures of unique Pokémon.  Other times, you need to trigger something special within a level to get to the next one.

Additionally, certain Pokémon won’t appear without the help of tools that Professor Oak gives you throughout the game.  And sometimes the ways to get new Pokémon aren’t so obvious.  For example, there’s a Charmeleon that walks around a lava pit towards the end of the Volcano course.  If you knock him into the pit with an apple treat, he’ll evolve into Charazard.  This interaction increases the replay value of the game, since it encourages you to go back and try new tricks to find hidden Pokémon.  (Side note: it’s also worth mentioning that because it’s an older game, you won’t find any Pokémon that came after Mew. Mew himself doesn’t even appear until after you’ve unlocked the final level.)

Technically, the player character has a name, Todd.  But like Link and the early Final Fantasy heroes, you get to pick what you want to call him.  He doesn’t have much of a personality in the game beyond, “Oh boy, let’s take a lot of pictures of Pokémon!” but it works.

Pokémon Snap is a fun, colorful game.  I love the different environments that you get to view through Todd’s safari vehicle.  Hopefully, some day, Nintendo will make a sequel.  They could really make it work by including the other generations of Pokémon, and maybe add new features, i.e. editing your pictures or getting to explore open world settings instead of following the same track.

If you like the Pokémon series, but never got around to trying this game, then I recommend checking it out if you still have your Nintendo 64 or access to the Virtual Console.  It’s a lot of fun!

Games to Get Excited About: November 2016

by Michael Wells

November is here with the usual flood of new releases. Here’s an in-depth look at one upcoming title we’re excited about and a rundown of notable releases in the coming month.

2016 is seeing the release of two games that have been in development for so long that you would be forgiven for assuming they would never actually come out. One is Final Fantasy XV, the much anticipated new entry in Square Enix’s cultural juggernaut of a series that was first announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII all the way back in 2006. The other is…

The Last Guardian

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The Last Guardian has been a fixture on vaporware lists for years. The game was originally announced as a PS3 exclusive at E3 in 2009. Even at the time of its announcement it had already been in development for 2 years. The Last Guardian generated a lot of buzz because it was the next, and possibly final, game from Fumito Ueda. Ueda is best known for his previous two games, the cult classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Both games are known for their minimalist presentation and stark, beautiful visuals.

The Last Guardian showed a young boy protagonist and a large fantastic creature that seemed like something between a bird, a cat, and a deer. The boy seems reminiscent of the protagonist of Ico and a focus on working with a companion to move through the game evokes that earlier title. The creature was incredibly detailed for the time and promised to push the graphical capabilities of the PS3. The original release window came and went and news of the game slowly dwindled to a trickle. Most of it was rumors and most of the rumors were bad.

Members of the team left to pursue other projects, Ueda himself stepped down to become a creative consultant, and the press began to speculate that Sony had quietly canned the project. Despite the rumors, Sony continued to insist that the game was being developed and that it would be worth the wait. Still, with each year that passed with no news, a release for the troubled title seemed less and less likely. Had it been too ambitious? Was the detailed model and complex behavior for the creature too much of a technical hurdle to overcome? Even if it was possible, could the aging PS3 hardware handle a game that lived up to the original vision?

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In 2015, Sony brought The Last Guardian back to E3 and announced that it would be released in the 4th quarter of 2016. It joined other long awaited announcements such as Shenmue 3 and the Final Fantasy VII remake. As we approach the game’s release date, details remain scarce but there is no denying that the game looks striking and very much in the spirit of its forbears.

The game still seems to be an adventure game that keeps the austere and crumbling environments of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The protagonist must work together with the creature that the development team has tried to model realistic animal behavior for. This means that players should be able to entice it with food, sooth it when it is frightened, and care for it when it is hurt. The central goal of the game is to forge an emotional attachment to the creature.

Skepticism is warranted for any project with a history as long and troubled as The Last Guardian. The questions that plagued it throughout its development remain relevant even as the game nears release. With that said, I have been waiting for this game for eight years and I love Ueda’s previous work. I am glad that the wait is nearly over. The Last Guardian is currently scheduled to release December 6, 2016 in North America, exclusively for the PS4.

Notable November Releases:

Call of Duty Infinite Warfare

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Infinite Warfare is certainly shaping up to be one of the most contentious entries in Activision’s Call of Duty series. The title doubles down on the sci-fi themes the series has been trending towards and introduces space ships, dog fighting, and battles in zer0-G. Some fans of the series are disappointed at the direction taken by these once fairly realistic games while others are excited by the change of pace. Activision has also stirred up controversy by packing in a remaster of the first Modern Warfare game that will only be available to gamers who purchase the new title. Love it or hate it, CoD is likely to be another huge sales success this holiday season.

Watch Dogs 2

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The first Watch Dogs rode a wave of hype and excitement to a resounding “meh” on release. What had promised to be a freewheeling open world title with strange and interesting hacking abilities that affected your environment ended up being another also-ran Grand Theft Auto clone with a humorless plot and an unlikable main character. The developers have decided to take another crack at the concept, moving the action to the more colorful and interesting San Francisco and introducing a new main character that promises to at least have something like a personality. We’ll be waiting for reviews to see if the second time is the charm for this one.

Pokemon Sun and Moon

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Pokemon is back! You probably didn’t need me to tell you that. The first and by far the largest monster fighting and collecting game returns for its seventh generation with Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon. This time the games are set in the tropical Alola region and Game Freak has cooked up another batch of weird and wonderful creatures to go catch. If you want a taste before the game releases, there is currently a demo available on the Nintendo e-Shop.

Final Fantasy XV

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Here it is, the other game that seemed like it might just never come out. Final Fantasy XV has gone through a lot of changes in the decade since it was announced. Much like The Last Guardian rumors have followed its troubled development almost from the start. There have been two demos available for the game, and if those are any indication the game feels like a fusion of things that feel undeniably connected to the series’ roots with other elements that can seem almost jarringly out of place. Soon we’ll be able to see if Square Enix managed to pull it off. Here’s hoping it won’t be another decade until the next one.

 

‘Pokemon Go Made Me Do It’: The Latest Craze in Passing Responsibility

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It has been two weeks since the ridiculously popular Pokemon Go released in North America and has since taken the mobile gaming market by storm.  I myself have never seen so many people walking in my neighborhood.  Families I’ve never seen leave their house except to drive off in their cars, kids I never knew lived in the area, and people from all walks of life wandering around, talking, and unwittingly getting more exercise in the course of a day than most of us would get in a week.  We’re witnessing a true phenomenon that I expect will spawn a plethora of similar, or outright copy-cat, apps and games over the next several years.  Augmented reality  games are definitely a thing now, and not going anywhere anytime soon.

I’ve read some great stories about people coming together, meeting up and sharing their interest in this game.  Just a couple days ago, I read a story a mother posted to Facebook about her autistic child who found a way to open up to other people through his love of the app.  Communities are building around the game, bringing people together who might not otherwise meet and often finding they have more in common than just their desire to catch imaginary creatures.

As usual, with the good, there is some bad out there related to this game.  People are getting hurt, wandering onto private property, stepping into traffic, and generally being complete idiots while playing.  The worst cases are the people who claim “The game made me do it.”  It’s almost like we have to say this a million and one times, and people still don’t seem to want to take any responsibility for their own actions, or lack of common sense.

Entertainment media does not make us violent, the cell phone doesn’t make us use it while driving, alcohol does not make us drink it, nor does any other inanimate object or service force us to do anything.  We choose to go out and do stupid things, drive recklessly, or drink to excess, causing accidents.  Saying, “it puts Pokemon across the street, forcing us to go get them,” just boggles the mind.

Everything in life, unless you never leave your block, is literally across the street.  When you’re playing the game, on your phone, it shows you the roads, landmarks, cliffs, and dangers.  Even if you’re distracted by the app, the app is showing you what lies ahead and you make a conscious choice to step onto the road.  From what I understand, since my son plays it, you don’t even have to be looking at your phone, it alerts you when something is close.

Bottom line people, use common sense and take responsibility for yourself.  It’s a fun game for people who like it, and has a lot of good about it, but it doesn’t cancel out the basics.  Look both ways when you come to a street.  Look up from your phone when walking, and pay attention to where you’re going.  Don’t trespass, especially on government property.  If you see Pikachu in ol’ man Flanders’ back yard, knock on his door and ask if you can go catch it.  Don’t sneak around the local police station at night.  If you’re out after dark, bear in mind curfews if you’re underage and don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do late at night.  You don’t suddenly become invincible just because you’re playing Pokemon Go.

Parents, you’re under more pressure with this app as well.  Take it from me, it’s strange to see your otherwise introverted child, who rarely leaves the house, suddenly want to walk down the park in the evening to play this game with friends.  Granted, mine is older, so we aren’t as worried as I imagine parents of younger kids are.  Have you talked to your kids about strangers, where to go and where not to, and what to do if they are in danger?  These are all fairly standard topics for parents of active kids who get out and run around all day, but if you’re a parent of a gamer who spends most of their time indoors, this may not be the case.  Have that talk, and have it again.  Heck, go out with them, if you have an interest in the game.

I have to say, though, despite the isolated cases of the dumbs I’m seeing out there, there are a lot of people having a great time and meeting new people.  There’s been a couple of ‘ew, nerds, don’t talk to me’ articles, but really the overwhelming majority of people seem to be coming together around this simple little game.  With so much ugliness in the world, it’s a much needed bright spot.  Let’s keep that up, whether you’re a player, a parent, or a journalist covering the game.