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Death Comes to Pokemon: Finding usefulness in the series’ most useless creature

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in space (or inside of a rock that’s in space that isn’t Our Rock In Space), you probably know what Pokemon is. If you don’t … wow! I’ll keep it brief: Pokemon is about over 750 collectible little creatures. But an app that’s been released earlier in May is focused on a very, very special Pokemon. The wonderfully useless Magikarp: A fish Pokemon that is known for being extremely weak and having the ‘splash’ attack, which does no damage and involves the Magikarp just flinging itself around uselessly. Surely, there has to be something one can do with this Pokemon, right? Well, of course! You make it jump.

At least, you do in the adorable app released by The Pokemon Company. In ‘Pokemon: Magikarp Jump,’ you train Magikarps that you fish up through a series of exercises (and cramming berries in their mouths) to gain JP or ‘Jump Power’. By using the ‘JUMP POWER’ that your Magikarp earns via training, you are able to go through jump competitions, until you have a champion Magikarp.

Copyright 2017 Pokemon / 1995 – 2017 Nintendo / Creatures Inc. All rights reserved

What’s particularly interesting about this Pokemon game is how it explores death. In fact, how Magikarp is treated in general is really interesting. See, once your Magikarp hits a level cap, that’s it. You can’t make the level cap raise, even if you want to pay actual money for it (which I’ll get to in a bit). Rather, Magikarp retire. And you’ll see them swimming in the background of your Magikarp’s pond, and you continuously cycle through Magikarp.

But sometimes Magikarp don’t retire happily. The game will present you with random events, where you can gain more Jump Power, or another turn to train your Magikarp, or even coins that you can use to improve your exercises or the power of your berries. But some random events come with a choice. The game will, typically, prompt you twice with this choice. Very clearly, it will tell you this could be dangerous (For instance, choosing to have your Magikarp jump in a tree to get berries, choosing it to chase after a shiny underwater object that could be a hook), then ask if you’re sure. Then will ask if you’re SURE you’re sure.

Copyright 2017 Pokemon / 1995 – 2017 Nintendo / Creatures Inc. All rights reserved

And if you lose that? ‘Forced retirement’. Your character calls out your Magikarp’s name, and a ‘NOOOO.’ And when you return to the screen to fish up another Magikarp, the professor tells you that (your Magikarp’s name) is no more, and that ‘he’ll take care of it.’ Somewhat ominous, but an interesting add-on for a cutesy mobile Pokemon game.

But don’t let that spurn you from this title. Magikarp Jump is genuinely a very cute, fun, and addictive game. Admittedly, the further you get in the game, the more chore-like levelling up your Magikarp feels. But I’m three leagues in, and I’ve yet to stop playing the game for a day. There are options to purchase things for the game (Diamonds, which you can use to buy items for the game, and to re-fish Magikarp if you don’t get one you desire) but what’s fascinating is that the game actually has a cap for this. After you purchase 5000 diamonds, you’re cut off. In an age of video games aimed for whaling (Which is, mobile games designed with pay options to hook a ‘whale’, which is someone that will drop hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on an addictive game) this is oddly refreshing and nice. Likewise, the game makes it very clear, on every single startup of the game, that while buying add-ons for this game is an option. It’s not needed for game completion. Which — for a game geared towards a younger audience — is a relief to see.

Copyright 2017 Pokemon / 1995 – 2017 Nintendo / Creatures Inc. All rights reserved

All in all, I find the gameplay really fun. You tap some berries, train up a Magikarp through random chance events, and slowly work through leagues. Compared to main Pokemon games, where once you have a strong Pokemon on your team, it’s apt to stay there forever, it’s refreshing and strange to have Pokemon retire and to see slow progress not only with how the trained Magikarp gain ‘Jump Power’, but also with how you train them, and how training methods open up as your progress through the game.

While I’m not sure if this is going to be a title I envision myself playing in – say — a month, it’s a fun, short title to enjoy. And with the release of this game, Pokemon also put out an adorable video featuring Magikarp  to accompany other songs from the Japanese Pokemon youtube that have been translated (Such as the strangely soothing Slowpoke Song). I recommend checking out this cute little app. There’s just something charming and sweet about finding potential in a creature that’s been called ‘Useless’ for years. 

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“Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion” game coming this summer

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Adventure Time Pirates of the Enchiridion

“C’mon on, grab your friends … ” A new Adventure Time game is coming out across multiple platforms.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

In this open world game, Finn and Jake will be sailing on a raft (Named Jeff) through the flooded land of Ooo to solve the mystery of why water engulfed their home and to help others & get in hijinks along the way. With a ragtag gang of friends (From a vampire, to an Ice King, to a little robot) Finn and Jake will travel from the melting Ice Kingdom to the Fire Kingdom and fight in turn-based combat like an RPG.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

The trailer shows off some absolutely gorgeous character models and environments. I’m particularly enchanted by the gorgeous Candy Kingdom that’s briefly shown in this footage. The art design sticks close to the show, but brings with it a soft, sweet design rarely seen in adventure games. Which is a refreshing thing to bring to the table. Likewise, it’s a joy to see the characters translate to 3D so well. Outright Games has done some fantastic work here with their art design.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

Likewise, the voice cast for the show will be reprising their roles as characters in the land of Ooo. And they’ll have a lot of lines to record. Not only can you control Finn and Jake, but you’ll be able to play as BMO and Marceline as well. You can upgrade these characters to unlock unique abilities for combat and the map holds plenty of fun mysteries too. With side stories and secret locations, this seems like a game that’ll have hours & hours of fun.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

What strikes me particularly about this game is how much it resembles Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. This is no coincidence. Adventure Time have a history of being direct corollaries to Legend of Zelda games. “Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!” ‘s gameplay references “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” and “Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom” has the same top down look & combat stylings as “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.” With this in mind, it’s absolutely delightful to see a Wind Waker homage with a series like this. Wind Waker was a gamechanger for the Legend of Zelda series, and it feels like “Pirates of the Enchiridion” will be a gamechanger for the Adventure Time games.

Copyright Cartoon Network / Outright Games Ltd. All rights reserved

‘Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion’ will be out July 17th for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. 

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Do you like treasure hunting and/or cooking soup? Then Pokemon Quest is the game for you

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Pokemon Quest

Immediately after the Pokemon press conference on May 29th, the mobile-switch cross platform game Pokemon Quest was available to download on the Nintendo eShop (with the mobile device version debuting later this month). Curious about the ‘Free-to-Start’ game, I snagged a download and started playing.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

Pokemon Quest is a game that feels best letting itself auto-run. You check in several times a day to see what Pokemon have appeared at your camp (The conceit behind this game is that you’re a treasure hunter & Pokemon flock to you to fight their brethren in your honor. They also sometimes just come by because you make really good soup. What can I say?). With the Pokemon at your disposal, you build a small exploration team much in the same style as the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game series. And you then set them out to fight other Pokemon in open levels. From these battles, you win power stones (which allow you to upgrade your Pokemon’s health & attack power), and ingredients to lure other Pokemon to your camp.

You may’ve taken notice use of the term ‘Free-to-Start’ earlier in this article. That’s because — like many mobile services — this game offers add-ons for purchase. I don’t see any age limit on the Nintendo Switch version to take away ads for purchases (which many mobile games have chosen to add. See Disney’s own ‘Disney Crossy Road’) but the Pokemon Company may be expecting parents to set their own controls over the switch with the parental controls available on the system.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

Still, the game is typical in mobile game fare for trying to wring money out of players. Energy to play the game costs P tickets, which you can earn 50 a day … or you can just buy. The game gives you an amount to start with, shows you how to use them to speed up your game, and then takes you to the shop where you can see an advertisement to buy it — along with Pokemon furniture to help your team.

These packages can go up to $30 and include Pokemon in-game items & exclusive furniture. And while Pokemon Go offered items in bundles like this, it’s still odd to see in a Pokemon game — let alone a Pokemon game on the Nintendo Switch (albeit, this is a cross-platform game). The game itself doesn’t seem to have any sort of hard-pay line for gameplay, though. I’m up to the fifth world in my game without making any purchases. And while the game difficulty has dramatically ramped up, likely to encourage purchases, it’s still completely manageable to play without paying.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

In that sense, for a free game, it’s really cute & enjoyable. The graphics are pleasing and colorful. And if you return to camp, you’ll find all the Pokemon you’ve befriended hopping around adorable decorations. Sometimes stacking on top of each other, other times following each other around in what seems like games of tag.

The ‘cooking’ mechanic to encounter a random Pokemon makes encountering them feel less like gambling and more like strategy. By cooking certain recipes from materials you find on missions, you can draw certain types of Pokemon to your camp. Cooking in certain pots (unlocked by playing through the game) can draw higher powered Pokemon at the cost of more materials. And waiting while your energy fills up means running out of ingredients (At the point of the game I’m at, about half-way through) doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Copyright 2018 Nintendo. All rights reserved

All in all, I’d say, if you have access to this game, check it out and see if it’s for you. There doesn’t seem to be cross platform support for other Pokemon games. But as a standalone, it’s a cute, fun blip of a game. The hard ‘end’ of the levels within surprises me, especially since it seems to end with 150 Pokemon (out of the over eight hundred available). So I’m not sure what there is to get out of it when you get to the end level outside of getting every Pokemon. But it’s still a fun, very casual strategy game. Just keep an eye on purchases if your children decide to play. 

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“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” & “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” to come to the Nintendo Switch this year

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Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu

During a conference in Japan earlier this week, the Pokemon Company revealed three new games : A mobile and Nintendo Switch cross platform game, “Pokemon Quest,” with graphics similar to Crossy Road and some absolutely adorable furniture in a “free to start” format; and for the Nintendo Switch, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !”

Taking inspiration from gameplay styles from the popular “Pokemon Go” for mobile devices, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !’ adopts the thrown Pokeball system. By using one controller with the Switch system, you can make a tossing motion to throw a Pokeball and capture a cute critter for your team.

Copyright the Pokemon Company. All rights reserved

Additionally, you can buy the “Pokeball Plus” accessory to act as an additional “Joy-con” controller for your Switch to capture Pokemon. Then load a Pokemon into your pokeball, and take it out on the go.

From there, with the accessory, you’ll be able to interact with the Pokemon you have inside. Although current information doesn’t offer whether we’ll have more options than putting Eevee or Pikachu in the Pokeball Plus, the footage seen in the linked trailer is absolutely adorable.

The game itself seems to be a remake of Pokemon Yellow, a game released twenty years ago for the Game Boy Color. You explore the Kanto Pokemon region, and seem to be limited to the 150 Pokemon available when that game was out (Well, 151, if you were lucky, or good at exploiting glitches). But these games ditch the random encounters of mainline Pokemon games and adopt the overworld encounters of Pokemon Go. What Pokemon you see on the overworld is what you get.

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Additionally, Pokemon can follow you around and you can ride some of them. In footage, we see a trainer riding a giant Onyx (i.e., a giant snake made out of rocks. Who wouldn’t be comfortable riding on that?) and followed by a starting Pokemon, Bulbasaur. Although in these two games, you start instead with the series mascot Pikachu, and the evolution Pokemon Eevee, which can evolve into several different pokemon. You can also put little outfits on them. Which is – frankly — incredible.

Likewise, this seems to have local multiplayer. Hand the left Joy-con to a friend and let them enter your game. Or if you’re feeling really lonely, put the left Joy-con in your hand and pretend you have a friend while controlling the new trainer that arrives. What a fun time!

You and your friend can then team up to capture Pokemon together, or go exploring together- And you can have Pokemon you capture in Pokemon Go (of the original 151 Pokemon) arrive in your game. You can also send “Presents” back to your Pokemon Go game, including a possible new form of Pokemon as the trailer discusses.

Copyright the Pokemon Company. All rights reserved

“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” will be arriving on the Nintendo Switch this November. Likewise, a new Pokemon game will be released in the second Half of 2019. With a Mario movie in development and theme park additions on the way, it’s sure to be a busy year for Nintendo. 

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