Nintendo, Google & The Pokémon Company invest $20 million in augmented reality gaming

Niantic, the developer of Ingress and the upcoming Pokémon GO, has announced that it raised its Series A financing round, totaling an initial investment of $20 million and a further $10 million promised upon meeting agreed goals, from Google as well as gaming giant Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. The development studio is known for putting gaming into the real world; Ingress tasks players with physically traveling to locations in order to take control of them. Pokémon GO similarly showed trainers gathering together in New York’s Times Square in its announcement trailer to take part in a massive battle against a legendary Pokémon.

The involvement of Google may come as little surprise, considering that Niantic is headed by John Hanke who was one of the creators of Google Earth. Some may remember 2014’s April Fools joke which added a “Pokémon Challenge” to Google Maps. GO‘s logo bears a striking resemblance to the prank as well.

Fans of the Pokémon franchise should be happy to hear that the company tasked with bringing the monsters to our world seems to be well funded. This will be a drastic departure from the series’ previous games and allow trainers to interact in new ways with beloved characters. It’s clear that corporate knows expectations are high and Nintendo is also committed to develop new technologies, which may even appear in other franchises down the road.

Let us know in the comments what Pokémon you’d like to catch first in GO!

Dragon Quest Builders looks like Minecraft on RPG-enhancing steroids

Minecraft, the wildly popular world building game by Mojang, is not for everyone. It gives players a wide variety of tools and materials for infinite building possibilities. What it doesn’t have though, is any overarching story driving gameplay or any real goal. Similar to dumping out a bucket of Legos, Minecraft makes players use their imagination to fill in the backstory and give purpose to their creations. For some it is a challenge, but for others it can feel like a real chore.

Square Enix may be able to offer the perfect link between RPG and sandbox with their upcoming game Dragon Quest Builders. Announced earlier this summer, the title returns players to Alefgard, the setting of the original Dragon Quest, and tasks players with rebuilding it after being destroyed by a Dragonlord. Tokyo Game Show has brought a fresh look at the game in the form of a new trailer. The game will be released in January of next year exclusively for Sony’s PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita consoles.

Throwback Thursday: Pokémon Crystal

Platform: Game Boy Color | Release Date: 2001 (English)

All new Pokémon games are exciting and Pokémon Crystal was no exception. The series was much younger at the time, but Crystal offered some promising improvements over its predecessors Pokémon Gold & Silver and even had some features that never made it out of Japan!

Why it was great

pokemon-krisFemale Pokémon Trainers around the world jumped for joy when details about the game were released. They no longer had to put up with the male protagonist of the series and could adventure as the girl Kris in Pokémon Crystal. It was a great touch and the feature became a staple of every Pokémon in the main series since.

Pokémon Crystal also introduced a number of new features which appealed to competitive players. Previously Pokémon were limited to moves that they could learn either by leveling up or through the use of a Technical or Hidden Machine (TM or HM). In Crystal, however, fans could now access Move Tutors which offered new combinations of Pokémon and attacks to use during battles. Many of the “third” games of the main series have also held this idea over and usually introduce brand new strategy combinations at the end of a generation. Crystal also debuted the punishing Battle Tower which offered challenging matches to seasoned veterans.

cr-Chikorita cr-Cyndaquil cr-Totodile

The game also brought new life to the 251 Pokémon that existed at the time (a far cry from our current 720 monsters). It was the first to use animated sprites, although they only briefly moved when being faced in a battle. A trainer’s own Pokémon retained their static back sprites and it wouldn’t be for a few more years that they got the same animation treatment.

Western gamers didn’t even get all the features Crystal introduced, however. A number of them were scrapped when the game was translated to English, including a Global Trade Station-like feature which let you deposit a Pokémon and request one in exchange! Japanese Crystal players also got the chance to capture Celebi by using the mysterious GS Ball.

Final thoughts

pokemon-crystal-startPokémon Crystal was the first Pokémon game I owned (after jealously watching my friends play since Red & Blue) and it remains one of my all time favorite titles from the series. The sprites in particular have excellent animations and hold up to the test of time, unlike Emerald’s ill-fated bouncing and stretching.

The game also introduced many series staples, such as gender, Move Tutors, the Battle Tower, and more, which make it an important game in Pokémon’s history. Also, it has to be said that the cartridge color is also the coolest to be released so far. A great shame that modern Pokémon games don’t have such fanciful colored plastic anymore.

Bethesda announces Fallout 4

That’s right. Fallout 4. There is not much known at this time but we are to tune into Bethesda’s E3 Showcase on Sunday, June 14 at 7:00pm Pacific Time to see the world premiere of the game! Also, there’s this goosebumps giving trailer of in-game footage:

We are on the edges of our seats here at RL. Are you with us? More information coming, check back soon.

Inside Look at Dungeon Defenders II

When it comes to setting up a solid defense and mowing down waves of enemies, you don’t have to have played the prequel Dungeon Defenders to enjoy the somewhat challenging, ever satisfying, upcoming free-to-play multiplayer action RPG/tower defense Dungeon Defenders 2.

I started playing Dungeon Defenders 2 with a semi-blank slate since I have never played the original Dungeon Defenders by Trendy Entertainment but have played several multiplayer online battle arena games which is the feeling you get when playing this title, though competition isn’t what is at play but rather teamwork.

Reminder, this is only the Pre-Alpha stage of the game, which features a variety of stages and only four playable characters: Huntress, Monk, Squire and Apprentice.

Load up Dungeon Defenders 2 and you’ll be prompted with choosing one of these characters to play as. To generalize, Squire is melee, Monk is support, Huntress is ranged and Apprentice is mid-range. However, each character has a similar array of skills built in with a “turret” each and traps. You can try out each character and switch between them on whim.

I chose the Huntress. These straw target dummies at the pre-game lobby are no match for my poisonous arrows.
I chose the Huntress. These straw target dummies at the pre-game lobby are no match for my poisonous arrows.

Level up your character to open your arsenal up to better gear, weapons and new skills which cap around level 15 at three action (blue) skills and four passive (green) skills.

The higher level you achieve, the tougher stages, or dungeons, you can defend. Using your gear: a helmet, a torso, gloves, shoes, a trinket and a weapon, plow through dungeon after dungeon to become the strongest dungeon defender you can be!

You’ll level up frequently and you will be flooded, and I mean flooded, with loot. The more players in your game, the higher chance of loot dropping, and each completed dungeon yields a chest with a particularly special reward. Sell the loot you don’t need for coins to be spent on upgrading your gear or purchasing new gear, though finding gear yields better stats.

Blue colored gear is a good find! But it's not the best... I hear there's purple gear out there...
Blue colored gear is a good find! But it’s not the best… I hear there’s purple gear out there…

These dungeons differ from each other in difficulty, appearances, monsters and towers but for the most part the strategy remains standard: you and your team set up traps relatively close to the portals where the waves of monsters spawn and run around shooting or whacking monsters whilst upgrading your traps and yourself upon leveling up.

There is a limit to how many traps can be placed, and traps can be upgraded up to three times, so coordinating with your teammates as to which traps are best is important as to not waste both green gems and tower space.

Coordination is not quite apparent however. There’s no voice chat options and most players don’t use the chat box to strategize, except occasionally in the very beginning at the harder stages to inform the team to back off and let the Apprentices use all the tower spaces and only contribute green gems towards upgrading said towers.

If these monsters get past my volley of arrows then they'll have to answer to my teammate's demonic fire flowers.
If these monsters get past my volley of arrows then they’ll have to answer to my teammate’s demonic fire flowers.

Clearing stages is a piece of cake. It does get harder and harder but it never gets to the point where you’re on the edge of your seat. The enjoyment gets stale but alternating between characters keeps gameplay interesting as does the pretty scenery, which changes between stages.

Dungeon Defenders 2 is only in its Pre-Alpha stage, which can be acquired for $24.99 on Steam. If you’re a fan of multiplayer online battle arenas or tower defense games you won’t be disappointed trying out this title. The Pre-Alpha had limitations but even so Dungeon Defenders 2 gave me hours of fun and I was able to pick it up and play with ease and the developers announced that more updates are to come as well.

Let us know what you think and if you plan on trying Dungeon Defenders 2 out either now or when it is officially released!