Pokémon fans get a little MOBA lovin’

rayquazaThe 3D MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) SMITE has thrown a bone to fans of the Pokémon franchise in the form of a skin for Kukulkan, one of the playable mythological gods around whose combat the game is based. Of course, the developer Hi-Rez Studios won’t be officially acknowledging the resemblance of its newest store item to the legendary Pokémon Rayquaza, but it is a cute wink-wink nudge-nudge reference that toes the line of homage and copyright infringement. There’s even new audio for the Mayan wind serpent which includes such cheesiness as, “A wild Kukulkan has appeared!” Had Smite really had their head in the game though, they’d have designed it around the awesomely powerful Mega Rayquaza instead!

SMITE is free-to-pay for PC & Xbox One, so there aren’t many excuses not to at least give it a go! We’d also love to hear about what other cross game references you’ve enjoyed in the past!

Throwback Thursday: Animal Crossing

Platform: Nintendo 64 / GameCube | Release Date: 2001 / 2002

Nintendo’s quirky village simulation game Animal Crossing would be one of the GameCube’s best selling titles, but it was actually released in Japan for the Nintendo 64 first. The graphics weren’t impressive, but the dynamic relationships you could build with animals that settled in your town were and the multitude of activities that could be partaken for fun or for profit was enough to keep gamers hooked for hours, days and years. There was fishing, clothing design, bug catching, fossil collecting and more plus games-within-a-game with a naively generous selection of fifteen NES games which could be played in full.

Tomorrow is the release of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer so it’s a good time to take a look at the game that started it all and why it was a standout hit on the GameCube!

Why it was great

As mentioned before, Animal crossing had a lot of stuff to do. Personally, one of the most exciting things to do was go out and hunt some rare insect specimens for the Museum. Unlike the static fossil displays or art exhibits, bugs that were collected were free to roam around their area of the building and the more that were added the more interesting the room got. The variety of fish was also exciting (especially the more unique-looking catches like eels), but confined to their tanks made them a little less visually appealing than the wilds of the insect room.

Decorating was, of course, another high point of the game. Each day was a new opportunity to check Nook’s shop for furniture, wallpaper or more to complete a collection or just add some pizzazz to a tired layout. My rooms always took on a distinctly jungle-esque theme and were overflowing with whatever plants I could find, borrow or steal (I admit, I didn’t really lose that cute polka dot shirt Officer Booker). Clothing was another way to uniquely represent yourself with almost limitless fashionable (and unfashionable) outfit combinations.

ac-stellaAnimal Crossing was also one of the only games I was willing to watch someone else play as a fidgety 13 year old. My sister and I would take turns talking to the villagers and each had our favorites who we’d send gifts to and stop for extra conversations if we saw them. I still remember who we liked; I was very connected with Stella the Sheep and she developed a friendship with one of the gorillas. Back then it was hard to imagine anyone wanting to spend their free time observing someone else gaming, but this is the age of Twitch and now I’m more than happy to watch pros get some nice ganks in League of Legends or watch a master Pokémon trainer battle up the ranks online.

All in all, it was a great early simulation game that didn’t simply focus on building a town or kingdom, but challenged players to be themselves inside a fantastical setting and impact the world around them.

What do you think? Any favorite memories? There are some great Animal Crossing stickers that just came out for LINE messenger as well!

Throwback Thursday: Destiny

Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Bungie | Publisher: Activision
Release Date: September 9, 2014

Destiny’s latest and greatest expansion The Taken King has arrived in its multitude of special and collector’s editions, putting the ‘Year Two’ plans of Bungie and Activision for the game into play. What better time to take a look back at the game Bungie were hoping to redefine a genre with upon launch, bringing us new ways to play, to experience a story like no other and much, much more.

This article discusses the base Destiny game only and none of its subsequently release expansions

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WHY IT WAS GREAT

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While Destiny failed at nailing the story-telling aspect of Bungie’s genre-redefining vision, it certainly nailed the gameplay. The speed, mobility and gunplay were (and are even more so with Year Two) excellent fine tuned, awarding players with a great sense of satisfaction when they manage to land the final blow to the head on their alien foes.

The three base classes meant that players always have the ability mix things up if they begin to feel their current persona is beginning to feel stale and while that was certainly possible, beginning to feel the sense of no progress certainly was not. Bungie excellently provided ways for player to continue their progression once they reach their level cap, offering new, hidden and Exotic armours and weapons to find.

In short: Destiny simply got better the more you played it. Guardians really only got a true taste of what the game had to offer once they had gotten the mediocre-at-best story mode out of the way and had greener PvE and PvP pastures on the horizon.

Of course, Destiny also completely nailed the sense of community. Few other games manage to feel like Destiny do when you play. Locales are alive with other players from all over the world. Other players taking part in random public events, or farming from the legendary Loot Cave. That sense of community only felt even stronger within Raids, in which only parties capable of the highest level of coordination would succeed.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

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Destiny, while it had it shortcomings, was great. Bungie seems to have ironed out the kinks on the shirt that is ‘Year One’ and now offers an even better experience than when the base games launched just one year ago. Really, what makes Destiny so great to this day is the sheer amount of fun you can get out of the game and it’s as simple as that. Unless of course you dislike sci-fi, first person shooters.

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.

GPS, GO and the Future of Pokémon

Pokémon GO came to us out of nowhere. Fans didn’t ask for it and no one had any idea the mobile game existed until it was announced, but that doesn’t stop it from (possibly) becoming the future of the Pokémon series.

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THE GAME POKÉMON FANS DESERVE

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In every mainline series Pokémon game to date the player has taken control of a character who journeys about catching, battling and training Pokémon. That is as close as fans have ever gotten to becoming a real Pokémon Trainer. Pokémon GO could change that.
Using GPS technology is nothing new to gaming, there are numerous great examples of how developers can use the navigation system to add depth to their games, or even use it to become the basis of an entire game. One instance of an excellent application of GPS comes from Six to Start’s Zombies. Run! in which players must run (or walk) to escape zombies (as if you couldn’t figure that out) and collect supplies along the way.

Introducing GPS to the Pokémon series is an entirely new concept and up until now the closest we’ve got to location-based interaction in Pokémon is the StreetPass feature in Pokémon X and Omega Ruby Alpha Sapphire, the most significant feature of which was the ability to unlock locations that contained hidden Pokémon by passing by people with your 3DS. So, why could a location-based Pokémon game become the future of the series?

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BE THE TRAINER

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Without beating around the bush: Pokémon GO might let you become a Pokémon Trainer. The Trainer you’ve always wanted to be but never quite could, because you were simply playing a game.

Pokémon GO will play differently for everyone depending on where you are and the time you’re there. You will have to be in the real world vicinity of a wild Pokémon to find it, meaning, utilising the GPS of your mobile device, you (the Trainer) have to physically drag yourself through all terrains to find a Charizard lurking atop a mountain, or an Eevee hiding in a backstreet dumpster. Species of Pokémon have always been limited to specific areas within the games. In Pokémon Red & Blue for example, Pikachu can only be found on Viridian Forest or within the Power Plant. If you want to capture a Pokémon you have to situate yourself in an appropriate patch of grass and pace up and down for what could be hours. In GO it’s not going to be you characters tickling their knees amongst the grass, it’s going to be you.

The utilisation of location technology doesn’t end there; with it, Trainers could find themselves battling against other Trainers riding the same train to work as them, or against the manager at McDonald’s, and that’s where things start to get interesting. By making us, the player, the main character in our journey we can choose what routes we take, what Pokémon we capture and train, and what our goals and aspirations are in this new Pokémon World. If you want to become the Pokémon kingpin in your university accommodation, you can do that. The possibilities are almost limitless.

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GET SOCIAL

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With GO the series is going to take on an entirely new social aspect, while maintaining the core pillars that make up the Pokémon franchise. Pokémon will still exist as it does today, but future games are likely to be tainted with elements requiring the upcoming game as already suggested by official sources.

New forms of the Pokémon Zygarde were recently announced, what’s interesting about these forms is their requirement for numerous forms known as Zygarde Cell, hidden throughout an area, to cluster together in order for the Pokémon to access a more powerful form. This ‘collect-a-thon’ mechanic almost screams to be made into a social event, and this is perhaps exactly what we can expect to see in GO. The official trailer for the game has showed off a battle against Mewtwo in Times Square, which required hundreds of Trainers to group together to take down the Pokémon before the timer ran out. We already know this type of event is planned for the game.

There are of course almost infinite new possibilities when you add location-based mechanics to a series that already focuses on different locations within its games, too many to list. Using one common form of technology can completely transform how we play a game and it seems the Pokémon series is one just screaming for this transformation.

On the other hand this called all just end up one huge dream and Pokémon GO might not end up being the foundation for the future of the Pokémon series after all.