The Nintendo Switch: A Wii-U Owner’s Perspective Pt3

So far I’ve talked about why the Switch isn’t appealing to me right now and also the upcoming releases that potentially have the power to change my mind. The concluding part of my Switch ramblings is going to focus on the dream games that would certainly encourage me to part with my money if they were to ever see the light of day. Once more, I’ve organised my picks into a Top Five of no particular arrangement so without any further unnecessary talking…let’s go!

F-Zero

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Yes, it’s the game that people have been demanding for years from Nintendo who seem wholly disinterested in bringing Captain Falcon and lightspeed futuristic racing back to a console near you. It didn’t happen on the Wii and it didn’t happen on the Wii-U either but there were a few teases last generation with the F-Zero-inspired Fast Racing Neo plus the F-Zero DLC for Mario Kart 8. A proper F-Zero sequel though? Nah; you’re dreaming, boy! F-Zero GX on the Gamecube was a stunning game: super fast, skill-demanding and beautiful to look at. The soundtrack deserves a huge mention too for being so flippin’ awesome (I have the soundtrack CD and listen to it regularly). True, it was a collab effort with Sega (and some Namco input) but even so, it’s a tragedy that GX remains the last main game in the series at this point in time (I’m not 100% on the release dates of the various GBA games…) and if Nintendo were ever to finally follow it up with a new installment that was at least on par with GX quality-wise, then I would buy a Switch to play it.

Disaster: Day of Crisis

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One of the Wii’s true hidden gems, Disaster was a really fun survival game that mixed natural disaster survival with Time Crisis-style shooting sections to great effect. The Wii became known (sadly) for the many bad games that had motion controls shoe-horned in for no good reason other than to be seen to have implemented something. Disaster was one of those games that used motion controls in many different ways but in such ways that actually made sense and made you feel like you were interacting with the game rather than just flailing your arms for the hell of it. There was a cool first-person driving section for example, running away from walls of water or performing CPR. For a game that was stuck in development hell for a long time before finally surfacing, it was impressive that Day of Crisis managed to be so entertaining and that’s why I’d love a sequel. Yes, this is one instance where I would miss motion controls but give us another disaster scenario with some new characters and the same varied gameplay and I’d buy it for a dollar.

A proper Pokemon game

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By ‘proper’ I mean a full-on handheld style adventure in 3D on the big screen. This may actually be a possibility if Nintendo do indeed wind their dedicated handheld focus down and pour everything into the Switch given how it is both a home and portable machine. In the past though, we have been cheated (I like to think so anyway) on numerous occasions. The two Pokemon Stadium games on N64 were essentially glorified 3D battles, Pokemon Colisseum on the Gamecube was a heavily simplified take on the traditional formula and its direct sequel – XD: Gale of Darkness – insulted by being more of the same with recycled locations and assets from Colisseum. The rest have been filler games such as Pokemon Channel or the shallow Pokemon Battle Revolution. Imagine if they made a full-on 3D, free-roaming world in a similar vein to Zelda: Breath of the Wild but with a bit more focus on story and (obviously) a more densely populated world? Imagine actually flying on one of your bird Pokemon and searching for new locations or travelling the seas and seeking out new islands just like in Zelda: The Wind Waker? The possibilities are actually huge and even though I’ve kind of fallen out with the franchise after Diamond/Pearl, I’d jump straight back in if my dream style of game hit the Switch.

A proper Paper Mario game

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Once upon a time, Nintendo had an extremely endearing Mario spin-off RPG series on its hands. Packed full of charm, humour and challenge, these were seriously good RPG experiences with a beautiful art style to boot and so much creativity. I am of course only referring to the N64 and Gamecube installments of Paper Mario. I do personally like Super Paper Mario on the Wii but it was certainly different to what had come before. The real problems with the series began with Sticker Star on the 3DS and continued with Colour Splash on the Wii-U. It is said that Shigeru Miyamoto made the decision to bin off any original or Paper Mario-exclusive characters and this is why the newer games are populated with Toads, Koopas and…er…not much else. Bad gameplay design also reared its ugly head with certain areas of the games impassable unless you had a specific sticker or card which you may have to return to the hub world for and thus incur lots of painful, backtracking which needn’t have been necessary. Colour Splash did give out hints in advance in fairness but often by the way of cryptic clues which tended to frustrate rather than assist. The RPG style of the previous games was also severely watered-down and to cap it off, battles could often become impossible if you didn’t have the right stickers/cards. I did personally still enjoy these games to an extent (Colour Splash moreso) because the graphical style and creativity has never gone away but if Nintendo could give us a PROPER Paper Mario just like the old days then it would honestly be a system seller in my eyes.

Wave Race

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The recent Mario games prove that Nintendo knows how to make beautiful water that you’d just love to leap right into. Couple this with the fact that racing games have never really died in popularity and I can see a Switch sequel to Wave Race being a very fun game. It’s another franchise that Nintendo has left to die in the wilderness with only a brief jet ski racing segment in Wii Sports Resort giving Wave Race fans any hope that something may happen. The major obstacle to a Wave Race resurgence would obviously be its general lack of popularity or recognition amongst the traditional famous Nintendo franchises but since this is a fantasy list, I don’t care. Make it happen and I will open my wallet.

So that concludes my series of Switch-related posts. Perhaps I came across as quite negative about Nintendo’s current console in Part 1 but the truth is, there are games on the horizon that could tempt me as well as the above dream sequels which would DEFINITELY tempt me. Thing is though, even leaving aside the fact that I feel burned for being a Wii-U owner, I also have a PS4 and various older machines so for me to invest money and time into another console…well, I need to be persuaded a little harder than others maybe. Thanks for reading and I will hopefully be back with some more regular posts very soon…

Crystal Dreams

This last week saw me finally polish off the e-shop download of Pokemon Silver Version for 3DS. I ended up spending around 60hrs with the game and in truth, that figure could have easily been shaved by a considerable amount had I not spent ages hunting out my favourite monsters and training them up even though I had no space for them in my final/ideal team. I felt like a bit of a boss taking a Lv60+ team of Lugia, Typhlosion, Tyranitar, Dragonite, Raikou and Gyarados into the final showdown with Red (I would have also taken Ho-Oh but I needed Gyarados as my ‘HM slave’ to navigate Silver Cave) and I managed to beat the toughest trainer in the game on my first attempt. That Snorlax that bothered me so much back in the day? No problem! Typhlosion ended that sucker with a few Dynamic Punches. Yeah!

It was a very nostalgic experience overall and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the classic sound effects, sprites and simpler Pokemon mechanics that I’d been missing with the newer games. Despite the amount of hours I invested into Silver, I’m still keenly waiting for January 26th and the next classic re-release that I’d been hoping for…

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Pokemon Crystal Version was the edition that everybody had really been clamouring for when the Gold/Silver re-releases were initially announced and I can only presume that Nintendo held it back on account of it being so similar to G/S that nobody would buy either of those versions. This way, gamers like me will double-dip and I can’t deny that I have fallen for their nefarious marketing tactics! Yellow Version was re-released alongside Red/Blue but that was likely a different scenario given how Yellow had quite a lot of differences compared to the games it was updating and was changed-up to follow the TV show more closely.

Crystal is more of a subtle update over its direct predecessors but is – in my opinion anyway –  the definitive edition of the second generation of games. When this game was originally released, the introduction of animated sprites was incredibly special for example. The first iteration of the Battle Tower debuted in Crystal too (and boy was it brutal!) and a slightly tweaked storyline put Suicune into a position of prominence, allowing the player to eventually battle the legendary Pokemon without worrying about it fleeing as it, Raikou and Entei would immediately do in Gold/Silver.

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Gotta love those old sprites!

Crystal is – like most of the early Pokemon games – quite nostalgic for me as I clearly remember receiving it for Christmas on the year of release along with a brand spanking new Gameboy Advance. How ironic that the first game I played on a new system was one via the backwards compatibility! The more advanced (see what I did there?) aesthetics of those shiny new GBA titles didn’t deter me from embarking on a second tour of Johto however and in 2018, history is set to repeat itself. I really cannot wait and I’m fortunate enough to have received a £15 e-shop voucher from my sister at Christmas so I’m saving that for the 26th!

It’s also worth mentioning that Nintendo have slightly tweaked this version of Crystal in a rather special way. Aside from Pokemon Bank compatibility, they have also included a way to battle and capture Celebi without the need for any sort of special ‘event’! Wow! Celebi has long been one of those Pokemon that has been impossible to capture without being fortunate enough to attend a special event and outside of said event for Gold/Silver/Crystal (or the Japanese bonus disc for Pokemon Colosseum), I don’t believe Celebi has been made available since.

Roll on the 26th!

Why I love collecting TCG

Other than videogames, one of my other turbo-nerd interests are trading cards, specifically Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!! I’m no player of either game but I certainly do like to collect the cards and keep up with the current events where Yu-Gi-Oh is concerned since I also operate a very small ebay buying/selling business purely for selling Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I’ve found discovering which cards are worth money and keeping up with what’s trending in the meta to be fascinating and I’ve had some fantastic scores this year alone. But this isn’t a post where I’m going to be blabbering on about investments and my best sales; this is going to be me discussing my personal collections and how I got into these card games in the first place.

The Pokemon Trading Card game was the first obsession and I got into it right at the very beginning when the Base Set came out here in the UK (I believe I actually started with the cards before the Gameboy games) and a friend at school gave me my first card for free. It was either Machop or Charmander (I forget which) but I soon got hold of Koffing too and so the collection began.

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Humble beginnings…

Of course, the big problem as a kid was the price of booster packs! At £2.49 for an 11-card pack which often had nothing too interesting inside, it was difficult for my parents to justify buying many for me and so I had to rely on trades, the odd pack here and there (when I was allowed one) and decks for birthdays/Christmas’. Later on when I got an official pocket money (or allowance) sum to last me a month, I could buy more packs BUT I also had to make that money last so I STILL couldn’t go crazy. It was often frustrating to go to school with other kids whose parents bought them tons of packs over the weekends, brand-new binders etc. because every Monday, they’d be showing off all of the new foils or “shinies” that they’d acquired. Still – in hindsight – it was better that I learned the value of money and wasn’t spoilt I guess so there is that little life lesson to be thankful for. Besides, having less to work with made those trades all the sweeter. I once somehow managed to trade a ‘rare’ Base Set Dugtrio for a common Onix by arguing that Onix could “easily swing its tail around a chop Dugtrio’s head off”. Ignoring the dark outcome of that hypothetical battle for the moment, it was an epic trade.

The scores were cancelled out by some of the terrible deals that I made though (something I’m sure all TCG collectors can relate to!). One in particular saw me buy a Fossil booster pack for £4.99 from a market before they were officially available in UK shops and pull a holo Hitmonlee card. Needless to say, I was hot stuff come Monday morning in the playground but what did I do? Yep, I traded Hitmonlee away on that first day! Another poor trade was exchanging my booster-fresh Neo Genesis Typhlosion for a Japanese version of the other Typhlosion card from the same set only to later discover that the card I’d received was a fake. Doh!

Anyway, I collected the cards all the way up to Legendary Collection before quitting in secondary school, partly because of growing up and partly because of there simply being nobody to trade with anymore as things such as cool clothes, girls and tech became the things to chase. I briefly returned to collecting current cards during the very early ‘EX’ era and collected from EX-Ruby/Sapphire up to EX-Unseen Forces before binning the hobby for a second time. These new cards just didn’t appeal to me anymore due to poorer (in my opinion) artwork and a focus on the newer generations of monsters that I wasn’t as interested in. The EX holos were usually awesome though, even if the earliest examples were laughably unplayable in the game itself.

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Cards like this convinced me to keep collecting into the early EX/Nintendo era of the TCG.

Fortunately,  I didn’t sell my collection of cards once my brief second stint of collecting was done and so when I decided to get back into the hobby again (around 3-4 years or so ago now) I had a pretty good base to build on. After all, I’d always kept my cards in great condition and organised by set so going for full sets of the original Wizards Of The Coasts-published expansions (the most nostalgic sets by far) was more a case of filling in the gaps rather than beginning from scratch. I decided to not bother with Legendary Collection since buying the same cards a third time (if you factor in Base 2 to the mix as well) was a step too much, especially since I had very little from that set in the first place. The same applied to the three Wizards ‘E’ series expansions (Expedition, Aquapolis and Skyridge) because those sets are huge and the holos extremely valuable in some cases.

So I limited myself to Base 1 through to Neo Destiny and honestly, considering that this period pretty much summed up my original collecting days, it seemed quite fitting and nostalgia-infused to try and complete these sets. The added bonus of this kind of collection also being an investment of sorts is another plus that has to be remembered because these classic cards are constantly going up in value. Obviously nobody can predict the future’s interest in such things but for now, buying old-school Pokemon cards seems a pretty safe investment. Thus far, I have managed to finish Base 1, Jungle, Fossil, Team Rocket and Base 2. I should be working on the Gym sets next but due to rising asking prices, I have decided to skip ahead and try to get Neo Destiny done next since even the core holos from that set can cost between £20-£30 apiece for the most desirable ones – that’s before considering the going rates for the ‘Shining’ cards.

I have very little interest in the new sets of cards to be honest and it’s largely down to the fact that I stopped following the games after Diamond/Pearl so I’m very unfamiliar with the monsters and in any case, I’m no fan of the designs that I have seen or the crazy CG-orientated artwork on a lot of the cards. The days of Ken Sugimori’s simple watercolour artwork or the primitive CG of “CR CG Gangs” is where the appeal lies for me. I DO however pick up some of the full-art cards when I can because they are absolutely stunning at times with their embossed/textured surfaces and artwork which usually impresses me when the regular cards can’t.

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It’s incredible to see how much card design has evolved since that all-important debut Base Set.

But it isn’t just the Pokemon TCG that has my collecting attention. At the start of secondary school, I became aware of the existence of Yu-Gi-Oh!! and it didn’t take very long for another collecting bug to infect the inner workings of my impressionable mind. As with Pokemon, it all began innocently enough with my first card being given to me for free. That card was a copy of Succubus Knight from the first booster set (Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon) and so it began. I bought the obligatory copy of Starter Deck Kaiba (in 1st Edition!) and then booster packs from then on when I could. Money was still tight as a teenager however so as with Pokemon, I couldn’t afford to amass as many cards as those I was trading with at school and building a collection was doubly harder given how brutal the pull ratios were in those older Yu-Gi-Oh sets. A standard 24-Pack booster box would only contain six foils, possibly seven if said box also had a “Secret” rare card so as you can imagine, you had to be lucky to pull a foil card. In contrast, twelve out of thirty-six packs in a Pokemon TCG booster box would contain foils so the strike rate was a lot better. Younger Yu-Gi-Oh players/collectors have grown used to kinder box ratios and all packs coming with a Super Rare foil card at the very least so those early days of Yu-Gi-Oh were a very different time.

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The first Yu-Gi-Oh card I ever had. It was only in recent years that I discovered that the art was censored!

What really sold Yu-Gi-Oh to me was that even though it was still a children’s card game, the artwork was so much darker and more grown-up. Here we had cards based on dragons, demons and ancient Egyptian evils. Tombs, magic and all manner of bizarre creatures also contributed to my fascination and I was easily hooked. Sadly, the newer sets don’t quite captivate me in the same way because things have grown more cartoon-like with anime-inspired designs and a greater quantity of comical cards or art that simply no longer interests me as a collector. The golden period for me personally was between Labyrinth Of Nightmare and Ancient Sanctuary; this was where the card art peaked with it’s darkest and most fucked-up designs and where some of the most famous (and broken) cards made their debut. In general however I do appreciate the cards right through the GX era and I am usually able to find cards from beyond that which I want in my collection.

Unlike Pokemon however, I did sell my collection off once I’d had enough the first time so getting back into collecting Yu-Gi-Oh was a steeper hill to climb. Fortunately, I’d kept a few cards that I’d held onto for sentimental reasons and these included the likes of my 1st Edition SDK Blue-Eyes White Dragon, secret rare Thousand Dragon and Ultra Rare LOB-coded Red-Eyes Black Dragon so there were a few desirable cards already ticked-off. My second era of collecting started with me simply buying cards that I liked or had fond memories of but due to purchasing many large joblots of cards, I accidentally found myself with lots of semi-complete full sets so after much organisation, I decided to go for full sets from Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon up to Enemy of Justice which was where I’d originally halted buying Yu-Gi-Oh back in the day. I also have many boxes and binders of promos, OCG (Japanese) cards and other stuff that I like enough to keep from sets beyond those that I collect.

So far I have only been able to complete Rise of Destiny but those early GX-era sets are quite small and less valuable so I actually managed that one without intending to and only had to purposely buy the last four cards which weren’t even that expensive. I’m taking my time however since my attention is also focused on Pokemon and the buying/selling side of Yu-Gi-Oh which can be quite lucrative if you know your stuff. I also like to follow the meta and pick up certain cards as future investments since card prices fluctuate massively and old cards can suddenly gain value if the community finds a worthwhile use for them within a new tournament-viable strategy. As well as potentially rewarding, I simply find all of this very interesting which is why I do it!

I do apologise for all the reading in this post but any future TCG-related posts will certainly be shorter and more to the point. This was just an intro of kinds before I start including TCG here on Darkstalker90 Gaming. I will still predominately be focusing on videogames but sometimes there just isn’t anything I feel like talking about so I’d like to have a few different subjects to mix things up a bit, this being one of them.

Digital: Pokemon Silver Version (3DS e-shop)

Recently I have had serious trouble finding the time to sit down and really get stuck into a home console game. I have various titles on the go for different machines but work and life in general keep getting in way. Enter the saviour that is handheld gaming. So far on this blog, I have talked about the PSP quite a bit but I owe my interest in handheld gaming to the Gameboy Colour which was my very first machine (discounting the Playstation in the house which wasn’t my own console). As with a lot of people my age, I received the GBC as a Christmas gift purely because I wanted to play Pokemon like all of my friends at school were doing. Red Version was where it all began but it would be the follow-ups, Pokemon Gold/Silver, that would really impress…

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This moody title screen was impressive for an 8-Bit handheld…

I can distinctly remember being given some sort of really thick, unofficial Pokemon magazine by my Gran which had loads of information on the upcoming sequels. The magazine mapped out the initial few towns/routes, showed all of the new monsters (with Japanese names) and detailed new features to the series such as berries, the Poke-Gear and the introduction of Dark and Steel types. I absolutely pored over this magazine which was bringing us the latest information straight from Japan and the sequels simply could not come soon enough. I saved money bit by bit (money being difficult to come across as a child!) until I had the required £29.99 put aside in advance and I’ll be completely honest: I miss those days. Being so impressed and excited for a videogame as well as slowly but surely scraping the money together to buy it…so much better than the present day me who thinks “meh” to most game announcements and could afford any new release immediately if I was feeling irresponsible enough to casually drop £40-£50 on a PS4 game (which I very rarely do).

The very best part though was that the game lived up to all the expectations I had and then completely surpassed them. I opted for the Silver version since a) Lugia looked cooler than Ho-oh and b) there was this strange, unspoken sureness that the Gold version would be better because the word ‘Gold’ sounds more impressive than ‘Silver’. This meant that more people at school owned Gold Version and so having the opposite meant that I would be a more attractive trading partner. On a side note, this amusing little quirk also happened with Ruby/Sapphire on the GBA but since then, I think Nintendo haven’t produced a duo of Pokemon games with one version sounding better than the other.

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Colour! This was a huge deal back on release.

Fast forward to 2017 and I have just downloaded the digital re-release of the game from Nintendo’s 3DS e-shop service. Initially I’d been intending to pick up the re-release of Red/Blue that has been available for some time now but I’d completely forgotten that Gold/Silver had also been slated for a re-release so when I saw these little beauties were available…well, I HAD to skip a generation unfortunately because Johto was calling and I didn’t have enough shop credit for both. These games retail for £8.99 by the way which is expensive for a digital download of a retro game but I personally think that the price is extremely fair for the size and depth of the games. Don’t forget that original cartridges have shot up in value over the years and that it is depressingly easy to end up with a bootleg copy or a genuine cart with a dead battery that needs replacing. These 3DS downloads bypass all of that and are so convenient. The 3DS’ rubbish battery life also does a great job of emulating the Gameboy Colour gobbling up those AA batteries!

Understandably, I was a little dubious about returning to one of my all-time favourite games in case I’d been looking back through rose-tinted specs all of these years. Thankfully this wasn’t the case and I am happy to say that I am utterly in love with this game all over again. Going so far backwards in a series that has evolved (get it?) so much over the years takes a bit of getting used to, mind. I’ve ploughed hundreds of hours into the GBA games and first generation of DS games (Diamond/Pearl) for example and so returning to a time where there were no passive Pokemon powers, no animated sprites, no weather effects and no many other things takes some getting used to. I keep expecting to be paralysed when hitting an electric type with a physical attack for instance. I imagine it would be even tougher for anybody who has played the DS remakes or the newer 3DS installments, doubly so if they are a younger gamer who only started playing Pokemon with the latest games.

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Night-time was another “wow” moment in 2001

Maybe I AM blinded by nostalgia but I personally prefer the older games like this. The more primitive sound effects and old-school sprites invoke a warm fuzziness inside – sights and sounds of a simpler time. I find a lot more charm in these things anyway (regardless of the reason) and also happen to enjoy the more stripped-back simplicity of the game with knocking over the game’s gyms, trashing the Elite Four and swiping as many different Pokemon as possible being your only objectives. Obviously there were a few new distractions added to the second generation of Pokemon games and a lot of these relied on the game’s in-built date/time facility which dictated when certain events such as the bug-catching contest would occur. Other nice touches included trainers calling you on the phone (with pretty terrible conversation it has to be said!), being able to use the radio and different Pokemon appearing depending on whether it was day or night. At the time, these additions were incredible despite how trivial they may seem today. I’ve not played any of the 3DS generations of the games so I imagine that there is so much to do in those versions but I’m in no rush to find out. My Pokemon obsession ended with Diamond so while I am interested in catching up, I would still rather go back to a more focused and ‘innocent’ period in the series’ life such as Silver Version.

My current play-through is going very well and I’ve found myself using Pokemon in my team that I would never have previously even considered such as Slowpoke, Exeggcute and Zubat (mostly all evolved and nicely levelled by now of course). Revisiting all of the old towns and hearing that fantastic 8-Bit music again has been a lovely experience so far but I’m only around halfway through what the game has to offer with one final Johto gym standing in my way. Catching Lugia is my first priority however but the initial attempt didn’t go very well! I completely forgot about how Lugia makes the battle so annoying with its ‘Recover’ move as well as how higher level monsters in these older games simply refuse to be captured, even when at the lowest HP point and hit with a status effect. All good fun though!

So would I recommend this download? Whole heartedly. As I said earlier, the price may look steep for a retro download but considering all that you avoid by not trying to buy a working, genuine original copy then it’s fantastic value and having the game on your 3DS memory card with all of your other stuff is just so convenient and perfect for taking on the move – in perfect keeping with the spirit of the original releases and their pocket nature. I really hope that they also offer Crystal at some point since the remixed storyline, introduction of Pokemon animations and other little tweaks made it an update worth playing through all over again way back when and I’d happily do the same again today. Make it happen Nintendo!.