Like Choosing Your Favorite Child. My (Current) Top 5 JRPGs.

The Japanese Role-Playing Game genre is my go to for gaming. It might have something to do with my love for reading at a young age, or being slow paced enough for me not to fumble my controller. I just enjoy experiencing stories, learning each game’s combat rather it’s turned-based or in real time, and just losing myself (hopefully) in the world. I’m getting to the point in life where I can’t spend 60+ hours on one game anymore, but I try to find ways to tackle the many JRPGs that I haven’t finished as best as I can.

In 2020, Pix1001 and Craig Rathbone (Winst0lf) collaborated to bring us the Great JRPG Character Face-Off! This was an event to vote for our favorite characters from any JRPG. With thousands of options, it was fairly easy for me to decide which characters I enjoyed the most out of all the games that I’ve played. This year, they have up the ante and presented the Great JRPG Showdown. This was surprisingly easier than my character choices. There was still some heartache when choosing my top 5, but at the end of the day I feel confident in my response. So without further ado, here are my choices for the Great JRPG Showdown!


Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest Dragon Quest fan. The games are fun enough if you are in the mood for a classic JRPG and some can be an instant classic for some. At this point I have only played four games in the series being Dragon Quest 7, 9, 11, and of course Dragon Quest 8. I remember my brother borrowing this game from a friend and finding it difficult at some points. I would watch him and help him along the way as best as I could. One day I just decided to pick the controller up myself and finished the game before he did. 

I became captivated by the world and story that the game presents. There were lots of twists and turns that kept the adventure alive, and the intense fights that I faced kept pushing me to come up with new strategies. Dragon Quest VIII follows the protagonist and his group on a quest to defeat an evil court jester named Dhoulmagus. Dhoulmagus has put a curse upon the kingdom of Trodian, turning the king into a troll and the princess into a horse. The plot seems simple, but the heroes find themselves battling more than just a clown’s evil schemes.

I think that’s why I like this game so much. The fun but difficult enemies were fun to fight, the characters were memorable, and up to that point I had not played another game like it. Finishing this game may have been a turning point in my life since it was one of the most challenging games that I had finished (I didn’t have enough points in my courage stat). It pushed me to start looking at other “tough” games and start using my brain more than just running away from all of my problems. Video games were teaching me better life lessons than school ever did.

Tales of Symphonia

Of course I was going to include my favorite game of all time. Tales of Symphonia felt like a masterpiece when I played it for the first time in the mid 2000s. It was one of the first games I played that made me believe that video games were just as good at telling a story like books and film. 

Tales of Symphonia follows the journey of Lloyd Irving as he helps his friend, Colette, become the new Chosen of the world. You finish the journey in the first 10-15 hours, and then the real quest begins after that. What follows are great twists and revelations that most games fail to deliver since they are easy to see coming. I don’t want to spoil this 17 year old game for anyone who hasn’t played it. It goes on sale on Steam for like $5 often, so you have no excuse to play it (unless you don’t have a PC…)!

Persona 4 Golden

Persona 5 is a damn good game. If the Persona series wasn’t popular enough, the fifth entry brought it to the top. While I enjoyed the game and the joys of rebellion, my favorite Persona game will always be Persona 4 Golden

The thing I like the most about Persona 4 is the theme. Pursuing your true self. At a young age I struggled with my identity and how I wanted others to see me. I was a quiet, timid person who didn’t have a lot to say or things to really bring to the conversation (some things hardly change…). I used to hate being myself around people since it’s hard being a nerdy black guy in an area where you are either in a pretend gang or a good ‘ol southern child. I didn’t fit in anywhere except for the band room and my confidence stat was undeveloped. I’m not going to say Persona 4 changed things around for me, but it did start helping me understand that it is okay to be me if I’m true to myself. To this day, I know exactly who I am and what that means. I refuse to just blindly follow the same thing that the people around me believe, and instead choose to follow what I believe in my heart. I’m [REDIACT] and I am no longer afraid to be who I am.

Oh yeah. The whole mystery murder story is great. Yes Yosuke and Teddy can be annoying, but that’s life. Not everyone that you meet is going to be a respectable citizen with high morals. Both characters have good qualities about them, but you also have to acknowledge the flawed parts of their character. Let’s see what else. I did not guess who the murderer was the first time playing until the final hints. Everyday’s great at your Junes. I will murder anyone who tries to hurt Nanako again. Anyone.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

I am a recent fan of the Legend of Heroes games. I may be at the end of the Cold Steel Saga, but I already have the Sky trilogy ready to go and now the Crossbell games are officially coming this year and next. That is a lot of games to play, but I’m committed since this has been one of the best series I have ever played.

Trails of Cold Steel follows the trials of Class 7, a group of students at Thors Military Academy. While the main plot focuses on Rean Schwarzer, the whole cast of Class 7 have equal importance to the story and help make this series so great (and a pain to complete). Every character is important to the story even if it is just for backstory notes. Just when you think you are done with a side character in the first game, they magically come back in the final game and reveal they have been helping you in the background. It’s the type of character development that you like to see the main cast go through, but you see it for every character introduced. Sure it gets overbearing to try and remember each important main and side character you meet, but that is where the character notes section in your journal comes in handy.

Outside of that, the combat system is one of my favorites. You are able to fully maximize a character’s strengths using the game’s orbital system or challenge yourself and make them the opposite to what they are meant to be (kinda like the materia system from Final Fantasy 7 but fleshed out way more). My favorite characters and setups have to be Elliot, Emma, and Kurt. Elliot is designed to be a healer and support character. With his master quartz, he is able to restore more health using basic healing spells at a reduced cost. If you give him the right set up, You can fully restore anyone using the base level healing spell and reduce his delay time. Emma can use powerful spells and with the right setup, not only can she cast the most powerful magic at a reduced cost, but she can make them critical hits and restore her magic points with each hit. Kurt is my new favorite. He starts off with a master quartz that makes him deal critical damage for each attack he evades. If you find the right equipment to raise his evasion to 100%, you can send him to the front lines and let him deal well over 10,000 to anyone who tries to hit him. The system can be broken if you know how you want to develop your characters and that makes going into battles so much fun.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

There were a lot of games that I could have chosen as my number five pick. I ultimately decided to go with this game since it was the very first JRPG that I ever played. Some would call Super Mario RPG one of the greatest JRPGs right there next to Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. I am in the camp that it is not a game I go back to often, but it is a really good game. This was another game that I would watch my older brother play. I remember during some of the boss fights, we would select our attack and then run out of the room because we were scared our attack wouldn’t finish the boss (don’t do that there are reaction inputs). Out of all of the games on this list, this is the only game that I have never finished, but I have played it so many times that it feels weird to ever think about seeing the end.

The story is the same old Mario flair. Mario goes to beat up Bowser for kidnapping Princess Peach (Toadstool in this game), but is interrupted when a giant sword falls onto Bowser’s Castle. From there, Mario learns about the Smithy Gang, a bunch of weapon themed enemies that are trying to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. During the invasion, the Star Road is destroyed and seven stars fall onto the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s up to Mario and Co. to gather the stars so that people’s wishes can come true again and defeat the Smithy Gang from taking over. It is a story that fits in the Mario universe and sadly something unique that we will never see again.

Ok. I’m going to go ahead and say it and you can all hate me later. Geno is an overrated character. Besides looking “cool,” having cool attacks, and a cool blue cape, there is nothing interesting about the guy. He has no development. He is just a star warrior who takes the body of a doll and helps Mario so that he can repair the Star Road. That is all to his character and he gets replaced quickly by Bowser. I understand the cool factor about his character, but I don’t think he is worth all the praise people are willing to give him. That’s my opinion and if you want to fight about it, come find me on the streets.


And those are my choices for The Great JRPG Showdown. Thank you again to Pix1001 and Chris for hosting an awesome event! Tune in next time where at least one of my picks will be different.

Xenoblade Chronicles – 9 Years in the Backlog #MaybeInMarch

#MaybeInMarch is the second part to a two part collaboration hosted by Kim from Later Levels and Solarayo from Ace Asunder. Participants were asked to share their love for their backlog last month, and now this month to finish one of the oldest titles in your backlog. While I highlighted a different game in my first post, I choose a different game that has been in my backlog for quite some time.

If there was a game that I loved playing, but was terrible at the core mechanics of, it would be Xenoblade Chronicles. Xenoblade Chronicles was one of those games that I was excited to get back in the day that kept me hooked for months. The main draw that kept me playing, like others, was the massive open world that was fun to explore and discover every part of this giant world. For Wii standards, this was impressive at the time, and some might say that it still holds up to this day. But, if you read my title, this is my first time finishing the game since buying and playing it back in 2012. Why did it take me this long to finish such a great game if I was enjoying it so much?

For those who have not played, heard, or know what a Xenoblade is, allow me to explain. The world of Xenoblade Chronicles takes place on the bodies of two colossal giants; known as the Bionis and the Mechonis. The Bionis is home to different races; Homs (that represent normal humans), Nopons (cute ball-shaped creatures), and the High Entia (humans with angelic hair), while the Mechonis is home to machines, the Mechons. The people of the Bionis and Mechonis have been at war with each other with the people of the Bionis on the losing side of things. That’s before the hero Dunban started to take control of the battlefield wielding the mythical blade, the Monado. The Monado has the ability to destroy the Mechons unlike normal weapons which do little to them. With this OP weapon, the people of Bionis should start turning the tides right? Well it seems that the Monado is very picky about its wielder and leaves Dunban with a destroyed arm after he failed to control it’s power. A year later, a boy named Shulk spends his days researching the Monado in hopes of understanding it better so the next wielder can control it. After an Mechon attack on his home, Shulk learns that he can use the Monado without any negative side effects. Even better, he can now see glimpses into the future to avoid his and other’s deaths. This isn’t perfect since there are somethings out of his control (as he quickly finds out). Without spoiling much, Shulk and his best friend Reyn go on an adventure to defeat the Mechons with the Monado at hand. The plot doesn’t sound like much without going into spoiler territory, but once the adventure starts you understand the weight of the journey that they carry.

And that is about as much of the story I can tell you since most of the journey is a blur to me. There are a lot of things that I forgot happened since it has been so long since I played those parts. Just know that the destination is worth it since the story goes places that I wasn’t expecting and ended on a scope that I was not prepared for. The story, environment, and visuals (for Wii era) were so impressive that it really carried the game for me. If you like to explore and have enough quest to find items, defeat monsters, and deepen bonds with characters, then Xenoblade has it all for you.

There was something though that prevented me from enjoying this game from beginning to end in one setting that ultimately prevented me from finishing this game until now; the gameplay. Your game can look pretty and impressive all you want, but if the gameplay is not great, then the whole game falls apart. This is not me saying that the gameplay in Xenoblade is bad. It has one of my new favorite battle mechanics that is customizable to bring out the full potential of each character. The problem is understanding it.


So let’s go back in time to the year 2012. Roblox had been hacked, Windows 8 was terrorizing the nation, and a youngish nineteen year old Danames had just started playing Xenoblade Chronicles in his freezing apartment. The tutorial battle starts and…the characters are attacking on their own? Ok, auto attack is the primary way of fighting in this game, and if you want to use a fancy move (arte), you select them at the bottom. Ok, no problem at this point! Now the game is throwing terms at me like aggro, break, topple, positioning, ether, gems, and a cluster of different effects. This…didn’t feel like any JRPG that I was used to playing. It turns out, Xenoblade plays more akin to an MMO. You have to understand each character’s role and make the most of what they specialize in to make the most of them on the battlefield. Guess who had zero knowledge of MMOs back in 2012?

If you are familiar with MMO mechanics, or can perform the basic concept of reading the tutorial, then the battle system and character customization will not be an issue for you. I have come to learn that I used (and sometimes still) to get overwhelmed with so many mechanics to learn, memorize, and apply to in order to make the most of a character’s growth and specialties. It doesn’t help that the menus and details in Xenoblade is a lot to learn and wrap your head around in order to equip the right equipment to each person, the types of gems that will be beneficial to them, what artes you want to equip them with, and what team compositions would be the best for boss. I greatly underestimated the importance of ether until the last few dungeons, and I was beating myself up that I wasted a lot of potential for certain characters since I did a poor job of outfitting them properly.

The best example I have is Melia. I never used Melia when I first got her, because she was ether based and her abilities sounded really confusing to me at first, I just avoided using her. I never bothered to understand her utility since I was getting by just fine with Shulk, Sharla, and Reyn. It wasn’t until the fight against *Spoiler* at the Bionis Heart. This boss would spawn multiple enemies to buff it and it was hard to take them all out in a fast manner. This is when I learned that Melia has AOE attacks that could destroy them in one or two hits. The problem was, I never developed Melia to be that effective. I found a guide that helped me build her up and that’s when most things finally started to click. By the time I was done developing Melia for that fight, she became one of my most powerful characters since she would just buff everyone and then release powerful attacks that destroyed anything in her path. I felt bad that I never took the time in the past to really get to know how to use her since she would have been very useful in other battles.

This issue wasn’t exclusive to just Melia. For a long time I thought I had to keep Sharla in my party because she was the designated healer. The only problem with Sharla is that she sucks at everything else outside of healing. What’s worse is that after every arte she uses, her rifle will start to overheat, and you would have to cool it off before she could use her artes again. Its good to have her if you want a strong healer on your team, but Xenoblade does not make that a requirement if that is not how you want to format your team. Almost every character has a healing ability that they can use to keep them in the fight, or an ability that helps them stay alive. So, if you don’t want to have terrible Sharla on your team, you don’t need to depending on how good your team is. It took me until the final dungeon of the game to finally realize who the best character in the game it, Rikki. Memes aside, Rikki is stupid versatile with what you want him to do. He has the highest health stat in the game and that sets him up for the best support character in the game. The health stat would be tempting to make him a tank, but he needs all that health to slowly murder and help the people around him. Give him gems to increase his physical and ether defense and make him a priority ether user to use the strongest healing arte in the game as well as nasty ether attacks that have status aliments to them. My final team consisted of Shulk, Dunban, and Rikki since they would end battles so fast for me.


Sigh. As I’m writing this, I’m really upset that I ruined some of the experience of the game for myself. If I wasn’t so stubborn in the past to use guides and take the time to learn the game, I might have this one of my favorites games of all time. That is not saying that I found the entire journey free from some annoying issues. I am not one of the people who doesn’t dismisses a game entirely if the framerate isn’t consistent all the way through, but the framerate issues I had with the Wii version of Xenoblade made me rage so many times. The only time where the game would slow down because it couldn’t handle everything on screen was during battles. In the boss fight that I mentioned in the Bionis’ heart, the adds that would spawn in would make that battle miserable since things would happen, but you can’t react since different things are processing at different times and then you find yourself dead. The amount of times the framerate would screw me over in a game where your positioning is important drew me up the wall towards the endgame. I was waiting for my Wii to melt at any point either from trying to handle everything or the heat from my frustration would vaporize it. Ugh.

Also there are too many side quest in the game. I know the developers wanted you to explore this expansive world, but there are too many useless fetch or slaying quest that just gives you money as a reward. The Colony 6 side quest are fine since those actually build up to something, but when everyone has something for you to do, then you don’t really have anything that you want to do. Some of these quest can be fun, but a majority of them just feel like padding.

So that is pretty much my thoughts on Xenoblade Chronicles. I appreciate this game more now that I have finished it and learned how to play it effectively. I wasn’t planning on it, but I immediately started playing the definitive edition on Switch, which improves so many things for me. My eyes feel like they are no longer burning since the Wii visuals didn’t age well for me and the text felt small to read. The user interface feels so much better to navigate and read, and the updated graphics are fine to me. There are also small quality of life changes that improve the game from the base game. I’m only on Chapter 3, so if there is something stupid that the definitive edition did, I won’t know until I get there.

But that about wraps up my thoughts and time with Xenoblade Chronicles. I’m happy that I was able to finally cross this game off my backlog and get one step closer to completely finishing my Wii collection. Of course I would be interested in getting Xenoblade Chronicles 2 now when you can’t find a used physical copy anymore. I may cave and get the digital version, but with other games on my backlog right now, I can hold off purchasing it right now.

Again, thank you Kim and Solarayo for hosting this collaborating event!

Thanks for reading,

DanamesX

Collection Tale – Pokémon Colosseum + Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness

Welcome to Collection Tales! This is the series where I pull stuff from my shelves and talk about the history that I have with them.

Today’s post is a special one since this is a part of the Pokémon Creator’s Catch Collaboration that was organized by NekoJonez and features posts from 12 bloggers altogether. We all came together to write about the Pokémon series in our own special ways. Make sure check out the hub by clicking the link above or the image below that will take you to everyone’s post, and thank you to everyone who helped and contributed to the project.

For today’s Collection Tale, I wanted to look at one of my favorite games on the Nintendo GameCube, Pokémon Colosseum, and its sequel, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness.

While I have the most memories and nostalgia for Colosseum, I have played about half of Gale of Darkness to form an opinion. If I start rambling on and on about Colosseum more than XD, just know that it is the one that I’ve played the most.

I don’t remember exactly when we got Colosseum, but it wasn’t too long after it released on March 22, 2004 in the states. There were three factors that got me and my brothers excited about this game. One, we thought this would be close to a mainline game on a console. Around the time, people were wondering if we would ever see a mainline Pokémon game on the big screen. From the commercials that we were looking at, this seemed like a test run to see if it could work, or lead to a whole new separate series. The second factor was that it could also be an evolution to the Stadium games. A stadium is just a small colosseum if you think about it, so this new game could have been like those games with a story mode added to it. While those two predictions didn’t come true at the end, both games did a great job of giving players a great adventure on a smaller scale (on a bigger screen). 

The third factor was this commercial:

Credit: Japancommercials4U2 YouTube Channel

This commercial is silly and cring, but I remember it well. 

Onto what the games are about. Pokémon Colosseum followed a story where an evil organization, Team Snagem, is stealing Pokémon and turning them into fighting machines. They do this by closing their hearts and turning them into the equivalent of mindless animals. You play as Wes (or whatever you want to call him) as he breaks into Team Snagem’s hideout and steals a device known as the Snag Machine. With this machine, Wes can steal Shadow Pokémon from trainers before they can cause further harm. Assisting him is Rui, a strange girl who is able to identify Shadow Pokémon. Together you team up to solve the mysteries of the Shadow Pokémon and stop the people behind it.

The story is a little one-note, but it has interesting characters and a tone that is much darker than most games. The Orre region that the game takes place in is an almost barren wasteland where only the tough come to duke it out, which is the only thing to do. The Orre region features no wild Pokémon since it is not a place where Pokémon can be found normally in the wild (even though we’ve seen Pokémon exist in areas like this). People come here to participate in colosseum battles which are normal battles, just in a large arena. 

Gale of Darkness is a similar story but with a different cast. You play as a young kid who lives at a Pokémon research center in the Orre region. After hijinks occur, you are given a new snag machine to capture shadow Pokémon which have once again appeared and rescue the professor of the center. It is not nearly as mature as the original game, but it retains the same great gameplay and mechanics with a few new things. Since I haven’t finished the story and I honestly don’t remember much outside the main plot, I think of Gale of Darkness as an expansion to Colosseum and a look at the aftermath of the Shadow Pokémon incident. 

The Shadow Pokémon themselves are interesting because they look like normal Pokémon to most people. Shadow Pokémon will not hesitate to attack anyone rather you be another Pokémon or human. Snagging them from trainers is the only way to acquire them and get them off the streets. What’s stopping you from taking your opponent’s entire team? Morality, and the game won’t let you. To reverse the effects of the shadowing, you have to use the Pokémon in battle and reduce it’s darkness gauge. As you dwindle the gauge, the Shadow Pokémon will regain some moves that it forgot, and reveal some of its nature to the trainer. Once the gauge is empty, you will take it to a shrine blessed by Celebi to purify its heart. The Pokémon will then obtain all experience points it earned from battles, and may evolve if it can. Purifying all the shadow Pokémon becomes one of the end goals of the game since you can then grow your team and take on the different battle challenges in the game. Gale of Darkness changes the purification aspect a bit by allowing you to store Pokémon in special boxes that purify them over time. I would love to see the concept of Shadow Pokémon return in game in the future, but as of this writing, the last time we would see Shadow Pokémon would be in Pokémon GO.

The copy of Colosseum that I have is the original that I had from childhood. We didn’t preorder it, so it didn’t come with the download code for Jirachi. A quick ebay search will tell you how rare a copy of that is. My game still has the original case and manual that has been through a lot. Along with the game, we got the Official Nintendo Players Guide to the game. We were obsessed with guide books since we didn’t have the internet to magically solve all our problems (you young people will never know the struggle sometimes). I was lucky enough to find our copy of the book recently at my brother’s house. Unfortunately, he had stored it in a cardboard box in his outside shed (my inner librarian weeps), so I’m cautious about the potential of hidden mold. It has been out there for years though, and if it hasn’t been destroyed by the elements since, then there might be hope for it. 

It wasn’t until college that I got a copy of Gale of Darkness. For some reason, we never got it when it released and it flew under our radar since. I was able to find this copy at my local GameStop around the time they were cleaning out their GameCube inventory. I was lucky enough to only pay $13 USD for the game which is nowhere near how much you have to pay now for a copy. I ended up with two versions of the guide book thanks to my own stupidity. I had forgotten that I purchased the Prima guide and paid a good amount to get the Official Nintendo Players Guide. 

Now onto a story that I share with these games. I already mentioned that I’ve spent the most time with Colosseum, but maybe one day I will have stories to share about Gale of Darkness. I think Colosseum is one of the few games that I have played multiple times. That is mostly thanks to my younger brother who loved to see me play this game. He would request me to play this whenever I had the chance to play the GameCube, and he would watch along as I took on the different challenges in the game. I didn’t have a problem with it, since there are plenty of content to do in the game. One such thing was a Mt. Battle, a 100 battle gauntlet as you ascended up this mountain. The challenge takes a while since battles can start to get tedious after a while. What made the challenge worth it however is the prize at the end. If you manage to collect all the Shadow Pokémon and purify them, then you can get Ho-oh at the top of the mountain. This prize alone made us both want to complete it. After a while, we were able to reach the top of the mountain and defeat the last challenger. We made sure that all Pokémon had been captured and purified before we finished, but no Ho-oh showed up. After reviewing the guide book, we discovered that we had to do the Mt. Battle challenge in Battle mode. We had done it in the Story mode. It is safe to say that we never got the Ho-oh after discovering that.

To wrap things up, I highly recommend playing these games if you have the means. They are my favorite spinoffs of the series since it introduces this semi mature not found in most Pokémon games. The games were not afraid to show off one of the darker sides of the Pokémon universe and show one of the more sinister sides of things. If you have Pokémon Ruby or Sapphire, a Gameboy Advance, and a link cable to you can hook up to your GameCube, then you can have battles with your friends on the big screen. Why you would go through the trouble of doing that in this day and age is your business and I am not one to judge. You can also transfer Pokémon from Ruby/Sapphire to use in game and vice versa. I would love for them to bring the Orre region back for another adventure, or introduce a new small region facing their own shadow Pokémon incident. If we ever get a rerelease or another game in this spinoff, I highly recommend you to give them a try.

Once again, thank you to everyone who contributed to the Pokémon Creator’s Catch and make sure that you give the other articles and videos and read/view!

Pokémon Sun and Moon is Too Relaxing of a Vacation.

Today’s post is a special one since this is a part of the Pokémon Creator’s Catch Collaboration that was organized by NekoJonez and features posts from 12 bloggers altogether. We all came together to write about the Pokémon series in our own special ways. Make sure to check out the hub by clicking the link above, or the image below that will take you to everyone’s post, and thank you to everyone who helped and contributed to the project.

When I first heard about Pokémon Sun and Moon, I got excited. There is a certain level of joy that a new Pokémon generation brings. There are the new Pokémon to discover, the locale of the new region, and if the series will continue to give us hot professors (I will get there). Not only did Sun and Moon deliver on those aspects, the series gave birth to a new concept that would have changed the flow of the games if they had executed it properly. Sun and Moon would be the first games in the series to ditch traditional Pokémon gyms, and instead focus on trials. This was big news since the premise of a mainline Pokémon game was to defeat gym leaders to collect badges in order to become Pokémon Master. I liked the idea of this. I am always in favor when a long running series decides to change its core mechanics and try to do something new. Would this new mechanic change the way we view future entries in the series? Well….

I will come upfront and say it. I do not like Sun and Moon (and Ultra Sun and Moon as well). To me, playing it from beginning to end feels like an insult to anyone who has played a Pokémon game before. Before you say it, I will say it since I believe in it as well. Pokémon is not a game meant for people who have played it since Red and Blue. Pokémon is supposed to be an easy RPG marketed for kids, but has deep mechanics that older players can have fun playing them as well. Every time a new generation of the games come out, I always hear the complaints that the stories are not deep or dark enough for an older audience. That would be a dumb move for Game Freak to do since they want to appeal to a younger audience since they are a huge part of the target audience. As long as there are young people in the world, Game Freak will make the games appealing and accessible for them.

With that being said, if I was a small child who somehow played all the previous versions, even I would know that these games are just….boring. I think Game Freak went way overboard in dumbing down the challenge and activities that you can do in the game. Some of the decisions were not bad ones. They just lack a certain…oomp I guess to make this generation stand out. Game Freak took a big risk in changing up the formula, but felt cautious at the same time that new things feel half attempted.

So. I’m going to go over what I felt were the good and bad designs of these games. Some of the issues I have with the game may not sound bad to others, or just sound like a general complaint that I have with the game. We can all agree to disagree, so I hope my points sound valid enough to why I don’t like it.  

Region – Aloha (Good)

As a region, I think it is an excellent one to have. So far in the series we have regions where most places were connected to one another with one or two islands (five in Ruby/Sapphire if you include the Battle Frontier) floating out in the ocean. With Aloha, there are four main islands that have their own characteristics to them. I kinda wish there were more to the islands than just two to three towns and then areas that just happen to be trial areas. Let the islands speak for themselves and show what makes each of them different and unique from the others. Other than that, I love the tropical setting and themes that the islands set up for the region as a whole.

Starter Pokemon (Good)

There are always hit and misses when it comes to the starter Pokémon in each generation. I honestly believe the Sun and Moon have some of the best starters that everyone likes.

Rowlet

Forever S tier. Look at this dank boi! I may be biased since owls are my favorite animal, but look at this guy! The bowtie, the friendly eyes, the attitude of a potato! I love this little dude and it is a constant struggle between him and Bulbasaur as my top favorite. I wish his second form, Datrix, was more interesting. I’m not a fan of this design, but I see what they were going for. It’s a price to pay since Decidueye elevates it back up. A solid design of an archer and his wings that make it look like a cloak. Obviously, my favorite out of the starters.

Litten

Litten isn’t bad. Just a little fire cat that somehow reminds me of my own cats. There have been other cat Pokémon before Litten, so its inclusion doesn’t do much for me. Likewise, Torracat is just….meh. I like its little bell, but it looks more like an asshole cat. Incineroar….ok. I appreciate that it is not a fire/fighting type, but I think it would work better with its design. I like that it is a wrestler, but other than that, eh. It sorta comes out of nowhere in the evolution line, so it confuses me as to why the cat suddenly is a wrestler now. If Torracat had some type of design to hint as to where the evolution was going, then it would bother me so much.

Popplio

I know there are a lot of Popplio fans, but I am back and forth with this one. It doesn’t really do much for me. I would pick it over Litten since it feels more unique. Brionne has more personality I feel. Out of the other second forms, I think Brionne is the better one. I actually like Primarina’s design more than I thought I was. It’s a weird seal mermaid thing and I think the evolution line flows all the way through with this one. 

Your Character (Bad)

I know that your character is supposed to be a blank slate, but that stupid blank state infuriates me in this game. There are moments in the story where something serious is happening, and the camera shows your character with this big ol’ dumb smile on your face. I know that it is an unfair point to bring up, but all the other characters are capable of showing expressions, so don’t be lazy and not give it to the playable character. I do appreciate that this version allows you to customize your character from skin tone and clothing for the very first time.

Rival (Good)

Originally I thought Hau was one of the weakest rivals to have, but the good boy made me have a change of heart when I was looking more into his character. Hau is a good boy, but not rival material. I believe he was the first “not threatening” rival introduced in the series. He has determination to become a strong trainer like his grandpa, but he doesn’t try to outshine you throughout your journey. He’s just a happy sunshine boy that doesn’t let anything get him down, until you come along. I know it is just a fan theory for now, but a lot of people believe that you are the mean rival this time around. Your journey with Hau makes him have doubts in himself at different parts of the story, but he resolves to believe in himself and his Pokémon rather than seek out great power. It is almost like how in the first game Professor Oak tells your rival that the only reason you won is due to the trust you have in your Pokémon. Does this work in Hau’s favor? No since at the end of the day he is just a pushover like all the other trainers in this game.

Professor (Good)

I actually like Kukui for the type of person and researcher he is. For the first time, we see someone who is interested in the moves and power of Pokémon. Kind of an out there topic to study, but when you consider no one has been studying how destructive a Pokémon’s potential can be, then I can see why someone’s field of study might be so. I also know he’s research ties into one of the gimmicks in this game (more on that later), but it is still better than just “I research Pokémon” open-ended answer other professors have given.

Trails (Bad)

Ok. You can fight me on this. The trial system in Sun and Moon is boring, uninteresting, lazy, too simple, and does not feel as good as challenging a gym leader. 

When I heard about trials, I was thinking along the lines of older titles where you had to solve some type of puzzle in order to challenge the gym leader. Those felt like a test to see if you were ready/worthy of challenging the gym leader for the gym badge. These trails don’t feel challenging or rewarding when you beat them. Some trials require you to just go to reach a goal or complete a simple task. Afterwards, you have to fight a totem Pokémon, a normal Pokémon with higher stats than normal. Totem Pokémon can call in backup to help with the fight, but if you come prepared (which isn’t hard) then some of them feel like an annoying obstacle rather than a challenge. Here are the exciting challenges you can look forward to do:

Trail #1 (Normal): Find three Pokémon, beat them up, and then challenge the totem Pokémon, Gumshoos or Raticate.

Trail #2 (Water): Fish. Fight Wishiwashi. 

Trail #3 (Fire): Play “What’s different in picture number 2?” Fight Salazzle.

Trail #4 (Grass): Find items in the forest. Watch out for random Grass Pokémon. Fight Lurantis.

Trail #5 (Electric): Answer my riddles three. Fight Vikavolt.

Trail #6 (Ghost): Play a water down version of Pokémon Snap for about three minutes. Fight Mimikyu.

Trail #7 (Dragon) Walk up to a podium and fight Kommo-o. No challenge.

Sigh. Ultra Sun and Moon changes the challenges up just a little bit. Instead of fishing, you have to lead a group of Wishiwashi to their destination, but it is still a simple process. You can avoid all fights in the forest trial if you choose the right ingredient. The electric trial is changed completely to a puzzle where you have to connect Charjabugs. There is also a new trial exclusive to Ultra Sun and Moon where you have to go and beat all the trial leaders. It would be a fun challenge, if they put up a fight. The last trail leader doesn’t even fight you because they see how pointless it all was. Overall, Ahola’s challenges feel like a joke. I know the islands are supposed to be peaceful with not a lot of challenges going on, but they talk about making Aloha more than just a tourist site and a place where Pokémon trainers can test their might. I just can’t help but to feel that their peaceful lives makes them the weakest trainers compared to the other regions. Which is a shame because there are some really powerful trainers out there. 

Kahunas (Good and Bad)

In my opinion, these are the strongest trainers on the islands; which is why they are the kahunas. That being said, they don’t provide a real challenge even when they go “all-out.” Each kahuna acts as a final test on each island where you have to challenge them to a battle to complete the Grand Trial. They are essentially the Elite Four of Aloha and each have swagger to them. Unlike the trail leaders, you can see the experience that they carry and why they are leaders. Defeating them is the real trial of the island challenge, and beating them originally meant that you completed the trial. There is one thing that this generation did that I kinda appreciated.

Pokémon League (Good)

I may be going into spoiler territory with this next part. If you would like to experience this part of the game on your own, then skip this section.

While on your grocery list of island trials to do, you come across construction happening on Mt. Lanakila. Professor Kukui (of all people) explains that they are currently building the region’s first Pokémon League. Prior to the story, Aloha never had a Pokémon League due to just being a tourist destination. He desired to create the League to show the world that Aloha has amazing trainers and powerful moves. You get to see a new beginning for the region that you don’t really see in the other games, and for some reason that resonated with me. I will touch back on this point towards the end of this post.

Once you finish your journey, the Pokémon League completes its construction and is ready for its first challenger, you. You face off against the island’s Kahunas once more with the exception of Namu. After you defeat them, you go up against…Professor Kukui? They finally bring back an old idea from the original concept and have you face the Pokémon Professor as the “final” challenger. It is actually interesting to have this outcome, but you see it coming a mile away if you are paying attention. And like always, once you defeat him, you become the official Pokémon Champion of Aloha. Only this time, the game recognizes this fact. If you go back to the Pokémon League after becoming the champion, the Elite Four will challenge you to make sure their champion hasn’t gotten weak. After you defeat them, you get to sit on your throne and challenge whoever dares to try and take your title. The person you face off will be random, so you won’t be able to predict what team you will be facing off against. This mechanic is one thing that Sun and Moon got right. It always felt weird re-challenging the previous champion after you beat them the first time. You are the champion now, so why are they still there? This is a mechanic I would like to see them keep (they kinda did it for Sword and Shield) as it fits an annoying mechanic of the series.

“Evil Group” – Team Skull (Good and Bad)

Eh. As evil teams go, they are harmless. I do like their design and personas as they are a bunch of goofs and not trying to cause catastrophic damage and genocide using ancient Pokémon. Nah. These guys just have a bumping theme song and try to make a living. Visiting Po Town did make me feel sorry for the group, and you get to learn more of why they follow Guzma around. It makes for a nice redemption moment toward the endgame, but if I’m rating them as an organization as a whole, then they are pretty low on my list. If you are wondering who the real threat is, then just start the game and you can put two and two together.

New Pokémon and Gimmicks (Good and Bad)

Finally! I can stop talking about the “story” and focus on what other new things this generation bought with it. To save time since this post is already one of the longest I’ve ever done, I’m not going to go over every single new Pokémon. I will instead just talk about the 10 that stand out to me the most. They may not be my favorite out of the bunch, but they did get some reaction out of me.

 Charjabug

This was an interesting Pokémon that kinda dropped when it evolved into Vikavolt. I like the idea of people powering their devices with this weird bug that can store electricity. The Battery ability is also good to have with a team that specializes in Special Attacks.

Crabrawler

I hate this Glass Joe looking mofo. I had one in my first playthrough of the game thinking it would be amazing later on in the game, but then I learned how you can only evolve at a certain place late in the game and then I just gave up on it. It’s evolution Crabominable is not impressive to me either.

Wishiwashi

At first, I did not care for this Pokémon or its gimmick. After having one on my team in Ultra Sun, I can say that this Pokémon is a powerhouse. It’s ability Schooling brings tons of these little guys together to make one ferocious fish. This skyrockets Wishiwashi’s stats through the roof minus its HP and speed. The effect will remain as long as its HP remains above 25%. When it is low on HP, it will change forms back into its pathetic weak form. I like the risk and reward for this little powerhouse, and its shortcomings can be easily fixed with the right setup.

Toxapex

I had a mean Toxapex in my first playthrough. Just give it Toxic, Baneful Bunker, Venoshock, and Recover for a slow and painful death. You can substitute Toxic for another move that would help dealing with Steel and other Poison types.

Salazzle

I hate how this Pokémon looks and poses. Please make it stop.

Stufful/Beware

What a cute concept of a Pokémon. Everyone loves having a Stufful because it looks like a stuffed animal, so naturally, you would want to hug and cuddle it. Well Stufful either likes this or hates it, but it can’t hug you back with its little arms. So when it evolves into Bewear, it turns into a hugging killing machine. Beware over cuddling your stuffed animals. They might one day wish to return the favor.

Comfey

I get the whole theme of Comfey, but why? There are some designs that I look at and give a chuckle, but for some reason I feel like Comfey is just pushing the line of creative, lazy, and just doing something because it fits the region.

Sandygast/Palossand

Did I immediately seek this Pokémon when I first saw it? You betcha butt I did. This is one of those stupid designs that I love to bits. It is a haunted SANDCASTLE! It took real guts to create this Pokémon and think people would fall for it. Jokes on them, this is now one of my favorite Pokémon of all time.

Mimikyu

I like the story and lore behind Mimikyu. It does make me wonder though, do all Mimikyu wish to be adored by Pikachu? Surely one of them would like to be a Charizard since it is constantly popular. It might have been cool to see different variants who disguise themselves as other starter Pokémon.

Dhelmise

I would have used Dhelmise if I didn’t already have a Ghost/Grass Pokémon on my team. Ghost Pokémon have a lot of creative freedom to them since they can possess any object. The idea of spirits from ships that sank is haunting and makes you think why they didn’t appear on the wrecked ship in Ruby/Sapphire.

Legendary Pokémon (Bad)

Unpopular opinion. I don’t really care for the legendary Pokémon in this generation. With the exception of Lunala, they just seem bland to me. The Tapu Pokémon have a better connection to the region than Solgaleo and Lunala, but other than that have little interest to me.

Aloha Forms (Good and Bad)

This generation introduced a new concept that I’m surprised didn’t happen sooner, region variant forms of older Pokémon. Certain Pokémon who live in Aloha have different appearances and typings compared to their Kantonian forms. The game only sticks with Pokémon that come from the Kanto region, but expand a little bit more in Sword and Shield. I like this idea, but some designs felt they just did it because they had the idea for a while and went with it. Pokémon that benefit from this are Executor who looks like a coconut tree and turns into a Grass/Dragon type. Vulpix and Sandshrew turn into Ice types and gain an additional typing when they evolve. The weakest ones in my opinion are Rattata, Raticate, Diglett, Dugtrio, Meowth, Persion, Grimer, and Muk. I felt like they were given a silly design and nothing to really justify the cause of their change. The real travesty however is how dirty they did my mon Raichu. I like the idea of finally having a “surfing Pikachu,” and I’m happy they incorporated it into Raichu’s long tail. The design though…just…it’s not for me. I used it in my full playthrough of Sun, but the design kills me some days.

Ultra Beast (Meh)

The last type of Pokémon introduced are Ultra Beast, Pokémon from another dimension. I don’t know where the line of Pokémon and aliens are, but you can’t call something a Pokémon just because you don’t know what else they could be. The fact that you need special balls to catch them effectively means that they may be more than your common Pokémon roaming around. Some of them are good and can have crazy typings, but they mostly served as bonus “legendary” Pokémon to capture during the endgame.

Z-Moves (Bad)

Now to special gimmicks. X and Y introduced Mega Evolution and I for one liked that concept. How would Sun and Moon evolve on that concept? By not including Mega Evolution until the post game, and instead introduce a new McGuffin, Z-Moves. You see, when you complete a trial, instead of getting a shiny badge to show off, you instead get a Z-Crystal. Giving a Z-Crystal to a Pokémon lets it pull off a super move that has a ton of power behind it.

Here is my problem with Z-Crystals. Depending on the Pokémon you have holding it and the situation of the battle, the payoff to use the move isn’t worth it in most battles. Z-Moves can only be done once per battle by one Pokémon only. So if your whole team is holding a different Z-Crystal, only one of them can use it and the rest of your team could have had a better held item on them. Adding to that, the attack power and type of move (physical or special) of the Z-Move is dependent on the move that your Pokémon knows. It is hard for me to explain in simple words, but take the Normal type Z-Move, Breakneck Blitz, for example. As long as the Pokémon holding the Normal Z-Crystal has a Normal-type move, they can use Breakneck Blitz. Depending on the attack power and type of move that it is, it will have a different result of how much damage it will do. Z-Moves start with a power level of 100, and go up by 20 starting with the base move’s power of 60 (60 = 120, 70 = 140, 80 = 160, etc.) Going back to the damage calculations (I know math I’m sorry but this is important), if your Pokémon is better suited for Special Attacks and not Physical, then using a Physical Z-Move is almost pointless since you don’t benefit for using it at its greatest potential. Also if you don’t have any Power Points (PP) to use that move regularly, then you can’t use the Z-Move version of it. You need to have at least 1 PP of that base move to use the Z-Move. The Bulbapedia page that I used for reference for this part explains it all better, but it is much more of a read than I can explain.

With Mega Stones, you were losing the Pokémon benefitting from a better held item, but the payoff was better with the Pokémon’s stats increasing and potentially gaining a new type to turn the tides. Z-Moves are pointless if your team is strong enough to carry on their own with their current move set and appropriate held items to get through tough battles; which I already established that there aren’t that many challenging battles in this game. If Z-Moves gave you a stat boost after using the move, then I could see why it would be worth using more often. You can change some stat boost moves into a stat affecting Z-Move, but you would still need to have an appropriate base move to use it. It just got to a point where having access to a Z-Move felt pointless and not much of a game changer like Mega Evolution or even Gigamaxing in Sword and Shield.

S.O.S Mechanic (Good)

The last aspect of the game that I want to talk about is the S.O.S mechanic. Sun and Moon added another concept that I’m surprised it took them this long to come up with. If random encounters weren’t annoying enough already, wild Pokémon can now call for backup if they need help. This can successfully call another Pokémon from its family to come and help, or its pleas will be ignored. And yes, the Pokémon can do this as many times as it wants in a wild encounter. As annoying as this sounds, why do I like it? Two reasons. The first is that if you can keep the chain going, you have a better chance of finding a Pokémon with higher IVs or a hidden ability if you are that kind of player. This also increases the rate at which a shiny version may appear. The second reason is my favorite reason. There are certain Pokémon that only appear using this mechanic. Their encounter rate is low during these encounters, so you may be waiting around for a while. The payoff is worth it in my eyes. When I heard it was possible to obtain a Salamence on the first island using this mechanic below level 10, you know I spent over an hour trying to summon that S.O.B. I carried that Salamence throughout my entire journey mostly as a giant flex. There are other powerful Pokémon that you can get early if you have the patience to get through the process.

Final Thoughts

There are surprisingly some good things that I like about this generation. However, the negatives are pretty big to me, and that brings my overall rating of the game down. This game might have worked better for me if it was a spinoff game. You come to an island resort where you participate in these non-gym battles and get rewards for completing them. The “conflict” in the game also felt forced at some points and shows that no one is really evil in the end. My frustrations aside, some may like the change of pace a bit and the lower difficulty to just enjoy the Pokémon experience. If that is your M.O., go for it then. If I had to give these games some kind of rating, I would say that these games are a beach vacation with your over organized family/friends. Some people enjoy the beach. Its not for everyone, but those who like going to the beach are going to go to enjoy it. It’s when that one participant forces everyone to manage their fun at the beach so they can enjoy other “fun” activities that isn’t the beach. You want to relax and enjoy the beach, but you can’t because now you’re being dragged to laser tag where an eight-year old is having a birthday party. You go because you have to go, but instead of relaxing, you are now playing a mundane game of tag with a bunch of kids everywhere (who provide no challenge whatsoever). If you are looking for a relaxing vacation with new Pokémon and a whole region to explore, then this is a good trip to take. In my opinion, this is the weakest mainline Pokémon game in the series for having some good ideas, but not making them fun or engaging as other challenges.

Once again, thank you to everyone who contributed to the Pokémon Creator’s Catch and make sure that you give the other articles and videos and read/view!

Love Your Backlog 2021

Love Your Backlog month is back and it is slowly becoming one of my new favorite holidays. If you don’t know what this is, Kim from Later Levels and Genni from Ace Asunder created this event for all of us to celebrate the existence of our physical and digital mountain of joy. This event was created to celebrate something that is special to you and own it with pride. This is my second year participating in this event, and I wish I could say that I prepared for it. Well jokes on me, I kinda, sorta did when I decided to re-inventory my entire game collection last year. Being able to catalog all of my games all over again was an eye opening experience that helped me reconnect with some games that I completely forgot that I had, and some that I wonder why I have in the first place. Nevertheless, I cherish each game in my collection since I never thought I would have something like this in the past.

With the introductory paragraph out of the way now, I can start talking about my backlog! The pictures below shows how my collection grew from last year:

A whole new shelf had to be added last year. It’s kinda odd to see how it has exploded in what feels like a short time. I don’t want to spend a lot of time speculating how that happen, since this post would be even longer.

To also help visualize how much my collection has grown, I recreated my video game collection spreadsheet that I created back in 2015. This new version contains all of the games that me and Kat have currently in our physical and digital collection. This new version also fixes some issues that I had with the old spreadsheet (all of the different colors to start with). If you would like to view it, you can click the link above, the giant badge in this post, or the link on my homepage.

So, with all of my games recounted and accounted for, my new grand total of unfinished games is:

763

*Damn. I really wanted that 1000+ badge….

So. How did this happen? Last year I had reported that I only had 482 games in my backlog. How did I almost double that number!? I will answer that question towards the end of this post (the suspenseful hook!) For now, let’s answer some questions that Kim has prepared for us!

The effect that the 2020 apocalypse had on your backlog

Uh. I didn’t leave my house. Since I didn’t leave my house, I didn’t spend it all on eating out almost all the time. The result? I saved a bunch of money for gaming thanks to switching to isolation. The pandemic allowed me to save money and invest in a lot of things that I wanted. The biggest thing I was able to do was buy new components for my PC, so now I can play almost anything on PC comfortably. The sad thing is that I still haven’t touched most of my games on PC…

The oldest game in terms of release date

Um let’s see here….

Technically it would be Super Mario Bros 3, but my brother has that along with our Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games. In terms of what I currently have on the shelf, I think it is Super Mario 64, which is a shame because I don’t think I will finish it anytime soon. Not that I think it is a bad game, or its not for me, or I’ve seen my brother finish it a gazillion times, but because I don’t know if the cartridge works anymore. I think it does, but I haven’t checked in a while. *Edit: It does work!

A game you bought on day one, only to not play it

I surprisingly don’t do this a lot. The only exceptions is I buy it a day or week later and then don’t play it. I did found one game though that fits this bill, Persona 4 Golden on Steam. I remember being at my in-laws house when I heard the news that it got released on Steam. I immediately bought it after seeing the announcement since it was for only $15/$20 dollars, and have not touched it yet. I love that game, so playing it will happen soon.

The game which has spent the most time on your backlog

Oh boy. Here comes the hard question. The original purpose of my spreadsheet was to help me remember when I bought something. I like to think if I got this before starting college, then I’ve had it for a long time. With that, I’m going to nominate Yu Gi Oh! GX: Duel Academy. I would consider this my second favorite Yu Gi Oh! game, and it is one that I have not finished since it requires you to actually past test and be good at the game. I think with how simple this game is compared to the current ruleset, I might be able to reach King of Games now.

The most recent addition to your library

As of writing this, the last game that I bought was Fallout 76. It was during a Walmart purge I guess and they had tons of copies for just $15. We got two copies so Kat and I could share the wasteland shenanigans together.

The person responsible for adding the most entries to your backlog, due to their good recommendations

This is it! The answer you were all waiting for! If you have been waiting to find out why my backlog grew so much in a year, then I’m sorry that the answer is kinda anticlimactic. It goes back to my spreadsheet (where all bad decisions are made). I originally did not want to include Kat’s games in my collection, since there are some games that I’m just never going to play (I’m looking at you Neopets: The Darkest Faerie). But, there are some games that she has that we both want to play, but it just happens that she went out of her way to buy it and play it first. So, I changed my mind about not including her games as part of my collection. We both contribute to the shelves that might be worth a fortune down the road, so I will share in the burden of finishing it one day. Also blame my friend Eric for making me buy games on Steam that I’m never going to finish if I just keep playing Overwatch.

So that’s all I got. A special thanks to Kim and Genni for once again bringing this event back this year, and I will see you next month for part 2!

DanamesX