Rundown (11/03-11/09) The Leaky Life For Me!

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Wherein I discuss the joys of leaks, the pursuit of immaculate quality-of-life features, the return of a magical journey, and the futility of numerical obsessions.

With Pokémon Sword and Shield right around the corner, people have been eagerly consuming the contents provided by leakers who snagged this game prematurely and revealed everything about these games before they come out.  It’s a trend that has followed the release of every mainline Pokémon game this past decade, and only got worse after they started doing international launches with X and Y.  Now, there are generally two mindsets to take when it comes to the matter of learning about these leaks.  To absolve oneself from any and all spoilers, and go into the games as blind as possible and wallow in the surprises it offers.  Or to do just the opposite, and gobble up every scrap of semi-reputable information as possible, and go into the game knowing the vast majority of its contents.  

I personally grew up playing through every Pokémon game with a detailed guide or map of some sort, and even for the more recent ones, I consult online walkthroughs to ensure that I am finding all the Pokémon in a route, all the TMs, and that I am not missing out on anything in my journey.  It is how I play these games, by consulting a large amount of information, and using it to enhance my experience. And when it came to pre-release information, I have literally never played through a Pokémon game without having an understanding of the entirety of its Pokedex and knowledge about many of its locations, facilities, and mechanics.  

I went through the first three generations with guides in tow, I checked on a daily basis leading up to the release of Diamond and Pearl, and I did the same for Black and White, only for to nearly be shut down in the process.  I perused… some place to get information on X and Y, NeoGaf for Sun and Moon, and with Sword and Shield right around the corner, I’ve been periodically poking at ResetEra for info on all new Pokémon.  I find the process, steady reveal, and introduction of Pokémon through blurry phone images to be charming and thrilling in its own way, but I do know that it is very pointless for me to be so invested in the games before launch.  Because once the games launch, everything will be posted, cataloged, and organized before I am even ready to play the game. Which will probably not be until around 11 AM on November 16th at the soonest.  

But setting aside the leaks and the like, The Pokémon Company is still inclined on revealing minor mechanical minutiae about Sword and Shield.  All of which is exciting, but I feel that these changes do a lot to demonstrate how Game Freak attempts to tackle perceived issues with the quality of life features of their games.  This list begins with how the ability to access one’s PC has been carried forward from Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, allowing players to swap out their team with ease.  A Name Rater will be added to every Pokémon Center, allowing players to change their Pokémon’s nicknames with ease, but not as much ease as going into the status screen for a Pokémon, pressing a button, and changing their nickname.

Nutritious drinks (protein, iron, carbos, etc.) will now be able to boost a Pokémon’s Effort Values to 252, after being previously capped at 100, which I guess is more intuitive and less time consuming than leaving Pokémon on Isle Evelup in Sun and Moon or grinding Super Training in X and Y.  Exp. Candies will be introduced as a means of quickly levelling up a single Pokémon, which are like Rare Candies, but they boost a Pokémon’s total experience points by a set amount rather than the amount needed for them to reach the next level.  While Egg Moves can now be transferred between Pokémon of the same species, meaning that if you bred a specific Pokémon with another to produce an offspring that inherited specific moves, you can now teach that move to any Pokémon of the same species.

I consider all of these positive changes, but looking over this list of features, I cannot help but find myself asking questions about these design decisions and why they seem to largely be half steps to implementing quality of life features that I’ve wanted from this series for the better half of a decade.  There is just so much needless busywork and so many needless complexities in Pokémon games, and while they are sometimes addressed, they are not really fixed.  I don’t know if this is a love of tradition or a lack of innovative thinking, but there are so many things that can be modernized and streamlined about Pokémon’s depth and detail.  Just ignore the traditions, rethink the entire process, and make it simple and easy to change every detail about a specific Pokémon, without needing to procure rare items like mints and bottle caps, assuming they are even in SwSh, selectively breed specific Pokémon, or visit a specific NPC.

Shifting gears for a moment, because I am going to be talking about Pokémon more than enough throughout the upcoming weeks, Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time has been relisted on digital storefronts following an abrupt delisting that a Bandai Namco representative claimed was simply an update that required the game to be temporarily removed from storefronts for about… 5 days.  A reason that makes absolutely no sense to me, as you don’t need to delist a game to update it, but whatever. Point is that the game is back on digital storefronts, and will hopefully stay there for the remainder of time… or at least until every major digital storefront is shut down, but I find that to be highly unlikely.  

With all of that preamble taken care of, I guess I can move onto the coolest happenings throughout the industry this week… except we are in the midst of the busy pre-holiday season, so the only major news is about hot upcoming games, and there is little to discuss there other than people being babies about Death Stranding’s review score aggregate not being a high enough number… yeah, I guess I can gab on about that for a little bit.

I love numbers.  Numbers are pure, straightforward, simple, and objective.  It would be great if everything and anything in this world could be simplified down to numbers, and I am personally planning to engage in a career that has me dealing with numbers all day, because accounting is really just organizing numbers in categories to allow people to make decisions.  And so they can pay the right amount on their taxes. However, despite just being a big heap of numbers, like anything digital, video games are also a form of interactive art, and art cannot be objectively measured or weighed. While technical performance, responsiveness, resolution, framerate, and assorted other variables can indeed be measured from an objective standpoint, game design and other related factors cannot.

Opinions, meanwhile, can be summarized on a scale of liking something of disliking it, and there can be qualitative assessments of the quality of… just about anything, based on one’s personal recollections, use, and experience.  However, everybody has a slightly different way of measuring the quality of something, they all follow different philosophies, rubics, and mentalities, resulting in a variety of opinions. Yet many people do not believe that this is how games should be reviewed, and have this vague idea of a game’s quality as being something factual and provable.  You often see these people fall back on aggregate review scores as a metric of a game’s quality, believing that a game is only truly good if it receives a 90 of higher on Metacritic, an arbitrary measurement that was likely informed by the American education system, where a 90 is the threshold for one to get an A, the highest grade there is. …Pluses and minuses do not matter nowadays.

These people are ravenously excited for select games, they want them to be as good as possible, and believe that their experience will be enhanced by knowing the game is of quality before playing it.  They have this burning desire to have some way of objectively telling themselves that the thing they were excited for is good, and lash out when someone dares to go against a reality they had already accepted as factual.  This is just classic fanaticism, it’s been a problem in the game industry since game reviews started assigning numbers, and is a trite tendency that is predominantly expressed by butthurt teenagers and ignorant dopes who feel the need to lambast others for interfering with their childish obsession of proving the value of something they like.

If you like a thing, then it’s good, and nobody can, or should, take that away from you.  You are a person, you have the right to an opinion, and if nobody else agrees with you, then it doesn’t goldarn matter.  Be yourself, love the things you love, mellow out a little more from time to time, and maybe work on your personality flaws if you are full of hate for social minorities.

Okay, I’m done for now.  Until next time, seeya.

Header image comes from a widely circulated aggregate of existing leaks, but I blurred it for those who wish to remain surprised.

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