The End of a Father / Son Tradition – Pokémon Sword and Shield

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The release of Pokémon Sword & Shield today, on the Nintendo Switch, marks an end of an era for my son Wyatt and I.

Pokémon Sword & Shield

We first started playing Pokémon games together with the release of Pokémon X & Y–he had to have been in kindergarten, although I’m thinking more first grade.–. Armed with our 3DS systems, we’d encourage and compete against each other while playing through our separate games. Spending evenings battling each other to see who had the strongest Pokémon. I’d like to say that I won most of those matches, but I’d be lying. Wyatt is one tough Pokémon Trainer to beat.

I’ve been playing the Pokémon games since the original Pokémon Red & Blue debuted in the United States in 1998–crazy to think that I’ve been playing the same series for over two decades!–. I have owned and put time into:

  • Pokémon Red
  • Pokémon Diamond
  • Pokémon Platinum
  • Pokémon Black
  • Pokémon Y
  • Pokémon Moon

Across all of those hours spent catching Pokémon, I somehow never managed to complete a single game. Playing with Wyatt gave me the competitive edge I needed to push through. Pokémon Y was my first Pokémon game to see through to the credits. I thank my son for the accomplishment of FINALLY finishing a Pokémon game. All I wanted to do was crush a little boy’s dreams by finishing the game first, typical dad stuff, right? (Wyatt won, btw.)

We moved on and battled through Pokémon Sun & Moon. At some point, hours upon hours into the game, I gave up. Wyatt went ahead and finished the game. He then completed the follow up, Pokémon Ultra Sun, by himself. We still battled in the evenings. Nothing like Pokémon fighting between a father and son.

Pokémon Sun & Moon

With the release of Pokémon Sword & Shield, Nintendo has shifted the main series from the 3DS to the Nintendo Switch. In our house, we have a single Nintendo Switch console. I think that it is silly to buy another system just for the privilege of being able to play a Pokémon game. I will miss the memories and competition between Wyatt, our Pokémon, and I. Never forgetting the lesson that:

Kids have a ton of more time to play video games than a working adult. Never compete against a kid when time is required, Bryan, you’ll lose!

Coming to the end here, I am reminded of how long I’ve been playing video games with Wyatt. How I only have 8 years left with him until he graduates from high school… I hope we continue to play games together in some fashion; I can’t wait to show and introduce him to more.

On My Radar – Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield Trailer

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I know a kid who is dying to get his hands on this game… but has to settle for Let’s Go, Pikachu in the meantime.

Time Well Spent: What I Loved About January

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Taking a cue from The Nerd Theist, who asked in his blog post today:

What did you LOVE about January?

I loved spending some alone time, last weekend, with my wife. We sent the boy to grandma’s house and booked a hotel room/celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. Had a great time:

  • Watching The Greatest Showman
  • Playing King Domino (I won!) and Carcassone ( I lost…)
  • Trying to figure out which Fast and the Furious movie was on TV (seriously, these movies blend at some point, but Tabitha and I love watching them together)
  • Doing absolutely nothing but simply being together

Our time away reminded me of our need, as a couple, for time just for the two of us. Time where we can celebrate being a couple.

Started playing Final Fantasy VI on the SNES Classic with Wyatt this past month. I have loved finding a new game that both of us can enjoy together–the game supports two players, who knew!–. His hot take on Final Fantasy VI:

This is just like Pokémon!

Lesson Learned: If you want to eventually play classic Japanese role playing games with your kids, start them out on Pokémon. 

What did you LOVE about January?

Yonder

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Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles opens with mystery. After years of being away from your island home, you are returning. Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, are all non-issues. As you sail near the island, your boat is struck by lightning. And then, a spirit named Aaerie appears…

“WHAT IS THAT!? That’s scary.” – Wyatt, age 8

You are then tasked with removing the Murk, the bad stuff, that has infected the land.

Cast onto the rocks of the island of Gemea, you wake up wet and cold. You venture forward, knowing you must head yonder.

Yonder excels at encouraging the player to keep moving forward. See that mountain over there? Let’s go explore it! The core exploration is fantastic, as the world feels alive and begging for adventure. Wyatt and I found ourselves tromping all over the place. Minutes would span into hours. And in a first for us, Yonder caused us to fight over who was playing. An achievement for developer Prideful Sloth.

We love running around and exploring. But we dislike the Pokémon collecting, lite farm simulator, and generic MMO quest system.

Nothing like Pokémon Collecting

To defeat the Murk, you, the player, need to collect Sprites. Think Pokémon-like creatures who enjoy playing hide-n-seek. Some Sprites are captured by simply finding them. Tag. You’re it! Other Sprites require small quests of appeasement, a “I’ll join your quest if you give me 5 wood”, sort of thing. The Sprites are cute. However, they do not add special powers or unique interactions to the game. I feel like this was a missed opportunity. As they exist, Sprites are content gatekeepers. Want to destroy the Murk in this area? Sorry, you need to collect 5 more Sprites.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Early in the game, you come across a farm with broken fences. You are immediately tasked with bringing the old place back to life. Once done, you discover that this is no farm but a ranch. A place to hold animals, who poop, a lot. Yonder allows the building of various animal pens by collecting materials. That’s about it. While I wasn’t expecting a Stardew Valley experience, Yonder left me wanting more.

The Compass is Broken

As Aaerie tasks you with clearing up the Murk, she gives you a Celestial Compass to give you your bearings. The compass shoots a beam of light to the quest giver for whichever quest you are on. The big problem, for Wyatt and I, is that the compass only points at the original quest giver. The compass does not update location based on where the player is in the quest. As it stands, the compass is a broken tool we’d love to see fixed.

Which leads me to talk about the quest system. The quest system comes across as padding or filler. There is nothing meaningful in having to collect x-amount of wood for an individual. Modern quest design has pushed past the “kill ten rats” mindset. Yonder tries to wrap this generic design around meaningful stories. For example, the one quest that sticks out to me is one where we helped a lady grow a beard. This required us to go to a specific pond at night. Collect a certain type of fish (Side Note: The fishing mechanic is spot on). Prepare the correct concoction, etc. A silly but unique quest. I wish more of the game’s quests were as memorable.

Wyatt’s Thoughts:

The Good

  • I like running around and exploring.
  • I like being friends with the animals.
  • It feels like playing a Link game with no monsters or weapons.

The Bad

  • The day and night cycle is too fast (but I think that’s their point).
  • I don’t understand the story or what is going on.

Bottom Line:

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles failed to grab Wyatt and I. This is not to say that the game is bad. Yonder is a good game that is perfect for playing with children in the room. For us though, we needed a reason to keep coming back. Depth to either the farming system or to collecting Sprites would have done this. If you are looking for a game to play with your family that encourages exploration, Yonder is the game for you. Prepare for many hours of walking, map reading, and feeding all the animals. As your in-game pockets fill with items collected, perhaps Yonder will grab you more than it did Wyatt and I.

wavesplinter2/5 – A beautiful game that lacks purpose.

Wave SplinterTitle: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Developer: Prideful Sloth
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $19.99

*Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles was reviewed using a code provided by developer Prideful Sloth.

Pokémon aren’t free

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Woke up the boy this morning.

 

“Hey Bulblasaur, it’s time to get up.”

“Venusaur, I choose yo….”

“No. That is not how this works.”

“What?”

“You’re a Pokémon, you can’t summon other Pokémon. You have to do what I say. You have to fight when I say.”

>Insert random combat move yelled by child here<

“Oh look, you are back in your Pokéball. It’s time for breakfast. Get up.”

>this went on a bit more<

Got me thinking about how Pokémon are slaves to their Trainer’s whims. With no free will to make their own way in the world. That is as deep as I get for this Tuesday. Go forth and catch’em all!

Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch Super Bowl LI Commericial

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The Nintendo Switch Super Bowl Commercial came out yesterday. Showcasing the new console’s strength, playing games with others. This is Nintendo bringing back the feels from the playground Pokémon games of youth as well as the Wii era. Cooperative play at its finest.

I can’t wait to:

  • Wake up and play Zelda in bed. My wife won’t mind…
  • Punch my kid in the living room. Virtually, of course.
  • Live out my western quick draw fantasies.
  • Dance?
  • Force neighborhood children to watch me and my son play a two player game of Mario Kart. Seriously, who needs more players crowding up the home TV.
  • Discover new/rich friends who each have their own Nintendo Switch.

Will you be making the Switch?