Blog Update: Admin & Anime

Oh hi there. I’ve been relatively quiet as of late, so thought I’d put together a quick post as to why, as well as noting some other projects! To keep y’all entertained whilst doing so, there’ll be anime GIFs throughout, so stick around, yeah? This isn’t gonna be a long one. Either way, there is anime, so, yeah! We’re all a fan of that right?


OK so firstly, to explain my recent reduced frequency of posting; a storm of different life stuff has been going on, from moving where I live, to starting a new work position, to, erm, managing to damage the keys on my laptop and therefore making typing tricky… However! The first two are more organised now, and the latter I have sorta-fixed (don’t ask). I’m back in a position where I have more opportunity to write!

Also, I have been playing quite a few games recently, and have a lot of material ready. Expect quite a few reviews soon, as well as more Let’s Chat, and even some more one-off articles. I’m keen to start doing more list articles as well, but one thing at a time and all that. With it being the time of year that it is, also expect themed pieces…

Another exciting prospect is that I have been setting up my video recording arrangement, to the point where I am prepared for video capture and streaming. For those intrigued, there are two methods in which I am doing this; when I am recording gameplay, or streaming solo on Switch or PlayStation, I have a set-up of the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition in combination with the OBS software. When I am playing multiplayer in party chat with friends on PlayStation, though – such as for Path of Exile at the moment – I go through the in-built Broadcast feature, as this is a straightforward way in which to get multiple voices into the stream.

This means I shall occasionally be online for you to follow along – predominantly the streams shall be through Twitch, and the bespoke videos on YouTube. My writing shall continue to happen here, with the videos as a complimentary channel of content that runs alongside. I have plans to stream the soon-to-be-released The Crown Tundra DLC for Pokémon Sword and Shield!

Those are the main topics I was planning to mention. Yet, I’m here now, so let’s discuss a couple other events going on. With new consoles on the way – I hope I can get a PS5 at launch! – there is going to be much to write, and I imagine a lot of this shall be done through Let’s Chat. I’m very excited for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and finding out more of the story at that point in the Zelda timeline; I have been avoiding much of the info released so far so that I go into that game as fresh as I can! Expect in-depth articles from me on potential story theories when that game is out.

I have many reviews planned, as I try to get through my backlog; finishing a game and then reviewing it is a process I find very satisfying for ticking a game off in my mind – perhaps that is just me, but maybe that is a feeling shared by others. Gotta get through that backlog, right? Also I shall continue my Film in 500 review series, which seems to have been well-received, and fit in anime too. So much great stuff!

Okay that’s enough rambling from me. I mean, I should get onto making headway with all these fun projects! I hope you have a wonderful day! See ya 🙂

Lost in Ideas: The Mystery Blogger Award

Here we are with another tag post! I am working on a few different articles at the moment but felt as though I needed a break of sorts from that rhythm, so this is a welcome opportunity for that. I was first tagged for this by Nora over at IT’S YOUR FAULT I’M NOT POPULAR!, so am going to respond to that; to Aizen_Kuro over at It’severythinganime, I also appreciate you mentioning me, but as this is already quite an extensive tag I thought I wouldn’t stack them up. Thank you to the two of you, and for those reading, go and view their blogs!

Right, then, here we go, time to find out more about, well, me? Here are the rules, as copied from the post I was tagged in:

The Rules

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  3. Mention Okoto Enigma, the creator of the award.
  4. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  5. Answer 5 questions from the nominee.
  6. Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers.
  7. Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
  8. Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including 1 weird or funny question.
  9. Share the link to your best post.

3 Things About Myself

Profession: People who read this site may not know that I am a graphic designer, so this seems a suitable place to mention it! I have a Degree in Design for Publishing and 2 years of experience in industry. My focus is on printed products such as magazines and books, which matches my personal trait of collecting physical media. The tangibility of beautiful printed products holds so much value to me, and being involved in creating in them supplies this to me as well.

Gaming: It may be clear I am a fan of gaming – considering this site! – but here is some trivia for you: all the way back in 2010, I took part in Britain’s Best Nintendo Gamer, where after qualifying locally, I got to the finals with 15 others. These were held in London, and Nintendo treated us very well on our trip there. The game for the finals was Goldeneye on the Wii, which hadn’t been released yet! I narrowly missed out on the final 4, placing 2nd in my match, but still, I won a year of free Nintendo first-party games, as well as a Super Mario Bros. DSi XL for winning at a Guitar Hero side tournament they had there! I also got to know some new fellow gamers, which was great.

Activity: I have done quite a bit of field archery in my time, and know my way around a bow! In games and other mediums, I am drawn to archery and those who wield a bow, so it seems right that I have done it myself. My focus was on recurve – I prefer this to certain modern bows with many extra devices such as weights. I am considering Green Arrow for future cosplay!

I’m not quite at this level…

My Answers

Following are my answers to the five questions asked; I have copied the questions from the post in which I was tagged:

I mentioned something I started doing thanks to anime. What about you? Have you ever took up on or tried something that you saw in anime?

I mean, I guess the clearest example would be when I got into Trading Card Games around the time that Yu-Gi-Oh! was ascending into stratospheric popularity. The anime and the card game were much more intrinsically tied together than, say, Pokémon, where the anime and the TCG were – to me – more separate from the success of the games. I played the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG from early on, eventually starting to go to a local club where I met new people who would become friends. I actually found quite a bit of success, winning promotional cards, sleeves, and more. I really enjoyed that, but did drop off around the time that XYZ was introduced – in my opinion, they started to over-complicate the game. I still collect the cards, but I don’t currently regularly go to a club as I used to.

Any general bad habits/a type of prejudice that you have when you’re first starting an anime series? Example: I am very picky about genre, thus I don’t start a series from *insert the genre you don’t like* unless I read very good things about it.

Hmm… Perhaps art style. I often find myself watching anime with detailed and soft aesthetics, such as Your Lie in April, with stunning use of colour that is not in-your-face. Other anime that have that perhaps more intense, flatter style can initially sway me away. I should be more open to watching them and seeing how they are in movement though, as perhaps I would enjoy them differently to how I reckon beforehand. A few examples are My Hero Academia, Kill la Kill, and Naruto – they’re not as high in my list of to-watch as, say, a show such as Violet Evergarden is, and the art style is part of that.

Any title that you think should exist in another form? Ex. a manga that needs an anime adaptation, an anime that needs a game adaptation etc.

Great question. I reckon a Kakegurui game could be awesome! They way that world is constructed, with the tiers of status, could make for a satisfying progression system as you try to survive your academic life, playing the different games that appear in the manga and learning more on each character. It could be a mix of visual novel and puzzle game, with these various matches to make your way through and a story that is constantly evolving as you do so. It’d also be a reason to get awesome new artwork of the characters!

What’s one character you think is greatly misunderstood by fandom or a series that is paid dust but it should change?

This isn’t so much for anime or directed at the fandom or series itself, but I found the way certain people reacted to Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2018 disconcerting. For the final game in the origin trilogy, Eidos Montreal and Square Enix made the choice to explore how the quest for answers Lara Croft is on is in some ways hurting her and the people around her, resulting in multiple points where she shows her vulnerabilities and flaws. I saw some people react to this in a disappointing way, as though she had to be constantly endearing and happy. In my opinion, the game handles itself very well and treats this aspect of itself with class. They did not have to delve into the character in this way, yet they did, and that should be applauded.

Lara Croft faces many challenges in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Something personal: what is one thing that you didn’t think would enjoy/it wasn’t your thing but out of utter boredom you took it up and enjoyed in the end? I’m sure quarantine life had us do otherwise unreasonable things.

To apply context again, this isn’t an idea I was against, but one I just hadn’t put enough into pursuing, and that is Discord. For years I have heard of people using it for chat and easier discussion with friends, especially for gaming, but for some reason I had just not gotten into it. However, during this year and the obstacles of contacting others it has brought, my friends and I tried it out. It has replaced much of my other social media since for keeping in touch with said friends, and allowed us all to converse in a more cohesive and satisfying way. The multiple chat channels, with an efficient combination of text, audio, and video, has been a personal revelation and helped to be a daily source of communication in a year where doing it face-to-face has been tough.

Bonus question: Terry Eagleton once said “Evil becomes sexy, when virtue becomes boring,” in a discussion on our fascination with evil characters. What are your thoughts on this? This isn’t easy to just answer under an award post and I intend it to be more of a conversation starter, or a new blog post idea that you may want to play around with.

This is a question I may indeed go into elsewhere in a separate article. It extends on from my point on Lara Croft; characters facing personal setbacks, and then learning and improving in those areas, can be very rewarding to view, endearing them to us for their determination to be better. For antagonists, they are there to be people with opposing ideals that we may not agree on, and so that conflict is built-in; therefore, they inhernetly have that space in which to change in a positive way, and when they do that they can be fascinating for the audience. I mean, take my favourite TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Angel and Spike are amazing examples of character development and redemption arcs.


Right, now time to nominate people! Seems plenty have been tagged already elsewhere, so I am not going to tag 10-20 here, so as not to repeat tags already done. Instead I am going to tag 5 people; if you are mentioned, don’t consider it an obligation, but a suggestion! My 5 questions for you all are then below.

Shoot the Rookie
Frostilyte
Wretched and Divine
Nepiki Gaming
Gray’s Otome Visual Novel Corner


Questions

  1. Is there a particular genre of game, anime, or otherwise that you previously did not have much experience with, but over recent times have found yourself discovering an enjoyment of?
  2. Have you ever considered getting into cosplay? If so, which character(s) do you reckon you would embody?
  3. Which is your favourite gaming-time snack and drink combo?
  4. Is there a particular game series you have never played that you plan to soon get into?
  5. If you could go on holiday with any fictional character, who would it be and where? You can choose the tone of holiday!

Best Post

Finally, for my best post, I am going to include a link to one I did on Celeste back in 2018, named: Celeste Tackles Anxiety in a Way Only Games Can. That is a game that is very special to me in how it handles certain mental health issues in a way that is interwoven into the gameplay itself, and has really helped me personally in tackling certain internal thoughts. Firstly, I recommend that you play the game, but then afterwards I would point you to read this, as it is an article that means a lot to me. It is awesome that Lena Raine – who did the music for Celeste – mentioned it on social media too, a wonderful moment for me!


Well, there you go, I hope you feel as if you know me a bit better! This was a fun one, and perhaps a great way to change up the format of writing. As aforementioned, I am working on several exciting articles that are on the way soon. I hope you have a brilliant day!

Five by Five: Give It A Light Novel Title

Well hi there! So, this is the first tag post I have done here on this site, after being kindly nominated by IT’S YOUR FAULT I’M NOT POPULAR! over on their entry for this; I’m going to be making up names for manga/anime/light novels in the format of the ridiculously long titles many light novels have!

As far as tags go, I quite enjoy this one, so am eager to get into it! From reading the post KS Blogs did, it appears that this was thought up by Shallow Dives in Anime. There you go, there’s a bunch of links for you to click, eh?

They’re not that bad, just have a read, yeah?

Before I attempt to be comedic (prepare yourselves), have a read over the rules and details, which I am going to copy/paste from the post I was tagged in:

The Rules

  1. Choose up to five anime, manga or visual novel series that have a short title
    • Light novels that have shorter titles (Date A Live for example) are also allowed.
  2. Give these series a new title based on those classic overly long Light Novels we love!
  3. If someone has already picked a series you wanted. It’s OK! Let’s see your own take on the title!
  4. Link back to the original post so I can read people’s suggestions, I’d love to read everyone’s ideas.
  5. Include Give it a Light Novel title in your tags so everyone including myself can find them all easily.
  6. Nominate around 1-6 bloggers.

Sorted. That’s the formalities done, so now onto my 5!


Kakegurui

School Gambling is Getting Out of Hand (Not Just Because of Physical Maiming)


Carole & Tuesday

Who Knew A Music Career On Mars Would Be So Tough?


Yuri!!! On Ice

It’s Difficult to Quit Skating When Your Role Model Turns Up Naked


Steins;Gate

How A Microwave Can Lead to Time Travel, Corporate Conspiracy, & Romance


Yu-Gi-Oh! (First Series) –

I Share My Body With A Pharoah; He’s Amazing At Card Games!


– Bonus Round: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s (I Just Have To Add This One… ) –

Card Games On Motorcycles


That was fun! Got me at least attempting to be funny, aha! Right, now I have to nominate others… *Drum Roll*

Extra Life
Pinkie’s Paradise
gamergal.exe

If you’re tagged, consider it a suggestion, not an obligation! Not gonna chase you up on it; this was a fun creative process though, so perhaps consider it.

Now, back to your regular programming; reviews, Let’s Chat, and more on the way soon!

Beyond the Hashtag: Pokémon Masters EX Update Pairs Style & Substance

Let’s get it out of the way: yes, the online hashtag for Pokémon Masters EX was a misjudgment (don’t make me write it down). However, if that is the main takeaway from this substantial update, it would be a great shame, as developers DeNA have brought a lot to the table here in terms of new content and mechanical refinements. It’s a fantastic way to mark the one year Anniversary of the game, and so for those who perhaps don’t know much about the update, and for those who do and would like to know my thoughts, I’m going to run through what has changed and how that affects the overall package. To read more of my thoughts on the game prior to this, then you can click here for my post on why Pokémon Masters is my favourite mobile game ever!

Firstly, whilst there are clear improvements to the game, it’s important to say that DeNA have not made drastic changes to the core 3-on-3 gameplay of Pokémon Masters that has been there since launch. You’re still choosing combinations of Sync Pairs to make a team to go into battle; much of the alterations have been to the surrounding framework of the game. This is to say that, if you were particularly fond of or against the gameplay of Pokémon Masters before this, the update won’t necessarily do much to alter that. However, if you perhaps thought that the game had potential not realised, this could be the time to jump back in.

Throughout this article, as I am going in-depth into some of the changes, I have included more videos than I do in some other articles to try and give you glimpses into the update. So, if intrigued, I recommend viewing them as you go along for extra clarity!

Right; one of the major changes is one that actually happened in the days leading up to the Anniversary, and whilst it may not be the change most prominent in the marketing, it is a very crucial one that directly affects how you play the game: the addition of Stamina. Every time you play certain matches (not all), it takes up part of your Stamina – this goes up to 999, and generally is taken in increments of 20 for each entry. Adding this in may seem at first to be a way to limit gameplay in the cynical way seen in many mobile games, and I am not going to say I am entirely in favour of a system that does have monetary transactions behind it. You get Stamina when you log in each day, and I have found I have plentiful amounts – but if you do run out, that is when the option to buy more intrudes.

On the other hand, I shall express my personal finding, which is that the addition of Stamina also has the opposite effect. See, arriving in tandem with it are Skip Tickets. These can be used to play out a battle instantly and automatically, sending you directly to the results screen. Your resources of Stamina are still used, but it allows you to cycle through the same battle multiple times at a faster pace. This gets you to rewards faster – and if this sounds as though it is short-cutting gameplay, then do not fret, as in order to be able to use a Skip Ticket on a battle you have to have not only completed it, but have finished with all 3 of your Sync Pairs not fainting; perhaps, you might say that you have to master (aha) the stage. In a way, the presence of Stamina provides a form of balance, making you more cautious about when and where you use your Stamina and Skip Tickets. The monetisation side is there, though, and again I shall emphasise that I do not welcome that.

An example of the new Stamina and Skip Ticket system in action is the recent New World Dilemma event that focused on Cynthia and Cyrus; by battling, you earned a currency that could be exchanged for rewards from a Prize Box (similar to the way the Scouts work for Sync Pairs), including unlocking further parts of the story. In this situation, the time investment of playing the same battle repeatedly to earn the currency is reduced significantly when you use Skip Tickets. It is a scenario that motivated me to play more of the game, because I knew that by using more of my Stamina and Skip Tickets I could get the prizes I am after without spending money.

With that context, now onto the additions for the Anniversary day itself. The reason why the game has EX added onto the name now – and that subsequent hashtag happened – is the new 6 EX Sync Pairs; previously, Sync Pairs each had a star rating from 1 to 5, but now particular pairs can go to the new 6 EX and get new outfits with that. The first Sync Pairs to get 6 EX are the following Kanto trainers and their Pokémon: 6 EX Sygna Suit Leaf & Venusaur, Red & Charizard, and Blue & Blastoise, all being capable of Mega Evolution (only Mega Charizard X for this, not Mega Charizard Y). New Sync Moves, with more power and new animations, arrive with them. The visual spectacle is fantastic, and I hope more new 6 EX and/or Sygna Suit designs continue to be rolled out in the future. I mean, we recently got to witness Sygna Suit Cynthia & Kommo-O. That hair! Seeing these new appearances and lore continues the way that Pokémon Masters excels at building on the Pokémon franchise.

Furthermore, to continue the Kanto theme, a brand new feature – one that gets a comparable screen space to the Main Story in the Explore menu – is the Champion Stadium. This is an area where you face the Indigo Elite Four and Champion: Lorelei, Bruno, Agatha, Lance, and Blue. From battle to battle, you are required to use different Sync Pairs. Careful consideration of the type dynamics is crucial, especially on the Hard difficulty; on Normal, I found working through the battles relatively straightforward, but on Hard preparing the right team is a puzzle in of itself. It’s great to see the challenge being supplied for players, as well as rewards for different skill levels. This is a mode that is going to be added to, with the appearances of the Pokémon League from different regions, an exciting prospect that provides longevity for the future.

Perhaps less prominent in the marketing is another new feature, Type Skills. These are new abilities that can be activated when your team of Sync Pairs is made up of Pairs of the same type, another new way to tailor your approach. It coincides with the way that DeNA have altered the Training Area, too. As well as the options that were there previously, such as the Level-Up area, there are new battles for getting items for unlocking Level Caps – which now go up to 125 – and the Type Skill of Sync Pairs. The Training Area is comprehensive, and a reliable way to get the items you need for your next personal target without needing to spend money on the game. Be prepared though, as these aren’t easy to complete!

At the moment, there are multiple ongoing events in Pokémon Masters EX, including the latest one, the Grass-, Fire-, and Water-Type Egg Event where you can hatch Kanto starters Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. As well as this, the Training with Legends event offers up resources you can trade for other items, in a similar vein to the New World Dilemma event – it’s a Skip Ticket candidate! How about the immediate future, you ask? On September 9th, the new Family Ties story event arrives, revolving around characters from Alola: Lillie, Lusamine, and Gladion. The idea of them having to improve their co-operation as a team of Sync Pairs works wonderfully with their stories in Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon. My prediction is that there shall soon be news of 6 EX Sygna Suit Lillie & Clefairy to go with this, considering the event and their appearance in the new cinematic trailer for Pokémon Masters EX (see the video near the end of this post).

The variety of new features and refinements have an impressive balance of style and substance; there are the visual wows of the new outfits and Sync Moves, as well as an under-riding improvement to the game on a mechanical level with the Stamina/Skip Ticket system and other new features such as Type Skills. If one side or the other was not present, this could have been an underwhelming update, but as a combo it produces a cohesive overhaul that maintains the core appeal of the game. Key to success is that they keep up this frequency and quality of update; going on recent evidence, that is going to happen!

For me, there are no glaring weaknesses in the game or a particular area that needs more focus. As far as I am concerned, DeNA should put their attention on that which they are getting right, without falling into the trap of drifting towards the realm where some mobile games feel as though they are pressuring you into spending money.

I am confident that there is a bright future for Pokémon Masters EX, as the people behind it seem to be aware of why the game works so well. Playing with the Pokémon continuity is so fun – the game consistently makes me smile. DeNA seem to be leaning into this with the way the Champion Stadium is set up, the increasing frequency of 6 EX Sygna Suit designs, and the story content; the recent New World Dilemma and Summer Superstars events contained new lore on characters and new Sygna Suit and Seasonal designs. It’s great to see a developer responding to feedback in this way – consider me very excited about future possibilities.

There is so much potential for the avenues Pokémon Masters EX can go. The gameplay is reliably enjoyable, and the pace at which the game is adding to the foundations that have been built is very impressive. New updates have a distinct creativity and energy that have me excited to log into the game each day. The game, and the Anniversary update, are in my opinion a clear success!

Do you play Pokémon Masters? What do you make of the changes and additions? Who would you be most excited to see a Sygna Suit for? Whoever thought up the idea of creating costumes inspired by Pokémon is a genius. As for me, I’m going back to that 6 EX Sygna Suit Leaf Sync Pair Scout!

Seriously, though. That hashtag. How does that even happen?

My Ever-Changing Opinion on Trophies

I like collecting; both in reality, and in games, it gives me satisfaction, whether it be my physical library of games or my vinyl collection. So, platform-spanning systems such as Achievements or Trophies very much play into that; yet, it’s always a fascinating balance of whether I feel as though I’m going after them for fun, or for the acquisition of them itself – in which case, though, is the acquisition the fun? It’s a debate I continue to have internally, and a subject that has been discussed in a variety of ways elsewhere since their introduction approximately two generations ago, starting in the Xbox ecosystem. In this article, I am going to run through why my opinion on the topic is in such regular flux. At points the journey for them is incredibly rewarding, however at others it can be hollow and make me consider my priorities while gaming.

Why am I writing this now? Well, my recent ventures through the Resident Evil series – across both Switch and PlayStation 4 – have made me approach this with a new comparative perspective. Because of how Switch has no platform-cohesive Achievement-style system, but PS4 does, in the form of Trophies, I’ve inadvertently created a side-by-side test of how my play is affected in the series in those two different circumstances. On Switch, I made my way through the two Revelations games, focused on completing the campaigns, and where there were additional challenges to complete that I felt compelled to tackle, I went for them – for example, the awesome arcade-y, score-based Raid Modes. On the other hand, on PS4 I have had a great experience with Resident Evil 2 and 3 (the remakes), Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5, and Resident Evil 6 (I have also started Resident Evil 0), with the awareness of Trophies always being there in the back of my mind. I’m not here to directly criticise either of the set-ups or platforms, but more to run through my thoughts on the two ways of going about it.


The Case For

Perhaps a significant reason why I am so into Trophies (I’m going to refer to Trophies in the service of conciseness, but be aware that I mean the overall concept of platform-spanning reward systems) is that they can act as a flag in the ground signifying the games you yourself personally really connect to. It’s tempting, but I soon realised that trying to go for all the Trophies in every game just isn’t a reasonable expectation; so, instead, I identify the games that I form a strong affinity for, and then set about getting that 100% and/or Platinum Trophy as an extension of my enjoyment of the game. Then, when other players scroll through my Trophy list, they can see those games and identify them as ones I regard very highly. It’s a way of giving back to the game, too.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20th Anniversary Celebration on PS4 has a comprehensive Trophy list

An example is the modern Tomb Raider trilogy, amazing games with a wondrous sense of exploration that very much cater to my tastes. It takes considerable time to achieve the Platinum in those three entries; I have got the Platinum for the second and third games so far. Those games reward you for revisiting areas and taking your time finding all the secrets, which pairs so, so well with the nature of Trophies – there are specific ones for the story, collectibles, play styles, additional modes, and more. The Platinum for Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20th Anniversary Celebration is one I decided to go for in the run-up to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and I am really proud of achieving that. In this case, my motivation and subsequent prize for taking Trophies into account was intrinsically linked to how the game itself was suited to that process.

Along that vein, the way Trophies act as a barometer for you to compare and compete against your friends is great, and it is fun to scroll through the profiles of my friends and see which games they have played, and which they have the most Trophies in, as well as seeing how I stack up against them. It’s a friendly sort of competition that actively encourages you to try more games, encouraging discussion on the subject and getting more word out there about more games. Multiple times in PS4 party voice chat I have had fun conversations about our Trophy progress, the different games we have progression on and how we went about them. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is a recent example, and adds an extra competitive element to a game without much depth of modes; Trophies are a feature in themselves. Furthermore, Resident Evil 3, my current Game of the Year, has a fantastic Trophy list which did this, and had a friend and I talking about the different tactics we were using.

That latter game is a brilliant example of how Trophy lists provide alternate challenges, leading to you finding joy from playing the game in different ways. Beyond the Trophies for completing the game on different difficulty settings, there are also ones for finishing the game without using the item box, in a certain amount of time, and more, altering my play style in repeat playthroughs and giving me new insights into details of the game. As a series, I have found that Resident Evil is consistently creative with the Trophy lists, often supplying these unique challenges for the player; completing the games without healing items, for example, is a frequent one that appears and makes you be more cautious.

Encouraging exploration and experimentation of gameplay works well when there are many possibilities, too, such as in scenarios with multiple different endings. Then, Trophies can act as additional incentive to see them all. I mean, Catherine: Full Body, which I have been playing – I’m now onto my second run – literally has a Trophy named “I’ve Seen It All” for viewing all the differing resolutions. Combined with the absorbing characters, I am very invested in following the various routes. Games that manage to smartly interweave Trophies into already-engrossing gameplay can give themselves more longevity, actively improving them as an overall package.

In that sense, after experiencing Trophies done so well in games such as Resident Evil 3, it does cause me to imagine the positive influence they could have on games on consoles that at this point do not have them. Let’s use Animal Crossing: New Horizons as an example: there could be rewards for various approaches to island design and the successful realisation of them, perhaps nudging people into trying styles they otherwise may not. There are already in-game trackers that reward you with Nook Miles, so how about if these were developed further within the framework of a Switch Achievement-style system? Or, is it maybe better as it is, not having them?


The Case Against

It’s a delicate task to achieve a harmony of game and Trophy list that compliment each other. My experience is that it can easily go the other way, where the additional routes opened up by Trophies can be a distracting aspect; I have previously fallen into the trap of spending more time with a game than I maybe should have. I’ll be clear: my personal traits affect this, as my collector side can veer into a habit of unlocking more and more in a game once I have started it. Despite perhaps not particularly enjoying a game, the idea of leaving it at a low percentage on my profile does affect me and puts me off the idea of immediately going towards a different game I may have a better time with. This isn’t really the fault of the concept of Trophies, but a documentation of how my mind can react to them. Due to this overplaying, there have been cases where Trophies have been an unwelcome distraction. I have evolved my mindset on this though, with my aforementioned renewed focus on going for Trophies in the games I find myself really connecting to.

Firewatch entices exploration with a rural park setting, but has no Platinum?!

Another way Trophies can actively harm my time with a game is when the lists aren’t well designed. For starters, games that don’t have Platinum Trophies, such as Firewatch and What Remains of Edith Finch, lack that glorious, resounding moment when the Platinum is unlocked. I don’t really understand why they are omitted in cases such as these – it seems a missed opportunity, and these are games that justify having that final reward. Further to this, on occasion a Trophy list can be over-designed and make playing more of the game seem more daunting than it may otherwise have. The Uncharted series is one that does this; after my first playthroughs, I tended to be around the 20-25% completion mark, and it left me with an underwhelming emotion. It’s far enough away that it puts me off working on collecting the rest, instead of making me feel as though I could press on and go for the Platinum. In contrast, when I play on Switch, much of this consideration fades away, leaving me to form an opinion on the game for the game itself, without an eye on the way it integrates into the platform.

That can be very freeing, taking away that layer of integration that crosses from the game to the console and/or platform. I’m not saying that Trophies have been a make or break feature for me when reviewing a game, but them not being there does – in a refreshing fashion – leave it solely up to the game to provide the entertainment, from which I decide how much of the game I play. So on Switch, for Resident Evil: Revelations and the sequel, Revelations 2, there is a separate sort of clarity about my continued playing that feels distinctly different to when I played other entries on PS4; in a slightly changed way, I am acutely aware of my investment in the characters, the story, and the gameplay. In addition, it is at the fore when I finish the campaigns and try, say, those Raid Modes present in each where, again, it is clear I am not playing them for the requirements of a Trophy list, but because I am having a brilliant time and the in-game rewards are there.

I mean, there are more pressing issues than Trophies

Again, I shall put emphasis on how this isn’t a criticism of Trophies, but a commentary of how my mind interacts with the presence of them. There are occasions where I wonder about how great they could be on other platforms; you could imagine that Nintendo would find an ingenious spin on them, too. Would I have played even more of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild if there were profile awards for, say, completing all the Shrines? Similarly, would I be more compelled to try all the different routes of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, or to go back and get all the collectibles in Paper Mario: The Origami King? It is possible. Nintendo has been superb at in-game progression – take the plethora of unlockables in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – but so far have not rolled out a system across a platform, and I am not sure if they ever will.


Right then, to wrap this up (it sorta became an accidental essay, didn’t it?), I am going to try and summarise my thoughts. This article has been a way of me putting the thoughts that run through my mind on the subject of Trophies down into words, and I appreciate you spending the time to follow them. Writing this has emphasised to me that it isn’t an incorrect avenue to either include Trophies or not – when they are there, though, the way different games go about implementing them makes a considerable difference to whether their implementation has a positive or negative effect. I have put down some examples for this in the article, but to go back to the Resident Evil case study, it is a series that excels at having plentiful challenges to give the games longevity, both in the game and in the Trophy lists. It is a series that other developers could do well to examine when going about their own lists.

As a person with the collecting spirit, Trophies have inherent appeal to me and shall continue to do so. However, it is crucial to not let them override the reason for playing the games in the first place; it shouldn’t become a compromise, where you are going for them at the expense of the game or vice versa. They certainly can improve the experience, and in that sense, maybe those who have resisted the addition of them, most notably Nintendo, should create their own system as there is potential. Either way, I am okay with the two differing directions, as the game is the priority. At the end of the day, it’s important to not let false perceptions of the reason you are doing an activity – be it gaming, or another part of your life – to get in the way of the reason you are there in the first place. In this case, that’s because games are, well, really awesome, aren’t they? That gratification of a Trophy being unlocked is the cherry on top.

Apply Respect and Reason to the Gaming Hype Cycle

The announcement of the Indie World presentation for Nintendo Switch (airing at 5pm UK time today, Tuesday 18th) and some of the discussion around it, has made me want to put down in words how I hope we can be more reasonable about the expectations we have of game companies. So bear with me for this – people reading this may well not be the ones making harsh demands online, but it is a message I would like to put out there into the world. Additionally, I’m not going to be calling people out or giving individual examples, as I think that just stokes more conflict and gives oxygen to negative thoughts.


It’s been a very unsettling year, and for many of us, various forms of entertainment have been an escape from that. What I am saying is that I realise we’re all yearning for that familiar structure of how we go about our lives, and in the specific gaming sense, for that cycle of hype reveal to game release. With no E3 this year, that fell apart, and led to companies going their own separate ways on how they revealed news about their games, additionally compounded by them being spaced out. I’m there with you; the lack of the closely-packed E3 presentations was keenly felt. Yet, we have to appreciate that we did get reveals, and it has been a great effort from the companies to give us moments such as the reveals of Horizon Forbidden West and Fable for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X respectively. It has been noticeable, though, that Nintendo has been rather quiet.

They have made announcements, for sure; but the format in which they have happened have been markedly different from the way Nintendo has revealed new games in recent years. Paper Mario: The Origami King was suddenly announced via an online press release, with a trailer that – to me – seemed to be ripped out of an E3 video presentation, and we have recently been informed about the upcoming Pikmin 3 Deluxe through the same method. There has been a Nintendo Direct Mini, a Nintendo Treehouse Live, but no production of the style you would have – in that pre-COVID-19 world – expected from them around June-time this year. Of course, this is understandable, as a company as secretive and traditional as Nintendo would, you imagine, be facing many obstacles in this new world of working-from-home and compromised manufacturing processes. It is understandable, yet, the demands and criticism I see online about getting those game announcements are, at times, far from considerate to the situation.

So here is my request. Today, Tuesday 18th, there is an Indie World broadcast. No, it isn’t a Nintendo Direct, and there isn’t going to be news about Metroid Prime 4 or the sequel to Breath of the Wild. That may seem an obvious statement, but from comments I see online about events such as this, some people don’t seem to comprehend the context around the differing video presentations Nintendo puts out. However, there will be news about a bunch of independently-developed games, and I am confident there is going to be several in there that I – and you – are going to be excited about. These are probably going to have development teams with less people than games from, say, Ubisoft or EA, creating awesome, creative pieces of interactive art for you to play and get enjoyment from. Realise that, respect that, and bring an open mind, knowing that those first-party games you’re excited for reveals about? They’re almost certainly going to arrive, but in the meantime there are even more games to surprise you.

Yes, it’s a business, but it’s a business of joyous interactive experiences, and let’s all just be more considerate of the people that are behind it. Shouting about not getting that first-party reveal you’re excited about, and angrily exclaiming about it not having happened yet, isn’t productive and is a disservice to the content they are putting in front of you today. You’re allowed to be disappointed about the relative lack of currently-known upcoming Nintendo first-party games, but there is a way to express that that isn’t hurtful to others. It’s about managing expectations; an Indie World video is clearly not the place for those first-party games, but in contrast, it’ll let us know that when we do get a Nintendo Direct announcement, that is going to be the platform for those.

That is my hope! Also, to change track a bit, if you asked me for hopes for the Indies World itself? I would be excited to see more of CrisTales, which I enjoyed playing at EGX last year, and a surprise collaboration in the style of Cadence of Hyrule could be fun! A prediction I shall make is that my list of games to play is going to get even more extensive, haha!

My intention here is not to lecture, but just to offer my opinion on how the gaming community can be a more positive environment. Have a great day!

Xbox Games Showcase Hopes and Predictions!

July 23rd, 5PM BST is a crucial, crucial day and time for Microsoft and the Xbox Series X. After Sony recently gave us info on games such as Horizon Forbidden West, Marvel’s Spider Man: Miles Morales, and more, the PS5 has a very exciting line-up of future games. The Xbox Series X, meanwhile, does not have the same sort of line-up yet; however, with the Xbox Games Showcase that is being aired tomorrow (see here for more info), this could all change. A presentation focused on games is just what Xbox needs; exclusives have been an area of weakness for Xbox in recent years, and this is a great opportunity for Microsoft to really, ahem, showcase how that is changing.

With the event very close now, Ashley Harrison (of the Let’s Chat series!) and I have put together some predictions. We have each selected 6: 2 we expect, 2 we hope for, and 2 that are frankly ridiculous, for a combined total of 12. Keep reading for our picks!


EXPECTED

Halo: Infinite

Ashley Harrison: I’m going to start my predictions with an absolute banker in Halo Infinite, mostly because it’s already been confirmed to be shown at the Xbox Games Showcase, although even if it hadn’t then I’d have chosen it as one of my picks. We haven’t had a mainline Halo release since Halo 5: Guardians back in 2015, and since we know that Infinite is set to be a launch title for the upcoming Series X console, I’m expecting a full-blown reveal here including at least 10 minutes of pure gameplay. It’ll give time to show off exactly what Infinite is about and how it benefits from the new generation of consoles, whilst not overstaying its welcome. With it being a first party game, and arguably Xbox’s key franchise, I definitely expect this to get a bigger, longer showing than any other game at the Showcase. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get a November release date reveal, so we at least have some idea of when Microsoft will be launching the Series X console itself too. We’re really not that far away now if the console is releasing this year like stated; we’re almost into August.

Forza Motorsport 8

William Robinson: Whilst Xbox has had a rough time exclusive-wise this generation, especially compared to competitor consoles, Forza has remained a reliable, critically-acclaimed series throughout. The Forza games have maintained popularity through both quality and variety, and this is one of the few software areas where Xbox has overtaken the PlayStation equivalent in Gran Turismo; so, I imagine Microsoft are keen to make sure this is a battle they keep winning. In recent years, Forza has alternated between Motorsport and Horizon, which are branches of the series that lean towards racing and exploration respectively (there has also recently been a Forza Street game, too). If we go by that logic, then with the recent Horizon 4, the next game shall likely be Forza Motorsport 8. Console launches usually mean racing games showing off the visual prowess of the console, and well, Forza is a prime candidate for that. It can be tough to surprise people with a racing game, but I expect Forza to feature strongly in the Showcase, with new modes and features made possible by the power of Xbox Series X – and lots of very, very pretty cars.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II

Ashley Harrison: I actually didn’t know what to choose for my second expected game because honestly, having never been much of an Xbox player and instead a PlayStation one , I don’t keep huge tabs on what upcoming games are scheduled for release on Xbox. However, I do remember this being announced at The Game Awards alongside the Series X console design, and with it being a first-party release then I think it’s a pretty safe bet to assume it’ll likely be shown off. Developers Ninja Theory have already stated that the game is being developed to take full advantage of the power of the Series X, so since the game hasn’t been seen in about 7 months, it’ll be interesting to see how the game has developed since then and how exactly it is taking advantage of the console. Since it was also revealed using an in-engine cinematic trailer, I’d also like to see some actual gameplay this time around. It looked visually stunning (the lighting especially was on point) during the initial reveal, so I want to see how it looks whilst playing now.

The Ascent

William Robinson: Microsoft received criticism for their First Look Xbox Series X Gameplay video this year, and one reason why is that there was a lack of gameplay for the new reveals. One game that did have gameplay shown, though, was The Ascent, a promising cyberpunk action RPG (no, not that one) on the world of Veles amidst The Ascent Group; they are a mega corporation that shuts down, leaving their towering metropolis compromised. Under threat, you – and up to three other players in optional co-op – defend your district and discover the secrets of this mystery. Customisation and augmentation contribute to the cyberpunk setting and it generally seems to be on course to be an exciting console exclusive (for now it is only confirmed for Xbox and PC). The Swedish developer, Neon Giant, is made up of only 10 people, but they have experience working on game series such as Wolfenstein, Far Cry, and Gears of War. Surprise exclusives that get people talking are going to be important for Xbox, and this may well be one of those, so I expect to see more of it in the Showcase.


HOPEFUL

Fable 4

Ashley Harrison: It’s not exactly a secret that I’m a big RPG fan, so if there’s one thing that I’m hoping to see during the Xbox Showcase, it’s absolutely Fable 4. The last 2 Fable games, Heroes and The Journey, weren’t exactly the most well received of games, scoring Metacritic averages of 55 and 61 respectively. The most recent confirmed project in the series, Fable Legends, even got cancelled following the closure of developers Lionhead Studios. However, following a tease of Fable 4 by Phil Spencer during Xbox’s 2018 E3 showcase, I’m hoping to see a reveal of Fable 4 at this upcoming showcase, and hopefully gameplay for it too rather than just a cinematic trailer. Sony has undoubtedly smashed it out of the park when it comes to RPGs recently between the PS4 and Vita consoles, so Microsoft announcing Fable 4 could be the game reveal that helps sway my decision as to which next-generation console to buy.

Tomb Raider

William Robinson: The modern Tomb Raider trilogy has been a personal highlight of this generation, but with said origin trilogy now completed by Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2018, the question is: where does Lara Croft go next? More spin-offs such as the brilliant Lara Croft GO are possible, but it is doubtful to me that Square Enix would stop releasing mainline entries in the series. Microsoft revealed Rise of the Tomb Raider through their presentations at E3 and Gamescom in 2014 – it was even a timed exclusive for Xbox One – so there is precedent for this, though I doubt the next game would be an exclusive again. So, which direction could Tomb Raider be going? One option is to continue where the trilogy ends, as there is a tease of future adventures; I would be glad to see Camilla Luddington return in the role, as she is fantastic as the character. In terms of gameplay, my hope would be that they double down on the exploration of environments and the tombs within them, as this is so satisfying in the trilogy. The main plot could actually be less of a factor, with more emphasis on seeking out secrets in the world. Alternatively, they could press the rest button again, but that wouldn’t be my preference. I am greatly anticipating details on where the series is headed in the future!

Banjo-Threeie

Ashley Harrison: The 3D Platformer has seen a bit of a re-emergence recently with original games such as Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time, and of course the recent remasters of the classic Crash Bandicoot and Spyro PS1 trilogies. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear a “guh-huh” during the showcase, and the announcement of a new Banjo-Kazooie game as Microsoft looks to try and capitalise on the action. Fans have been clamouring for a new Banjo-Kazooie game in the same vein as the N64’s Kazooie and Tooie, so what better time than now to release a canonical third game called Banjo-Threeie? With the seemingly friendly partnership between Microsoft and Nintendo currently, they could also announce this as coming to Switch at the same time as Series X.

State of Decay 3

William Robinson: This one is a hopeful prediction in a specific way. Undead Labs, who developed the two previous State of Decay games, are one of the studios that Microsoft has purchased in recent years, and it is now known that they are working on the third State of Decay game. This is a game that seems to have so much potential, with the concept of building up your settlement and surviving the zombie apocalypse with your friends. However, holding it back is a general lack of polish, with glitches and a varying range of visual refinement. So, with two games now out there and the support that comes with being a first-party Microsoft developer, I hope that the third game can be a step up. This, combined with a deep narrative, could really capture the attention of both myself and others – and this upcoming Showcase may be the optimum time for us to see just that.


RIDICULOUS

Rare Replay Switch

Ashley Harrison: I know, I know. This is a game that if it was going to be announced anywhere, it’d be at a Nintendo Direct as that big, final reveal that Nintendo love to do, and not at an Xbox Showcase for Series X games. But hey, come on, let a guy dream. It wouldn’t be the first time that a first-party Xbox game has been released on Switch, following in the footsteps of games such as Ori and the Blind Forest and Cuphead. I genuinely don’t think there’s a partnership more revered in the game industry than that of Nintendo and Rare in the 90’s, and since a good portion of the games featured on Rare Replay originally made their debut appearances on Nintendo consoles, I’d argue it’s time they came home. I’d kill to play Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the train. Please, Microsoft, do the right thing.

Minecraft 2

William Robinson: It is easy to forget that the mega-hit Minecraft is a Microsoft property now, considering it is on basically every platform imaginable. If they had suddenly made it an Xbox console exclusive after the acquisition, there would have been outrage from the devoted fanbases on other platforms, so I totally understand why that hasn’t happened. However, if Microsoft really are after an exclusive that would make people buy their new console, then a full-fledged Minecraft sequel could be that game. I am saying this as a ridiculous prediction because I just don’t see it happening; it would still produce some backlash from Minecraft players on other platforms if they were locked out of new content in a sequel. In general, a follow-up could be hard to justify – how would you balance it with updates for the original game? – but Blizzard is attempting to walk that tightrope with Overwatch 2, which may be evidence that it can be done. This would certainly be a bold move that gets people talking!

Sunset Overdrive 2

Ashley Harrison: This definitely is a ridiculous prediction now, sadly, what with Sony having purchased developer Insomniac Studios and all. Sunset Overdrive was legitimately one of my favourite Xbox One games and I was so hoping that we would’ve seen a sequel already by now, but alas, that wasn’t to be. Whilst the story itself might not have been the best, it was such a gorgeous game visually, and so much fun to play. The movement mechanics that allowed you to essentially skate your way throughout the map, combined with the arcade silliness of the gameplay and enemy designs, mesh together perfectly and produce an almost comic-book level of ridiculousness in a good way as you tore through the Overcharge Drinkers with ridiculous attacks. I mean, after all, the very first boss of the game is literally a giant Mascot Blimp for Heaven’s sake. Sometimes for me the best games are ones that don’t take themselves seriously at all, and this is definitely an example of that.

Rocksteady Game Reveal

William Robinson: Okay, this is probably-almost-certainly not gonna happen. If Rocksteady finally show off their next game, it is likely going to be on the terms of publisher Warner Bros. and not at the Xbox Games Showcase… but this is the place for ridiculous predictions, so I’m going with this. Since the renowned developer released Batman: Arkham Knight in 2015, the only other release we have had from them is Batman: Arkham VR in 2016 – so they’ve been working away on a project(s?) for a long time since. There has been so many rumours of different DC properties they could be working on – Suicide Squad, Superman, Justice League, another Batman… yet, the idea of them working on a brand new IP also has enticing potential. We don’t really know much else, we’re just waiting for them to tell us more – and, whilst it is highly unlikely that this game would be an Xbox exclusive, maybe the Xbox Games Showcase is the time. Maybe?


So, there are our thoughts! With the Showcase so close, it is an exciting time for Xbox. If you have any particular thoughts or predictions, let us know in the comments!

Yuri!!! On Ice is a Dazzling Demonstration of All Kinds of Love

Recently, I have been catching up on a lot of my never-ending stack of Blu-rays. One of these is the complete series of Yuri!!! On Ice, and wow: in 12 episodes, it left me spellbound through a combination of diverse characters, wonderful animation, and a brilliant use of music. This isn’t going to be a review, but instead more of a take on the powerful and important themes at play in this series.

-WARNING: SPOILERS FOR YURI!!! ON ICE AHEAD-

A quick summary of the plot, then, for establishing purposes – I shall go into more detail when I do my full series review soon. Yuri!!! On Ice picks up the story of Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki (Toshiyuki Toyonaga), aged 23, just after he has placed 6th of 6 in the Grand Prix Final – he is devastated and considering stopping his career in the sport, returning home to his caring family in Hasetsu, Kyushu.. However, then a video of him recreating the routine of his idol, the Russian current Champion Victor Nikiforov (Jun’ichi Suwabe) is posted online without him knowing. Victor views it, and suddenly arrives in Hasetsu to announce that he can coach Katsuki.

Yes, I’m your coach now, got it?

From here on, we follow the evolving dynamic of Katsuki and Victor, which is clearly different to other coach-student relationships. There are sparks there, and the admiration isn’t going only one way. Through the following episodes, as Yuri faces challenge after challenge – whether from himself, other skaters, or Victor himself – we see this complex relationship bloom in a way that compels you to keep watching.

As a story about two men feeling love for each other, it is undoubtedly important in terms of diversity. Crucially, I find, is that whilst this is an essential element of the anime that is Yuri!!! On Ice, it isn’t the defining element. By this, I mean that it is interwoven with the other main plot thread – that is to say, the quest for Katsuki to make his way to another Grand Prix Final and try to win Gold – and both informs and is informed by the other characters and their respective obstacles in love.

For example, straight off the bat, we see Katsuki go back to his hometown and subsequently Ice Castle Hasetsu, the ice rink he uses for training. He reunites with a friend, Yuuko Nishigori (Mariya Ise), and makes an internal offhand remark about how she is “cute”, which is a sign of how this treats people and their opinions in an open way; there aren’t thoughts that are closed off to people because of other aspects about them. This is, actually, when the aforementioned recording of his imitation of Victor happens, in front of Yuuko. We shortly discover that she is both married and has kids, as we become more and more aware of how Katsuki idolises Victor. In a scene that could have, perhaps, been a cliché of returning home and having a relationship with a friend Katsuki hadn’t seen for a while, Yuri!!! On Ice instead shows how people grow and go different ways – and, importantly, that these diverging paths don’t have to mean we can’t still be close to one another.

Katsuki, skating in a costume Victor previously wore

So, we immediately have these themes of love at play, romantic, friendly, and family. It’d be remiss to not mention the love for competition, and more specifically, figure skating, too. Yeah, I know, wow, I discovered a theme of skating in Yuri!!! On Ice, I’m a genius! It’s more than that, though; figure skating as a competitive sport is so expressive, and such a smart method to essentially show character development through competition. Every time Katsuki or one of the many other skaters (more on them in a moment) go onto the ice, they literally and figuratively have all eyes on them, and them alone, for the duration of that performance. These performances are rarely cut off or cut away from, either, except when memories or other crucial experiences are used to show the state of mind they are in.

Furthermore, the nature of figure skating matches up so well with the development of the characters and their emotions because the skaters have two routines they prepare – one for the short program, and one for the free skate, which together make up your score. They adjust them here and there, but the music and the essence of the routines are constant from event to event – so, brilliantly, there are multiple renditions of these routines through the series, allowing them to be clear and absorbing showcases for where the character is emotionally relevant to their last performance. Additionally, if you compare how Katsuki and Victor greet each other after each skate, the progress of their bond is fascinating; at times, slight disappointment, at others, jubilation (such as the end of the seventh episode, where Victor suddenly launches himself at Katsuki). In a similar way to how Your Lie in April shows emotion through music, Yuri!!! On Ice does this through figure skating (which notably also involves music).

The rivalry of Yuri Katsuki and Yuri Plisetsky (above) runs throughout the series

Early on in the series, we are introduced to Yuri – no, another one. The Russian Yuri Plisetksy (Koki Uchiyama) was, before these events, going to have his routine made by Victor, so he – understandably – follows Victor to Hasetsu to confront him about the sudden change of plans. Yuri Plisetsky, at 15, is much younger than Yuri Katsuki; he has essentially the opposite personality too, ruthlessly determined to succeed. Victor decides that they will compete to decide who he shall help, with them both skating to the same track, but with different arrangements. One is On Love – Agape, and one is On Love – Eros, which mean unconditional and sexual love respectively. Predictably, Yuri goes for Agape, and Plisetsky goes for Eros; until Victor then gives them both the other one from the one they chose! They are straight away thrown out of their comfort zone, and faced with baring a new side of themselves in a public skate.

To get into the new mindsets, they both find a way to focus on this new emotion; Katsuki by imagining the pork cutlet bowl his family makes and he – and so many others – enjoy (yes, for sexual love – there are plenty of innuendos here), and Plisetsky through thoughts of his grandfather. This even continues to their choice of costumes (from those that Victor has worn before); Katsuki starts wearing a bold black outfit, and Plisetsky a sparkling white outfit, both showing new sides to the characters. They both perform well, but the connection between Katsuki and Victor during his performance leads to Plisetsky leaving before the results are even announced. He is still determined to win – perhaps even more so – and his love for both his grandfather and competition are unique to him and him alone.

Yet, beyond these characters, Yuri!!! On Ice keeps impressing as you get to the later episodes and the skating events within them. There are many new characters being introduced through these, and amazingly – in 12 episodes of around 20 minutes each – they seem to all get time to make you invested in their own ways of loving. We get focused scenes on them and their performances, which vary greatly both visually and in terms of music. Credit to the animation in particular, and how they brought alive the skating – more on that in the full review. I really cared about where each of them was going, whether they were a skater with a bright future or one that had been on the scene for a while.

There is a diverse range of characters from different countries

There are so many, but to name just a few: Christophe Giacometti (Hiroki Yasumoto), who has often placed behind Victor in previous Finals and is set on taking victory with his vividly sexual skating; Sara and Michele Crispino (Sara: Marika Minase/Eri Ōzaki, Michele: Tomoaki Maeno) a sister and brother who have deep love for one another but also start to see that allowing each other to go on different paths is necessary; and Jean-Jacques Leroy (Mamoru Miyano), an incredible skater and musician who such confidence, and such a loving following which brings unexpected pressures. All of these separate people with their own matters of love they are dealing with are put together by figure skating, providing alternative perspectives as you are viewing.

Ultimately, the centre of Yuri!!! On Ice is the evolving love between Katsuki and Victor and how that affects them both. In my opinion, a reason it works so well, and is so emotionally engaging to watch, is because it isn’t immediately clear what the dynamic is – there are sparks flying on and off the ice, yet just as the characters aren’t certain what it means and how it is going to develop, neither do you. Even at the end of the series, where Katsuki wins Silver and he returns with Victor and Plisetsky (who wins Gold) to Hasetsu to potentially continue skating, it’s never said they are in a relationship. However, if you’re watching closely… the intimacy, the words spoken, and that skate together at the end; well, you can make you own mind up on what type of love that is.

Why Pokémon Masters is My Favourite Mobile Game

Let’s establish this right away; I am not much of a mobile gamer. Even whilst commuting to a workplace in London for two years, I would more often listen to a podcast or read a novel (I know, shock) than play a game on my iPhone. I am a Pokémon superfan, yet even during the summer of Pokémon GO I wasn’t that absorbed by it; I played it, sure, but I dropped off quite quickly and haven’t really gone back for the numerous events since. The gameplay cycle was too passive for me and I wasn’t gripped by it.

The games of series I am already a fan of understandably have been the ones I have been drawn to on mobile. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links and Fire Emblem: Heroes have both held my attention for periods of time, but still, I found myself drifting away from them – especially as new console games in those series released for Switch. Yet, now, I am confident in saying I have found a mobile game that is, in my mind, my favourite gaming experience on the platform: Pokémon Masters.

This isn’t a new release, of course; it originally launched in August last year, very much with the public intention of adding to the game over time. If you are not aware, Pokémon Masters revolves around sync pairs, which are a duo of a trainer and a Pokémon. The trainers are either your own character or a known character from the Pokémon series, which immediately brings recognition to the trainers in battle. For a series with as much history as Pokémon, this adds a lot of personality – and is an area where for me, a game such as Pokémon GO is not as strong.

The crossover concept of Pokémon Masters got my attention, but I had been waiting for my favourite character in the Pokémon series to be added to the game before I really dove in. Once Jasmine was in the game, the appeal of her being in a team with characters such as Maylene and Candice was realised! You can also choose a sync pair to be there in the lobby screen, which for me is Jasmine and Steelix. The sense of being welcomed into the game each time is wonderful.

You arrange 3 sync pairs together to form your team for battles against 3 opponents, resulting in really fun combinations of characters. In the battles themselves, each of the 3 Pokémon on your side have up to 4 moves each they can use, depending on how much charge they take up (this increases over time in the battle, as in a JRPG series such as Xenoblade Chronicles). After a certain amount of moves, you can then select one of the three to use a Sync Move, which is a powerful attack accompanied by a cinematic animation similar to the Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves in the main series games. Sounds a lot like Pokémon but with a twist on the characters involved, doesn’t it? Exactly.

Left, out of battle; middle, the intro screen before a battle; right, in battle

Pokémon Masters really feels like a game made for the platform instead of a stepping-stone up to the console games in the series. The battling is both reasonably complex and also suitably less intensive for the platform, and the story – working your way to the Pokémon Masters League (PML) through chapters, meeting many different characters and the new enemy team, Team Break – is engaging and full of fun moments. Away from that you can also go into other modes, where you can train, face tough challenges and also find events bringing in new faces from the series (right now, there is one with Jessie, James, and Meowth from the anime, and one for Serena from X and Y).

It is crucial that there is a lot to do, too – often an issue with mobile games is that foreboding sense that you are being gradually enticed towards dreaded microtransactions. Make no mistake, that option is there, and I don’t necessarily welcome it; however, with all of the items you can earn, and the amount of different battles available where you can earn XP, the game is very playable without paying. The Gatcha element is getting new sync pairs, and your Gems are the way to have a go at getting new ones. If you complete your Challenges and play through the plentiful levels you can rack up the required 3,000 Gems to get x10 sync pairs. I find it is best to save these for when your favourite characters are featured (they have been gradually adding more and more from the series over time).

An element that really draws me in is how the game extends on Pokémon lore; each sync pair character has a story where you can learn more about them (these also build towards Pokémon Evolutions) and these have great references. For example, Gardenia mentions about Roserade being other types, but when the idea of Roserade being Ghost-type arises, she is clearly concerned about the idea – which ties into her uneasiness with the Mansion of Ghost-types in Eterna Forest in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum. These references aren’t just in these sections, either; in the entry lobby area, there was a Black Belt who brought up a Dragonite using Hyper Beam… is this the one there when Lance uncovers the Team Rocket facility in Gold/Silver/Crystal? Callbacks such as this show me that there is an effort being put in to make Pokémon Masters a game that is not only faithful to the series, but one that builds upon it too.

The presentation video (see the video nearer the top of the article) puts across the awesome way this game has characters from different regions interacting together

This game has real longevity, as well. You unlock plenty of new types of gameplay as you go, from co-op with other sync teams to in-depth training that reminds me of the complexities of EV and IV training in the main series games. The story is extensive, and can be played on both Normal and Hard difficulties. As aforementioned, this also means more opportunities to get Gems. The regular updating of in-game events and training options keeps those modes fresh too.

Completing the air of cohesiveness is the visual and audio presentation of the game. The graphics and UI design are clear and impressive: the character models are detailed and expressive; the environments colourful and vibrant; and the battles themselves run smoothly on my iPhone, with energetic animations. The sound design has a similar energy, but even more impressive is the use of music from the main series. You get different themes for Gym Leaders, Elite Four, Frontier Brains, etc. which shows me that there is an attention to detail, as this is accurate to the main series – these have also been remixed, too, resulting in awesome new versions of the music.

Overall, this game has an air of being thoughtfully made for the platform and of not just being part of the Pokémon franchise, but bringing new gameplay and story experiences to that franchise. Perhaps I enjoy it so much because there is a focus on characters; in stories I really value great character development, and Pokémon Masters has multiple joyous character moments throughout it – which is just one aspect that keeps me regularly returning to the game. On a platform where I have not found many experiences that capture me, Pokémon Masters has become my favourite mobile game yet.

Nintendo Treehouse Live 10/07 Reaction

The way Nintendo is releasing information at the moment is intriguing; with, so far, no E3-time Nintendo Direct, we have instead been getting news gradually. It feels as though Nintendo is tiding us over until they are ready to show us their plans for a lot of the rest of the year. Today, this is in the form of a Nintendo Treehouse Live video where we got to see more of Paper Mario: The Origami King, and also a new announcement from WayForward. So, I thought I would write a few thoughts about what was shown and how it was presented!

Yes, I may have initially wondered if the WayForward game would be Metroid. One day, okay? Let me dream.


Paper Mario: The Origami King

The main focus of the Treehouse was Paper Mario: The Origami King! With the release of the game only 7 days away, and a relatively empty Switch release schedule for the rest of the year, that makes me wonder if there is going to be more announcements – maybe a full Direct? – very soon. Either way, Paper Mario is clearly the imminent focus. With the whole COVID-19 situation, this Treehouse was presented with 3 people talking about the game remotely through video chat: Riona, who led the presenting; Ethan, who played the game; and Sam, who also offered insight into the game. The way the Treehouse was arranged resulted in a few cases of people talking over each other or seeming unsure of who was speaking next, but this is totally reasonable to me considering the constraints right now. The people themselves spoke really well and seemed positive about the game!

One of the aspects setting this entry in the series apart is the Origami, which is visually different; the 3D character models stand out next to the paper style we have become used to, giving this game a new visual twist. The game opens with a conversation between Princess Peach – an Origami character – and Mario, where despite the familiar setting of Mushroom Castle, the tone is perhaps not what we are used to when these two converse. This is even more jarring when you are sent through a trapdoor! After meeting new Origami character Olivia, who helps you in the game, you run into Bowser in a fun new way where he is trapped in a folded-up form! He follows Mario back up the Castle until you meet the main antagonist, King Olly (the brother of Olivia), who steals away Mushroom Castle as Olivia and Mario are sent tumbling away, and are separated from Bowser – I wonder when he is next seen in the story?

After this initial story set-up, Treehouse then went on to show the area of the game initially after this. We see the new battle system, based around arranging circular rings around you to get enemies into the best position to attack them. This is an area I am not convinced about yet, as it seems as though it could get tiresome after a while if not used cleverly and with enough variety. The Paper Mario charm is evidently still there, from quirky side characters such as the Toads in the stands around the battle making comments to the way Mario has a flourish at the end of attacks. A sequence where you haggle with Monty Mole is hilarious!

Finally, we are shown a portion of a boss battle from later in the game – against a set of coloured pencils that operates as essentially a missile launcher and gatling gun! The enemy design is so creative, yet again I am concerned about the use of the circular rings for combat. You have to set up your route to get to the optimum place to attack, and visually, and especially juxtaposed against the spacious exploration areas, it seems very convoluted in terms of the options it presents to you. There are many icons thrown at you; however, this may be because of how the Treehouse jumped to this later point in the game, before we have played through the game and become used to the systems. I am really curious about how the gameplay will feel to play, especially the combat.


Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia

Okay, it isn’t Metroid. Even if it is not a series I am knowledgable about, Bakugan is a series that I am confident many people are excited to see on the way to Switch in the form of Bakugan: Champions of Vestroia. We were shown some gameplay of this new game, and as with Paper Mario: The Origami King, we got commentary to go with it – Sam was also in this section, joined by: Tyler of Nintendo; Steve Robert of Spin Master; and Tenny Goko of WayForward. We got to see the overworld, which had a similar aesthetic style to Pokémon Sword and Shield but with less polish, and then additionally the combat. There is a very Sword and Shield vibe to the way you enter battles with a sense of scale, too (Dynamax/Gigantamax!) – the Bakugan are much larger than your character when in battle. The idea of your character supporting your Bakugan by picking up Energy Cores around the area is a fun extra layer to the battling. However, overall, the game seemed to lack finesse, and I am not sure how much that shall be improved for the November 3rd 2020 release date. Hopefully it is a great game!

I expect a lot of people are disappointed by that being the new game reveal; however, we knew it would be a third-party game, and being a game revealed after the Paper Mario portion of a Treehouse video meant this was one to keep your expectations under control for. I am saddened to see such a ratio of Likes and Dislikes on the videos for this game on the Nintendo channel – currently they have around 3 or 4 Dislikes for every Like, and this is a very negative stance on games most or all of these people have not played. Maybe it is not a game you are excited for, but this is a series name with history, and we should give it a chance.


So, there are my thoughts on the Treehouse; have you seen it? In which case, do you agree/disagree with my opinions? You can let me know in the comments!