Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My Return Trip to Alola: Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

Alola everyone! I'm back from my second trip to Alola in my copy of Ultra Moon. Since it has been almost a month since the release, I don't feel bad about talking about some of the finer points of the game. However, if you haven't played the games yet because you are expecting them for Christmas or something, then be warned. This blog post will be filled with spoilers! Now that is out of the way, if you continue reading, that's on you. 

Necrozma is kind of the main antagonist, which is new to Pokémon games. That role is usually given to the evil teams.
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon (USUM) was marketed as the biggest pokémon game to date, with approximately twice the story seen in Sun and Moon as well as other revamped games like Emerald or Platinum. Like those games, USUM were meant to be upgraded versions that explore the third legendary revealed in their given generation. In this case, the legendary was Necrozma. USUM also pulls heavily from Black 2 and White 2 by giving Necrozma two new formes by merging with the previous box art legendaries Lunala and Solgaleo. This is very similar to how Kyurem can merge with Zekrom and Reshiram. So, like my last blog, I'm going to run through the Pros and Cons (and in between) in USUM. These are all my opinion and feel free to comment below.

Mid Point: The Story of Necrozma
Necrozma's fused formes are kind of a hot mess. Dusk Mane Necrozma looks better though.
Since I started this by talking about Necrozma, we'll start there. Like I said before, Necrozma is a fusion legendary like Kyurem. There are some distinct differences between how Kyurem merges and how Necrozma merges. First, design-wise, Kyurem still looks like Kyurem when fused, just with aspects of the fused dragon merged into it. Necrozma is the opposite. It looks like the base legend, either Solgaleo or Lunala, with bits of Necrozma tacked on. Of the two, Dusk Mane Nezcrozma looks better in my opinion. I guess that isn't too crazy, as Kyurem suffers from the same issue. The Black Kyurem forme (fused with Zekrom) looks better than the White Kyurem forme (fused with Reshiram). In both Necrozma and Kyruem's case, one looks cool and the other looks confusing.

For the actual fusion process, Kyurem uses only one item to fuse so you can only have Black OR White Kyurem in your game at any given time. The two Necrozma formes each have their own item for fusion, so you can have both Dawn Wings AND Dusk Mane Necrozma. Overall, in practice this is only a minor difference between Necrozma and Kyurem, so it isn't as exciting as it could be. I would have rather had these formes been attributed to Lunala or Solgaleo and Necrozma performed more as a "power-up" for them rather than them powering up Necrozma. This game tries to put Necrozma out there as the new "big bad" legendary. Anyone who got Necrozma in SM likely found this hard to believe. Necrozma in its base form just isn't that great. The formes try to make it seem like it is tough enough to take on Solgaleo or Lunala, but that is tough to imagine.

The story of Necrozma presented by the Ultra Recon Squad (more on them later) at least helps solve this a little. Apparently the Necrozma we were familiar with from SM was a "broken" or incomplete forme. Again, this seems to mirror Kyurem. However, unlike Kyurem apparently Necrozma is in no way related to the legendaries it can fuse with. It just so happens it can because it can absorb light, and they are light based legendaries. The most interesting implication with this is, hypothetically, if other light based legendaries were released, Necrozma could potentially absorb them too. This does make it more of a threat than one would have anticipated. In addition to that, Necrozma can use Z-power to change into an even more powerful forme via "Ultra Burst". Similar to Mega Evolution, if Necrozma is in a merged state and is holding Ultranecrozium Z it can change into Ultra Necrozma for the extent of the battle. Apparently Ultra Necrozma is the "true" Necrozma. Unlike a Mega, after going Ultra it can use the Z-Crsytal again to use its signature Z move, Light that Burns the Sky.

There are videos of this thing on YouTube just destroying Wingulls. Why does it hate Wingull so much?
I like the design of Ultra Necrozma over the hodgepodge of its other formes, but it still seems rather weird to look at. Most of its body is light, so it has very little detail. So, like most of Necrozma's whole "deal", it's weird. The main aspect that bothers me is that Ultra Necrozma doesn't retain any characteristics of Lunala or Solgaleo so it doesn't matter which one Ultra Bursts. It will still end up being this Psychic/Dragon. I'm bothered by the fact I don't know where Nebby went, I guess. I assume it is not in the bag though. Regardless, as a fighter, the fused formes of Necrozma are better than the base form in terms of stats, although a standard Lunala is better than Dawn Wings Necrozma. Although they share the same types, DW Necrozma retains Prism Armor as an ability rather than Shadow Shield from Lunala, which is the better ability. On a side note, if we're lucky, in some Black/White remake in the future Game Freak will add a "true" Kyruem where it is merged with Zekrom AND Reshiram like its lore states it once was.

High Point: The Scenery and Characters
This was true of Sun and Moon, but even more so in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. We actually see Hau and Lillie develop more as individuals. Even Guzma goes through more character growth. The Ultra Recon Squad was a neat addition as people from Ultra Space, but their inclusion didn't feel as deep. In fact, I was a little bothered by the fact people weren't bothered more by blue skin people in space suits. Some NPCs made off hand comments about how they dressed weird, but then again, there are lots of people who dress weird in Pokémon games so maybe the NPCs just assumed it was cosplay.  Overall though, I was invested in all of the characters and actually liked meeting up with all of them at various times in the game. Sure, it meant there was a lot of text, but I don't mind cut scenes and dialog. I also like books, so having to read isn't going to change my opinion of a game.

Low Point: The Story
The main problem I had with the game was how long it took for the story to diverge. The only reason this hits me so hard is because of how much these games were presented as NOT being like Emerald or Platinum. I feel that's not accurate. It falls right in line with how those games were. Basically, things started to divert around the time the legendaries were becoming a major part of the plot. The same can be said for Platinum and Emerald.

Neat, but they didn't really do THAT much in the story. Plus they only caught 2 pokémon... speaking of which... what happened to Furfrou?!
As with older games, the plot of the third legend was expanded on. The Ultra Recon Squad (URS) attempt to extend the lore of Necrozma, and they do an ok job of doing that, but I feel like once stuff hit the fan the plot progressed very quickly. It went from Necrozma showing up and fusing with Nebby, to fighting it, to following it to Ultra Space, to fighting its Ultra forme. I feel the pacing got too quick there. The overall plot was pretty similar to before, except rather than Lusamine trying to capture Ultra Beasts she tried to keep the world safe from Necrozma, which is confirmed to be a type of Ultra Beast. She's still creepy, kind of mean, and keeps pokémon frozen in her basement. Maybe if there had never been Sun and Moon games, and we went straight to USUM, then the story would have been a high point. The story wasn't bad, I just felt a lot of it was too familiar.

Mid Point: Team Rainbow Rocket
This may get me in some hot water, but I feel a little let down by the post-game. The return of Team Rocket was not quite as glorious as I had hoped. The main issue was the Team Rainbow Rocket episode was so contained. Seeing all the bosses from the other teams was great. Fighting against their respective legendaries and Megas was fantastic. The part that let me down was they were all in the same building just hanging out. I would have rather seen them spread to different areas of Alola trying to enact their various agendas. Why wasn't Maxie at Wela Volcano trying to expand the land? Why wasn't Ghetsis on Melemele trying to convince new trainers to release their pokémon? Why wasn't Cyrus taking over the Hokulani Observatory? I think that would have much more fun to play.

Admittedly, we've been waiting for this battle for a long time.
The puzzles and whatnot were fun, but again, it just seemed to contained. I would have thought Giovanni would have known better than concentrate his entire force to one singular building. That didn't work so well before. Send the other bosses as diversions while he took over Aether Paradise. Since it was so contained, it seemed less threatening. I did like seeing Lillie, Guzma, and Colress make a reappearances to help during this post game though. Getting to battle with Lillie and Guzma was definitely a high point.

High Point: Ultra Beasts

In my last blog I mentioned how I hoped Ultra Beasts would have a bigger role in USUM. Luckily for me, they did, if only a little bigger. Most of the Ultra Beast plot is tacked in with the Ultra Recon Squad, with their members using the newest UB, Poipole (aka UB Adhesive). Also, when an Ultra Wormhole is finally opened at the Aether Paradise, more than just two UBs show up. In fact, rather than just seeing a cut scene of a random wormhole opening on each island, we get to see actual UBs attack the kahunas of each island.

New UBS (left to right): Naganadel (evolves from Poipole when it knows Dragon Pulse), Stakataka, and Blacephalon.
Again, it isn't much, but it is more than SM. In fact, players actually get to grab Poipole before the Elite Four, so you get to at least get one UB before the post game. If you decide to mess around in the Ultra Warp Ride, you can even get more by visiting their worlds. The worlds themselves aren't that exciting, it would have been nice if there had been some puzzles or something, which Pheromosa's actually does have, but whatever. There is something to be said for just being able to go and catch the guy you want without a needless puzzle. Additionally, UBs are common in their own worlds, so you can return over and over to get more for extras to use in trades or to raise with different natures, moves, or EVs. Love 'em or hate 'em, UBs look to be a big part of the game for a while. We may or may not see new ones next gen, but at the very least it adds a deeper mechanic to the games. Now that we can travel to Ultra Space to get UBs, and even other legendaries, it will be a lot easier to add more strange pokémon while simultaneously allowing new players to travel to other dimensions for older legends they may not have.

High Point: Trials
I'm happy to report the trials are WAY better than they were in Sun and Moon. I'd even go so far as to say the battles with the Totem pokémon were more challenging than battling Gym Leaders. Often the Totem would call a helper that would utilize borderline competitive strategies to whoop me. In fact, I think I battled Kiawe's Totem Marowak three times before I beat it and that was with the Totem-sized Araquanid I had on my own team. I play without the Exp. Share, so I was constantly right at or slightly below the level of the Totem so it was a real challenge. The Totems also had moves to cover weaknesses and held useful items. Kiawe's Totem Marowak has a Thick Club for crying out loud! If anything, in terms of trials/gyms, this was the most challenging a pokémon game has been for me in a while. The game really holds your hand elsewhere, like always healing before a rival battle, but trials were no joke.

Verdict: Better than the Originals
Although some things were rehashed, USUM improves over their predecessors in every way. If you haven't picked up a Gen 7 game, for whatever reason, just skip Sun and Moon. You won't miss anything. Pick up USUM and play the vastly superior version.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reflections of Alola: Pros and Cons of Sun and Moon

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are less than one month away and I have been reading the various news releases and fan hypotheses based on them. As I read them, I am surprised to find there is such a negative opinion of Sun and Moon. I don't know if this an prevailing opinion or if there is a skew since people like to complain on the Internet. I personally enjoyed the games, however I do have a few friends who haven't even finished their copy for whatever reason. I don't think they were bored per sé, however if they had been excited about the game I would have figured they would have finished. Now, I'm not oblivious to Sun and Moon's shortcomings, however I don't think they were failures. So, rather than just paint an unjustly sunny picture or straight up crapping on the games, I plan on pointing out a few points that I thought were highs and lows.

Spoiler Alert: Lunala and Solgaleo only meet up in Sun and Moon to make a baby.
High Point: The Scenery and Characters
If there was any high point to Sun and Moon compared to other games I would have to point to the characters. While playing I was genuinely interested in the story elements revolving around Lillie, Gladion, and Lusamine. To a lesser extent I was interested in the Trial Captains and Kahunas, but interacting with them so often kept them interesting and it was rewarding to see several return as Elite Four members or challengers. Alola itself was also fun to navigate. I felt there was enough variance in the four islands that made them possibly more of a success as a tropical region than even Hoenn was. Granted, Hoenn was designed originally as a 2D region, but still. Alola seemed more alive than Hoenn in a lot of ways, which means a lot coming from me. I love Hoenn. New regional formes (Alolan formes) were also a high point that really set Alola apart from any other region before it.

Alola is a vibrant environment in Sun and Moon, but it appears it will be more vibrant and active with overworld Pokémon in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.
Low Point: The Trials
Don't get me wrong, I like the IDEA of the trails. For years people have been calling for a change from Gyms, then we got it, then they said they wanted Gyms back. Hypothetically, trials could have been amazing. However, what we got was essentially a "gym puzzle" followed with a battle with the totem pokémon. The totem pokémon battle didn't really function that differently from fighting a gym leader. If it called for help, you probably fought between 2-3 pokémon for each totem, less once you figured out to just focus on the totem. What that meant is a flip from what we get from gym leaders. With gym leaders, part of the difficulty increase was facing more pokémon the farther up the ladder the leader was. With the totems, the better you understood the game the easier it was. Just take out the totem first. That meant your last trial may have just been versus 2 pokémon at most. Not very challenging. If anything they took what was lame about gym battles and re-branded it, at worst it's watered down.

This appears more exciting than it really is.

High Point: Z-Crystals and Z-Moves
I'm sure this will raise a few eyebrows, but I think the Z-Crystals and Z-Moves were a good addition to the game. Generally speaking, I think "super moves" in games are a lazy way to make something seem fresh. With Z-Moves, I felt the same way until actually utilizing them. Unlike how other games handle "super moves", Z-Moves do require some thought into their utilization. They are customizable to the point of how wide a particular pokémon moveset is and can be utilized for set up, coverage, or simply a one shot nuke to hit as hard as one can with a STAB.

On the topic of Z-Crystals themselves, they also pair well with Mega Evolutions. Since Z-Crystals count as a hold item like Mega Stones, it makes for some unique variability in commonly used pokémon. For example, one could run Scizor with a Z-Crystal, a Mega Stone, or a standard hold item like Choice Band and still be valid.Also, I'd assume at some point we would get more Megas, but thanks to Z-Moves, we have variance to balance them. New gens, for example, could introduce new Megas AND new exclusive Z-Moves to revamp pokémon rather than having to rely solely on just giving older pokémon Mega Evolutions. A good exclusive Z-Move could be just as good as having a Mega Evolution, depending on the circumstance. I'd also like to add that Z-Crystals are WAY better than badges. Z-Crystals not only show you beat a trial, but they also give you access to a new move. Prior to Z-Crystals, Gym Leaders gave badges AND a TM for a new move. Z-Crystals are now both.

This is actually LESS flashy than they are in-game.

Low Point: NPCs vs Z-Moves
From a competitive standpoint, I think Z-Moves are fun. On the other hand, from a casual stand point they make the game WAY too easy. For veteran players, pokémon games are pretty much always "easy mode" and they often make up their own play rules to make it more challenging (ex: Nuzlocke). However, Z-Moves take that "easy mode" and make it even easier. NPCs have NO IDEA how to handle a pokémon with a Z-Move, unless you take into account the Battle Tree. To be fair, they don't know how to handle Megas either, but you can't get any Megas prior to the Battle Tree, outside of Alakazam, unless you trade and download Mega Stones from Mystery Gift. Z-Crystals are everywhere in Sun and Moon, yet so few NPCs use them against you. If more NPCs used Protect, or their own Z-Moves, then the game wouldn't seem so easy. Players have been asking for difficulty settings for a while, but it doesn't seem like we'll get them soon. At the very least, it would be a good idea to have more NPCs utilize the "big mechanic" of the game they are in. Otherwise, they don't stand a chance.

High Point: Legendaries We Care About
Prior to Sun and Moon, legendaries were just the strong pokémon at the end of the game. Starting with Gen III, they were the ones that evil teams wanted to be able to meet their goals. However, outside of "being cool and strong", legendaries weren't really characters. Nebby (Cosmog) and Tapu Koko change that a bit. I'll admit Tapu Koko is kind of forced on you in terms of a connection, but Nebby's antics are meme-worthy. I don't know anyone who has played Sun and Moon who doesn't know what it means to "Get in the bag!" I know I cared way more about Nebby than I have any other legendary. I was playing Moon, so when Nebby eventually evolved into Lunala and I caught it, I named it Nebby immediately. This is stark contrast to how I usually deal with legendaries, specifically the "box art" legendaries and Mewtwo. I don't name them. They are legendary and I doubt they'd acknowledge my crappy little name for them. I mean, would someone nickname Zeus? No, he's just freaking Zeus, King of the Greek Gods. Not so with Nebby. Nebby is my friend. Nebby is it's name. Also, the connection that is shown between Lillie and Nebby was touching for a pokémon game. If Lillie had asked Nebby to go with her after evolving, I would have been fine with that (as long as she went with me to Lake of the Sunne to get my own Cosmog to raise). In my mind, Nebby is her pokémon. It's just hanging out with me until she gets back from Kanto.

*PEWING INTENSIFIES*

Low Point: The Ultra Beasts and the Post-Game
Again, like the trials, I like the Ultra Beasts hypothetically. Despite how much Lusamine likes Nihilego I remain unconvinced of its beauty. I think Celesteela has it beat. Design-wise though, I like all of the Ultra Beasts overall. They don't all "look like pokémon", but I personally like when "what a pokémon should look like is challenged" just so long as the design doesn't go overboard. A couple did have to grow on me (Nihilego & Buzzwole), but they eventually did. The aspect I like least about the Ultra Beasts is their part in the story, which is essentially just as targets for Lusamine. Even then, it's not even all of them she's after, just Nihilego. Outside of Nihilego, Pheromosa, and Buzzwole, they don't even show up AT ALL until the post-game. Although this is similar to lower level legendaries in other gens (like trios), these guys were such a big part of marketing I thought they would play a bigger role in the main plot. Lucky for me it seems that IS the case with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. In which case, this may be something that is quickly fixed.

These guys are nuts. As much as I like Beast Boost, I hope they eventually get Hidden Abilities.

Verdict: Not Too Shabby, but Didn't Live Up To It's Potential
For being such a departure from a 20 year formula, it's not bad. I feel they played it safe with the trials and if I had to chose one portion of the game I was the most disappointed with, that would be it and the post game would be a close second. If Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon beef up the trial difficulty (move away from just being "Gym Challenge Lite") and integrate the Ultra Beasts better into the story, I don't see why they wouldn't be two of the best pokémon games to date. The sole point that the post game is supposed  to be so much more involved than any other revamped title before it (like Emerald or Platinum) makes Ultra Moon a personal Day 1 grab for me. I hope it builds from the Sun and Moon mythos to be a truly exceptional experience.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Mega Stone WiFi Distribution Coming to an End

If you have not gotten all of the event exclusive Mega Stones for Pokémon Sun and Moon, now is the time to clean house before the promotion ends!

The distribution of the Wifi Exclusive Mega Stones is set to end at the end of October, so if you miss out on them you will not be able to obtain them at all in Sun and Moon which removes the viability of many of these pokémon in terms of battle. To receive these Mega Stones, players have to download them using the Mystery Gift function. If you have not redeemed a Mystery Gift before the steps are simple.

-Select "Mystery Gift" when you start up the game.
-Select Receive Gift.
-Select Get with Code/Password, then Yes, and then Yes again to connect to the Internet.
-Enter the code
-Confirm you want the gift and an animation will play.
-Speak to the deliveryman in any Pokémon Center to pick up your Mega Stones.

Each password can only be used once per game file, however, if you have multiple games you can redeem these passwords on each game. If you have received some or all of these Mega Stones from playing in tournaments hosted by the Pokémon Global Link, you can still download these too. Having a spare set of these to trade to a friend who misses out (or to Ultra Sun or Ultra Moon) would certainly be useful. Here are the passwords along with each Mega Stone you will receive from using them:

M2DESCENT: This password gives players Mewtwonite X and Mewtwonite Y

INTIMIDATE: Mawilite, Beedrillite, Audinite, Medichamite

AZUL: Pidgeotite, Steelixite, Heracrossite, Houndoomite

MATSUBUSA: Blazikenite, Swampertite, Sceptilite, Cameruptite, and Banettite
SABLEVOLANT: Tyranitarite, Abomasite, Manectite, and Aggronite

POYONG: Galladite, Gardevoirite, Lopunnite, and Diancite
The final code just released today is DRACHE which gives players the Mega Stones for Ampharos, Altaria, Latioas, and Latias. Make sure you grab all of these before they are discontinued! We don't know if Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon will include these Mega Stones. If not, the only way to have these Mega evolutions is to have downloaded these for Sun and Moon and traded them over. Better safe than sorry, especially if Mega evolutions come back into the VGC scene in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.



Friday, August 18, 2017

Update on Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

Details about the upcoming pokémon titles Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are few an far between. This is both a blessing and a curse. The fan in me really wants to know everything I can about these games. However, after pretty much everything being released from XYORAS and Sun/Moon before their releases, I also long for playing a game where I know next to nothing about what will be in it. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon occupy an odd space for that though. They are revamp games along the same lines as Emerald or Platinum, so obviously I know a few things that are hold over elements. I now know, for example, that Cosmog will evolve into Lunala/Solgaleo. That was a major plot point of Sun/Moon that was kind of spoiled by data miners. If you were vigilant enough to avoid those spoilers, then good work!

Obviously, the "Cosmog is the legendary you need! SURPRISE!" plot point will have a weaker impact on the players who have Sun/Moon. So, what does Game Freak have in store that will shake up the plot enough to make up for that? No idea. In fact, like I said before, we know next to nothing. A trailer was just released that does tease a few things.

A trainer being chased by a Rockruff. Is it the trainer's or simply an NPC Rockruff you can interact with?
The trailer shows a lot of what we would expect to see, such as the starters being chosen, but after that we see what appears to be a Rockruff following the player. It is possible this is simply an NPC Rockruff that you interact with. There are few in Sun/Moon. However, some are suggesting this is a return of the "walking pokémon" feature last seen in HeartGold and SoulSilver. This would allow you to have the first pokémon on your team follow you around. It is possible, as walking animations were found in Sun/Moon, but I temper my desire for this. I want it bad but it is something that is absent in so many games that it seems like wishful thinking. It is also possible that it returns with a hitch. Perhaps only certain pokémon can follow you. We know that there will be a Rockruff distribution when the game launches, so perhaps only that Rockruff can walk with you to trigger a special evolution? We know that the distribution Rockruff evolves into the special Dusk Form which is only in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Requiring it to walk with you to evolve into that form would make sense canonically, as it would explain why Rockruffs didn't evolve that way in Sun/Moon. You didn't take your Rockruff for walkies. Shame on you.

Dusk form Lycanroc is polarizing the fan community, with some saying it's just a Midday recolor. As someone who prefers Midday to Midnight, I'm ok with it. Plus, it has Tough Claws AND Accelerock. Seems solid to me.
As with all other revamp games, there will be new areas to explore. Some have argued that from what we've seen so far it is annoying this content will be in a new game over simply being downloadable content. I can't say I disagree, but I will try to remain positive as I typically enjoy the revamped versions of games (Crystal, Emerald, Platinum, etc) more than their original iterations. One of the areas shown in the trailer looks to be a new trial area. Either that or Lush Jungle got remodeled.

This appears to more of a shrine whereas Lush Jungle is just.. well.. a jungle. Maybe this is a new area within Lush Jungle?
It also appears that characters we didn't get to see much are getting a little more attention. For one, it looks like Elite Four member Kahili is teaching the player to use Flying type Z-moves. This seems to suggest she is now a Kahuna of one of the islands. Interestingly enough, the Flyinium Z is found on Melemele Island. Perhaps Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon Hala was never Kahuna or retired. It's also possible that she is tied to some side quest to track down the Flyinium Z or is leader of a new trial. For whatever reason, Flyinium Z was just sort of tucked away in Sun/Moon with no real explanation as to why.

Kahili preparing a Z-move.
Ryuki, who can only be fought during a Champion defense after beating the Elite Four, is also back with an expanded role. By expanded, I mean he shows up somewhere besides the Champion chamber (randomly). From the trailer, he appears to be standing in a room set up like Lt. Surge's Gym in Kanto. Is it possible we visit Kanto in the post-game? Is it possible Gyms are in Alola alongside trials or maybe even replacing trials? Who knows? There's a potential for all of those possibilities. The Kanto angle seems like the least likely, however if Kanto is available in some aspect I'm sure the fan community would lose its collective hive mind.

I mean, yea, I'm sure there are stars out in space that no one knows anything about either.
Of course, with any new pokémon game, there are bound to be things that we have no idea about. One such thing is a random building on a random island. This building has a very unique design and, although there is a mannequin in the window, does not look like the clothing shops we've seen in Sun and Moon. There are new clothes obviously in this game, based on what the new player characters are wearing, so perhaps that can be explained by these odd new buildings. 

A new clothing shop? A gym? The return of Contests? PokéStar Studios? Nothing at all?
There is also artwork showcasing some of the changes to Alola. The most obvious is the giant swirling death vortex above Poni Island. This will likely have to do with Necrozma, but what it is remains to be seen. It's not an Ultra Wormhole, at least not one we've seen before. Those look more like a funnel with a grid pattern within it (similar to the Beast Ball design). The death vortex looks more like the portal to the Distortion World from Platinum. One other major difference is there is a large area of the map beneath Poni that is obscured by clouds. It may be just a cloud, but this would not be the first time an area was hidden in map artwork. A similar method of hiding content was utilized in the Black 2/White 2 map, but used ice instead of clouds.

The sun seems to be setting in Alola, possible nod to Dusk Lycanroc?
For comparison, the original map of Alola didn't have that particular area obscured. I don't know what would be in that area, especially since there was nothing in the original map. It could always be a new artificial island like the Aether Paradise or it could an island that rises from the sea or something. It could even be underwater ruins we can explore with Dive. I'd personally like to see that mechanic come back as a new ride pokémon.

The map of Alola from Sun and Moon, with the area below Poni Island un-obscured.
The video does not go into any further detail, however the website for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon does. We already kind of knew that Necrozma would have a much more solid role in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. However, the website straight up confirms that with a picture of Necrozma showing up on Poni Island at the Altar of the Sunne/Moone. 

Can Necrozma open Ultra Wormholes? Does it take the player to Ultra Space instead of Lunala/Solgaleo?
The website also confirms that the new Z-Ring shown previous is actually a new version called a Z-Power Ring. Apparently, it affects Z-moves differently, perhaps adding effects to standard Z-moves. New Z-Crystals for specific pokémon have also been confirmed, but not for which pokémon. I'd suspect Lunala, Solgaleo, and Necrozma. It's kind of odd they didn't get them in Sun and Moon seeing as the starters did. I would assume that all of this gen's "mascots" would end up with one. It's also possible Magearna will as well, seeing as Marshadow does. Seeing as these games expand on Necrozma, give us a new BLACK Z-ring, and new Z-Crystals... and Necrozma is a giant crystal... I think we'll see a Necrozma/Z-Crystal tie in.

I still want Fossilium-Z to be a thing, but I bet my wish will go unanswered. I'll send my fervent wish to Rayquaza and see what happens.
TOMY is producing a new Z-Power Ring (I admittedly just got the original Z-Ring toy) which I assume will be compatible with previous Z-Crystals. What is really interesting is the new Z-Crystal it comes packaged with. It has a unique shape, similar to the Pikachunium Z for the Ash Hat Pikachu. What is the deal with this new Z-Crystal? My guess is it is for Necrozma,  Solagaleo, or Lunala. It is possible it is for all similar to how the Tapunium Z works for all the Tapus. If that is the case, however, that would suggest they will all get some new shared move. It's possible, but only time will tell.

Do I need two Z-Ring toys? No. Will I end up owning two Z-Ring toys? Yes.
For being such a small news break, it actually reveals (potentially) a lot. That being said, I doubt this will be the last we hear about Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon this weekend. Worlds begins today so it is highly likely we'll get some new info at the end of the competition. Stay tuned and be prepared for anything!

UPDATE: What did I say? I said Worlds was going to show us more from Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Pretty much right after I posted this a video was shown during the opening ceremony of the World Championship showcasing a new exclusive Z-Move for Kommo-o!

UPDATE 2: IT KEEPS COMING! Looks like there will be a new photo mode for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. That's probably what that new red building was. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Science of Pokémon: Regional Speciation

The Alola region, like other regions, is home to a unique floral and faunal pokémon. However, one aspect that is currently unique to Alola (seemingly) are Alolan regional variations of already well known pokémon. Differences between related pokémon as a whole is not new, like the two formes of Gastrodon (and Shellos). The East Sea and West Sea variations of Gastrodon are unique to the eastern and western portions of Unova respectively. Unlike Alolan formes, the two formes of Gastrodon are not different outside of their physical appearance. Both formes of Gastrodon have the same typing, states, moves, and abilities. This is not the case for Alolan formes, which is why they are so unique.
The West Sea Gastrodon (pink and brown) and the East Sea Gastrodon (green and blue).
There are different types of speciation events that can result in various subspecies of organisms. In terms of Gastrodon, the two formes are a result of allopatric speciation. Allopatric speciation occurs when populations are separated geographically. For Gastrodon, they are geographically separated by Mt. Coronet, which splits Sinnoh in two. Once separated, the populations undergo genetic changes independently. If the populations do not merge back together, they may even become so different as that they will no longer be able to breed and produce viable offspring. Once this has occurred, the two subspecies are considered separate species. With Gastrodon, they can still breed, therefore they have not been geographically separated long enough to truly become two separate species. Alolan pokémon are similar in that regard. For example, an Alolan Muk can still breed with a standard Muk.
Muk (left) alongside Alolan Muk (right)
Alolan pokémon, however, seem to have been isolated from their global counterparts longer than the two formes of Gastrodon. The morphological (size, shape, color, etc.) difference between the mainland subspecies and the island subspecies is very distinct. Often the differences go beyond simple appearances and extend to typing, abilities, and moves. Hypothetically, should the Alolan formes continue to be isolated from their mainland counterparts, they would eventually be different enough to constitute completely different pokémon species. It is possible that isolation events like these are what resulted in a lot of the morphologically similar rodent pokémon such as Pikachu, Emolga, Pachirisu, and Dedenne. These species can still breed, but they are distinctly different enough in morphology that the PokéDex considers them separate species. Like real world animals and plants, genetic work done on the electric rodents could potentially show that despite having very different morphological traits they are not true species, but rather subspecies (or in Pokémon World terms, formes) of the same species. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Shiny Tapu Koko Now Available

The shiny Tapu Koko that people were complaining about during the Lycanroc promotion is now live via Mystery Gift. To get this guy, just boot up Pokémon Sun and Moon and download it from anywhere with a wifi signal. If you have multiple games, then grab multiple Tapu Koko. They will be excellent trade collateral once the event is over.

Shiny Tapu Koko
Lv: 60
OT: Melemele
ID: 170714
Nature: Timid
Hold Item: Electric Seed
Ability: Electric Surge
Attacks: Nature's Madness, Discharge, Agility, Electro Ball
GTS Status: Shiny Tapu Koko is in a Cherish Ball and has a ribbon that makes it untradable on the GTS or via Wonder Trade. If you receive a Shiny Tapu Koko through either of these services, then it is not the official Mystery Gifted shiny Tapu Koko.

As this is a nature locked event, all shiny Tapu Koko will be Timid. This means this Tapu Koko is meant to be utilized as a fast special attacker. You can save in front of the Mystery Gift man at the Pokémon Center and repeatedly get the Tapu Koko to ensure you get the stats and Hidden Power you want. Ideally, this would most likely be an Ice type Hidden Power, but there are other types that cover some of Tapu Koko's weaknessess (HP Fire for Steel-types for example).


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Featured VG: Battle of Alola Team

Since the Global Link tournaments began in Black and White I have been trying my best to participate in every single one, and sometimes even when I haven't really prepared a team for that tournament. Well, the Battle of Alola tournament is a good example of one such instance. Here's a rundown of what the Battle of Alola:
"Kicking off a new era of online Competitions, the Battle of Alola features the Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon games. Create a team using only the Pokémon found in the Alola region. The battles will be Single Battles, and only three of the six Pokémon in your party will enter each battle. All Pokémon will be set to Lv. 50 for the duration of the battle. Plus, items will not be allowed. Good luck in the Battle of Alola!"
The Battle of Alola tournament took place in December, less than a month after Sun and Moon came out. I basically decided to just use whatever team I had used to beat the story. The poor guys were not even EV trained, but that was not a big deal to me for this tournament.

They can whoop on NPCs, but other people, not so much.

For the first time ever, my "first tournament of the season" team had shinies on it. My Palossand and Exeggutor are both shiny, so I felt proud to show those guys off. The tournament was not the most fun tournament I've ever played in, especially since we weren't allowed items. I, for some reason, have the worst showings in tournaments that don't allow items. Synergy-wise, there's no overlying strategy with these guys. I basically just tried to cover my bases on types. The natures for these pokémon were actually passable too, with the exception of Primarina (Lonely). Palossand is Bold, Muk is Brave, Lunala is Bold, Lycanroc is Impish, and Exeggutor is Relaxed. Unfortunately, by the time this tournament rolled around I hadn't gotten the Trick Room TM yet. If I had, I think this team would have done much better. Instead, as expected, my team got destroyed. At the end of the tournament my rating was as the lowest I can remember (1388) and I had a deplorable win/loss record (4/12).

Good news though, the rest of the Sun and Moon tournaments I've participated in have steadily seen my score go up. In the next few weeks, I will continue to post on those tournaments.

Team Knockout July Tournament

Next week registration for the next Team Knockout online friendly will open. An online Friendly Competition requires 20 participants for the tournament to take place.

Format:
-Single Battle
-National Dex (Excluding legendaries like Mewtwo, Lugia, etc.)
-Migrated Pokémon Allowed
-Z-Crystals and Mega Stones allowed

Early registration beings on July 13th. Standard registration begins on July 17th at 9:30am EST (1pm UTC) and runs through July 21st at 7:59pm EST (11:59pm UTC). You can register at the tournament's Global Link page.

Tournament battles will be played through the Battle Spot (just like with any online tournament) from 
July 21st at 8pm EST (12:00am UTC) through July 22nd (7:59pm EST; 11:59pm UTC). 


For this tournament we are testing a "Battle Block" system. Although you can go into the tournament at any point during the battle period, I suggest logging in specifically during these "Battle Block" times. to ensure you can find an opponent.

Block 1: July 21st 8pm - 11pm EST (July 22nd 12am - 3am UTC)
Block 2: July 22nd 10am - 1pm EST (July 22nd 2pm - 5pm UTC)
Block 3: July 22nd 4pm - 7:59pm EST (July 22nd 8pm - 11:59pm UTC)

Prizes will be given to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners so long as the follow the guidelines on the Facebook event page to confirm they are the players who won those prizes. Prizes are still "to be determined" based on attendance, however they will likely be legendary pokémon (or shiny pokémon) holding Bottle Caps, PP Maxes, or PP Ups.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Team Knockout June Tournament

Next week Team Knockout is hosting an online tournament via the Pokémon Global Link. The rules are essentially standard VGC rules:

-Double Battle
-Alolal Dex (Excluding legendaries like Solgaleo, Lunala, etc.)
-Migrated Pokémon Not Allowed
-Z-Crystals allowed; No Mega Stones


Registration begins on May 29th at 9am EST (1pm UTC) and runs through June 2nd at 7:59pm EST (11:59pm UTC). Tournament battles will be played through the Battle Spot (just like with any online tournament) from June 2nd at 8pm EST (12:00am UTC) through June 3rd (7:59pm EST; 11:59pm UTC). 

Prizes will be given to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners so long as the follow the guidelines on the Facebook event listing  to confirm they are the players who won those prizes. Prizes include an XYZ Zygarde which has been merged with a Sun/Moon Zygarde to get Power Construct, a shiny Xerneas, or Shiny Yveltal. Once registration opens next Monday, I will post the link for everyone to easily register.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Looking an Event in the Mouth

Voted Most Likely to be a YouTuber
Welcome back to The Fossil Jockey everyone! My hiatus is over, mainly because I have been witnessing something I felt I needed to weigh in on. In the past, The Pokémon Company has been accused of giving WAY more event pokémon away in Japan than other parts of the world. So much so that I wrote an article about that very phenomenon. I made a point to say that when it comes to non-mythical pokémon, or pokémon you could catch/breed/whatever yourself, Japan has us beat. However, starting today, we have access to one such pokémon, Midnight Forme Lycanroc. Is the community happy to finally be seeing more events, even the less rare ones, like they've been asking to get for years?

Nope.

In fact, every post the official Pokémon Facebook has made about it is filled with negative comments pointing to how this event isn't special. In fact, most are complaining about why we have not been given other events instead, specifically mentioning Ash's Pikachu, Marshadow, and Shiny Tapu Koko. The former two events are movie tie ins, so we obviously are not going to get those at least until release dates for the next movie have been announced. The latter is a TCG tie in and the box set revolving around Shiny Tapu Koko does not even hit shelves until July

In short, the pokémon community is looking their gift horse in the mouth. Do you HAVE to drive out to Gamestop and get the code card for this pokémon? No, and most people who know how to SOS chain for Hidden Abilties and research egg moves can get this exact same pokémon (minus the Cherish Ball) all by themselves. However, if you play more casually, you may not know about those things or care to pursue them. This event is geared more towards those people and that should be ok.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The "Real" Pokémon Format: Is There One?

The first official tournament I played in, but I
had played in many unofficial ones at League before.
Over the years I have discussed my tournament experiences with many people. I've played in some really weird formats. Back in 2005 I participated in the Ultimate Frontier Brain Battle. The format was weird. You could use whatever you wanted except mythicals and you couldn't have hold items. The tournament was played via Pokémon Colosseum and the only people in attendance were either Nintendo staff or friends/family of the competitors. This was my first experience with someone suggesting there was a "real" format. Several of the players said that we should all agree to not use pokémon like Mewtwo, Groudon, Kyogre, or Rayquaza. I understood the sentiment, but I wasn't about to sacrifice my chances to someone who decided to not agree to these informal restrictions. In the end, no one followed that so I'm glad I made the right choice.

Fast forward and I learned this came from players of an online simulator. I downloaded it, and played it some, but it just wasn't for me. I played pokémon for the battles, but it wasn't the only reason I played it. Sometimes I would just breed pokémon or raise pokémon just to relax. To each their own. When online battles became a reality and the Video Game Championships began in 2009, I had no personal reason to play the simulators at all anymore.

Now, we have a splintered community of players. We have those who still play simulators and tout it as the "real" format, or the more competitive one. Then on the other side, we have those who play VGC and tout the same thing. Admittedly, VGC is the official format, but in my mind both are "real". They both exist and meet different needs. There are some who gladly play either format. I feel these people are the true competitors.

Pokémon is a fun game, when you allow it to be.
Why does there have to be one "real" format? There doesn't, honestly. There is one clearly official format and any other is unofficial, but that's not a bad thing. There are plenty of unofficial circuits for various games/sports out there. I don't understand why pokémon has to be different. In the end, it comes down to the players. There are equally toxic members in both the VGC and unofficial camps that see themselves as superior based on their personal preference. I've experienced hostility from both sides, and I used to be really upset at one side or another at any given time. However, on the other hand I've met nice people on both sides too. The more I've dealt with both sides I've come to a conclusion. It's not the formats that are the problem. The problem falls on the players. If the person is a jerk, they aren't going to naturally gravitate to one format or another. They could be a VGC Jerk or they could be a Showdown Jerk. The common denominator is they are jerks. So, it would seem my problem isn't with a format. My problem is with jerks.

I already host VGC events, as I'm a Tournament Organizer for Pokémon, but I'd gladly host unofficial tournaments if my players asked for it. I've done it in the past. I've held what I call "Type Tournaments", where players can only use pokémon of a given type that they draw randomly. I sanction them too, just as "Fun" format. They aren't Premier events, but they are meant to expand the game to people who just want to come out and have a fun time.

I mean, why play if it's not fun?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Jan Starlite Gaming Premier Challenge: Team Analysis

The second Premier Challenge for Sun and Moon I've held in South Carolina was again at Starlite Gaming in Summerville, SC. We had 8 participants, all of which were Masters. This is a 2 person drop from last month. Four rounds of Swiss were played with us cutting to Top 2. Due to a death in my family, a good friend (and SC PTO) David Griggs ran the event for me. Below are the top 4 teams from our January Premier Challenge. 3 out of 4 teams were running a pokémon with Trick Room, either Porygon2 or Oranguru.


In terms of changes, I have now included a speadsheet showing the changes in teams between December and January (The raw data can be accessed by anyone). The most interesting aspect was the complete drop off in usage for pokémon like Nihilego (who was in 3 of the top 4 teams in December) and a drastic increase in the usage of Araquanid and Tapu Koko.