Pokemon Ultra Sun: Gen VII and the Growth of the Games

It has taken me six days to complete Pokemon Ultra Sun. I would have finished sooner if I wasn’t an adult and had to work in between playing. Regardless, I’m content with the time sunk into the Pokemon company’s latest title because I believe it is their best offering yet. In fact, I am grateful to be playing the game later in life as I have been able to play most of the other titles as well. This has allowed me to watch the series develop and mature into the current generation. I’d like to highlight some of the evolutions in the games that have begun to thrive in the newest editions.

Storytelling

Since the original Red, Blue and Yellow titles the Pokemon games have followed a standard formula. Each new edition gained slightly more features, a new set of critters to catch and benefited from the upgrades in recent technology. Over time the games became fairly standard in their content. You start your journey as a child to collect that region’s badges; another child forms some form of rivalry with you and will attempt to defeat you throughout the game; you have to foil the plans of the country’s evil team and capture the legendary Poke; finally you defeat the Pokemon League, become Champion and all there’s left to do is collect every creature to complete your Pokedex.

I won’t deny that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon share all of these common traits that epitomise the series. However, the newest games expand heavily outside of this. Instead of the traditional eight gym set up, you have to complete a series of trials. The trials always conclude with you fighting a totem Pokemon instead of a gym leader. These beasts are buffer versions of what you normally encounter in the wild and present a harder challenge than can be found in most Pokemon games. Frequently, I found myself defeated by these new obstacles.

Until Ultra Sun and Moon your journey to become the region’s Pokemon champion was always hindered by an evil team e.g. Rocket, Plasma, Magma etc. The new games not only boast Team Skull but you also have to contend with the Aether Foundation, the Ultra Recon Squad (are they bad, good or just cyborgs?) as well as the post game Rainbow Rocket whose ranks include every villain from the previous titles. The expansion of the story is perhaps due to technology as well as how much time developers can pour into the games. No matter what the cause of the fresher and more expansive story is, the result is a more engaging and unique experience.

Variety

After seven generations of games the Pokemon franchise has expanded a lot. The original 150 creatures has multiplied into 807, which is an awful lot to choose from. The Alola region offers over 400 of these to capture. I put my starter in the box and made my team completely of Pokemon that resemble dogs.  This was only possible because after so many games the world has a ridiculous variety of creatures to choose from. Not only are there a lot of Pokemon to fill your party but you can also catch almost every legendary (I don’t think Mew, Celebi or Shaymin are available). The plethora of options allow for endless combinations and fresh ways to play. This is developed further by regional variants. These variants take the standard Pokemon you have come to know and exposes them to different biological diversity. A new region provides new environmental pressures and their result is abstractly evolved Pokes.

Features

In the older games there wasn’t much to distract you from the main story. If you wanted an early Dratini or Porygon you could always gamble all your money in Game Corner. Likewise, Gen IV offered mining opportunities for rare stones and secret bases were available in Gen III but none of these side features engaged me for very long. Most of them demanded you play with friends or weren’t fun enough to distract from the story line. Ultra Sun and Moon offer more rewarding features such as a surfing mini game to get between cities. Surfing whilst fun also rewards your for your efforts and skill with TMs.

In the same vein, you can ride on a legendary Pokemon throughout space. In this feature you dodge electro-balls, garner energy for boosted speed and are rewarded for your skill by traveling through wormholes where rare Pokemon reside. The new mini-games are more appealing because they are not just distracting. Even though you aren’t forced to play them they offer rare and unique rewards that are often unattainable elsewhere in the game. Dedicating your time to them is essential to completing your Pokedex and providing a complete experience of Ultra Sun and Moon.

Overall, when I think back across my time with the Pokemon franchise I am happy to see how it has grown. The content is more plentiful and richer, the game play is more challenging and whilst a lot of the traditions of the series remain untouched there is original ideas being offered. The accumulations of the franchise so far has potentially produced the best game to date. Apparently Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the last titles to be released on the 3DS console. It may be a few years before we see a new game and who knows what format it will take but if the most recent games are any indication then the franchise can only get better.

 

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Completing Duolingo and Beyond

If you’re familiar with some of my previous posts then you’ll be aware that I have been trying to learn Swedish for nearly eighteen months. I started after I fell in love with the country and started visiting every three or four weeks. After my first trip, I decided that my visits could only be improved by learning the language. With less than twelve million speakers Swedish isn’t the world’s most influential tongue. The lack of prevalence made my self teaching tricky, especially when there were so few sources to learn from. I settled upon Duolingo and have been plowing my way through their beginners course ever since.

Yesterday, I finally finished all the lessons the app provides. I was presented with an owl trophy and a mark that claimed I am now 57% fluent. I was very proud with my dedication to self improvement. Only attaining my degree has given me a similar level of pride. I searched the app for more tasks, expecting more advanced exercises to take my 57% fluency score up to 100. There were no more activities. All that remained was repeating the same tasks I have worked through over the last year. Just like every other skill repetition is an integral aspect of learning. I intend to repeat the course until I can recall every word with ease.

Duolingo has provided a solid foundation in my Swedish education but there is still a lot to build on. The question I am faced with is how to do further my development. I have tried searching for other apps but they only seem to teach the fundamentals of the language. I am going to search for more online courses, purchase children’s books and translate them with my Swedish dictionary, as well as consume more subtitled television programmes and radio broadcasts. I hope these efforts will further boost my abilities. However, I would prefer some form of structured lesson plan. A course along the lines of Duolingo that is aimed at the intermediate learner. If you have any advice regarding this then it is most welcome.

 

Hearthstone: Tips for Beginners

I have been playing Hearthstone for about seven months. I first began the game about three years ago along with a neighbour. After I didn’t make much progress I gave up the title and moved onto other games. Now I’m back on the Blizzard card based game and bashing my way up the leader board. In the event that time travel ever becomes possible I’m leaving some hints to myself. Hopefully, they will encourage my past self to continue with the game instead of taking a hiatus.

Don’t Spend Money

The thing that put me off other Blizzard games like World of Warcraft was the heavy price tag. I couldn’t justify a monthly subscription on a student budget. Luckily, Hearthstone is free to play and you can progress within the game without having to spend a dragon’s hoard on gold or card packs.

I have spent some money on expansions. The cost has been under £20. I spent more on booster packs and recieved less in return. I would recommend saving your real life coins and grinding your way through the daily quests, staching away your crafting dust, and only spend real money on game expansions.

Learn from others

The main reason I originally gave up Hearthstone was the lack of progress. No matter how hard I tried or attempted to create original decks, I couldn’t get past rank 20 in competitive play. When I returned to the game I decided I needed advice. I scoured YouTube for tutorials, hunted the Web for deck builds and began to emulate the advice of others.

I settled on a cheap hunter deck and began to slowly climb the ranks. As my collection grew larger, I began deferring from the premade deck and suplimented some of the less useful cards with the better ones I was acquiring. Two months later I improved my rank by seven places. The game claimed I was in the top 20% of players. Now I have the resources I can start moving onto more intricate styles of play, which will give me a more competitive deck.

Progress from Persistent Play

As with everything else in life, you can only get better if you practice. You can’t expect to be top ten after two days of play. Winning will be a long journey and even the best players don’t have a 100% win rate. It’s impossible to never lose. Just keep trying. If you do win though, don’t be the guy who continues to play cards when you have kill on the board. It’s rude to the other player.