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Virizion’s Vision: Ghostly Concepts

18 Jan

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The time has come once again to lock all the doors, close all the windows, and to cower in the corner in fear as grotesque monstrosities come towards you. That’s right, my articles are back.

Now usually I love seasonal celebrations, but on this occasion I’m a bit of a grumpy old sod. By that I mean I don’t enjoy or celebrate Halloween like most people do. To me it’s just an excuse for kids to bully old people for sweets, or money by scaring the living daylights out of them. However, the horror theme does provide Ghost and Dark Pokémon a chance to show off their awesomeness. Over the years we have seen plenty of inspired designs make it into the series. Plenty of them have deep meaningful backgrounds such as Yamask, and Cofagrigus which Mechanos covered a few days ago. Every generation we get some new takes on ghost and monster like creatures which span from centuries of myths, and legends from around the globe. We’ve had a doppelganger, a gas spirit, a possessed doll, and a werewolf just to name a few. So with all these great ideas how does Gamefreak top this? What myths, legends, or horror themed objects can they use to create a new menace for us to capture? Here are a few thoughts:

Pumpkin:

This traditional Halloween fruit is something I’ve seen a lot of Fakémon based on when scrolling through deviantArt. The menacing grin usually carved into it is a fantastic look. The myth which says the pumpkin is used to ward off demons gives it a great background story too. I think mixing this with a scarecrow could make for one awesomely terrifying creature. With scarecrows also being used for protective means, it would make for a great combination. It could be a glowing red pumpkin head on top of a scarecrow body. It could possibly look similar to Cacturne. Typing could be any two of Ghost, Dark, Grass, and Fire if you consider the flame lit head and the haystack body. This is just one idea for the pumpkin, but if you were to look on the web you’ll find plenty of other inspiring ideas. How would you approach this theme?

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Jack in the Box:

This is a brilliant example of what innocently started out as a prank toy, but has now become a common horror icon. The tension you get when you wind up the box and you have no idea when the object inside is going to pop out is incredibly unnerving. Usually it’s some sort of frightening looking jester/clown which just adds to the scare after the initial jump. My primary thought was of an evil clown. Although we already have clown like Pokémon (Mr. Mime and Mime Jr.) neither of them were based on terror, but after reading about Cofagrigus (again courtesy of Mechanos) the jack in the box idea suddenly occurred. The sarcophagus is pretty much just a fancy box with a Pharaoh usually inside. If you added a spring mechanic and a wind up key, then it would kind of be similar to a jack in the box, just with bodily remains flying out at you instead. The solid state of this box gives this Ghost type high defences which makes it rather unique compared to the rest of the spiritual monsters. The jack in the box idea could work in the same way, with it having high defences. However, to put a twist on it, I was thinking of a second ‘form’ where it’s in its ‘popped up’ stance. Instead of having high defences, it could have high attacks instead. As for typing perhaps the box could be steel so we get a ghost/steel combo? What are your thoughts on this?

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Zombie/Mind Control/Possession:

Now some of you may roll your eyes and sigh in apathy due to the saturation of zombies in the games industry these days. Some of you may even know that there already is a ‘zombie’ Pokémon – named Parasect. However I feel that the idea is still largely unexplored within the series. Now because the games are rated E for everyone, we can’t expect a new pocket monster to look all mangled with its brains hanging out etc. But a zombie doesn’t have to be a half rotten corpse; you could have a skeleton or a being which does not have self control. The game could do with something which is scary and has a great story behind it; something more obvious than the aforementioned Parasect. I haven’t got a particular design in mind for this one, but another idea is some sort of possession. We already have Banette to fill that role, however, because he’s an object he doesn’t have any past life which makes him interesting (other than being a plush doll). Having a creature or person being possessed would make things far more chilling. Knowing they used to lead a normal life before being taken over by an evil entity is what horror is all about. For example the iconic creepy little girl from Bioshock is quite eerie what with her glowing eyes which seemingly stare into your soul.

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So there you have it, my ghostly concepts. What are your thoughts on not only my ideas, but the ghost and horror genre as a whole? What designs and themes do you have, and want implemented into the series?

P.S. Sorry I have been absent for a while, college work has kept me very busy. I was never truly gone though; I just haven’t had the time to contribute to the site directly (however I’m always active in staff discussions). Anyhow enough of my excuses, see you next time.

-Sam Peace

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Virizion’s Vision: Alternate Genre

18 Jan

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Sammy here with another “Alternate” article. This time however, things are a little different. Rather than discussing an in game feature I wanted to think outside the box. I would like to talk about the game as a whole, more specifically the style of play. The interactive features of a game are what differentiates it from a movie. Without this predominant component games would cease to exist. Pokémon has relied on its Role Playing Game (RPG) Turn Based mechanic for its main series since the very beginning. This play style started simple, but over the years it has been given more depth so it would appeal to a broader audience.

Gamefreak have worked very hard to strike a balance between the casual, hardcore, young, and older players. It has created a system which is easy to learn but hard to master. To us Pokémon veterans it may not seem too difficult, however if you’re teaching someone who is new to the entire series, and you tell them about every aspect of the gameplay then their minds would likely melt. Over the years features have been added, and the gameplay has been tweaked. Some people complain about the system staying the same, that it’s time for something new and fresh. But let’s be honest Pokémon wouldn’t be the same magical experience we all know and love if they took this setup away. This is where spinoffs come into the picture…

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Ever since Pokémon became a phenomenon it has spawned spinoffs here, there, and everywhere. In the early days you had classics such as Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Snap on the home consoles; to Pokémon Pinball and Pokémon Trading Card Game (one of my all time favourites which NEEDS a sequel) on the Gameboy. These days unfortunately the home consoles have been largely ignored. The GameCube era gave fans real hope of a fully fledged 3D adventure with the releases of colosseum and XD; however they never provided the freedom people wanted. Nevertheless they were great games, and it looked much more promising for the future.

But then came the Wii, needless to say it didn’t deliver. Battle Revolution was a watered down Stadium whilst PokéPark was a light hearted adventure aimed at the younger audience, and focused more on mini games. To rub salt into the wound Nintendo stated that the main series would always be on a handheld, so it is unlikely we’ll ever get a similar game on a home console. But don’t cry just yet since new Pokémon spinoffs are still coming out thick and fast, so there is always hope. In fact Nintendo’s next generation console the “Wii U” offers a lot of promise due to its inventive new controller the “Wii U Pad”. Theoretically this makes the home console like a giant DS. What this means is that there is not only opportunity for new types of experiences, but also there is a great chance to put successful handheld franchises onto the console. So once again there is hope.

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So whilst it is mostly bleak on the home console front, it is the complete opposite for the handheld as Pokémon games are booming. We’ve seen recent spinoffs on the DS turn into franchises (Pokémon Ranger & Mysterious Dungeon), and there have been numerous other experiments too including Pokémon Conquest. The aforementioned game is an important step in the series because it’s the first time (other than the cameos in the Smash Bros series) that Pokémon has been mixed with another game. The game is essentially Nobunaga’s Ambition with Pokémon elements mixed in. It takes place in a fictional region called Ransei which is set during the war torn states of feudal Japan. You are tasked with unifying all 17 kingdoms in order to bring peace to the land. It is a turn based game which feels reminiscent of Advances Wars and Fire Emblem.

What makes the game stand out is the fact that the warriors from the Nobunaga series not only act like Pokémon trainers, but are actually involved in the battles too. Now I don’t mean they are stabbing the likes of Jigglypuff to death or anything sinister like that. Rather they are passively involved by the way of powering up their Pokémon during battle. They can also level up and evolve too just like their counterparts. It is the link between a warrior and his Pokémon that is key to being successful during the game. The same can be said for the partnership between Gamefreak and Tecmo Koei, as this is the key to this game being successful. Now the reason I talked about this spinoff was because I wanted to highlight the partnership between the two companies, and their two games. Conquest is a big step as it shows that Gamefreak are prepared to cooperate with other develops to bring something new to Pokémon. This excites me as a fan since we could potentially see a mash up with any game (though many are unlikely), and we could see Pokémon dip into some new genres. So finally here is the main focus, if Pokémon was to try a new genre what would it be, and how would it work?

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First Person Shooter (FPS): POKÉMON DUTY: MODERN GYM BATTLES or POKÉSHOCK INFINITE?

Now before you boo and hiss at the very thought of an FPS, or the very mention of Call of Duty (COD) let me explain myself. I’m not for one second suggesting we give Pikachu a gun, or turn Garbodor into a bigger freak of nature than it already is. I’m merely speculating on how we could control a Pokémon from the first person perspective, and to use their powers to battle. The reason I parodied the titles of COD and Bioshock is because they’re two iconic series which offer two VERY different modern FPS experiences. One is mainly a competitive shooter which relies on quick reflexes, whilst the other focuses on single player storytelling, combining shooting with supernatural powers.

Bioshock is probably the more feasible option (think Pokémon setting with Bioshock gameplay elements). They could implement the move sets in a similar way to how Bioshock handles its powers. This means you could shoot out a Thunderbolt or a Flamethrower in the same manner as shooting out plasmids, but minus the hands (check YouTube if you want to see how Bioshock is played). Now I don’t know how the others moves could work, and I know it may sound a bit too farfetched; however I haven’t been thinking about it for hours on end, this is just an idea which happened to pop into my head. It also made sense to mention the genre due to the mass market it has in the industry. I mean what if you did mix the most popular genre with (in my bias opinion) the best series on the planet? It could it be out of this world…

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Racing: POKÉMON KART

I’m sure some of you saw this one coming, but with the likes of Mario and Sonic having their own kart racers it kind of makes sense for Pokémon to have one. It may sound like a shameful cash in idea, however with the right amount of effort it could be ace. Imagine having Pokémon themed tracks with all the nostalgic music you know and love. You could race through famous cities, caves, and routes etc where you have different distractions happening in the background. For items you could have a Pokéball which catches the racer in front, and makes them have to rapidly tap A to escape. You could have X Speed to make you faster temporarily.

You could also have moves such as Earthquake which could bring all racers in front of you to a momentary halt; or Teleport to get you back in the race if you’re far behind. Though there would be a challenge to decide what the roster of playable characters should be, each one could have its own signature attack. You could even have flying races with the likes of Charizard racing Salamence for example. Now I know there was a game called Pokémon Dash for the DS which was a racer (does anyone remember?). However it was a top down game that relied on the player using their stylus to make the Pokémon run. It was decent fun, but would be better as a mini game for the main series. In fact it was probably part of the inspiration for the Pokéathlon.

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I could go on forever about the potential crossovers or genre changes that could happen, but then this would be an even longer article than it already is. Besides I want you to do all the hard work, and discuss what you would like to see happen. So what genre should Pokémon attempt to try? What crossovers could work? What about the age old question – Pokémon Smash Bros or Pokémon Fighter 4? Starring all your favourite fighting Pokémon. I leave it up to you. Let the battles commence!

-Sam Peace

Virizion’s Vision: Alternate Villains

18 Jan

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Sammydodger here again with another Virizion’s Vision: Alternate article. This will hopefully be a mini-series in which we will view core Pokémon elements from a new perspective.

Prepare for trouble and make it double… okay maybe quintuple since there have now been five villainous organizations threatening the stability of the Pokémon world with in the main games. With each new generation we always expect to not only see new things, but also returning traditions. Who will be the new professor? Who will be the new Elite 4? Who will be the new villains? These are just a few examples of the main staples which form the Pokémon series. Today, I would like us to discuss the roles which the antagonists play during the stories; and what makes them fit within the Pokémon universe. To begin with, I’ll give a brief outline of each of the five criminal syndicates, followed by a few ideas of what could make a good alternate/future villain.

Team Rocket: The original bad guys are famed all over the world mostly due to the incompetent Jessie, James and Meowth from the anime. However, they’ve also made a big impact in the games too. They’re the only gang to appear in two generations and two regions. This makes them quite memorable, especially to veteran Pokémon players. Their main goals include world domination whilst making a tidy profit by stealing and/or exploiting Pokémon. This alone probably makes them the cruellest and most heartless of the 5 enemy groups. They were led by infamous leader Giovanni whom you meet at several points in R/B/Y. He is also the 8th gym leader, once beaten however you never see him again. In G/S/C, Team Rocket reform under the leadership of some admins. Their main goal is to bring back Giovanni so that he can return the gang to its former glory. However, their plans ultimately fall flat and you don’t get to see the big man himself. But in the remakes HG/SS you get to go back in time and visit Tohjo Falls where the Rocket boss resides. There you have a showdown which helps prevent him from rejoining Team Rocket. You also discover that your rival throughout your adventures in G/S/C is actually the Giovanni’s son!

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Team Magma/Team Aqua: The third generation of Pokémon games R/S/E are probably the most unique when it comes to villainous organizations. There were two rival gangs whose opposite ideals made them clash and battle for supremacy. Depending on the version you played one gang would be your enemy, and one would be your ally (unless you played Emerald in which case you battled against the two of them). Both had similar aims; however they were very opposite at the same time. Magma wanted to expand the land mass using the power of Groudon; whilst Aqua wanted to expand the sea using the power of Kyogre. Unlike Team Rocket who specialised in “annoying” Pokémon, Magma used fire types and Aqua used water types (though there were still some annoying Pokémon mixed in). A weird thing to point out is that despite Aqua having the type advantage, both gangs were actually evenly matched. Once again you would battle them at different points during the game. Their plans are much more extreme than Team Rockets, and could be deemed more evil; however the reasons behind their desired expansions are far more understandable (though equally as barmy). They want to improve the way of life for both humans and Pokémon alike. Unfortunately neither considers the possible repercussions of their actions, so alas you must stop them.

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Team Galactic: Generation four bought us Team Galactic; a bunch of space age geeks who are surprisingly ruthless which is reminiscent of Team Rocket though they have a slightly more intelligent look. Their main objective was to harness the power of time and space using the Sinnoh region legendary’s Dialga and Palkia. They would then use this power to destroy/recreate the whole Pokémon universe. Unfortunately for this futuristic themed syndicate they were too ambitious, and as is tradition they succumb to failure. This is most definitely the wackiest and most extreme plot to date within the main Pokémon games. It is quite similar to Magma’s and Aqua’s plans, but it’s on a grander scale. The reason for their madness is down to their leader Cyrus, whom believes there is too much “strife” in the world due to the humans having a “weak and incomplete” spirit. He thinks that mankind has ruined the planet through years of war and hostility. He dreams of a fresh start where he can rewrite history. However, once again he doesn’t consider the consequences, and his power mad ego is sent packing by the player. What is it with all these mad men? It’s just as well no one in real life has found a way of destroying the world… yet.

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Team Plasma: With Galactic plotting the most absurd scheme possible, how could Plasma top it and become more interesting? Well for starters picking a more realistic target helps, however they surprised us all with a plan that actually made sense and made them look more heroic than immoral. Their ambition was to free Pokémon from humans. Led by a young guy named N, Team Plasma sought a new way of life where Pokémon and humans existed separately. Now you would be forgiven for thinking that it’s just a cover up for a much more devious strategy, however N is genuine in his mission for ultimate freedom. Although his views are very just, they were sadly misguided by a man named Ghetsis. N was raised by this man from a young age where he was bought up alongside Pokémon, and had little contact with humanity. Ghetsis who was the leader of the Seven Sages (a rank with in Team Plasma) manipulated N by making him believe humans were harming Pokémon, and that it was his destiny to save them. Once old enough, N was given leadership of the organization. With his newly granted power, it was your task to stop him. To make him realize the bond humanity shares with Pokémon, and the love the species have for one another. You have to prove to N that the majority of people care for Pokémon and vice versa. You eventually manage to make him understand, however Ghetsis’s true colours come to light when he sees N’s change of heart. He reveals how he was using N’s good nature to help rid the planet of trainers, so then Ghetsis would be the only person with Pokémon left, thus allowing him to take over the world as a dictator. Once you stop him, N simply disappears into the sunset, and Plasma is no more… for now.

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Over the years we’ve seen some terrific villains with some outrageous goals, and with B&W we saw our first ever anti-villains (with the exception of Ghetsis). The one problem is how can they create something new and unique? How can they top what they’ve already done? Well what about having an organization that already has control of the region? We’ve seen numerous attempts where the bad guys have tried to take over in some form or another, so this would create an immediate twist to the story which in turn could give the game a much darker tone. Perhaps all the gym leaders, Elite 4 and champion could be part of this new gang, but it might be unknown to the player until he/she reaches the conclusion of their journey. For once the enemies would have achieved their major aims. You wouldn’t be trying to prevent them; instead you would be fighting for your freedom. This curve ball could create numerous story arcs with endless possibilities. So what name and costume could they have? We’ve already had Team “Rocket” and “Galactic” so continuing with the space like theme we could use the cheesy Team “Universe”. Another idea is something like Team “Victory” since they have total control. Again there is vast potential when it comes to names and costumes, but I’ll leave the ideas up to you.

There is plenty of promise for future villainy, however I’ve babbled on for too long and you need your chance to have your say. Please don’t be afraid to comment, I love hearing your ideas and I welcome constructive feedback. Until next time though, good day to you!

-Sam Peace

Virizion’s Vision: Alternate B2/W2 Storylines

18 Jan

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Little over a year ago Black & White stormed onto our shelves; it included new features, improvements, changes, plus even more Pokémon. One of the more prominent advancements was the evolution of the storyline; it added a layer of emotional depth, something I feel Pokémon has never truly managed to capture in the past. For once the game questioned my morality as a character. Am I really doing the right thing? Should I be using Pokémon to battle? Is this just cruelty?

You start the game as you always would, a new trainer who wants to become a Pokémon master. You travel across the region of Unova, battle 8 gyms, and gain 8 badges. You then gain entry to the Pokémon League, beat the Elite 4, and ultimately become the best there ever was. But life is never that simple, there is always a bunch of bad guys in funny outfits who get in your way, and want to take over the world in some form or another. However, in B/W there is a twist! The antagonist group “Team Plasma”, and their leader “N” actually want to save the world from the likes of you, and every other Pokémon trainer around. What makes it more shocking is that their ideals make complete and utter sense. Their reasoning actually made me think I was in some way a villain, and not them. But with the linearity of the games I had to pursue this path, and with each defeat of N I felt guiltier, and slightly mean (to put it in a polite way), but guess what? I loved it.

N’s dream is to set Pokémon free from humans, a separate existence so they don’t have to be enslaved anymore. His motives came about when he was young. He grew up around Pokémon, and was raised by a man named Ghetsis. He was led to believe humans were harming Pokémon, also that capturing, and training Pokémon was morally wrong too. Once he was old enough, Ghetsis made N the leader of Team Plasma, this gave N the power to put his extremist views into fruition. Unfortunately Ghetsis was not all as he seemed; it turned out that he was manipulating N to do his dirty work in a bid for world domination.  Although N’s beliefs were well meant, and innocent; he lacked knowledge; furthermore he was blinded by the deception of Ghetsis. After learning of the betrayal, plus Ghetsis’s defeat & arrest, N flew off into the sunset on the Reshiram/Zekrom he managed to obtain near the end of the game. That was the last we saw of him until now…

Now with the release of B2/W2 in Japan, and the not so distant western release; we can finally see if they can give us the same type of experience as before. For the first time since the release of Gold & Silver we will finally get a continued story. Many of us thought we had seen the last of N & Team Plasma, and that the “inevitable” third version would contain only the original plot with a few extra scenes thrown in for good measure. The great thing about these sequels is that we’ll get a whole new story; with this the wild speculation of what happened to N, Team Plasma, and the rest of the characters will begin.

Now some of you may already know what happens through importing, emulation or from various online sites. However, it’ll still be fun to come up with ideas for what would make a great story. Here’s my two cents/my two pennies worth (or any other currency you may have):

Ghetsis has escaped from custody, he reforms Team Plasma, and plots a new way of taking over Unova by using the powers of Kyurem. N meanwhile learns of the reformation, and comes out of hiding in order to stop him. This all happens when your new protagonist starts his/hers adventure. In most games you usually only have your Mum who contacts you every so often throughout your journey (with the exception of the 3rd gen where your Dad is a gym leader). This time perhaps, we could see your Mum and/or Dad play a bigger part. However, continuing with the main plot for now; we could see Team Plasma kidnap Professor Juniper & Bianca, so they can use their knowledge to help locate, and then capture Kyurem. This alongside numerous Team Plasma public demonstrations will spur you on making you want to stop them.  Half way through your quest you could meet N. You decide to work with him to help thwart Ghetsis’s plots, as well as to help rescue Professor Juniper & Bianca. Unfortunately Ghetsis manages to seize control of Kyurem, ends up freezing half of Unova, and he imprisons all of Unova’s most powerful trainers (Gym Leaders, Elite 4 & Champion). With Unova under his control he turns the Pokémon League into his own fortress. Hiding at the top, he plans his next conquest.

You & N are now the only two who can stop him; N (who still has a Reshiram/Zekrom) tells you to find the other trainer who has the Ying to his Yang. That’s right, you have to track down B/W’s protagonist, and get him/her to help you. Once found you all travel to the fortress where N & the other protagonist hold off Kyurem whilst you enter to find Ghetsis. Before you get to him however, 4 Plasma generals stand in your way… Enter the Plasma Elite 4! In typical league style, you must dispatch each one at a time without healing. Once done you finally get to fight Ghetsis (again without healing). If you manage to defeat him, Kyurem will appear to challenge you. Kyurem would have now sensed the weakness of Ghetsis, realizing he was not the chosen one after all despite him being able to locate the legendary’s resting place. You proceed to have a showdown with Kyurem, which is where you finally have a chance you capture him. However, for now this is where I hand over to you. Though this plot may seem slightly bog standard (with the exception of the Plasma Elite 4), I wanted you readers to be the ones to envision the best ideas. What alternate story/ending can you come up with? Will there be major twists for N, the protagonist, or any of the other cast? Last of all, what makes a great story line, and how can you make it feel like it belongs in the Pokémon universe? Let the controversy begin, and leave your thoughts in the comments box below!

P.S. Sorry if it’s too long! Thank you for all your support on this site, please remember to visit http://mountmoon.net/ for more in depth discussion with the Pokéjungle community.

-Sam Peace

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