Tagged: Nintendo

Martha Thomases: Go, Pokémon, Go!

pokemon-go-unsafe-locations

Over the weekend I noticed my Facebook and Twitter feeds were overrun with new words and phrases. What is a “Pokewalk?” Why were so many people looking for gyms?

As you probably know, the cause was Pokémon Go, a break-out cell phone game that is crashing servers and bringing people together all over the country. This is in addition to a successful roll-out in Australia and New Zealand. In fact, “By July 8, just two days after its launch in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, Pokémon Go was installed on more than 5% of all the Android devices in the U.S., surpassing popular mobile-dating app Tinder, which was running on a little over 2% of all Android devices.”

Get that? Looking for cute little virtual animals is more popular than looking for convenient, no-strings-attached sex.

Sometimes, I just don’t understand kids today.

I missed the most rabid parts of the original Pokémon fad back in the 1990s because my kid was a little bit too old for it, but I can totally understand why this new game is so popular. In the original, you looked for a variety of Pokémon (or “pocket monsters”) on your video game screen, and when you collected the most, you won. Yes, there were more wrinkles to it than that, but the kids I watched play were more excited by the quest than by the battles.

In the new version, the game involves many of the cool features on your smartphone, especially the camera and the GPS. By looking at the world around you via your screen, you can occasionally see a Pokémon, and by swiping across, you can capture it. Then there are a bunch of things you can do with your collection, like taking them to the gym to make them stronger.

When I was at the Green Market on Saturday, talking politics with the folks at the Anthony Road Winery booth, two African-American women came up. One was ready to try wine, but the other was suddenly interrupting, taking pictures, and making us laugh. She was so excited!

Turns out, they had found a Pokémon.

Unlike so many video games, Pokémon Go seems to be encouraging people to get out of their homes, to walk around and explore (even if it’s just for some pixels), even meet new people and talk with them. In some cases, they might even notice the world around them and learn something.

This is a good thing. At least, it’s a good thing for those of us who enjoy a certain amount of privilege. The article in the link really made me question a lot of my assumptions. The author points out that if a black man is playing Pokémon Go, exploring a new neighborhood by walking around and circling in on a Pokémon, there is a real chance that someone will see him, assume he’s a criminal, and call the cops. The fact that he’s only looking at a phone won’t necessarily save him.

Pokemon SquatIt wouldn’t be the first time police have mistaken a phone for a gun. It wouldn’t even be the first time this year.

It’s also disturbing that the game imagery has already been coopted by racists.

Is this any reason to deny people joy? Of course not. The two women I talked to at the market were politically engaged and had been demonstrating all week with Black Lives Matter because of Baton Rough and Minnesota and Dallas, but on a Saturday morning, they wanted some goofy playtime. Whether I want to play the game or not (and, really, I stare at enough screens as it is and I don’t need a new addiction), I sure as hell don’t want to limit anyone else’s fun.

I’d just ask for people, in their zeal, to remember that there is more to life than finding Pokémon. There are other people on the planet, and on the sidewalk. Please don’t get so caught up in your quest that you wander into traffic, or into a unit of Storm Troopers.

I’d like to see Pokémon Go used as a force for good. For example, on Twitter, a person named Kris Straub said, “Dear Nintendo, please put super rare Pokémon at polling places this November.”

Nintendo Drops The Amii-Ball

Being the weekend, Nintendo has not yet explained the delay but numerous major stores report  not to have received their complete shipment for the new wave of Amiibo figures, to have been released yesterday.  GameStop, Target,  Walmart and BestBuy locations report that no or limited stock came in, some only receiving one or two of the new figures, if any. None have any information on their expected receipt.

One GameStop location in New York claims the Amiibo figures have been delayed till the 13th, the day of the release of the new Nintendo 3DS. This has not been corroborated as of this writing.

The Nintendo Store in NYC, on the other hand, not only received their full shipment but broke their own company’s street date and started selling them last Tuesday, according to the manager on duty this morning.  They have already sold through their stock, and have none available on the advertised day of release.

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This is only the latest in a series of missteps that would ordinarily enrage gamers, but has somehow only increased the frenzy in obtaining the collectibles, far above the level that their playability would suggest.

The Nintendo Amiibo are the company’s foray into the integrated figurine market, joining the Skylanders and Disney’s INfinity lines.  The Nintendo lines differ from their competitors in two ways.  One, while the other lines only work in the game for which they have been designed, the Amiibo are compatible with a number of games, both current and upcoming, in varying ways.  Second, while the other companies are offering the figures in plentiful numbers, Nintendo has offered theirs in limited quantity, bringing figures out of production soon after their release.

The interactivity the figures offer is somewhat limited – they can store level information for Super Smash Bros, allowing you to bring your leveled-up character with you to friends’ homes, playing your character against their on other systems. A second game, Mario Party 10, will also allow you to store your progress, but there’s an important caveat – you can only store one game’s data on the figure.  So if you want to start using it to play mario Party, kiss your Smash Bros level data good bye. Of course, Nintendo is releasing a second set of the mario figures, identical save for different colored bases than the original, so if you want to store both games’ progress, you won’t feel silly buying two of the exact same figures for each games’ data.

Two of the Amiibo figres I'm getting for my daughter, along with the one I'd have to trade her to get.

Two of the Amiibo figres I’m getting for my daughter, along with the one I’d have to trade her to get.

Other games offer Amiibo compatibility limited to obtaining special character bonuses and power-ups when the figure is activated in the game.  The Nintendo site offers a list of the games here. Save for the Smash Bros games, only two releases to date allow for the use of all the Amiibo figures.  A large number are essentially one-shot items that become more shelf porn.

As a result, Nintendo announced almost immediately after their release that several of the “one use only” figures first wave of Amiibo, including the Animal Crossing Villager and Wii Fit trainer, were already “out of print.” which is code for “buy every one you can regardless of how disinterested you are in them, because they are going to be worth BIG money.”  That, combined with the limited production runs has turned the line from an interesting game peripheral to instant fodder for speculators, increasing demand by an order of magnitude an making it nearly impossible for actually interested parties to obtain them.

The new wave of figures, ostensibly to have been released today, have been snapped up well ahead of their release in preparation for Nintendo’d announcement that some or all would receive a limited run.  This was exacerbated by the release of figures only offered by one store, like GameStop offering Shulk from the Xenoblade series, and BestBuy offers MetaKnight from the Kirby series.  These figres sold out almost immediately after being going up on their companies’ web sites, and pre-sales auctions on ebay are already getting four and five times their original price.

One of the upcoming games to offer Amiibo compatibility is the offbeat steampunk shooter Codename S.T.E.A.M. Four exclusive characters originally from the Fire Emblem series can be unlocked using their Amiibo figures. One problem – one of them, Marth, was one of the “discontinued” figures from the first wave of figures, and already fetching scalpers’ prices on the grey market. All signs point to the same being so for the three figures coming soon in an upcoming wave. Nintendo promises to make more marth figures available, but the odds that they’ll be plentiful enough to obtain without concerted effort is unlikely.

So to play all the characters in the game, you’ll need to spend a minimum of fifty or so dollars, more than the cost of the cartridge itself, and that’s only if you’re lucky enough to get the figures at the MSRP. Which you almost certainly won’t.

In short, while the Amiibo offer limited playability, at least they’re hard to get.  A suspicious individual would almost surmise that Nintendo, knowing the item they have offers limited play value, made moves to increase their scarcity, allowing the collector mentality to override the limitations of the product.

But that’d just be crazy. Right?

 

Nintendo apologizes in Tomodachi Life same-sex story

3DS_Tomodachi_Life_BoxArtRedmond, WA – in a statement released today, Nintendo of America addressed the controversy in the upcoming relief of Tomodachi Life, a new game that allows you to simulate social interaction with characters you design and collect.  The game garnered some negative attention from supporters of same-sex marriage who were upset that the game did not include the capacity for same-sex relationships, marriages and family units.

The statement, reproduced below, acknowledges that the company has  upset many of its players, but explains why adding the functionality is not possible before or after the release.

Nintendo is Committed to Fun and Entertainment for Everyone

Redmond, Wash. — We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch. At Nintendo, dedication has always meant going beyond the games to promote a sense of community, and to share a spirit of fun and joy. We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone. We pledge that if we create a next installment in the Tomodachi series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.

— Nintendo of America

The controversy started when American websites began incorrectly  reporting  news that the original Japanese version of the game had a bug that allowed same-sex characters to marry, a bug that had been patched.  This was not the case – two stories were being confused, as Nintendo’s Bill Trinen explained.  The bug was to fix a data leak issue.  Japanese players have been able to simulate same sex relationships by dressing one of a pair of characters in clothing  of the opposite gender so to male or female looking characters could marry and have children.

While Nintendo has stated they “never intended to make any form of social commentary ” with the game, many have made the argument that to choose not to include same-sex relationships could be seen as a commentary in and of itself.  Their promise to address the issue in a future installment of the series is a promising move, but it must be pointed out that the previous version of the game came out five years ago, and was never released in the US.  Also, such a new game would be predicated on sales of this one, and if a boycott goes forward, that would only reduce sales, and make another game that much less unlikely.

Many of Nintendo’s other social sim games better address the LGBT community to a greater degree.  Animal Crossing: New Leaf features clothing in both male and female styles, but can be work by characters by either gender.  Gracie the Giraffe, the game’s arbiter of fashion is a female character in most of the world, but in the original release, with not a single pixel changed, is a male.  Similarly the new release Disney Magical World features a wide assortment of costumes and outfits that can be worn by either gender. In both games, characters compliment your selection in clothes without a negative comment or querulous look if you choose non-traditional garb.  Neither games feature actual relationships between characters, but the open attitude towards dress is certainly progressive.

Tomodachi Life is not as interactive as the aforementioned games, either.  The actions of the characters in this game are largely random and outside the player’s control.  Characters fall in love and marry randomly, so while they do fall in love along more hetero-standard lines, it was not intended as a deliberate block keeping the players from experiencing the game as they wish.

REVIEW: Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition

It’s become a growing practice to create a special edition of popular new releases specifically for Sony and Nintendo’s handhelds, more suited to the system’s differing strengths.  When [[[Batman: Arkham Origins]]] was released recently, both systems got their own side adventure, obliquely connected to the main game, but unique in features and content. Thanks to the popularity of the series, the handheld game has been expanded and made available for all major systems, console and handheld.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition is set three months after the events of Arkham Origins.  An explosion at Blackgate prison results in a chaotic takeover of the facility, headed by The Penguin and Black Mask.  Things get more serious when it’s learned that the Joker has also joined the incarcerated internecine warfare. The game has some limited free play options – you can battle the three bosses and their associated campaigns in any order, and the end game finale differs based on who you chose to fight last. The movement is largely a 2-D left-to-right progression, with jumps to other angles for certain puzzles and  boss fights.

The gameplay is similar enough to the main line of games that it’s easy enough to pick up with little trouble.  Enhanced to HD-quality, the game is still based on a design for smaller, slightly less powerful handheld devices, so it’s  not as huge and expansive as the primary title.  The Deluxe Edition upgrade adds new characters, levels and unlockables – there’s 10 special costumes to seek out, from DC stories like Zero year, the Batman 66 costume, and the Blackest Night costume which makes you impervious to damage.

BAOBDE_Suits_Key ArtThe game is fun and entertaining in their own right, good for filling the time between DLC releases of the main games.  Likely not worth a repurchase if you got the original for the handhelds, but at this price, it’s a good addition to the series, and certainly easier to see on a bigger screen.

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition is available via download for most console and handheld systems now, including Steam, and coming soon on the WiiU .

Marc Alan Fishman: A Hanukkah Story

Fishman Art 131228I’m Jewish. Shocking, no? And as such, this time of year always bestows upon me (and my kin) an interesting level of ignorance to the festivities. While I did celebrate Christmas due to a family member (of goyish decent) throwing an annual party, we, the Jewish relatives, simply called it late Hanukkah and enjoyed the time together as I’m sure so many of you non-Jews do.

The interesting ignorance though, came from the obviously odd faux-nicety that spread throughout the land. Because of this, the one day seemingly all stores can close without ill-tidings, suddenly we’re all nice to one another? Not that I’m knocking it, mind you. But it always struck me odd that the celebration of the birth of the messiah (which historians all concluded wasn’t anywhere near December) could bring with it the notion that everyone should suddenly be nice. As I grew up, it became even odder as Christmas continues to lose any spiritual connection and becomes increasingly secular. Plus, it’s pretty easy to see Christians co-opted the Pagan Winter Solstice,  just to be mean about it. But I digress.

One of the biggest conundrums that struck my many friends growing up was my definitive lack of love and fondness for holiday movies. Perhaps due to my overly-zealous mother telling me at a very early age that Santa wasn’t real and even if he was, he wouldn’t visit me anyways… I just never saw much reason to get doe-eyed for some Claymation classics. Home Alone? Sure, I loved that flick. But more because of the freedom I could see having myself should my parents just leave me be. As a revelatory cinema de festive though, nay I say.

When I met my wife, it was mid-January. Our first date hovered close to Valentine’s Day. We’d moved in together in the summer. By the time we’d made it to our first December, my love was all a’flutter putting up fake trees, hanging stockings, and gleefully prancing about our junior one-bedroom apartment because A Christmas Story was to be played 24 hours, non-stop, on basic cable. Near a year with my baby, and I’d no idea she swooned over such a throw-away flick. No sooner did she pirouette to the couch did I crush her spirit when I declared simply “… huh. Never saw that one. Looked boring though.”

Well, she’d have nothing of it! My ass was duck-taped to the couch, eyelids pried open with medical equipment (with the whole eye-dropper dealie above it, of course), and I was made to absorb the film whilst she creepily monitored my every reaction.

Oddly… I loved it. Loved every second of it. From the first establishing shots declaring a setting not unfamiliar to myself (a South Suburban Chicagoan knows well of Gary, IN), to the final scenes closing in on a Jewish tradition of Chinese Food (Which, honestly, I didn’t know was a thing)… here was yet another cinematic celebration of materialism, and familial love that I’d only seen dozens of times before. But unlike any other viewings, with this sleeper-of-a-film, I’d actually drawn an honest emotional connection.

Ralpie’s desire for that perfect toy, and how it permeated everything in and around his life was very close to my own greedy little-childhood. And just as he was defeated around every corner, I too, recalled many a Nintendo game left on the shelf, whilst I was dragged away in utter agony. Then, the fateful morning. Gift-wrapping strewn about. Gleeful chortles of a younger brother getting toy after toy. The inevitable gift of not-toys (shudder… clothing!). When all hope was lost, I felt for poor Ralphie now coming to grips with the end of his innocence (You can’t always get what you want… sayeth the philosopher Jagger I believe). It’s only then, when that maturity washes over Ralphie that the old man gets that glimmer in his eye. He steps over to a desk, and out from a hiding spot presents his son with one more gift. The return of hope. The rekindling of the spirit within. The damned toy he wanted… right there for him! And, yeah, he shoots his eye out, yadda yadda yadda.

A Christmas Story was for me the first holiday-centric media I’d consumed that did not ultimately declare itself worthless treacle in my eyes. It was a story rooted in innocence and reality, elevated not with effects or deus ex machina like Krampus and the like. It was a celebration of people taking that extra step to be kind to their kin and fellow man. Not because of spiritual necessity… but because of the desire to be better human beings if only for a short time before it be forgotten.

With that being said, I hope all of you enjoyed your winter celebrations. Be safe this New Years Eve, kiddos.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

REVIEW – Doctor Who: Legacy

Doctor Who has gotten a number of videogames in the last couple of years, from games for the Playstation 3 to a Nintendo 3Ds version of the card game Top Trumps.  Doctor Who: Legacy is the latest in the series, a game for iOS and Android tablets and phones that packs a great deal of addicting gameplay into a simple mechanic.

At its core, Legacy is an iteration of the “Line up three jewels” game as seen in the many variations of Bejweled. The big different is the player is not limited to moving an “orb” only one spot, but anywhere on the screen, within a number of seconds.  With orbs sliding out of its way as you go, this simple change allows a deft player to set up a number of combos in one play.  It’s s skill that takes a bit to get used to, but opens up a great deal of strategy.

In the game, you play The Doctor and his companions, each of whom are assigned one of five orb colors on the game board, with a sixth (pink) for restoring hit points..  You are presented with wave upon wave of villains who attack you with energy blasts and special attacks, shaving down your health.  When you line up three or more of one color, the character assigned to that color attacks the enemies, or the pink orbs restore health to the team.  Combos allow more than one character to attack at once, and multiplies the total damage.  Your characters have varied attack and hitpoint values they add to the team, and each has special powers that become available every few rounds – change orb colors, increase damage, or restore health.  Combining that with the flexible orb placement on the field, the game keeps itself fresh, more than simply swapping jewels endlessly.

Like all free-to-play games, there’s an option to buy items, represented here by Time Crystals, which allow you to continue playing if you’re well into a long level, are used to rank up your characters for greater power and strength, and to buy packs of extra companions.  The game is exceedingly fair about making the crystals available in the game as well, and with patience, you can score all the companions as random rewards for completing levels.  As a thank you for buying, the game allows you access to the “fan area” after your first purchase of 5 or more Crystals. The fan area offers extra levels, special “fan versions” of companions, and more bonuses to be added later.  It’s a fair value for at least that first five bucks; indeed the game itself would be worth that if they had chosen to charge.

One caveat – the game needs an internet connection at startup to sync with the servers and download updates, so have one ready before you play.  Right now the developers are running a special “Advent Calendar” promotion via their facebook page – Liking their page gives you access to promo codes for extra companions and outfits for your characters.  There’s a lot of value packed into the game, and it’s a welcome addition to your portable device.

The game is free for Apple and Android devices.

Review: “Pokémon X & Y” bring new dimension to franchise

With nine sets of core games, six generations of characters, and eighteen years of history, one would think that Pokemon might be approaching the end of the tall grass.  But with Pokemon X & Y selling over four million copies worldwide on its premiere weekend, the series show no weakness at all.  The new game, the first to run exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS (and the new low-budget option for new gamers, the 2DS) adds a lot of new characters, new battle formats and a beautiful 3-D design to make it easily the most beautiful game in the series, as well as the busiest.

The basic gameplay remains unchanged – select one of three Pokemon to start your journey around the world, this time the lovely Kalos Region, a land based on the architecture and design of France. Use that Pokemon to catch other wild Pokemon, raise and train them to more powerful levels, allowing you to catch even more powerful creatures, lather, rinse, repeat.  But as with each game, there’s a whole new set of interesting critters to catch and collect, and almost unlimited strategy potential as you choose the most powerful moves for your characters, as well as choosing the most versatile fighting types to meet the challenge of both wild monsters, but other trainers, both in the game and in the real world.  The game is fully rendered in 3-D, taking advantage of the power of the 3Ds to deliver a new view of the characters, no longer the sinple top-down look of past games.  Battles feature sweeping camera angles as the characters battle, much in the style of the Pokemon Coliseum games for the various console systems.  There’s endless little details in the animation – your character drops to one knee when chatting to children, you see them actually pick up found items, and errant breezes make the trees sway and the grass rustle.  For the first time, the circle pad lest you move in diagonals, not the simple four directions of the games with only a D-pad.  Indeed, it’s so easy to move around, it takes some getting used to – you need to take an extra moment to make sure you’re actually lined up with items and characters you want to interact with.

Over and above the basic battle of the game, X & Y give you new ways to train and interact with your Pokemon.  Minigames allow you increase your friendship with your little friends and raise their battle stats.  Pokemon-Amie is a feature to the Nintendogs games, where you can pet your Pokemon, feed him treats and more, via the 3Ds touchpad.  The system’s camera is used for basic facial recognition, allowing you to play “monkey-see monkey-do” with them.  Super Training is a series of minigames designed to increase their battle stats like strength and speed.

About the only hardware feature of the 3DS that isn’t used to its fullest potential is Street and Spot Pass.  The game will receive messages of game updates and promotions from Nintendo in the game via Spotpass through an in-game device called the Holo-Caster, but interaction with other players only happens while the game is in play.  The Player Search Service allows you to interact with friends that you’ve met using friend codes, and if you connect to the Internet, any random players from around the world that are playing at the a moment.  Trading is much faster now, and more flexible.  An upcoming app release, Pokemon Bank, will allow you to store up to 3,000 characters on the Cloud, for a small monthly fee.

Each new Pokemon adventure brings new players and cartoon viewers to the series, and for long time players like me (seriously – the only thing I’ve done uninterrupted in my life that play Pokemon is be married), sparks the excitement of the series anew.  X and Y are easily the best new addition to the franchise in years, and if you were looking for an excuse to pick up or upgrade to a 3DS, you’ve got your reason.

REVIEW: The Wonderful 101 – One-credible

The Wonderful 101 has been a year coming – it’s been part of Nintendo’s many show reels for the Wii U system since its release, and it was one of the most popular demos at last year’s New York Comic Con.  And it has been worth every minute.

Conquering alien horde Geathjerk has set its sights on Earth, and the secret army of the Centinels, code named “The Wonderful 100” is out last hope against with you leading them, the “101st”.  The team saves citizens, and then quickly deputizes them into duty, using them like building blocks to form weapons and tools to fight the rampaging monsters.

Another work from  Hideki Kamiya, produced by Atsushi Inaba, it’s got a lot in common with their Viewtiful Joe series for the Game Cube.  If Viewtiful Joe was a love letter to the Kamen Rider series, Wonderful 101 is a love letter to the Super Sentai series, the shows they use to bring us Power Rangers.  Like Joe before it, the game is rife with fourth-wall breaking comedy, over the top action and magnificent character design.

Also like its predecessor, the game is VERY complex.  With dozens, potentially hundreds of heroes and villains on screen at once, things can get very small very quickly, combine that with a control system that at various times uses all the buttons of the Wii U Game Pad, including drawing on the screen, the playing is required to do quite a lot, quite often.  Reasonable progress can be made with button mashing (and a very welcome “very easy” mode) but there’s enough opportunity for impressive combos and innovative gameplay to keep a dedicated gamer engrossed.  With a hundred hidden characters to find and many times that in hidden items, the replay value of the game is vast.  It takes advantage of the Wii U Game Pad to deliver a new playing mechanic.

The work pays off, as the story is filled with many twists and turns, skewering the tropes of tokusatsu while it tributes them.  The character design alone will keep you laughing for days. (Wonder Beer? Wonder Toilet?).  The theme song, “Heroes’ March” that plays under the action, is a wacky ditty that sounds like what would happen of John Philip Sousa did the theme for a Power Rangers show, orchestrated by Jim Steinman.

The complexity may make it the kind of game that might turn a casual player off, but for the hardcore gamer (not to mention fans of Japanese science-fiction) it’s a treat.

Marc Alan Fishman: Life Is A Pitch

Marc Alan Fishman: Life Is A Pitch

This past weekend, the Unshaven Comics crew split our duties (heh heh). Kyle traveled to Cincinnati, where he single handedly crushed records, and declared himself Lord of the Sale. Matt and I (along with our pretty, and amazing, and totally-not-looking-over-my-shoulder-as-I-write-this wives) returned to Charm City for the Baltimore Comic Con. Again we took in the sites, the fine food, and the amazing fans. But of all the new memories made on this sojourn across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland… it was the impromptu brainstorming session that will stick out as the best part of the trip.

As our wives listened to their iPods, or slept, Matt and I did what we always do. We talked extensively about the Bears, about toys, about movies we loved… and then we started brainstorming about The Samurnauts. I know, I know. I talk about them a lot. But you know what? I love my creations with Unshaven Comics. One of the honest-to-Rao best moments of my weekend was hearing Mike Gold say to another publisher “I really love what those guys (Unshaven) are doing.” And the best part? I didn’t even have to bribe Mike to say it. I know as we’re all “co-workers” or whatever here on ComicMix, but facts are facts. Mike Gold’s résumé in comics,= and his discerning tastes are that of legend. And to be given a nod of approval from an editor like that? Well, it made my beard tingle. But I digress.

So, somewhere between Ohio and Pennsylvania, Matt and I turned the radio down, and started spit-balling. “You know we should do?” “What?” “Take that joke commission of Lucador Samuranuts and actually, you know, do it.” What proceeded after that, was several hundred miles worth of ideation. From a single jokey-dare to a fully fleshed out idea complete with Aztec gods, nomadic kung-fu monkey masters, and a five-on-five tag team tornado match to save the world. The best part? We weren’t done.

“Well, that’s cool. But you know what we could never do… Disconauts. Like… The Samurnauts of the 70’s.” “Yeah, I know. But like… if we did…. maybe they’d each have their own vehicle.” “Yeah, and those vehicles would be like M.A.S.K., right?” And so on, and so forth. Suffice to say, by the time we reached Baltimore, we’d created two completely new mini-series ready to be outlined, sketched, and built.

I related this all to Mike at our goodbye dinner where Mike and I dominated the conversation of our four top, letting Marc Hempel and my wife smile and eat their crab. No sooner did I finish telling him about our Luchadornauts did a smile creep across his face. And as he’s prone to do, he launched into a story of his own. He related to me the time he and John Ostrander took a walk around a lake close to his house, and came up with the pitch for Wasteland. And it was there, in a beautiful restaurant in the suburbs of Baltimore, with a crab cake the size of my face plated before me… did I find that first true connection with Mike Gold that did not relate specifically to good BBQ or amazing conversation. Here was a guy who with his good friend, found a camaraderie not just in opinions and shared experiences… but in an idea and creativity.

Since we were kids, Matt and I founded our friendship on just that. The spark of creation more than anything else… binds us as brothers-from-other-mothers. And just like icing on a cake, cream filling in an Oreo, or crab cakes bound with bits of smaller crab (bless you, Baltimore), Kyle joined our menagerie and completed our circle. We creators of sequential fiction are a curious sort. And my generation – the one bred by toy commercials and Nintendo – was onslaught by our elders to never have to be creative again. Why create when TV, comics, toys, movies, and then the truly evil Internet, is right there awaiting your procrastination. But there, on the road surrounded by small mountains, rest stops, and snoring wives… I was reminded of who I am, and why I do what I do.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Features, Evolutions and Cool Stuff Coming for “Pokémon X and Y”

The newest entries in the popular Nintendo franchise aren’t due out until October 12th, but Pokémon X and Y have kept both in the news and the gamers’ zone of attention by a steady series of announcements about new features, and now new apps designed to work with the new releases.

Pokémon X and Y are the first games designed specifically for the Nintendo 3DS (as well as the newly announced 2DS, designed without the 3-D functionality for younger players), and will feature not only scores of new collectible creatures, but new forms of classic beasts.  New in this game is the Mega-Evolution, a new super-powered state of a Pokémon’s mature form.  Several classic Pokémon have been announced to be returning with Mega-forms including Mewtwo, Kangashkan, and just announced on the 4th, the original starters Blastoise, Venusaur and Charizard.  With the help of a new stone and a device called the Mega Ring, Pokémon who have formed a special bond with their trainers will gain access to this new form through events in the game.

Following up on the downloadable apps released with the last games, Pokémon Black and White, X and Y users will be able to download Pokemon Bank, an app that will allow users to upload their captured Pokemon to the cloud, with room for over 3,000 little monsters.  This will allow trainers to save captures not only from X and Y, but from both Black and White games as well, a process that could be quite time-consuming in past games.

The app and service is similar to Pokemon Box, a game and memory card released for the Game Cube for use with the Game Boy Advance releases, Ruby and Sapphire. Wii users could also upload their Pokemon captured in Diamond and Pearl to My Pokemon Ranch, a game that allowed you to raise and play with your monsters in a new way on a farm environment.  Unlike those games, since this app includes cloud storage of your data, the service will have an annual fee.  Details of pricing has not been released, tho the app will feature a trial period before payment will be required.

For those who haven’t picked up a 3DS yet (and let’s face it, even for those who have), Nintendo will add to its series of custom model systems with both a red and blue system with custom Pokemon graphics featuring the games’ legendary Pokémon, Xerneas and Yveltal.  The custom systems will be released on September 27th for $199.99, the system’s standard list price.  The price and the early date suggest the systems will not come with the new Pokémon games included.

[[[Pokémon X and Y]]] will be released on October 12th.  As that’s the same weekend as New York Comic Con, there’s some speculation that Nintendo will hold an event in New York to tie into the release.