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2016-2017 Game Completion Breakdown


It’s that time of year again. Time to chronicle and highlight all the video games I’ve completed (and due to a hacking incident on my website; a return to 2016 – as I was unable to recover that post and have been too lazy to get around to it until now; yeah…that happened…). This may be…sad. The last (and…only) “completed” game was in…August. Hmm.

This last year was, strangely, the year of the mobile game for me. Most mobile games are hard to “complete”, but I’ll spend some time mentioning them in their own category (I don’t really consider them “real games”).

I still put in a crap ton of hours into games this year, but I also started reading a lot more books and binge watched a lot of Netflix. I’m sorry. I’m disappointed in myself too. And well…I *started* a lot of games, but…oh shiny thing, what’s that! Ahem…sadly, it looks like 3DS got a big ‘ole donut in terms of playing time this year. That’s really disappointing. I’ll need to fix that this year. 

Finally, here was my post from 2015. Let’s start!

Completed games of 2017:

08/26/17: PERSONA 5 (PS4). Completion time: 152:42.

  • Whew! This was a tough year to pick a Game of the Year, but this is a very strong contender. Each Persona just keeps upping the ante and getting better and better (ehh…well, I wasn’t a big fan of 2…). Stellar voice acting, visuals, battle system, pacing, story, and well, what’s most important, it was just fun. And funny.
  • Did I mention the music? Shoji Meguro is probably my second favorite game composer; the whole soundtrack is just awesome. Some of my favorite tracks are The Day When My Mother Was TherePrice, and Blooming Villain. 
  • If you like traditional turn based RPGs you should love this game. If you have ever played Persona 3 and 4 and liked them, you will love this game (I thought 4 was amazing and this is even better).
  • The game is very long though. It’s not that grindy (it didn’t feel like it to me), it just has very, very long dungeons.
  • It took me 152 hours to get Platinum, but first run through was 112 hours for me. You have to play the game, basically, again to get Platinum (but you can skip a lot of content).
  • You do not have to play any previous Persona to understand the game.
  • I picked up the special edition because I had no doubt this game will be awesome, that said, nothing really that special with the special edition (although it is mega-rare now…). There is also a steel book edition.

Games that didn’t quite make the cut / in progress:

And…well…damnit…that’s it? That’s the only game I truly completed this year?! Unacceptable…well, I guess I’ll mention all the in-progress stuff and pray I finish them in 2018.

  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch) –  Essentially, this is “done”, but not by my anal standards. I’ve beaten the game, but I still haven’t beaten one of the dungeons (yeah…this game is pretty sandbox…). But, let’s be clear, this is very clearly a game of the year candidate. I hope to write up more about it when I actually beat it, but damn…this is the Zelda that I didn’t know I ever wanted. Many dynamics were changed that are more Monster Hunter-y / modern, including the weapon system (no more Master Sword or bust) and dungeon system (yeah, it’s…interesting…). I think the main gripe that people have with this is the dungeons. There…sort of…aren’t really any? That sounds strange, but, the world is ENORMOUS. It is incredibly fun just to traverse the overworld and complete shrine quests and find stuff. It’s that good. And…freaking beautiful. This game is stunning. Don’t miss this. It’s the reason to buy a Switch.
  • Nier: Automata (PS4) – Another game of the year candidate (well, I only really played game of the year candidates this year!). I honestly only picked it up because of all the critical acclaim. I had no idea what to expect as I have not played any other Nier. The best way I can describe it…Ikaruga (Galaga-esque) + Devil May Cry + Monster Hunter. That ends up meaning: sandbox action RPG w/ top down shooter elements (yeah, I know!). It’s very unique…and crazy fun. The combat alone is awesome and feels so fluid. I just haven’t played enough to truly judge it, but from what I’ve played so far…wow.
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) – The only other Switch game I own. Seriously, there’s really only two good games for it at the moment, haha. Fantastic. It’s a combination of every Mario template: 64 (open world), World, Original (has 2D platformer sections). I’m just really excited that we got more of a 64-ish game than the bit-sized worlds of Galaxy. The “possession” system seemed gimmicky in trailers, but it’s fantastic. This is a great platformer and is really accessible by everyone. I’m pretty close to being “done” with it, but there’s a whole lot of content to get through post-game it looks like (I mean…there’s a lot of things to find…).

Mobile games:

Mobile games…I’m kind of a video game snob and look at mobile games like they’re red-headed step-children, but, Nintendo drew me in to three different things this year (their first effort into the mobile space). Mobile games are just a…different experience. They’re designed to play on your emotions to get you to spend money, which I hate (and never will). But to free-to-play them, you have to do all kinds of grindy activities, which, well, I’ll be honest, I like. It also helped that I got a new phone that’s actually capable of running games, it’s a brave new world…

  • Pokemon GO – I’ve covered this pretty extensively in some other posts, but I played this game a whole lot. I would have to wager, I spent 600-700 hours on this…easy. I played this pretty much every weekend for at least 4-5 hours a day. This was a big, big time sink. So what’s the verdict? Well, as someone that just hit level 40 recently (max level), I feel I can truly critique this in a way most can’t. Here goes. … This game kind of sucks. Whoa, whoa, whoahow can you not like a game that you’ve spent so much time on? Answer: hope. Hope that it will get better. Hope that all the sunk cost you’ve put into the game means something. I feel like I should explore this further, let’s do a pro / con list:
    • Pro:
      • It gets you to exercise. This is one of the big draws for me. It gives me an incentive to go outside…and still do what I love (umm, play games).
      • It gets you to “Go” and explore the world. I’ve found so many parks and interesting things around my town and surrounding areas that I literally never knew about.
      • I mean, it is Pokemon. I do like Pokemon. I do like “catching them all”. I like building up Mewtwo and Dragonite. I like being able to “control” an area.
      • The social aspects can be fun. If you can scrounge up some friends, you can dominate areas of a town (like a real gang!). Otherwise, it’s pretty boring to play solo. This is not a solo game by any means (but I made it one; it helps that I have a park right near me).
    •  Con:
      • This is made from a “developer” that’s…not a developer. They make AR tech. They’re an awful game company. They don’t communicate well with their base.
      • Bugs. Oh, the bugs. Part of it was my budget phone, but I have *never* seen a buggy / glitchy PRODUCTION game. It’s embarassing. It really is. It’s gotten a little better recently, but this is still nowhere near the quality that one would expect from a Nintendo / The Pokemon Company backed game. It’s infuriating.
      • The “game” itself is boring. There is really only two “modes”. Catching. Battling. Both are extremely shallow and offer really no major incentives. But to get any “money”, you have to battle. Otherwise, you need to pay. And I’m not paying. 
    • So what’s next? As mentioned, I’m sort of “done”. Until the level cap is released, there is no real “thing” left to do. Except the fact that, by default, the game has many years of content left due to the nature of the main series. More than half of the Pokemon haven’t even been released in the game yet. It’s something I will continue to play, but I will not hit nearly as hard as I have in the past. If you have any interest in Pokemon though, I do think “now” is a good time to check it out. Generation 3 content has just been released and it’s generally very easy to level up by “raiding” with people. You can get legendary Pokemon at very low levels with very little effort.
  • Pokemon Magikarp Jump – This is my first foray into the inane, mindless mobile game genre of “hit button, see numbers go up, repeat forever”. This is licensed game featuring Magikarp (the Pokemon) in a quest to…I don’t know exactly. I guess beat the Elite Four or something. Here’s how this game goes: fish a Magikarp, feed it, train it (once every 30 mins is best you can do), have it reach max level, “fight” (I use that very, very loosely – is your “power” bigger than your competitors? Yes? You win!). Win? Go to the next level. Lose? You “retire”. Repeat. 300 more times. 300 MORE TIMES. That’s the game. I kept expecting some sort of…advanced game play mechanic that never happened. You can get other “support Pokemon” and such, but it takes forever. You need to spend “diamonds” to “buy” Pokemon that cost 400-600. Realistically you can get like 5-20 diamonds a day after you’ve exhausted all the in-game unlocks (which run out very quickly…). The game then assumes you’ve become so invested that they want you to drop cash to continue. I HATE GAMES LIKE THIS. That said, it’s not as bad as some other evil “gacha” style games (I’ll get to in a minute). The most you should ever need to spend on this game, if you were so inclined, is $40. $40 will get you an item that gives you infinite diamonds. But, then it becomes pay to win, and again, what’s the point…? Sigh…
    • Other notes:
      • I’ve been playing it over a month, and I can’t really understand why. I guess it’s my OCD with wanting to “beat” it. I’m pretty close. There’s really only a few things you can do to “beat” it: Max Level at 100 (check), max out JP at 12 trillion (at 9 trillion now), 100% Events (not happening, you need to spend money for this).
      • OK, OK, maybe I’m a little too hard on this game, but you have to know what you’re getting in to. It’s mindless, boring, dopamine clicking. There is no level of achievement. There is no skill (the only “skill” is efficiently leveling up; i.e. double berry method, google it!). I’ve almost maxed out my JP (Jump points! the point is to “jump!”; did I fail to mention that?), and then I can try to pretend I didn’t waste weeks of my life playing this. At least I know now what to look out for in the future…
      • I mean, Magikarp still is the shit, so…I forgive you Magikarp. We cool.
  • Fire Emblem Heroes – Ahh, finally. The “just right” Goldilocks equivalent of the three mobile games I’ve played this year. This is actually a REAL GAME. A fully polished and supported REAL GAME. There are no bugs. There is actual real CONTENT that is updated daily. This is a FREE game. But…it’s a mobile game, so it has some evilness to it. This is a “gacha” style game and what that means is this: 99% of players can play this game without spending money or maybe a very small amount in very limited circumstances. The game is designed to draw “whales”, which drop thousands and tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to get “all” the content. If you play games like this, you must be happy that you will never “have the best stuff” or “have everything”. You can’t. Again, the game is designed that to “be the best” you have to spend thousands of dollars. I’ll go into that more in a moment. 
    • Other notes:
      • But, what about the game? Oh man! I love Fire Emblem. I love Intelligent Systems. This is a fantastic collection of the series many, many characters. Lots of fan service. Lots of content that take many hours to plow through. At it’s core, it’s a 4 vs 4 battle versus AI from teams you put together comprising of users of swords, axes, lances, mages, fliers, armors, cavalry, etc on a 2D grid (you know, Fire Emblem). The weapon triangle from the main series is here and you can equip units with various abilities that require you to “summon” other users to inherit skills and “promote” them through EXP and “feathers”. Ehh, you’ll get it once you try it.
      • The game is pretty liberal in letting you “play”. There is no “pay to win” in the fact that everyone can only “play” as much as the next guy. You have 100 “stamina points” to use on various things. 1 point regenerates every 5 minutes. So you can expect to get 200-300 points a day. An item can be used that restores 100 points, that are generally common, but uncommon enough you can’t blow a dozen a day. It’s a fun system where you have to efficiently balance certain things. You can’t BUY these points. Which is cool. Some events take 30 points, some take 5 or less. You need to be pretty confident you can “beat” the higher level events or you just blew a third of your day! I enjoy it.
      • All right, let’s get back to the dark side. How in the world can people drop thousands of dollars on this game? Well, it boils down to “summoning” heroes; which is essentially a lottery system (gacha). Most efficiently, you need 20 “orbs” to summon five heroes. 20 orbs is something like $13. You can expect to get 20 orbs in a few days through just playing the game. But, the rub is that there are limited “banner” events where you have very little time (a few days) to “summon” very rare and / or powerful units (for example, there was just a limited-time Christmas event). So, you literally have to spend money to get the best stuff or hope that you’ve stockpiled enough orbs to  have a chance at getting something good. And if that wasn’t bad enough, to make the best units even better you can boost them up TEN MORE TIMES by “summoning” the same unit and sacrificing them. For example, I really wanted a Christmas Tharja. I “spent” 400-ish orbs and didn’t get her. At the most efficient orb buying from the shop, that would be about $200 (again, I got all those orbs for free by playing the game). I’d say the odds of getting a Tharja are about 1 in 300 (I didn’t get lucky, but I did get other good stuff, so I’m pretty happy!). So what does an impatient person that just has never learned the word “no” or rejection do? They spend and spend and spend until they get what they want. It turns into a gambling addiction. That never ends. Because there’s always a new “banner” in a few days.
      • This problem is very cleverly and accurately addressed by the the South Park episode Freemium Isn’t Free. This Kotaku post explains it by referencing some clips from that episode. The ironic thing? There’s a South Park freemium game on mobile now. And you can’t watch the episode Freemium Isn’t Free on South Park Studios right now. Hmm…
      • Here’s an example of a normal guy that got addicted to one of these games and ended up dropping $16,000 over time on it. It pisses me off. This is not the future I want gaming to head and it’s getting there. Publishers are realizing that why would you take a lot of risk making a killer game that costs $40-60 when you can make a piece of crap that you can get lucky and get some fool to drop thousands on (not to say that this game is crap; I believe it won Mobile Game of the Year in several places – it’s a good game). It hurts the reputation of the industry. It hurts real people. Yes, people need to step up and realize dropping thousands on a game is ridiculous, but there’s a line. I have to imagine there will be legislation, at some point, banning these type of games or severely curtailing them. They are, for a lot of people, just gambling.
      • OK, done preaching. The point is: if you like Fire Emblem, take a look at this game. It’s pretty great.

Game of the Year: Persona 5 – I mean there was very little choice. You honestly could take Zelda or Mario or Nier and I would agree with you. I just spent the most amount of time playing Persona this year and it was so much better than Persona 4 (which in itself was a fantastic game) that it deserves this nod! I’m really looking forward to finishing Nier though.

And you thought we were done!?

Eh, well, because I’m tired and this post has now grown enormous, I’ll be brief (ish). My original notes from 2016 in italics.

Completed games of 2016:

  • 12/5/16: POKEMON SUN (3DS). Completion time: 60:20. Very good game! Somewhat surprising. I’ve skipped 3 gens…was getting stale. Still lots more to do! Note: Ultra Sun / Moon were just recently released. Definitely pick those up versus the original release.
  • 07/25/16: ZERO TIME DILEMMA (3DS). Completion time: 20:35:51. All endings obtained. 100% on the series so far. Miss the sprites; still fun. Note: Looks like this is the last game in the series which is sad. A really great puzzle thriller (yep, that’s a thing).
  • 06/19/16: DOOM (PS4). Completion time: ~30-40 hours. Not a FPS fan, haven’t played series since DOOM 64, but I really enjoyed it. Note: Screw Bethesda. I really liked this game, but they are the worst when it comes to bugs. There is STILL a bug that exists that prevents getting Platinum. This pisses me off. They’re blacklisted (as are Ubisoft and EA). I refuse to ever buy one of their games again. They produce buggy garbage.
  • 06/12/16: SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD (Wii U). Completion time: 19:20. 220 lives, 149 deaths, All Green Stars/Flags, 80 stamps, Shiny 4 Star! Wow, what a game...
  • 06/11/16: STAR FOX ZERO (Wii U). Completion time: 13:57. 37/70 medals. All areas unlocked. Sound Test opened. Hmm, I have thoughts… Note: I can’t find my original thoughts! I think I was mad at the content. It just felt like it wasn’t finished.
  • 05/1/16: DARK SOULS 3 (PS4). Completion time: 86:42:57. Covenants done. Missing one gesture, one pyro. Time for NG+! Close to Platinum already. Note: I did get Platinum. Eventually new DLC was released. Fun fact: I have never played any DS DLC. It makes me sad, but I have my principles: I don’t pay for DLC.
  • 04/12/16: FIRE EMBLEM FATES: REVELATIONS (3DS). Completion time: 45:43. Wow, I really enjoyed that. Highly recommended. Very satisfying third chapter. Note: This was the third piece of FATES. Note above: I don’t buy DLC. But I will buy very expensive special editions if you make it special with the DLC already included! I’m weird…but maybe rich? This thing goes for a lot of money now.
  • 04/03/16: FIRE EMBLEM FATES: CONQUEST (3DS). Completion time: 31:48. Hard / Casual. Tough, tough final battle. Had to restart after getting annihilated.
  • 03/25/16: FIRE EMBLEM FATES: BIRTHRIGHT (3DS). Completion time: 45:49. Ending just kind of snuck up on me! Fantastic game, pretty “meh” story though TBH.
  • 02/10/16: DONKEY KONG COUNTRY: TROPICAL FREEZE (Wii U). Completion time: 20:47. 100% clear! Wow, that was pretty difficult! Recommended! 
  • 02/07/16: LUIGI’S MANSION: DARK MOON (3DS). Completion time: 16:13. Highly recommended. Extreme upgrade in content & “fun” from the first Gamecube game
  • 01/01/16: YOSHI’S WOOLY WORLD (Wii U). Completion time: 32:13. Completely complete! All Flowers, Stamps, Health, Bestiary, Yarn Yoshis, Badges, and Music obtained. Note: This was also on the 2015, but I finished all content on the first day of 2016.

Game of the Year 2016: DARK SOULS 3. I mean, FATES, was a good game (even though it went the Pokemon route of multiple versions of the same basic game), but the climax of the SOULS series? DS3 was an absolutely amazing game. Perfect amount of content, challenge, run-time, music, visuals. I have no complaints. And that’s hard for me to say.

Well, that’ll do it! Hmm, I really dropped the ball in 2017. Freaking mobile games, they corrupted me. I’ll do better next time. It was nice to look back at 2016, that was a pretty great year.

Filed under Reviews, Videogames
Jan 1, 2018

More Things You Need To Know About Pokemon GO


A little over a year ago now, Pokemon GO launched for Android and iOS. The initial “bubble” has burst in terms of general popularity (it was a pretty huge bubble though…), but there is still a dedicated group of players (millions all around the world). There’s still a good chance today that if you see someone acting in odd ways, like standing in random locations or driving oddly through a park…they’re probably playing this game.

I covered all of the basics gameplay in this post last July. Since then, there have been numerous enhancements and changes. I’ll highlight those items, and go more in-depth into the “tools” and other useful websites associated with the game.

What’s changed since the first few months since launch?

Buddy system

Late in ’16, the first significant content update occurred in the form of being able to walk a “buddy”. Every Pokemon falls into either the 1km, 3km, 5km, and newly formed 20km tier. By walking that amount, you generate one “candy” for your Pokemon’s family.

Full list can be found here. Or here. The first list is presented better, but doesn’t seem to have been updated for “Legendaries”; which are 20km.

What’s the point? Candy is one of two critical pieces of powering up a Pokemon (other being Stardust), and depending on where you live, it’s the only real way of ensuring you’ll be able to find *any*. 

Which buddy should you walk? It depends on your goals, which is either Pokedex completion or gym usefulness. Porygon, Mareep, and mons you don’t generally see a lot in your area may be useful for the former. Snorlax and Chansey are good picks for gyms. Personally, I just walk Chansey as it’s the best defender in the entire game.

There are two hidden uses for walking specific buddies

  • Walk Pikachu 10km and he’ll stay on your shoulder
  • Walk Eevee 10km and depending on whether you evolve him during day / night, you’ll get either Espeon or Umbreon (it’s the only way to evolve a 2nd mon after using the Sakura / Tamao name trick for Eevee!)

The buddy system is a critical, critical feature for players not in multiple biome areas (like cities).

Appraisal system

Around the same time as the buddy update, the Appraisal system was introduced. Basically, it grants you a sneak peek into the internal system known as the IV system (Individual Values). This is a staple in all main Pokemon games. It’s always never been really that formally discussed.

When you touch a mon on the main screen to bring up its menu, on the bottom right, you’ll see an ability to “Appraise”. Your personal trainer will tell you a series of notes regarding it. Namely: what’s its overall ability (four buckets: crap, meh, good, amazing), what it’s best stat is (or stats), and how big / tiny it is (not used in any way at the moment).

Here is a good website to deduce what your trainer is saying (depends on your team). Each mon has only 3 values: Attack, Defense, and HP, and each can be on a scale from 0 – 15. A “perfect mon” is a 15/15/15 (100% IV). A perfect mon is the only mon that can be exactly identified from the game’s appraisal system. All others follow the main series base stats formula. See section below on IV analysis for more information on how to exactly identify your mons CP.

Why is this important? IV is the only metric that determines how good your Pokemon is. Generally speaking, you should not level up anything less than 80%. In the old gym meta-game, IVs were absolutely critical in ensuring that you had the best gym placement; not anymore, but we’ll get into that. Still, it’s recommended to keep just the mons that are in the “amazing” bucket, as it does little good to power up junk!


This has been the major content update so far in the game. There have been numerous events. Here is a list of all completed and upcoming events so far.

The following things have been changed during events:

  • Increased spawn rate
  • Increased item drop rate
  • Egg Incubators drop once a day from stops
  • Double EXP
  • Triple Catch EXP
  • Double Candy
  • Buddy walk distance down (1/4, 1/3)
  • 60 minute / 6 hour Lure increases
  • Specific Pokemon changes
    • Entire world sees same: Halloween
    • Different spawns, but heavily biome dependent (Water, Rock/Fire, Grass events)
  • Items on sale
    • Special boxes
    • % off items like Lucky Eggs, Balls, Item/Pokemon upgrades
  • Egg Hatching changes
    • High chance for “babies”
    • High chance for current event Pokemon
  • Shiny Pokemon released (only two so far: Magikarp / Pikachu)

Events have been the reason to continue playing, at least for me. They have generally occurred every month or so. 

What have been the best events so far? It depends on your goals, but I believe the best events have been double candy events, which have been: Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and the “we f’ed up Pokemon GO Fest in Chicago”. The latter, that just concluded, had a combination of pretty much every reward offered so far, and it was the *first* event that has had the Pinap Berry available; which means x4 candy. Insane. Those looking to level, I highly, highly recommend simply stockpiling enormous amounts of candy, and then using a Lucky Egg during x2 EXP events (which turn into x4 EXP events; during the catch bonus, it was x6!!).

The theme so far has been…well…there hasn’t been a “duplicate” event yet. There has been a different gimmick in every one so far (although some have been very similar).

Gen 2 release, new regionals, and Pinap / Nanab Berry

Right after the Valentine event concluded, Gen 2 was released. This meant 100 new Pokemon never encountered before (well…more like…90-ish). 2 Pokemon have not been released: Smeargle and Delibird. Gen 2 has 5 Legendary Pokemon; one has been released during event (Lugia). Heracross and Corsola are regionals based on whether you live above or below a certain latitude line (Florida sees both).

In addition to new Pokemon, two new berries were introduced:

  • Pinap Berry: Double candy if caught
  • Nanab Berry: Decreases movement by certain % (not 100%)

The world rejoiced with the introduction of the Pinap Berry! There was great rejoicing. It is one of the best things in the entire game, and is absolutely amazing in double candy events (only one so far!).

Nanab…? Not so much. It is generally something that is thrown away by 90% of players (well, post gym overhaul, we’ll get to that). It’s only really useful for low CP mons that you know you can catch and you want the First Ball Bonus. 

First Ball Bonus

I don’t recall when this was introduced, but I think it was shortly after Gen 2 released. Not much here, it just seems like it’s a way to speed up leveling for low levels. First ball bonus yields 50 more EXP. You effectively get 50% more EXP a catch if you catch with the first ball. It’s a huge carrot to throw better. The advanced section will go in-depth on *how* one throws better. However, all you need to know here is try and catch everything on your first throw!

Gym System Overhaul

This was the last major update that occurred in the summer of ’17. The previous gym system consisted of being able to drop up to 10 Pokemon into a tower that needed to be up by members of the controlling team by something known as Prestiging. You could hold infinite number of gyms, and every 21 hours you could “collect”, with caps of 100 Pokecoins and 5000 Stardust (10 coins per gym / 500 Stardust per gym).

Yeah, that’s gone.

It was replaced with gyms that now hold up to 6 mon, they can be added to immediately by the controlling team (Prestiging was completely eliminated), and “decay” over time by losing motivation. Motivation is increased by feeding berries to your Pokemon. Only the controlling team can feed berries. Every ten minutes of gym control yields 1 Pokecoin. Up to 50 a day (down from 100). I believe the maximum number of held gyms at once is 20.

To compensate for drop from 10 to 6 mons in a gym, numerous other gyms were created. Also, and perhaps the best update of all, gyms now act like Pokestops that you can spin. Gyms have “levels” as well. The more you interact with a gym: fight, spin, raid, defeat, place, berry, the more it’ll level up, up to a Gold tier. Gold gyms drop a significant amount more items. A blank gym will drop 2 items. A Gold gym will drop at least 5. Team control adds 1 more item. It’s been implied that the more higher level badges you have at gyms, the more likely you are to get exclusive Raid Passes (but who knows, it seems Niantic has scrapped it’s original plan…we’ll see soon enough).

In the first few days, even more significant changes were made. Originally, mons over 3000 CP were met with a harsh CP decay; they would be at 0 within hours. Niantic, the game’s creator, labeled that a bug, and made it so that all Pokemon now decay at that harsh rate. The concept of territorial control is effectively dead as gyms can now be cleared within 20 minutes. Previously, towers would take an hour to solo. Gyms that aren’t engaged with in 10 or so hours can now be wiped by anyone…with little effort.

What has the gym update meant? Less stagnation, more casual engagement, less rewards. As someone that was always in 10 gyms, the update sucked. I imagine for everyone else it’s a welcome change. The big change has been reward reduction: Stardust bonus is completely eliminated (which is absolutely killing powering up…Stardust is in very short supply…) and now you can only get 50 coins a day. Fighting gyms at midnight is now the most effective method of ensuring coins. You need to hold a gym for 9+ hours to max to get 50 coins, and it doesn’t matter how many gyms you’re in. Say you hold 20 gyms and they all are defeated on the same day (which is almost guaranteed), you’ll still only get 50 coins. Lame. You pretty much have to play every day if you want coins now; which I guess is what the developer wants.


Right after the gym overhaul…Raids were introduced. Raids are pretty simple to explain. Every gym has a chance of randomly turning into a Raid, with tiers ranging from 1 to 5 (Legendary). When a gym becomes a Raid, a countdown appears. Raids are either immediately created or a 2-hr countdown egg appears (right now, eggs are gone, but nobody knows if it’s temporary…). When the egg countdown hits 0, a Raid starts. There will then be a Raid countdown (1-2 hours), when that expires, the gym goes back to normal.

Here is a list of all Pokemon that can be encountered from Raids. Level 1 and 2 Raids are for beginners. Anyone can basically beat these if you’re at a decent level. Level 3s…require a pretty good team. It is currently very difficult to solo these, but can be done. They’ve actually been made harder…and well, current technical bugs are making it worse (HP rubber banding, dodge glitch…but I’ll talk about that later).

Generally speaking, today, you need at least 2 people to do a Level 3 raid (which absolutely sucks, because finding a person to do one is impossible!!). Level 4 Raids require 4+ people (again, finding people is very hard…). Level 5 Raids…have just been introduced, and are generally much easier to find people because…they’re a limited time event (as far as we know; Niantic hasn’t really said much on the matter!).

Each Raid can yield the following items:

  • Revives
  • Golden Razz Berry
  • Rare Candy
  • Quick / Charge TMs
  • EXP

The higher level raid, the more and better rewards you’ll get (which is why Level 5s are very popular at the moment). You need a Raid Pass to get into a Raid. You get one free one a day. You can stockpile two by not using your Pass when you get it, but using it the next day. Spinning a stop will give you a second one. Nobody knows if Niantic can keep up this system…prior to Level 5s, most raids were pretty much inactive by most of the players (mainly because wasting your one pass is not realistic on lower raids…I really hope the system is overhauled…).

Rare Candy / Golden Razz Berry / TMs

These new items are Raid exclusives, and they’re all pretty amazing.

Rare Candy: No, it doesn’t level your mon, but instead it gives any Pokemon a candy of their family. Including Legendaries. Pretty amazing. If you want to power up a Legendary, this is probably your best and only option (as walking them takes 20km…for ONE candy).

Golden Razz Berry: Two uses: during catches, it greatly increases catch rate. You should pretty much always use these in Raid catch attempts (Level 4/5 anyway). It also, if fed to a Pokemon at a gym, completely restores motivation. If you Raid a lot, you’re going to have hundreds of these…feeding is the best way to get rid of them.

Technical Machines: Someone long requested by the community. It “re-rolls” moves. Upset about that Twister Gyardos? Tired of having Megahorn on your Rhyhorn? Fire Blast on  your Tyranitar? Re-roll! These are wonderful, and honestly my favorite reason to Raid. Quick TMs are very easy to use, as Pokemon only have TWO moves from their move pool (or one!). You’re guaranteed to get what you want. Charge moves…? Ehh…almost all have 3, so your chances at getting what you want are 50/50. You can burn through a lot of these very quicky…trust me…I know…*stares at Night Slash Scizor*. Here’s a list of optimal moves to replace.


The first Shiny Pokemon was introduced during the Water Event. Golden Magikarp (or Red Gyarados). The second was introduced in Japan-only: shiny Pikachu. A “shiny” is just a different colored Pokemon. This was introduced in Generation II in the main series.

At some point, one would assume, more will be released (as every Pokemon has a shiny variant). Odds on catching shinies are largely unknown. But some feel the concept of “chaining”, which was a real thing in the main games, exists. Chaining refers to *only* catching that Pokemon, and doing so, will increase odds of finding a shiny on the next encounter. Some people have attempted it in Pokemon GO and swear by it. What’s generally been understood is that the best odds were during the Water Event, it seems like odds have been drastically decreased.

Lack of Stardust

Briefly alluded to, but I wanted to call this out. Currently, the biggest bottleneck in the game is Stardust. Niantic eliminated one very easy method of getting some from the gym rewards. I don’t know why. Powering things up past Level 30, where Stardust required go to 6000-10000 a power up..feels…impossible now. I have to hope they introduce some new way of getting Stardust soon, because people are getting pissed…

Plagues of performance issues

An update on Pokemon GO cannot be completed without mentioning the vast amounts of bugs and problems associated with the game. There have been many. You might have heard about the Pokemon GO Fest disaster in Chicago. That’s a start, but it’s more than that. Basically…Niantic, the designers of the game…well, aren’t very good at making games. They are a former team at Google, who at more known for their map development than making games. Their only other game is called Ingress. They’re not, to say it nicely, an experienced game developer. To say it meanly: they suck, oh my freaking God, their game is a technical nightmare.

The game falls into the haves and have nots. If you have a top of the line phone, you’re generally OK. You might have an occasional crash or hiccup, but you’re OK. For everyone else, you know, probably 70% of the user base, ooooohhhhh boy. What hasn’t been a problem?

Known problems so far:

  • Authentication issues: Early on in the game, almost nobody could authenticate for long periods of time. Today? That normally means the Pokemon Trainer Club portal is down. For those that login with Google, you’re generally not affected, but PTC users? You’re at the mercy of this crappy infra. PTC is also the source of almost ALL OF THE CHEATING that occurs in this game. There is NO WAY to change from PTC to Google. Fun.
  • GPS issues: A nitpick because this is probably the least problematic thing, and something that really cannot be controled, but GPS sometimes acts wonky and greatly affects gameplay.
  • Battling: Where to start? Death loop glitch, HP rubber banding, game crashing, “Error”, sync issues with multiple battlers, you name it. They fix a bug, a new one appears. Battling has always had problems. Currently, it’s a nightmare for me. Every update causes another regression. Right now, my game is HARD CRASHING a lot during battles.
  • Raids: Extremely frustrating bugs around dying in Raids, or “Error”, which causes you to lose your Raid pass, not get rewards, or a chance at encountering Pokemon. I’ve lost 6-7 Raid Passes / items. It’s extremely frustrating. Here’s a fun one though that everyone has: last ball doesn’t work during Raid catches. That’s how incompetent these guys are.
  • General stability: Numerous crashes, force restarts needed, hung screens, white screen of death, Potion crashing your phone, clicking on Avatar crashes your phone, memory leaks, enormous battery drain, incredibly hot phones.

Why is all this happening? Again, it depends on several factors: quality of your phone, quality of your data network, but it’s more than that. This company sucks at making games. There have been numerous threads online that have confirmed ENORMOUS memory leaks. For players with phones that don’t have a lot of RAM, this is crippling!! It has been proven time and time again that this company simply releases an update and “fixes” things later. Very basic bugs that would have been caught if any form of unit or regression testing suites existed (the click on your Avatar, game crashes was an all-timer; how is this not tested?).

It boils down to frustration over the fact that if the Pokemon license was given to an experienced development house…wow…who knows what we’d have by now…it’s just sad. People keep hoping things get better, but they don’t. The Pokemon GO Fest disaster was a culmination of that: poor planning, poor communication, poor testing, poor results.

For what it’s worth, Niantic has started to list known issues on their website. But keep in mind, for months and months, there was absolutely no communication on ANYTHING from this company. Will it get better? I sure freaking hope so…

What are some more advanced aspects of the meta-game that I need to know about?

The game does a poor job of explaining any level of game mechanics; let alone advanced ones. Here are some notes on some of the things the game doesn’t tell you about.

CP System

Here is the exact way CP is calculated. Does this matter? Not…really? Not any more. CP was the primary metric of determining how “high” you were placed in the gym tier in the old gym system. It was vastly important that you had mon that could be in the top CP-tier and had perfect IVs (this meant Dragonite, Rhydon, Snorlax, Vaporeon, Gyarados, Blissey, Tyranitar…that was it…).

Since that’s been eliminated, this number is now essentially a meaningless stat. Because, the formula HEAVILY skews toward Pokemon with higher ATK stats. That’s why things like Umbreon have such little CP, even though they’re generally pretty great. Basically, anything with high SPEED and DEFENSE have lower CP. How Niantic could just completely drop a major component like SPEED baffles me. I don’t know…it’s ridiculous. Again, IVs only have ATK/DEF/HP, it’s been significantly simplified from the main games, but they ARE using the stats from the main games to determine this. This is why every Pokemon’s CP can be determined today. Even those as far out as Generation VII.

Egg Hatching Rarity Tiers

Research from Silph Road recently concluded that egg hatching follows along a probability of tiers (just like spawn probability!). It was actually a pretty amazing conclusion after months of data collecting. The takeaway is that, each egg is in a tier of increasing probability, but not necessarily corresponding to the 1/5/10km tier. The first has a 1/14 chance, then 1/28, 1/56, and finally 1/115. This is why hatching a Chansey, Snorlax, Lapras, etc are really, really rare. You don’t have the same odds of hatching every Pokemon. It’s why you probably have a billion Ponyta.

Here’s a website that combines what Pokemon can hatch from which tiers and their associated probability. Niantic has changed probabilities and placement many, many times; normally for the better. Just because you get a 10km egg, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. There is no direct relationship between probability tiers and distance tiers, but generally speaking most of the good Pokemon are in the higher tiers of both.


This is a big one, and it’s not really explained by the game at all. Depending on where you live greatly influences what you will encounter. There are dozens of different “biomes”, I’m in a Grass / Water biome. Here is a list of all biomes and more information on how it works. Biomes are determined by “map data”; specifically Open Street Maps. Things like whether you are a University, industrial area, wetland, river, lake, creek, desert…things like that, all influence what will spawn. For example, never seen a Dragonite, but others have seen dozens? They’re probably in a Mt Moon Biome.


Nesting refers to areas that spawn one unique Pokemon for a period of two week. Places that nest are almost always parks. I have very rarely found places other than parks that can nest. By far the most useful website to determine what nests in your area and where is the Silph Road Atlas. Again, every two weeks, currently Wednesdays 8PM EDT, nests will change. Going to nests is one of the best and easiest ways to fill up your Pokedex. For more on nests, here’s a good article.

Catch Dynamics

Now we get to the most IMPORTANT section of the entire game. Catching. Catching determines almost your entire experience. The better you catch, the more items you’ll have, the faster you can move onto other areas, the more efficient you’ll get with Lures / events, and just generally get nicer things. Understanding catch dynamics are enormously important for being able to catch Legendary Pokemon. I have seen reports of people being 0/21+ on Legendary encounters. I’m somewhere around 17/21? How is this possible? Math.

Learning how and the best way to throw is absolutely critical. There has been extensive, extensive research on this topic. Unfortunately, this information has not generally propagated to the general community.

However, it’s really very simple, the ideal way to throw can be boiled down to two things (parens indicate catch multiplier):

  • Throwing Standard / Curves ( 1 /1.7 )
  • No Bonus / Getting Nice!, Great!, or Excellent! throws ( 1 / 1.15 / 1.5 / 1.85 )

If you do those two things, you will generally catch greater numbers of Pokemon than your peers, and waste less resources. But there are more factors that contribute to overall catch rate, which are:

  • Razz / Golden Razz ( 1.5 / 2.5 [!] )
  • Medal Bonus ( 1 / 1.1 / 1.2 / 1.3 )
  • Ball Type ( 1 / 1.5 / 2 )

All the math behind it can be found here. Here is a calculator that will tell you exactly what your catch chance is based on different variables. The calculator is wonderful. Play around with various scenarios and see how awful / great your odds are depending on what it is you’re trying to catch. The calculator doesn’t go into it, but this list will tell you all of the base catch rates for every Pokemon. Base rate is why Lugia is impossible to catch versus Pidgey (3% versus 50%); it’s why the Catch Multipliers are so very, very important for things that have lower base rate. That said, simply throwing a curve + Great!  throw creates a multiplier that is normally good enough to catch most wild Pokemon.

Let me stress the importance of Curve Balls again, direct quote from the research article above:

According to research the Curveball is one of the most important aspects of catching Pokemon, as it increases the multipliers chance to capture a Pokemon by 1.7, which is more than using an Ultra ball over a Pokeball!

That’s right. Throwing a Curveball is like throwing an Ultra Ball! The importance of throwing curves CANNOT be understated. However, you have to throw a curve ball CORRECTLY for it to register. If you throw with your left hand, keep the ball to the left, spin it, and have it land on the left side of the Pokemon (do opposite for other side; right -> right). If it doesn’t, and it just clips the right side there is a high probability of it registering as a straight throw. Does this make sense? NO!! But this is how the game works. That said, there is still debate on this. Not everybody agrees on how to 100% register a curve ball. And it’s impossible to know. You won’t know unless you catch the Pokemon and you can analyze the catch bonus screen. Find out what works for you, if you can get curves to register with what ever method you try, stick with it. For me? I throw 45 degree angle balls from the bottom left corner. It works for me. Launch angle depends on what you’re trying to catch. Different Pokemon are closer than others. You’ll learn with experience.

Those that curve and those that don’t will find this out the hard way with Legendary encounters. To bring this home, look at an example for Zapdos. This page has information on the exact % numbers you should expect for capturing based on different throws:

Notice the vast differences if you don’t Curve and / or get ! throws. If you simply just throw a Straight throw…even if you hit Great!, your % chance of capturing is 4.5%. But if you used a Golden Razz, Curved, and Great!, that jumps all the way to 19%!

One note on Excellent!: Depending on the Pokemon, getting an Excellent! and a Curve is pretty hard. The curve won’t register. From the table above, you can see an Excellent! alone is WORSE than a Great! + Curve. Getting started, I would highly consider aiming for Great! + Curve, it’s a pretty reliable and achievable outcome.

If you are able to Great! + Curve + Golden every ball on a Zapdos catch, you should, through probability, catch it every time (let’s say you get 10 balls). For those that are 0/20+, you can see why. If you suck at throwing, a) You’re probably not hitting it ten times, b) Your % is probably <10% every time. 


Finally, here’s one trick (that hopefully won’t be patched), that is extremely useful (especially in Raids). It’s called the “hold” trick. Here’s a full thread and video explaining it.

Now that you know that Great! + Curve is the ideal scenario, you can use this to your advantage with the “hold” trick. What you do is this:

  • Hold the Pokeball, don’t spin or move it, but simply wait for the catch circle to enter into the Great! (or Excellent!) zone (you’ll learn where this is with experience; Great is normally <50%; Excellent is <10% circle).
  • When it gets there, “let go of the ball”. It should simply return you to the catch screen. The Pokeball will be bouncing / you’ll have to hold it again to throw.
  • What has happened is that you have *frozen* where the catch circle is!!
  • Now, you wait. Wait for the Pokemon to attack. The circle will not change while it’s attacking.
  • Throw during the attack animation, but wait long enough so that when the ball connects, the animation is done.

What this effectively does is: guarantees the circle to be what you want, almost guarantees you’ll hit it because it’s very rare for Pokemon to move / attack right after the attack animation. This trick paired with the knowledge of MATH will yield greatly more catches than those that don’t use this method. It’s that simple. It will. Why? It’s math. It’s probability. Don’t fight it.

What are some useful websites to visit?

IV Calculators

We went over IV and the importance of it in determining CP, but I didn’t properly explain the ATK stat. ATK stat is very important for Raids. It’s really the only thing that well, increases your damage output. Ideally, you want all of your Pokemon to have a 15 ATK stat.

My favorite IV Calculator website is this one. It will also tell you ideal move set of Pokemon, what CP it will be on different levels, and more.

There are IV Calculator “apps” that you can add to your phone if you’d like as well. Just make sure they’re screen scrapers and don’t require auth to your account. You will be banned if you give apps 3rd party access.

Youtube Vloggers

This isn’t essential, but there is a pretty extensive Pokemon GO Youtube community. There are 3-4 famous ones that record daily videos that go over various mechanics / events/ news, but I have only really watched Trainer Tips Nick videos. He does a good job of explaining current news, tricks, and his videos are just normally fun to watch (he loves drones).

You can check out his videos on his page here.

Advanced info

  • Silph Road reddit. Honestly, this is your best source of information on the game. Niantic itself does a piss poor job at communicating. And when they do, it’s hours or days late. The Silph Road routinely downloads new updates, scrapes the data, and explains what’s new with the update. This subreddit is very analytically focused. There’s less general discussion here.
  • Local Facebook / Discord / reddit groups. If you’re in a populated area, you probably have a Facebook group in your area. Try Googling, “city + Pokemon Go + Facebook Group”. This is your best bet at finding Raiding parties; especially if you’re a solo player.

General info

  • Pokemon GO reddit. This is more a casual place where you can talk about the game. Still a good place to get news.
  • Niantic has a Twitter account, but I’ve never followed it. Anything important is on one of the two subreddits.

What’s next?

Unknown, Niantic doesn’t have a formal roadmap, but you can guess. We’re at Generation II so far in this game. The main series has seven. That means the game will be going on for quite a long time. One would assume we’d get Generation III in a few months (if I had to guess, I’d say next February).

Given the disaster of Go Fest, I’m hoping higher priority is given to fixing the…freaking game. There are numerous bugs and issues. Fix the game Niantic!

That’ll about wrap up everything I have found out about the game over the last year! Has it been frustrating? Yes. Has it been fun? Sure! Have I got a whole lot more exercise? You bet! Have I found out that I literally have dozens of parks and other random things in my area that I never knew existed? Yep! The game has so far has been an exciting mess. Let us just hope Niantic can clean up the mess and continue to give us the same excitement everyone had when the game first launched.

Filed under Videogames
Aug 13, 2017

Nintendo Switch Impressions and Future Analysis

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Nintendo Switch. It’s here. I have it. Here are my thoughts.

The Hardware

Where to begin? There’s quite a lot to talk about here, let’s break it down to what comes in the box and then go into the plethora of accessories:

What do you get for $299?

  • Switch console


  • What is it?
    • Essentially a glorified 6.5″ tablet. This is the console.
    • If you’re familiar with Wii U (although not many people are…), essentially they just took the guts of the Wii U console and put it in Wii U’s tablet.
    • It comes with a kickstand and can be “played” table-top by using a controller.
  • Pros
    • It feels nice. It’s got some good weight on it. 
    • Looks nice. Nice big screen.
  • Cons
    • We’ll see, but I think the gimmick here won’t have legs. I already never see anyone in the wild with a 3DS, someone lugging around a Switch seems unlikely. The device is huge.
    • The battery lasts between 2-6 hours. For comparison’s sake 3DS XL lasts 3.5-6.5 hours. Many people reporting playing Zelda at full battery is wiped out in 3 hours. Ehh….that’s not very “portable”-ish to me…
    • No backward compatibility. At all. I guess this is somewhat standard for most Nintendo consoles, but…both the Wii and the Wii U had backwards compatbility.
  • Neutral
    • Haven’t played it enough to decide whether I like playing in “handheld” mode. I really did like Wii U’s tablet, but it did take some time to grow on me. We’ll see. First impression is that it’s not very comfortable.
    • It apparently has a touchscreen (multipoint!), but I had no idea. Nothing uses it. Which is kind of concerning…will we ever be able to play any DS ports on this at all? What happens to the entire DS lineup?
  • Docking station


  • What is it?
    • All this does is allow you to connect an HDMI cable and a USB-C charging adapter to it. 
    • The Switch console can “dock” by setting it into the cradle. The purpose of docking is to allow it to charge and play on whatever device your have connected via HDMI (presumably your television).
  • Pros
    • It charges your system! It lets you play on your TV!
    • Hides cables fairly well in detachable back panel.
    • This was originally going to be a con, in that, it’s not really conducive for entertainment centers, but…I actually confirmed you can orient the docking station vertically or horizontally. It’s a bit awkward inserting the console this way, but it’s really the only way I can fit the thing where my TV sits.
  • Cons
    • Not very aesthetically pleasing…essentially a piece of hard plastic.
    • Major bug:  While docked and in sleep mode, it randomly wakes up and causes your video source to change. This is #9 from this list of common Switch problems. This sucks. And I want it to stop. Right now, I have to turn off the system and not put it in the dock. Because if you dock it, it turns it on. I’m hoping this is fixed with a patch…
    • It has no Ethernet port. You have to buy this 3rd party adapter…that’s officially licensed by Nintendo (currently out of stock; no idea what MSRP is…$30?!), if you want to have a reliable connection. OK…to cut costs, and making this optional, fine, I can live with this…90% of people will be fine with Wi-Fi, but it still sucks.
  • Joy Cons (Left/Right) and Shell Controller


  • What is it?
    • This is how you actually control the Switch Console. Arguably, this is the patent / feature / gimmick of the system. This allows you to play in tabletop / handheld / TV mode.
    • The Joys Cons “attach” to the Switch Console and draw power from the console itself. Otherwise, in TV mode, well, they’ll be discharging…
    • The Joy Cons can connect to a “shell” which functions as a traditional game controller.
    • The shell has some LEDs it can display which show you if the Joy Cons are connected (but oddly…not the current battery status…at least as far as I can tell…).
  • Pros
    • They’re pretty sweet little things. I really dig the symmetry. Each has: an analog stick, four buttons, two triggers, a + or a – button, and a “Home” or a “Take picture” button.
    • Each can be used stand-alone; so essentially the console comes with two controllers.
    • The “HD Rumble” is something that’s not really talked about, but it’s pretty nice. It’s hard to explain…there seem to be multiple areas where the device can rumble / with different intensities. It feels kind of…weird…but in a good way? Apparently some games utilize this (I’m guessing 1 2 Switch), but I haven’t played any yet.
    • I’m guessing there’s a gyroscope of some sort in both of them. They basically emulate what the Wii Remotes did, but without the need of an IR Bar. However it works…it can detect motion. For example, you can “aim” in Zelda by moving the controller. It works well. Unlike with Wii, I haven’t had any issues with losing position, so that’s pretty sweet!
  • Cons
    • There’s no “out of the box” easy way to charge these while in TV mode. It’s…actually quite ridiculous. If you, you know…what to be able to play in TV mode for a while, why…you’re in luck! Nintendo has this $30 glorified cable that will allow you to plugin a USB-C cable to another version of the Controller Shell! Whee! Why this wasn’t included as a default option is…again…ridiculous. The fact that you CANNOT charge them while undocked from the console is really, really stupid. I’m really quite mad about this.
    • Major bug: I think most people have encountered this problem…the Joy Cons, especially the Left one (most noticeable) will lose a signal while in TV Mode a fair bit. Why? The theory is that it’s using line of sight to the console in the dock. The farther away and anything obstructing you between the console can cause “lag”. For example, I have fallen off several cliffs playing Zelda. If this ISN’T fixed with a software update. This is a serious, serious, SERIOUS problem. I have never encountered issues with *any* controller in the history of gaming that has suffered “connection issues” while playing quite like this.
  • Other Things
    • Includes two Joy Con straps (never going to use…don’t fling your controllers…is this still really a thing?).
    • USB-C charging adapter
    • HDMI cable


  • The controllers and the console itself are very nice. I think the Joy Cons are pretty comfortable; especially with the shell. I have zero issues with it. I played for 3-4 hours of Zelda with no complaints.
  • Concerns with battery life and charging…have to buy a separate $30 accessory to change the Joy Cons while playing. Crazy.
  • There are several major bugs with the system. And I hope they’re not irreversible hardware problems and can be fixed through software updates. In general, doesn’t seem like Nintendo put a lot of testing into the “TV Mode”. Which…makes no sense. We’ll see.
  • Recommend to buy right now? You just need to answer one question: How much do you love Zelda? If you answer that question in any way positive, buy it. Zelda is amazing. Amazing. Might do a separate review of it, but it’s game of the year. It reminds me of a mixture of Dark Souls / Monster Hunter / Zelda. All good things!! If not a Zelda fan, wait. There’s too much uncertainty and bugs / glitches. The Switch OS doesn’t even have Virtual Console support for crying out loud…


  • I’m actually pretty worried. Very worried. This is a Wii U. It’s the same damn thing. It seems to have some initial hype, but this console is essentially a Wii U 2.0.
  • Now that said, I LOVED Wii U. The problem was software / marketing / lack of 3rd party support. And…a botched launch. But…Nintendo doesn’t seem to have learned much in that: the launch lineup is pretty abysmal, Zelda is great, but it’s no Wii Sports. Wii worked because it had a software hook that everyone could understand, and it was free. What does one buy on Switch right now other than Zelda…?
  • The lack of any real online strategy (what happened to Miiverse? no StreetPass either….?) out of the gate hurts. Nintendo has never been known to have seamless, hell even coherent, online functionality. I’m very concerned over this.
  • There still appears to be NO ONLINE ACHIEVEMENTS / TROPHIES. Why…?! WHY?! This is something that should have been implemented years and years ago. What the hell is taking so long? What’s the reason for not having this?? People little BUY games for this. It’s a selling point! What does Nintendo not get about this?!
  • The system is hard to come by right now, and that’s intentional and expected. Don’t pay $400+ for this. Just don’t. It should be generally available in a few months. This isn’t another Wii scenario. You will be able to find it. Let the kinks be worked out (there’s actually more hardware issues than I have ever seen for a 1st release Nintendo product; their hardware has always been rock-solid!). There’s kinks.

Future Predictions

  • It all comes down to software. It always has. Since, like, the middle of the Wii-era Nintendo’s 1st party output just hasn’t been there. I don’t know what’s happening. And 3rd parties aren’t picking up the slack. There have just been too many dead spots (dead years!) where nothing is released.
  • I just see too many other headwinds that are hard to overcome (the price is too high; too many high priced accessories; overall, the system is kind of confusing…too many parts…I can see a parent or a child baffled at how this thing even works…) to expect any kind of sustainable interest.
  • Here’s something to look at…if this things flops…what then??! Nintendo has put all their eggs in this basket by presumably killing off the DS line and merging it with their home console. Are we going to get “DS”-style games? Will they be reasonably priced?
  • Wii U sold 14 million units…and I think was their worst selling system ever? I predict Switch will sell 15-20 million units in the same time span. I hope I’m wrong…I just don’t see the thing having legs. Unless somehow the convergence of their software teams helps them crank out software hit after software hit. They have the IP. They just need to actually do it. Color me skeptical though…I guess we’ll find out!
Filed under Videogames
Mar 7, 2017

Almost 7 Years Later…I’m A Big Deal Again – Top Kills in Bioshock 2 [PS3]


Not much else to say here. I’ve spent hundreds, thousands of hours, playing this game almost every week since 2010. Here is my last match that got me over the top.

Filed under Videogames
Mar 4, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Pokemon GO



Pokemon GO, I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Even in some off chance you haven’t heard of it, you’ve most likely seen zombie players staring at their phones running into things. That’s right. They’re most likely playing this game.

I’ll be honest…I’m all in. I’ve been playing Pokemon since “gen 1” and for simply nostalgia’s sake…I could not pass this up. I’ve now got a few weeks of experience under my belt and I know quite a bit about the game, “GO” ahead ask me anything.

What is it?

A free to play app for Android and iOS. The point of the game is to GO to as many places around town to find Pokemon. When you encounter one, you can use “Pokeballs” to capture them. Then you can use these Pokemon to fight “gyms” around town (which inevitably are points of interest like churches, parks, shopping centers, malls, etc; where people gather). This is not a game you can play at home. It is almost impossible.

What’s a “Pokemon”?

Abbreviation for “Pocket Monster”. They’re just imaginary creatures that resemble real-life animals that you can capture, train, and well..fight other Pokemon with. Yep…this game is essentially a global “cock fighting” simulator. Hide ‘yo kids, hide ‘yo wives!

How does capturing work?

First you have to encounter a Pokemon in the “wild”. You then will be engaged in a “battle” (with just yourself; there are no Pokemon versus Pokemon battling in the “field”; unlike in the “real” Nintendo games). There are two different ways of engaging: with AR mode  (Artificial Reality) on…or that can be disabled by clicking “off” in the top right hand corner and you’ll just engage on a static “forest” background. It is highly advised to turn off AR if you’re trying to play the game “for serious” as it’s much easier to find and catch your targets.

Once you’re engaged, all you have to do is slide the Pokeball up to where the Pokemon is located; more or less. That’s pretty much it. Your phone orientation is “vertical” and cannot be changed; depending on what you’re engaging, the starting point of the Pokemon is “close” or “far away”; e.g. Pidgeys are close and Zubats start faaar away. Flying things, again, like Zubat, are “off the ground”, so you need to account for that and “throw higher”. You keep flinging Pokeballs until it’s caught (it can break out; if you’ve ever played a Pokemon game before…this is pretty much standard).

There’s got to be more to it than that thought, right?

To go more in-depth, there are two “hit boxes” (well “hit circles”) of interest for each Pokemon. A white circle envelops the Pokemon (it’s bigger or smaller depending on the size of what you’re trying to catch; Weedles are tiny; things like Pinsir are much bigger) which defines where you have to “hit” it to trigger a Ghostbuster’s style capture.

The second circle is colored and progressively gets smaller and smaller, until it resets to the shape of the white circle (which is static; never changes). This process keeps repeating, forever. It takes a few seconds to cycle through. The color of this circle will be either: green, yellow, reddish-yellow, or red (maybe there’s more, but that’s what I can recall). This determines the “difficulty” of capturing the Pokemon. Green being the easiest (will almost always catch on the first try, regardless of where/when you hit it) and getting harder from there.

Finally, the “location” of the continuously shrinking circle matters a great deal. First, the smaller the circle is when it’s hit, the “easier it will be to catch”. Second, there is a “EXP bonus” that can be had depending on if your thrown Pokemon ball lands within the center of the colored circle. You can get +10 EXP for “Nice!”, +50 EXP for “Great!”, and +100 for “Excellent!” throws. Keep in mind, even if you achieve one of these, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll catch what you’re fighting (it really sucks when something breaks out of an “Excellent!”…). But…”Great!” and “Excellent!” throws are “more likely” to yield a capture because the circle is relatively small. Make sense?

Pro tip: “Excellent!” is very difficult to achieve consistently (needs to be basically nothing left of the circle). I always go for “Great!” as you have a good bit of leeway. “Great!” throws require the circle to be about halfway depleted; and +50 is nothing to sneeze at, if you can consistently do this. That said, I don’t know…the game seems to “cheat”, I’ve had throws that sure look pretty damn “Great!” to me, but don’t register anything, so…YMMV.

Anything else I should know about capturing?

There is only one “advanced technique” called “curve ball” (like the baseball pitch). This involves spinning the ball in a clockwise/counter-clockwise motion with either thumb (whatever feels comfortable). The ball will start to sparkle, and like the name suggests, the throw will curve in an arc towards the Pokemon.

For example, I spin with my left thumb counter-clockwise and position the ball to the far left of the screen. When the circle is about halfway depleted (again, I mainly go for “Great!”, I release it to the right of the screen at about a 45 degree angle, the ball will curve back and, hopefully, land right in the center. You also get a +10 EXP bonus for throwing a curve ball, so that’s nice (although, I’ve thrown plenty of curve balls and not received the bonus, so…who knows..). It does not stack with “!” catches though. So if you get a “Nice!”, you won’t get the 10 EXP bonus. Meh. It takes a bit of practice, but it is…by far, BY FAR, the best way to throw balls (the only exception being, “really close up” things; it’s hard to get “Great!” bonuses this way…at least that I’ve found, just throw a really weak straight throw).

Eh…I’ve tried throwing curve balls. I’m not good at them and I’m wasting a lot of balls man..can I just give up?

NOOO!! Again, they’ve the most reliable way to throw, yield the most consistent results, and are the only freaking way you’re going to get Zubats reliably.

Why am I harping on this? Well, when you unlock “Great Balls” (which are stronger versions of Pokeballs; there are also Ultra Balls; again, pretty much a Pokemon standard), sometimes these things curve on their own for no reason. Can you say, “cashgrab”?

Therefore, throwing a curve ball “every time” prevents this from ever happening. Some Pokemon also appear to alter trajectories (Pidgeotto, Zubat, Golbat, etc)…I watched my wife throw 15-20 Pokeballs at a Golbat before it ran away. Throw curve balls, it’ll save your life.

Here’s a decent video showing you how to do it. Seriously, you may waste dozens practicing, but it’ll save you hundreds in the future.

There can’t be anything else with regards to capturing can there?!

I’m glad you asked! Yes! Each Pokemon has some unique traits, you’ll get used to them after you’ve engaged the same type dozens of times. Zubats are far, far away. Weedles have such tiny “circle boxes”, they’ve very hard to capture and tend to run a way…a lot. Spearows and Ratttatatatas (screw them) seem to “attack”…a lot. Each Pokemon has an “attack” sequence that will nullify any ball in the air. I tend to avoid things like these (for other reasons which I’ll get into soon) as catching one reliably isn’t guaranteed.

One last thing, I already mentioned “Great Balls” and “Ultra Balls” as tools you can use to make capturing easier, but there is one other item you can use call “Razz Berries”, these lower the difficulty of the “next throw”. For example, if something is “Yellow”, try throwing a Razz Berry at it and your next throw should be “Green”. I’m not sure if these stack (throw multiple)…I’ve honestly never tried!

That’s pretty much all I know about “Capturing”. Capturing is about 90% of the game, especially at early levels (<15), so…get good at it!

What’s the big deal? Why should I care about getting good at capturing?

Well…because…the game is trying to get you to pay for stuff. You have LIMITED INVENTORY! You only have so many Pokeballs before you run out. Capturing each creature with 1 or 2 throws should be your focus…every…time.

When you run out of stuff, the only way to replenish them (without purchasing new ones) is to find things called “PokeStops” around you.

What’s a PokeStop?

It’s a point of interest in the area. A landmark, a statue, public art, trail markers, things like that. What this means is that…cities and large towns are much more likely to have much larger numbers of PokeStops than rural areas. It also means that you’re not going to likely have one near your house. Hey…did I mention the game is called Pokemon “GO”?

Each PokeStop normally gives you three random items. You’ll get different things depending on what you’ve “unlocked”, but count on getting at least 1 “Pokeball” each time. To collect things at a PokeStop, touch it on your device and when it loads, you’ll see a picture of that artifact. Then, you “spin it” and grab the loot.

Pro tip: You don’t actually have to “touch” everything that pops out. Simply dismiss the window and they’ll automatically be collected. It took me days to figure that out…

Each PokeStop goes “offline” (purple) for approximately 4 minutes and 30 seconds. You cannot collect anything new from it until it becomes available (blue).

Pro tip: Find an area that has multiple PokeStops really close to each other, or ideally, next to each other. For example, a place in my local park has three stops in the same area (an Ampitheatre, a park map, and a trail marker). There’s also benches in the area where you can sit down and restock! It’s beautiful. If you DON’T have something like this in your area…well, you’re screwed. It is going to be very, very, VERY difficult for you to play at higher levels without dropping cash. Be warned…

OK, well, how else is the game trying to take my money?

Oh, I’ll be happy to break it down. These “freemium” games are all the same. They hook you with “free” at the beginning, give you a decent chunk of starting equipment, and eventually…you run out. This game gets to that point around level 15. Not to mention, the higher your level, the more likely you’ll encounter higher level things…which are harder to capture (just because you’re a “high level” doesn’t make *anything* easier).

So how do you combat that? Again, finding a stockpile of PokeStops is essential, but even then…the game has a devious method of screwing you over: you can only hold so many “items” at once. The initial limit is 350. That’s fine at low levels. More than enough. All you have are Pokeballs! But…but…every time you level up, you are granted “more stuff”. Sounds great, right?

Yes, sure…but…there’s a catch. All that stuff eats into your item cap. And “each item” contributes to that cap. So, what happens is…you’ll get Potions (to heal; I’ll go into battling later), Revives, Razz Berries, etc. These end up “putting you over the cap”. For example, say you’re at or near max item capacity…and you level up. All that crap you get at level up time pushes you over the cap. If you look at your item list, it’ll now be like 390/350. This means YOU CANNOT COLLECT ANY MORE ITEMS UNTIL YOU’RE BELOW THE CAP!!!

What does this mean? It means your “Pokeballs” as a percentage of your inventory exponentially declines the furhter you level!! Pokeballs are the freaking lifeblood of the entire game. Without them, game over. You either have to buy “storage upgrades”, THROW AWAY your items, or…*shudder* buy them at the shop (please don’t EVER do this…).

This was my experience…I fought this for a long time, “I don’t want to pay anything…I don’t want to pay anything…I’ll just throw stuff away…Pfff…who needs Revives anyway?”, and that worked for awhile, but the turning point, for me, was at Level 20.

At Level 20, you unlock Ultra Balls and get all kinds of crap. This pushed me, way, way, waaaay over the cap. I gave in. I like the game, I want to keep playing, and I don’t want to waste my time and have to throw away items (which is really bad, you can’t “buy” Potions and they’re pretty rare at PokeStops), so…I ended up having to buy stuff…

What can you buy at the store?

For the most part, most everything in the store is a casual player money trap (you shouldn’t be buying any of this stuff), but there is one item in particular I think is absolutely essential (suspense!). First off, you “buy” things called PokeCoins, which are redeemed for different things.

Side note: Brilliant psychological trick; arcades do this a lot. Disassociate the consumer with their “money” by creating an arbitrary currency that has no logical translation. Items are priced at things like “80 PokeCoins” to give you the illusion they’re cheaper than they are. You don’t ask yourself, “how much is 80 PokeCoins”, you just buy it, the money is already gone. It’s a great trick.

Anyway, you have PokeCoins and you trade them in for “stuff”. What can you buy? Pokeballs (not Great Balls or Ultra Balls, mind you), Incense (increased encounter rate for 30 mins), Lures (set at a PokeStop, significantly increases encounter rate for entire area for 30 mins), Lucky Eggs (2x EXP for 30 mins), Pokemon storage upgrade (default is 250; max is 1000; 250 is more than enough, trust me…), Egg Incubators (I’ll get into this in a second; I think this isn’t worth buying, to be honest), and last, but certainly not least…bag upgrades.

Bags upgrades are, without a doubt, the single most important item you can buy. The default item cap is 250, the max is 1000. Each upgrade adds 50 items to your max. That means, you would need to buy, at maximum, 13 upgrades (2600 PokeCoins). How much is an upgrade? 200 PokeCoins. How much money is 200 PokeCoins? Well, it varies depending on how much you buy in one shot. 200 PokeCoins is, base, $2. If you buy $10 worth, you get 1200 PokeCoins. And…this is what I’ve done. I’ve spent $12 on bag upgrades.

I hate myself. I’m one of the cheapest damn people on the planet, and that $12 is a matter of principle. However….HOWEVER…I am greatly enjoying playing. This game is getting me to exercise and see parts of my town that I’ve never seen before (I’ve driven to so many churches, you wouldn’t believe…). Doing this now gives me an item max of 700, which….whew…is a good place to be. 700 is a very reasonable number. I can always have around 200-250 Pokeballs on me without needing to throw anything else away. When I’m low, I just do a PokeStop run. It’s pretty simple.

If, IF, you decided you were serious about playing this game. I would suggest that you ONLY need to spend about $12 to be in a position where you can function well enough without sacrificing anything.

Pro tip: My advice is…try the game out. If you’re enjoying it and think you want to keep playing, at around level 12-13, buy some storage upgrades. Trust me, it’s worth it.

There ARE ways to get PokeCoins “in-game”. That involves gym battling. This is a fairly complicated topic…I’ll get to that later. My plan is to get the last six remaining bag upgrades by earning the PokeCoins through game play.

You mentioned “levels” a lot. How does that work?

Yes, well, it’s probably the most important thing in the game, to be honest. It determines how strong your Pokemon can become. Each Pokemon has a CP value (Combat Points? Combat Potential…? I don’t know…) that is random on encounter. The higher your level, the higher the encounter CP can be. Also your “level” determines the “maximum” CP any one Pokemon can ever get to. Each Pokemon can be “buffed” through a mechanism which I’ll explain later.

Anyway, that’s a little off-topic, back to “leveling”. If you’ve played any video game, ever, this should be fairly common knowledge. You gain EXP (experience) points by doing various actions. When you’ve reached the threshold to “level up”, you…”level up”, and the process repeats.

What do I get from leveling up?

In addition to higher CP Pokemon, you get “level up” rewards. The “good” rewards are normally divisible by 5. The “best” rewards are divisible by 10. Here is the full list.

Well, this sounds kind of fighting a losing battle. Surely everyone’s at a high level by now…why should I bother trying to play?

Great question. It’s something I grappled with for awhile. I was having a great deal of connection issues and wasn’t able to play for days. All the while, I watched level 20+ players take over gyms. I was like, “how in the heck can I compete with this??”. Why should I bother playing? I should just quit at this point…

The good news is…levels get exponentially harder to obtain. Seriously. Here’s the chart:

Pokemon GO: XP Level Chart (AKA The Reason Nobody is Level 30 Yet) from pokemongo

What does this mean? Well, it means, if you can get to at least level 15-20, you should be able to do gym activities without it being impossible. The game essentially has a softcap on leveling, at least right now.

And…once you get level 20, you’ve pretty much got all you need to engage at “gyms”. So, don’t give up!

All right, what exactly are gyms?

I consider gym battling to be “phase 2” of the game. Much like the main series, the whole point of the game is to collect Pokemon, and level them up to a point where you can fight “gyms”, collect badges…and be the very best, like no one ever was. Ahem. Except, well, in this game, there are no badges, there is no Victory Road, or Elite Four (yet…?), so all gyms are…are gathering points where people play, basically, a version of “King of the Hill”. By that I mean, three gangs fight for territory and call each other names in real life.


Yeah, basically…at level 5, if you go to a gym (which involves physically being in proximity to it), you are given a choice of choosing between Team Instinct (Yellow), Team Valor (Red), or Team…Team…I don’t know, the other one.

The global player breakdowns for each team are approximately: 23% Yellow, 45% Blue, 32% Red.



OK, so what about the battling part?

Right. That. Well, you know all those Pokemon you caught? OK, well, there are two scenarios in play at gyms. The first, you go to a gym that’s controlled by your own team. Say, you’re team “blue bros”, then if you engage a blue gym (seriously, those guys suck so much…I forget what they’re named) you are given an opportunity to “train” at a gym.

This involves you fighting the “gym leaders” with ONE of your Pokemon. This Pokemon cannot die by battling and will always keep 1 HP, if incapacitated (which actually sucks, because..Revive items regenerate 50% HP, 1HP remaining…kind of sucks, you need to use a lot of Potions!). If you win, you get some EXP and increase the “prestige” of the gym. Every 2000 prestige points or so…another “slot” unlocks for that team (i.e. you can put one of your Pokemon at the gym and it can fight invaders). Each gym can get to a level of 10 (and I’m guessing 20000 prestige points; never seen a level 10). This process…takes a long time.

Now if I’m being completely honest…training at your own gym…sucks. It sucks. The EXP is weak, the prestige leveling process is slooowww and prestige only increases significantly if you use a Pokemon with really low CP (and up-to 10 against 1…uh, OK). I’d rather fight at rival gyms.

So how do rival gym battles work?

Oh my, so much nicer. And it’s precisely why I chose team Instinct. We’re the underdogs. We don’t have the numbers, but we have the intelligence. We aren’t part of the herd, we eat the herd. Yeah, that’s right, I’m calling you out…other teams.

OK, back to it…instead of “training” you’re “fighting”. The dynamics are a little different, but still pretty much the same. It’s now six of the Pokemon you choose, versus the current gym leaders, instead of 1. Nice. A Level 1 gym has one Pokemon, Level 3 has up-to three, etc. If you managed to beat all the gym leaders, you will *significantly* lower the prestige level of the gym. I’m talking 2000-3500 points (most gyms have 2000-6000 points).

From dozens of battles so far, gym prestige lowering doesn’t seem to make any difference with regards to how high a CP Pokemon you use, it only really matters if you beat all of the gym members without dying or escaping. The weakest leader is “kicked off” the team as prestige is lowered, making subsequent fights easier (or…well, harder because the top leaders remain, but there’s less to fight). Once prestige reaches 0, it’s destroyed, and *anyone* can take the gym at that point.

These fights yield A LOT more EXP (minimum +150; high level gyms yield 350 or more; I think a Lv6 gym gave me 750) and…well, to be honest, they’re more fun. You can use actual strategy with six Pokemon versus one, so…there’s that.

OK, that’s all well and good, but how does gym battling, you know, work?

Oh, right. It’s simple, yet deep. Here are the basics: if you’ve ever looked at your Pokemon in the main menu you’ll see some stats: CP power, move 1, and move 2. Each move has a power level; normally between 3 and 60. Like the main games, each Pokemon has a one or more “types” (grass, fire, electric, ground, rock, water, etc). These type bonuses also apply during fights. Here is the full list (yeah, the game sort of completely glosses over this hugely important dynamic…).

If your Pokemon has a move that matches it’s type, say, “Water Gun” (Water) and they’re type “Water”, they’ll receive an attack bonus by using the same type. It’s important to have a good “move 1”. During a fight to use “move 1”, all you have to do is “tap” your Pokemon. To use “move 2”, look at your “blue bar” during battle, once it starts shining you can “hold” your Pokemon to activate “move 2”. Finally, there is a “dodge” mechanic….that’s actually pretty freaking critical to surviving. You can “swipe right” or “swipe left” (doesn’t matter which; whichever feels better to you; I swipe right with my left thumb) to dodge.

Here is an example video of how to dodge like a champ:

The trick is the “flashing yellow” emphasis on the screen. Dodge “just” after that is seen. Not the attack animation. Not the move call out (when an opponent uses a special move, it’s called out on screen). Just wait for the yellow animation (it’s like…Father Zapdos is protecting me…). If you dodge correctly, you will take NO DAMAGE (or minimal; seems to be based on higher CP?). Therefore, if you dodge every attack, you can take gyms down with one Pokemon most of the time (provided your CP level is good enough to actually hurt your opponent…).

I would advise watching some more Youtube videos to get a feel of how they play out. However, you’re just not going to get the feel of it unless you fight a few..dozen times.


Anecdote: I got kind of put off by gym battling at first because when I finally got strong enough to try, the game was still really, really, really unstable. Servers would always be down, and that meant really disjointed fights. I couldn’t dodge, there was significant lag, sometimes they wouldn’t work, 1HP glitch, etc. Now that servers have become “manageable” I can dodge pretty reliably and the experience is a lot better!

Is dodging really that important?

Dodging…seriously. Yes! It’s absolutely imperative you get good at this. Each Pokemon has a cadence; learn them. After most “move 1″s you can get 3-4 hits in before they use their next move. After 7-8 moves the Pokemon will use a “move 2”. These are normally the best opportunity to use your move 2. For example, if something is using HYPER BEAM, you can get 3-4 hits in before it even flashes yellow on the screen. Afterwards, there’s a cool down period too, as soon as you dodge, use your “move 2”.

What else should I know about gyms?

Like I alluded to before, rival gym battling is much more fun than training. You get more stuff and it’s more satisfying. Not to mention it feels like it’s an order of magnitude of effort involved in training versus tearing down a gym. I’m serious. You can literally fight a friendly gym 10 times and generate the same amount of prestige fighting a rival gym would yield. All of this points to: CHOOSE TEAM INSTINCT.

What’s the dirty little secret about winning a gym that no one wants you to know?

Vaporeon. Va-por-e-on. VAPOREON! This thing is broken. If the developers have any balls, they will HAVE to nerf this thing. It’s stats are true to the main games. It has a lot of HP and defense, but it’s supposed to be slow. So, what did they do? They gave it WATER GUN, which is one of the fastest / strongest “move 1″s in the game. Plus, it’s WATER, and there are very few grass and thunder Pokemon available to even touch it, and those that do exist…kind of suck. It’s a freaking speedy TANK. Water Gun is SO FAST!! You can get 3-5 hits in before having to dodge. It has no cool down period at all. Plus most Vaporeons know HYDRO PUMP, and that secondary move is pretty good too!

Plus…! They’re easier to find and evolve! Eevees are common enough that you can boost it via Candies and Stardust with reckless abandon. At level 20, I have a Vaporeon that’s almost 1700. PLUS, there’s a trick that if you name Eevee “Rainer” before Evolving, it will be guaranteed to be a Vaporeon! You bring in a team of 6 Vaporeons to a gym battle…you ain’t losing. One Hyper Potion after the battle and you’re good. Pfff…heck, even if one dies use a Revive and it’s got half of it’s ENORMOUS HP back. Did I mention this thing is broken?!

So, let’s recap: it has high HP, high defense, it has strong moves that match it’s type, it has very few Pokemon that can beat it, it has great moves, they’re fast, it’s commonly found, it’s easy to evolve, and can dodge almost anything. It’s a gym killer. It can take down gyms, by itself, in 1-3 battles.

Pro tip: Use Vaporeon.

So, how do I get PokeCoins from gyms?

Two ways. Either beat a rival gym and take over the neutral site by adding a Pokemon of your own. This makes the gym a “Level 1” of your team. Or, boost a friendly gym up a level and add a Pokemon.

Now, if you go into the “Shop” area. In the upper right hand corner will be a shield icon with a number in it. This number can range from 0-10. It indicates how many gyms you’re occupying at one time. At ANY TIME, you can “cash in” this value. Doing so yields 10 PokeCoins x Shield Level. The catch is…you can’t do this *again* for 21 hours (good idea by the designers, 24 hours would be boring, people would always be coming back at the same time).

In practice, gyms *don’t last long*. They are destroyed within hours, if not sooner. Like I said earlier, VAPOREON is a gym killer and everyone has one…or two…or twenty. Do not bank on holding a gym for more than 21 hours…or you must live in the middle of nowhere. Basically, you have to “snipe” and cash in. It’s pretty hard to hold more than even “three” gyms at one time, especially if you’re playing during peak hours.

What I’ve done is, because, well, I’m an adult and have a car…I can drive to every church in the area and take over all the gyms. There’s a high chance no one else is doing this because: a) It’s a church, who is going to a church at odd hours, b) I go to them at extremely odd hours (midnight, 1AM).

Realistically speaking you’re lucky to get 10 PokeCoins a day, unless you’ve just got gyms all over the place. But if you’re got gyms all over the place, you’ve probably got a lot of people playing, and like I said…gyms don’t last long.

I have to keep getting PokeCoins until I have all of the bag upgrades…

You mentioned making Pokemon stronger. How?

Every time you get a Pokemon, you get this thing called “Stardust”. You get 100 per capture. You get some for hatching eggs (a lot actually; depends on the egg, but I’ve seen 1000+), you get some for cashing in gym points (500). I…I think that’s it if I’m not mistaken.

Now in addition to that, each Pokemon and its evolutionary line has a “Candy” named after it. With a combination of “Candy” and “Stardust”, you can “Power Up” your Pokemon’s CP. The max CP your Pokemon can have depends on your level.

OK, you told me how to get Stardust, how do I get Candy?

Two ways: eggs and capturing Pokemon of that type. You want to evolve your Pikachu into a Raichu? Better get some Pikachu candy. If you have a Pikachu, you’ll get a boatload of candy. If you catch a Pikachu, you’ll get three candies.

You can also “Transfer” a Pokemon (which can be done by looking at the Pokemon and scrolling to the bottom of the page) to Professor Oak…err…whatever his name is. This gives you one candy. You also get one candy if you “evolve” a Pokemon, I always forget this.


Basic tenant of the main series. Each Pokemon normally has 1-2 “evolutions” it can perform. These evolutions are more powerful variants of the same basic monster. In science, this is called “polymorphism”. In this game, it’s just called “my cute little thing just got bigger and scarier”.

Eevee is special in that it can evolve into…well, in this game, three different things. Every other Pokemon outside of Eevee take a linear path, and some don’t have any at all.

Again, this is something the game just completely glosses over, but veterans of the series know all of this stuff. In in the end, evolve = more powerful = higher CP potential.

Eggs, don’t forget eggs!

You get eggs from PokeStops. They’re fairly common and max out at 9. Once you’re at 9, you won’t get any more until one hatches. They are in “Pokemon” > Eggs in the upper right hand corner. Once there, you can touch an egg and assign it to an “Egg Incubator”. Again, like in the main series, you walk to hatch an egg. There are three egg distances: 2km, 5km, and 10km. 10km eggs are hard to find, and you can’t “throw away” eggs, so when you find one, try to hatch those first.

Egg Incubators can only be obtained by leveling up (normally at levels divisible by 5) and through shop purchases. I don’t advise shop purchases, your coins are better spent elsewhere. A Lure or a Lucky Egg are coins better spent (and bag upgrades; don’t ever forget those). You’ll normally only have 3 at one time. The reason I don’t advise buying them is…they only have a limit of 3 uses. I mean…that’s not a lot guys. If you could buy a second infinite incubator? Yeah, now we’re talking. I forgot to mention that you get one “infinite use” incubator by default.

Pro tip: Be very, very mindful of how much distance you have to go on hatching an egg. The game is not forgiving if your egg hatches and you don’t acknowledge it, and something happens to your phone or connection. I lost a 5km egg because I accidentally close the app while it was hatcing. Bye egg. Bye Stardust. Bye Pokemon I’ll never meet.

Pro tip: The game is smart. It wants you to “walk” or “ride a bike” like in the games. That means, no trains, no planes, no cars. People have measured at around >10-15 MPH, the game stops tracking this as progress. Now, you can have a car go under <15 MPH, but man…you look really stupid doing this, not to mention you’re ripe to get pulled over by a cop. However, stop and go rush hour traffic? Maybe. Thankfully I don’t have this!

All that said, egg hatching is a good idea. You get pretty insane Stardust (especially at 10km), you get a chance to hatch any Pokemon, not just common ones you find anywhere.

OK, I’m game. I want to level up as fast as I can. Any tips?

Yes, there’s really only one way to do this: Lucky Egg. It grants double experience. The trick is maximizing that 30 minutes.

So you simply have to perform the things that generate the most experience and do them quickly. These are:

  • Evolving
  • Hatching eggs
  • PokeStops

Yes, you get experience by capturing Pokemon, fighting gyms, etc, but you’re looking for things that are FAST. Again, you only have 30 minutes, and you only get a few Lucky Eggs for free. By far, the most efficient way to level is to stockpile dozens and dozens of Pokemon that easy to evolve (read: Pidgey, Weedle, Caterpie; 12 Candy evolves, and to a lesser extent Rattata, Spearow, Eevee, and any other “25” Candy evolutions).

http://www.pidgeycalc.com/ is a good website to estimate your maximums or plan with what you have (don’t forget, each evolve nets one more “candy”; so every 12 evolves is basically 13 evolves for 12 base evolves; *cough*Pidgey*cough*). It takes about 30-40 seconds to evolve a Pokemon and start a new one. Evolving something you don’t already have gives you 1000 EXP via Lucky Egg!

Simultaneously, you should have 3 or more Eggs Incubators going that should all hatch at the same time and should be close to hatching (e.g. start a Lucky Egg with only a few tenths of a km to go). Evolve and walk. If this generates a “new” Pokemon, boom, you just got another 1000 EXP.

You should realistically be able to net 30-50k or more with one Lucky Egg with a good plan and a hoard of Pidgeys. It is advised to be near “Lures” while doing this, in case you find a Pokemon you don’t already have *and* you get 100 EXP per PokeStop instead of 50 (and spinning PokeStops are quick activities).

Do this as early as you possibly can because you’re more likely to have a less fleshed out Pokedex and every “new” thing you find is very helpful.

Why are people finding different Pokemon?

It’s how the game works. Different areas generate different Pokemon. Where one thing is common in one area, it’s impossible to find in another. If you ever find “rarity” maps, they’re all useless. The only things that seem to be common to everyone are: Pidgeys, Rattatas, Caterpies, Weedles….and maybe Spearows? You tell me.

Again, it seems the point of this game is to GO to other places and find different Pokemon.

What else do I need to know?

Not all Pokemon are available at the moment. All the legendaries of “gen 1” are unobtainable: Mew, Mewtwo, Moltres, Zapdos, Articuno…and…ditto. Not to mention…region-freaking-exclusives. North America has Tauros as an exclusive, where Australia has Kangaskhan (lol, of course), Mr. Mime is European exclusive (sounds about right), and Farfetch’d is Japanese/Asian exclusive. Wow, looking at that, that’s kind of…racist? It’s something… And…Ditto. Not sure how Ditto would even work in this game. Ditto just clones who it’s fighting, so…*shrugs*, we’ll see. There are 150 in all, however the game is just going off the “Kanto” map, there’s room for add-ons, I would imagine.

People are cheating using “GPS spoofing”, multiple accounts, and other nefarious activities. Don’t cheat. The developer, Niantic, is banning people for doing this. Don’t be that guy.

Come on, dig deeper. I want to know all your secrets!

All right, let’s go. In no particular order:

  • This game kills your battery. It is highly advised to have a good phone with a long battery life. Close every other app, set your brightness down to as minimal as you can. Buy an external battery charger. This is the one I use. It’s cheap and essentially doubles my battery. There are higher end versions, of course, but I already had this one anyway.
  • Since the game is eating your battery, it’s also probably making your phone HOT!! The one thing I haven’t heard reported anywhere is…this game BURNS. Especially if you throw a lot of CURVE BALLS. My finger tips are literally on fire for hours. It’s the price you pay though, the price you pay. My advice is uh…I don’t know, don’t play as much as I do…?
  • My situation is probably unique, but let me break it down. I have a public park literally a quarter mile away from my house. I can get to it by bike very easily. This has several benefits, I can get PokeStops very quickly on a bike in a park. I’m getting exercise…and COME ON! Riding a bike is soooo Pokemon. Bring bug spray, a water bottle, and you’re off. I’ve been to the park several times for several hours. It should be nicer in the fall
  • I have a job where I can leave the game on and passively wait for Pokemon to pop up. This *does not* work at my house though. I’m guessing the game compensates for how many people are logged in, in the area?? I don’t know. All I know is I can find 40-50 Pokemon at work by just having my phone on in my office. By the end of the day, the battery is near dead, so about 2 hours before I go home, I turn it completely off and charge it to 100%. At this point, my Pokeball supply is running low, so I go to the park (see above) and restock. Repeat. Do this until you have a stockpile of PIDGEY and use a LUCKY EGG. Repeat.
  • I just snipe gyms. After I’ve “cashed out” for the day, I don’t even bother taking over a gym. I know it’s going to be taken very quickly (I’m Instinct after all, we are lone wolves; no one is going to boost my gym). I’m like a Pokemon Robinhood over here. I destroy gyms from the rich and let any poor sap take it. Seriously, screw you blue team.
  • Don’t drive and play the game. I’ll admit, I’ve done it. It’s not worth it. Don’t do it. Your life and others are too important. Wait until you get home until you can go to the park / wherever it is that has lots of PokeStops for you.
  • Buy this thing when it comes out. All the cool kids will have it. Or not…

Who is playing it?

Holy crap…everybody! I’ve seen 60 year olds, kids, families, Asians, Indians, Caucasians, African Americans, gym buffs, runners, cyclists, nerds, jocks, girls, boys, teenagers…literally everyone is playing this game right now! It’s actually kind of unbelievable. The game is very, very simple, but has a decently deep “meta-game” which also draws in advanced players. Casual people are fine just catching Pokemon and getting super-duper excited when a Squirtle appears (hey, I mean…it is kind of exciting). Advanced people are power-leveling and taking down gyms. It’s very well designed to bring in all kinds of players.

Actually, I have no interest in this game at all. I’m just tired of hearing about it. When is it going to die?

Hard to predict, but odds say…not likely any time soon. Like I said, the appeal is very broad. It’s a mixture of nostalgia for older folks, fun for younger people, and curiosity for everyone else. I imagine the casual bubble will pop at some point, but I have to imagine the game has legs. It did just break download records, after all.

As someone that knows a lot about Pokemon (pretty sure I own every generation…what are we up to…like 7 now?), I know there’s a LOT more they can do with this game. They can expand Gyms, have special events, add in more Pokemon (the game only has the first 151; there are literally over 700 right now..and a new game is about to come out), add “shiny” Pokemon, add trading, add PvP battling, add new items, and who knows what else. If Niantic plays this right, this is the next Angry Birds.

Do not underestimate the power of this brand. It’s been strong for 20 years.

Screw you, Team Instinct Sucks, Team Mystic Rules!


*cue the music*


  • Learn how to throw a Curveball and be efficient with your balls.
  • Buy Bag Upgrades over anything else as soon as you can.
  • Chose Team Instinct as it’s the least populated team and rival gym fights are much more fun and rewarding.
  • Properly plan to Evolve Spam during your limited Lucky Egg.
  • Catch every stupid Pidgey you find.
  • Piggy-back off Lures; most highly clustered PokeStops will have these going non-stop.
  • Buy an external battery charger.
  • Live near places where there are lots of PokeStops.
  • Watch where you’re going.
  • Sing this song while playing the game.
Filed under Info, Videogames
Jul 23, 2016

DARK SOULS 3 – Review and Gameplay Videos


Hmm, this looks bad. But, it’s OK, there’s a bonfire 10 feet from me. No fear, let’s do this.

Let’s talk about DARK SOULS III for PS4. So…I’m 160 hours into DARK SOULS III, and have beat the game 12 times. … This game has pretty much taken over my life for the last few weeks.

In the interest of doing something productive, and to make myself feel better about how much time I’ve “wasted”, writing a review of the game sounds like a good thing to do. So that’s what I’m going to do. There may be minimal spoilers ahead, but…not really.

Background: I’m a SOULS veteran. I have received a Platinum trophy in DEMON’S SOULS, DARK SOULS, DARK SOULS II, BLOODBORNE, and DARK SOULS III. This analysis of the game will obviously be skewed toward some that likes the series and is “pretty good” at it, but I’ll do my best to explain it to someone that has never played an entry before.

Story: The series is not known for its story, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. It’s just that you have to go looking for it. You’re not going to be inundated with lengthy cutscenes (almost every cutscene is a boss introduction), but if you’re expecting something straight-forward and to the point, not gonna happen. Once you beat the game, your reaction will probably be…”OK…that’s it?”. This game is pretty much the same as every other game before it.

There is no lengthy explanation to anything, but there’s plenty of nuggets in interactions with NPCs, item descriptions, and just keen observation to the environment, where you can basically figure things out, if you desire. Again, the core gameplay is completely detached from the story, and that’s one of the main tenants of why a lot of people LOVE this series. This isn’t METAL GEAR SOLID. It’s an action RPG that harkens back to the NES days.

Without going too deep, the basic overall story here is that, well…you’re tasked with perpetuating a cycle of “linking the flame” to…I guess make sure the status quo keeps going. Otherwise, the world will turn to darkness and the Hollow will rule. Or something. Hell, to be honest, it’s not really that clear to me.

Here is a good video if you’re interested in learning what happened in the first two games (with the caveat being, the story is open to interpretation, but this video covers a lot of basic events):

One thing I’ll note: there is quite a bit of fan service throughout the game with subtle nods to previous SOULS games (including DEMON’S; which isn’t, apparently, in the same universe). There’s a certain hidden little area in Farron Swamp that made me smile…and then I was sad. These types of nostalgic encounters are all over the place, and that’s very cool! But, they’re so subtle…it’s not in your face at all. Very well done.

Gameplay: Here it is! The only reason you should be playing games, and DARK SOULS does not disappoint. Developer FROM SOFTWARE is essentially using the same basic mechanics of all the SOULS game beforehand. What you’ve got is a 3rd person action RPG. You control a nameless avatar, which you can customize prior to starting. You don’t speak. You’re not a “main character”. You have no name. Your goal is to take down the LORDS OF CINDER, and you do that by eliminating enemies and collecting SOULS. These souls continually accumulate and can be seen in the bottom right hand corner of your HUD. If you die, your souls go away. If you can find the place where you died, you can collect your souls again. If you die again before collecting said souls, your souls are gone forever.  Brutal? Unforgiving? Hours of gameplay wasted on two deaths? Perhaps. But, you’ll learn to be careful. The game really isn’t “cheap” (OK, there’s a few times where it is), so getting your souls back shouldn’t be “too much” of a problem.

So…how does one obtain SOULS? Well, you kill stuff. Little stuff, big stuff, boss stuff, all kinds of stuff. You have the opportunity to develop your character in several attributes by “leveling up” with your accumulated souls. You can spend them to increase HP, TP, defense, strength, dexterity, magic, and luck. Whatever “class” you pick at the beginning really doesn’t mean anything. It’s up to you to decide how you want to play. Want to play as a STRENGTH build…or…feel like changing it up and becoming a MAGIC build instead? OK!

And that’s one thing I think DARK SOUL III does a good job at, it feels like you can be pretty flexible in what build you want to play as. You get a lot of different weapons early on in the game, and leveling up your weapons “seems” a lot easier. You get unlimited access to “Titanite Shards” and “Large Shards” pretty early. Also: remember leveling up armor? That’s gone. Hooray!! I felt like in DSII, once you decided what you wanted to be, that was it. It was very difficult to farm materials or find good weapons and be flexible with armor. Also, I can’t remember if DSII was the game where enemies perma-disappeared after killing them too many times. Enemies definitely no longer perma-disappear in DSIII, Praise the Sun. I think all of these changes are for the better.

OK, well, that’s fine and good. You’ve got a character with some weapons and magic and such. So, what’s the goal? I’m glad you asked. Basically, you venture to an “area”. In every “area” there is almost always a “boss”, once this boss is cleared, you normally venture into a “new area”. Sounds simple, don’t it? Generally speaking, each area links to the next, and there’s…I think really only two “branching” spots in the game…where you will need to travel to both forks to complete everything. There are some hidden areas as well (let me count…I believe there’s…5 optional bosses!). It’s not exactly linear, per se, but it’s pretty close. You’re not going to get DARK SOULS I’s fantastically tiered areas with multiple shortcuts (I mean I really loved the world structure in DSI, top notch).


This particular boss is a giant douche. This felt SO GOOD.

Combat: If you’re familiar with the series, nothing has changed, other than the fact that magic spells are no longer usage based, and now draw from a “magic bar”, which can be refilled with a new “magic Estus Flask”. You have the opportunity to assign whether or not you want “flask points” to go toward the HP healing or magic healing version. And eh…never been a magic user, so, not a big change for me. I’m still rocking one slot at level 300+!

Other than that, it’s the same basic stamina-based attack system. You have a green stamina bar, which you can level up via the ENDURANCE stat. The more stamina you have, the more you can attack. Once your stamina is exhausted, you need to wait until it fills up again (generally 3-4 seconds to completely refill) before you can do any actions. You can use a shield to block attacks, and this generally reduces stamina, once your stamina is exhausted you’ll enter in a staggered state and be criticaled (don’t do that; also a reason I don’t use shields).

The equipment percentage system returns with no real changes. The stronger armor you use, the heavier it is, and the harder it is for you to move. You can level up a stat called VITALITY to allow you to use heavier equipment. If you go past 70% “equip load”, you will no longer be able to have the most effective “roll” and are just generally slower at everything. Rolling is a defensive dodging technique which is completely critical to the entire game. Rolling has a second or so of “invincibility frames”, which means, if someone attacks while you’re rolling, you will take no damage. Rolling is important. Learn how to roll. Master rolling.

Same with armor, the “heavier” your weapon is, the more damage it can do, but the more “damage” it does to your equip load. Lighter, dexterity based characters will use lighter weapons like: katanas, daggers, short swords. Heavier weapons include: maces, axes, poleaxes, hammers, etc. And a lot in between. Combat is balancing armor, weapons, and equip load to maximize damage output, defense, and speed. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to get to level 40 for ENDURANCE, getting a decent HP level (I would say 40 is good), and then allocating other points toward STRENGTH, DEXTERITY, INTELLIGENCE, or FAITH, depending on what kind of weapons you want to use.

Each weapon has a “minimum level” you need to be at to use said weapon effectively as possible. For example, to use Washing Pole (the longest katana and my favorite weapon), you need to be level 18 in STRENGTH and 20 in DEXTERITY. Each weapon also “scales” its damage output with the amount of additional points you put into it. Again, using WASHING POLE, as an example, the more levels you put toward STRENGTH or DEXTERITY, the stronger it becomes.

There is also a generally complicated system of “infusions” that, for the most part, is the same as others in the series. You can infuse most weapons with different attributes such as fire, darkness, lightning, bleed, poison, etc. However, doing this normally makes the weapon weaker overall, in terms of total damage potential.

So…example encounter. Enemies, should (read: should), also have an unseen STAMINA bar as well. If they perform a strong attack (generally, the longer someone “winds up”, the more stamina it’s going to use), they are less likely to be able to attack again immediately. Most combat involves either striking first before an enemy can attack, or counter-attacking in a way you avoid an attack, either by backing up, rolling, blocking, or parrying, and then following up an attack with your own. Generally speaking, you want combat to be 1-v-1 battles, but certain situations will see you fighting multiples enemies at one time…and that’s bad. You never really want to be in a situation like this.

Using the WASHING POLE, one last time as an example, you can attack 6 times by “two-handing” the weapon, or 7 times by “one handing” it (at 40 ENDURANCE with Ring of Favor +2 equipped). The latter is a faster attack, but weaker, and subsequently takes less stamina.

If you watch videos, it may seem complicated, but every fight is using the same basic premise. I value STAMINA very highly and always look to max it out as early as I can. Most of the time I win PvP fights is by taking advantage of the difference between my high stamina and, most likely, the smaller stamina of my opponent. They will be out, when I’m not, and mine regenerates faster through rings and items. I never try to be the strongest player, I use weapons that are fast, but strong. That’s a good segway to…

Multiplayer: There’s a lot to cover here actually. There’s “cooperative” and “competitive” aspects. First, every player has the ability to use a messaging system to write “messages” on the ground that every player in the game has an opportunity of seeing. Is there an ambush around the corner? Well, you might find a message saying to be careful…or in game terms, “Be wary of left”. People can “rate” your messages and if someone gives you a positive, you’ll get a free HP heal…so, it’s good to write helpful messages! It’s also a good idea to read every message you see. Most of them are helpful..most of them…and if they’re not…downvote that sucker.

Other than that, there’s the combat aspect. You have the opportunity to help other players with the “White Soapstone” which will allow you to be “summoned” to play an area together. Alternatively, you can use a “Red Eye Orb” to “invade” another person’s world. Your goal is to eliminate the “host”. Doing so yields souls and covenant items.


Guys, I’m here to help! Honest!

Covenants are “guilds” that you can join that offer various items, weapons, and spells to the user. This involves giving the covenant master 10 to 30 items (example: Proof of Concord Kept). Turning in 30 of these will allow you to obtain all covenant rewards for that covenant. It’s a good idea to do these. You can view these as “sub-quests”, if that’s how you’d like to think of it. If you’re interested in getting Trophies, you’ll need to do them. All of them are involved with Player versus Player (PvP) encounters.

This game ups the ante a little bit, in that, I believe you can have…I want to say, 6 or 7 people in one host’s game at one time! It’s a lot of fun, but generally pretty rare to encounter that many people at once.

For the most part, other than the addition of new party limits, the game is basically the same in terms of multiplayer as previous titles. And that’s great! This system is one that is unique to the SOULS series and can make every invasion terrifying (“Son of a bitch…I’ve got 300k souls…I’m out of Estus, I’m in the middle of nowhere, and I just got invaded…how the hell am I going to get out of this one??”). If you’re invaded, you can summon help, or “get to the boss” to get invaders to leave. Or you…could just kill them. Invaders have 50% health and 50% Estus, so beating them isn’t impossible (I feel like this has changed since DSII, but I don’t remember…), and beating them gives you souls and covenant items.

Seed of a Giant Tree are back, and much easier to find (it’s in the beginning area). These can be used to turn enemies in your area hostile to invaders (by default, invaders and enemies are on the same side).

There are also certain areas where invasions occur at much higher rates. You’ll be invaded by members of special covenants. Again, similar to past games.

The multiplayer aspects of the SOULS series are what really makes the game shine. It’s not forced on you, but…you can’t avoid it. It’s integral to the enjoyment of the game to invade and be invaded, and really makes you a better player. It also helps that everything here, for the most part, feels more polished and works great…for the most part…I’ll talk about this later.

Graphics: Not something I care too much about, and I won’t speak too much about it. The graphics are basically just higher resolution versions of the previous games. It looks great, but nothing mindblowing. The background scenes though…wow, just beautiful. I can’t immediately think of a game that just blows me away in terms of scale. Maybe XENOBLADE, but that wasn’t exactly earth-shattering graphics-wise. In any event, it’s a nice looking game. Moving on.

Difficulty: Here’s where I struggle to rate this. I can’t tell if this game is easy because I’m a veteran or…if it really just is easier. It’s probably both. But, there are actually a lot of tweaks that make the game easier (which I’ll go into in a second). BLOODBORNE made DSIII game feel so much less stressful, if I’m being honest! BB was a lot harder to me than this game was. I certainly don’t feel like I needed to use shields in DSIII due to prior experience with BB (BB didn’t have shields). I am so much more confident in rolling…although, man, would it be nice if SOULS had the HP Recover gimmick that BB has…but, I digress…where were we? Hmm. Right, difficulty.

I don’t know. In every SOULS game, you’re going to get a: forest area, castle area, library, fire area, super secret hidden area, generally annoying poison swamp, and some others. Check, check, check, check ,check, check. Was it less difficult because I knew what to expect? Maybe. Was there any ORNSTEIN-level difficult boss fight?! Not to me (I joked in the image subtitle above, but even that boss wasn’t “that hard”…although it seems like most people consider it the hardest boss in the game).

Was there any really, really bad area? The pitch black cave? That laggy, god forsaken swamp? That place in DEMON’S SOULS where enemies give you no experience and you’re walking on planks a few feet across? No. And…honestly, thank heavens. I don’t think there’s any “cheap” areas in DSIII. But that does make things “easier”. Is this a complaint?! I DON’T KNOW! When you come into a SOULS game, you expect something wicked. Did FROM sell out and make it easier? I can’t say that…the game is still challenging, it’s just…I guess once you find the staged ambushes, you can just generally breeze through things. I just know that I never encountered, say in NG+, “Oh crap…I’ve got to go through THIS place again…”. Put it to you this way…I did not ONCE lose ANY of my souls in this game in the first playthrough. And I wasn’t really that conservative. That, well…look, I didn’t expect that; I expected more of a challenge. There were certain sections in previous games that handed my ass to me over and over and over again! I just never felt like there was that really hard thing in this game. I kept waiting for it…it just never happened.

This may be because BONFIRES are so ridiculously dense, they’re everywhere! There’s never really that sense of…”crap, I really need to find a bonfire”. … Or maybe it’s because you can have FIFTEEN Estus Flasks! And you can LEVEL UP their potency TEN TIMES (a swig of which feels like it heals you 60%!!). For comparison’s sake, the internet tells me the limit was 12 in DSII (with +5 bonus). For those that aren’t aware Estus is how you heal. Every time you reach a BONFIRE, these regenerate. When you get so many Estus and Bonfires are so close, and there’s no really difficult area…I mean….

OK, maybe there’s one thing more difficult. The poise system is broken. Poise is “supposed” to be a stat that you can alter through rings and armor that allow you not to be “staggered”. That is to say, if someone hits you with a dagger, or let’s say, a rat jumps at you, with high poise, you’re not supposed to flinch, as those are “weak” attacks. Well…apparently FROM SOFTWARE didn’t like that! They say “it’s working as designed“, but…it clearly isn’t. Now…what does this mean to the normal user? Don’t bother using the WOLF’S RING. Don’t bother wearing armor just for poise. The joke in this game is that you can be “stunlocked” (term meaning you can’t move after being hit) to death by several small enemies such as rats…even with the best armor in the game. So, actually…this small change makes the game HARDER in many respects.

It really screws over heavy builds…but…to be honest, I think this makes PvP more entertaining. You’re no longer going to get Full Havel’s running around that are unstoppable. So, that’s just great, that’s a welcome change, honestly. BUT, now you get get people with cheap spammy daggers and rapiers that will continually break your poise…because poise doesn’t work anymore! What’s better?! I don’t know. It’s both good and bad. I like PvP more with it broken if I had to choose though. But does this make Player versus Environment (PvE) more difficult? Probably. But it’s not that big of a deal honestly. There are ways to mitigate it.

Then there’s the completely pointless “repair” system. They made it useless. I don’t even know why they bother having it in the game at all now. Each piece of equipment can be “broken”. Normally high strength, but fragile things like WASHING POLE are vulnerable. There used to be players that took advantage of this and broke your equipment through spells and crippled you (raises hand, I did this; stupid Havel’s armor…). If you broke someone’s equipment, they were screwed. Now…? Everything is repaired, for free, by a bonfire. Or by spending 600 souls on a Repair Powder. One Repair Powder repairs everything. Whee! In past games, you needed to go to a blacksmith for this. Now…I’m not saying this is a bad change! I LOVE THIS CHANGE. But it makes the game easier, and kind of overpowers certain light equipment that used to have a fatal flaw (*cough*WASHING POLE*cough* Edit: FROM actually nerfed WASHING POLE’s damage slightly, but…pfff, I’m still using it).

But, maybe it’s this next point. Almost every, single, boss has an NPC phantom you can summon. Did I use them in NG/NG+? No. I did not. I fought every boss 1-on-1, and generally did not take more than a handful of deaths to do it, but the fact that you can tag team so many bosses, kind of cheapens the accomplishment. There’s also no “X-on-1” type bosses in this game. Everything is generally “fair”. Which…I don’t know…just seems, weird?!

Now when you beat the game for the first time, you get to start over with all stats and equipment, this is generally called NG+X. I’m on NG+12. Why? I don’t know…maybe it’s because FROM SOFTWARE screwed me over by making one of the alternate endings NOT trigger the last Ending Trophy, and I just said, “Screw it, I’m speed running this shit”, and then found out, “Wow, I can beat this game in less than 3 hours…let’s do it again and see how high a level I can get!”. That’s where I am. I’m now level 350 and I can’t find anyone to play with me anymore….sigh. The ONLY boss I have a lot of trouble with 1-on-1 is the Final Boss. Good LORD is it hard at max NG (NG+ difficulty seems to cap at 7 play-throughs…maybe…honestly, I can’t tell…).

One last point on difficulty: I don’t know if it’s just me, but…MAGIC does not seem to be that POWERFUL as it was in prior games. I mean, I remember getting eviscerated by PvP and bosses that had strong magic. Let me put it this way, I’m at Soul Level 350+ right now. My FAITH is at 8 and my INTELLIGENCE is at level 10. These are STARTING LEVELS. And I can generally take a hit from anything, and it not take more than 30% of my health. HUH?!? I swear, I remember having to level these up because I just couldn’t defend against strong magic (I’m a STR/DEX build, by the way). To that end, I very, very rarely see anyone use any forms of magic…if anyone does it’s usually the MAGIC SPEAR thing that is pitifully easy to roll out of or the LIGHTNING SPEAR thing…same deal. *shrugs*

That’s not to say, again, that the game is not challenging, it’s just…if you were expecting the challenge to ramp up, it’s the opposite, it’s gotten easier in several different areas. Am I complaining…? I mean sort of…winning just feels a little bit cheapened…one of the absolute best experiences of the SOULS games was doing something that took you several, if not dozens, of attempts; that feeling of accomplishment and the accompanying adrenaline rush was great! When you beat something, you really felt like you beat something. I didn’t get a lot of that this time. Oh well…


  • Little changes to core gameplay; everything you know and love is more than likely back.
  • No, “Oh my God I hate this place”, areas. That’s a good thing or a bad thing based on your perspective.
  • Improvements to several systems including: no armor leveling, decent matchmaking (you’ll almost always find people to summon or people to invade), new magic bar system, L2 performs a new special attack for every weapon now; kind of cool.
  • Difficulty is easier for veterans of the series.
  • Fairly linear; only one real “branch” in the game.
  • Not covered above, but, the game is still ridiculously impossible to find everything (or even ‘basic’ small things) without a guide. I did buy this one at launch, and…I can recommend it for newbies, but for veterans, it’s pretty lacking. Doesn’t even come close to touching the awesomeness of the FUTURE PRESS guides, such as this. There are at least 3 Covenants that you WILL NOT FIND without help. And thankfully we live in the Internet Age where we have glorious wikis like this to help.
  • This is the first game that I’ve continued to play after getting a Platinum. I generally like the PvP in this game. There’s lots of cool covenants, a couple areas where people strictly play for PvP battles.
  • Certain covenants are broken…I explain this in one of the videos below. FROM has already “patched” this, but I don’t see how it’ll help without major additional changes. Basically, the game needs more people to use a certain, pointless, covenant so people can be summoned to assist. Right now, it’s impossible to be summoned, and thus impossible to get all covenants rewards (read: trophies).

Verdict: 9.5  / 10

I love this game. It has a few problems, but when the complaint is…it’s not as hard as I want it to be (but it’s still hard), come on, that’s a pretty weak fault. I urge anyone that likes a challenge to play this game. You will be challenged, and you will get better. Completing a SOULS game should be a rite of passage for any video game fan. There is no “difficulty” setting. The game is the game, and what a game it is. This is, apparently, the last game in the series. That makes me a little sad, a lot of sad, actually. Here’s hoping that the wonderful development house FROM SOFTWARE makes something even better in the future!

BONUS CONTENT: I live streamed quite a bunch of content. If you’re interested in seeing some game play videos, I recommend checking out my Youtube channel.

Early gameplay (NG):

First Lord of Cinder boss fight (NG):

Speedrun (NG+5):

Proof of Concord Kept farming (NG):

Speed leveling in Forest (NG+12):

Filed under Reviews, Videogames
May 28, 2016

2015 Game Completion Breakdown


Here is a list of games I completed in 2015 (in descending order). Yes, I catalog this. Mock me if you’d like.

Entries will only appear here if I have “beaten” the game. Many, many of these games are spread out over the course of several years (the record being TC:NB; took me EIGHT years to beat!!). I went on kind of a, “Dammit, I’m tired of having all these unfinished games in my backlog” rage in the middle of the year (sad thing is that it barely dents the dozens and dozens of unopened games I still have…).

Anyway, let’s get to it.

12/29/15: YOSHI’S WOOLY WORLD (Wii U). Completion time: 25:25.

  • Loved this game. Highly recommended; especially for co-op. Great game to play with your spouse or best friend.
  • Super huge nostalgia; brought significant gameplay elements and characters from original YOSHI’S ISLAND, but while being something completely fresh. That is damn hard to do.
  • Significant replay value. Every level has tons to find. Every world has a bonus stage (like the first game) which opens when you’ve found all the Flowers from the stages in that world. And, yes, if you find all the Flowers in the bonus stages, you get one final level. These stages are pretty challenging (like the first game). Good mix of difficulty depending on how far you want to go.
  • You can’t find a much better platforming experience.

10/29/15: NEW SUPER MARIO BROS 2 (3DS). Completion time: 6:29.

  • Fun game. It’s a 2D Mario platformer.
  • I don’t know though…something about this game just feels “weird”. The level design is very chaotic and…strange.
  • Not to mention the game is very short! Definitely the fastest I’ve ever beaten a Mario platformer. Not a lot of replay value.

9/19/15: XENOBLADE CHRONCILES (Wii). Completion time: 80:20.

  • This is game that took several years to complete (it came out in 2012 in US).
  • This game is breathtaking. Such scale, such detail. Does about as much as the Wii is capable of (it originally came out in 2010!!).
  • Fun battle system, fun English (UK) dub, “It’s a Krabble!”. Just a fun game. It’s one of those games where you can just wander around and be happy (I liked to do this in the ocean of Zelda: Windwaker, but this game is a whole ‘nother level).
  • I can’t bring myself to rebuy this for 3DS though. Playing Xenoblade X now. Seems nothing like this game, but I’m only very early into it.
  • This is by far the jewel of the Wii. If you like JRPGs this is the best the Wii has to offer.
  • Xenoblade was the reason I wrote this “open letter” to Nintendo in 2011. I’m glad it was finally released. It was worth the wait (and the 3 years it took me to beat).

8/21/15: TRIPLE TRIAD (Android). Completion time: Unknown.

  • I umm, I uhh…was kind of obsessed with this game. See my review here.
  • I have no idea how many hours I spent on this, but it had to be close to 100. I would wake up in the middle of the night to play it. It was the first thing I played when I got home. You could only play it 15-20 minutes at a time, but that normally happened, at least, 3-4 times a day.
  • Square then made “crystal regeneration” double speed, and…I sort of lost interest. Before that online became crippled with no variation in strategy and everyone left. It’s a shame, this game could have had legs, but once I found most of the cards, I was done. Coupled with inability to find games…well…what’s the point?
  • I think Square is still making updates to it, and adding new content, but, ehh…I haven’t bothered to try and transfer this over to my new phone. It’s probably for the best, this was like crack for awhile, I’m glad to be over it.

8/5/15: TRAUMA TEAM (Wii). Completion time: 14:59.

  • This was a straight-up speed run. I beat this as fast as I could.
  • Very, very different than the 3…4 (?) other games in this series, which I have all beaten. Reminds me of what “Sonic Adventure” did to the Sonic games. 5-6 different characters with different abilities / scenarios…not all of them very fun.
  • I enjoyed it, but much preferred the predecessors. The sad thing is…this series is in a coma.  I was really hoping a Wii U version would be made for this, as it would make GREAT use of the game pad.
  • I still listen to this song, over and over and over and over…

8/1/15: KIRBY: RAINBOW CURSE (Wii U). Completion time: 9:44.

  • Pretty much a straight rip of Canvas Curse (which was an excellent DS game).
  • Liked the game, just felt like it was a shell of what it could be. No real bonus modes. Not much replay value…stopped at 94% complete (some of the “bonus” modes are ridiculously hard…I gave up).
  • Good, solid platformer though. It’s definitely unique, and is one of the best games to use the Wii U Gamepad.

7/27/15: TRAUMA CENTER: NEW BLOOD (Wii). Completion time: 73:53:51.

  • Oh man…what a game! First and only game in the series that had online leaderboards…you do NOT want to do that to me Atlus! I would spend hours and hours and hours on one level getting into the top 10! This was a worldwide top 10 too! Before the servers went down I still owned several #1 world records and a lot of top 10s on several levels. It’s on my TODO list to post these pictures / videos somewhere…
  • Such a crazy amount of content and clearing to do in this game… Two characters, three difficulties, co-op mode, four possible ranks. That means you need to beat every stage 12 times and get the best rank. My OCD attempted this (I had XS’d every stage in the series up to this point afterall…). I spent time over eight years trying…I just couldn’t do it. I finally just decided to “beat it”.
  • Good memories of this one. Was probably the last game where I actually played local co-op with a friend. End of an era…

7/21/15ZELDA: SPIRIT TRACKS. Completion time: ~20-30 hours.

  • I played this game on two different consoles, so I don’t have a definitive time (read: too lazy to go and figure it out).
  • I hate this game. I HATE THIS GAME. It was beyond frustrating. I tabled the final “dungeon” for years because it pissed me off. I hate the controls. The game would be fine if it let me use buttons. No. You have the stylus…that’s it. So much anger. I just wanted to beat this and never think about it again…

7/5/15MAJORA’S MASK (3DS). Completion time: 37:52.

  • Man, oh man do I love this game. It’s my favorite Zelda. Fifteen years later, it’s still my favorite Zelda. It takes everything that made OoT amazing, and enhanced it, except the story (which is not a big deal to me).
  • This game is challenging. This game is beautiful. This game is just a lot of damn run. Rolling around as a Goron with great speed is up there as one of my favorite videogame memories.
  • The 3DS version doesn’t really add much, but that’s OK. This game is near perfect.
  • This run was a complete run with Fierce Deity link mask obtained.

6/28/15THE LAST OF US (PS3). Completion time: 17:40.

  • I’m not a big fan of western based game companies. Is it because of the emphasis on graphics, story, voice acting? I don’t know. But I normally find some critical flaw with them where I just can’t play it. However, ever since the E3 demo of this game, I knew it was something I would pick up. Naughty Dog has a good track record, I like their stuff.
  • This game is amazing and disappointing at the same time. It’s just…missing something. I can’t pin it down. It has amazing graphics, amazing voice acting. I don’t know…it just wasn’t really…that…fun? Does that make sense? I guess it’s just way too linear for my tastes. You get the illusion of choice, but it’s on rails. I just don’t find these types of games to be fulfilling.
  • I urge everyone to play this game because it defines the PS3 though. There are a lot of interesting combat and puzzle ideas in here. Fighting “bad guys” by sneaking around and throwing bricks and bottles for the 100th time just gets old after awhile… I had zero desire to play the multiplayer for this, I just didn’t like the combat.

6/6/15RADIANT HISTORIA (DS). Completion time: 39:21.

  • As part of my review comments elsewhere, I called this, “the best turn-based RPG I’ve played in 15 years”. Is that because since the new century we haven’t had a lot of entries in this genre or is this just a really good game? Both.
  • It’s hard to describe this game. It’s a JRPG that follows two timelines (and offshoots)…simultaneously. Very well executed too. You can “jump” to the other scenarios at certain junctures and doing things in one timeline will affect the others and open new paths. Like if you learn a new skill or find an item in one, you can advance in another.
  • I liked the story, I liked the music, the graphics, the combat (which involves a 3×3 grid where you can use your skills to take advantage of enemy placement), and just the overall the uniqueness of this game. It feels kind of “rough” in some ways, but it gives it some charm.
  • It has a lot of things to do post completion if you so desire and the difficulty can get challenging. The game length is just right. Highly recommended.

5/24/15SUPER MARIO LAND 2: SIX GOLDEN COINS (3DS -> Gameboy). Completion time: 1:39.

  • This was a pure speed run. I don’t normally do this, but this game sort of called for it.
  • I have heard many, many things about the “Land” series, and I was impressed after finally getting to play this as a digital download on 3DS. You have to note that this is for the freakin’ Game Boy, so some things aren’t as “top-notch” as you would normally expect from a Mario platformer.
  • That said, some of the level design is “weird”. I mean, really…weird.
  • Bunny Mario is the freakin’ shit.

5/24/15ULTIMATE NES REMIX (3DS). Completion time: 13:15.

  • I don’t even remember where I got this. I think it was the final Club Nintendo digital download, perhaps?
  • In any event, this is a fun little game. I think it leaves some things on the table, but maybe the point is to introduce these in future games, maybe? I can’t find much in terms of sales data though, so…I don’t know if this did so well…
  • Basically, the game gives you a “series” to play and the levels are either snippets of famous parts from the game, or “remixes” mashed up with other games (like a Link sprite is in a Mario game).
  • Like I said, there are tons of things to work with that can be expounded upon, that I hope to see!
  • Their online ranking system is pretty shady though…I’m not sure I trust the leaderboards. Here’s a video of me playing the final battle in Metroid. It says I’m top 3. But, I think these “change” over time. Eww. What the hell Nintendo?

5/15/15: BLOODBORNE (PS4). Completion time: 65:57:25.

  • This is my Game of the Year for 2015. This is the best exclusive game that PS4 has. Unquestionably. This is DARK SOULS + Guns. And werewolves. And a heavy emphasis on blood. Don’t ask me what the stories about, I have no idea. All I know is that…damn this game is fun. And damn can this game be hard!
  • What’s new versus just the normal SOULS series? They added randomly generated dungeons that can be created via loot that is found through normal gameplay.
  • Lots of updates from FROM SOFTWARE slightly tweaking mechanics. I stopped playing when I hear they finally allowed CHUNKS to be bought from shops! *grumble grumble*.
  • I think this has DLC, but I’m not a DLC guy. I just don’t DLC unless I can get it free somehow, or buy a version with all DLC already on it. I have principles.
  • If you liked the SOULS series and have a PS4, dear God buy this game. It’s beautiful. It’s creepy. It’s hard as hell. However, I did platinum it…along with the other 3 games in the series!

The first four months of the year, I apparently did nothing.

Game of the year:

  • Bloodborne (PS4)

Games that didn’t quite make the cut / in progress:

  • Super Smash Bros Wii U – I don’t know how to classify this. I’ve beaten the 3DS version, but not exactly “beat” this one? What constitutes “beating” a fighting game anyway? I don’t know. But since my buddies who normally play this with me don’t appear to have any desire to play this…I guess this will sit in limbo. And I’ll instead go waste my money on amiibos.
  • Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Oh man, so close to being done with this. My wife actually “stole” this from me…and…gasp…she beat it before I did! I was shocked. I was really hoping to beat this by the end of the year, I’m only a few hours away, but since there’s only a few hours remaining in this year, well…hopefully I can cross this one of soon.
  • Zelda: Skyward Sword – Guys, I really want to like this game. I just…really don’t like this game. It’s ugly. And I hate the waggle combat. I just don’t know if I can push through…I’m only one dungeon down, but I’m very bored. And my hand hurts just thinking about holding that stupid controller for hours.
  • Witcher 3 – Just started. It’s unclear how far I’ll even get in this game. I like the open-world, I just don’t dig the small text. I don’t do small text games. I have a history of starting a game after an hour and never playing it again…I fear this is one of those games.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X – Another small text game. But at least I can play it on the gamepad! Just started. This could take years, as did Xenoblade Chronicles.

Games on my backlog I’d really like to play in 2016:

  • Final Fantasy X/X-2, Silent Hill 3. If I don’t play anything else next year, I want it to be these games (well, maybe I’ll avoid X-2).

Until next time! Happy New Year and happy gaming!

Filed under Info, Reviews, Videogames
Dec 31, 2015

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