Thoughts on XBox One and PS4 Launch

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Besides a crippling lack of cash, I didn’t see any reason to jump on board with PS4 and XBox One just yet. Aside from lackluster launch lineups, there are always problems with new hardware. Something overheats, a disc try shoots out like a bullet, and a thousand other nasty little glitches rear their heads in the early days of every console launch, and PS4 and One have been no exception. Sometimes, there are systems that dance between the raindrops, but for the most part there are growing pains aplenty to contend with as an early adopter.

That begs the question, though, of why anyone would take the risk, especially when console prices are at their peak for a launch. It’s simple; there’s nothing quite like snagging a new console right when it comes out. Every box is its own world to explore, with interfaces to learn, controllers to experiment with, and a slew of features to become familiar with. When I got my Wii U a year ago, I was thrilled standing in line with other Nintendo fans, knowing that we’d all be going home and discovering the system’s new intricacies. It’s not often you can get that many like-minded video game players in the same room!

A sense of community isn’t uncommon in the world of video games, but fans are certainly often limited by the digital confines of the medium. Some people can boast about having hundreds of friends across their various consoles, but how often they actually see and interact face to face with any of them is another story. Console launches are one of those rare opportunities to meet other gamers in person and talk about their favorite pastime. One of these days, someone is going to see that there’s money to be made in creating a place for gamers to meet, play games, and enjoy one another’s company, but that’s a blog for another day.

While Sony and Microsoft will eventually work out all the kinks, there’s no denying that, so far, both companies have quite a bit to celebrate this Christmas. It’s a good sign for the industry, as pundits are hellbent on proclaiming consoles a dying medium of entertainment. Fans have come out in droves to prove them wrong, but hopefully this outpouring of affection will be as perpetual as it is passionate. If it does, maybe fans can look forward to the PS5 and XBox Two in the future. Whatever system you’ve chosen to plant your flag behind, happy gaming, and Happy Thanksgiving. I might pop in tomorrow, but if I don’t, be safe out there, Retro(readers).

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2013 Holiday Buyer’s Guide

It’s Christmas (yes, I am not saying holidays!) time, folks, and that means… shopping. Assuming most of you (all five of you) reading this are gamers, here’s a handy guide to help you sort out the must-haves of the season. Whether you buy them for someone else or yourself is up to you!

Games

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Tales of Xillia | PS3 | $39.99

Namco’s latest Tales installment is a gem, with beautiful graphics, the series’ action-packed battling, and an engaging story. No one’s PS3 should be collecting dust if they have yet to play this excellent action RPG!

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Super Mario 3D World | Wii U | $59.99

If there’s any excuse to own a video game system, let alone a Wii U, this is it. 3D World is a spectacular reminder of the heights video games can reach. The multiplayer is also fun, particularly with the new scoring system that will have folks fighting for the top spot.

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Pokemon X and Y | 3DS | $39.99

Pokemon have made the transition to 3DS spectacularly. Battling features excellent new animations, the mix of new and returning Pokemon is very pleasing, and the transition to fully three-dimensional rendered environments and characters shines on 3DS. New adopters and long-time fans will find a lot to love.

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Batman: Arkham Origins | XBox 360 | $59.99

The follow-up to Arkham City is an excellent game and easily worth a play for fans of the comics and/or Arkham series. Combat is as visceral and free-flowing as ever, and the story will keep you hooked through to the end.

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Rayman Legends | PS Vita | $39.99

Rayman Legends on Vita is an excellent way to spend a bus ride, or a toasty night in front of a fire. You could play it in a sewer and still enjoy yourself, and with Vita’s exclusive content, you’ll get a bit more bang for your buck than on other systems!

Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Collection | PS3/XBox 360 | $149.99

SF25thAnniversary

Now THIS is a gift. Packed with multiple Street Fighter games, an art book, a statue, music, and more, no matter which system you get it for, the 25th Anniversary Collection is a stellar tribute to a wonderful franchise. You can find it for cheap, too, on multiple websites these days, including Capcom’s own store for only $50 (while supplies last)!

Accessories

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Metallic Gray PS3 DualShock | PS3 | $54.99

Quite possible the coolest new color to hit a DualShock in a while (though Gold isn’t bad, either), Metallic Gray might sound a bit odd, but it sure doesn’t look it!

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XBox 360 Special Edition Gold Chrome Controller | $54.99 | XBox 360

Another compelling controller color variant, this gold chrome 360 pad might be considered gaudy by some, but it’s certainly a conversation piece, if nothing else.

Mario Wii remote  Luigi Wii remote

Mario and Luigi Wii Remote Plus | $39.99 | Wii/Wii U

These pair of remotes are an excellent way to keep clear which controller belongs to whom. Bonus points if you grow a matching ‘stache to go with them!

Memorabilia

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Super Mario K’Nex | (Above) $34.99-Various

K’Nex excellent Super Mario toys have branched out this year, with more random mini figs, packaged sets of mini figs not available individually, and fun little action sets like the one above. The Mario Kart line also continues to see some love, so you have quite a few options for the builders in your life.

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Capcom 30th Anniversary Encyclopedia | BradyGames | $16.99

Read up on everything you could ever want to know about Ryu and Mayor Haggar, all in one handsome hardcover volume.

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Metal Gear Solid Risk | USAopoly & Risk | $49.99

All the tactics and espionage without the confusion!

Honorable Mentions

Nintendo 2DS and Wii Mini are both excellent ways to get someone gaming on a budget, as they retail for $129.99 and $99.99 each. Also, keep your eyes peeled for excellent deals on bundles of last-gen’s systems (PS3 and XBox 360) and Wii U! It’s no fun to game if you have nothing to game on, after all!

Concise, I know, but I plan on updating this list a bit as the shopping season continues. As it stands, though, this is a good starting point. Be careful shopping, dear readers!

Pokemon Origins Episode 2 Impressions

Well, that was a bit of a jump. Episode 2 of Pokémon Origins abruptly launches Red forward a few gyms, now with a bicycle in tow and Charmander evolved into Charmeleon. I guess there’s so much ground to cover from the games that it would make a true, moment-by-moment recreation take too long, but at the very least we could’ve seen Red meet Team Rocket for the first time, or show him fight Misty! Regardless, the episode begins in Lavendar Town, where Red is checking into the local Pokémon center. While Red had shown some considerable growth just from the beginning of the first episode to its conclusion, he’s quite a bit more matured beyond that. Facing Team Rocket and earning two more gym badges has given the kid some much needed confidence and makes Red more likable this time around.

 

As much as I would have enjoyed seeing some of the other material covered from the games, I’m glad the animators chose to highlight Red’s time in Lavendar Town. The creepy Pokémon cemetery provides for a much different tone than the first episode, and is one of the most memorable spots on a player’s journey through Red and Blue. Continuing with the more realistic presentation of the first episode, Cubone is introduced with a very tragic backstory involving its mother. There’s no blood and gore, but it’s a sad scene and really demonstrates how little kids aren’t necessarily the primary audience for Pokémon Origins. I also thought it was refreshing that Team Rocket were portrayed as genuine bad guys and not comic relief; they’re still the coolest enemies the Pokémon franchise has ever had.

Blue continues to be a prickly presence, though this time it was his turn to get some character development. There’s a key confrontation late in the episode where Blue demonstrates he’s more than a single note; he looses his frosty demeanor in a fit of panic, but is then quickly compelled to give Red a helping hand. He’s loathe to admit it, of course, but the hint of a bond seems to be growing between the two trainers. Mr. Fuji sees some screen time in this episode and has a very curious interaction with Red when the two finally meet. Like Ash (and every Pokémon trainer in every game!), Red gives off a certain aura that Mr. Fuji is inspired by, and I’m anxious to see what the payoff will be for helping the young trainer. Let’s just say a particularly lethargic Pokémon will more than likely be making an appearance soon!

 

One aspect of the show that’s still leaving me hanging is the impersonal relationship Red seems to have with his Pokémon, particularly with his starter Charmeleon. Whereas on the anime Ash’s bond with them is very powerfully and clearly asserted from the beginning, Red’s Pokémon come across as one-dimensional and more like pets than friends. I don’t doubt that Red feels strongly towards his and other people’s Pokémon (especially as this point plays a powerful role in the episode), but I still wouldn’t mind seeing it demonstrated rather than just talked about. Charmeleon by this point should feel more like Red’s companion, but sadly, doesn’t. To be fair, the Cubone situation does help establish Red’s big heart a bit, but I need more!

Two episodes down, and only a handful more to go. Pokémon Origins is quickly becoming a favorite of mine and I’m looking forward to what other pieces of the games are going to be brought in! Catch us next time for episode 3!

REVIEW-Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate

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Glide across the air, hack locks, creep through air ducts, brawl with multiple enemies, investigate crime scenes, and take on multiple Batman rogues; sounds quite a bit like Batman: Arkham Origins, doesn’t it? Well, you’d be half right in asuming that, as this is an Arkham game, albeit on a smaller pair of screens. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is the portable pseudo-sequel toArkham Origins, taking place after the conclusion of the home console game and telling the tale of a night in Blackgate Prison. The penitentiary has been overrun by all the enemies that Batman rounded up in Arkham Origins, and is now under the control of Black Mask, Penguin, and the Joker, who are all involved in a vicious tug-of-war that the Dark Knight must bring to an end. To call Blackgate ambitious is putting it mildly; the developers at Armature Studio (which is comprised of Retro Studios expatriates, in part) have done everything they can to squeeze the Arkham series onto 3DS, and for the most part have succeeded. While a little rough around the edges, Blackgate is a fun, 2D take on the Arkham formula.

One of the key elements of the Arkham series is its sharp combat, which Blackgate replicates to a reasonable degree of success. Batman takes on multiple attackers at once, punching and countering his way quickly through each skirmish. I was impressed with how well Armature preserved the basics of fighting for 3DS, as Batman controls much like his console counterpart. While entertaining, the fights are markedly simplistic, though, and don’t take a lot of strategy to finish. The predator encounters are handled more gracefully, with Batman sneaking through the environment, using objects to distract foes and then disarm them with ease. Equally well done are the boss fights, with foes that require a more thoughtful approach to take down. At one point, Batman must defeat Solomon Grundy in a sewer tunnel, avoiding his brutal ramming charges while manipulating arching electrical wires on the ground. The fight is visceral and tense, as Batman remains barely ahead of the mindless behemoth while trying to trap him. Other than the somewhat simple thug fights, Blackgate‘s combat has some decent chops that don’t disappoint.

Graphically, Blackgate boasts an interesting blend of 2D and 3D that fosters a strong sense of immersion. The environment is rendered beautifully and Batman is animated smoothly. As opposed to other Metroidvania-style games, which generally limit the camera to a strict 2D perspective, Blackgate will often send Batman into the screen, with the camera twisting to follow him as he embarks through the bowels of the prison. Gameplay, however, is exclusively 2D, and Armature somehow wrangled many of the Arkham conventions of exploration to work within these more restrictive confines. Detective mode is activated via a tap of the touch screen, and keeping the stylus pressed down the player then uses the circle pad to maneuver a large reticule over the environment on the top screen to search the prison for clues. Vent grates, structural weaknesses, and grapple points are all highlighted, though there are times when it can be unclear how to proceed. The prison is a labyrinth of tunnels and ducts, and navigating through them can be tough. At one point, despite my multiple scans, I found myself stuck trying to track Penguin, and only after repeatedly circling the part of the map I was on, was I finally able to decipher how I was supposed to move between ledges to progress. I found myself wandering like this a touch too often during my time with the game.

Fans worried that Blackgate is devoid of a classic Arkham narrative will be happy to know that’s not the case, for the most part. Blackgate features full voice acting and retains the actors from Arkham Origins. Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker both provide quality performances as Batman and the Joker, and the rest of the cast do a good job of makingBlackgate come alive in cinema scenes and during gameplay. The cinemas, however, are not rendered using the game engine, and are instead a series of animated hand drawn scenes. The artwork is serviceable, though not quite up to the quality of other, similar efforts like Konami’s Metal Gear Solid Peacewalker. The cutscenes are a bit of a letdown, as they simply aren’t distinctive enough to match the impact of the visuals during gameplay. To reiterate, though, the animations are serviceable, and ultimately kept me interested in the narrative from start to finish. Unfortunately, the story fails to satisfy as anything more than an impetus for pushing Batman from point A to B. There is one, big twist at the end that serves as a partially redeeming bright spot in the plot, but doesn’t fully save it.

Besides detective mode, Armature brought along a handful of Batman’s gadgets for Blackgate, and they all operate much the way they should. Batarangs pummel and distract foes, the grapple sends Batman soaring, and so on. Taking another cue from the Metroid games, they are largely upgradeable in a stackable way (though the items are more limited in number than in other Arkham titles). For instance, the Batarang eventually is imbued with electricity and allows Batman to activate switches he was unable to previously. It’s a clever way of milking more gameplay from the lesser armory. Batman can also find a number of WayneTech crates squirreled away in the prison that upgrade his suit and provide him with new ones. Armature further kept with Arkham tradition by including sidequests to encourage poking through every corner of the prison. There are replica Black Mask masks, Penguin cages, and Joker teeth to find and break, along with a series of detective cases to solve. Found in detective mode, the player must scan the environments to find hidden clues to solve them. Armature has filled Blackgate with content and provided players with quite a lot to do.

Blackgate is a good first step for the Arkham games on a handheld. Armature was able to translate much of the core experience of the console titles without sacrificing the essential aspects that make them so fun. The graphics are excellent and the bulk of the combat is faithful to what fans have come to expect, but a middling story, so-so custcenes, and sometimes frustrating level design keep Blackgate from reaching the heights it’s capable of. Regardless, there’s plenty to love about Blackgate and it deserves a shot from Arkham and non-Arkham fans alike.

Score: 8.6/10

+ Great graphics; fun combat, particularly predator attacks and boss fights; strong voice work; abundance of sidequests and secrets

– Okay narrative; rough cinema scenes; obtuse level design in some spots

Toy Box 10-Video Game Super Stars Mario Kart 64 Figures

Released: 1999 | Maker: Toy Biz

These toys are amongst the coolest Nintendo memorabilia ever made. There are a total of seven that I know of; the six pictured here, and a seventh, which is a variation of the Mario racer with a clear body and a Boo in tow (I always assumed it was the “ghost” version of Mario). Sadly, the “ghost” Mario is not a part of my collection… yet!

I didn’t include them in the pictures, but each racer came with items that could be shot from the front or back of its kart. A banana trail, blue shell, red shell, green shell, etc. Seriously, folks, these things are awesome, but pricey. In the package, some collectors charge between $80 and $100 each! If you have the cash laying around, these are amongst the best Nintendo toys, in my opinion. Today’s Mario Kart figures are a fraction of the size and not nearly as intricate. It took a minute for me to gather and photograph all of them, so I hope you all enjoyed! Until next time!

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REVIEW-Batman: Arkham Origins (Wii U)

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If Batman: Arkham Origins is the best that WB can do without series creator Rocksteady in the pilot’s seat, then fans don’t have much to worry about; it’s a very, very good game. While not perfect, developer WB Games Montreal’s freshman outing is a bold, taut action adventure game that isn’t as ambitious as the first two installments of the series, but remains a fun, compelling experience nonetheless. With excellent graphics, tighter combat, and an interesting story, Arkham Origins will leave players anxious for their next trip to Gotham.

Arkham Origins isn’t a traditional prequel, as neither Batman’s origin nor anyone else’s is examined throughout the course of the game’s narrative. Instead, Arkham Origins lays the foundation of the relationship between Batman and the Joker in the Arkham series’ mythology. Other foes make first time series appearances as well, including the sadistic Roman Sionis, who goes by the moniker Black Mask, and Deathstroke, a mercenary with a twisted personal code of ethics and skills rivaling Batman’s own. The story takes place on Christmas Eve, when the crime lord Black Mask sets eight assassins on a collision course with Batman. Over the course of the night, Batman must defeat the assassins, apprehend Black Mask, and overcome the threat of the Joker. Arkham Originsdoes a very good job of respecting the story established by the two previous Arkham games, while simultaneously establishing its own identity and feel. The plot never feels forced and smoothly positions itself within the Arkham timeline.

Players disappointed by Batman: Arkham City-Armored Edition‘s glitchy visuals can rest at ease, as Arkham Origins is stunning on Wii U. Excellent particle effects and lighting complement the sprawl of Gotham’s innumerable skyscrapers. The environment is rich with details, from a variety of advertising signs, steaming vents, and trash on the streets, to office and building interiors that look truly lived in. For the most part, the game has a steady framerate, but when Batman goes flying through the sky using his grapple, the visuals can start to stutter. It’s the only portion of the game where I found any graphical anomalies, though that’s not to say that Arkham Origins is bereft of other technical hiccups. At one point in my playthrough, Batman was in a conversation with Alfred, when suddenly my control over him was lost and Batman kept walking endlessly into an invisible wall. Still, other than the grappling problem, any other technical issues I encountered were few and far between. Arkham City will definitely see a patch or two over its lifetime, but there’s nothing so wrong that it should prevent anyone from playing it.

As much as I appreciated the game taking place in Gotham proper this time around, Arkham Origins is marred by a frustrating amount of back and forth between objectives. The problem wouldn’t be so obnoxious but for the fact that traveling is limited to Batman’s grappling and gliding. There is a fast-travel option available that lets Batman be shuttled to key points on the map, but there’s a catch; the player has to knock out jamming towers that prevent the feature from being used. This requires not only finding the towers and dismantling the equipment within, but also Batman having the necessary gear to even get inside. I made my way to more than one tower only to find that I didn’t have the tool I needed to make my way in. This all but negated the usefulness of fast-travel and made treks (particularly the ones across the ridiculously long bridge in the game) a frequent torture. Also, Arkham Origin‘s Gotham is a very desolate place. There’s a reason established in the narrative that explains why no one but Batman and the bad guys are out on the streets, but it felt more like a missed opportunity than anything else. Given the girth of the game world, I couldn’t help but feel like I was careening through a massive soundstage at times as opposed to a real city.

The signature Arkham combat is back and more precise than ever. Expect to spend quite a lot of time engaging swarms of thugs in Arkham Origins, as Gotham is laden with wandering packs of criminals for Batman to swoop down and annihilate. Players familiar with the Arkham series’ elaborate, flowing barrages of punches and kicks will be able to get right into the action, but even those who’ve never thrown a Batarang will find the controls easy to learn. The nuances of Arkham Origins‘ fighting system is what makes it so satisfying, as the sheer variety of ways that Batman can approach and defeat enemies is staggering. There’s a good balance between stealth and brawling that keeps the game’s combat from ever growing stale. A couple of new enemy types have also been incorporated, most notable being the martial artists, who’re nearly as adept at countering attacks as Batman himself. The inclusions kept me on my toes and made routine rumbles much more interesting.

Batman’s gadgets make a return, though some might complain that a couple of the new additions make fights too easy; specifically, the Shock Gauntlets and remote grapple. The Shock Gauntlets, in particular, can be painted as instant K.O. machines, as they provide an extra bit of power to Batman’s attacks that’s reminiscent of the B.A.T. mode in Armored Edition. Considering that the game rarely, if ever, forces a player to use a particular item during combat, though, it’s a bit misleading to suggest that there’s anything broken about the implementation of the new items. It’s easy to be judicious about not spamming items that take away from the experience, if one is so inclined. Considering some players might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of baddies that can attack at once, I think it’s smart to offer these sorts of devices to keep everyone on a level playing field.

A new gameplay element comes in the form of crime scene recreations and investigations, in which the player aims the Wii U GamePad at the TV screen in order to scan the environment for clues (this can also be done using the control sticks, but it feels so much cooler moving the GamePad around and using it like Samus’s Scan Visor in the Metroid Prime series!). Using a mixture of ballistics, DNA, and rationalization, Batman works his way through a few of these investigations over the course of Arkham Origins. Admittedly, these segments are rigidly linear, but the purpose is more to progress the narrative as opposed to playing detective. Had WB Montreal made the mode more interactive, there was definitely the potential to add a cerebral element to the game, but as it stands, crime scene investigating serves as a vivid look into Batman’s sharp analytical skills.

Fans stepping into the cape and cowl will immediately notice the absence of legendary Batman: The Animated Series voice actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who had played the rolls of Batman and the Joker in both previous Arkham games. Noticing the loss doesn’t necessarily mean lamenting it, though, as Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker fill the two men’s shoes quite nicely. Smith’s voice genuinely sounds like a younger take on Conroy’s version of Batman, and Baker is impressively close at pulling off Hamill’s verve and electricity as the Joker. The remaining actors all play their parts well, and the game is loaded with voice work, including the sound of thugs chattering away on the streets and rooftops as Batman lurks overhead. Arkham Origins maintains the series’ grand cinematic presentation, with well animated cutscenes and an intricate plot. While Arkham Origins isn’t as zealous as Arkham City in terms of scope and story intricacy, the game still provides an entertaining narrative.

Arkham Origins is pleasingly non-linear, as those who prefer to meander the Gotham skyline are rewarded with a huge number of alternative activities to take part in. The Batcave is home to combat training and there is an abundance of predator and combat challenges. At certain points throughout the game, new missions pop up, including ones involving specific villains whose crimes run on the periphery of the campaign but don’t intertwine with it. The Mad Hatter, Anarky, Enigma (who is oh-so familiar), Penguin, and Black Mask all have different missions that take up part of Batman’s night, and all of them are fun ways to kill time between each objective. Beating these missions and challenges unlocks new costumes and provides XP for Batman to upgrade his gear and suit. The more you level up Batman, the more durable and efficient he becomes during combat. This incentivizing of combat and mission completion is perfectly done, as the rewards are appropriately great for those willing to make the commitment.

Arkham Origins is a strong, if imperfect, addition to the series. The story is tight, gameplay is fun and challenging, and the graphics are excellent. The wealth of content will keep players hooked for hours, especially the numerous side missions that provide plenty of fan service. Unfortunately, the visual and gameplay glitches that spring up at times can be intrusive and distracting. The overly-long travel segments betray some poor design choices, especially regarding the fast-travel option, which should have negated the issue, but instead is largely useless until later in the game. Along with a disappointingly barren Gotham, Arkham Origins comes close to the caliber of its older siblings, but falls just short. Regardless, the shortcomings are minimal when compared to how much Arkham Origins gets right. It’s exciting to think that WB Montreal did such a good job in its first attempt at an Arkham game, and I’m looking forward to what they might bring to the series in the future. This is a game that every Wii U owner should take the time to play, Batman fan or not.

NOTE: Batman: Arkham Origins on Wii U does not feature the online multiplayer of the XBox 360 and PS3 versions of the game. The omission of this feature didn’t influence my review, as it did nothing to improve or diminish the quality of the game.

Score: 8.8/10

+ Excellent graphics, story, and gameplay. Attacking and countering have never been smoother, and the new enemy types make battles more challenging. Serves well as a foundation for the stories of the two previous Arkham games. Side-quests are well implemented and add more depth to the experience.

– Technical issues that include frequent visual stuttering during grappling and the occasional gameplay glitch. Traveling is far too tedious at times, and the fast-travel option is negated by a complicated unlock. City too barren.

Pokemon Origins Episode 1 Impressions

 

Despite not becoming a Pokemon fan until well into my teens, I have very fond memories of watching the anime with my sister every day after school. Ash, Misty, and Brock’s adventures were funny and sometimes even poignant, and there was no resisting the bumbling antics of Team Rocket or, best of all, the catchy theme song. Game Freak’s newest foray into animation, Pokemon Origins, is very interesting as it’s not a reboot of the long-running TV show, but an adaptation of the story from Pokemon Red and Blue Versions. Rather than play loose with the plot of the games as Ash’s stories do, Origins is specifically intended to celebrate the original Game Boy titles’ plot. This past weekend, I got to watch the first episode of Origins, and found myself very pleased with it.

Adhering to the story of the games meant the loss of Ash, who is replaced with Red. I had trouble connecting to Red, as he was specifically created as a cipher and not a deliberate character in the games. His personality here is hard to buy into when I, like so many people, have my own opinion of what it should be. Even in relation to the Pokemon anime, Red is portrayed as a meeker protagonist than Ash ever was/is, which made him less than endearing as a lead, at least at first. As the episode progressed, Red showed some potential, compensating for his initial shortcomings and demonstrating a level of determination that’s much more becoming of a future champion.

Red’s rival (or Gary, as he’s perhaps more commonly known) has also been tweaked, but only in name, as he’s still Professor Oak’s grandson, but is instead dubbed Blue. Blue serves as a foil to Red, handing the trainer his first defeat and spurring him to the needed introspection that eventually sets him on the right track. He’s a cocky jerk, too, which ironically makes him endearing; Pokemon games and cartoons have no shortage of nice characters, so it’s always refreshing when a character like Blue spices things up, if for no other reason than to have someone to root against.

Pokémon Red and Blue bicycle trainer artwork

The animation is great, especially during battles. There are a handful of them to enjoy during the episode, and are more hard-hitting than what fans are accustomed to in the anime. At one point, Squirtle and Charmander go at each other in a battle that truly conveys the physicality of these altercations in a way that hasn’t been seen much outside of the mangas. I particularly appreciated how the animators made a point of matching the effects of moves with how they’re portrayed in-game. String shot, for instance, is shown to last multiple turns, as it does during real Pokemon battles. The attention to detail in both the storytelling and presentation is very well done.

I was surprised by Pokemon Origins, as it touched on the mythology of the games in a way I never expected from Game Freak. The special plays to fans’ memories of the games while still cultivating an identity reminiscent of, but also distinct from, the anime. It’s a testament to the magic of Pokemon that it can be interpreted in so many different ways and maintain its core essence. With the second episode on the way, I’m eager to see Red continue to grow on his journey to complete the Pokedex and become a Pokemon master. Be sure to watch Pokemon Origins for free on the Pokemon TV App for iOS and Android, and we’ll be back to talk about the next episode!