Tag Archives: pokemon

Stories from the road: The Charmander Expedition

The Charmander B-Side Label sticker

Ugh. This Pokémon store didn’t have it either. Not only had I been to three different Pokémon stores in three cities by that point, but none of them had the Charmander sticker I was looking for. The tiny Pokémon Centre at Tokyo Station in character street didn’t carry stickers at all, and this one, the Pokémon DX in Tokyo, had the stickers but was out of stock of more than just the Charmander I was after.

I had first come across B-Side Label stickers at the Fuji-Q gift shop, but it wasn’t until I stumbled one of their brick-and-mortar stores in Kyoto that I realised that they were a real thing of their own and not just some collaboration between a sticker company and some big names like Nintendo/Game Freak and whatever anime you care to name.

Being somewhat of a sticker connoisseur myself, I was instantly drawn to their cool designs and incredible range. They covered basically every popular anime, and plenty of other subcultures I didn’t recognise. If you managed to go to an actual B-Side Label store, they had entire books of their range, or you could browse their entire collection on an iPad.

I had seen Pokémon stickers previously at other Pokémon centres, of course, but it wasn’t until the Osaka Pokémon centre that I decided I wanted a small set. But which ones? That was obvious. Pikachu, of course, plus the starter Pokémon and legendary birds from the original 151. While Gen I wasn’t technically the generation I grew up with, it was close enough and far more recognisable, not to mention far more iconic. Anything after the first 251 Pokémon might as well not exist.

I managed to pick up Pikachu, the original starters, and the legendary birds at the Osaka Pokémon Centre, minus a Charmander. But that didn’t matter, because I knew I had an extra couple of days in Tokyo, and surely, surely, one of those Pokémon centres would have a Charmander, right?

Wrong. So wrong.

Now that I had been to most of the Pokémon centres in Tokyo, it was time to go to plan B: an actual B-Side Label store. There had been one in Osaka (where I got in trouble for taking a video in the store, even though there weren’t any signs saying it wasn’t allowed), but the B-Side Label store in Tokyo was a little out of the way, and involved two short train rides and a 2.2km walk. By that point it was getting late, maybe 8 or 9pm, and I had probably already done 20,000 steps at Tokyo Disneysea and was beginning to feel it, but I knew that this would be the last chance I had to find a Charmander sticker to complete my set.

All I can remember is how I felt a wave of relief when the Harajuku B-Side Label store had the Charmander sticker I wanted. Missing out on the sticker wouldn’t have been the end of the world, and would have given me yet another reason to go back to Japan (or just buy it online, if that was even possible), but otherwise I would have had a unique sticker collection.

My Pokémon stickers would have been missing a Charmander, but I had a good reason for when someone asked about why I was missing Charmander.

Well, I would have if the Charmander Expedition wasn’t such a rousing success.

Persona 4 Golden

Persona 4 Golden Title

As an introduction into the world of Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs), Personal 4 Golden is pretty great. The Persona series is actually a spin-off of the main Shin Megami Tensei series of games, with its official title being Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, but as far as Persona 4 Golden goes, it’s actually a remake of the original Persona 4 game that appeared on the PS2 many moons ago. Now it’s on the PS Vita with a few new bits added here and there, and that’s where this review/thing/whatever, comes in.

"Hero", or whatever you named him

“Hero”, or whatever you named him

History and background of the game aside, all you need to know is that P4G is one of those games you’d consider buying a PS Vita for, it’s that good. Using JRPGs to describe a sub-genre of games isn’t exactly fair, seeing as technically, there are lots of different kinds of RPGs to come out of Japan; Pokémon (obviously), Final Fantasy, and a million others besides. Which brings me to my next point…

This is the part where you discover your own Persona

This is the part where you discover your own Persona

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Fresh as hell Pokémon X/Y boxarts

Pokemon ElkSwag

Pokemon Come At Me Bro

The designs are essentially the same for North America and Europe, aside from the local ratings boxes. Which one do you intend to pick up — Pokémon ElkSwag or Pokémon Come At Me Bro?

via Fresh as hell Pokémon X/Y boxarts The designs are… – Tiny Cartridge – Nintendo 3DS, DS, Wii U, and PS Vita News, Media, Comics, & Retro Junk.

Cannot wait for Pokémon X and Y. Thinking I’ll skip Black/White and go straight to X and Y (also, the first time the name of a Pokémon game hasn’t been based on a colour).

And yeah, totally getting Pokémon ElkSwag.

There are no questions any more, only answers and Google.

A wise man said something along the same lines not too long ago, and I realised the other day how true his words actually were.

Scenario: you’re at a party or some other social gathering. Maybe out in town with a few mates or whatever, and you find yourself in an argument over, say, the Nexus 7 is the only tablet to be released thus far with Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. Your back and forth about how you know for sure that the Galaxy Nexus is the only phone that currently has Jelly Bean is for all intents and purposes, irrelevant, because you want to find out what current Android tablets can run Jelly Bean.

None of you know the answer for sure, so you pull our whatever smartphone you have, look it up on the internets, and find out that yes, indeed, the Nexus 7 is currently the only shipping tablet that runs Google’s latest OS.

There are no questions anymore, only answers and Google.

Scenario two: you’re at a gathering with a few more mates, this time around an open fire somewhere in the wilds of Tasmania. Somehow, the conversation turns to how many Pokémon are in the Generation IV remakes of the Generation II games. You can never remember how many Pokémon are available in HeartGold or SoulSilver — one of you is adamant that it’s only the original 251 (that appeared in the original Gold and Silver games for GameBoy Color), and the other one of you is sure you can catch many, many more Pokémon than just the original 251. Consequently, you get into some heated argument about how many Pokémon are actually available.

None of you know the answer for sure, so one of you decides to settle it by looking up the answer on the internet. Mobile data coverage is spotty where you are, but you managed to jump onto Bulbapedia and find that yes, “Pokémon native to Sinnoh and Hoenn can be found in various methods.”

Thanks to our constant connectivity, the proliferation of smartphones, and the basic need for burning questions to be answered in a timely manner, there are no questions anymore, only answers, and Google. In the old days, you might have had to wait until you were at home and at a computer before you could settle an argument — but by then, the moment would have passed, and no-one would likely care.

It’s a double-edged sword. Settling arguments is one thing, but such definitiveness (yes, that’s a word now) means that there’s no mystery. Of course, you could always not Google things right there and then, but where’s the fun in that?

This shorter post, apropos of nothing, proudly brought to you by random thoughts in Benny Ling’s brain.

Pokémon, Part III: The Pokémon Renaissance

More than ten years have passed since the original Pokémon games (generation I)  came out, and I can safely say with some confidence that we have now entered the period of the Pokémon renaissance, a period where Pokémon culture is seen as popular and accepted, rather than just something that those nerdy kids at school play.

I guess you could say that there have been multiple renaissance periods, one surrounding every new game release, but my own Pokémon renaissance starts around the release of Pokémon Black and White.
The way I see it, everyone between the ages of say, 10 and 25 knows about Pokemon. Perhaps they’re a little less enthusiastic about it these days (if enthusiastic is indeed the right word), and perhaps they don’t show the anime on TV anymore, but the point is, everyone knows about Pokémon.

You could definitely say my own Pokémon renaissance was spurred on by my desire to play Pokémon, restrained only for my disapproval of the direction Pokémon had taken since generation I and II. I understand Nintendo can’t simply let the Pokémon franchise stagnate, but alienating existing Pokémon fans by adding (in my mind) unnecessary game mechanics and modifications only serves to curb enthusiasm, not increase it.

Which is exactly why I chose to play Pokémon once again — wait, what? I guess in the end my desire to relive old-school memories won out, or something. I saddled up with a (comparatively old-school) DS Lite (for GBA compatibility, more on this in a sec) and purchased a copy of SoulSilver and White, along with the strategy guide for White.

Forget the fact that there are now umpteen hundred Pokémon to catch, or that you can now grow berries, and that Kurt can now make up to 99 Pokéballs out of apricorns each day, forget all the game mechanics that Nintendo have added that either make the game more complex or untrue to the core Pokémon experience — for me, my personal Pokémon renaissance is all about reliving those old school days, regardless of whatever changes they’ve made since.

See, I don’t think you quite understand how much I enjoyed spending untold hours training and battling Pokémon. It’s pretty addictive once you get into it — combine that with a desire to finish the game and then catching ’em all, and you’ve got a pretty good recipe for success in the game market.

What’s the plan from here on out? Well, it’s pretty simple: play as much Pokémon as I need to. Starting with SoulSilver, as it’s a generation IV remake of the generation II Silver seems like a good a place as any to start, since Pokémon Gold was the very first Pokémon game I ever played. Once that is all done and dusted I think I’ll go back to generation III with LeafGreen, a remake of the generation I Green that started it all. From there, Emerald, also from generation III, brings the best out of generation III games, and then Platinum, also the best of the generation IV games. Finally, Pokémon White. Or maybe I’ll play Pokémon White while playing all of those. I’m not quite sure yet.

And so, with my DS Lite in hand and quite a lot of Pokémon ahead of me (I’ve sunk rougly 35 hours into SoulSilver already, and am probably about 25% though), I begin a journey of my very own — call it what you want, but it’s my very own Pokémon renaissance.

Pokémon, Part II: Intermission — The Trading Card Game

Part I: Prologue — The Pokémon Generation is just three posts below this one!

No picture this time around as I can’t seem to find my tiny, almost non-existent, collection of cards from the Pokémon trading card game.

There are many aspects of Pokémon, one being the trading card game (henceforth referred to as TCG). Despite being hugely popular when I was during my upper-primary school years, I never got into it.

Perhaps it was the fact that I was too young at the time to even fathom buying items for seemingly my own enjoyment, or perhaps it was because compared to the video games and the anime and whatever other aspects of Pokémon were popular at the time the TCG just seemed so boring and bland in comparison, I never got into it. Plenty of other people were, but I wasn’t.

I remember other people being awed by collections, and when “shiny” cards were produced people were awestruck. Perhaps one of the most famous cards of all was shiny Charizard, easily one of the most coveted cards of my particular generation.

I remember somehow acquiring a single Japanse card — it was either Psyduck or a Pokémon that I had no knowledge about (i.e. one of the ones introduced in generation III or IV).

I remember knowing the difference between a fake card and a real one, right down to the hue and intensity of the blue border on the back of the card itself, as well as the feel and texture of the card.

Mostly, though, I just remember not getting involved. I’m not sure whether it was the whole “collectors” aspect that didn’t appeal to me or the “battling” aspect that could be performed with the Pokémon TCG, but I just couldn’t care about it as much as I could the video game.

Which is interesting, because it was years later that I started to get into Magic: The Gathering. No real reason, but it seemed to be pretty popular in my early high-school years, and seemed like the right thing to do. I remember sitting the library at lunchtime and duking it out with the self-appointed master of Magic — but that’s a story for another time.

Whatever the reason, Pokémon the Trading Card Game just didn’t appeal to me. Shame.

Pokémon, Part I: Prologue — The Pokémon Generation

Original boxes for my Game Boy Color and Pokémon Gold

I am of the Pokémon generation.

Kids these days just don’t get it. I grew up with the original 151 in Red, Green, and Yellow, and later the 251 introduced with Gold, Silver, and Crystal (Generations one and two, respectively.)

Now there’s over 600 Pokémon to catch in generation five, and I’m really not sure how people are actually expected to catch all 649. Current generations actually go as far as encouraging players to only catch a small selection of Pokémon, but doing so is child’s play — not for Pokémon masters like myself.

My own Pokémon story starts way back in the 20th century, at the cusp of the millennium. The very first game I was exposed to was Pokémon Yellow, as one of my childhood friends had a copy along with his original Game Boy. Countless hours were spent at his house playing that game.

Then suddenly it was 1999 and Pokémon Gold and Silver came out alongside the Game Boy Color, and thus I entered the golden age of Pokémon. Those were the glory days — many, many hours were spent playing Pokémon, and many more hours spent training, honing my Pokémon to be fighting fit.

That year I remember my family went back to Malaysia, where even more Pokémon was played. One of my childhood friends there also played Pokémon, and as a present him and his family bought me a guide to catch ’em all, the Prima Official Strategy Guide for Pokémon Gold and Silver. I remember spending entire afternoons pouring through every detail, committing large sections of it to memory in order to apply it to game scenarios later on. I’m sure that if I look hard enough, it will still be around here somewhere…

People even complimented me on my Pokémon and how strong they were. I remember grinding through countless battles with the Elite Four, levelling up Dragonites to level 100 and then blowing away other Pokémon with the Hyper Beam move. Those were the days.

At the time, there also existed a set of “exploits”. Such exploits leveraged the use of bugs in the game to produce favourable results for the exploiter, such as the bug that allowed the duplication of Pokémon. It was this very bug that allowed trainers to gain access to Pokémon they normally wouldn’t have received otherwise. Legendary Pokémon were devalued somewhat with this bug, but that didn’t really matter, because catching them all was the main priority for a lot of trainers, myself included.

It was this duplication bug that allowed me to get such rare Pokémon such as Mewtwo, Mew, and Celebi through trading with other Pokémon players who weren’t afraid to trade away their legendary Pokémon as they had other copies.

Once upon a time I was also an avid swimmer, going a couple of times a week after school to swim for a couple of hours. It was during these swim sessions that I met a guy, and it just so happened that he was into Pokémon too. I can distinctly remember being in the change rooms one time — both of us had our Game Boys out, linked with the trade cable, and were swapping Pokémon. Looking back on it now such a scene just seems nothing short of ridiculous, but at the time it made perfect sense (we didn’t see each other at any time besides those swim sessions), and was perfectly normal for kids of our generation — the Pokémon generation.

Old-school cool.

Well, as old-school as I’m going to get while still maintaining forwards compatibility, that is.

Brisbane 2010 wrap-up

the view from a secret location in Brisbane

Hey, look, it’s been almost a year since this happened, but I am fantastic at procrastinating such tasks like these that involve a recount of a particular event. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I have a couple of ideas for things that need to be written, but those things depend on the very existence of this post (maybe not quite that much, but this post does play an important part). If this doesn’t make sense, read on anyway. I promise things will become clear by the time you reach the end.

Like I said, it’s about a year now since Brisbane 2010 happened — around this time last year I was in sunny Queensland, doing secret things with not-so-secret people. The fact that this is only being written now is testament to the fact that I am, if nothing else, a brilliant procrastinator.

In any case, Brisbane 2010 was mostly about doing a training course with work. That’s probably about all I’ll say about the purpose of the trip, suffice to say it was exciting and pretty awesome to go to Brisbane for a work-related thing (and ALL BY MYSELF) rather than with friends or family. Considering the last time I was in Brisbane was when my family  decided to drive to Brisbane all the way from Tasmania, I felt really grown up, and it was great.

During one of the sessions, as part of the introductory-type, get-to-know-you things, the leader guy asked why we had chosen to participate in the program that we had been selected to participate in. If that reads like we were chosen, it sort of does — it was opt-in for sure in that we had to do a basic application for the position, but we were chosen on the basis of our applications. I think, anyway. I kinda got in by default, but that is neither here nor there.

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