Sunday, 13 March 2016

Core Franchises Present and Future - Sonic the Hedgehog [Personal]

The earliest memories I have with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise are with Sonic Adventure 2 way back in 2002. I can also remember owning both Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic R on PC, though of course not having a computer until around 2004/5 those two would have come around that time. I also had Sonic Heroes and Sonic Advance 1 and 2, but I couldn't exactly be called the biggest fan like I was with Pokémon. In that period of 2005-2010, when my gaming passion grew, I had owned hardly any new Sonic the Hedgehog games. The only game I did own was the first Mario and Sonic at the Olympics, on both DS and Wii. The 10th anniversary of Sonic was what first got me into the series. The 20th anniversary helped cement my love for it. I started to take more notice. I followed Generations almost all the way through - from reveal to launch. Fact of the matter is, Sonic Generations got me to love the series, and I have since played most of the games I missed out on. Sonic Generations was a great game, even if short, but it felt restrictive in some ways for someone who had only played Adventure 2 and Heroes. Lost World I felt would fix that, but again - good game, but in some ways restrictive. Sonic Boom's games tried a Sonic Heroes approach, but left most most of the speed out and the team mechanic felt more forced. That's where we get to this year. A new game has been teased massively, though not revealed yet. Speculation is in full force, and of course I've got some ideas. Sonic Boom's TV Series has recently finished its first season run and is well on the way to getting a second season out there. It had some good episodes and some bad, but most were average. If a second season did come to light, I wouldn't mind those average episodes if there were less bad ones. SEGA's partners keep bringing out great toys and apparel, so I wouldn't think of adding anything to that. I'm not so strong on the merchandise, and I think that follows for anything. However, that also follows for TV and film in terms of Sonic.

One of the things I feel Sonic games have lost over the years is the multiplayer. They still have it in some games [Colours and Lost World, as well as the 3DS handheld games having online of sorts], but it's never been as great as back during the 2001-2006 period. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle had a lot of stages. All of those from the story missions [barring last story], as well as two extra with twists. It also ulitlised the Chao Garden into its multiplayer, and made a kart racing game a part of that. Sonic Heroes featured numerous multiplayer modes as well, and while some weren't as good as others along with only having three stages per mode, there was still fun to be had. Even Sonic 06, as bad as that game was, featured an interesting co-op mode - even if it was poorly executed in areas. In Sonic Colours, the multiplayer was less competitive and more co-op, acting more like a story mode for two players. All the levels are exclusive to the multiplayer, but had the issue of sharing screens - something which never works in a game like Sonic. Lost World went back for the competitive part of multiplayer, but segmented the levels into sections to allow for a more fair play. The main thing though, with these newer multiplayer experiences, was that each person had the same abilities. Same speed, same attacks, same everything. That might allow skill to win out, but while you do want some competition, you don't want it to rule over everything. And skill can still win out even with different move sets.
While I wouldn't want multiplayer to rule over everything in the next game, something extra than what we have been getting would certainly be nice. Considering the solo Sonic games of recent times, and it still being unsure whether new playables will be included [I would like that if it made sense for the game], including them for only the multiplayer would be a good way to suit both parties. Those who want other characters to return, and those who are fine with the solo Sonic outings. Of course, to fully conform to those who want other characters, at least some of them would need to appear in the story as well. As said though, they'd need to make sense in the story. That can be done by writing situations in which these characters appear, something which those in charge of the story still seem hesitant on doing.

Even for the single player game, if you include other characters outside of Sonic, you want them to have their own abilities, but not go veering off into unknown styles. Metal Sonic is as fast as Sonic, using jets to replicate how Sonic moves and shields to protect itself. Espio, being a ninja, can turn invisible and attack with shuriken. Tails can fly, Knuckles can glide and climb, and Silver has his psychokinetic powers. Those abilities can fit into levels, whether having levels that each character own with their abilities or levels which numerous characters can play in their own way. There needs to be a set amount of characters to play as in single player. Too many can just dull the experience - especially if it feels like they are there just because. Six has always felt the safe number. Then there are the levels themselves, which still manage to carry that sense of character. Emerald Coast and Seaside Hill are both seaside levels, but both manage to be different from the other. Unleashed did a great job at this, making each city feel very different from another. Apatos was mostly white and blues, while Spagonia was mostly orange roofs and grey floor and buildings.
For me, I'd have a story which starts in two places with two teams that then merge to one. Allowing some characters access to the same levels, but not necessarily the same parts of the levels. There would be twenty-seven levels total, with a minimum of two characters allowed access to any one stage. You might be seeing a certain tie with Sonic Adventure 1 here, and it's true. But I feel that mixing of characters in stages does work. You can see different parts of the stages without repeating the stage too many times. If it fits the story, it should be done. The two teams would be following the deeds of Eggman in their own way, picking up leads and working their way to his base. The two teams come across each other and a competition starts between the two. Near the base, the two meet again and get attacked. They agree to work together for this final stretch. Reaching Eggman, they work together to take him down. With the recent solo Sonic games, the teamwork and friendship have still been a part of the plot. With just Sonic to play as, it doesn't feel like teamwork is as important in the game itself when you only see one character running along.

For the Sonic Boom TV Series - as I said - I want the number of bad episodes reduced. Now I know that bad episodes and good episodes are subjective, so I'm not going to say which ones I feel are bad. The fact is though that everyone will have at least one episode they felt wasn't as good as the rest. A lot of others have been saying what they would like from the series. Aside from multi-part episodes, there isn't much I would like, apart from the fact they keep up the work they have done and improve upon it even more.
Now, the movie is coming soon. We have been told that numerous times. Not a hint at what it will actually contain has been given though. All we know is that will be live action with CGI - in the same way Garfield or Yogi Bear have had films like that. The only thing I can say for this is that I'd want a similar feel to Unleashed. The scope in that game was great, and it had well choreographed scenes. While the plot of the middle wondered off a bit, the beginning and end was great. If the plot of the film can be great, and keep the scope of Unleashed, I will be pleased.

I won't be covering merchandise, as I have said that while I look at what's on offer, I've never really been interested in any of the Sonic merch. So next week will be the last look at one of my core franchises. It's the one I've known the least yet have felt the most. Star Wars will be next week, and it will probably be the longest one yet.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Core Franchises Present and Future - Pokémon [Personal]

Despite being third on my core franchise list, Pokémon has been with me since the beginning. Across six generations of games, the main series has grown ever stronger. Each generation also gave us a variety of spin-offs, some of which continue to this day. The TV series also grew stronger as the years progressed, and while a soft reboot did occur at the start of Black and White [thus getting a lot of criticism from long-time fans], the series did well to pick itself back up during the XY series. The movies are less fortunate, seemingly being stuck between mediocre and alright. In some cases it can feel the plots drag on a bit too much, and in other cases the balance is just right [I feel Genesect and the Legend Awakened is one with the right balance]. The Trading Card Game has a lot of strength to it, adding new mechanics and continuing to bring a lovable collection of artwork to the fore. With the recent Mega-EX and BREAK cards being added, there are even more strategies to play with. As for other merchandising, with it being the 20th anniversary this year there has been a strong push with it. Even before that though, there's been a lot - including some very interesting dress-up Pikachu. Merchandise is probably one of my weaker points within the Pokémon franchise, though I still have a look from time to time.

With the recent announcement of Pokémon Sun and Moon, there is a lot of talk over what they will contain. Most seem set on Hawaii as a location, and if that is the case we could find ourselves with an interesting new region if that region itself resembles Hawaii [what with Hawaii being islands]. Of course, I'm not here to talk rumour, but about other aspects of the games. Now generation two gave us the Stadium series, which evolved in generation three to be more like a main series game in Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness. The generation four stadium game - Battle Revolution - kept the stadium feeling by reducing the plot to the regular beating of a tier to progress. Generation five didn't have a stadium game, and when generation six came, the main series had moved to 3D models. That sort of made the need for a new stadium game moot. With the right amount of care put into another stadium game, I feel it could work even with the main series' move to 3D models. In fact, try for some experimentation with the stadium games. The Gamecube stadium games proved that a plot away from the standard main games could work, and those games were experiments with their story. They had a slightly darker atmosphere, which worked for the idea of Shadow Pokémon, though the new game doesn't necessarily have to stay that dark.

There could also be another route. Through the years advancements have been made - and yes, to see another game like Colosseum on the WiiU would be an absolute dream - that make a home console game that bit more uncertain. Like I said, they could continue and be experimentation with the plot that the main series won't do. But what if the main series is adapting and moving away from its routine plot lines? What if becoming champion of the region becomes a side point with beating the evil team being the main one? I wouldn't expect such a huge jump in one generation, but small things like a bigger presence of the evil team across the region would be one way to hint at such a movement. While the saying does go "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," I feel in this case its not so much fixing it as change how you reach the end result.
The soon to be released Pokken Tournament brings an interesting take on Pokémon battles. No longer restricted to turn based battling, controlling the Pokémon outright puts more emphasis on the more physical skills rather than the mental ones. Depending on how it does in terms of critical review, it could be we have another spin-off series, even if it doesn't last more than one or two more games. If anything, this is a big experiment. Which brings me to say that this is one thing the Pokémon series does well. Playing as Pokémon themselves rather than just commanding them was still a pipe-dream before the Mystery Dungeon series. Having a game more about the connection between Pokémon and the environment was explored with Pokémon Snap [which is still needing a sequel!]. Even experiments that seem weird on paper like racing or pinball have shown they can work. And if there is an experiment I would call for - that's new for the series - it would be a simulation game where you run a day-care center. I don't think it could make a full price release, but as an eShop game it would be more than fine. Starting out small with only a few spaces, you'd need to keep the Pokémon in your care happy, well fed, trained, etc. The happier a Pokémon is, the faster it will train. Depending on how well trained the Pokémon is when it's owner returns gets you money to invest in the day-care.

With the TV Series moving into XYZ - and the obvious lack of a Z game - it seems the show is willing to try and experiment every once in a while, or at least go a different route than the games. The most obvious point being the Pokémon Showcases which happen, similar to Contests from Advanced and Diamond and Pearl. With those series it was understandable to have such contests as the games for that generation had contests in them. The X and Y games featured no such contests. You could say advertisement for the release of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, but in that case you have to wonder why more wasn't done to keep the contests similar to draw that conclusion from. Aside from the Mega Evolution specials, there was no such connection between the release of Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire and the series. Unknown to us yet, there might also be the fact that Zygarde and its formes are series-exclusive. Adding to that, maybe even Ash-Greninja - the forme of legend where a powerful bond between trainer and Pokémon causes a transformation which gives the Pokémon a resemblance to its trainer - is also series-exclusive. Series exclusive things always happen - exclusive towns and cities for one - but aside from the Orange Islands, it has never felt like the series has been ambitious in its deviation from the games. With this series and into the next, I'm thinking we might see larger changes.
In terms of what is happening currently, it makes sense for the Team Flare business to happen now, as it was between the seventh and eighth gyms that the finale to the Team Flare business happened within the games. The major differences are the legendary Pokémon being used, and what they want it for [sort of].

As said before, there is the contest side-story that didn't feature in the games, and this time it could be possible that Ash will win the league. What happens after that is anyone's guess. The current format does seem to work, but if Ash does indeed win the league, there would be little point in him competing in the various leagues as he would already be on the way to being a Pokémon master. The next step, of course, would be battling the Elite Four and claiming a Champion title for himself. It's entirely possible the next series starts in the region of the seventh games before returning to Kanto, where Ash - confident in his skills as a trainer - battles his way through the Kanto league again, claiming the right to battle the Elite Four. The next series could also be a transitional period, showing two journeys at once. Kanto with Ash, and a new trainer in the new region. It would have to be done in such a way that wouldn't confuse the audience. The main series in the new region with a side series in Kanto would work, and the current series has shown two regions can work with the Mega Evolution Specials mainly focused in Hoenn. Of course, a crossover between the series and Ash-focused specials could happen. In the same way Ash would meet champions in his time, maybe the new trainer would meet Ash after losing a few leagues. Of course, we could always stay with Ash visiting a new region, though he doesn't necessarily have to compete in the league. Ash could also be supportive of Serena and stay with her wherever she next went - if she decides to take on a new journey, of course. There are countless possibilities for where the series could move. The movies will take this change and go with it. Though relating to my idea of a transitional period, perhaps the films could follow Ash in Kanto as he takes on the Elite Four and Champion. The plot would need to make sure it didn't just involve battles, though with an hour and ten run time, and the battles of the series hardly ever touching twenty minutes, it can be done. Away from that idea though, I feel as though a bit more can be done to make sure plots don't drag on in some cases, perhaps by adding a quick something to resolve or a side plot.

I've gone on massively about both games and TV and film, and I've already mentioned I'm not that into merchandise, so I'll keep this one shorter. The Trading Card Game has been doing a lot to keep the game fresh, and the artwork on the cards can always impress. What also impresses is when they add new mechanics. EX, Mega-EX, BREAK. Even those mechanics that have been retired, such as Dark Pokémon and Delta Species. There's not really a lot I can suggest, as the TCG has always been one of the strongest of the Pokémon franchise. The other products I also can't really say much on, though I like what they've been doing recently. I think it would be interesting if - in terms of board games - there could be a Labyrinth Pokémon Edition. Since the aim of the game is to reach the counters and 'collect' them, it fits the Pokémon motif of catch 'em all. The soft toys are great in appearance [mostly], and even some of the more stylised ones can be cute.

Yes, this has been lengthy, and I applaud you if you read the whole lot, as this is probably one of my largest posts yet. There's two more yet to come though, and so next week brings my thoughts on Sonic the Hedgehog.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

My Awesome Rattata 16 [Network]

Hot off the 20th anniversary celebrations for Pokémon, new games in the series have been announced. Sun and Moon are still a mystery, but have fans wildly speculating already. It will be fun to see more when they finally get shown off, to see whether the guesses of the content were right or wildly off the mark. As part of this month, I will also be covering the game as part of series of posts I will be doing.

Those posts are to look at my three core franchise likes, and what I feel can be done with them [or what I'd like to happen] to see them become stronger. Now, those three topics will be very of my own opinion, so I wouldn't expect everyone to agree with me on what I might cover within them. Pokémon will be up first, and I will have it up by the end of the week.

This month will be flooded with blog posts, as I move through a few topics. As stated last month, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens had been announced, and that will go under the Star Wars post as part of the core franchise posts. I want to give it a bit more of a general LEGO looking as well, and specifically what it could do to set itself apart from other LEGO games, and what from other games could actually work within Force Awakens.

There will also be two blogs covering two of my fictitious works. The first will cover The Chameleon Chronicles, and as it soon comes to an end I wanted to look back on it and give some of my thoughts on crafting the story. The second post concerns Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles, which will cover past, present, and future. As one of my longest running fan fiction works, this post will look back at a brief starting, the audios that were made in conjunction with TheJazNetwork [Paradox Audios], as well as creating the rest of the audios, the start of the fiction, and how that evolved over time. It will also look at the current arc [which will be back in progress soon] as well as what events come up in the future for DarkRula and The Doctor. Without giving too much away, of course.

As for new videos, I have a few more GTA Online races to show off, though I won't do them all at once. I might also open up some of the races to showcase the actual racing, rather than just driving the course myself. Star Wars Battlefront EA recently had a free map added, and will have another one added soon, along with the first of the download content packs. I should be able to cover them, though depending on when they get released, that video might slip over into next month.

Sure is a busy month. If anything new gets announced during all of this, it will probably get busier. That's all for now, though.