Thursday, September 24, 2015

Serrafiend Interview

Today on the 9th Gym Leader I'll be interviewing Serrafiend, a player who focuses more on breeding and theorycrafting over tournaments and competitive battling.

-So Serrafiend, let's get the basics out of the way. What was the first generation you ever played and what starter did you pick?
I started with Gen 4 and Pearl version. I actually got into it really late. I was always a  Sony kid growing up so it was a while before I got my first handheld. For starters I picked Piplup, which was weird since I usually like fire types but I didn't like chimchar at all.

-Not until Gen 4? Wow. Well now that you've played so many, what has been your favouite Gen and starter.
Well since I played Pearl, I have gone back and played every Gen. I Even bought a GBA especially to play Ruby and Sapphire which wound up being my favourite versions. I think it might have been because I thought it was so hard as a kid. For my favourite starter I have two. If we're talking looks then it has always been Chikorita, it's adorable. Use wise though it's Empoleon, it's such a beast.

-What has been your best Pokemon related me more?
That's a hard one. I think I'd have to go with watching the anime before school. It was always such a great way to start your day off when you're young. Also, I have a lot of great memories of when I started getting super into the card game.

-So you've played the card game a lot?
When I was a kid yeah. I never understood the rules I'm sure. I just thought they looked cool and liked collecting things. Then when I was older I met some people at work who were into it so I got back in and started thinking up strategies and playing for real. when I was a kid I was like I like all these Pokemon let's shove them in a deck.

-Did you ever try any card tournaments?
Yeah, not as a kid though. I went to one official one a while ago and one regular event. I was still pretty new at that point though.

-How did you do?
Not too great *laugh* There's something different from theory crafting and playing another real person. Trying to figure out what they're thinking kind of.

-Do you prefer either the video game or the cards?
Definitely the video game. There's just so much more to it. I don't know. I'm more of an antisocial gamer. I like playing for myself. Also the card game is like really expensive... if you really want to get into it of course.

-What's your favourite Pokemon spin off game?
Aside from the cards the only ones I really tried is Ranger and I really like that one. Wait, do the 64 games count? If so then Pokemon Snap, that is my favourite game of all time. Especially Snap drinking games, I'm really good at those.

-In your opinion what has been the best new change to the series?
With all the breeding I do I'd say it would have to be when they made TMs reusable. Oh, also destiny knot, everstone, and power items' effects on breeding. It just makes it so much easier. I'm also a big fan of fairy type, it's almost replaced fire type as my favourite.

-You've mentioned liking both fire and fairy types, why do you like them so much?
Fire types are just so fast and are usually hard hitters. A lot of them are aesthetically pleasing too. And fairies? Aesthetically pleasing holds true. They're cuter. They're a lot bulkier and that's something I'm usually missing from my teams. I'm sort of attracted to glass cannons.

-What is something you think should be added to the game?
I would love it if they had more eeveelutions. I was really looking forward to last gen when I thought we were getting two but only got Sylveon. I was expecting two because that has been the pattern. Start with three, then release two unique ones where one is strong against the other. I figured that we would get a poison Eevee that Gen that would be strong against Sylveon. If I had to ask for a specific type of Eegee though, I'd want a ghost Eevee.

-Why do you think they only released one?
I'm not sure, probably just to hype up fairy, that's my best guess.

-If you were a gym leader what would your puzzle and MVP be?
Ninetails no hesitation. Purely because it's my favourite Pokemon. For the puzzle though… hmm… Some sort of math puzzle. I always liked Blaine's questions. That was my favourite gym. Usually I don't like the gym puzzles at all though, Just let me fight you!

-So a portal opens up and Pokemon has just crossed over with your favourite non-pokemon game. What is the result?
Actually it already exists, Pixelmon. It would make minecraft so much cooler since instead of just a regular Ocelot following you around you'd have a creature that shoots fire or lightening. Or like, you could build your own daycare and breed Pokemon like you do with horses.

-Does your day job as an FQA Test Lead for a game testing company affect how you play or see Pokemon?
Well I don't get much time since I'm so busy, I can pretty much only play on weekends. We're all nerds at work so there's always someone to talk to about it. That's actually how I got into the card game later in life. It doesn't really affect how I play the game though, other how much time I have. I've never opened a Pokemon game and thought let's look for bugs. Pokemon is my me time. It's an escape from work. Besides, Nintendo games are usually pretty bug free since they do their own QA.

-When you do battle competitively, what is your style?
Well umm what I WANT to do is sweep but I can't really do that against stall which is what I battle 90% of the time so I have to find ways around it. I love fast special attacking glass cannons. Although I do like the occasional physical attackers too. Anything that's fast and hits hard really.

-What do you think of the competitive scene?
It's unfortunate that people don't play with what they like and instead use only what will win. I always try to play with Pokemon I like or can relate to. Then again it could be just because I'm not very competitive.

-Why aren't you competitive?
I don't know, that's my time for myself. I work a job where I'm working with a team of people and it's nice to just relax by yourself. I don't want to have to talk to more people when I get home.

-What changes would you like to see to the competitive scene?
More variety. I never use legendaries, I find that a bit unfair. I mean they're designed that way as a bit of a reward for beating the game. I use them as trophies and that's all.

-As an homage to Kantocast what is your favourite Eeveelution?
Can I have 2? Flareon and Sylveon. Flareon because it's one of the originals, one of my favourite types and it's pretty cute. And Sylveon hmm, I guess it's also pretty cute and it's a fairy. So one for aesthetics and one for looks. I also have a bit of a soft spot for umbreon and espeon just for their usage. Ok, ok, ok, Flareon I pick Flareon.

-Thank you very much for your time Serrafiend. If you have your own questions and comments for Serrafiend you can find her on twitter @Serrafiend. If you would like to check out a great Pokemon podcast you can look for KantoCast on iTunes or follow @KantoCast on twitter for updates. Lastly, to stay up to date you can follow myself @ScottyDuzzeno and as always stay groovy guys.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pikachu Cup

Game Freak recently hosted the Pikachu cup over wifi and what I thought was going to be a bland and restricted tournament turned into something quite interesting.

The Pikachu cup was an electric only doubles cup that would award a special Pikachu to all participants if Pikachu met a certain amount of usage throughout the the whole competition. The whole rules can be found here.

Electric isn't my favourite type, and I'm not a huge fan of Pikachu so I didn't actually sign up for the competition. After a few days I started looking up some videos on youtube of games thinking I would just see various Pikachus thunderbolting each other down but boy was I surprised.

Since the matches were so restricted, this forced people to come up with some awesome strategies to win. My favourite of which was a Lanturn using the move "Soak" which transforms the target into a pure water type, causing them to lose the stab on any electric moves while changing their normal resistance to electricity into a weakness.

Every match seemed to showcase some new strategy that I wasn't aware of and before long I was kicking myself for not participating in this crazy competition. All in all I think the Pikachu cup was a great success and I hope there will be more like it in the future!

On a side note, all the new strategies made me think about the current meta. Like many others I was sad to see that the top teams of the recent Worlds competition were almost identical with the Kami trio running rampant. This brings me new hope because if people can come up with interesting winning strategies in such a restricted tournament maybe the meta will be shaken up as well!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pokemon Origin Story

It all started with a shoebox.

My birthday is at the start of the school year so a lot of my gifts tended to be back to school items which aren't very interesting to a 12 year old kid. For the first day of school my mom decided to wake me up early so she could give me my gift before I left. I tried to feign excitement as she handed me a shoe box. After all, kids need shoes and a new pair is nice to start out on. I was too sleepy to realize that the box was too light to contain the promised shoes but when I opened it up to see that solid plastic brick we lovingly called the Game Boy I proceeded to lose my mind. It was single handedly the best gift my parents had ever gotten me. And one of the first games I got was Pokemon Red.

I picked out Squirtle, named it Hydro and was on my way! I bumbled my way through that whole game catching everything I could and teaching every TM I could find to my Blastoise, HMs too! By the end of the game my unbeatable monster knew Surf, Strength, Bubblebeam, and Water Gun because science! I didn't have any friends who played so I proceeded to reset and do it again! I lost thousands of hours and even more batteries to that game but never regretted it for a second!

Pokemon slowly began to fall to the background as I moved to a new school and started making new friends until I heard that a new version was in the works. Suddenly Pokemon was all I could think about again and I quickly grabbed Gold version and Placid the Totodile and was off on another adventure! Spiffy new graphics, more legendaries, berries abound! I was in Pokeheaven. One day I realized a friend of mine had gotten Silver version and stumbled onto a new aspect of the game… battling! We caught the coolest pokemon, slapped them onto a team and battled over and over although it usually came down to whoever used Mewtwo the best.

Eventually Ruby and Sapphire came out  and I was eager for a new challenge so I grabbed a Mudkip named Kipper and went on a brand new adventure. Unfortunately I had to move again and no one I knew played the games anymore so Pokemon became something to hide rather than to share so I quickly lost interest and missed out entirely on Fire Red and Leaf Green. I only found about those games years later after stumbling onto emulators for them.

Diamond and pearl came along next and for the first time I had a toss up on who to choose as my starter. Piplup was the obvious choice because of my love for water types but Turtwig and it's final form Torterra were such badasses. Eventually I went with Piplup because of my love of steel types and played through the game.

Things were quiet for a while as I went to college but eventually Heart Gold and Soul Silver came out. Finally a chance to relive what had been some of my best memories of the whole series. I picked up Heart Gold and started to flaunt my love of Pokemon instead of hiding it. I was beginning to become comfortable enough with myself that I wasn't scared of people picking on me for my nerdy hobbies. It was a small step but a necessary one. Because of this I started finding like minded people and realized that I wasn't the only fan out there.

Black version was next with White2 following shortly after. I grabbed up a Tepig both times. A giant wrestler boar with a beard made of FIRE? How could I not? I could finally play the game and share the experience with like minded people. I couldn't have been happier! I even stumbled onto my first Poketuber around that time, Shadypenguinn, and realized there was an entire community out there. Not only was I not alone I was part of a fandom!

And that's when it happened… Pokemon X and Y. The games were announced and it seemed like everything I could have ever wanted. I was grown enough that I could follow along with news and videos to see what I was looking forward to and it was the first time that I pre-ordered a game. Not just a Pokemon game, ANY game! I stood in line day one and sat in my local mall playing instead of going home. Pokemon Y blew my mind! They even had a Pokemon who was based on a knight. And what's that, is that a zombie tree? And over there, possessed swords? And there, Mega Kanto starters? Oh be still my beating heart.

My girlfriend couldn't understand my obsession but she was alright with it. She would just shake her head as I obsessed over these little creatures I was breeding and battling. Wait a minute… breeding? You can breed Pokemon for perfect stats? You mean I could take my team which I loved and make them better? An entire new world was opened up to me. The competitive battling scene was a terrifying place but I had years of practice under my belt and knew I'd do fine. Unfortunately, the rest of the world was happy to prove me wrong. But not only did that not discourage me, it actually made me happy! If I had been playing for all these years and could be easily defeated by the first stranger I'd met then that means there are other people who are even bigger fans than me. I began realizing that I could feel comfortable with my love of not just Pokemon, but anything I liked.

And now here we are as I sit with my copy of Omega Ruby running around with my Swampert, "Bruh!" having adventures as my girlfriend (who is now my fiancé) lovingly shakes her head at my exploits.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Kangaskhan vs Aegislash

Kangaskhan and Aegislash, a match made in Ubers heaven

Kangaskhan… that name has caused many a rage quit on the ranked leader boards over the past two years. When Gamefreak created a mega form for Kangaskhan they created a weapon of such mass destruction that it broke the very fabric of poke-reality!

…Ok maybe I'm exaggerating a little. What did happen though was that everyone began to use one of my favourite old school Pokemon. I was so excited. Kangaskhan had always been awesome to me and it was finally getting the respect it deserved. Then suddenly every team had a Mega Kangaskhan and every single one would start sweeping teams. I went from being so proud of that Pokemon to dreading the very sight of it. Oh look, that guy has a Kangaskhan, might as well quit now and save myself some time.

A similar thing happened with Aegislash. When they announced Aegislash I was stoked. Ghost Steel? My two favourite types put together? Plus it's a badass sword with a signature move that sounded awesome! The moment I got a copy of the game I googled where to find one and used it more than even my starter. I was so happy with the guy that I used him to fight my friend and proceeded to 6-0 her team. That's when I first stopped to think. This pokemon who I had been using for fun, was able to beat my friend's properly bred and trained team without trying. It was too strong and I started feeling guilty every time I used it. Eventually it was sentenced to storage and I never used it again.

I constantly struggle with the idea of being a Pokemon Hipster where I immediately start avoiding Pokemon who have become too popular. I've managed to control that impulse to the point where I only use Pokemon that I genuinely enjoy using although I still occasionally catch myself avoiding Pokemon like Charizard and Greninja who have almost become mascots of the game alongside Pikachu. Don't even get me started on that Smogon bird.

I feel that now the metagame has balanced to the point that I can successfully start breeding a Kangaskhan and Aegislash to make the dream team I always wanted without sweeping every single game I come across.

Prepare yourself Pokemon world, BigMomma and Durandal are coming your way soon!
I will high five the hell out of anyone who knows where those names come from.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The 9th gym leader

I had a dream…
It was a Pokemon dream…
In it there was a gym leader… Roy.

Roy was so excited that he had finally been promoted to gym leader. He had his team and followed his theme to the letter. He realized that his Pokemon weren't perfect and studied day and night learning the tricks of breeding and training to create unstoppable beasts. He wasn't some cruel monster though and his original team that had gotten him to this point were allowed to retire and stay with him. He practiced day and night with his improved team preparing for the day he would get his first challenger. They fought and fought until their weaknesses were found and eventually eliminated. They were so in sync that onlookers would swear that they could read each other's thoughts.

He dreamed of one day being the strongest gym leader and that the other 8 would pale in comparison to his strength… wait… other 8? Don't trainers only need 8 badges to get to the elite four?

Roy waited and trained but still no trainers entered his gym. Eventually he tired of the training and went to investigate what was the cause. Roy quickly found out that his amazing gym which he had worked so hard for had been placed just far enough that any trainer would already have eight badges and would immediately head to the elite four.

Without any challengers his gym would close, his trainers would leave, and he would never achieve his dream. But Roy was determined. He would not let his dreams die. He would be the greatest gym leader anyone had ever seen!