Sunday, November 30, 2014

#0082: Pokemon Sapphire Version

Have you bought your copy of Omega Ruby or Alpha Sapphire yet? I sure have, and I've been playing that sucker to my heart's content. I can never decide which generation of Pokemon is my favourite, but the third is a strong contender. The locales of Hoenn are vivid and interesting, the story and enemies are probably the series' best, and so many huge mechanics were added that changed the metagame immensely. Now that I have the remake in my possession, I thought I might pass this classic on to a new owner. After all, I also own Ruby as well, and effectively triple dipping on this game felt redundant. Also, kind of delicious when phrased that way.

The moment you fired up Pokemon Sapphire Version, you knew you were living in the new generation. An enormous colour palette! Four Pokemon battling at once! A sombrero-wearing duck creature!! Holy hell, were we truly ready? Early in the game, you see a couple of Machoke moving furniture. This, to me, was simply exhilarating. In previous generations, non-battle sprites were just ambiguous fairies/monsters/flowers/puddles, whereas here, it's as it should be: a scary, artery-brandishing behemoth. You approach it meekly, staring at it in awe. 'Guaaaffaaaahhh!' it roars at you. Possibly because you stepped on its foot.

Soon, you meet your new neighbour and rival. if you chose the male character, your neighbour will be the girl, May. I like to call her Haruka, because that's her Japanese name and I think it suits her. If you chose the female protagonist, you'll get the boy, Brendan, next door. I like to call him Douche, because he's an absolute douche.

As the story progresses, you'll do battle with the nefarious Team Aqua, who plan to cover the planet in water. Consequently, on the sister game, your adversaries come in the form of Team Magma, who, as you could appreciate, intend to do the opposite. The other team will act as foils to these dastardly plans, though frankly, I always thought the Magmas had the more wicked intentions. I mean, seriously - Team Aqua floods the world, okay, we take a leaf from Kevin Costner's book, and become a society of pirates. Team Magma turns the whole world to arid, dry land? Fuck that shit. I've been living in the desert for seventeen years, and it's shithouse. You think you can handle it, you try spending one Christmas in the summer. You'll forsake Christianity real fast. And I still haven't seen a single Regirock out here.

Anyway, in memorium of... wait, memorium isn't a word? That's really awkward. It's like the time I pronounced the word vehemently as it's spelt. Well, whatever. In memory of Pokemon Sapphire, I thought I would share with you an excellent poem I have formulated (just now) on my favourite Pokemon from this generation.


His crest is red
His body blue
Should he strike
You'll have nothing to do
But fear not, old salt
For his name is Swellow
He shan't attack you
He's a friendly fellow

He flies with great speed
And exquisite grace
His talons are sharp
I like his face
He wins in battles
He wins at life
He won many contests
That won him a wife

Special attack is abysmal
Defenceless is he
Not a physical threat
And sub-par HP
But oh, is he fast
Just watch him go
He makes the swiftest
Appear sluggishly slow

Zip, zip, zip!
So agile and clever
He's an Aerial Ace
Who shall always Endeavour
So come watch the show
Fill the whole auditorium
We honour you, Swellow
At least in memorium

...The FUCK, Internet?!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Diancie, or: how I am still addicted to 'video game perfection'

Are you familiar with this sparkly little character, by any chance? It's called a Diancie, and it's the latest in a long line of special promotional Pokemon that are not normally available in-game. Ever since the first generation of the franchise, Nintendo have locked away at least one special little critter, and though the means of distribution have changed over the years, the gist is still the same: join in, or miss out.

Diancie is the first of three special Pokemon for the sixth generation of games, and in order to get it, you have to go into a participating retailer and grab a code. Redeem the code, collect your Diancie in-game, shove it in a PC box, and wiggle with giddiness that your perfect Pokedex streak remains intact. In Australia, the promotion is running from November 10th to the 27th. Once the date is over, the codes can no longer be redeemed. That's fine, obviously, because all of the previous promotional Pokemon were also only available for a limited time.

What makes things different, this time, is the code distribution method. As I alluded to, the way you've gotten these Pokemon has changed over the years. In prior games, you needed to simply connect to the Wi-Fi network of participating retailers, collect the Pokemon wirelessly, and knick off. There I was, the creepy guy sitting out in front of EB Games with a 3DS in his lap, hacking into their system to collect a Meloetta.

Obviously, the simplicity of this wireless method meant you never really realised the sheer scape of how popular Pokemon still is. Because you never interacted with anyone, and there was an unlimited supply on-hand. It was nothing like the old days, where I was standing in line at a shopping centre for hours - an eleven year old boy at the peak of Pokemon's hype - to collect my very own Mew during PokeTour 1999.

I didn't rush into retailers on November 10th, because obviously, I'm a mature adult in his mid-20s, and I had plenty of time. The previous giveaway this generation, of a shiny Gengar, was a smooth operation: get in, awkwardly ask for the imaginary ghost in the children's video game, and strut out.

On the 14th, I had a day off, so I decided I'd take the half hour walk to the nearest EB and snag my Diancie. It's free, after all, and I'm still a completionist at heart. For some reason, I felt the need to call in advance and ask about it. You know. Just in case. ..And they told me that they had run out.

Here's where the game has changed, you see - each of these codes they give away, is effectively one Diancie. There's no 'connect to the network and generate your own'. These codes are... actual... freaking... Diancies... And there weren't any left. I called the various EB's and JB Hi-Fi's in my local area, as well as the ones in the CBD. All of the nearby stores were completely out, and the major branches had gotten a second batch from a Nintendo representative a day ago... that had also run out.

And this is when I realised that there is something in me that I can't quite explain. To simplify it, I have an unhealthy addiction with perfection in video games. Sometimes, in a gameplay sense: In Super Mario 3D Land, your file progression is marked by stars. If you've finished the game without dying five times, those stars are shiny. I couldn't risk not having those shiny stars, so on every near-death, I quit the game before it was too late. I was playing Mario ultra-cautiously for menu aesthetics.

Sometimes, my addiction grows so frantic and ugly, like it did when I was trying desperately to find the Sonic Generations collector's edition, that I'm calling up every retailer, and visiting other ones physically to try and acquire the elusive item. Not because Sonic Generations was a hard game to get, but because I felt this sense of duty as a Sonic fan to get this particular, ultimate package. In the end, I gave in to my demons and paid some bastard on eBay $527.32 to get it. That's $362 more than its RRP. I paid half a grand to validate my fandom.

And here we sat again. My video game perfection causing a feeling of great unease. Because I've gotten every Pokemon up to this point, and if I miss out on Diancie, my whole collection is ruined. Every subsequent game will have a blank spot at #719 because I didn't get in quickly enough. How is this logical thinking, exactly?

I won't beat around the bush; through constant calling and prodding, I ascertained that the Nintendo rep made the rounds on Thursdays. I called JB Hi-Fi yesterday to see if they had gotten any in. The staff member asked me, in a rather serious tone, if I was going to be able to get there that day. I answered in the affirmative, and he said that was the only way I could get one, because they had only received a limited supply. I got in, I got my Diancie, I did a little dance(y?), and I had scratched that itch once again.

Obviously, it wasn't quite so bad this time, but how long will it be until I feel that urge again? It's debilitating, in the sense that it makes me make rash, stupid decisions. Frankly, if you put the word 'limited' or 'collector's' or 'exclusive' on anything I like, it will make me consider it. For example, I recently heard about the rush on the first wave of amiibos. And though they will get more in stock, I really wanted to be able to use one when I first play Smash Bros in December.

And so... Well, you'll see.


はじめまして、僕はフシギバナ様。 日本人よ。 僕は面白いけど親切だ。そうしてとてもハンサムだね。


...That was so hard to type on my phone. Never again. Say hello to Fushigibana, also known as Venusaur. I got drunk a few weeks ago and bought him online.

I don't know what to do with him now, but my god, is he pretty. Resisting the urge to make an unboxing post... Hnnnnnnnggggg.... ダメ。。。

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#0081: Mutagen Man

If you polled 100 people on their favourite Ninja Turtles character, the results would probably not surprise you. The Turtles themselves would command about 86% of the vote. The more edgy participants would say Shredder. True geniuses would answer Krang. One fucker would ruin the data by saying Keno.

Odds are, ain't nobody going with the Mutagen Man. Ain't nobody, and we even asked his mama.

However, Turtles was a marketing machine like few others, and because of the nature of the content, having a bevy of auxiliary characters you rarely saw on the cartoon made sense. Because a) it's a show about mutant animals. If you slap enough of a backstory on it, it's not hard to believe that an evil snake or a heroic moose might appear at some point. And b) despite our ignorance, the Ninja Turtles was more than just the 80's cartoon series. It was (and is) a comic first to many people, it just so happened that the cartoon was what made it explode. Then The Next Mutation happened, and everyone ran far far away.

But the Mutagen Man stands alone from the others a fair bit. Partly because he's hideous and smelly and nobody wants to stand too close to him, but mostly because he is just incredibly different from your typical Turtle toy. Originally mocked up as a design for Playmates, the Mutagen Man, formerly Seymour Gutz - yuk yuk - was a delivery boy who came upon some Mutagen that gave him a kind of Mortal Kombat Fatality, collapsing him into nothing but organs. If I were him, living in a world filled with badass ninja turtles and samurai rabbits, I would be mighty pissed off. Sadly, I suppose his fate was much more realistic for anyone messing around with toxic goo.

Seymour fashions himself a containment suit to hold all of his bits in, and off he goes! He's a hideous brain fellow that even Krang feels icky about. As you can see, his eyes and grey matter proudly peer out at you from within the suit. Originally filled with water, he also had a heart and other nondescript organs that would float within his casing. The water has long since dried up, so now they just rattle around like a particularly sinister castanet. I have a vague feeling that the top section opens up to give him a refill, but I'm really not that fazed about whether I ever see his spleen drifting about again.

In the cartoon, he possesses the ability to shapeshift, and the Turtles are able to give him a cure that allows him to take on any form he wants permanently. He decides on that of an attractive man, and that's the last we ever see of him. Sadly, the 'Sexy Seymour Gutz' action figure never saw the light of day, even when the toys had strange offshoots like beach Turtles, birthday party Turtles and Leonard Nimoy Turtles. Here's a funny hindsight for you: my parents never bitched once, not ONCE, about why it was I needed eight hundred different Raphael toys. It was like Malibu Stacy's new hat. I wanted it wanted it wanted it, though in all fairness, Raphael's new hats allowed him to do backflips, shoot pizzas and even talk. Those talking toys were fucking terrifying if you did it wrong.

But enough about that. Mutagen Man does none of these things. He initially came with various knick knacks that I have of course lost, including a hose and tank apparatus that plugged into his back that may actually be critical to his survival, a menacing gun of sunshine yellow, and some sort of... little hook things. I don't know what they were. They looked like thumb screws. The point is, now that I've Googled these images, I do vaguely recall seeing these things somewhere in the depths of the toy chest at some point, not realising that they were the property of Mr. Gutz.

But that is neither here nor there. I doubt some avid collector is going to see this unpackaged, mildly knicked up toy and scoff at its lack of accessories. Unless he actually intended to play with it, and simply can't get over the notion that the Mutagen Man has carelessly misplaced his gun and breathing apparatus somewhere, liable to be found by small children at risk of shooting people and breathing freely.

Of special mention is the rather gruesome little details this fun friend possesses. Excellently detailed exposed muscular tissue and a misshapen, warty layer of skin cover his arms and legs, and within his tank, bulging eyeballs and a tiny screaming little face reminiscent of a shrunken head. Honestly, he may be the second scariest figure in Turtles history, second to only the deranged Pizza Face. I suppose it depends on what makes your skin crawl more, an overweight, bedraggled chef with a pizza wheel for a foot, or Playmates' take on motherfucking Cain from Robocop 2.

If you told me the Mutagen Man was an international drug lord, I would totally believe you. Hell, if you told me Pizza Face was an international drug lord, I would totally believe you. New York, man... New York!
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