Countless times, my friends have jokingly asked, “Where’s Mario?” My name — Luigi — has unwittingly cursed me into a lifetime of jokes associated with Mario’s green-suited brother. Ironically, my favorite Nintendo franchise isn’t even remotely related to the Super Mario Brothers series. Since childhood, the prestige has always gone to the Pokémon franchise.
During my Game Boy days, I played through the classics of the Pokémon franchise. Sadly, that streak ended with Pokémon Emerald, immediately before the arrival of the first Nintendo DS. Since then, the franchise’s Generation 4 ushered in a period of silence.
Thankfully, Pokémon’s decline was halted by the arrival of the mobile game, Pokémon GO. The pioneering AR game brought back a wave of nostalgia. Despite the initial popularity, the game’s novelty was short-lived, failing to measure up with the classic games. Of course, the game wasn’t from Nintendo.
Now, Nintendo has finally taken over the franchise’s modern renaissance. Weeks ago, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! launched for the Nintendo Switch, promising a new world for the new generation. Besides ushering a generation, the nostalgic series revitalizes the old and creates a new ecosystem.
Right on the tin, both games advertise a return to Kanto, home of the first Pokémon. Pikachu and Eevee are remasters of the original Pokémon Yellow. In the original, Pikachu replaced the traditional trio of Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. Likewise, Pikachu and Eevee replaces the starter Pokémon based on the version you purchase.
Likewise, both games share the same story elements with Pokémon Yellow: Team Rocket’s antics, Lavender Town’s eerie story, Mewtwo’s appearance. Of course, because of the times, Nintendo updated some minor elements for a modern audience. For example, in-game television sets come with Nintendo Switch units. Characters talk about Alolan Pokémon, smartphone technology, and most importantly, Pokémon GO.
Cuter, cuddlier, livelier
After Pokémon GO’s initial wave of novelty, the franchise’s fans chided the game for depersonalizing their favorite creatures. In GO, Pokémon became collectibles, valuing quantity over quality. Completely contrasted to this, Pikachu and Eevee added a thick layer of personality to all 151 original Pokémon.
Mostly, this dynamic personality applies to your chosen partner, Pikachu or Eevee. Like Yellow, your partner Pokémon follows you around. However, instead of just a few pixelated frames, both have their own new sets of animations and moves. For example, Pikachu hangs out on your shoulder as you walk. Eevee perches atop your head. In combat, both have exclusive move sets. Eevee, for example, uses Veevee Volley, an extremely strong Normal move that activates only occasionally. Cutely, you can interact with both partners outside of combat, petting them or playing patty-cake using the Switch’s touchscreen.
Additionally, you can take a Pokémon out of its Poké Ball, acting as a secondary companion. Also, their animation depends on their build. Mew floats ahead of you. Kangaskhan carries you in its pouch. Charizard flies and carries you on its back. It creates a much more dynamic world compared to the original games.
Speaking of, wild Pokémon encounters are no longer completely random. Instead, you can see the wild Pokémon wandering around, letting you choose which to catch. Catching them is also different. Instead of going into combat, the games adapt the same system as Pokémon GO, using catch rings and berries.
Creating a Pokémon ecosystem
Along with the games, Nintendo also launched a new controller, the Poké Ball Plus, specifically made for the new Pokémon games. Unfortunately, the optional controller, shaped like a Poké Ball, is pricey, costing US$ 49.99 on its own. The bundle — the game plus the ball — costs US$ 99.99, reducing the price by 10 bucks. That said, why should you buy a Poké Ball Plus?
Firstly, the ball comes with a free Mew. Traditionally, this mythical Pokémon was obtainable only through Nintendo-exclusive events or hacks. The Ball finally provides an easily accessible way to obtain one of the franchise’s most elusive Pokémon.
Secondly, it creates a new experience for the franchise. While it has only two buttons, you can use the ball in a throwing motion to catch Pokémon. Instead of just pressing A, the new mechanic simulates the feeling of actually throwing a Poké Ball. It’s unique and strangely gratifying. Additionally, you can take a Pokémon (housed inside the Poké Ball) with you on your daily commute. As you walk, it gets experience, similar to GO’s buddy system.
Thirdly, the ball acts as a Pokémon GO Plus, connecting the Switch games with GO’s world. To those who still play GO, the Poké Ball is a welcome arsenal, especially in crowded cityscapes. Similarly, you can transfer Pokémon from GO to Switch, making it easier to fill a Pokédex.
Finally, the Poké Ball Plus is a clear indication of the Pokémon franchise’s future. Next year, Nintendo will launch a fresher addition to the franchise, marking the console’s first full-fledged Pokémon game. By then, the future game will fully integrate the Ball into its mechanics, making the controller a worthy investment.
With Pikachu and Eevee, the Pokémon franchise heralds a new generation for both old and beginning players. For old players, they create a refreshed wave of nostalgia. For beginning players, both games are a good start to the new generation.
Black Shark 2 launches with a pressure-sensitive screen
It sports 12GB of RAM!
Gaming smartphones occupy a strange position in the market. When the category started, it consisted mostly of devices with high-end hardware. The gaming aspect was just a nice addition supplemented by a few gaming-centric features. Sadly, the first gaming smartphones funneled into a premium niche.
Years after, the gaming smartphone evolved into a more versatile device. The category now sports several premium features. For example, Xiaomi has recently launched the Black Shark 2, a gaming smartphone that puts the premium on gaming.
The Black Shark 2 touts a Samsung-sourced 6.39-inch AMOLED screen, pumping out images at 2340 x 1080 resolution. Additionally, the display’s brightness goes up to 430 nits. Latency has also been reduced to 43.5ms. It has motion interpolation, optimizing the display for gaming purposes.
The screen also comes with new pressure-sensitive features. Users can map separate button functionalities for both left and right flanks, like how a game controller works. Both buttons trigger with additional pressure. It will also come with an under-screen fingerprint sensor.
Under the hood, the Black Shark 2 boasts a Snapdragon 855 chipset, Adreno 640 GPU, up to 12GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of internal storage. Liquid Cooling 3.0 will keep the phone in workable temperatures even during heavy gameplay sessions.
For photography, the smartphone carries a dual 48-megapixel + 12-megapixel AI rear camera combination and a 20-megapixel f/2.0 front-facing shooter. Speaking of front-facing, it also has two front-facing speakers, preventing any blockages during gameplay.
Complementing this heavy machinery, the Black Shark 2 will use a huge 4000mAh battery, with 27W fast charging capabilities.
The Black Shark 2 is already available in China. A lighter 6GB+128GB variant retails for CNY 3,200 (US$ 475). Meanwhile, the stronger 12GB+256GB variant retails for CNY 4,200 (US$ 625). It comes in either Shadow Black or Frozen Silver.
Ten university students arrested for playing PUBG in India
Because it’s too violent and distracting
Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.
That’s something ten university students didn’t adhere to when playing PUBG on their mobile phones, which led to their arrests. The incident happened last Wednesday in the state of Gujarat in India, where this specific game is banned.
The report by Channel News Asia says that they were released on bail with a warning shortly after. According to the account of one officer, the students were so “engrossed in playing” that they didn’t notice the police walking toward them.
PUBG was banned from being played a week ago after several authorities, as well as parents and educators, felt the game is too violent and distracting for the youth. A local minister went as far as calling it a “demon in every house.”
As of now, Gujarat is the only state that has outright banned the game in fear of it harming the development of children. Although similar titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends have been cited as being equally detrimental, only PUBG is part of the current ban.
However, to PUBG‘s credit (or rather discredit in this instance), it’s been around longer as a battle royale-style game and has been free to download on mobile devices since its launch.
There’s no word yet if other Indian states will follow suit. Outside of India, PUBG is still experiencing worldwide attention as part of several esports tournaments such as the Predator League.
New avenues open for aspiring esports athletes
Brands are going all in!
Competitive gaming has been around for quite a while now and in the Philippines, aspiring to be a professional gamer might not be too far fetched of a dream anymore.
Inspired by the PBA or Philippine Basketball Association, brands have come to together to form The Nationals — the first franchise-based esports league in Southeast Asia. The inaugural season will feature five teams and three games.
Here are the five teams:
- Bren Epro
- HF Emperors
- Cignal Ultra Warriors
- PLDT-Smart Omega
- Suha-XCTN Punisher
These five teams will compete in three games on three major platforms: Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on mobile, Dota 2 on PC, and Tekken 7 on PS4. A sixth team — STI — will join the league on June 2018 after the Dota 2 competitions.
Each game will have two conferences. The two conferences will comprise a double round-robin group stage and single-elimination playoffs. Winners of the two conference will then face off later on for the season finale.
The Nationals will be run like any other professional sports league. Commissioner Ren Vitug is hopeful the league will provide a platform where talent can be nurtured.
“The players will be provided with training and facilities, their health will be monitored, and they will have proper structure.”
– Ren Vitug, #TheNationals Commissioner #GadgetMatchLIVE pic.twitter.com/9ur2uImBtu
— Rodneil M. Quiteles (@rodneilquiteles) March 8, 2019
A tested league model in the Philippines
The franchise-based approach might be alien to international observers whose participants comprise of either clubs or city-based teams. However, it’s a tried and tested formula in the Philippines.
The PBA, which was founded in 1975 and is the longest-running professional basketball league in Asia, is also franchise-based and has been the model for other sports leagues in the country.
While that league is experiencing some issues in gate attendance, it is still running thanks in large part to the financial backing of its member franchises. It stands to reason that this league model might prove to be successful in the Philippines.
The Esports Center
Elsewhere, major Philippine telecommunications company Globe has launched The Esports Center or ESC. It’s a pop-up that will run from March 9 to 24 at Play Nation in UP Town Center, Quezon City. Globe says the ESC hopes to provide a venue where the entire esports community can come together.
The ESC also welcomes those who are into gaming and want to break into the esports industry but are not exactly sure where to start. Globe SVP and Head for Content Business Nikko Acosta says the ESC hopes to serve as the “venue to upgrade [the gamers’] knowledge and gauge their skill levels with others through peer learning.”
Present during the launch was Team Liyab — Globe’s own esports team which was built in partnership with professional gaming organization Mineski.
Other than mobile and PC arenas, the ESC will also have a place called The Studio. Here, those who are more interested in becoming streamers instead of esports athletes will have a place and the tools to learn more about the craft.
Brand support key in esports growth
Esports has seen a major rise in recent years and brands in the Philippines are going all in. The proclamation of overall support which include not only the athletes’ training and finances but also their emotional, mental, and physical well-being all sound very promising.
All of these are still in the infancy stages, but the prospect for growth and the continued support by brands and fans alike could push the industry to heights once reserved only for traditional athletes. If this continues, it might not be long before we’re having debates about who the G.O.A.T. esports athlete is.
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