20 Years Later, The Pokemon series needs a Reboot

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Or at the very least, Ash Ketchum is long overdue to be aged up into adulthood. It’s at the point it’s no longer pheasable to overlook the fact hasn’t aged at all since the Pokemon TV series premiered in 1996 (1997 in the U.S.). His design has changed but he hasn’t actually aged despite the fact seven years have passed since he first became a Pokemon Trainer: He was 10 when his story began and spent a year in each region he visited so he’d be 17 now.

This is actually a bit unusual for an Anime series that has run for so long even though it’s marketed to kids: Naruto was marketed to kids, too but those same kids who grew up watching Naruto continued on when Naruto grew up as well in the followup series Naruto Shippuden. Same with Goku in Dragonball and Dragonball Z.

It’s become pretty clear with certain plot choices as of late The Pokemon Company is running out of ideas to keep the attention away from the fact Ash has never aged: A possible Ash x Serena pairing that until now was strictly fanon (just like Ash/Misty, Ash/May, Ash/Dawn and Ash/Iris) was teased in the epissode that aired two weeks back in Japan: In the episode, Ash gets sick and faints in Serena’s arms, causing her to blush. While Celmont and Bonnie leave to find medicine for Ash, Serene takes care of him. She even steps in for him when a Pikachu trainer comes looking to battle Ash. At the end of the episode the impression is made there might be some feelings of more than friendship between them. This episode had alot of people talking because of the implications for Ash and Serena. Of course, I digress: Unless it is revisited, it will have to be dismissed for now.

Anyway back to the main topic. The biggest thing is his age is never brought up and hasn’t since the first season. As for how they could do it now, it would be a two-step process. First, there’d be a movie involving a much older Ash meeting up with all the friends he met over the years reminiscing about all the stuff they did as kids.

For the series, it would be a two-part episode that would take place at the end of the Kalos League: Ash returns home feeling a little burnt out. Delia (his mother) tells him she has tickets for a trip around the world and would like him to go with her. Ash almost says yes but then declines, saying he’s gonna prepare for the next league.

That’s when Professor Oak, Gary and Tracey (remember HIM?) walk in and say they confirmed “everyone” will be able to make it in two days’ time. Ash asks what’s going on and Delia explains she got enough tickets for all of the friends Ash made on his travels over the years. Not only that, it sounds like all of them will be able to make it to Pallet Town so they can leave together. The only person who is unconfirmed is Ash. That’s when Gary drops one more bombshell: Brock and Misty are already in town.

Ash meets up with his longtime friends and they catch up on old times. Brock asks Ash if he’s excited about the trip they’re going on and he admits he’s still undecided. Misty tells him after all the hard work his mom, Professor Oak and even Gary put into getting everyone together, the least he should do is consider their feelings. Ash says he’ll announce his decision in the morning and heads home. Unable to sleep, Ash wakes up and goes outside to get some fresh air. While walking around he runs into Gary, who heard from Brock Ash hasn’t made up his mind yet. Gary’s annoyed given how much work went into their travel arrangements. He then challenges Ash to a Pokemon Battle. One Pokemon each. Ash is about to accept when he realizes he left all of his Pokemon at home. As luck would have it, Ash’s Charizard suddenly arrives from Johto. Part 1 ends here.

In Part 2, Gary sends out Blastoise and the battle is set. Ash’s Charizard has the upper hand due to its training and dominates Gary’s Blastoise despite the type disadvantage. That’s when Gary announces he has a trump card and Blastoise mega evolves. Charizard isn’t fazed at all. When Ash notices his Mega Bracelet reacting, he realizes why. Charizard then mega evolves into Mega Charizard Y and takes out Mega Blastoise, but just barely. Gary is impressed, saying Ash has drastically improved as a trainer.

The next morning, Ash announces he’ll go with everyone. The trip around the world takes longer than expected: It lasts 3 years. When he returns to Pallet Town, Ash is now 17 years old (he’s 14 when he left). While Ash was away, Jessie and James were summoned by Giovanni back to the Rocket HQ to undergo training for their new role: Capturing Legendary Pokemon. Thanks to the years they spent traveling the world chasing Ash, Team Rocket was able to pinpoint the locations of several Legendary Pokemon. The pair gain several new Pokemon due to their new training and for the first time, Jessie and James both have six Pokemon.

I would call the new series Pokemon Champions. Pokemon Battles took a backseat during Ash’s 3 years away. In the 2-part pilot episode, Jessie and James attack Professor Oak’s lab hoping to get intel on location of the Legendary Birds. Ash is at a disadvantage and gets floored as Jessie and James have vastly improved as trainers. Thanks to the timely arrival of his friends, Team Rocket is forced to retreat. Ash laments, saying he can’t believe his skills have rusted this much during the last three years to have lost to Jessie and James. Professor Oak tries to console him, saying it’s clear Team Rocket have simply improved as trainers during his absence. He then suggests if Ash feels like he needs to brush up on the basics, he should enter the Indigo League again.

Ash agrees, deciding to set off in a day or two for Viridian City. Ash asks Brock and Misty if they’d like to accompany him for old times’ sake and they both decline, saying they want to get themselves ready for their rematch with him at their respective gyms. Clemont says he wants to get back to Luminose City and check on the Gym. Bonnie tells her brother she wants to travel with Ash now that she’s old enough to become a Pokemon Trainer and have her own Pokemon. Clemont is a little surprised but agrees it will be a good experience for her. Max chimes in, saying he got his first Pokemon before they left and he’d like to travel with Ash, too. Ash agrees, asking if anyone else wanted to come. To everyone’s surprise, Gary Oak says he would like to go with Ash.

In Part 2 of the pilot, Gary explains he was reminded of something important when they battled 3 years ago. He was reminded that even though he had the advantage of having the #1 authority on all things Pokemon as his grandfather, it was nothing compared to the determination and commitment Ash had to keep trying no matter how many times he failed. This was part of the reason he decided to change professions to research: He knew Ash would one day achieve his dream of becoming a Pokemon Master. Now, he wants to be there to help him do it. Professor Oak is impressed given they were fierce rivals back in the day but feels it might also be helpful to have an expert travel with Ash to help Max and Bonnie. He then asks Ash, Bonne and Max to come to his lab the following morning.

The next day, Oak and Gary are there to give Bonnie and Max a Pokemon to start their adventures with. Bonnie picks Bulbasaur while Max Picks Charmander. Gary asks Ash if he’s going it alone with Pikachu as usual or if he’ll take other Pokemon. Ash decides to take 5 other Pokemon in addition to Pikachu: Totodile, Snivy, Bulbasaur, Oshawott and Quilava. They’re starter Pokemon spanning four regions and he’s decided to give a shot at evolving them. in Kanto. It already helps Bulbasaur can evolve at any time. Gary comments the Fushcia City Gym has a new leader and the Cinnabar Gym was moved to Seafoam Island after it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. When Ash asks about the Viridian City Gym, he says he forgot there’s a new leader of that Gym too but they will only battle someone who collected the other badges first.

…Whoops, looks like I let my imagination take over there. I’ll just convert my head canon into a Fanfic at some point. LOL XD

Anyways, Ash has certainly matured as a trainer especially since the Sinnoh League. The time to reboot the anime series is after the Kanto League.

Clannad: The “Holy Grail” of all Visual Novels. And I have drunk from it.

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Seven years, 10 months, 10 weeks and 10 Days to the moment I first watched the Anime on Netflix, I finally got my hands on the original medium where it all began, the Visual Novel in December.

For those who don’t know, a visual novel is basically an interactive audio/visual story. They’ve been around in the U.S. for about 30 years–The Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney games are a textbook example. You simply pick from a series of choices to move the story along. In short, Visual Novels have little to no actual gameplay.

The one thing I noticed about Clannad’s Visual Novel (henceforth VN for short) compared to the Anime version is the VN has more sexual innuendos and is a bit more lewd compared to the Anime. It’s definitelty not as approachable compared to its Anime counterpart for what a western audience might be used to. I also noticed that obviously, scenes that are trunicated or done differently in the Anime version you see more of in the VN. More on this in a bit.

As of this week I have seen the endings for Koumura, Miyazawa, Nagisa, Fuko, Kyou, Kotomi, Ryou, Mei and Sunohara. Like the Anime, those last two are together. If not for the Anime version, I doubt I would have known how to get Fuko, Kotomi and Miyazawa’s routes: You can easily miss all of them early on. Unlike the Anime version, Nagisa is not there for all of the routes: Like their episode on the Anime, she is not present for The Twins’ Route (which locks into one or the other based on certain choices).

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Speaking of the twins: It took me two days to correctly get Kyou’s ending. Although I had the Anime episode as a reference, there was a choice that wasn’t referenced in the Anime that ended up playing a huge role in determining if you got Kyou’s ending or not: A necklace. Buy the first one, Amethyst (Ryou wanted the second one, Tanzite) and accept Kyou’s offer to kiss her.  You should also choose to jump out when you see a certain kissing scene about to happen. Those should lock you into Kyou’s ending. For Ryou’s, pick the Tanzite necklace and turn down Kyou’s offer to kiss her.

You definitely need to befriend Nagisa to get locked into Kotomi, Misae and Fuko’s Routes. Be careful, though: Nagisa is the canon pairing after all. I got Fuko’s ending by agreeing to help her but declining to move into her house while picking all of the Fuko interactions. For Kotomi, you need to avoid meeting Fuko at all and see Kotomi’s first 3 interactions. Upon seeing the third one, you will be on her Route.

I’m struggling a bit more than I expected in getting Misae and Tomoyo’s Routes. In the case of Tomoyo’s I kept ending up going for someone else’s route instead. With Misae’s, I’m trying to figure out how far into Tomoyo and Nagisa’s choices I should go to get Misae’s route as well. I figure Miase’s is similar to Kotomi’s: You could still not get the ending if you don’t pick the right choices along the way.

…According to the credits, The After Story Route IS in the game. Presumably you will need to have seen everyone’s endings first. It is also worth mentioning in the Manga adaptation, the storyline follows the VN’s version of Nagisa’s Route, not the anime version’s. It goes without saying I rate the VN a 10/10. If you loved the anime, you owe it to yourself to play the Visual Novel where it all began. It will give you a deeper appreciation for the cast as well.

Note that the Steam version is $50 but if you consider yourself a fan, it’s well worth the price tag plus you can download it on multiple computers of course. The audio is Japanese while the text is in English. When I did my Clannad panel this year, a lucky member of the audience got to try the VN during the panel. For just about everyone in the audience who watched, it was their first time seeing the VN at all =O

 

6 Anime made video games worth trying

There have been alot of video games based on Anime–not to be confused with Anime-ish video games like Tales of Symphonia and Persona 4–but until about15 years ago, they were rarely released outside Japan. The last decade has seen a Naruto game released every few years in particular, many of which I’ve played.

These are 6 games released on consoles I’ve personally played, still own and highly reccommend playing, counting down from 6:

 

6. Bleach: Dark Souls (Nintendo DS)

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…One thing Bleach had a knack for was timing when it did filler arcs. Dark Souls is no different. The game’s story mode is set right after the end of the Soul Society Arc (when Ichigo first visits the Soul Society to rescue Rukia) and follows a non-canon storyline involving Mod Souls. The game is dual audio English and Japanese. Everyone has all of their moves from the anime including Gin and Tossen, who are unlockable characters along with Aizen–not the Aizen reintroduced much later, mind you–and yes, their Bankai if theirs was introduced before. I believe the only ones who don’t have their Bankai in Dark Souls are Aizen’s (which hadn’t been revealed at the time) and Rukia’s (same as Aizen though in addition, Rukia was still recovering from the injuries she sustained at the end of the Soul Society Arc).

The game’s very difficult to find in a Gamestop. There is an mobile version of the game but from what I’ve seen, it’s definitely not the same game.

 

5. Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment (PS Vita)

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The smash hit Anime series got two video game spinoffs on the PS Vita (so far): Hollow Fragment and Lost Song, both of which I own. I haven’t played Lost Song yet (gasp!) because I am playing other things at the moment. Hollow Fragment, on the other hand is digital only in North America. Unlike Dark Souls, Hollow Fragment’s story takes place during an existing point in the anime. It is a non-canon storyline that takes place towards the end of the first half of Season 1. It’s an action RPG. Unlike your typical RPG though, you don’t start the game at level 1. Your level and that of your recruitable partners is much higher to fit the story’s narrative, which is just before the Aincrad arc ends.

Sinon, who is introduced in Season 2 of the anime is a playable character in this game. The obvious problem from a lore standpoint is she never was in Aincrad in the canon. The game kinda gets away with this given she is introduced in the game before she is introduced in the Anime: The anime premiered in Japan almost a year after Hollow Fragment was released in Japan. I watched it on Crunchyroll so I can say that. If you want to buy this game, it is digital only.

4. Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3

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I bought the game a few months ago and was pleasantly surprised when I saw that unlike the previous two games, the game’s story mode is a a full retelling of the a portion of the canon storyline. The story begins during the Hidden Lead Village’s reconstruction after it is destroyed by Pain and ends with Kurama accepting Naruto, helping him fight Tobi. The secondary storyline introduces North American fans to Naruto’s father and the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze as well as his mother Kushina Uzumaki. The game was released during the filler episodes that aired before Naruto meets his mother in the Anime.

There are button prompts that pop up during pivotal fights in the game. Mess up and you take damage before retrying. There is also additional dialogue during the dialogue not shown in the Anime. Mostly because the game isn’t restricted in terms of how much content per episode they can put in the game. The game was released on the PS3 and well as the Xbox 360. The 4th game, Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 was released on the PS4 and Xbox One earlier this year.

 

3. Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains (Nintendo 3DS)

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….Believe it or not, someone actually LOVED this game.

Folks are trying to pretend the game never existed even though the upcoming PS3 port is the exact same thing. The hate comes from the lack of gore in the 3DS game. No, seriously. It’s a SOLID game and stays true to the anime in terms of mechanics. The game’s Story Mode spans the entire anime series. You play as Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Sasha and Levi. The meat of the game is the more open-ended Mission Mode: You create your own character and start your own legend as a member of the Survey Corps =D

Humanity in Chains also contains video clips from the anime (Japanese audio with English subtitles) as well as yes, the Opening we all know and love–how can you NOT love that on a portable game? The game is digital only, sells for $30 and is worth the price tag in my book if you call yourself a fan of Attack on Titan.

2. Dragonball: Xenoverse

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Hailed by diehard DBZ fans as one of, if not best Dragonball Z game released since the Budokai games, Xenoverse mixes the done to death retelling of DBZ’s Sagas and custom characters to make a game with near-endless replay value. The game breaks the 4th wall a bit as you can chose to play as a Human, Saiyan, Namekian, Frieza-race or Buu-race character. The lore for those last two I just mentioned are being made in the spinoff anime series Dragonball Z Super, which began with the movie Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods. Anyways, Trunks summons you to join the Time Patrol, an interdimensional fighting force that is tasked with fixing abnormalities with the time-space continum. Someone is intenionally screwing with iconic battles in DBZ’s lore. Trunks can’t intervene himself (being Vegeta’s son and all) so he asked Shenron to bring you in to do the job in his place.

…The game is MASSIVE. That’s how it is.  I bought the game digital on the PS3 but it was also released on the Xbox 360. The crazy thing more mind-blowing over this being #2 is two games tied for first =O

1. Dragonball Z: Legacy of Goku II/Dragonball Z: Buu’s Fury (Game Boy Advance)

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…Surprised, I take it? So was I the first time I played Legacy of Goku II: It was a faithful retelling of the Androids Saga and the Cell Saga. Watching DBZ Kai the last few weeks reminded me of this fact. There is even a secret boss: Cooler. In addition, Hercule is an unlockable playable character in the late game. Buu’s Fury picks it up from there, spanning The Underworld Tournament to The Buu Saga. The secret boss is Broly in that game. Both games are action RPGs. Oh and yes, you can go Super Saiyan (or Super Namekian in the case of Piccolo in Legacy of Goku II) at will. You can also do fusions in Buu’s Fury, all at will. The games allow fans to relive their favorite battles or those new to DBZ to enjoy the story at a slower pace.

Both games were released halfway through the Game Boy Advance’s lifespan. If you want to find it, Amazon is the place to go since it was never ported or re-released on newer consoles. I first played both games when they were current so…yeah.

 

…Well there you have it. There may not be a whole lot of Anime that made the jump to video games but of the ones that do, few of them are as well received as half the ones on this list. This is just my list of personal faves. There actually IS another Anime I have in mind that was originally a visual novel. I found the review I wrote for it and realized I never posted it. That oversight will be correctly shortly.