PS Vita the Impulse Buy of the Year

I don’t buy new electronic things often. When I do it usually takes me a month or so to research, weigh the options, look for deals, read the tea leaves, do a rain dance, that sort of thing. It’s a process, usually.

Two weeks ago I started looking into the PS Vita. Why, you may ask. Why would you want to buy a 5 year old handheld gaming device that was abandoned by Sony and has more games cancelled than a baseball team during hurricane season? The short answer is JRPGs. The long answer is, SO many JRPGs. It’s the first time that I’ve wanted a console not for upcoming games but for it’s backlog. While the Vita itself has a lot of games and more still coming out, it also boasts a huge collection of PSone games and PSP game. Not to mention it has all of the final fantasy’s from 1-10 in some form or another and I’ve never played any of them. But after playing Omega Quintet (it was $3 ok?) with Jay over the PS4’s share play, I’ve been reminded of how much I love JRPGs.

Vitas are surprisingly hard to find in good condition in my area and apparently in most of North America. Gamestop doesn’t sell them, the local game store down the street sells some that look like they’ve been chewed on by a family pet, come to think of it I don’t know when the last time was I even saw a Vita game for sale anywhere. I had to go to the mystical department store in the cloud known as Amazon to find the thing. Unless I wanted to import it from Japan with 3 week shipping that probably costs more than the device itself, I had two options. The first, a Certified Refurbished model (whatever that means) for $130 or for an extra $30 I could get a brand new  in the box one. New things are shinier and who doesn’t like shiny things right? Still they seem kind of expensive for a  5 year old piece of tech.

Now here’s the real kicker with the Vita, the memory card. Ah yes, I haven’t had to buy a memory card since I owned a Gamecube and honestly I forgot they existed. The new model comes with 1 gig of memory,  I haven’t seen a physical Vita game for sale in years so all of my games would be digital purchases. Here’s the kicker though, the Vita’s SD cards are proprietary so you have to buy Sony’s special snowflake of a memory card and these things aren’t cheap. A 16 gig card costs about $50 which is insane considering you can get a regular 32 gig SD card for around $15. No wonder no one wanted to buy this thing.

But I did. After only a week of researching and reading about it a few simple clicks and it was on it’s way from some warehouse in the middle of Pennsylvania. It was probably on a high shelf in the way back for a few years. I swear I saw dust fly when I opened the box.

I’ve always been a fan of handheld gaming. The first video game system I ever owned was a game boy advance and I took that thing every where. Consoles are great, and PCs are great but sometimes you just want to not stare at a giant screen in your living room and stare at a tiny screen in your hands. I have a 3ds,mostly bought for Monster Hunter and Pokemon. Other than that I haven’t had a lot of interest in its other titles, though thanks to the local library I’ve been exploring some. I had a PSP for a few years, and it was probably my favorite system of all time. Sadly I traded it in for the 3DS,  seemed like a good decision at the time.

I’ve had it for about a week now and I’m really glad I bought it. I picked up Final Fantasy Origins which includes Final Fantasy 1 & 2. I’m having a blast playing through the first one, there’s just something oddly addicting about it’s old school game play. The screen is nice and big and nothing looks too stretched out so far, which is one problem I have with the 3DSXL. Also it remote plays with the PS4 which I’m excited about. I’ve been testing a few different games and while the L2 and R2 triggers are usually mapped to the rear touch pad, most of my PS4 games play great on it. The other perk is I get even more out of my PS Plus subscription though this month and last month netted me 2 visual novels/ male dating sims…but what the hell it could be fun.

You know what plays surprisingly well via remote play? Final Fantasy 14. You would think the lag would be horrible considering its streaming video and inputs to and from an online game but it’s not that bad.When there is some input lag it’s not horrible and it rarely happens as long as I’m playing in my house. But for running some quests or completing the hunting log, it’s great and I can already tell it’s going to be awesome for crafting and gathering when I get back into that.  Of course, I won’t be running dungeons with the Vita, that seems inconsiderate to other people.

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A Bizarre Weekend with Pokemon Rumble World

 

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Before I went out of town this weekend I went down to my local library to see what kind of 3DS games they had. What I was really looking for was Fire Emblem: Birthright and for the past couple of weeks every time I visited the library it was there. But of course this time, when I actually wanted to play, it was checked out. Go figure.

So I instead opted for Pokemon Rumble World because it looked sort of interesting. I remember downloading it once out of curiosity, it’s a free to play title on the 3DS complete with micro transactions and mobile-esque timers. But i remember it being kind of fun, a super easy action RPG with Pokemon. Curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to know what the retail version was like. Ever since Pokemon Mystery Dungeon I’ve enjoyed the Pokemon spin-off games a little more than the main ones. Nevertheless, It was a really strange experience.

Like most mobile games it hooks you in with easy but fun gameplay. Your Pokemon has one or two moves and you go around beating up hordes of other Pokemon. THere are different balloons you can buy which are basically packs of Pokemon and dungeons that you can enter. They either drop some coins or a collectable version of themselves that you can then play as. There’s the same arbitrary power ranking like in Pokemon Go. associated with every Pokemon drop. At the end of the dungeon there’s a boss a bigger more powerful Pokemon that will either drop a lot of coins or a supped up Pokemon. the dungeons take between 2-3 minutes and afterwards the balloon goes on a timer to inflate. Of course you can always bypass that by using the premium currencey. There are also challenges you can do to get some diamonds and of course you can annoy your friends with requests to play to get more diamonds

The game gives you 3,000 Pokediamonds, the premium currency, and a diamond mine that you can use once a day to get 40 diamonds. This is actually pretty good considering it only takes one diamond to inflate a balloon and only a few diamonds for special upgrades like better Pokemon drops and faster Pokemon. At first the game seems kind of predatory. Some of the timers are 4 plus hours with the shortest ones being 20 minutes. But what I found most interesting is that even if you play the free version you can only ever buy 3,000 diamonds or whats included in the retail version. After which the game gives you a diamond mine same as the retail version and you can’t buy any more.

I’ve never heard of a pay cap on a free to play game, you would think that limiting the amount of money you can extract from each user wouldn’t be great for your bottom line. But it is great for the player especially when we are seeing more and more games who rely on the “whales” and the players with less financial self control to turn a profit. I’d like to see more of this kind of business model who knows maybe what’s good for the players can also be good for the companies as well.

It turns out Pokemon Rumble World was good for my 3 hour road trip. It’s a great time waster but the charm wears off after a couple of hours. It turns into the same repetitive, non challenging game play and collect-a-thon. Which is great for scratching a grinding itch if you have one. One thing is for sure, there are a lot of Pokemon. In my short time with the game i managed to collect 191 of them, that still leaves over 500 more to go.

 

Pokemon Go: From Mobile back to Handheld

Pokemon Go

In the month since Pokemon GO launched I’ve gone through a whole slew of emotions. At first I was super excited just like every one else. There were Pokemon that needed catching everywhere. It was fun to take pictures of Pokemon with the AR on and it was really cool to see where the closest Pokestops and Gyms were.

After the initial wonder wore off, I understood the basic rules of the game and how to progress. I ended up walking around my town and going places I had never been before. I also started to notice how many people were playing this particular game. People were out in droves near gyms and popular Pokestops  around the neighborhood capturing the creatures and chatting with each other.

Then came the hording. Flocks of pidgeys were captured and whole herds of evees were placed into my backpack. The alpha of the herd was fed the weaker members. Survival of the fittest at its finest. I made a career change from Pokemon trainer to Pokemon exterminator. Lately, I’ve been opening the game less and less. I feel like I’ve experienced everything it has to offer and I had a great time doing it.

Two years ago I bought Pokemon Alpha Sapphire on the day of its release. I never got the chance to play the original on the Gameboy Advance and I was all about seeing that generation of Pokemon in 3d. I put a couple of hours into the game before I set it down and never picked it back up again. I’m not sure why this was, I spent a good amount of time playing Y with a bunch of friends in college. However, as my interest decline in Go I had the urge to pick Alpha Sapphire back up again.

Here’s where I have to applaud Niantic and the Pokemon Company. They’ve created a game with enough features to stir up nostalgia but not enough to overshadow the fun of the handheld games. If anything it was the lack of some features that made me pick up my 3DS and sink sometime into Alpha Sapphire. I’m 4 badges in and still playing.  Now that I’ve gotten back into the 3DS game I’ve started to think I just might buy Sun or Moon in November. You got me back Pokemon and I never would have guessed it would be from a mobile game.