Another Reason to Shout Objection!

Playing Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies has shown me just how much I’d missed this series. Sure, I’d played Ace Attorney Investigations earlier this year but that game is a pale shadow of the real thing. It’s mostly a different beast altogether. It has been a long time since the last real Ace Attorney game. It is really good to have the series back. I hope there is more after this.

Dual Destinies has all the Ace Attorney stuff one would expect, diabolical criminals and crazy weird witnesses and an even more crazy weird legal system. There are five cases of increasing difficulty and complexity and this time you jump between three different lawyers. Apollo Justice is back, and thankfully so is Phoenix. New to this game is Athena Cykes, who can detect emotions and use that to get more out of testimony. The only thing it is lacking is a good sidekick, since the other lawyers tend to play that role. It works, but I liked Trucy and Maya.

The return of Phoenix to the courtroom is a big deal for me. I liked the last game; I liked Apollo and Trucy. However, I was never comfortable with how the game treated Phoenix. They broke him down as a part of someone else’s story instead of his own. Here, Phoenix is still not the main character. He takes a back seat to both Athena and Apollo. But he is allowed to play the thoughtful mentor and go about his own business when they are out on cases. The next game could easily use any of the three lawyers as its main character should they choose. Phoenix doesn’t need to be broke down so Apollo or Athena can rise up.

I don’t want to spoil the game, so I’ll just say that I liked all the cases and I liked that they fixed some problems. The biggest change is adding a to do list to the investigation portions, so you will always know where you need to go to advance the story. And the stories are largely good. If anything they are all too personal. All the cases have a personal tie for at least one of Wright Anything Agency team.

The only real downside is Athena. She gets better as the game goes along, but I didn’t initially like her as much as Phoenix or Apollo. A big part of that was how bad a lot of her dialogue is when pressing witnesses. She reacts like a sidekick, often arguing on tangents instead of sticking to the case. I know the other lawyers did that too, but I found Athena to be worse. She seemed to forget what she was doing. I also wasn’t too big a fan of Prosecutor Simon. There’s just not a lot to his character. I hope the next game a truly great adversary, on the level of Edgeworth or Godot. Also, I would be remiss to not mention that there are tons of spelling and grammatical errors. This is a big problem in a game that is 80% dialogue.

The biggest actual improvement in the game are the graphics. The new 3D models turned out fantastic and they animate really well. I was concerned because I didn’t think Professor Layton’s conversion to 3D worked out at all. The art for that game did not translate to 3D well at all. However, here it worked out perfectly. Things look just as crisp, but now there is a wider range of motion. They characters are even more expressive. The graphics are very good.

Dual Destinies is still largely the same game the rest of the series. It is a visual novel with some trappings of an adventure game. It lives or dies on the writing. Fortunately, typos aside, the writing is really good. The new characters aren’t the best, but that is made up for by not including a lot of the tired gang from the first three games. Still, I’d to have a Gumshoe or especially Maya appearance, but I’m glad they stuck with a mostly new crew. I don’t see this game changing the minds of anyone who didn’t like the series already, but it is a treat for fans and likely to draw some new fans. It is the best thing Capcom has done is some time.

Taking the Pokémon Gold

I get this urge when I play a new Pokémon game to play other Pokémon games. Sometimes, like with White, I don’t get around to it but usually I feel a desire to play older Pokémon games I haven’t played or haven’t played enough. While I make a decent effort at completing the Pokedex in Pokémon Y, I decided it’s finally time to play the one Generation of Pokémon I’ve never really played. So I started up the copy of Pokémon Heart Gold I bought a year or so ago.

The most important thing with Pokémon games for me is the experience of playing. While they all play largely the same, somehow I get vastly different things out of them. Nothing has matched my first encounter with Pokémon Red. I got into Pokémon early, using the money from my 13th birthday to buy a copy just a few weeks after it was released. I was already savvy to the whole RPG thing, having played Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger among others on my SNES, but seeing an ad for it running on the kiosk at Wal-Mart convinced me to splurge with my birthday money.

While not as complex as those SNES games, the first time through Pokémon Red was a revelation. There were no guides and no previous games to base my expectations. Each new area was a discovery. First there are just simple animal Pokémon, birds, rats and bugs. Then it gets to the more outré ones, poisonous rabbits and electric rodents and the like. I was hooked. My already well trained video games sense paid off. I just knew the useless fish Pokémon would turn out to be useful. I played that game forever and came as close to completing the Pokedex as a boy without a link cable could.

Then came Silver and Gold. I was excited. My brother and I pooled our money and bought a copy of Silver as soon as we could. Unfortunately, sharing a copy of Pokémon game worked out about as well as one would expect. Which is to say one player got left out. That player was me. I was annoyed, but I was getting too old for Pokémon. Or so I thought. I sat out Ruby and Sapphire. I never really considered buying it. I was too busy with “mature” PS1 RPGs to waste any time on that kiddy stuff. The same went for the remakes of Red and Blue. I was done with Pokémon. Sure, I’d spend hours playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but not Pokémon.

Then in college, my roommate bought a copy of both Diamond and Pearl. I thought he was stupid, so I took Pearl and starting playing it. And didn’t stop, not for almost 400 hours. Maybe it was just enough time had gone by, maybe I was just eager for an excuse not to do my homework. I also bought copies of Fire Red and Emerald, just to help me complete my Pokedex. So I played through those as well. Pearl was the only game since Red to really pull me in like that. I nearly completed the Pokedex again, coming up just short a few stragglers and a depressing number of event only legendary Pokémon. It also was the source of my proudest Pokémon memory, beating the Champion with a team a full 15 levels lower than hers.

But then I was out again, again skipping the Gold and Silver games, as well as the improved Platinum. I did hop right on Pokémon White and enjoyed it for the fresh experience of playing through a game with no guide and all new Pokémon to use. While Pearl was the culmination of three generations worth of cruft, White cleaned it all away for a fresh game. White 2 brought all that stuff back. Now Pokémon Y gave the whole thing a seismic shock.

High off that experience, I am finally jumping into HeartGold. I am two gyms in and … it’s Pokémon. It is a little slower than I’m used to, the leveling up a lot more difficult than Y, but still fun. It definitely has a much better selection of starters than Y did, that’s for sure. Cyndaquil and Totodile are both awesome through all three evolutions and Chikorita is okay. It will feel good to finally have played every generation of the series, but the main draw is to build up a stable of Pokémon to transfer into the Pokémon Bank and fill out my Y Pokedex.

2nd Quest: Wind Waker

Yes, I know I’m jumping around like crazy instead of beating these games in order, but I play what is available. I’ll get to Majora’s Mask and the Oracle games soon, but Wind Waker HD just came out and I was excited to play it again. So here it is.

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Wind Waker is an odd, contradictory game. More than most games in the series, it feels as though it were created with a specific vision. A vision somewhat different from the rest of the series. The original, A Link to the Past and Ocarina were all variations of the same on progressively more powerful hardware. Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask were very clearly side stories. Wind Waker has all the trappings of the main games: Zelda, Gannon and the fate of Hyrule in the balance, but the rest of the game is wildly different like the side games. It feels like a real evolution for the series. This feeling is helped by the divisive art style. This is the Zelda team changing the rules of what it means to be a Zelda game. At the same time, this game seems compromised on a fundamental level. There are spots where dungeons appear to be missing. The wide open seas feel lifeless and empty. It feels rushed, which is generally not the case with Nindendo’s “delay it until it is done” policy. Still, despite its occasional compromised bits, Wind Waker is far from mediocre.

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Calling the graphics divisive is giving the brainless naysayers too much credit. The graphics are terrific. They are timeless, as the HD rerelease really showcases. Sure, there are some touch-ups and new lighting, but it still looks excellent even after ten years. The squat, expressive Link is the series’ most memorable. Likewise for the tough, sea-faring Zelda and somewhat tragic Gannondorf. Despite its somewhat empty sea, the world feels more real and lived in that most. This is largely due to the colorful, expressive graphics. Sometimes the characters in a Zelda game are just freakishly weird. Like Twilight Princess. This may be my favorite version of Hyrule.

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Honestly, Wind Waker is my standard answer to what is my favorite Zelda game. I might actually like some others better, but I never felt like Wind Waker got the love it deserved. The response to Wind Waker HD has been overwhelmingly positive, though. It really warmed my heart. That is the reaction that the game deserves. It still feels fresh. A lot of that is because the reaction to this game caused Nintendo to overcorrect and hew too closely to the Ocarina model for the next games. Nintendo’s attempt to move the series beyond its initial trappings was rejected. On the negative side, it does suffer from a lack of dungeons. The first couple are a little basic, but the latter ones are really good. There just aren’t enough of them. There are two sets of two dungeons that really feel like they should be sets of three. Still, the last couple dungeons are really great. The HD version really sands down the original games rough edges. Speeding up the speed bump triforce hunt is greatly appreciated and the swift sail makes exploring a lot of fun instead of a somewhat tedious hassle.

Wind Waker hammers home that with one exception, the Zelda series is great all around. I love this game.

More Thor, Just the way I like it

The second helping of the Marvel Movie Universe this year is Thor 2: The Dark World. While it is not without its flaws, Thor 2 is a slick adventure that should sit in the upper echelon of Marvel films.

As with the first Thor, the science fantasy world of Asgard remains the film’s most enthralling feature. It manages to feel alien while the inhabitants feel real. At least the named ones, anyway. The combination of fantasy and science fiction allows the film to mash up notes from Lord of the Rings along with Star Wars, resulting in a unique mix of familiar elements. One minute it’s a large scale pseudo-medieval battle, the next a dogfight with fanciful space ships. All of it is fun.

Also like the first film, the best parts feature Thor and his Asgardian allies Sif and the Warriors Three. They don’t have near enough screen time, but there short time is when the movie is at its best. That and Loki, who always delights. However, the plot hinges on Thor pining for the human Jane Foster and Jane doing the same for Thor. When Jane’s search for Thor has her uncover a long hidden Asgardian weapon, the two lovers are reunited and then a great evil strikes. The rest of the Earth based characters are charming, but feel largely superfluous, as though their parts in the movie were created so they would have parts in the movie.

The biggest flaw in the movie is the villain, Malekith. He’s played by Christopher Eccleston, which should have made for a slam dunk bad guy. Even his Dr. Who had undercurrents of menace about him. But apparently deciding that they could only afford one antagonist with personality and they already had Loki, Malekith has almost zero characterization. He wants to return the world to darkness, because that’s what he wants to do. He is a non-presence.

The other thing working against this film is just how slick Marvel Studios has become at pumping out these superhero movies. They have been doing two a year for half a decade now, they have the formula down pat. But it makes it hard for the film to differentiate themselves. Anytime Thor 2 feels like a superhero movie, mostly anytime it is on Earth, there is a sense of déjà vu. The otherworldly Asgard is new and interesting, that is where the films strength is. The more is revolves around that the better it is. Fortunately, while it works hard for the connection to Earth, to keep Thor connected to the other movies, most of the action takes place in Asgard and Thor 2 is all the better for it.

One more thing that must be noted, while there is much praise in the Marvel movies for Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, Loki is by far the best character in the universe so far. His rage and bitterness held in check just barely by his charming façade makes for the best villain. As does his familial connection to the hero Thor. Thor might be able to defeat Loki easily in a fair fight, but Loki would never let a fair fight happen and Thor has no desire to fight him. Despite his claims to the contrary in the film, it is clear that what Thor desires is his brother back and that desire colors all of his interactions with Loki.

Thor 2: The Dark World is simply great fun. It hits that perfect balance between action and comedy that made movies like Indiana Jones and Iron Man so popular. It make the slightly stale Marvel superhero formula fresh again. And unlike some other of these connected movies, the ties to other movies are completely organic. Thor 2 is easily the best superhero movie of the year and the best such sequel since X-Men 2.

Been Playing Some Television Games

Time for another month’s worth of miscellaneous gaming thoughts. I played a lot of games in October and made some progress in clearing out my backlog. About the only thing I didn’t get to where the Halloween games I wanted to play, like RE: Revelations. To be fair, though, of the six games I beat, three only took a couple of hours and two of the others I was well into when the month began. October was a month for draining my gaming budget. Pokemon X/Y, Etrian Odyssey Untold and Ace Attorney all came out, and Zelda hit just before the end of September. Those three 3DS games are about the end of my gaming purchases for the year. I want the new Mario game and will likely buy it, but the new Zelda can wait. Maybe for Christmas, maybe until I start running out of 3DS games I’ve already purchased to play.

 

Ongoing

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages – I made very little progress on this last month, what with all the Pokemon and Ace Attorney I was playing. I hope to finish it in November

Ace Attorney 5 – I jumped on this as soon as it was available and through the first two cases I couldn’t be more pleased. It is great to have Phoenix Wright back.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 – I’ve barely gotten started with this, but it will be the console game getting the most of my time until Super Mario 3D World hits. Its … something.

Pokemon HeartGold – One Pokemon game wasn’t enough for me, I decided that I needed to finally beat the one set in the series I’ve never beaten.

Finished

Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble – Om paper this looks like it should have worked great, transplanting Viewtiful Joe’s stylish 2.5D brawler action to the DS. However, while everything seems to have made it pretty much intact, the whole thing feels lifeless. The level/encounter design is lacking and the touch controls require too precise motions to use effectively. Still, it’s not a bad game, just one that is no comparison to Viewtiful Joe 1 or 2.

Punch Out!! Wii – another game I’d started years ago and just now got around to finishing. It is amazing just how engrossing this game is, when it is essentially the NES game with a fresh coat of paint. It is different enough that a player can’t simply coast through on old knowledge, but it still familiar. I love the new look and the old gameplay. It is more Punch Out!!, which I’ve wanted for years. Thank you Nintendo for giving it to me.

Final Fight 3 – The Final Fight series is one that I’d missed out on back in the day. I played a lot of brawlers, Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, River City Ransom, etc., but I never encountered Final Fight. I filled that hole in my gaming knowledge with what was recommended to me as the best game in the series. I didn’t much care for it. It may have a deep combat system, but its pokey and cramped and relies too heavily on inflated lifebars for difficulty. Not for me.

Pokemon Y – For more indepth thoughts see my full post on this. I might get into competitive play. Someone kill me.

Lunar Silver Star Harmony – I love Lunar. The PS1 Lunar and its sequel are some of my favorite games. At is core, this PSP remake is the same game. I simply don’t like it as much. Every individual part of the game seems improved, but the whole is not better. It is as though the game were disassembled, each part fixed up and then put together again. However, one reassembled it doesn’t quite fit together right. It is improved, but not as good as it used to be. While this version may be less than the sum of its parts, it’s still Lunar. It’s just not the version I’ll put in when I want to replay the series.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker – I have a Second Quest on this coming soon, but that’s not really about the improvements. The swift sail changes the game significantly. Sailing is so much faster. I liked the game before and I like it even more now.

Upcoming

Super Mario 3D World – This hits near the end of the month and I am super excited about it.

Earthbound – I am determined to get to this soon.

The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask – I’ve got this on the VC and I need to get it beat for Second Quest.

 

Summer Movie Review

Near the start of the summer I made a big list of the movies I wanted to see over the summer. Then I didn’t end up going to see most of them. I didn’t consciously avoid the cinema, I just didn’t make time to go. So instead of having enough movies seen to make a real top 10 list, I can only remember seeing 8 movies. Assume anything else I saw would rank below these movies if just because I forgot seeing it. Honestly, with a few exceptions, I found most of the movies I saw this year flawed, if enjoyable. To the countdown

8: Star Trek: Into Darkness – I liked this quite a bit coming out of the theater, but the more I thought about it the less I liked it. It doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny. It also trades a little too hard on Wrath of Khan nostalgia. Still, I didn’t hate it.

7: Oz The Great and Powerful – I don’t know, I enjoyed it, but nearly forgot about it within a month. There were definitely some really nice visuals in this that much I do remember.

6: Man of Steel – It is still a flawed take on Superman, but I can’t help but enjoy it anyway. The moments where is gets things right makes me yearn for a whole movie that gets Superman.

5: Iron Man 3 – I’ve never like the Iron Man movies as much as everyone else seems to. This was a well-made superhero movie, but there isn’t anything here you haven’t seen before. Downey, Jr is still highly entertaining and the action is passable. But it is definitely one of the lesser Marvel Superhero movies.

4: GI Joe 2 – It is dumb as hell, but highly entertaining. Bruce Willis may have phoned in his performance, but The Rock was awesome as were the ninjas. I liked it more than I should have.

3: 42 – A really solid baseball drama. I really liked Harrison Ford in this, and really the whole movie was entertaining. Just a solidly good movie.

2: Pacific Rim – There is a significant gap between movies 2 and 3 on this list. Below this are okay movies, above are great movies. Pacific Rim is like nothing else seen in theaters this summer. It is original spectacle, something that is hard to find in this day and age. It is better than any giant robot movie should be. I loved everything about this movie. The fight scenes were great, so were the monsters and the robots. This movie, people. This movie.

1: The World’s End – This is pretty much a perfect horror comedy. I guess its horror, isn’t that where alien invasions generally fall? It is the perfect complement to the other two Cornetto movies, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. I’m not sure I like this better than Hot Fuzz, but it is close. It is great to see Pegg be the screw up for once, while Frost is the together one. I love all the little details in the background, like how the names of the pubs tell what is going to happen in them or how the character’s names tell their roles in the group. I wish I could watch it again right now.

I missed a several movies I wanted to see. Most importantly Monsters University. Excluding Cars 2, that was the first Pixar movie I’ve missed since Finding Nemo. Also, after seeing it on Tarantino’s Top 10, I wish I would have seen the Lone Ranger. I’ll see both of them eventually.

As for the rest of the year, I plan to see Thor 2 and Hobbit 2. I will absolutely see those two. I might see Ender’s Game and Anchoman 2. These are iffy. I am considering seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Frozen and 47 Ronin. These are unlikely.

If Thor and The Hobbit deliver as they should, this should still be a pretty good year for movies. Top heavy, but good.

What I Read October ‘13

I kicked reading’s butt this month. Coming back from a series of two or three book months, I finished seven in October. I don’t think I read more than I have been, I just finished some books that I had started in previous months and read some shorter books. Only one of the books I read this month were from series or authors that I had been reading this year. I hope I can keep it up through the end of the year.

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The Iron Wyrm Affair

Lilith Saintcrow

I picked this up sometime on my Kindle and arbitrarily decided to read it one weekend. It seemed like an interesting combination of fantasy, steampunk and mystery.

The setting is pretty great. It is an alternate reality Britain where all sorts of fantasy trappings are real, like some sort of steampunk Harry Potter. I did want to learn more about this world and how it works. That information is tightly guarded, presumably to keep up the mystery aspect of the story. That is all fine and good. Where this story fell apart was that it didn’t make me care at all about any of the characters. They had little chemistry with each other and they weren’t interesting on their own. That the killed the whole thing for me. I didn’t hate The Iron Wyrm Affair, but I’m not going to continue with this series.

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All Yesterdays

Darren Naish, C.M. Kosemen, John Conway

This is an examination of representations of dinosaurs and how the traditional looks might not be accurate. Not that all the depictions are wrong, but in merely pointing out that there are holes in the information we use to make those pictures. Plenty of common representations of those outsides of dinosaurs are educated guesswork. All Yesterdays points out where some of these guesses are and shows alternate possibilities. It also gives us different poses and angles from the usual depictions. It is really quite thought provoking.

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Sleeping Murder

Agatha Christie

Another Christie, this one much better than the last. This time, Ms Marple actually investigates and solves the mystery, instead of hiring someone else to investigate and showing up at the end with the answer despite having no evidence. There are still younger characters that do the bulk of the heavy lifting in the investigation, but Marple is involved and actually has the information to draw her conclusion

In this story, a young married woman buys a house and has flashbacks to seeing a murder in that house. She finds out that she lived there briefly as a child and that her Step-mother has been missing since about the same time. So she and her husband enlist Ms Marple to help them figure out just what happened. This story really shows why Christie is one of the giatns of the genre

The only strange part is Ms Marple’s thought that leaving the mystery unsolved is better; that they should let a sleeping murder lie. While she does have some legitimate concerns for the investigator’s safety, but that doesn’t seem to be the reason for her objection. It is not like things are worse from knowing. Still, it is just an odd note in an otherwise highly entertaining mystery.

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Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

Mark Kurlansky

This was a school book of my brother’s and I picked it up the other day and just read it. It is an interesting and sad look at the history of this fish. It starts out with how and why the fish was important to the history of the settlement of North America by Europeans. Then it moves to the sad ending of modernization and overfishing. Which is of course what we did.

All throughout the book and in a special section at the end are recipes on how to prepare cod. Many of these are historical, some are more modern. It is an odd but interesting addition. I wish I had the opportunity to try some of those recipes. It also sucked to get to the end and find out the book is 15 years old and ends with some questions about what would happen going forward. I’ll have to research and find out if the conservation efforts outlined at the end of this book worked.

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A Splendid Hazard

Harold McGrath

This is supposedly an adventure novel, one that ended up on my kindle after I read A Prisoner of Zenda last year. This is occasionally well written, there are some really enthralling passages. But there is no adventure. The hero’s sole bit of action is getting punched out by the villain. The villain, other than punch, only loosed a duel with minor characters at the end.

It is about a search for lost Napoleonic treasure and a possible Napoleon descendant. But they just find and map and go get the treasure, there is little conflict. The villain may have been planning to set himself as Napoleon’s heir, but he doesn’t. This is an adventure where no adventure happens. Still, I actually enjoyed it quite a lot. I would read another McGrath, though I hope more would happen in it.

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The Hanover Square Affair

Ashley Gardner

Another book that ended up on my kindle and sounded good enough.  This one turned out better than the one I started this post with.  This is mystery starring a former cavalry officer trying to find a missing girl.  This leads him to another mystery about a missing girl.

This is clearly a set up for a longer series, with characters introduced that do not have much of a role in this book, but have history and very obviously a future with the protagonist.  Still, Captain Lacey is a good character.  He is an honorable man in a world that is somewhat less honorable.  He sometimes comes off as rigid and maybe a touch self-righteous, but he is largely a sympathetic character.  His goodness strongly contrasts with how awful the criminals are.

The mystery unfolds nicely, but it is a little too obvious.  The answers are all there at the start, most of the investigation just obfuscates the obvious answers.  Still, it is a fine read even if I’m not rushing to get to the rest of the series.

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Maps and Legends

Michael Chabon

Every time I read something by Chabon, I am hit with two separate impulses. The first is to all my writing stuff and throw it away because I will never be able to write this good. The second is to stop whatever it is I’m doing and just start writing, because even if I can’t match Chabon I might be able to manage something worthwhile.

This is a collection of essays about genre fiction. Some examinations of specific books, some reflections on what they mean to Chabon. It is thoroughly enthralling. There is a lot of food for thought here, and the recommended reading section of the back is going in its entirety on my to read list. This also reminded me that I bought a bunch of Chabon when his stuff on a Kindle sale. I’m an going to be powering through that shortly.

Next month I hope to finally finish The Lies of Locke Lamora and I am reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Also, during a recent flooding of my basement, I found a beaten copy of Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven, so I will likely read that too.

Just When I Think I’m Out

The Pokemon series is often criticized for its glacial evolution. In many ways the newest versions of the game are just like Red and Blue were way back in the day. This criticism is misguided at best. While the basics remain the same, every generation brings plenty of new and different things to the series. Every generation of Pokemon is more different the average releases in series like Halo or Call of Duty. X and Y may bring the biggest changes the Pokemon series has seen yet. With Pokemon, they got the core right the first time, all the changes happen on the periphery. Until this game, the graphics have largely tried to stay true to the original games, echoing them in look. But while the look and rules of combat have remained the same, the stuff under the hood changes quite frequently.

Pokemon X/Y changes are numerous and surprisingly all quite good. First of all, they’ve added a new type for the first time since the second games. The new Fairy type is a needed change. It really helps balance the overly powerful Dragon type. Dragon being so powerful may have worked when Dragons and Dragon moves were exceedingly rare, they have proliferated and are some of the most powerful Pokemon. Now there is a surefire counter to them. Plus, it goes back and changes some old Pokemon to be Fairy type. Most of them really make sense, like Clefairy and Jigglypuff. There has also been some rebalancing to the type chart, but I’ve actually learned the type chart, so I’m not sure how that went exactly.

Another big change is to the presentation. The graphics are fully 3D now. And they look good. Pokemon Y is a genuinely good looking 3DS game. The Pokemon are no longer static sprites and animate in battle. Maybe the best part of the new graphics is the ability to customize the player character’s clothes. Being able to change anything other than gender of the player character is big change in and of itself. You can now play as a reasonable facsimile of yourself. Then there are the tighter integration of online features. No longer do you have to go to the Poke-Center to trade or battle, you can do it anywhere, anytime. It really helps make battling online easy. Plus, the new Wonder Trade feature, where you choose a Pokemon and trade is randomly with someone online is a lot of fun. It is a big step closer to the Pokemon MMO everyone always thinks they want. I’m not even going to go into Mega Evolutions, since I couldn’t care less about them.

Despite all these changes, Pokemon Y is still Pokemon. You still travel the country catching every new monster and fighting every other prospective master. You still collect gym badges and beat the Elite 4 and Champion. There is still and evil gang out to control or destroy the world. It is an addictive formula. Like I always do, I burned through the game as fast as possible. I fell in love with a handful of the new Pokemons, specifically Hawlucha and Pancham. It doesn’t have the draw of Pokemon White’s all new Pokedex for the main game, but it makes up for it with a staggeringly huge Pokedex. In fact, it is three Pokedexes taped together.

For Pokemon, the changes to X/Y are seismic. But I don’t think it is enough to convince people who don’t like the series. It’s still more Pokemon. The core is not going to change, not as long as the games still sell like crazy. And honestly, it doesn’t need drastic changes; it works as it is. Pokemon has always been really good, and it still is.