Tag: Rome

My thoughts on the June 5, 2019 Pokémon Direct

My thoughts on the June 5, 2019 Pokémon Direct

Is there anything better than waking up to Pokémon trending all over Twitter?

Especially when the series is trending because of some brand new Sword and Shield information dropped in this morning’s Pokémon Direct!

There’s a bunch to talk about, good and possibly not-as-good, so let’s jump right into what stands out the most.


The Galar Region and the Wild Area

Over the years, I’ve learned that my favorite thing about Pokémon is the world each region helps to create. A world that’s similar to ours but flourishing with fantastical elements on account of the creatures roaming through it.

Unova, Kalos and Alola made this especially apparent as Game Freak experimented with landmarks and traditions from places outside of Japan to great effect.

For all its faults, I have to commend Alola for its Hawaii/pacific island setting. Gen 7’s theme song was a perfect tone setter.

The theme song for the UK-based Galar Region heard in this and the last Direct is a bit more generic, but aesthetically the world looks like series of a watercolor paintings on the graphically superior Nintendo Switch.

The trainer models also look far better than the flat-faced happy trainers in Alola, and fist bumping Scorbunny helped me settle on my starter.

Hands down the best thing we learned about the Galar Region today is the existence of the “Wild Area.”

The Wild Area is ostensively a Breath of the Wild-esque open world that connects towns with free-roaming movement and camera controls. It also has overworld wild Pokémon like Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee who change via environment and time of day.

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Image courtesy of serebii.net

Also it has local multiplayer roaming elements. Need I say more?

Luckily Galar’s human inhabitants don’t seem too bad either.

 

Images courtesy of Serebii.net

Professor Magnolia is an obvious Queen Elizabeth reference and the first female Professor since Juniper, while her Granddaughter Sonia…

Already has a lot of smut drawn of her.

Because she’s really cute and that’s how the internet does.

 

Images courtesy of Serebii.net

Meanwhile Hop is our generic rival/friend-type who has a name eerily similar to both Hau and Hugh… Because Game Freak loves rivals with ‘H’ names apparently.

His older brother is Leon, the region champion and person Hop wants to defeat.

Personally I think the gameplay themes of Pokémon could have been utilized better if Leon was your character’s brother that you aspire to beat. But early revealing a beloved, undefeated champion with links to other major characters possibly sets up a fun secret villain twist.

Or maybe he’ll be Henry VII like I said earlier:


New Pokémon

That’s enough about boring people. In today’s Direct we got to meet new Pokémon.

Glossifleur and Eldegoss

 

Images courtesy of serebii.net

The signature line of Galar’s gym leader Milo, Glossifleur and Eldegoss are cute in their own right.

I’m not enamored with them necessarily, but the fact that they have Regenerator as an ability means we can probably expect to see a little meta action out of them if their stats are decent.

Wooloo

wooloo
Image courtesy of serebii.net

He’s a fluffy sheep and he rolls around like Sonic.

Not sure I need to say anything else about this beloved Normal-type.

Corviknight

corviknight
Image courtesy of serebii.net

Corviknight is easily the big winner of today’s Direct.

This super rad armored raven is a killer Steel/Flying-type that puts Skarmory to shame and has the hilarious role of being intertown fast travel.

I’d let this boy caw in my face and fly me to a new place in a heartbeat.

Drednaw

drednaw
Image courtesy of serebii.net

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of Drednaw.

It’s typing and abilities are decent, but something about the design is a little too… Rough around the edges for me.

Four out of five ain’t bad.

All of the new and returning Pokémon will interact with the world, either free in the Wild Area or playing hopscotch with NPCs like we see a Wynaut in the trailer.

I can’t emphasize how much I love that aspect of these games.

However, there are two Pokémon that astute viewers will notice I’ve missed. Unfortunately they comprise the first negative thing I have to say.


The Legendaries

 

Images courtesy of serebii.net

Meet Zacian and Zamazenta, the Legendary Pokémon of Galar.

Zacian is a good boy who runs around with a sword in his mouth and I love him.

Zamazenta is literally the exact same Pokémon but carrying a different weapon.

Whose decision was it to make the Legendary Pokémon so similar? I could see there being lore about the same Pokémon with different held items, but Cosmog kind of just did that idea. And Solgaleo/Lunala at least weren’t a bland duo.

Maybe they would have worked in a Rome-themed Region playing off of Romulus and Remus. But as it stands I’m ambivalent at best.


Dynamax

Pokémon changes mechanics frequently to keep things fresh.

Up to Gen 4’s physical/special move split, most of those changes were integral to underlying battle mechanisms that evolved the games.

Mega Evolution in Gen 6 was arguably the first “spectacle” battle mechanic — if you don’t count Chatot in Gen 4 or the sometimes still relevant Triple Battles.

Megas were a selling point by all accounts, something unique to Kalos. But it was a tastefully handled gimmick that gave old favorites new potential and meshed well with series’ themes of bonding with Pokémon. It remains popular.

Much less tastefully handled was Gen 7’s Z-Moves that provided a once-per-battle super attack which was only interesting when tied to a handful of unique Pokémon.

They were situational and not nearly as well conceived.

Now we have Dynamaxing: A similar limited-per-battle gimmick that turns Pokémon giant and essentially gives them a full set of Z-Moves for three turns.

maxraidbattles
Image courtesy of serebii.net

I like some aspects of the Dynamax system, but overall I believe it could do more harm than good.

In the Wild Area, local co-op allows trainers to take on Dynamax Pokémon together.

This is cool, but I hope co-op isn’t limited to it. The main selling point of Dynamax Raids is encountering Pokémon you can’t find otherwise, but you’ll need a little more to impress a 22-year-old Pokémon scholar who already owns every creature.

They also appear to be giving every gym leader the ability to Dynamax, and I love the idea of making tougher challenges with unique mechanics. Like how Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire used Mega Evolution in its Pokémon League.

But Kaiju Pokémon are more restrictive than Megas design-wise.

Every gym in Galar will be a soccer stadium with an open ceiling for these Dynamax transformations. The developers use this to emphasize an idea of battling as spectator sport in Galar, but uniform gyms remove the uniqueness of a palace designed by its inhabitants from earlier games.

Part of why I love Black and White 2 is because every gym was unique down to the remix of the same theme for each building. That was awesome, and we might lose that uniqueness because of Dynamaxing.


And that, ladies and mentlegen, is today’s Sword and Shield info dump.

I might not be super impressed with Dynamax or the game’s Legendaries, but I’m still incredible stoked for new Pokémon games.

And I’m stoked to talk about about the build-up to them!

This post didn’t even touch on enhancements to Sun and Moon’s RotomDex, or my fan theory that the train system in Galar looks incredible similar to the unused train station of Couriway Town in Kalos.

Let me know all your thoughts about Pokémon Sword and Shield somewhere on the Internet, because lord knows I’ll be thinking of nothing else for the next week!

The magic of maps

The magic of maps

A good, old-fashioned map can add a whole lot of character to a place.

Sure, the colorful country-accurate map of the Earth on a globe is an impressive sight especially fully animated online:

But that view of the planet is a bit too modernist and clinical for my tastes.

I’m more of a fan of classic, stylized pieces such as the 1643 depiction of Europe by Dutch mapmaker Cornelis Danckaerts that I used for my Featured Image. It’s just the sort of rugged, swarthy style you’d expect to see in some kind of fantasy novel.

Replace that boat off the port of Spain with some kind of serpentine sea creature and it may as well be the map of a fantasy world. Like something you’d expect to see from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

Speaking of, did you know that there’s an interactive Middle-Earth map available online? It is full of complex names and points of time for different important events.

That’s the kind of stuff I love.

As I’ve made more progress in my Senior Honors Project novel, I’ve found it necessary to start keeping track of all the locations I’m name dropping to give the world a little more history and life.

To remember places I might want to bring up later and also lay everything out on a more cohesive latitude and longitude for when I explain travel across the content — as my book will include plenty of travel.

During class yesterday, I started to draw out a rudimentary sketch of my world map on a sheet of paper:

IMG_2123
Results not final.

I used to draw things like this all the time, inspired by the maps I’ve seen in the front of books like Lord of the Rings and Eragon.

But never before have I put one together that might actually be useful.

So it was serendipity that, while sitting in my Honors 400B class last night, my friend Mimi noticed my drawing and offered to point out some free campaign map making software she knew about for Dungeons and Dragons.

How was I supposed to say no to that?

Of the software I got pointed to, my favorite was a website called HexTML, which as the name implies lets you create a world of your own using hexagonal signifiers like the board game Settlers of Catan.

Many hours were spent last night screwing around to translate that hand-drawn map into something that could reasonably be shown off to the world.

It’s still open to adjustments down the line and I’d like to put names on all of the areas and towns through the site, but for now I’m really proud of where I’d gotten:

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 9.36.45 PM
The left side.

While the continent proper does not yet have a name, but a lot of the structures within it do.

The town on the lower left is Fehrn, where my main characters live.

The singular structures around Fehrn are ruins of the old western empire that have been used as treasure hunting locales. To the north, that black cavern, is an underground chamber where my story begins — just below the Redbark Woods.

To the lower right is the Gnarled Forest, a large mesh of roots, branches and bark that was nigh impenetrable for eons. The old elven tribe was able to thrive there before being attacked.

Just above that in the mountain range hides a small structure signifying the capital of the Sparrine Empire. The Sparrine being the bird people who are basically France, taking over the region under bird Napoleon. Talked about that recently.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 9.36.19 PM
The right side.

Moving onto the other side of the map, a few new main areas stand out.

Hidden in another mountain to the right of the Sparrine empire is the Prophet’s Sanctuary, where my main characters must travel.

Below it is a yet unnamed lake with an equally unnamed port town to its right side where the player character of my story’s game world will have to take on bird Napoleon in a thinly veiled allegory to the Battle of Waterloo.

Spoilers, I guess. If you know historical stuff.

The walled city to the right of that lake is the capital of the Bresegon Empire, where the lordly prince character hails from. Just above it is the ruins of an older nation’s capital.

Essentially the ruins of Rome beside the now prospering Byzantine Empire.

All of those ruins to the leftmost side of the region being the desolate remains of the Holy Roman Empire’s holdings.

Those are some of my world’s major locations, as far as I’ve planned things out up to this point. With all of the plot beats generally worked out for my story, I’m especially excited to start using a bunch of them now that I have a spatial awareness of how everything fits together.

Hope you’re interested in seeing some more cool little behind-the-scenes details on my writing like this from here on out.

Now that I’m getting into the book, I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to share.


Featured Image courtesy of Cornelis Danckerts via Wikimedia Commons

Old Fort MacArthur Days: A day of fun, sun and guns for the whole family

Old Fort MacArthur Days: A day of fun, sun and guns for the whole family

Who are these beauties you see above the title here? Why, that’s me and my little sister Alyson, dressed in 1940’s era attire. Both of us outside, at that. What could possibly bring us outside the comfort of our home on such a wonderful afternoon?

Plenty of things, actually. It was a really nice afternoon.

But in this case specifically, we were out and about with my good friend Sam at Old Fort MacArthur Days. Held at its namesake, Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, and spilling into the nearby Korean Friendship Bell, Old Fort MacArthur Days is an annual event where tons of people gather for a weekend to put on their finest displays of historically accurate military and era-specific gear so they can reenact events and educate the public.

Those are essentially the two major selling points of the experience. It’s huge in scale with tons of antiques and goods to sell, and each group has people manning the station that are veritable experts in the field they represent. You can stand around and ask the people in dress anything about the time period they’re dressed for and they’ll more than likely have the answer – and then some.

It’s a hard experience to explain for those who haven’t been, but my family has been going on and off for a long time now, as it’s definitely worth going as much as possible.

One thing the event suffered from this year was a blazing hot sun. For as entertaining as everything was, it was torture standing out in the open for the reenactments and listening to the representatives of the different eras. I can’t imagine what it must have been like standing around in heavy armor or old fashioned dresses and such.

Even without bulky clothing, I still managed to burn the hell out of myself out there. You can even tell in the featured image here, the back of my neck is red as it gets. As a result, I’ve been pretty exhausted and uncomfortable most of the afternoon, which is partially why it took until almost midnight to get something out about an event that ended at 4:00 p.m.

Because I’m still exhausted and also fairly lazy, I’m going to take the easy way out on this one and post a slideshow with all the cool pictures I got of all the booths so everyone can get something of an idea of what the event is like.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you like the kind of stuff you see here, I can assure you it’s an even better experience in person. Seriously, I wholeheartedly can’t recommend Old Fort MacArthur Days enough, and implore whoever can go to go next year.

If not for the scale and the educational value, at least for the glorious anachronisms.

Ben Franklin hanging out with Teddy Roosevelt? It’s there. Revolutionary soldiers calling for the death of a fallen gladiator? Got that. Roman children checking out World War II rifles as women in puffy colonial-era dress wander in the background? You know it.

Undoubtedly incredible.



I wanted to add an aside here at the end saying that I also have some pretty great videos showcasing some of the weapon demonstrations, a gladiator fight, the Civil War battle and a cowboy skit.

However, I haven’t been able to get it in a format where I can upload the videos easily yet. It’s actually part of the reason I’ve taken so long to write this, as a matter of fact. Until I figure that out I’m going to leave this here as a reminder that I’ll be adding them in once I do.