Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers review

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Lather, rinse, repeat is a mantra that should be kept firmly pasted to the back of shampoo bottles. It’s got no place outside of a bathroom, and certainly no place in a Japanese 3D fighter – but alas Saint Seiya: Brave Soldiers appears to have been built with Herbal Essences in mind.

All its problems are combat-related.[1] A limited repertoire of moves means hours of endlessly stringing together the same two or three combos: dash in to attack, land five hits, knock opponent to opposite end of the arena. Lather, rinse, repeat. Then, with a flick of R1, flt around your opponent and engage a string of counter blows at any time. Or, more accurately, shuffle round the ring waiting for the witless CPU to make a move – like some kind of psychotic pre-pubescent desperately hoping for a school dance partner – just so you can dodge round the back and give them a good slap (on that note I’m sorry for Whitley Bay, Zack.)

Still, a good narrative could have saved Saint Seiya from bargain bin oblivion – after all, it’s based on one of the most popular manga series of all time. So it’s with a sad and shaking head that I say: “Alas, the plot is also a bit pantaloons.” Over 50 characters and three confusing story modes mean that this is a title that can only really be enjoyed by hardcore fans of the original 80’s series.[2]

It all adds up to a game that’s definitely for specialist tastes – something WH Smith would keep behind the counter and you’d have to ask for. And when the cashier gives you a look of scathing disapproval for doing so, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Rating: 4/10

First published in issue #093 Official PlayStation Magazine UK


[1] Which, when you think about it, is a pretty big problem for a fighting game. [2] The original manga ran from 1986 to 1991 in Japan. In the West it’s known as Knight’s of the Zodiac.

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Review: Elysium

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In the elitist universe of sci-fi thriller Elysium, William Blake’s prophecy has come to pass and then some. Not only has mankind built a heaven in hell’s despair, they’ve privatised it.

Director Neil Blompkamp’s newest project after District 9 sees Earth as a toxic dustbowl, choking underneath the ultimate gated community that hangs in the sky above. This is a place where eternal life machines come thrown in with the fitted kitchen, yet frustratingly, this is the only glimpse we get into the elitist colony of Stepford creeps.

Instead our perspective is limited to nuclear factory worker Max (Matt Damon) who, after being exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, does what any sensible person would do. He finds a man living in a garage that looks like a half-tumbled jenga tower and gets him to fuse a tonne of steel to his spine with a bone saw.

Trouble is, now strong as an automated ox, Max spends the rest of the film making loud explosions and having macho face-offs with a hulking powerhouse called “Kruger”. Within minutes, the film devolves from a startlingly brilliant apartheid parable to a popcorn drooling firefight that could be a scene from almost any Hollywood action flick.

Any questions you may have about this fascinating world are brushed aside in favour of blockbuster bust-ups. Elysium, with its giant wheel-shaped structure, could easily have reinvented itself. Instead it settles for Hollywood mediocrity, challenging audiences not with satire, but with the frustrating sense that, despite its unique premise, you’ve seen it all before.  

First published in issue #093 of Official PlayStation Magazine UK

Rainbow Moon Review

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To say that Rainbow Moon is addictive is like saying plants photosynthesise because of the sun. Indeed, when yet another celebrity announces their return to rehab, I think “it’s just as well you have never been in Thief Citadel trying to deliver a package of imp wings to Cassar Village. Then, my friend, you would know true craving.”

A retro-style RPG with beautifully modern graphics, Rainbow Moon perfectly combines the old with the new. Our hero, Baldren, is a mute warrior (of course he is) who wakes up on the wrong side of a dimensional portal after having unintentionally released a horde of bloodthirsty monsters into an otherwise peaceful world. The locals are understandably miffed, and Baldren needs to scarper back to his world sharpish.

That’s about as much story as you get, but weak narrative is more than compensated for by the game’s fast-paced tactical combat and addictive stat-based levelling. Battles are turn-based, but well-designed so that the experience becomes more about masterminding strategy than dully waiting for your go to swing a sword. Each defeated enemy drops a pearl that can be used by Baldren’s party to level up, meaning the more battles you enter the quicker you improve and the more you want to whoop some Lvl8 Stone Golem butt.[1]

Attention to detail is a huge strong point of this compelling RPG, with beautiful landscapes, epic music and nuanced customisation ensuring that you stay hooked throughout its endless gameplay[2]. So while you unfortunately won’t find a pot of gold at the end of Rainbow Moon, you’ll be inundated with gems along every step of the adventure towards it.

Rating: 8/10

First printed in Issue #093 of Official Playstation Magazine UK


[1] A nifty feature, however, is that you can choose your encounters, making zubat-esque bombardment a thing of the past.

[2]And I really do mean endless, we’re talking a 100+ hour completion time here.

 

4 Life Changing Career Choices You Made Because of Games

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January is, in a word, odd. As the last festive firework fades into oblivion, New Year’s day is the best time of year to wander the empty streets and pretend there’s been a nuclear apocalypse that’s destroyed everything except Tesco express. A hush descends. Across the UK, a hangover epidemic pins residents to their sofas with nothing but their TVs and the feeling they should be buying cut-price oak furniture somewhere.

And then the 2nd January arrives.

Suddenly the once-peaceful streets are flooded with lycra clad fitness vigilantes that will superglue a two litre Evian bottle to their hands and puff to anyone who’ll listen about their “New Year exercise regime”. Where days before your greatest achievement was balancing a Terry’s Chocolate Orange perfectly on the bulge of your turkey stuffed stomach, now “self-improvement” requires a life-changing revelation, like shedding half your body weight or donating 10% of your monthly income to the homeless.

Many people take the New Year as a perfect opportunity to embark on a new career path, to try something completely different and shed their old life for a new one. Well, have you really thought this through? Or is this one of those resolutions you made as the clocks struck midnight on the morning of January 1st, standing on a table with your skirt round your waist, singing old lang syne through a whisky bottle microphone?

Thankfully, video games provide an excellent opportunity for savvy careerists to try out a new employment track before making the leap in real life.  With some games clocking in 100+ hour completion times, this is a medium where you can spend days investigating a potential career by stepping into the shoes of your chosen character and experiencing their day-to-day virtual existence.

So please, step this way into our video game career centre. Oh, don’t mind the bloodstains, they’re just from when Isaac Clarke was conducting his ship systems engineer workshop. The necromorphs tend to get a bit rowdy. Please, sit down, and I’ll fetch my folder. Are you sitting comfortably? Right, here are your new life options:

1: Call of Duty: Army Soldier

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A perfectly respectable career path, this is one track that offers scope for endless promotion. The hours you spend carefully crafting a multiplayer class from the range of guns so pretty they should have their own perfume lines are ample opportunity to explore every nuance of a soldier’s life.

Pick off your foes from afar as a sniper or barrel into them as a heavy gunner. Learn the tricks of the trade as an engineer or become a demolitions expert in the field. The opportunities are endless and give you a wealth of experience to draw on when you make it to real-life boot camp. Plus learning to deal with the endless drones of a nine year old pre-pubescent piping Justin Beiber down their microphone teaches an excellent life skill: patience.

Maybe forget a few of those lessons though; teabagging an opponent when you knock them down may earn you a few funny looks at Sandhurst.

2: Papers, Please: Border Control Official

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I’m sensing a few raised eyebrows – perhaps you’d prefer a career with less risk of brutal dismemberment. How about Papers, Please? This indie game employs you as an immigration inspector charged with manning the border of fictional Arstotzka. Your task is to prevent any of the smugglers, terrorists, spies and generally unpleasant riff raff from coming into your country and blowing it up or, you know, stealing all the jobs and that.

Honestly, if you want a properly realistic experience of employment in the virtual realm, you don’t get much better than stamping reams of pixelated paper for hours on end. Sadly.

3: GTA: Criminal

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But you’re probably thinking that that sounds like hell, and you’d be right. So most career centres wouldn’t have “Life of Crime” as a genuine career path, but hey, here at Video Game Jobs Inc. we like to keep your options open. Enter GTA, the controversial series that revolutionised the open world genre and gave anxious parents the world over minor aneurysms.

In most games nowadays there seems to be only one rule: you just need to blend (this applies for when you’re sneaking through a room full of enemies or applying foundation). Dishonoured, Thief, Assassin’s Creed, the list of games that test your stealth is endless. But let’s face it, in real life, spending your time leaping from lamppost to lamppost is going to get you nowhere fast, except a jail cell.

Learning how to “repossess” high end sports cars, on the other hand, could serve as a very transferable skill. Think about it, by honing your ability to speed down a highway at 105mph you’ll never be late for work again.

4: LA Noire: Detective

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On the other hand, you could take the complete opposite track and devote yourself to fighting crime. LA Noire is an excellent place to start; the game is completely devoted to backing an unsuspecting NPC into a corner and suspecting them of everything. As their virtual eyes fly back and forth in a panic, you have to scan every pixel of their expressions for even a hint of dishonesty – one false accusation and the killer could get away scot free… or worse you could finish the mission with a two star rating.

At the very least this is a virtual career that will teach you attention to detail. As Cole painstakingly inspects every coke can, cigarette packet and scrap of paper littered around a darkened alley, you will realise that there is more to detective work than the ability to coldly assess the body of a naked sliced up prostitute without projectile vomiting – though it’s a good place to start.

First published on GameGrin 28/01/2014

PS3 meets the PS4 through PlayStation Now game streaming

PlayStation-now_contentfullwidthAfter months of bashing heads with Microsoft, bigging up the PS4’s impressive specs and boasting that its sleek, black console really is the fairest in the land, Sony took the opportunity of CES 2014 to announce that players don’t actually need a console to play its games.

PlayStation Now is a cloud-based streaming service that delivers PS3 games to anything you can stick a “PS” or “smart” in front of, including PS4, PS3, PS Vita and “other internet-connected devices” like smart TVs, smartphones and tablets.

The service is based on Gaikai video streaming tech that Sony acquired back in 2012. It means that when Play Station Now goes live, gamers will be able to rent their favourite titles either on a whim or on a monthly subscription.

An official list of games that will be available on the service is remaining safely under Sony lock and key, but the lucky attendees of CES were treated to playing The Last of UsGod of War: AscensionBeyond Two Souls and Puppeteer on PS Vita and a Bravia TV.

Nigel Beighton, VP of Technology at Rackspace, celebrated the fact that Sony’s move to the cloud marks an evolution in the way we play games:

“Consumers will have the most up-to-date games at their fingertips, and their online experience will keep getting better and better as developers use big data analytics techniques to get rich insight into how players are behaving on different platforms.”

PlayStation Now is set to spend the next few months in a period of closed beta within the US, before a full scale roll-out scheduled for summer across the United States. European customers, meanwhile, should think twice about holding their breath for a global launch. With Sony hinting that the rest of the world is in for a long wait, oxygen may become a precious commodity.

Meanwhile, Sony also announced that the PS4 sold 4.2 million units as of 28 December, an amount that blows the 3 million Xbox Ones that Microsoft sold out the water.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Sony President Andrew House, presumably in between cartwheels.

First published on ITProPortal 08/01/14

Review: Deadfall Adventures

Deadfall Adventures

Unlike Shackleton, who set off into the arctic armed with nothing more than some tweed and a moustache, fictional adventurers have to contend with significantly more lava and giant rolling boulders than their real-life counterparts.

It’s a sad fact in gaming these days we are less likely to shoot down ravenous bears with a bolt-action rifle than shoot old ladies with an auto-focus camera. James Lee Quartermaine, however, is an adventurer straight from the pages of fiction.

His world, Deadfall Adventures, is a homage to the real nineteenth-century novels of Allan Quartermaine and the pulp action-adventure stories found in the twentieth-century magazines. It’s a classic tale, where a reluctant hero finds himself embroiled in a quest to track down an ancient artefact of terrible power – in this case the Heart of Atlantis – to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Players find themselves transported from the trap-filled catacombs of Egyptian tombs to the snowy wastelands of the arctic, before crashing into the Guatemalan jungle during the game’s eleven hour campaign.

Visually, Deadfall is beautiful. The levels are more like vast arenas, beautifully designed with hidden treasures scattered in locations that the game actively encourages players to seek out. The spirit of adventure is palpable with the soundtrack swapping between the adventurous swell of a John Williams-esque score and the exotic twang of an Egyptian melody when creeping round dark corners.

When Nazis (of course there are Nazis) appear, the tension is irrefutably cinematic and when Mummies (of course there are Mummies) wrench themselves from their sarcophagi, players would be forgiven for playing from behind the cover of their sofas.

On the surface then, Deadfall gets a lot right. The Nazis play perfectly into the traditional lost world tone, with much “zees ees zee end for you Meester Quartermaine!” and occult lunacy, but overall the dialogue is clumsy with the occasional gem of a pithy one-liner as rare as the treasure we’re trying to find. Quartermaine’s relationship with British agent sidekick Jennifer is particularly strained. She exists only to fire the occasional half-hearted shot at homicidal, machine-gun-toting maniacs, get kidnapped or to exchange convoluted banter with Quartermaine.

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The tone of their conversations is teeth-grindingly painful, established early on when a stick of dynamite sends Quartermaine flying, landing between Jennifer’s legs who quips “Comfy, Quartermaine?” The more dodgy lines could have been carried off by more accomplished vocal actors, but their amateurish deliverance strips the characters of any likeability. Instead of being drawn into this lost world of pulp fiction imaginings, we get rom-com clichés and eyewateringly insulting gags like “You had me at ‘well-shaped ass'”. It’s like taking Raiders of the Lost Ark and replacing half the lines with scenes from “When Harry Met Sally”.

Combat is more suited to the point-and-click method of PC gaming than on the console. The crosshair is far too sensitive, making lining up a shot akin to threading a needle. Strangely, it’s also designed so that pressing left trigger to aim is a toggle rather than a snap on and off, resulting in Quartermaine’s gun pitching around the screen as the extreme recoil forces players to painstakingly reposition the camera after each shot. The AI drafted in to help you is also clearly on minimum wage, because they won’t do much apart from hide behind some scenery and occasionally find the time to lob a grenade in the mummy-trying-to-chew-your-face-off’s general direction.

The puzzle sections could have been a real triumph for Deadfall, but the game’s reliance on overly familiar tropes makes them more of a nuisance than intriguing enigmas. Mirrors must be moved, keys picked out of rubble and switches stepped on, but “Press A to pick up Puzzle Piece” prompts are hardly brainteasers.

It seems that, ultimately, despite its best efforts to stand up with the lost world greats, like the pulp magazines that it emulates, Deadfall Adventures is sadly rather disposable.

(First published in  Gamereactor 15/11/2013)

Sims 4 Levels Up Its Emotion

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Ah, van vesua! Cummuns nala?

… Ok, by your blank expression I’m guessing I should probably explain that that was a greeting, and not a sneezing fit. I was trying to say in Simlish – the official language of The Sims franchise – “Hello! How are you doing?” but I apologize, clearly my pronunciation was off… Don’t look at me like that. God this is awkward. Excuse me whilst I go flail my arms in embarrassment, rage at the sky and kick a pink flamingo.

Because really, if I were a Sim, in the thirteen years that the Sims has been flying off our shelves (or into our online baskets, if you’re all technological) that would have been the only outlet for an emotional display: uncontrollable limbs, public displays of cloud hatred and animal cruelty. But times are changing. Whereas Sims lives have always revolved around their physical needs, now gameplay is based around their emotions. In this new generation of the virtual reality game, the controlling force of play is much more about manipulating their emotional states to run their lives, rather than manipulating their circumstances by, say, buying them things. Or walling them in a windowless room with no toilet.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll be Sims

In Sims 4, now more than ever the player has been given the powers of a storyteller, creating a cascading domino chain of events that will affect the way your Sim interacts with its virtual world. Previously, Sims bounced back pretty easily from life-changing events like the death of a parent or the discovery of an unfaithful spouse. There’d be a short-term moodlet, sporadic skyward flailing would occur, and in a matter of days the whole thing would be forgotten. Unfortunately for new generation Sims, they will not be so lucky. Now, Sims confronted with severe emotional trauma will enter a powerful state of psychological grief that will affect their every interaction with the world around them. Bodies and actions reflect feelings: shoulders hunch, feet drag, faces frown, lips quiver whilst happy Sims light up a room and angry Sims put extra furious effort into work out routines.

A Toy That Toys With Your Emotions

Interestingly, if the idea of watching your Sim sit listlessly in the corner, clinically depressed because you made their brother run off with their wife provokes a twinge of guilt in your heartless soul, well, that is the very real aim of the game. Instead of players only affecting the game’s state, the increased human complexity of the world you create is bound to affect your own emotional state. It’s a game that makes you feel.

Still, the idea of gameplay being less about pressing a button to make a Sim angry and more about engineering a chain of events and choices is fascinating, but is a new focus on realism going to alienate fans who for more than a decade have been drawn to a game centered around escapism? Complicated programming now allows you to manipulate every fleshy corner of your Sims body, but overweight Sims can now look in the mirror and feel disgust at themselves. Sims with eating disorders and clinical depression? It seems the more human traits our Sims evolve, the darker the universe they inhabit becomes.

… Let’s hope the developers have engineered some kick-ass pink flamingos.

Jak II: When Naughty Dog Found the Plot

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Although I am pathologically, fatally prone to exaggeration, it is but a mere statement of fact to say that Naughty Dog’s 2003 platform adventure, Jak II, is approximately as addictive as crystal meth. Breaking away from its colourful, Disney-esque prequel, the story is set in the dark, industrial metropolis of Haven City where hours can be spent hijacking speedy hoverbikes and zooming around its neon lit streets. With big characters, bigger open world maps and bite-your-fist-in-glee-big guns, Jak II revolutionized the platformer genre and most importantly told a compelling story that glued you to your controller for the twenty-hour campaign.

Of course, there are those that would say the Last of Us – an effusive ode to human fragility and compassion with visuals so slick you could slip on them – is a more worthy paragon of Naughty Dog’s capabilities. “Games are art,” they will say, “and art is about revealing resonant insights into the human condition.” Well, to be honest, how many insights into human nature do we need in one lifetime? Once you realise that no one has a clue what they’re doing either, any further insights into ourselves can start to get depressing. On the other hand, what humans do need are witty one-liners. Pithy remarks that can defuse today’s real societal problems of awkward situations and prolonged silences with a round of hearty guffaws. And thanks to a small furry orange ottsel, Jak II’s script throws these out in abundance. The characters that inhabit Haven City are as richly textured as its stunning vistas.

So as rendering technology advances with the advent of next-gen consoles, producing graphics so vivid our TV screens will be transformed like glass gateways into gaming Narnia, I will still be sat on my sofa, PS2 whirring contentedly, immersed in Jak II’s narrative . Because really that is the heart of gaming: story. From epic poems around the campfire to Renaissance plays to the birth of the novel, the beauty of a plot’s presentation has always been second to the script itself. As the most modern reincarnation of storytelling, Naughty Dog have fully realised the centrality of plot to a decent game and it is precisely this element that make all their games so successful. That is something that no console, whether it’s packed with 500GB HDD and an x86 processor or not, can guarantee.

What Gaming Teaches You About Girls

Ah those good ol’ days of the nineties: when every dispute could be settled by a game of rock, paper, scissors and when all video game characters clunked around like badly made origami models of polio victims. This was the era that birthed one of the defining virtual characters of a generation: Lara Croft. This kleptomaniac archaeologist has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Most Successful Human Virtual Game Heroine”, a considerable achievement when you consider that she started life as with boobs so pointy that giving her a hug would result in two punctured lungs. Her ability to down a T-Rex with a shotgun instantly won our hearts in a gaming climate as yet untouched by oestrogen, but now from Jill Valentine to Nariko, Faith Connors to Bayonetta, today’s shelves are stacked with titles featuring leading femme fatales.

Still let’s face it, there is nothing easier to understand than a woman (apart from obvious things like quantum physics) and yet the video game world can be a little off the mark when it comes to putting the fairer sex on screen. These are the lessons we’ve learned in Console Class 101:

Women are more effective the less they wear

female armourIt is a little known fact that the female epidermis is chainsaw, flamethrower, meat cleaver and machine-gun-bullet-proof. Years of being slathered in anti-dullness, anti-aging, anti-wrinkle creams has imbued women’s skin with the properties of an armoured truck. As many RPGs will show you, the larger surface area of male bodies requires significantly larger suits of armour to protect their manly flesh. Big intimidating suits. With full body steel plating. And spikes. Female armour needs no such padding, because whilst a male soldiers’ upgraded armour becomes tougher, female armour gets skimpier. Basically, if a video game heroine is advancing on you, an axe clutched in one bloody, manicured fist, cover her with a towel if you want to survive.

Boobs defy gravity

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A few years ago, perfectly flowing water was the holy grail of the video game animator. Today however, as rendering technology advances with the arrival of next-gen consoles, we’re being treated to thundering waterfalls, blinding rainstorms and violent naval battles so realistic that Gamers everywhere are playing under the safety of an umbrella. You’d think then, that developers would have mastered the coding process of a breast jiggle. Whilst we are able to zoom in and count every follicle on Kratos’s eyebrows, the detail spared for the female chest is considerably limited. In other words, we get giant watermelons bolstered to the female ribcage with cement and triple X bras.

Women exist outside of the aging space time continuum

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Maybe it’s the titanium properties of female skin, but the slow march of time holds no sway over video game femmes. Developers will place their leading ladies in cryogenic sleep (I’m looking at you Nina Williams), clone her or even “reboot” history rather than code a line across their pretty, porcelain smooth faces. It seems that the idea of a woman who can bend space and time to her will, unconstrained by the ravaging effects of sun and iron tipped bullets, is more palatable than the idea of a middle-aged woman kicking butt in five-inch stilettos. In other words, the entire female race is composed of sexy vampire assassins. Though that’s not strictly true because…

Women come in two breeds: Damsel in Distress and Dominatrix

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a computer generated man in possession of a good cleaver must be in want of a wife. And as video games have made clear, female characters are only too happy to oblige. Just look at the Asari race in Mass Effect, incredibly beautiful women who make up one of the oldest and wisest races in the galaxy – yet most work as strippers in sleazy back-planet clubs. In PC gaming, The Sims 3 has a moodlet that makes pregnant women permanently happy for the duration of their pregnancy. Because there’s nothing like raging hormones, swollen ankles and stretch marks to send our serotonin levels cartwheeling.

Female Gamers, like dragons, are mythological creatures

untitledOccasionally as you noob tube your way from COD lobby to COD lobby, camping in corners and stealing kills you may every so often see a distinctly feminine game tag pop up in a corner of your screen. There were once some whisperings that half of all humans have XX chromosomes, but everyone knows that that’s all it was, whispers uttered in hushed voices round camp fires. So feel free to haze those female imposters. Inundate their inboxes with spam, yell out them down your headset to make you a sandwich, lob grenades at them in the heat of battle. Female gamers? Pur-lease.

Coming soon: “What Gaming teaches you about Men”

5 Reasons Pokemon is Seriously Twisted

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It’s 1997. Propped up on your elbows under the dark recesses of your Rugrats duvet, your breath hitches as a plinky musical sound prods your Gameboy screen into pixelated, grayscale life and threatens to wake up your sleeping parents next door. Frantically you turn down the volume, rapidly mash A to get past the loading screens and hit “New Game”. You’re going to be the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them will be your real test, to train them will be your cause. This is Pokémon.

It’s an innocent enough scene from many a 90s childhood, where playground status was decided on how many shiny Pikachu cards you owned, or how far away you were from filling up all 151 spaces on your Pokédex. But today, as I sat in my room planning my next move as a soon-to-be graduate, I realised my childhood is a pretty distant memory. And actually, when you think about it, the low-resolution landscape our youthful selves spent hours exploring was a pretty twisted place. Not least of which because…

Everyone has Daddy Issues

Ash MomWell, not “issues”. More just one big resounding issue: they don’t have a Dad at all. The theory goes that there was a huge war that decimated the male population of the land. Children have now been left with no Father figure, or worse, they are left with Professor Oak (“This is my Grandson. He’s been your rival since you were a baby… Erm, what is his name again?” “Poo face.” “Ah yes! Of course!”). The game starts with Ash sitting cross-legged in front of his SNES, presumably laying low, avoiding the wrath of his arch-rival after the whole “Ha-your-dementia-suffering-Granddad-thinks-you’re-called-Pooface” trick.  After a few minutes, this plucky ten-year old decides it is time to venture forth from the house’s single-bedroom and find his fortune in the big wide world.  Walking past his Mother’s spot at the dining table he says goodbye.

“Goodbye” she replies to her TEN-YEAR-OLD, “all boys leave home one day, it said so on TV” she adds sagely. Solid parenting right there. Ash, realising that his Mother does not fully comprehend that her TEN YEAR OLD is now walking out the door with a proverbial stick and spotted hanky on his shoulder, says “Alright Mum, I’m leaving and don’t know whether I’ll ever return”. His Mother looks up with dawning realisation in her eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks and says “Sorry love, I wasn’t really listening. Oh that’s right, you’re leaving. I forgot. Don’t forget the milk.” Thus, the metaphorical umbilical chord is unceremoniously severed, and with that Ash leaves home, out into a world inhabited by creatures that breathe fire and poison spores. Completely alone. Did I mention he’s ten?

And He Has No Concept Of Stranger Danger

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“Your Mother’s still single isn’t she? …Good, good. now go catch every Pokémon in the world. Go catch them all.”

Heading into the dark forest at the edge Pallet Town, Ash draws a deep breath and takes his first step into the big wide world. Glancing back for one final time, he sees an old man approaching through the trees. In an urgent voice, the man begs Ash to come to the basement of his laboratory to look at his balls and decide which one is best. Ash agrees to this proposition.

It soon becomes clear that the Professor has been performing experiments on small animals and he wants to share one with this young boy so that when he finally leaves he will be protected from the deadly creatures and dangerous men of the wilds. He offers a turtle, a lizard or a shrub. Now if someone tries to jump Ash between here and the next town he can unleash the unbridled fury of his bloodthirsty rhododendron. Cower before him. As days pass and Ash trains harder, strangers are no danger to this red capped child. He adds small walking radishes and sprouts with lightbulbs for heads to his murderous collection of cannibalistic shrubbery, because really….

Ash Suffers From Serious OCD

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Honestly, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is the only explanation. He obsessively categorizes and collects various small animals, painstakingly noting their attributes, traces their growth and applies elemental “types” of his own that have no basis in science. He travels from town to town, squeezing every creature he stumbles upon – regardless of whether it’s a 30ft high snake made of boulders, or a tiny bat that just can’t get enough of travellers – into a plastic spheroid about three inches in diameter. When confronted about this his justification is inevitably a wild shriek of “Gotta catch em all!” Essentially, the entire game follows a megalomaniac child who forces his pets to battle for money, pushing them until they lose consciousness whereupon he takes them to a centre that stuffs them in a giant computer where they are trapped for days at a time, locked in their little metal sphere seemingly without food, water or company. But hey, no one’s going to stop him because

Pokémon Democracy Is A Myth

giovanni pokemon

Whether they’re running a giant casino, carting off ancient fossils or desecrating Pokemon graves, terrorist and criminal organizations run Kanto. As Ash explores the caves, seas and towns of Kanto on his little bicycle, not once is he stopped by a concerned police officer wondering how a ten year old got hold of a bike that costs 1,000,000, – yes that’s right – a million….um, whatever currency is used in this lawless frontier.  Because really, that’s what the Pokémon universe is. It’s the wild west, but with mice that fire off five-thousand volts of electricity and catchy music that plays when you walk through long grass. The whole place is run by a single giant corporation (who gains its wealth from exploiting small, vulnerable animals) which exists in conflict with smaller crime syndicates. And gyms run by teenagers.

Even the country’s village dedicated to burial and mourning, Lavender Town, is utterly unprotected, ending up filled with mentalist “Channelers” who accost passing children on bicycles screaming “GIVE… ME….YOUR BLOOD!!! Be possessed with me! Kekeke KWAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!” before attacking them with Pokémon so horrifying one of them is actually called “Ghastly”. This was the point where you switched off your Gameboy and buried deeper under your duvet fort, your knees hugged to your chest, rocking back and forth until morning came and you could crawl from your room bleary-eyed, avoiding eye contact with every human being lest an exclamation mark appear above their head and bloody violence ensues.

But that’s not the most horrific part of the whole series. Oh no, because it’s a little known fact that

Nikki Minaj Started Out As A Pokémon

jinx nikki minaj

“Its cries sound like human speech, however it is impossible to work out what it’s trying to say”

“It speaks a language similar to that of humans, however it seems to use dancing to communicate”

…. Enough said.