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February 27, 2017

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Part 2)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Part 1 Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Continuing from Part 1 with the second case of the entire Ace Attorney franchise. Look out, tons of spoilers.

The episode starts as Mia Fey calls her little sister Maya, asking her to come pick up some meaningful evidence – namely, the Thinker clock statue from the first case. Mia took out the clockwork and hid some important files in there. Unfortunately, someone comes into Mia’s apartment a little later, lets slip that they know exactly what Mia told her sister on the phone, and then beats her to death… with the Thinker statue. You could cut a building in two with such pointy irony. Poor Butz, once again, his gift to a girl is what kills her. Poor Phoenix, who loses his mentor… poor Maya Fey, who is accused of the murder! And Phoenix finds Mia’s body in the office, with Maya crying nearby!

Okay, that’s a traumatic tragedy, but it would be an immense conflict of interest if Phoenix took the case – his mentor dead, her little sister is the defendant. I suppose we’re not allowed to solve that one… Oh wait, seems we’re gonna be solving that one after all. We are introduced to the Investigation half of a case: In several locations, you are allowed to run a cursor around to pick up information about various items in the scenery. It can lead to superfluous details, but it can also be the discovery of major evidence that will be used later in the case – and it will forward the plot. Here, when Phoenix tries to call the cops, he finds out someone else, in a room of the hotel on the other side of the street, is also calling them…

Poor guy. It seems he always cuts himself at the exact
same spot every day he shaves.
And thus shortly afterwards we meet Dick Gumshoe, detective not-so-extraordinaire. An ever-present pencil behind the ear, an ever-present plaster on the beard… Hey, I think we found Jim Morales’ long-lost brother! Could be worse, his family name could be Johnson. Sheesh, with a name like Gumshoe, the poor guy had no other choice in his career path. …Come to think of it, that’s true of a lot of characters in the series, their name often dictates what they were bound to become.

We discuss with Maya at the discussion center, then receive from Gumshoe the autopsy report at the Fey and Co. Law Offices. The detective also helpfully informs us that prosecutor Miles Edgeworth is on the case. Ah, at last, Phoenix’s famous rival! Probably more popular than even Phoenix himself, that guy. In Part 1, I mentioned that prosecutors were greatly favored over defense attorneys, and it’s true here as well. While Phoenix struggles to gather evidence, faces three dozen problems and can barely build a solid case, with witnesses and people present on the scenes being frequently unresponsive or uncooperative, Miles is bossing the cops around and can easily get testimonies, reports and other valuable info. It’s even said that Miles hasn’t lost a single case so far – once again displaying that Japanese – er, American – prosecution ego that is so omnipresent.

February 24, 2017

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Part 1)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Gonna try to keep this relatively short, because if I go over every single little detail in every case in each of these two games, I’ll still be talking about these in May. Thankfully, the plot patches its own holes most of the time, in such a way that the player needs to see these plot hole-solving details for the story to go forward, so there isn’t much to say about plot holes and inconsistencies. Not that there’s much to say about gameplay, either, as it is fairly simple. All that matters… is the plot.

And God are there complex stories in these games.

Unfortunately, a lot of online visual novels seem to be
only about romantic relationships. Love ain't everything,
Visual novels can make for very interesting games. There are the ones that go solely for telling a good story, then there’s those that add a certain puzzle aspect to the whole thing. And what better way to include puzzles and logical deductions than a game about investigations? The old film noir aesthetic, the web of secrets to untangle, the mysterious ally who mysteriously disappeared- Oh wait, no, that last one is Hotel Dusk: Room215, which I reviewed back in 2015.

However, today I am discussing one of the most famous visual novel franchises: Ace Attorney. The series is known for its intricate storylines, its memorable and endearing characters, its off the wall humor, and its investigations that frequently go to dark places despite the bright world. Not to mention the wide range of expressions on the large sprites of every character, It’s a quirky franchise that hides some deep truths about justice (especially the Japanese system), life, and the zones of grey in society, and in each of us.

But hey, they’re murder mysteries, what else did you expect? There is a lot of ground to cover plot-wise, let’s get into it right away.

A bleeding statue. A woman on the ground, with a head injury. Someone, off-frame, who asks “Why me?” I just said it, the cases in the Ace Attorney games are murder mysteries, therefore the opening scene, revealing the murder, will usually have enough ambiguous elements to leave the player guessing. Not so much the case here, as we immediately see the killer, who decides to pin the murder on the next idiot he sees. Guess it makes sense as a Tutorial case of sorts to have a mystery in which we already know the answer.

February 18, 2017

Movie review: A Cure For Wellness

Gore Verbinski's latest epic, the 146-minute A Cure For Wellness, hit theaters yesterday, on February 17th.

My curiosity for the film began as a cardboard ad that I saw at my local movie theater while I was heading to see a Quebec film (for the record, it was called Votez Bougon, but unless you're French Canadian, you won't care), The cardboard showed a girl floating inside a small bottle. I checked the teaser and trailer, then I was definitely hooked. It looked interesting, you know? I was actually looking forward to that film. It had that vibe of a psychological thriller, mixed in with some horror, with moments that made me honestly nervous. I do think the full trailer revealed way too much, though.

Point is, I kinda knew what I was getting into. I went to see the film in the afternoon, so that I wouldn't be seeing it within a large audience. Turns out... I was alone in the theater. Sole guy in the room, watching this film. It starts, and let me tell you, I was glad I bought neither snacks nor drinks to go with my viewing.

February 17, 2017

VGFlicks: Ender's Game (Part 3)

Part 1 one saw lengthy introduction to the story, Part 2 was most of Ender’s time at the Battle School, now we follow him at Command School, where he is learning to lead his team into battle against the Formics. Thank God large-scale simulation games exist, huh?

"No, you cannot use this system to play your video games.
I know you're gonna ask someday, the answer will always be no.
Same for anything else you'd like to watch with this."

I swear, this entire scene is impressive.
Ender, now accompanied of Bean, Alai, Petra, Dink and Bernard, is ready to start the actual tests. Every session in the simulator will feel like a real battle, each ship must be treated as if it contained a human with thoughts, and ideas, and feelings, and a family. Ender can’t just act like every ship is expendable. The scenes in the simulator are extremely impressive, with hundreds of ships flying around and shooting. It’s really a marvel to look at. Graff and his group keep adding more realism to each new simulation, bringing it closer to reality. There is always something new to take into consideration.

February 15, 2017

Tonight on Twitch: Chroma Squad, Season 5!

For the past three weeks, I've been playing Chroma Squad, airing my playthrough on Twitch. Tonight, I am reaching the conclusion of this long RPG/studio management sentai spoof game! I will try to start at 7 PM. Make sure to come see me!

Note: Starting today, a message at the top of the page will indicate which game(s) I will be playing every Wednesday. This should ensure that I don't need to make more advertisement posts like this. A Twitch button has been added to the navigation bar.

February 13, 2017

VGFlicks: Ender's Game (Part 2)

(Quick note: I've put up an page. Feel free to go there to ask anything you want, I'll answer your questions as soon as possible!)

In Part 1, I covered the first 25 minutes of the film, going over the first “game” of Ender’s Game, and I explained the plan from Colonel Graff regarding Ender. Now, we’re getting into the meat of the story.

Okay, that one time, Ender was pretty much asking to get
yelled at.
The launchies are encountering the possibility that one or more of theirs is assigned to teams of a higher rank. This means that there is some serious competition, not only between teams, but between members of a team. Ender’s questions on whether or not his e-mails reach his family stay unanswered, and he receives the ire of Colonel James Dap, who could definitely have been portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson considering how much he screams. Ender also makes a new enemy: Bernard, another boy from his yellow team.

Thankfully, Ender manages to befriend more of his teammates, including Bean and Alai. I love how in this film, and in the series as a whole, children of all ethnicities interact and become friends. My wish would be that, in the looming threat of an alien species bringing possible death to all inhabitants of the Earth, humans would overlook their differences in skin tones, beliefs and origins, to focus together on defeating the new enemy. But then again, I am a stupidly idealistic guy trying to see the good in the world despite the world around doing everything to make a cynic out of me.

Methinks somebody at Nintendo watched this movie after the WiiU came
out, and had a first idea for the following console.

Is there a plot in that game or it's just a collection of random
events and puzzles to solve?
Another thing Orson Scott Card predicted: Portable computers able to display high-resolution video games. Oh, he also predicted high-resolution video games. One thing he did predict, however, and that we haven’t seen yet, is video games that are able to mold and change depending on the player’s current state of mind. There is one such game in Ender’s personal portable computer. We see him play that game (titled Mind Game) for a bit; he controls a mouse that encounters a giant. The creature has a simple challenge for the mouse: Figure out which one of two glasses of liquid is safe. It turns out that this highly-experimental game was given access to Ender by Major Gwen Anderson, and both Graff and she can view Ender’s progress in the game in real-time. Oh hey, Card also predicted streaming!

In the game, both cups are poisoned and kill the mouse. In the original book, Ender spent weeks trying to figure out a solution. The game was apparently made by Major Anderson precisely to judge how Ender reacts to frustration. In the movie, after seeing that neither cup works, Ender quickly takes a third option and has the mouse viciously attack the giant, going through an eye, foraging its way into the brain… and come out unscathed. Yuck. That’s some Shadow of the Colossus stuff right there.

I wouldn't be surprised if that exact scenario had already been used in
other, real life video games. I mean, anything for a shout-out, right?

Although, truth be told, this is one of the things that Card got wrong. There is an implication that nobody ever beat that part of the game until Ender found an alternate solution. If you ever played any recent games (and if you read this blog, you most likely have), you must have come across many different puzzles that required you to think outside the box and take a third option. Video games have encouraged this kind of thinking for a long time already. Granted, the book did come out in 1985, and I doubt Card would have been aware of such puzzles in the games that were released at the time. I understand the mistake. Still, it is pretty jarring to think that, in the entire history of the Battle School, not a single child managed to solve that puzzle until Ender came along. The book and film then have Ender see what’s beyond the giant’s puzzle in the game – something that has never been seen by anyone, a strange world shaped by Ender’s thoughts and memories, where the puzzles take on a more psychological nature.

I'm pretty sure the folks in the Salamander team are making
Napoleon jokes in this guy's back.
From there, Ender learns to think outside the box to win the next challenges. He learns to bend the rules to his advantage. This starts with an immediate promotion to a higher team, moving from Yellow to Green. New teammates, new opponents… new possible friends. In the Green team, he instantly meets Petra Arkanian, an Armenian girl who was the only female of the Green team in the book. Then, we have Bonzo Madrid, who in the book was bigger and more threatening than Ender, but who in the film is smaller and scrawnier than Ender – but leagues more vicious and temperamental. Madrid isn’t very happy to have to welcome Ender into his team, the Salamanders (oh yeah, teams have colors and also animal motifs, I forgot to mention that). This short but anger-prone leader has no interest in giving Ender any importance during the matches in the zero-gravity room, and asks him to stay at the back of the room.

If Ender can't rely on the people who claim to be his
teachers, maybe he can be taught useful things by his
allies and teammates instead. But mostly by Petra.

Thankfully, Petra decides to give Ender some private lessons. She’s an incredible shooter, able to hit targets very far from her, and she passes down some of this talent to the new Salamander. Bonzo doesn’t take it well, but Ender manages to convince him to pass down some knowledge… on the basis that Ender will go away as soon as he has learned a few things.

Try all you want, Ender, this won't make you look as badass as you
think it does.
In the next match, after Petra is struck by a paralyzing ray, Ender rushes in to help her, against Bonzo’s rules. He gets Petra to toss him towards the enemy gate while he pretends to have been paralyzed, allowing him to pass through the enemy defenses, freeze up many of the members of the opposing red team, and steps into the enemy gate, giving his team the win. Bonzo didn’t like that one bit though, as he makes clear to Ender by a punch to the stomach. There's no worse sore winner than the one who is mad because he didn't win the way he wanted to. That, or it's the epitome of pettiness.

Good thing it's from a video game sequence, or else we would
have called that part out for bad CGI.

Hm. A rug that turns into a snake, or a snake pretending
to be decoration. Why isn't there a Pokémon like that
yet? I have a name already: Cobrug!
That night, Ender plays the Mind Game again. Past the Giant, the mouse comes across a Formic, in all of its CGI splendor. The creature then transforms into a 3D-animated version of Valentine that ventures towards a castle, as shots and blows rain down on the land. The mouse follows her to the castle and takes the shape of a 3D Ender as well. Gotta say, I would love a game that made use of a person’s state of mind to build a personalized story, but it’s kind of weird that a game would know exactly how Ender and Valentine look like, to the point of replicating them in CGI… either that is some really advanced game, or there is something unnatural going on there. Inside the castle, Game!Ender finds a strange sphere, where Valentine is now reflected. The carpet turns into a cobra that Ender defeats, but Valentine in the sphere has morphed to become Peter. “Well done, you’re a killer now.” I’ll stop trying to make sense of that…

There's an eerie, climax-like feel to that scene, like it's the final part of
the game. Surely that cannot mean anything else, right?

I would actually like to know how the Hell do this game’s controls work. Game!Ender seems able to do anything, even if the game doesn’t seem to be using buttons and features that would make it possible. Hm, maybe it’s just THAT advanced. Well, if anything, a discussion between Graff and Anderson following that scene reveals that, whatever happened in the game, Anderson didn’t make it happen – she doesn’t even know how those models of Valentine and Peter got in there…

The most mismatched team of all. But can it become...
the best team of all?
Some time later, Graff offers Ender to command his own team – the Dragon Army, which ironically, despite having the most badass name in that entire goddarned Battle School, has never won a single game. That name had been discontinued a few years ago, but Graff revives them to give Ender some control. The team would contain other students who have trouble fitting in the ranks of their respective teams. That can only lead to good things, am I right? Can this unexperienced leader take his team from the bottom of the rankings to the very top? Wow, this is sounding more and more like a cheap sport flick masquerading as a science-fiction epic.

Ender immediately assures his team, composed of members of various armies (including the yellow and green ones), that he won’t be doing everything like the other commanders. For starters, he makes it clear that he accepts his teammates’ ideas for strategies in the zero-gravity room. Some time passes, and soon they do so well that they reach third place in the ranking. And since there’s possibly a Formic army approaching Earth, Graff decides to push Ender further… namely, by pitting the Dragon army (the two best teams), in the middle of the night, against the Leopard and the Salamander armies. After all, the true enemy will not wait till the humans are awake to attack! What’s more, one teammate twists his ankle jumping out of bed and another helps bring him to the infirmary.

There is no better shot of this that I could have used, but it's basically
Petra shooting all the members of the team who were set in an ambush
around the Dragon Team's gate. Still darn impressive on the screen,
The Stars (the obstacles in the zero-gravity room) have been placed to form a large wall, preventing the Dragon Army from seeing what the opponents are doing. To replace the missing two members of the Dragon Army, Ender gets Petra and another guy from the Salamanders. They still carefully take out the members of the Leopard army that had hidden themselves around the Dragon Army’s entrance, using the techniques Ender devised throughout the various matches.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that. The film is already 114 minutes long, so they cut out a lot of scenes from the book – and many of those scenes feature Ender and his current group thinking up strategies, taking into account the many things that had to be known in the playground. As an example, one strategy he quickly imagines is that, since the rays shot by the guns merely paralyze what they touch, then it’s a perfectly sound strategy to freeze some teammates and use them as human shields for others, preventing key players from being struck by rays, allowing them to either take out the other team or reach the other side. In the book, it was actually impressive as, following Ender’s strategies in the Dragon Army, the other armies followed suit and started copying these tricks, leading to much more strategic plays in the zero-gravity room. In the film, however, most of those are cut out, so we’re left to believe that Ender suddenly became the very best like no one ever was. Of course, making two films for a single, 300-page book, would have also been silly, so the adaptation settles on showing only the most important battles. (The film also cuts down the book’s timeline from five years at the Battle School to only one.)


In the film, in this decisive battle, Ender sets up a formation and, despite the opponents hiding behind other stars and shooting at anything that comes close, he actually manages to get more than half a dozen of his teammates into the enemy gate. Crushing victory if there ever was one.

Every time Ender winds up getting rid of an opponent
by nearly killing them, it's either accidental or it's
because the opponent would not hae backed down
either way. Bonzo here wanted a fight. He got one,
and his head met the concrete. He asked for it.
Will that apply to the aliens, though?
Again, Bonzo Madrid doesn’t take it very well, so he and two of his Salamander lackeys ambush Ender in the showers. Ender manages to convince Bonzo to only take him one-on-one. Remember that scene early in the film, with the bully that Ender beats up with a nearby statuette? Once again, Ender uses his surroundings to win the fight, but for once that’s not enough, and in a desperation move the kid ends up pushing Bonzo to the floor of the showers, the back of the little asshole’s head hitting the concrete. I’d say “poor guy”, but considering he was probably intending to kill Ender, I’d say his fate is quite satisfying.

I should note that, in the original book, both the bully at the start and Bonzo don’t survive their wounds. Here, Bonzo is left wheelchair-bound. If he were left as a debilitated vegetable, it would be even better, but the movie has no time to dwell on the fate of the assholes. I should add that, also in the book, Ender was more psychopathic, his mindset of “winning this battle and every following one” meant that he would go the extra mile against his enemies, beat them within an inch of their lives if necessary, though not with the intent to kill. Yet, that’s what happened both times; bully? Dead. Bonzo? Dead. Each time, Ender was guilt-wrecked. Doesn’t help that he learned about each death long after it had happened. As another change from the book to the film, while Major Anderson (who is a man in the books, but a woman in the film) stays in the original story, here she resigns from Battle School after the Bonzo incident, unable to cope with the extreme methods set up by Colonel Graff to reveal Ender’s potential.

I'm not sure if I can keep on being not sorry for the guy...

The incident also left Ender unable to accept his role at the School, threatening to resign. Since Graff doesn’t want to lose someone like Andrew Wiggin, he is forced to bring the kid back to Earth, so that he can see his sister again. Valentine manages to convince him to go back. This scene is different from the book, since by that point in the story Peter’s blogging plans were well underway and Valentine was finding herself in the midst of the conflict that was growing worldwide.

Well gee, it's a good thing the Formics were building
stations that could be easily adaptable to humans, huh?
Ender agrees to go back, but Graff doesn’t bring him back to the Battle School. Instead, the two land in a previous Formic base, now repurposed with human-built bases and apparel. The Battle School and its zero-gravity games are gone; now, we are in the Serious Business of training soldiers for the actual incoming war, preparing troops, forming a team that will be led by Ender to fight back against the Formics… and a lot of spatial combat simulation in hyper-advanced video games. …What? It wouldn’t be called Ender’s Game if it didn’t feature games, right?

We soon learn that this base was taken from the Formics so that the human armies could keep a closer eye on the enemy species. This base is closer to the aliens’ home planet. Graff explains to the kid that they’re planning an assault on that planet, for the same reason that Ender would kick his enemies who were already down: To dissuade them from coming back. Ender discovers his quarters, with a very impressive alien wall as decoration. He wakes up after his first night, only to see a weird guy with face paint sitting in the middle of his room, a serious look on his face.

You. You, I know you. Yes, I’ve seen you before.

And you were a bad guy there, Ben Kingsley. That can only lead to good things, no? Well, you and your face paint are on the DVD cover, so you’ve gotta be someone important. Ah, DVD covers. Second only to trailers when the time comes to spoil the Hell out of a movie.

The older man quickly overpowers Ender and states the rule here: The teachers are the enemy now. Every day, Ender will have to confront the latest challenge, whether physical or mental, that Graff, this guy, or anyone else, will put in his way. …Wait; that was also the case at the Battle School, since Graff was giving opponent teams more and more advantages to halt the Dragon Army. Well, maybe now Ender is just told things outright, instead of having to figure them out himself. Let’s hope it stays that way.

It's-a raining alien ship, allelujah, it's-a raining alien ships!
The man also presents himself as Mazer Rackham: Yep, like the hero who defeated the Formics 50 years prior. In his great move against the alien army, he ejected himself from his ship just before it rammed into the Formic mothership. Using his ship’s HUD, he figured out the epicenter of the alien formations, and found that the Formics, who are frequently compared to ants, acted as such in their dogfighting. They follow a similar system where a Queen is the only member capable of independent thought. Killing the Queen present in the mothership stopped every other Formic ship, their pilots dead, the ships stopped moving in the sky and fell. Good to know! If there’s one thing video games have always taught us, it’s to study the enemy’s patterns and figure out the best course of action from there. I mean, have you ever encountered a platforming boss with a very obvious pattern? Yep, apply a much more complex version of that to warfare now.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about Rackham’s face paint, he explains that he is half-Maori, from his father’s side. His father died in the first war against the Formics, so it’s Mazer’s way to “Speak for the dead”, he says. What a coincidence, this is the title of the sequel book in the Ender series! But that’s far ahead. Gotta admit though, that is a nice touch to the story.

Ender is then presented his new team on this base of operations: A team formed of all of his best friends from the Battle School! Alai and Bean are there, Petra’s there, they even got Bernard (who has gained a bucketload of respect for Ender) and Dink (one of the most reasonable and nice guys from the Salamander army)! It’s almost too perfect to be true, like a team made especially to play tactical games!

You know what, admit it. Seeing all those ships as holograms all around
Ender and his team is impressive. Even VR doesn't come close to this
level of awesome.
From that point on in the story, Ender and his team (dubbed a “jeesh”) will be playing a large-scale spatial warfare simulator preparing them to command and order a battalion of real ships and pilots when the Formic army returns… which could be soon. We are shown the simulated Formic homeworld, a desert-like land with the antlike aliens living underground… well, except for those tens of thousands taking place in the thousands of ships in the sky…

We get the big rule of the new game: One ship comes with a massive bomb called the Little Doctor, which is able to spread its reactive explosives to anything nearby that can explode, which can cause a massive chain reaction and destroy a staggering number of ships all at the same time…

Follow me in Part 3 to see the grand ending of this story!

February 10, 2017

VGFlicks: Ender's Game (Part 1)

One of the earliest novels to make mention of anything resembling video games is Ender’s Game. Orson Scott Card’s science-fiction story is, at its base, a version of the “humans versus aliens” plot with focus on what humans do to prepare for war, although he touches on various other themes. Many sci-fi stories try to explore the evolution of technology and how it affects day-to-day lives. Whether it’s the more hopeful, Disney-like tales, or the darkest episodes of Black Mirror, we’re shown a world that isn’t ours, but could be ours, whether it’s in ten years, in twenty years, in a century… or just around the corner. Along with all the repercussions of technology, both positive and negative. Or, in some cases, what current technology will be like if we allow it to continue where it is heading.

The original book was published on January 15th, 1985. That same year, the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America, on October 18th. When Ender’s Game came out, video games were already a thing, but they certainly weren’t as widespread as they would be merely a year or two later. As such, Card’s depiction of futuristic video games is fairly interesting. In the era of 8-bit consoles, he not only predicted high-definition games, but he also predicted computer gaming and simulation gaming (That said, he also made many predictions that turned out false, but I’ll come back to those in due time). It is quite interesting, really, to observe this imaginary depiction of what games in a far future would be like, only to compare with the modern world and see that, aside from a few differences, we’re already there. Granted, before being a story about technology of the future, it’s a story of intergalactic battles between the human race and an invasive alien species…

It is also a little difficult to discuss this story without mentioning Orson Scott Card’s strong outspoken stance against homosexuality, which has turned off more than a few people away from his works. I will try not to discuss this too much, mostly because it is completely unrelated to the story of Ender’s Game itself. It does beg the question on whether or not one should avoid certain authors or artists based on their political stances. I personally would refuse to take a look at this story if it was a blatant anti-gay message parading as a war between humans and aliens, but as I said, this book and this movie do not contain anything that could point to that controversy. Therefore, I acknowledge that it is an iffy story to discuss, but I feel like there is nothing linking the plot to Card’s controversial views. I strongly disagree with the guy, and believe that his stance is outdated and close-minded (ironic, considering he wrote science-fiction, one of the most progressive genres out there if not THE most progressive), but that is all I will say on the matter. There goes my disclaimer, and now that this is out of the way, let’s get on with the actual story. Keep in mind that I am reviewing the film more than the book, but I have read the book, so I will often explain some things that were left out of the adaptation.

The film opens as we are presented the central conflict: A race of insectoid aliens dubbed Formics attacked Planet Earth. They were repealed, but with heavy losses for the humans. In preparation for what the humans think to be an inevitable counterstrike from the Formics, space travel and combat became the fields of technology that had major breakthroughs. After all, most of the advanced technologies we own today can have their origins traced back to previous wars. It only makes sense that, in the Ender’s Game universe, technology has evolved first to fend off the invaders and save mankind, second to benefit mankind. I should also note that, while in the movie they keep the name Formics, in the original book, humans have taken to calling them Buggers. I don’t know, maybe director Gavin Hood thought it would be too negative?

February 3, 2017

Worst 12 Gimmick Pokémon

Alright, let’s stay on the topic of Pokémon. It is one of the easiest franchises to make lists about, after all. I have countless times in the past declared that I love this franchise, and I do. There has, however, always been something that bugged me with Pokémon and every new generation: Gimmick Pokémon.

Shuckle's gimmick is that it has some of the highest
numbers in both defense stats, but abysmal attack
stats and HP, making it very difficult to use. Many
strategies aroundit involve switching its stats
around or making complex combos to make it
more viable.
Okay, so let’s be clear: Most Pokémon have gimmicks, or grew and changed throughout the Generations to gain a gimmick. Some have special moves, some have special abilities since the third Generation. It’s like some were meant to suck and started sub-par compared to the others, and never really improved. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I get that not every Pokémon can be a tournament-worthy killing machine. It hasn’t stopped some gimmick Pokémon from having a gimmick that made them perfectly deadly and destructive in their own right. Not all gimmick Pokémon have this chance. There are various types of gimmick: Plot-based, appearance-based, form-based, ability-based, moveset-based, myth-based... I have examples of all of those.

Some Pokémon were given a gimmick that lasted all of one Generation, only to be forgotten by the next. Some simply have horrible stats that wouldn’t make them viable for serious matches. Others are more viable in combat but there’s still that gimmick that follows them around, that annoys some players about the very existence of these Pokémon. Here, I am listing the 12 gimmicky Pokémon that I consider the worst. I will probably make a Top 12 list to counterbalance this someday… just not right now, enough discussing Pokémon for a bit after this list. As a note, I am also not including Pokémon that are weak and have nothing to help them, unless it’s tied into the gimmick. Okay, we’re counting down! (P.S. This list may contain spoilers from the newest games)

12. Slaking
Type of gimmick: Ability-based
Note how this is the only ability that this
Pokémon can ever have at the moment.
Starting off with a Pokémon whose gimmick still makes it a little viable, if you’re lucky. Slakoth and Slaking are Gen 3 Pokémon with their sole ability being Truant. This ability makes them attack one turn and do nothing the next. You’ll notice that this list contains a few Pokémon whose Ability is what makes them gimmicky, often without good reason. To compensate, Slaking has stats that rival most Legendary Pokémon, a whopping 670 base stats total (just 10 below version mascots)! As a result, Slaking is a beast on the field, as long as you can accept that it takes some time off between attacks. Christ, even Snorlax isn’t that lazy. Oh, it’s possible to set up some strategies to bypass that, but it’s probably too much work for a Pokémon that isn’t all that worth it. Same could be said for Regigigas and its ability Slow Start, which halve its Attack and Speed for its first five turns on the field. As if having the same Pokémon for five turns on the field, that’s a common thing to happen in competitive battling…

11. Durant
Type of gimmick: Concept-based
Looks all menacing, but its reason to
exist is to get its ass whooped by
Some Pokémon seem to exist solely for plot, or because the team at Game Freak wanted to make a point about the Pokémon universe. One of them is Durant, a Bug/Steel ant from Gen 5. It’s actually okay on paper (if you forget that you can catch one with its Hidden Ability… Truant, what the fuck). However, it exists for one reason only: To get beat up by Heatmor, the previous Pokémon in the Dex, a Fire-type anteater. Durant has a 4X weakness to Fire-type attacks. Seldom-seen used by Trainers who’ll prefer better Bug/Steel Pokémon (such as Scizor), ignored for other reasons as well… Yeah. Hell, Gen 5 had a better Bug/Steel Pokémon in Escavalier. Thus is the Durant’s life. It would be seen in Gen ‘s Horde Battles, usually as four Durant against one Heatmor, explaining the Pokédex descriptions that state that this Pokémon attacks in groups. That still makes it a victim of its plot-based gimmick, since its entire point is to be Heatmor food.

10. Kecleon
Type of gimmick: Ability-based
It was also a gimmick in Gen 3 as an
invisible barrier, for some reason.
Here’s another that can be viable if used correctly. Kecleon is the only Pokémon to possess the Ability Color Change, which changes its current type to that of the last move it was hit by. Like a lot of things in life, this is a blessing and a curse. Human opponents tend to be smarter than AI opponents, so they can use this to their advantage. First by changing the Keckleon to a type, then using a move that is super effective against that type (Ghost and Dragon work well, since they’re also weak to themselves). Some Kecleon may have the Hidden Ability Protean, which changes their type to the type of the last attack they used – which is a little better but not necessarily by much, especially because of Kecleon’s very sub-par stats. At least you get more control on which type you want your Kecleon to be – but it’s still not always enough.

9. Phione
Type of gimmick: Myth-based
The not-so-legendary baby...
...the proud, Legendary mommy.
Manaphy is the only Legendary Pokémon capable of breeding. Whether you like it or not, that counts as a gimmick. However, like most Legendary Pokémon, Manaphy has great stats. Its baby Phione, however, it’s another story. Being the only possible baby of a Legendary Pokémon, whether you like it or not, Phione is also a gimmick Pokémon. How gimmicky that may be in regard to gameplay, that’s up for discussion. Phione has 80 in all stats, which makes it just okay across the board, with 480 as base stats total. That makes it viable in combat, but not as good as many others. Its ability, Hydration, is okay, but nothing more. In the end, it’s another of those Pokémon that would be unceremoniously called “filler” by completionists… much like most other baby Pokémon introduced in Generations 2 to 4, all Pokémon with weak stats evolving through friendship or similar means, often obtainable only through breeding. Phione is the pinnacle of those.

8. Chatot
Type of gimmick: Moveset-based
Polly wants a mirophone -
It was taken away from him!
Some Pokémon have a signature ability that makes them special. Others have one or two signature moves that no other Pokémon has – or these moves are learned by very few other Pokémon. Some Pokémon have gimmicks that do weird things, often breaking the fourth wall. Inkay evolves into Malamar on Level 30 and only if the Nintendo 3DS is flipped upside down; good luck getting THAT to work if that Pokémon ever has to evolve in a non-portable console that can’t be flipped. Generation 4’s Chatot is another example. For a single-stage Pokémon, it has barely correct stats – which, alright, equipped with the right moves, it can still become a threat. Let’s be honest here, even gimmick Pokémon are at least usable on a casual, non-competitive level, as long as you can get them the best stuff they can use. Chatot’s gimmick is the signature move Chatter. In Generations 4 and 5, you were able to record your own voice clip into the Nintendo DS, and Chatot would distort and yell that clip, possibly confusing the target opponent Pokémon. However, if there’s one thing humans are good for, it’s ruining things with vulgarity. Nintendo made the mistake of allowing players to customize vehicles in Mario Kart DS by drawing a picture in a square of pixels – and, lo and behold, the game was soon invaded by pixelated genitalia. It must have been awesome to have a Pokémon yell “Motherfucker!” at the opponent… but Pokémon’s general E rating tends to disagree, so the feature was taken out... removing most of Chatot’s gimmick. See, that’s the problem with gimmicks on Pokémon. When they’re removed, a Pokémon loses the one reason for which it was created.

7. Farfetch’d
Type of gimmick: Concept-based
It's a shame this Pok.mon was in Gen 1,
if it was from a later Gen it might
have been revealed by Game Freak...
Through a leak.
Leak, leek, geddit?
Let’s all agree that creating Pokémon that suck “because why not” is a terrible idea. Game Freak, when building each new Generation, grabs inspiration from real-life animals – especially weird or unexpected ones – but also folk tales, legends, myths… and expressions. Spoink’s Pearls before swine, anyone? Even Magikarp was based on the legend of carps turning into dragons, were they to leap over the Dragon Gate. Farfetch’d isn’t so lucky. Its existence is based on the Japanese proverb “A duck comes bearing green onions”, meaning a strange coincidence. In Gen 1, it could only be received through trading. Starting with Gen 2, it could now be found in the wild, albeit with its same poor stats. Gen 6 applied the “coincidence” aspect a little more, having Farfetch’d as a Pokémon you can again receive through a trade, one that is super effective against the next Gym, which featured Bug-type Pokémon. It has lately become a Pokémon centered on scoring critical hits frequently through a combination of moves and held items, but its stats are still poor and every other fully-evolved Normal/Flying Pokémon out there is better than this guy. Even Chatot. And it appears that Game Freak doesn’t want to give the little guy an evolution or anything. Oh well.

6. Spinda
Type of gimmick: Appearance- and moveset-based
♪♫You spin me right round, baby
right round, like a record baby
right round round round...♪♫
Some Pokémon have gimmicks that will never go away. It’s like a part of their design – literally so with Spinda. This red panda Pokémon is special, in that every Pokémon game uses a special algorithm to set the red spots on its head and ears – leading to over four billion possible combinations. In other words, you will likely never meet two Spinda who look exactly the same – unless you clone them, you darn cheater. It’s also constantly moving in place, in a constant state of dizziness and confusion (its entire moveset seems to be based around those), with piss-poor stats to top it all off. Yep, not content with having one gimmick, Spinda has two! It’s been worthless since Gen 3, and has mostly remained worthless since… well, don’t quote me on that, but apparently there’s something to be done with a Spinda, the move Skill Swap, its Hidden Ability Contrary (which decreases the Pokémon’s stat if it uses a stat-enhancing move, and vice-versa), and a Pokémon that should lose some points in its Attack stat after using very powerful attacks… But outside of that very particular situation, Spinda is still mostly useless.

5. Castform
Type of gimmick: Form-, Ability- and Moveset-based
It's like most of the worst things about
gimmick Pokémon, all rolled up into
Weather was introduced in the second Generation, and as with every new major gameplay element, we needed our own themed Pokémon, right? I mean, it’s not like Groudon, Kyogre and Rayquaza were enough when Gen 3 arrived! Thus we get Castform, a little creature whose entire idea is “Cause a weather effect, change to that weather’s type, use special attack”. Okay, so, here’s a breakdown of what’s wrong with this Pokémon.
-Using the weather effect move takes a turn, which is already difficult if you’re encountering an opponent.
-Weather effects only last 5 turns, so you’ll have to use one again soon.
-Castform’s type changes to Water under rain, Fire under harsh sunlight, Ice under hail. That’s it. First off, this means that Castform gains that type’s strengths and weaknesses. Second, it doesn’t have a form for one of the most common overworld weathers, sandstorm.
-Castform re-loses the new typing when the weather ends.
-Its attack that changes type, Weather Ball, has only 10 PP, so even if you were able to use it for a while, you would run out very quickly – even if its PP are increased to its maximum 16. If you have the three weather-changing moves in his arsenal and Weather Ball, that also makes it Castform’s only way to defend itself.
-Its ability is Forecast, the one thing that lets it transform in the first place, and it has no other, better ability (Hidden or not) that would be more useful.
-It looks like a ball with a face over a pair of the other kind of balls.
-Oh, and Castform’s stats are crap to start with.
In Pokémon Sun and Moon, Game Freak at least tried to add something interesting to the concept by having it pop up only when weather effects are used during SOS battles. However… this can also summon other weather-related Pokémon sometimes, like Poliwhirl, Goomy, Vanillite or Gabite, all of which are better than Castform in every freaking way. Big thumb-down for this Pokémon of little use.

4. Luvdisc
Type of gimmick: Plot-based
Awwwww, it's so cute! Let's kill
it and steal its treasure!
Ah, yes… That well of suckiness. You knew this was coming. Luvdisc was created in Gen 3 for a single reason: Heart scales. This new item was a revolution in the franchise, allowing some Pokémon to re-learn moves they had learned previously but lost… as long as you could give that item to a Move Relearner somewhere in the region. This turned out to be extremely interesting, and even allowed some Pokémon to learn some of the moves they can learn and forget on Level 1. We could now access those through the Move Relearner and the Heart Scales. Only downside? It’s a held item on this crappy Pokémon in the wild, a Pokémon with horrible base stats, a Pokémon that has seen no considerable improvement since its creation. In fact, heart scales became even more common starting in Gen 5, making this Pokémon even MORE useless. I’m not even sure what else to say about it, honestly. That’s an awful gimmick and an awful idea overall. But hey, guess we did need some way to explain why those damn Heart Scales exist… And yes, I am one of those “Luvdisc should evolve into Alomomola” type of guy.

3. Cosmog and Cosmoem
Type of gimmick: Plot- and myth-based
(Nebby "Pew-Pew" ["Get-In-The-****ing-Bag"] Cosmog...
,,,The second.
The first one has already reached its final form.) 
MAJOR SPOILERS HERE. Take Magikarp Power, then turn the dial up to 11- No, wait, turn it up to 111. Cosmog has a very important role in the plot of Pokémon Sun and Moon. Its status as a creature able to open rifts towards the Ultra Beasts’ dimension, its status as a technical Ultra Beast, its cosmic appearance, and its omnipresence in the plot as Lillie’s companion (“Get in the bag Nebby!”), make it quite the notable creature. However, Cosmog learns no offensive or defensive moves whatsoever, having only Splash and Teleport to rely on (while even Magikarp learns Tackle at Level 15!). It’s also one of the lightest Pokémon of all, weighing 0.2 lbs. At Level 43, it becomes Cosmoem, which has greatly improved Defense and Special Defense, but still no way to fight at all – it gains the move Cosmic Power, which increases its defenses even more, making it basically a stone wall to put in place while you’re healing your other Pokémon. Cosmoem is also one of the two heaviest Pokémon to exist, at 2204.4 lbs., tied with Celesteela, also from Gen 7. The only saving grace is that, at Level 53, Cosmoem evolves into Solgaleo in Pokémon Sun, and into Lunala in Pokémon Moon, the mascot Legendaries of the generation and formidable beasts – more formidable than Gyarados, Milotic or even School Form Wishiwashi. All it took was ultra-long, painful EXP farming!
Never mind the fact that Lillie was perfectly able to carry
around in her bag officially one of the two heaviest
Pokémon in existence. That it floats in place is not
good enough of an explanation.
I consider them gimmick Pokémon for two reasons:
-They are the first to evolve into a Legendary Pokémon, which was never seen before;
-And they evolve differently depending on the version, which was also never seen before Gen 7, a gimmick also used by Rockruff when it becomes Midday or Midnight Lycanroc. I take issue with that one in particular because it doesn’t explain how, exactly, any of these Pokémon will evolve when the next games come in and they’re not Pokémon Sun or Moon. Will they evolve based on the time of day? Will they be given arbitrarily one version of the new games in which they’ll evolve into one or the other? Long story short, I am not a fan of version-exclusive evolution.
-Hell, to some extent, the change from being among the lightest Pokémon to turning into one of the heaviest Pokémon may as well be a gimmick too.
These two are a burden until they reach Level 53, with nothing to save them until their evolution into Solgaleo or Lunala. In the seventh Generation, which had tons of gimmick Pokémon, those are among the worst. Good thing they are Legendaries in disguise, huh?

2. Delibird
Type of gimmick: Moveset- and concept-based
It does feel like this Pokémon was created while
the developers were drunk. And look at that, like
a particularly bad mistake made while drunk,
they're now living every Generation with the
terrible consequences.
I like to imagine a few Game Freak employees during their Holiday party, after a couple drinks, going, “You know what would be funny? Creating the worst Pokémon ever.”
“We already have plans for it, they’re called Unown.”
“No- *hips!* I mean, the worst. Like, worst of the worst. Not even the mythos of the Pokémon world could save it. See what I mean?”
“I would love to pull that sort of prank on the enormous fanbase of our most famous series, but we’re gonna be stuck with that decision for a long time! We need something smart!”
“No worries. I got that idea of a Pokémon based on Santa… sorta… *hips!*”
Thus Delibird was born. One of the biggest jokes in Gen 2, where all it could learn was Present, an attack that dealt varying damage at random (40, 80 or 120 base damage)… and, 1/5th of the time, would actually HEAL the opponent. The only way to make it even slightly viable was through TMs and HMs, at a time where TMs had only one use, and most of them couldn’t be bought again once gone. Nowadays, since TMs don’t disappear, you can actually give Delibird many good Ice- and Flying-type moves, and it can also learn more good moves through breeding. However, its base stat total is still 330, thus still utterly awful. Don’t expect this guy to be seen anywhere in the teams of serious players… Thanks, Game Freak, for the second most useless Pokémon of all… Only surpassed by…

1. Unown
Type of gimmick: Myth- and concept-based
Well, I foreshadowed them in the previous entry. There’s 28 different Unown. All they ever learn is Hidden Power, an attack with a secret type which, until recently, you couldn’t learn about until you battled enough Pokémon in the wild. They can’t be taught any other moves through TMs, HMs, or any other method. Unown have a base stat total of 336, barely better than Delibird. The only ability they can ever learn is Levitate, which just protects them from Ground-type attacks. That’s something, I guess, but they have nothing more useful. They are an intricate part of the Pokémon mythos, involved in the Arceus’s ritual when he creates another Dialga, Palkia or Giratina, and they are also implied to have ties with other legends of that world. They are the true villains in the most memorable (and, in my opinion, best) Pokémon movie, where they were frequently shown as all-CGI to highlight their eldritch nature. But they’re shit. Only good for the collection and nothing else. Oh yeah, sure, they can hold their own for a very short time, but let’s say I wouldn’t cash in on beating the Elite 4 with a full team of those. These are the worst Pokémon to exist. In my wildest dreams, I could imagine them having some bonus in-battle based on how many Unown are in your team, and a full team of Unown could be more viable – in stats, at least – but like Farfetch’d or Delibird, these were never meant to be viable, so we’ll never see those awesome possibilities.

There's nothing to be scared of!
It only had Hidden Power and crappy stats!
Just whack it with the closest blunt object, you'll be fine!

This concludes my list! I would like to say that, despite what I’ve said in the article so far, I have nothing against gimmick Pokémon. I am however sad when a Pokémon loses its gimmick when we move to a new Generation, or when a Pokémon’s gimmick is a hindrance to its usefulness or turns it into a joke. To end on a more positive note, here are some other Pokémon with gimmicks that are either appreciated by the community, actually useful in a team, or with something that greatly helps them.
Waa-bah-bah! Wobuffet spoke
Rabbid before the Rabbids existed.
-Wynaut and Wobbuffet: The masters of the counterstrike, a pain in the ass to fight against, which just proves how powerful they are. All they need is their four best moves.
-Smeargle: One of the Pokémon with the poorest stats overall, but able to learn practically any attack through its Sketch attack. If it learns a set of powerful attacks, it can pass them on, and help the rest of the team.
-Shedinja: Immune to all but 5 types thanks to Wonder Guard, against the right opponents Shedinja can attack at will and never be defeated. Its stats are poor, and it takes some time learning to use strategies that benefit its 1HP status, but it has the potential to become incredible.
Christ, this thing is ugly.
You can fish out a Magikarp
almost anywhere - this thing
is mighty rare.
-Feebas: The only Pokémon that ever had to evolve through max beauty, which is extremely annoying. Unfortunately (or fortunately) lost its gimmick in later Gens, where it could then evolve by being traded with a Prism Scale; but it becomes Milotic, so it isn’t all that bad. I wished it wasn’t that friggin’ rare though.
-Rotom: An awesome gimmick that changes it Ghost-type to one of 5 different types. The one annoying thing about it is that, now, every main series game needs a room with the appliances Rotom uses to transform.
-Deerling and Sawsbuck: Correct Pokémon, but they were created for the seasonal gimmick of Gen 5, which was dropped in Gen 6. To have all 4 versions of Deerling and Sawsbuck, you need to catch one of each in Gen 5 and transfer them to the new games. Another Pokémon that lost its reason to exist when its gimmick stopped being used…
-Zoroark: One of the most special abilities, and a very good Pokémon to use it. Not much else to say, Zoroark is awesome.
So much pink - so much
-Sylveon: The only Pokémon to evolve through Pokémon-Amie, and thankfully, that’s one feature that will likely come back in every next Generation, so we’re likely never gonna lose our ticket from a cute Eevee to an even cuter Sylveon.
-Oricorio: Stats that are merely correct, but its transformation between four different sets of types is what makes this bird interesting. You can carry one in your team and adapt it to the next opponent you’ll encounter!
-Wishiwashi: That’s Magikarp Power turned to 11. Starts off with the official lowest base stat total at 175, but at Level 20 becomes, through its ability, a monstrous beast with a base stat total of 620 as long as its Hit Points are over 25%. It’s a good Pokémon that probably takes some strategy to use correctly, but it’s much better than many Pokémon on this Worst 12 list, due to the low base stats totals, weak concepts, shallow movepools or weakening abilities some of those happened to have.

You can disagree with me on any of those, but some of them are better than the ones on this list, that’s for sure.

Okay, this was a very long list, but I’m happy with the end result. I hope you enjoyed reading this. Is there a gimmick Pokémon that you believe should have been discussed here? Feel free to comment!

Next week… Hm… Probably a film or a TV show.