Get your Squirtle Squad sunglasses ready or order some in time for July 8’s Pokémon Go community day, which focuses on Kanto’s water starter.

During the day, Squirtles will be a much more common encounter out in the wild, which also raises the rate of Shiny Squirtles found, too. In addition, if you’re able to raise a Squirtle to Blastoise while the community day is still ongoing, your Blastoise will have an exclusive move that Niantic has yet to reveal.

Additionally, eggs will hatch at 25 percent of their usual distance, and time-based buffs will last three hours instead of thirty minutes.

This event will predate the Pokémon Go Festival and possibly the introduction of trading and friend lists by a few days, so this could be the last community day where you can’t trade or level up your friendships. If Niantic flips the switch on those features early, it could be the first community day with them!

Pokémon Go is available for iOS and Android.

 

The World Health Organization has been considering whether or not to officially recognize gaming addiction as a disorder. The decision was ultimately made official yesterday, which is causing strenuous objection from the Entertainment Software Association, a lobbying group made of up companies within the gaming industry.

In a statement released to the media signed by the ESA, the ESA of Canada, the European Games Developer Federation, Interactive Entertainment South Africa, Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, Korea Association of Game Industry, Interactive Software Federation of Europe, and United Brazilian Organization of Video Games, the industry expressed its concern:

“Video games across all kinds of genres, devices and platforms are enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide, with the educational, therapeutic, and recreational value of games being well-founded and widely recognized. We are therefore concerned to see ‘gaming disorder’ still contained in the latest version of the WHO’s ICD-11 despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community. The evidence for its inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive. We hope that the WHO will reconsider the mounting evidence put before them before proposing inclusion of ‘gaming disorder’ in the final version of ICD-11 to be endorsed next year. We understand that our industry and supporters around the world will continue raising their voices in opposition to this move and urge the WHO to avoid taking steps that would have unjustified implications for national health systems across the world.”

The ESA also pushed back against this categorization in January of this year after the World Health Organization first announced its intent to pursue this idea, and then again in March.

 

Our Take
I think gaming addiction absolutely needs classification, but the WHO’s minimum number (20 hours a week) works out to a bit less than three hours a day, which seems does not seem dysfunctionally high. That said, the gaming industry is obviously fighting this because it could hurt their bottom line. I guess there’s not much to do here but sit back and observe.

Sanhok, the new PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds map, officially launches on June 22, and is now available on the game’s test servers. PUBG Corp. announced the map’s launch via Twitter.

The map, a jungle battleground smaller than the game’s other maps, was once known as “Codename: Savage,” and was available for players to test in the past. To see our impressions of the map back in its test phase, check out this episode of New Gameplay Today.

PUBG Corp. also announced that the game has sold more than 50 million copies on PC and Xbox One, and has reached more than 400 million total players across PC, Xbox One, iOS, and Android. To celebrate, the game is discounted to $19.99 on Steam until July 5.

Taking cues from playground battles across the world, Fortnite is adding a stink bomb to its roster of cartoon weaponry. The new weapon will cause continuous damage to anyone standing within its radius (you know, just like real life).

Additionally, patch 4.4 introduces Final Fight, a Battle Royale in which teams of 20 will fight to have the most players standing at the end of a round. The storm circle is less restrictive in this mode, necessitating teams really hunt each other.

Finally, the patch fixes a number of bugs and performance issues.  

When I was a kid, I tried assembling a model car. This was back before “Nailed it!” was a meme (and before the internet in general), but I remember being disappointed by the disparity between the picture on the box and my final result. Compared to the idealized image, my car was lopsided, painted poorly, and glued together in the wrong places. This memory came back to me several times while playing Vampyr. Dontnod’s gothic action/RPG has conceptual components that could have been assembled into a great open-world vampire experience, but they weren’t. The gulf separating that perfect vision from the flawed reality is ever-apparent, and admirable ambitions can’t atone for clumsy execution.

You play as Dr. Jonathan Reid, a recently transformed vampire who must balance his need for blood against his desire to help treat London’s Spanish flu epidemic. The grim atmosphere is well-crafted, with evocative music punctuating your trips down foggy and deserted streets. You explore different parts of London, meet the residents, and fight beasts and hostile humans. The unique premise is Vampyr’s biggest strength, putting players in the position of a morally upstanding character who has to wrestle with immoral impulses to hold a crumbling world together.

Despite an intriguing narrative backdrop, a meaty chunk of Vampyr’s gameplay involves a clunky third-person combat system. Keeping an eye on your health, stamina, and blood (i.e. mana), you fight a too-small selection of enemy types like vampire hunters and zombie-like skals. You can also invest in various vampire powers, like a bloody claw slash or a blood shield that absorbs damage. These expand your options, but not enough; encounters are repetitive and the mechanics are functional at best, and battles never settle into a sweet spot because the action fluctuates wildly between too hard and too easy.

The team at Dontnod made it the player’s responsibility to tune the difficulty through their choices, which creates major problems. If you want to get stronger and unlock more health, stamina, and vampiric abilities, you need to drink blood for XP. The only significant source of blood is civilians (all of which are named and have dialogue), and when you kill them, you are locking yourself out of potential side missions or story content. This choice is interesting in theory, but punitive in practice because the things you’re weighing feel mismatched. One is narrative and one is mechanical, so you don’t get the fun of seeing different-but-equivalent paths unfold.

Considering how brutally difficult combat becomes if you elect not to feed, all but the most hardcore players need to kill to improve their stats. To make each sacrifice count, you must get to know your victims to maximize the richness of their blood. This fascinating idea occasionally makes you feel like a twisted predator; you help people, heal sickness, and build friendships all to make your ultimate betrayal as bountiful as possible. However, the process of talking to people and interrogating their friends to get clues feels mechanical. I got so sick of the back-and-forth and fetch quests that I eventually just did a sweep of London and murdered every civilian I could in a single night. Districts collapsed, innocents died, and my bad ending was assured, but I got a ton of XP to spend on powers that made every battle thereafter a breeze.

 

Vampyr’s attempts to let you forge your own destiny are ultimately unsatisfying. Though you can make decisions in dialogue trees, the game doesn’t respond to those choices in interesting ways. How you deal with the community pillar in each district has the most noticeable repercussions, but the game doesn’t provide a clear sense of what the outcomes might be. For instance, I unknowingly lost my opportunity to get an important treatment for other citizens by drinking the blood of a rogue nurse. I later learned that the optimal choice in these scenarios is to let the characters live – in which case, offering the decision seems pointless.

Vampyr is also riddled with basic technical problems like long loads, odd collision, and stilted animation. The rough edges can tap into a similar appeal that I find in games like Deadly Premonition or Earth Defense Force, but they are also frustrating – especially when the whole game crashes at critical moments. Nothing that Vampyr provides makes it worth putting up with these problems, or any of the other issues plaguing the game. Through the fog awkward mechanics and unsatisfying decisions (not to mention some dumb story twists), the fun and intriguing core of Vampyr is sometimes visible. Unfortunately, that fog lifts only rarely, leaving most of the experience shrouded in darkness.

When Fortnite launched on Switch last week, it confirmed a theory players head about carrying over your Epic account between platforms. While your Epic account and all your Fortnite purchases are supposed to be movable to whatever platform you like, be it PC, mobile, or yes, even Switch and Xbox One, trying to use an account that has ever been used on a PlayStation 4 on the Xbox produced an inscrutable error. The error got more definition and clarity when the game launched on Switch, where it would produce the following error message:

“This Fortnite account is associated with a platform that does not allow it to operate on Switch. Neither the Fortnite website nor Epic Customer Service are able to change this. To play Fortnite on Switch, please create a new account.”

To clarify, this error does not occur if you take a Switch account to Xbox One or vise-versa or either account to PlayStation 4, but an account used on PlayStation 4 even once regardless of origin is locked to that system, PC, and mobile. This includes all progress and purchases, like Fortnite’s Battle Pass, as well. This stunned a lot of people who weren’t aware of this policy and has put public pressure on Sony to change their their restrictive and decidedly unclear policy on the subject.

On Twitter, John Smedley, former CEO of Sony Online Entertainment, replied to Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller on the subject, stating that the internal Sony reasoning for this came down to money.

“When I was at Sony, the stated reason internally for this was money,” Smedley said. “They didn’t like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a Playstation. Simple as that. Dumb reason, but there it is.”

The tweet was a follow up to Smedley saying “If we keep the pressure up [on Sony] this problem goes away.”

Due to the growing backlash, Sony issued a statement on the Fortnite blocks, choosing to focus more on the question of crossplay rather than accounts. In a statement issued to BBC, Sony said ”We’re always open to hearing what the PlayStation community is interested in to enhance their gaming experience. Fortnite is already a huge hit with PS4 fans, offering a true free-to-play experience so gamers can jump in and play online. With 79 million PS4s sold around the world and more than 80 million monthly active users on PlayStation Network, we’ve built a huge community of gamers who can play together on Fortnite and all online titles. We also offer Fortnite cross-play support with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, expanding the opportunity for Fortnite fans on PS4 to play with even more gamers on other platforms.”

 

Our Take
It’s no surprise to anyone out there that Sony’s primary concern when it comes to crossplay is money, but the account blocking at this point just seems like bad PR. Crossplay is one thing – a dumb thing, but an entirely different thing – but making the accounts incompatible feels petty.

Greatest Hits, Sony’s line of games that have achieved certain sales thresholds and get relaunched at discounted prices, is being brought back for the PlayStation 4. These will release as physical copies and on the PSN Store for a new permanent price of $19.99.

The initial set of games includes Bloodborne, Driveclub, Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Little Big Planet 3, the Ratchet and Clank remake, The Last of Us Remastered, Uncharted 4, Battlefield 4, Doom, Project Cars, Street Fighter V, Yakuza Kiwami, Yazkuza 0, and Metal Gear Solid V, with more games being added as time goes on.

PlayStation 4 Greatest Hits Lineup

The boxes will differ from original releases, traditionally with (fairly garish) banners over the box art and, for the first time, a switch in the color of the box from blue to red. Sony never makes public how many copies a game sells to qualify as a Greatest Hit, but traditionally the numbers have been around a million copies sold.

 

Our Take
I would probably get Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition on sale rather than vanilla Street Fighter V because the former includes more character DLC, but this is a good deal for a lot of those other games. As someone that likes uniformity in my physical collection, though, the different boxes would probably drive me nuts.

Sega has announced that the anticipated sequel to the Valkyria Chronicles series will be arriving on a multitude of platforms on September 25.

The title is the first new Valkyria game to hit western shores since Valkyria Chronicles II on PSP in 2010. The third game in the series never arrived in America and Sega had more or less shut down the series until Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, a HD update of the original PlayStation 3 game, beat expectations on PC and PlayStation 4. 

We recently got hands-on with Valkyria Chronicles 4 and our impressions of the game were fairly glowing. Check out our latest preview here.

A Square Peg In A Round Hole

Pokémon has seen its share of strange offshoots, but Pokémon Quest goes in unique directions with both its gameplay and art style. Taking place on an island where everything is shaped like a cube, the free-to-play Pokémon Quest has you exploring the region, collecting Pokémon, and powering up your monsters through fights. However, those high-level concepts are where the similarities to other games in the beloved series ends, along with the appeal. With uninteresting gameplay, frustrating collection mechanics, and tedious grinding, Pokémon Quest is spin-off that fails to live up to its namesake.

Pokémon Quest takes the familiar creatures from the first generation, turns them into cubes, and delivers a passive, top-down strategy experience. You select a group of three characters from your collection and guide them through levels. It’s more strategic than simply choosing your best Pokémon, as each of the 10 worlds grants a significant buff to a specific Pokémon type. I like that this gives you reason to level up creatures outside of your core squad; my team of fire Pokémon might breeze through one world, but they aren’t the best choice for the world full of water monsters.

Your Pokémon move through the level and toward enemies on their own; all you need to worry about is telling them which move to use. Combat is uneventful and unengaging overall, but I like the strategy of knowing which moves to use based on the situation. You factor in which attacks have pushback, or which ones have a chance to inflict a status ailment, like paralysis or confusion. If an enemy is gearing up to attack, you can also press the scatter button to cause the Pokémon to run in opposite directions, hopefully to safety. Navigating the user interface with a joystick-controlled cursor is clunky, meaning you should play Pokémon Quest in handheld mode to use the touch controls. 

Pokémon Quest is still about catching ‘em all, but that has nothing to do with the wild-Pokémon encounters in the levels. Instead, you cook stews that complete after you play a certain number of levels. Filling out a collection of monsters is always addictive, but the process is far more frustrating than ever before. While you discover which dishes attract specific types of Pokémon, the creature that comes running at the end is random. Need a Squirtle? Rather than going to the level where you can find a Squirtle, you must cook the water-Pokémon dish and hope you don’t get your twelfth Horsea instead. You also receive a random Pokémon in your camp as a daily login bonus, which helps, but doesn’t solve the problem.

Leveling up Pokémon through battle is often slow, meaning you must grind to gain experience. Even when Pokémon level up, they only gain small stat boosts and slow progress toward a new gem slot. The random-drop gems provide the real stat boosts, as they improve that Pokémon’s attack or defense by hundreds at a time. Rarer gems also providing boosts to stats like critical hit and recovery time, but opening new equip slots for your Pokémon takes a lot of experience. I enjoy the decision-making process of which gems to equip to which Pokémon, and the choices of replacing a lower-level gold-tier gem that grants several additional bonuses with a substantially higher-level common gem is always excruciating. While I don’t like how random the drops are in the levels, I do enjoy the rush of securing a powerful gem and watching a Pokémon’s stats leap when I equip it.

The grind is accentuated by the fact that you can only complete five stages at a time before you must wait for your in-game battery to recharge (you gain one charge every 30 minutes). Playing through the same levels repeatedly and only making incremental progress each time, meaning you’re going to be playing a lot of older levels on repeat to push your Pokémon to the next level. By the time I was powerful enough to take on the next level, I was equal parts excited and relieved that I could finally move on. Thankfully, you can set the game to auto mode and let your Pokémon choose their own moves for a completely passive experience. This delivers the least engaging gameplay experience possible, but I was happy to I didn’t have to actively control my Pokémon as they fight through waves of Exeggcute for the eighth time.

You can also power Pokémon up through training, which can either give an experience boost or teach a character a new move. This process is particularly annoying, as you must sacrifice other Pokémon in your collection to have a chance at progress. The more Pokémon you sacrifice, the greater the likelihood of success. I hate losing creatures from my roster only to see the training fail. You can guarantee success by serving up the same Pokémon as the one you’re trying to train, but that’s usually not an option thanks to the random nature of Pokémon acquisition.

 

As you continue through the island, you earn statues that decorate your base and grant often-hollow rewards. Some give experience bonuses for Pokémon up to a certain level to minimally assist with the grind, but most just award a small boost in the number of cooking ingredients you earn from completing levels. The best statue grants you an extra charge on your battery to let you complete six continuous levels, but as you may have guessed, it’s also the most expensive.

These statues can be purchased using tickets you earn or buy with real money. I can’t imagine spending cash on the statues, as the bonuses aren’t worth it, and even the best ones aren’t completely out of reach to earn from your daily bonus tickets, meaning the microtransactions are thankfully noninvasive. If you’re tempted to buy statues or expand your Pokémon or item-storage boxes, you earn tickets at a steady enough rate that you can do so without spending real money.

Pokémon Quest delivers cute moments, but the novelty wears off fast. By the time I reached the later stages, I was disenchanted by the necessary grinding and random elements permeating nearly every aspect. I enjoy parts of Pokémon Quest, but the adventure never amounts to anything memorable.

As part of an interview with the Toronto Star, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime talked a little about about the curious case of how well certain Nintendo series sell better in Canada than anywhere else.

“There are certain franchises that overperform in the Canadian market,” Reggie said. “Legend of Zelda is one. I can’t tell you why but the Canadian consumer loves it. Every single game in the series has done better with the Canadian audience than the U.S. audience, and the U.S. audience does better than Europe or Japan. Another phenomenon, and this is a recent trend, over the last 10 years is Pokémon. Pokémon games do exceptionally well [in Canada].”

Based on the best available data, it seems likely Reggie is referring to sales here proportional to the install base within those countries, so a higher percentage of Nintendo console owners in Canada buy Zelda and Pokémon games than anywhere else in the world. But it’s possible Nintendo has more accurate numbers that point to Canadian domination in absolute numbers.

In the same interview, Reggie was asked about other platform holders not targeting younger demographics as aggressively as Nintendo does. The answer speaks to Nintendo’s longterm strategy with its brand management.

“We are happy that they don’t,” he says referring to Microsoft and Sony. “It’s been an incredibly important market because the kid who’s 5 or 6 today is going to be 12 or 13 and not all that many years later 18 or 19. And when you have an affinity for Pokémon or The Legend of Zelda series or Mario Kart or Super Mario Bros. that affinity carries with you.”

[Source: Toronto Star]

 

Our Take
I’d love to see more regional breakdowns for long-running series. I wonder what other games do significantly better or worse in culturally similar countries.