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It's Time for the Ultra Sun to Set on This Version of Pokemon

STARTING SCREEN | Pokemon doesn't need to be an MMORPG, but it could sure learn a few lessons from the genre.

Feature by Kat Bailey, USgamer Team, .

Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon is a strange sight in the era of DLC—a throwback to the days before the internet changed everything.

It's one of Pokemon's infamous "third versions," which sprinkles in new quests, moves, and items in an effort to get the hardcore faithful to double dip. Any other developer would release the content found in Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon as an expansion pack. But Game Freak is still acting like it's 1999.

They're out of excuses though. With the Nintendo 3DS on the way out and the next generation set to debut on the Switch, there should never be another release like Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon.

Instead, Game Freak should be updating Pokemon regularly, rather than roughly once a year. The balance changes and move updates found in releases like Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon should be pushed live via patches. New content like the Team Rainbow Rocket challenges should be available through paid expansion packs.

I'll grant that this may wind up opening up a Pandora's Box and unleashing all the things people hate to see in games these days: season passes, pre-order bonuses, (shudder) loot boxes. But in the year 2017, there's simply no reason for Pokemon fans to be subjected to glorified DLC like Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and Game Freak has been notoriously slow to adapt to changing trends. Indeed, the "third version" is a tradition that extends all the way back to the original Game Boy, when the "Special Pikachu Version" incorporated elements of the anime in an effort to entice fans of the show.

This should be DLC.

With the exception of Pokemon X and Y, pretty much every generation has included a "third version" of some sort. And to be fair, they've often packed in a ton of great content. Pokemon Crystal gave us the Battle Tower, a selectable gender, and animations. Pokemon Emerald introduced the Battle Frontier—still my favorite ever piece of Pokemon postgame content. Pokemon Black 2/White 2 was a bonafide sequel, and for my money the best Pokemon ever released.

All have ultimately brought worthwhile changes to both the solo content and the overall metagame. But they're also from a different era-one where it was impossible to push such content live.

In an era where much more efficient alternatives exist, it's strange to ask hardcore fans to push through 10 to 15 hours of story they've already finished just to reach the new content they actually want. Imagine if Final Fantasy XIV forced everyone—not just new players—to run through the core story again just to reach the new quests in Stormblood. Imagine if Fallout 4's DLC were only accessible via a Game of the Year Edition that wasn't compatible with your old save.

That Game Freak has continued to lean on an outdated model is mostly down to fans and critics continuing let to them get away with it. They review well (Pokemon Ultra Sun currently boasts an 87 on Metacritic), sell well (Pokemon Platinum managed 1.3 million sales in its first nine days), and are generally regarded as the "definitive versions" in each generation. When they fail to materialize—as was the case with the fabled "Pokemon Z"—fans tend to get kind of grumpy. They want the extra content.

But that doesn't make them any less of a waste. I have no doubt that fans would happily embrace a more modern content model, provided that Game Freak didn't abuse it. Final Fantasy XIV's Stormblood is a great example of how it's possible to whip a community into a frenzy with a well-produced expansion pack.

And Pokemon and Final Fantasy XIV have more in common than you think. Pokemon remains one of the earliest examples of the "persistent online platforms" that publishers pine after so much these days. With compatibility stretching all the way back to Ruby and Sapphire on the GBA (!), each new game has become like an expansion pack all its own, an opportunity to build on the existing framework. It's one major reason that Pokemon has boasted one of the biggest and most active online communities for the past 15 years.

Given Pokemon's popularity, Game Freak has actually shown a lot of restraint in refraining from nickel and diming fans with the actual games. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that the franchise makes an ungodly amount of money from merchandise. But that only makes releases like Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon that much more glaring of a cash grab.

When the Switch generation eventually launches in 2018 or 2019, it should be the beginning of a new era for Pokemon. One in which regular updates and content drops remove the need for releases like Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.

As much as I appreciate all the updates and additional content waiting for me in Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon's endgame, I really hope that this is the last time that I have to wade through a story I've already played (really, a glorified tutorial) in order to get to the bits I actually want.

We're a long way from the days of the Game Boy. Online connections and memory cards have turned games into constantly expanding platforms. It's time for Game Freak to take advantage and let the sun set on the "third version" of Pokemon for good.

Looking Ahead to the Rest of the Week

We've managed to make it through another review season! With the exception of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and a handful of major DLC drops like the Destiny 2 expansion, we're pretty much set outside of Black Friday (buckle up). But there are still a few games of notes.

  • Battle Chef Brigade: Mike is unreasonably excited about Battle Chef Brigade. Like, it's seemingly all he can talk about in the team Slack channel. It's an action puzzler that borrows more than a little from Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma and Iron Chef, which sounds pretty neat. If you're curious, Mike will be streaming it tomorrow.
  • Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp: It was announced a while ago, but Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is finally getting a proper worldwide release on November 22. Caty says it's the least pushy game in the series, which is pretty amazing for a mobile game. Sounds like a great way to pass your time while your family argues about politics over Thanksgiving dinner.

Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Snake Eater

Nadia is unfortunately unable to contribute a capsule this week because she's busy with Black Friday guides, but we're not going to leave you in the lurch. I've lately been listening to a lot of Video Games Live on Spotify, and one game that gets me every time is "Snake Eater." I don't think you'll find a better tribute to the Bond films anywhere. It's touches like these that really made the Metal Gear Solid games special.

Mike's Media Minute

We all know that I'm writing about Justice League this week, right? Warner Bros released its tentpole film in the DC Extended Universe, a grand team up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. It was a film that should have rivaled Marvel Studios' The Avengers. Sure, Batman v Superman was contentious with the audience, but Wonder Woman was a hit! Certainly we were on an upswing and that would translate over to Justice League.

That wasn't the case apparently. Justice League struggled in its opening weekend, with a domestic take of $94 million and a worldwide haul of $281 million. Those are big numbers, but unfortunately, Justice League doesn't exist alone and taken in their context, this isn't a great start of a cornerstone of the DCEU. In terms of opening weekends in the genre, Justice League comes in behind every single DCEU film to date (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman), The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, all three Iron Man films, both Guardians of the Galaxy films, Deadpool, most of the Spider-Man films (except for Spider-Man 2 and both Amazings), and competing film Thor: Ragnarok. The latter is probably the one that hurts the most, with the third Thor film seeing a bigger opening than DC's biggest heroes.

More importantly, Justice League could end up being a financial miss for Warner Bros. Batman vs Superman opened big, but had a historical drop off. Man of Steel and Suicide Squad were more middle of the road in long-term performance, while Wonder Woman vastly outperformed on the domestic side. If Justice League performs in line with Suicide Squad and Man of Steel, it's running towards a domestic take of around $226 million. For argument's sake, let's say it performs better than Suicide Squad and Man of Steel internationally, matching BvS. That's a worldwide total of $768 million.

The issue is that studios don't get all of the revenue. Half of that goes towards movie exhibitors, like your local theatres and taxes. Justice League has a reported budget of $300 million. Marketing is probably another $100 million on the low end, being nice. To recoup that $400 million, Warner Bros needs around $800 million and as I noted above, it would have to pick up more business to make that happen. It is possible, given the Thanksgiving holiday, but it's certainly not guaranteed.

This should've been the company's crown jewel for the year. It's an okay film, I'd give it a 6 out of 10, but it at least felt like the future DCEU was in a solid place. Now, Warner Bros may have to rethink some of its future planned films. Now, the intriguing bit is Warner Bros already did its pivot in terms of the films it's planning, but it's still clear that the studio has no real vision for the characters. Hopefully, they get there sooner rather than later.

Caty's AltGame Corner

Fantastic Arcade just wrapped up in Austin, Texas, the independent-focused video game event hosted by Alamo Drafthouse and curated by Juegos Rancheros. For the past couple years, Fantastic Arcade hasn't just had new and upcoming games showcased at its pop-up arcade, but wholly exclusive ones too. This year, the Fantastic Arcade bundle reappeared, with new exclusive games created by the developers behind Beglitched, Black Gold, Fjords, Forget-Me-Not, Panoramical, and Strawberry Cubes.

The six game bundle of games exclusively made for the festival are as diverse as can be, pulling from its creators from all around the world. For instance, Beglitched's Jenny Jiao Hsia returns with her saccharine aesthetic in the low-poly Pipsqueak, a game about eating a whole bunch of eggs. Loren Schmidt, the developer behind Strawberry Cubes, contributed three small projects to the collection, all under the umbrella of Panic Variants. From simple arcade games to surreal experiments, the 2017 Fantastic Arcade Bundle is as wild as anticipated.

You can pick up the bundle for yourself for $15 on itch.io, the games compatible with mostly with PC and Mac, with a couple on Linux too. All proceeds are donated towards Juegos Rancheros' non-profit organization.

This Week's News and Notes

  • Valkyria Chronicles thankfully isn't dead in the wake of the absolutely atrocious Valkyria Revolution. Sega announced yesterday Valkyria Chronicles will at last be getting a proper numbered sequel that brings the series back to its roots. Even better, it will be on the Nintendo Switch. Valkyria Chronicles has been crying out for a real follow-up ever since Sega tried to cram the series on the PSP. I'm glad it's finally happening.
  • Almost all of the coverage around Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been uniformly negative, but Hirun does have this nice interview with Battlefront 2 star Janina Gavankar about being an Indian in the gaming space, the recent voice acting strike, and Twitter in 2017.
  • Speaking of Battlefront 2, I stand by my previous assertion that Starfighter Assault is my single favorite multiplayer experience of 2017. It's just a shame that it also happens to be one of the modes most compromised by microtransactions.
  • I've been complaining about having to play through Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon's story again, but I've been quietly getting back into the Pokemon spirit. I've also brought in this guy to help me along.
  • I bought and downloaded Skyrim for the Switch almost as soon as I finished reading Mike's analysis last week. It's not perfect, but I can't think of anything better for a transatlantic flight than portable Skyrim. I'm legitimately impressed that Bethesda managed to squeeze it in to the Switch without any noticeable performance issues. Well done.
  • In the meantime, Skyrim VR is basically Jackass.
  • Uncharted is 10 years old. Feel old yet?
  • It's a short week, and the USgamer team will be out during Thanksgiving. Don't fret, though: we're prepping a ton of articles before we head off on vacation, and we plan to record both podcasts on the holiday weekend. As always, thank you for supporting USgamer, and we wish you a safe and relaxing holiday with your friends and loved ones.

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Comments 17

  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #1 Kuni-Nino 27 days ago
    Justice League was a flat out disgrace of a film and a kick in the face to anyone who was a fan of MoS and BvS. WB and Whedon fucked over Snyder's vision in place for a shittier version of the Avengers. Everything that was promised in those earlier movies was blown to smithereens with JL.

    It kills me that WB opted for this incoherent, Frankenstein of a movie over something that would have at least been a coherent and a fitting end to a trilogy that was started over six years ago. WB sacrificed the integrity of their artists to chase Marvel money and, for one, I'm fucking glad it is blowing up in their face.

    I know Snyder's movies weren't for everyone, but they had a sizeable and passionate fan base. WB took advantage of a tragedy to oust him and then replaced him with a less talented and polar opposite contemporary in Whedon and the result were STILL bad. So good.

    I hope WB learns their lesson. I feel bad for Snyder. I feel bad for the cast and crew who were reportedly against the rewrites and reshoots. I feel bad for the BvS fans who had to endure this shit in theaters. I couldn't wait for it to be over.Edited 4 weeks ago by Kuni-Nino
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #2 Kat.Bailey 27 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino I feel bad for Snyder, but he never should have been hired in the first place. The man is an amazing visual artist with just amazingly poor taste. His turn at the helm of the DCU was always going to be a disaster. Unfortunately for WB, they're more or less locked into the grim dark with none of Snyder's flair. At this point they might as well blow it up and start over. But they won't. At least Wonder Woman was good (if a tad overrated).
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #3 Kuni-Nino 27 days ago
    @Kat.Bailey I'm a huge Snyder fan but I would agree that he shouldn't have been handed the rein to craft what was supposed to be a billion dollar universe. He's a niche director who specializes in genre films and has carved out an aesthetic in service for those kinds of films.

    I wouldn't say he has poor taste. He loves and takes influence from pretty awesome movies like Excalibur. But Snyder himself will tell you that his films are ironic and BvS concerns itself with deconstructing its heroes instead of pandering to them. Considering the results for me personally, it was a great idea. Loves BvS. It was a real, serious, forward thinking movie for adults. For the General Audience tho weaned on action comedies, it was a failure.

    So WB did fuck up in that sense. Snyder wasn't the right fit. He's not a bad director by any means, but now his name will live on in the same tier as Lucas as people who ruined childhood fantasies. I feel sad.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #4 MHWilliams 27 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino "I'm a huge Snyder fan but I would agree that he shouldn't have been handed the rein to craft what was supposed to be a billion dollar universe. He's a niche director who specializes in genre films and has carved out an aesthetic in service for those kinds of films. "

    At least you understand this. Trying to get other folks to understand that is hard.

    And BvS aimed for a bunch of themes and forward-thinking ideas, but missed most of them. If I'm aiming for a director to do deeper work and actually execute on it, I'm looking towards Denis Villeneuve, Alejandro Inarritu, Jeff Nichols, or Paul Thomas Anderson. Snyder wants to be there, but his storytelling simply isn't up to snuff.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #5 Kuni-Nino 27 days ago
    @MHWilliams I would heavily disagree seeing as how I've seen movies from all those guys and they haven't produced something as culturally significant as BvS. Maybe PTA did with There Will Be Blood but that movie meanders too much and indulges in a tour de force performance by Lewis at the expense of nearly everything else.

    I like all those guys btw but I don't put them above or below Snyder. They're different directors with different sensibilities. Villenue is probably closest Snyder but not really. He can't make a movie like 300 and Zack can't make something like Enemy. That's how I see it.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #6 yuberus 27 days ago
    I think Warner's takeaway ought to be putting women in as many roles creating these movies as possible, given that Wonder Woman has been the only good one
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #7 Kat.Bailey 27 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino ... Did you just unfavorably compare There Will Be Blood to Batman vs Superman? O-o
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #8 Kuni-Nino 27 days ago
    @Kat.Bailey Yeah, I went there lol. But just so you know, I've seen both movies many times and I can cite the many reasons why I hold such an opinion. To be clear tho, I like TWBB a lot but BvS (Ultimate Cut) is a classic in my eyes.

    Some directors just do it for you. Snyder is one of mines just like I know PTA is the same for others. You'll never get me to like Inherent Vice but some people swear by it.
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  • Avatar for docexe #9 docexe 27 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino “It was a real, serious, forward thinking movie for adults. For the General Audience tho weaned on action comedies, it was a failure.”

    Mmmm… Yeah, I find this argument in favor of Batman v Superman to be troubling, as it essentially boils down to snobbism (“of course you didn’t get this incredibly divisive and derided movie, it’s only for intelligent people like me”).

    But that being said, I also think that all the people who decry BvS on the basis of it being so “grimdark” and “cynical” are also missing the point. Superhero stories don’t have to be “lighthearted and fun” in order to be good. It has been shown (repeatedly!) that they can be serious, gritty, dark, satirical, and even cynical, yet still be quite good. And not only on the comic books themselves (see the works of Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker and the like) but even on film (see Darkman from Sam Raimi, The Crow from Alex Proyas, the Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan or Logan by James Mangold, which also premiered this year).

    Heck, barring some questionable storytelling decisions, I actually found Man of Steel to be quite good despite its serious and dark tone.

    So, the problem with Batman v Superman is not that it was too dark. The problem with Batman v Superman is that it was a bloated incoherent mess of a story. It aims high, sure, it attempts to be thought provoking, but ultimately fumbles it and fumbles it very badly.

    I have said it before, but it merits repeating: I didn’t have much hopes for Justice League and I’m not surprised it’s on route to become a flop. And I didn’t have much hopes precisely because the film makers, the cast, the executives and even the journalists covering the movie kept trying to reassure people that Justice League was going to be different from BvS because it was going to be more “lighthearted” and “fun”. But as I said before, the problem with BvS was not of tone but of the storytelling itself. Those constant remarks about the tone of the movie made it clear to me that everyone involved in the project had taken the wrong lessons from the critical trashing of BvS and were on route to repeat the same mistakes.

    I haven’t watched the movie yet, but based on the few spoilers I have read, it seems that I was indeed quite right. Mind you, I have to admit my inner comic book geek wants to watch it out of morbid curiosity, but the most rational part of my brain keeps repeating me that is better to wait till they pass it on TV.Edited 4 weeks ago by docexe
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  • Avatar for moochan #10 moochan 27 days ago
    I feel for many MoS and BvS was the start and end of the DCEU. Wonder Woman did fantastic box office wise for a bunch of different reasons but that might just be more of a fluke than a new trend. The wont do a reboot (which is funny since DC is the one that does reboots not Marvel) but I really feel for many there's little reason to jump back on the DC train.

    As for Pokemon yeah they really should have dropped the "third edition" since 3DS is more than capable for DLC and patching.
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  • Avatar for StrwbrryJams #11 StrwbrryJams 27 days ago
    Happy holidays y'all. Enjoy the well-earned time off!
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  • Avatar for not_themilkybarkid #12 not_themilkybarkid 27 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino Snyder is a hack. He was a hack when he made 300, he was a hack when he made Sucker Punch, and he's a hack now. I honestly have no idea how DC looked at those films and thought "this is the guy to trust our entire franchise with!".
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #13 Kuni-Nino 27 days ago
    @docexe yeah, I can see how the comment can be read as snobbism or elitism, but I don't know how else to state it. When the majority of BvS's complaints are written in as a movie that wasn't "fun" or that it was "too dark", that tells me that those people wanted something that would make them laugh. The comparisons to Marvel pretty much cement that.

    The reason why I call BvS adult is precisely because it doesn't treat you like a kid. It doesn't hold your hand and it certainly doesn't shy away from more mature themes. An adult who grew up on those characters is likely to take away more from BvS than say a nine year old kid who stumbles upon the movie. You disagree with that? That's all I mean.

    I'll also state this. I believe cinema is a form of expression and certain styles are not meant for everyone. Look at Blade Runner 2049's box office performance. The movie cratered but would you call it a failure? I certainly wouldn't. Most people just don't get it or care for it. Nothing wrong with that.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #14 Roto13 26 days ago
    @not_themilkybarkid I feel like Snyder tricked people into thinking he understands source material with 300 and Sin City because those comics had nothing below the surface to betray in the first place. Watchmen was almost a scene-for-scene remake of the comics, just like those other two movies, but it managed to miss the point. Then there's Man of Steel and Batman v Superman which show he doesn't understand the characters of Superman or Batman at all.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #15 LBD_Nytetrayn 26 days ago
    The DCAU is pretty much the definitive versions of the characters in my eyes.

    And from what I've seen, the DCEU is no DCAU.

    That said, I feel like Wonder Woman hits the mark closest.
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  • Avatar for docexe #16 docexe 22 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino I’m aware that not every piece of art is for everyone, and neither should it be. There are indeed things that will only appeal to very few people, but I don’t have any issue or problem with that. What I have an issue with is when people who are into “niche” stuff treat people who aren’t as if they were “lesser” for not liking the same things as them.

    It might not have been your intention, but your comment read like that given that it seemed to present a demarcation between “adults who like real, serious, forward thinking movie for adults” and “general audiences who like action comedies”, as if one category was mutually exclusive to the other.

    Now, I personally detest BvS and I think that the comic books from where it cribs material (The Dark Knight Returns, The Death of Superman) did a far better job handling the same themes. But I ultimately don’t have any beef with anyone who liked it for whatever reason.
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  • Avatar for docexe #17 docexe 22 days ago
    @Roto13 Err… Sin City was actually directed by Robert Rodriguez.

    I think Snyder is a good visual director, but not a great storyteller. He needs a good writing partner in order for his movies to be good (or as you point out with 300, for the story to be simple enough). Otherwise you end with things like Sucker Punch, which while entertaining and interesting in some respects, also ended like a storytelling mess.
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