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.
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.
I've got a little help to get me through the rest of Pokémon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon pic.twitter.com/qx4f3ooTf4— Kat Bailey (@The_Katbot) November 19, 2017