Ultiterro, Chapter VI, Verse II

So, my first real post, because we all know that chirpy compulsory introductions don’t count. Obviously a lot of pressure is on me for this, because the quality of this first post determines the standard from here on in.

I know, right? Quality, on the Interwebs? Madness.

I’ve been flip-flopping for a while, deciding what theme I want this blog to take ; do I only rave about new geeky things, and turn this into a review blog, or do I take a more stream-of-consciousness approach and make the whole thing reek of nostalgia?

Finding and finalising an identity for this kind of thing is a lot like making love to a beautiful woman ; there are rough patches and awkward moments where you try and make your presence felt, knowing that deep-down that thousands of other people have done what you’re desperately trying to achieve and succeeded…

Actually, let’s not use that love-making analogy (as hauntingly accurate it may be).

So, what can you expect from the Nerdy Wordy in the coming months? Well, you can expect long, rambling posts on some of the following ostracising (not to be confused with ostrich-sizing) subjects …

All types of tabletop games (card, miniature, board, dice, pen and paper, your mother) science and fantasy fiction in all its mediums, video games, movies… a real cornucopia of utter, unabashed, uncensored NERD.

So without further ado…

What’s Tzaph playing at the moment?

I got myself a DS a few years back, and for a time, things were good. Ever since the passing of my grey brick Gameboy, I had been bereft on a handheld system, and for a time, things were good as I spent many a happy commute carving out cyborg tumours in Trauma Centre, bombing cute chibi-tanks in Advance Wars, hurling explosive penguins at demonic porn stars in Disgaea, and enjoying thirty-paragraph conversations about exchanging mismatched luggage in Hotel Dusk.

“I see that you have my bag.”

“And I yours.”

“What a calamity this could have resulted in.”

“We should exchange them.”

“Let’s.”

“Alright then.”

“I’m ready.”

“Ready to take possession of your own luggage, which I have claimed in error?”

“I am indeed that sort of ready.”

“Excellent, as am I.”

“Good.”

“Although I cannot wait to be reunited with my luggage… had I mentioned that?”

“You had.”

“Good. Because although I cannot wait to get my suitcase back, I am totally prepared to continue conversing with you.”

“I too am totally prepared to carry on this conversation, and I feel the best way to do that is in the form of a five-minute unskippable flashback about when I was a detective in New York.”

Aaaaand coma.

Pokémon has always held a particularly special place in my heart ; Red and Blue came out about the same time that I was nerding my way through Final Fantasy VIII, and between the two, I must have easily frittered away two hundred hours of my increasingly awkward teenage life. It even got to a point where I’m didn’t even have time to lie about my age to look at pictures of naked ladies on the Internet, because those 99 Thundagas weren’t going to junction themselves to Squall’s Agility, and holy shit my Charizard is only 562 XP away from learning Fire Spin!

I’m sure I was relevant a few paragraphs back.

Feeling the need to give my DS some love – and not the kind of wrong love that comes from playing a game like Project Rub – I decided to pick up Pokémon Soul Silver, because a) cock-fight simulators are fine when it’s a fire-breathing mouse fighting an anthropomorphised gemstone, b) I accidentally deleted my roms of Red and Yellow, and c) because the Pokémon games, for all the “it’s for kids” stigmata attached to them, are some of the best RPGs I’ve ever played.

There’s a cutesy, simple appeal to the top-down view and the bright colours, and the lack of a suitably GRIMDARK story line that’s all the rage these days. You’re a kid who’s got his first Pokémon, and you’re going to travel the world (probably because your parents are wildly irresponsible) and be the best Pokémon Trainer you can be. That’s it. That’s the story. And sometimes that’s all you need. Sure, there’s stuff to do with Team Rocket and your rival running around being dicks, but that’s just icing.

Pokémon works so well because it’s so simplistic, one of these true easy-to-learn, hard-to-master games. There’s just something I find infinitely comforting about turn-based combat, limited move sets and an expanded but intuitive table of elemental rock-paper-scissors (although to this day I still don’t understand the exact logic behind why psychic is strong against poison). Red and Blue were the epitome of these things, and Gold and Silver just expanded on this in the best ways, like nerfing the gamebreaking Psychic mons, adding the real-time clock and changing weather conditions, and introducing Pokémon equipment and the breeding system so you could totally make retarded Zapdos/Magikarp love-children.

Heart Gold and Soul Silver are the updated remakes of Gold and Silver, in the same way that Fire Red and Leaf Green a few years back were updated remakes of the classic Red and Green/Blue. With the updates, as you can imagine, come lots of nice tweaks and changes ; the main one that leapt out at me were little pop-ups of what different attacks actually do, which would’ve been a life-saver back in the classic Red/Blue days ; in those older games, things were fairly vague and without a guide or walkthrough, you pretty much had to guess what some attacks actually did (I’m looking at you Haze and Psywave).

Heart Gold and Soul Silver are perfect for a returning fan like me; after Red/Blue, I haven’t even looked at a Pokémon game, because there were these awesome things called girls and alcohol in the way. But getting back into it isn’t too intimidating; sure there’s a lot of new stuff, but a lot of old Red/Blue mons are still hanging around and it’s good to see those familiar faces (apart from Zubat – no one likes you, GTFO). Of course, all those old mons have gone and picked up new tricks and move sets, so suddenly here I am actually using a Rattata for something other than a meat shield.

Soul Silver isn’t sexy exactly – at least, not sexy in the way that games usually are these days, with awesome graphics and hardcore gameplay – but it is bursting with charm and character. You’ve also got to love an RPG that comes with a gadget like the Pokéwalker – I admit I haven’t used it yet, but I’m a bit in love with the idea that you can clip it on, go for a jog around the block, come back, and holy shit my Croconaw just reached level 25. Yes, it’s a rather transparent attempt at getting players to go and get a bit of exercise, but that’s what Nintendo do, and you can’t really say that it’s a bad thing. Even if you’re just going to waddle down to the corner shop to get more Dr Pepper and Doritos, at least that’s something.

I’ve only logged about six hours on Soul Silver so far, but those six hours have been nothing but great. It’s totally rekindled all the excitement I used to have, and considering it’s the first “new” Pokémon game I’ve played in about ten years, that’s fairly impressive.

Tzaph

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