A Simple Journey: “Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee” Half-Review

Pokemon is one of those franchises that I find myself constantly returning to, over and over and over again. I think many longtime fans like me can relate – there’s just something classic about the world of Pokemon. Each new game I’ve played, regardless of how I’ve felt about the new region, has felt like a little piece of home.

I think that’s why the franchise has gotten away with sticking to such a similar format for so long, with very innovation. The pure sense of childlike wonder and adventure is always relevant and appealing, even to those who are no longer children. Just pair that with a few new Pokemon and locations and more or less, the franchise has been able to coast along.

Or at least… until recently. Perhaps it’s Pokemon’s aging fanbase, and the demands of its new younger fans, perhaps it’s the changing technology and capabilities of each new Nintendo system, or maybe it’s just a realization on the part of its creators that the formula isn’t perfect… but the most recent Pokemon games have made a few important changes to the format.

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Surprisingly, Pokemon Go is Still a Thing

It was the summer of 2016, and Niantic’s “Pokemon Go” had just released. Though it initially had shaky reception due to a bunch of technical issues, the app was eventually able to clean up the overloaded servers enough that kids, teens, and adults around the world were tromping around, phones in hand, searching for Pokemon, congregating around Pokestops, and in general enjoying themselves in a way that incited mass interest and truckloads of thinkpieces from concerned millennial-haters declaring this the end of civilized society as a whole.

At that point, having just finished my junior year of high school and with a decade of loving Pokemon under my belt, I was swept up in the current of excitement. I took several trips to downtown Indianapolis with a group of friends and walked up and down the canal, catching hordes of Goldeen and Psyduck and excitedly absorbing the mutual enthusiasm shared among the other Pokemon Go players.

At a journalism camp I attended that summer, everyone was playing Pokemon Go. We would walk from class to class, exploring Ball State’s landmarks, shouting to each other when we found some new Pokemon… it was a magical time.

With a friend, we trekked through the woods, phones out. We circled the park near my friend’s house, and found a Wartortle we both named “Reuben.”

And then, as all things do eventually, it ended. Pokemon Go faded away into a distant memory. Whether the reason was the start of the new school year, the fad dying down, or fatigue with the somewhat repetitive gameplay, it seemed like those beautiful summer days lasted only so long before they were gone.

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It’s… Good??? – The Sims 4 Get Famous Review

Previously in the saga of my opinion about the Sims 4, I waxed poetic on how the series has developed me as a storyteller, then complained about how EA was ruining it, then marveled at the sudden turn in public confidence in the franchise’s quality thanks to one very special expansion pack.

And now here we are in the present. What has happened since Seasons? Was my optimistic assessment at the end of the last post correct? Or should I have been more skeptical with EA? It all came down to their follow-up. Seasons was great, sure. But could they continue putting out good content? Could they continue to avoid the curse of niche, overpriced, reskinned money grabs?

I’ll be honest… I wasn’t the most optimistic when EA announced their next new content for the game, another expansion called Get Famous. Sure, the idea of a pack focused on fame and celebrities wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it’s also not something particularly new and exciting. Fame and celebrities have already been a part of this franchise’s past, most recently in the Sims 3’s “Late Night” and “Showtime.” So we were not treading new ground here. And even more unfortunately, “Showtime” was really not great, making the premise for this pack shaky, at least for me.

Add onto the fact that, inherently, celebrities and fame were not necessarily going to be as all-reaching and game-changing as having weather and seasons… and I wasn’t sure about it.

But I will say that the promotional content for this pack was good. I enjoyed what I was seeing from the trailers enough that I figured I’d give this one a whirl. How did it compare? Well… you read the title.

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A Newcomer’s Guide to Berry Simming (In The Sims 4)

Are you ready for yet another super niche post? I feel like this one requires a bit of preamble for the regular, non-simmer viewer of this blog before I jump into it, though perhaps I’m being a bit optimistic to suspect any non-simmers will be interested in a post like this.

Berry simming is a term used to describe a certain style of playing The Sims. I go into more detail below on what kind of style that is, but it’s basically become its own little subculture on the Tumblr “simblr” community (portmanteau of “Sims” and “Tumblr,” referring the wider community of Tumblr blogs devoted to documenting the lives of their sims mainly through screenshots and written stories.) One type of story, the “legacy,” is generally when a simmer takes one sim and then chronicles their entire lives and the lives of their descendants for ten generations. Often these legacies will add on other rules to the generic 10-generation rule, one specific type I reference in this post is the “rainbowcy,” where each generation is meant to represent a different color.

I think that’s all the background a non-simmer would need to at least begin to piece together what I’m talking about, but seriously, don’t be upset if you don’t understand. This is quite niche, even for me.

Welcome to the world of berry sims!

You’ve seen them on your Tumblr dashboards, colorful, “eye-searing,” sims with candy/fruit/flower/etc names and carefully selected color schemes. To a regular simmer playing non-berry, or vanilla, sims, it may be confusing how to even go about simming in this particular style. How do you find all of the clothing that matches the hair colors and skin colors and eye colors? And probably mostly you’ll be wondering what compels people to sim in this style.

I hope to answer many of these questions and more in the following post. I see a lot of confusion and interest in the regular simming community regarding our sweet little segment, so I thought it might be fun to whip up a little beginner’s guide to berry simming, as well as answer some frequently-asked questions.

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Redemption – The Sims 4 Seasons Review

Last time I talked about the Sims, it was maybe not in the most positive or optimistic of lights. It seemed like the game was stuck in a rut that I wasn’t sure it would ever be able to struggle its way out of.

And yet… things have changed since that post. Since I wrote about EA’s greed ruining a franchise I loved, huge news dropped regarding the newest expansion… one Sims fans have been asking for for a long time. Seasons.

It’s out now and… boy is it good. It’s good enough that it makes me feel better about this franchise’s future… and that’s really saying something, considering how the popular theory in the Sims fandom not too long ago was that Sims 4 was on its way out.

How did one expansion turn the fandom’s opinion around so totally? Well… it’s a lot of factors, from the quality of the expansion itself, to the context surrounding it, to the way it was advertised and released.

The Expansion Itself

I wanna start with this because I think it’s the most important. No amount of good PR for a below-average expansion could have saved the Sims from the My First Pet Stuff debacle, in my opinion. And though packs came out after MFPS that were good (I have since gotten Jungle Adventures and actually really enjoyed it), these packs still had that problem of nicheness. Sims needed a pack that would appeal to a broad range of simmers, and affect the game enough that it couldn’t be brushed off as a waste of money.

It also, of course, had to be good. And Seasons is really, really good.

Let’s start off with a little info on what I, personally, like to see in a Sims expansion. Ideally, expansions should have the most game-changing content of the three types of DLC for this game. That means they should have a broad assortment of new CAS items, new objects, and new gameplay. I also think the best expansions have broad appeal – that is, no matter what type of simmer you are, you can find something to enjoy in the new content. And finally, I feel as though expansions especially should really change how the game runs and improve upon the game to a degree that playing the game without that expansion would be markedly different.

I was very impressed with both the CAS and object selections from this new pack. We got a nice look at the new CAS items in the livestream, and then and now I was struck by how diverse the new clothing and hairstyles look. It’s clear the Sims team has been working hard on making their textures look more unique and realistic than ever. I like how the clothing items all have many color options and all look like something people would wear in real life.

Also, I have to give props to the new hairstyles in particular. The Sims team has commented that they’ve been working to make the Sims 4 more diverse and inclusive, and this pack’s focus on textured hairs really puts their money where their mouth is. The new hairstyles are gorgeous, and are different than anything I’ve ever seen from this series, and is a nice step forward toward more inclusivity. I hope the team continues to add content like this to the game.

The bulidmode objects are chock full of fun new decorations for all the holidays, which is something I, as a person who loves realism in their game, really appreciate. I can see people who wouldn’t be as excited about these as I am, because it may seem like a hassle to decorate your sim’s house for each new holiday and season, but for people who love to get into the weeds of all that detail, it’s a welcome addition. Plus, most of the decorations are versatile, with swatches for as many holidays and seasons as I can think of.

Discussion of decorations, though, leads me right into the gameplay features of this new pack. And there’s a lot of good stuff here.

On the subject of decor, I have to commend the attic box decoration feature. While I loved Sims 3 Seasons, one of the more annoying aspects of it was the lack of customization available for exteriors of houses, and how what customization there was was a really huge hassle to mess around with. Sims 4 has found a slick way to make exterior decoration much easier and more engaging, with a surprisingly dense selection of different decorations that are applied easily to the outside of sims’ houses. I also love how other houses in the neighborhood also decorate for each holiday… it really adds to the realism and makes the world feel connected, even if it’s not open.

Moving onto those holidays, though, huge props for making the giant improvement to allow players to create their own holidays. This is a feature I immediately wanted to use as soon as I got my hands on it, and it’s just so intuitive, versatile, and fun that I can’t imagine a Seasons pack without it.

The calendar function is useful for more than just these holidays, though. I absolutely adore the option to plan parties in advance – before, my sims rarely threw parties just because it was weird that you had to plan them the day of. Now, it’s easy to just throw a party out a few days before it happens, giving the player a chance to plan and prepare.

Weather is also a huge addition to the game, and it’s as gorgeous as I expected. I love how dramatic the weather can be – from huge blasts of lighting to vicious blizzards. Plus, it adds an element of risk to the game I haven’t seen anywhere except maybe in Jungle Adventure, because the weather actually is quite dangerous for your sims. Sending them out into the cold without the proper gear or letting them just run around outside during a storm puts their lives actually at risk, just like in real life, and there are moodlets to reflect that. I like that this pack adds stakes to decisions, and makes it so a player can’t just run around willy-nilly without any consequence.

Every season feels distinct and different from each other, and the weather is a big factor in that. Even summer, which is more or less the “default” season that the base game was stuck in eternally before this pack came out, feels different, with heat waves and bright colors that make it distinct from the darkness of fall and winter. And I’m not sure if this is true but it seems to me that the team also put hard work into retexturing the sky… I got this beautiful screenshot of Brindleton Bay in fall as soon as I booted up the game with Seasons for the first time, and I don’t remember the moon ever looking so bright and beautiful with this game.

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There’s a lot more to discuss in the gameplay, but I feel like I’d be repeating myself. Seasons seems to have touched every part of this game, to the point where everything feels new and exciting, and the level of realism has really been dialed up. I also love the changes to gardening and the scarecrow feature and scouting and the new objects sims can interact with and… if I praised everything I liked, we’d be here all day.

And I do want to touch a bit on the context surrounding this game, and its popular reception within the fandom, because I think that is another thing that set this expansion apart from the others.

The Context

Seasons was the first expansion pack for the Sims 4 I’ve felt legitimate excitement for. And that’s… huge. If you read my last post about my disappointment with how EA was treating the expansions in TS4, you’ll know that that’s huge for me. And while the expansion itself is great and that helped, I also can’t help but think that how the expansion was revealed to the fandom, and what was different about the marketing, did help.

First of all, it’s good to know that Seasons has been asked for for a long, long time. Seasons was one of the most popular expansions from both Sims 2 and Sims 3, and so people were clamoring for it for Sims 4 as well, basically as soon as the base game came out. But after much of the negativity that came along with My First Pet Stuff, I saw a lot of people joking that instead of a full Seasons pack, we’d be getting split gamepacks for each season or something to that effect.

But then, suddenly, with really only a bit of warning, the trailer dropped. And suddenly the mood in the fandom was like night and day. Suddenly, people were excited about this game again. It was cautious, in some cases, but the game just looked so good in the trailer, and most importantly, the announcement came only a month before the release date.

In a lot of ways, I think this was a huge positive for the reception of Seasons. Giving the fandom less time to speculate and tear the information we had to shreds before the actual expansion dropped and keeping that time dense with livestreams and gurus answering questions on Twitter. This kept excitement high and harsh critique to a low.

I think that overall improved the fans’ overall perception of this game pack. It was a sudden surprise, which is exciting, and the short month between the surprise and the actual drop of the pack was filled with even more exciting reveals. What disappointments there were (major ones I can think of only being the lack of snow depth and the lack of a new world), were overall not that big of a deal to most of the people I saw discussing the pack, and more often than not the tone was excitement.

And that coming from a group of fans that not too long ago was griping over a dying game series spitting out bad packs no one really wanted is a huge step forward. And this expansion, with everything its brought along with it, has really reinvigorated my love for this series, and made me hopeful for where it’s going to go in the next few years.

I’m so happy to be able to say that.

Loving Fire Emblem: A Retrospective

In light of last week’s announcement about the newest Fire Emblem game coming Spring 2019, I couldn’t help but follow up my reaction post to the news last week with a bit more of a self-indulgent post about this series as a whole.

I’ve loved Fire Emblem since my best friend Madison gave me a copy of Awakening for my 16th birthday in 2014. She was already a huge fan of the game, having played the 3DS demo to death until actually receiving the game for Christmas months before.

Through osmosis, I understood that it was a game where you got to date and marry the characters, and I had the lightest of understandings of the plot. I knew she loved Chrom from the moment she accidentally married him, and that the characters had kids you could also play.

It was one of those moves on her part where you’re so desperately obsessed with something you’ll do anything to get your friend into it too just so you’ll have someone to talk to about it, and I’m grateful she did that to this day. Fire Emblem has been a huge part of my life ever since.

For a series that can sometimes come off as controversial to some, I want to share what keeps me coming back to it again and again regardless. And I also want to speak on the specific strengths of the two main series games I’ve played, Awakening and Fates.

(And yes, I know I’m exactly the type of fan that ‘hardcore’ Fire Emblem fans hate, the kind that has only played the newer games. But I’m not really interested in getting into that conversation at this very moment, to be honest.)

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses First Impressions and Hopes

So Tuesday was kind of a weird day for me. I woke up at 8 a.m. because I needed to be at work by 9:30, and I also had big plans for the rest of the day. A trip that had… suddenly come up but I really wanted to go on loomed large over my shortened shift that day, and I wanted to get right to it. I got to work, worked, but then my plans were cancelled.

And, listen, plans are hard. Plans change. And that particular plan had been a pain on all sides to pin down. But still, when you fight hard to make something happen, it sucks when it all doesn’t work out. I got home crushed and oddly guilty.

Then, like a beacon of hope, my best friend frantically messaged our Fire Emblem Discord chat:

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It had finally happened. The moment we had all silently known was coming for us. It made sense, after all. We knew we were getting a main-series Fire Emblem game for the Switch ever since Nintendo did a Fire Emblem-centric Direct last January. (Yeah, it was that long ago). It seemed like now was the time to finally get news on that new game.

But then, here it was. Confirmation. A title and our first look at a game we had all been eagerly anticipating for more than a year.

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