Gaming Post 33: Animal Crossing (GameCube)

The random number generator chose Animal Crossing! Yay!
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Animal Crossing is a weird sort of game. Its premise is that you are a human who moves into a town inhabited by cartoon animals. There isn’t an explicit goal to the game except to have fun living in the town. What makes the game special is the use of the GameCube’s internal calendar to make things happen in your town based on the passage of actual days in real life.

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For example, Animal Crossing games have different things happen in different seasons.

Animal Crossing is one of the games I played a lot of when I was in Middle School. I couldn’t tell you for sure how I originally heard about it, but my friend Jonah was the first to play it, and he was also the first among the people I knew who had a Nintendo GameCube. He doesn’t remember much about that time, but I do.

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I started playing Animal Crossing as one of the villagers in my friend Jonah’s town. That’s when I learned to like the game. Jonah says it was one of the only GameCube games he had at the time, which might explain why we played it so much.

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I often sold oranges to the store, but I liked using the shovel much better. Each day I played, I’d dig up any fossils and Gyroids I found and donate the fossils to the local museum after getting them identified via mail. If the museum already had the type of fossil, I’d sell it to the store for some good money.

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I always saved the Gyroids I found instead of selling them, because I was hoping to possibly complete a collection of every Gyroid. I knew which ones existed because I had Jonah’s guide to the game that listed every item. I’m not sure if the internet would have been able to help me back then, but I wasn’t obsessed enough with the project to bring it to completion.

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One interesting thing about Animal Crossing was its inclusion of certain NES games that your character can put in his/her house and play. It was cool because it offered the player a substantial reward for finding a virtual object in the game.

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Villager’s first game was also his first crossover game with Little Mac.

Another game Jonah had around this time was Super Mario Sunshine. Unfortunately, as both Animal Crossing and Super Mario Sunshine are single player endeavors on the one GameCube and TV we had, only one of us could play at a time. Funnily enough, when I was really into Animal Crossing, Jonah mostly wanted to play Super Mario Sunshine, and when I finally wanted to focus on Sunshine Jonah was back into Animal Crossing. This sort of thing can happen with obsessive personalities like my own.

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Animal Crossing allows one town to be stored per memory card. The great thing about having a game like this on a disc is that you are only limited in the quantity of towns by the number of memory cards you have, as opposed to games like Pokémon that only allow one file to be saved per game cartridge.

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Sometimes, I just don’t know where to stop.

When I finally got a GameCube on Christmas of 2002, I borrowed Jonah’s copy of Animal Crossing, because he was completely done caring about the game. I then proceeded to build towns on different memory cards to help my overall progress, but my strategy wasn’t refined enough to work as effectively as it could have. I did know that an Orange sold in a town that started with oranges fetches 100 bells while its selling price in a town without oranges is 500 bells, so I used my GameCube’s second memory card slot to move between towns, bringing my town’s fruit to sell in the other towns and picking foreign fruit and bringing it back to sell it in my own town, but I could have easily replaced the fruit trees growing in my own town with foreign fruit trees which would have made paying off my loans a lot faster, but I was too afraid of messing up my town by chopping down existing trees because I didn’t have a clear idea concerning why some trees grew and others did not. I was also more focused on the immediate results of selling the fruit rather than the investment of planting it. At that age, my brain had a lot more development to undergo before I could really be good at video games.

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I traveled so much between my 5 towns that at one point I actually had 2 of the same animal villager (Fang) in one of my towns. I didn’t take a picture of it because it happened a long time ago before I started taking pictures of interesting things. Although I lack solid evidence I’m pretty sure it did happen.
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What caught my imagination about Animal Crossing was its customizability. In this picture from my old town, you can see that I made shirts themed on Mario Wario Waluigi and the Pokémon Kyogre. You can see that even back then, I was a big fan of rain, both in the game and out.
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I wasn’t against changing the date in the game to suit my purposes. I remember summer days when I would change the date to make it rain in the game, often when it was also raining in real life, and just go fishing on the beach. I would try to catch Coelacanths (which appear only when it is raining), Barred Knifejaws and Red Snappers, fetching 15,000, 5,000 and 3,000 bells respectively. All 3 of those species appear in the ocean, but if you catch a Sea Bass, put it back! It’s a waste of inventory space!

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I paid at least one considerable loan by selling fish to the raccoon. One weird thing about these games is that you can catch frogs the same way you catch fish, but there can also be frogs living in your town.

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One day my friend showed me how he had been cheating in Animal Crossing. He had an Action Replay and was able to use it to create any item he wanted in the game as well as obtain infinite money. He had me visit his town and wanted me to participate in a makeshift lottery game that he had set up, the prize being money he had created using the cheating device. I was annoyed because to me it seemed that the point of Animal Crossing was to work to make money. By accepting the cheated money, it would be the same as if I was cheating, so I refused. What puzzled me, however, was why my cheating friend bothered to play Animal Crossing at all given that he was cheating. This is when I started to consider the actual game of Animal Crossing to be somewhat stupid. I was in middle school, which is when a lot of people judge some of their old hobbies more harshly than they should.

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I stopped playing for a very long time, assuming in my little mind that I had finished upgrading my house and paying off my debt. My opinion of Animal Crossing changed and changed back as I matured. I played the DS sequel quite a lot, but I stopped playing that too after a few months. It inspired this riddle.

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What is forgotten and full of weeds? Your Town in Animal Crossing!

Having read the Iwata Asks about Animal Crossing: City Folk, I played a bit of it after its price dropped to $20, but I couldn’t really get into it maybe because I knew I didn’t finish paying off my debt in the DS Animal Crossing.

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It wasn’t until I mistakenly added Animal Crossing to my list of beaten games (thinking that I had paid off my debt to Tom Nook) that I rekindled my interest in going back to finish the other Animal Crossing games that I had started. I consider an Animal Crossing game to be beaten if 1: You fully upgrade your house and pay off your debt to Tom Nook, 2: You do everything else you want to do in the game. It’s pretty open ended, but you’d be a fool to attempt to really 100% an Animal Crossing game, unless you really feel passionately about it. It’s a game that can take over your life because you typically have to play it every day if you don’t want to miss out on things in the stores and stuff like that.

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An example of someone’s life being taken over by Animal Crossing New Leaf

I eventually found the memory card for my old Animal Crossing town, and I decided to visit it. My friend Cameron brought over his disc since mine (probably Jonah’s) wasn’t working. It was then when I discovered that I hadn’t really finished upgrading my house and paying off my loan, so I got straight to work continuing my game where I left off, possibly a decade before. I wonder if there are other games on my list that I haven’t technically beaten. If it could happen once, it could have happened again. I suppose the only games I’m not 100% sure that I beat are Pokémon Red and Blue, but I think I made a point of completing both of them before I got Crystal Version.

Gotta bring in the bells!
Gotta bring in the bells!

When I found out about my miscalculation, I had been on a roll in the other Animal Crossing games, finally perfecting my technique for planting the maximum number of foreign fruit trees in a single town and destroying every other tree. I believe there was at least one Apple Tree growing in town, so the first thing I did was buy as many axes as I could from the catalog (which can only be done prior to the DS version) and as they arrived, I chopped down every tree besides the apple trees. I also expanded the orchard of apple trees, using every grown apple as a seed for the next tree.
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I also planted money trees whenever I could. To plant a money tree, you need to find a spot on the ground that has magical light shining from it. You have to bury a bag of bells in the golden spot, but it can be risky. If the tree is planted in a bad spot, it might not grow to replace the money it took to plant it. If it does grow and a bag of 30,000 bells was planted, the profit is 60,000 bells.

“Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees.” At Least That’s What They Say, But What About That Money Tree I Saw The Other Day?

I continued the expansion of my apple orchard until my Microsoft Excel sheet indicated that It would take more effort to plant more apple trees than to just wait a few days and sell every apple that grows in that time to finish paying off the debt.
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In the end, Nook gave me a golden statue, and thus I beat Animal Crossing for GameCube.
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Along the way, I actually did succeed in finishing the fossil collection at the museum. That is something I felt pretty good about since it was one of my favorite parts of Animal Crossing.

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And here’s my Animal Crossing house, Assassin’s Creed Logo included. I simply call this image “AC”.
This monstrosity can be found upstairs, made from some of the extra fossils I didn't sell.
This monstrosity can be found upstairs, made from some of the extra fossils I didn’t sell.
Apparently electronics can get wet in this game without malfunctioning.
Apparently electronics can get wet in this game without malfunctioning.
This is my basement. I like this room.
This is my basement. I like this room.
 The 2015 portion of my gameplay was performed using this Super Smash Bros. GameCube controller. After all, Villager is a Smash character now.

The 2015 portion of my gameplay was performed using this Super Smash Bros. GameCube controller. After all, Villager is a Smash character now.

The passage of time in Animal Crossing makes the town feel like a living breathing place set in a virtual reality even though it’s really just a computer program. That’s why it can be interesting to come back after years have gone by, even only for a visit.

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Is your town full of weeds?

– Zelgerath (@Zelgerath)

Thanks for reading!

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Gaming Post 32: Game and Wario (Game & Wario)

At times this website looks like it’s inactive, but one thing you should know about me is that I almost always finish what I start. While I do intend on finishing my writing about the video games I have completed, I don’t follow a set schedule, so there may be months at a time when I don’t post an update. But you knew that already! When I last left off, the Random Number Generator was showing an unusual preference for Wario games. It chose a Wario game that I finished recently. I finished the game because I had been writing so much about Wario on this site, so maybe the Random Number Generator’s tendency towards Wario games isn’t so strange after all. At some point though, I’ll be out of Wario games to write about.

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Game and Wario seems to be WarioWare’s representation on the Nintendo Wii U gaming system. It’s not a proper WarioWare game though. Instead of consisting of hundreds of Microgames that the player plays through in rapid succession, it’s a handful of minigames, each one creatively taking advantage of the Wii U’s unique features.

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In fact, what I found out about this game is that a few of the minigames featured in this game started out as simple demos for the Wii U system back at the E3 conference when the Wii U was announced. They demonstrated the unique gameplay potential of the interplay between having the Gamepad controller and a TV screen working together. Apparently, those minigames from E3 were going to be included with every Wii U but then they decided to turn them into a Wario game and give us NintendoLand instead.

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I should go back and play more of this. It was good.

Each minigame is its own experience, so I’ll quickly run through them and my thoughts about each one.

ARROW:

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Noses are a recurring theme in Wario games.

Arrow is the first game you play in the story. Essentially it’s a game about fighting an onslaught of enemies with arrows controlled in part by the touchscreen and also via the tilt sensors in the Gamepad. I remember it’s a bit hard to control, and it wasn’t my favorite minigame, but I got through all the difficulty levels after clearing it the first time.

SHUTTER:

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Shutter is an interesting game about taking photos. The top screen shows a confusing “Where’s Waldo-esque” environment with targets hiding there who you are told to photograph. The Gamepad works as your camera, which you aim at different parts of the TV to see a zoomed in window of the environment. You have to pay attention to both screens to find your target and take a photo of them. You get various amounts of points based on things like the size of the subject in the frame and if they are facing the camera or not, which reminds me of the photo scoring system in an older game I played called Pokémon Snap.

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How’s the size? How’s the pose? Wonderful!

There are a few level scenarios for this game with different premises but the same sort of gameplay where you need to pay attention to both screens to do well. I liked it.

SKI:

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Ski is a funny game where you play as Jimmy T and ski down a mountain using tilt controls. The bottom screen shows the elements important to the gameplay while the top screen is more cinematic. I liked this game too, but there wasn’t much to it.

PATCHWORK:

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Patchwork is oddly my favorite of the minigames in Game and Wario. It is a simple puzzle game where you fit pieces together to make a picture of an object. To pass the game for the first time, you only need to complete 1 puzzle, but then there are many more of them available to solve if you want to. As soon as I got to this minigame, I just focused on completing all the extra puzzles. The game is controlled with the touch screen of the Gamepad where you simply drag and drop segments of the puzzle onto outlines that perfectly match the pieces. The same visual is displayed on both the TV and the Gamepad, so people sitting on the couch could help identify possible solutions. It became more of a group activity when I played it among my friends.

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I felt that the music for Patchwork has a peculiar quality that brings about the feeling of nostalgia. I think it’s weird that I would be feeling nostalgia for a song I never heard before, but that’s what happened.

I think this song from Pokémon Gold and Silver has a similar quality, but then again, I have heard the song before, so it makes sense that it would feel nostalgic.

Nostalgia is weird, but good.

KUNG FU:

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Kung Fu is a game about jumping. It uses the tilt controls of the Gamepad and a few buttons. The TV shows an area full of cliffs that you must traverse, but the distance between platforms from the TV’s perspective can be ambiguous, while the Gamepad’s view is straight down so that you can make precise landings. The objective is to find all 3 scrolls per level and there’s a few levels. It was pretty good but didn’t take too long to finish.

GAMER:

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Gamer is the coolest minigame in Game and Wario. It’s even featured as a stage in Super Smash Brothers 4 Wii U. The premise is that the character 9-Volt is supposed to go to bed, but he wants to play the original WarioWare for the Game Boy Advanced instead of going to sleep. The only problem is that his mom 5-Volt is creeping around making sure that 9-Volt is asleep, so he has to pause his game and pretend he’s sleeping when his mom sneaks up on him. The bottom screen is exactly the game 9-Volt is playing, but the top screen is his surroundings, which you have to pay attention to or else he might get caught in the act of playing video games after his bedtime. This game is very reminiscent of real life. I remember when I was 8 and I was excited about getting to the next town (Vermilion City) in Pokémon Yellow. I secretly played a bit longer than I was supposed to and saved once I got to the new city and heard its music. Similarly, I think that at one point I was playing this Gamer minigame at 1 AM, so in a way, I was both avoiding 9-Volts Mom, and trying not to wake up my real parents, so it was pretty suspenseful.

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We heard you like games, so we put a game in your game so you can game while you game.

In later modes of Gamer, 16-Volt can play the game during the daytime. You can focus on just playing the Microgame, but even in the relative safety of daylight, paranoia can still set in.

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5-Volt is scary.

DESIGN:

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Design is an interesting but not very fun minigame. You are supposed to be designing a robot, so using the touch screen you are given certain tasks to draw lines of specific lengths, draw corners with specific angles, and draw perfect circles with specific diameters. It’s pretty hard, but if you put your mind to it, there are ways to make educated guesses.

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ASHLEY:

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Ashley is a minigame in which you must escape a book by flying around on a magic broom. You control the angle of her broom using the Gamepad’s tilt controls, and there’s also buttons that let you fly in a loop. You might also shoot at things although I can’t completely remember. Once you complete the 3 stages, you’re done.

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TAXI:

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Taxi is an interesting minigame. The premise is that you are driving around using the gamepad picking up and dropping off passengers, and then aliens attack. The cool part is that the Gamepad shows a first person perspective of the taxi driver while the TV shows a view of the entire game world with things happening as the taxi is driving through it.

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There are 3 stages, and they all end with some time based objective to add suspense. I liked this minigame a lot because of the differentiated perspectives given to the player. I feel like differentiated perspective like this is something games could use more than they already do for the sake of more completely immersing players into the game world and making games feel different from movies.

PIRATE:

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Pirate is the last minigame before the credits of the game’s main story. In it you use tilt controls to block projectiles being shot at you by captain Wario. It’s a pretty fun rhythm game fit to be the final boss of Game and Wario if you’re only playing through the story once. Of course I like playing WarioWare games well beyond the end credits, so I wasn’t done until I essentially completed all of the extra challenges in each of the minigames.

BOWLING:

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Bowling is interesting in Game and Wario. To play, you hold the Gamepad sideways and throw the ball by grabbing and sliding it using the touch screen. After you throw it, you can magically influence the direction the ball’s path by using the Gamepad’s tilt controls as the ball approaches the pins. The goal of the game is to always get strikes, and because the pins have weird sizes based on the characters in the game, the strategy for each pin setup is different. It quickly turns from a regular bowling game to one heavily reliant on trick shots. There are a few rounds of this, and strikes get pretty difficult to perform by the end. I’d say this is probably the hardest minigame in Game and Wario.

BIRD:

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Bird as displayed on the TV screen

Bird is the final single player minigame in Game and Wario. The main character is a bird with a diagonal tongue that often makes appearances in WarioWare games, usually as an arcade style minigame that you unlock near or at the very end of the game. This game is particularly interesting this time in how it might get people to think more like game designers.

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The same moment in Bird displayed on the Gamepad

The game itself isn’t that interesting, but what is is that the top screen and the bottom screen display the same thing using very different graphical styles. The TV screen shows the game in high definition graphics while the Gamepad shows the game in the style of old Game and Watch games. Both screens are equally valid. You can play the game using either one of the screens and completely ignore the other one. The difference is that while the TV’s view of the game is pretty, the Gamepad’s view shows us the bare bones of how the game works. It demonstrates how a game can have exactly the same gameplay but different graphics, which offers evidence in support of the opinion that for video games, graphics don’t matter as much as the gameplay.

DISCO:

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There are a few Multiplayer minigames which I played briefly. The first of which was Disco. Disco uses the Gamepad touchscreen and is pretty similar to guitar hero. One player makes a sequence of notes to the beat and the other player has to match it, then the roles are reversed. Whoever screws up the least wins. I’m pretty good at it.

FRUIT:

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Fruit is a game most similar to multiplayer Assassin’s Creed. There is one thief with the Gamepad and one or more detectives watching the TV. The thief chooses his appearance and walks out into a crowd of people. Then you’re supposed to blend in with the crowd so that the detectives don’t know which one you are, but you also have to steal fruit while you are walking around. It’s intense, and I’m not very good at it as the thief or even as a detective. It’s a creative minigame though, so I like it.

ISLANDS:

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Islands is a game most similar to Bocce. The idea is to throw creatures called Fronks onto and island trying to land them on areas worth the most amount of points, but like Bocce, your guys can be knocked away by the actions of other guys, losing you points. It has a few scenarios, each one more dangerous than the last, but I’m terrible at all of them except for the first one.

SKETCH:

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Sketch is essentially a digital version of Pictionary. The person with the Gamepad has a prompt and has to draw a picture of an object or concept or something without writing words or saying anything and the other people in the room can guess what it is, since the drawing appears on the TV without the prompt. If someone guesses correctly, you tap a button on the screen and it gives you a new prompt. This was by far the best multiplayer minigame in Game and Wario in my opinion. I like Pictionary.

There are collectible doodads in this game that you can win from a chicken machine, but I didn’t get them all. The ones I got though were pretty funny. I like the doodads because they offer tiny experiences that could never be justifiably sold in any way except to be hidden in a larger game.

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One doodad of many; I think this one was a bubble blowing simulator.

And that’s pretty much all there is to Game and Wario. It doesn’t have very good reviews, but I’d argue that it has its value and if you can find it for $10 or less, it might be worth playing.

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More articles to come! Thanks for reading! =)

-Zelgerath (@Zelgerath)

Gaming Post 28: Pokémon Platinum Version

The random number generator has determined that the next gaming article I should write should be about what was probably the most important video game in my online career. That game was Pokémon Platinum Version, and I recorded an entire live action adventure when I originally played it in Spring of 2009.

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I’m not sure if my words can do justice in describing what the release of Pokémon Platinum meant to me and what my friends and I did following its release, but I will try. To make a long story short, I had decided to start over catching all 493 Pokémon that existed back then without trading with anything besides game files that I created after the release of Platinum. The main reason I did this was to ensure that, when I would eventually complete the Pokédex, none of my Pokémon would have been created due to cheating. Since people are technically able to create cheated Pokémon or clone previously legitimate ones (thus making both the copy and the original cheated), and they can also trade those Pokémon to people who don’t know that they are cheated, who can (without even knowing) offer a cheated Pokémon to you or a Pokémon who is descended from the cheated Pokémon via breeding, the internet is not a safe place to obtain Pokémon when you want to maintain 100% legitimacy.

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Not only did I reset my adventure for the sake of legitimacy, but also for the sake of honor. I wanted to prove that I could catch all of the Pokémon by myself and become a Pokémon Master.

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Trainer Zelgerath, @Zelgerath on Twitter

To see the full details of my endeavor, please watch the embedded video. It’s pretty long, but it took several months of work to create. It all started on March 22, 2009. There were a few surprises here and there along the way, but I don’t want to spoil them, so here’s the video in its entirety. Enjoy!

After catching every Pokémon available in the Sinnoh Region, there were only a few left I needed to catch, and as Summer vacation had just started, I went on a continuation of the quest to obtain all the Pokémon that at that time had to come from older games. I called it The Platinum MasterQuest, and it can be viewed below. Again, it’s long, but several months of work went into it, and I honestly think it’s worth a view if you liked the video above.

The video ends just before Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver’s release, with only Celebi missing from my Pokédex, but that’s a story to be concluded in another article on Zelgerath.com! =)

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Celebi’s empty space bothered me for years.

One thing I really liked about the game Pokémon Platinum itself was its inclusion of an alternate dimension called The Distortion World. It was only featured for a short amount of time during the story, but I thought it was pretty neat.

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Here’s a silly Assassin’s Creed and Pokémon Platinum crossover picture I made. Pokémon Platinum features The Distortion World, the home of Giratina, where the laws of physics don’t apply.

Thanks for Reading/Watching! I Appreciate it! =D