Here comes the sun.

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No, not that kind of sun – this is England in late November, after all, but rather Pokémon Sun. The game arrived today, the day of the game’s UK release, and quite unexpectedly. If I did place the order (which I must have done, given that it arrived addressed to me) I had forgotten all about it, making for a pleasant surprise on an otherwise rather sun-less day!

Whilst my day has been fairly busy I have managed to get the game underway, and so far I am enjoying it greatly! The latest installment in the franchise continues Nintendo’s habit of bringing an ever more cinematic experience to one of the most iconic game series of all time (though perhaps not ideal for those who prefer to skip lengthy cut-scenes and get on with the game). Just how far the games, now in their seventh generation, have come in terms of both graphics and gameplay is absolutely staggering, though this first impression of mine has undoubtedly been accentuated by the facts that the last Pokémon game I personally owned was Gold (released in 2001), and how of late I’ve been enjoying a return to Yellow (2000) which came pre-loaded on my Pokémon edition 2DS (a purchase entirely motivated by nostalgia – the DS is even made of transparent plastic like my old Game Boy Color!).

Of course, the essence of the game will be familiar to anyone who has played any of the games in the series. And that is precisely the attraction of the series for adults such as myself who may have last felt the excitement of picking a starter pokémon and exploring a new world (this time Alola, which seems strikingly similar to Hawaii) almost two decades ago: we may have grown and developed as people, as has the game, but at heart we are still the same people we were back then, with the same taste for adventure. Now, Popplio and I better get cracking if we’re to conquer all of Alola’s Gyms… Wait… What? There are NO GYMS?! Ok, maybe some things will take a little getting used to after all.

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I got it!

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Today the Nintendo Mini Classic NES finally arrived. In stores, that is. Having pre-ordered it back in July (see previous post), it was odd waking this morning with uncertainty as to whether I would be able to get my hands on one at all. Shortly after 9am I was behind the wheel of my car, heading to the closest shop, a Game. I should have known, given my pre-order ordeal, that this would prove a fruitless endeavor. Alas, around twenty minutes later I found myself standing before an uninterested shop assistant telling me they were only serving store pre-orders and that “any issue you had pre-ordering online is with the game website, not us”, despite the website being the store’s own.

More determined than ever to get my hands on the device, I began phoning other local stores, which went a little like this:

“Good morning, I was wondering if you have any of the new mini Nintendos in stock?”

“Did you pre-order?”

Great

My hopes beginning to fade, I gave one final shop a call, and the answer to my query?

“Uh, yeah we do.”

It’s funny how had I not bothered to pre-order the console I probably wouldn’t have sweated not being able to pick one up, and yet there’s something about having to wait for something that makes it so much more desirable. And after four months waiting for something, I am getting it one way or another! Sure enough, 35 minutes later I was pulling into the Princess Square car park, ready to pick up that tiny, unassuming box from Virtual Games, an excellent independent store. Victory at last!

Since getting it home the little box (and when I say little, I mean miniscule) has punched well above its negligible weight, an absolutely worthwhile purchase for the nostalgia alone, though I am sure the games included will continue to entertain for many hours to come; I haven’t given all of them a spin yet, and likely won’t until I tire of the Super Mario Bros…

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Where is my Nintendo Mini Classic (NES)? And why I’ll never shop at Game again.

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I have an unusual relationship with videogames. Especially for someone born at the tail end of ’93.

Unlike most of my friends growing up, videogames did not play a major role in my childhood. My afternoons were filled instead with sports, arts, and adventure. As a young boy I swam and played football for local clubs, and joined as many of my school’s sport teams as possible, from baseball to rugby and everything in-between. I filled the rest of my free time skateboarding, riding my bike, running around the local park hunting for ‘treasure’, or playing one of any number of imagination games with my friends. Once I tired I would sit at the piano or mess around on one of dad’s guitars, read a book, write my own stories, or get messy painting or making things long before I’d sit down at a console, mostly setting one up when a friend came round or for the odd game of something against my dad before bed; I never played regularly enough to justify leaving a system plugged into the telly like at some of my friends’ houses.

That’s not to say I wasn’t a typical child of my time; I did not escape the clutches of Pokémon cards and, later, Beyblades, but simply never showed enough interest in videogames to justify saving pocket money to spend on them. Throughout my entire life I’ve owned a total of two consoles, and didn’t actually buy either. The first was a hand-me-down SNES from a friend of my parents, on which I have fond memories of playing Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario World, Mortal Kombat, and a game that a nostalgia-inducing internet search tells me wasn’t called ‘Chupa Chups Land’ as I had remembered, but Zool (though anyone familiar with the game will surely understand why the former made more sense to a small child). I later came into possession of the original PlayStation, this time a gift from an uncle to whom the device had become redundant following the release of the PlayStation 2.

It is, of course, the former that lead to my excitement at the prospect of Nintendo’s new Mini Nintendo Entertainment System or ‘NES’–the console that preceded my beloved Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Whilst not the 16-bit gem I grew up with, I instantly knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity to get my hands on a version of its 8-bit predecessor in all its pixelated glory. What’s more, amongst the 30 titles it comes bundled with are a selection of Mario and Zelda titles, and don’t get me started on the music… Pure nostalgia! Admittedly the experience won’t quite be complete without those clunky cartridges that could be cured of any glitches with a simple blow, but on the bright side the emulator really shouldn’t glitch. Sure, videogames may not have been a defining part of my childhood, but, bit-part or not, the Nintendo Mini Classic promises to bring me straight back to those simpler times.

Aware that the generation before me would have grown up with the NES itself (which made its debut in Japan as the Family Computer, or Famicom, in 1983, reaching consumers in North America and Europe as the NES in 1986) and would likely snap them up at the system’s modest £49.99 price, I was very early to preorder the device (in early July, four months before the device’s scheduled release date no less), opting to do so through Game. Big mistake. You can imagine my horror when I discovered an email from the 8th of November, only three days before the console’s release, telling me that payment had failed for an ‘unknown reason’ and therefore my order had been cancelled. I checked my payment details: all valid and up-to-date. I checked my game account; surely the email must have been sent by mistake? “Order Status: Cancelled”. With my heart in my mouth I then called what turned out to be the world’s most useless customer service team, who not only failed to explain the cancellation (though admitted mine is not a unique incident) but also refused to reinstate my order. Great. To my dismay, aside from re-sellers asking double and triple the price, nowhere online seems to have the system or the extra controller in my now-cancelled pre-order in stock anymore…

Whilst reluctant to let this experience damped my spirits or reduce my excitement for this new/old addition to the Nintendo family, I couldn’t be any less impressed with Game and their lacklustre customer support, and would urge anyone and everyone to avoid pre-ordering with them at all costs. As for me, it looks like tomorrow I’ll be off to the shops first thing in the hope that I can get lucky. Fingers crossed!

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