A Sporting Chance

Nintendo made a huge splash when it unveiled its next big thing. What once went under the codename NX is now known as the Switch, a slick-looking console that can be played both at home and on the go; basically, it’s a home and portable console rolled into one package.

Real quick before we get to the actual topic, I think this is an amazing idea on paper. The ability to play video games virtually anywhere is going to be a massive boon for many game enthusiasts out there. And that list of third-party developers is nothing to sneeze at; you know you’ve got a good thing going for you with developers like Arc System Works and Bethesda in your corner. There are concerns with the hardware, obviously, and I do think that Nintendo holding off on announcing games until the beginning of next year is kind of worrisome. Overall, though, the Switch looks like it’s going to be a revolutionary new system, and I honestly can’t wait to hear more about it.

But enough small talk, let’s talk about something that came to mind when I saw the Switch trailer for the first time: Nintendo taking on the world of E-Sports.

At the end of the Switch trailer, Nintendo unveiled what looks like a sequel to their surprise hit from 2015, Splatoon. It showed off two teams going over possible strategies, and then heading out into what may as well have been a dead-ringer for Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The more I saw this scene, I got this feeling that the Switch would create a new avenue for Nintendo.

Then, it hit me: This could be Nintendo’s way of getting deeper into the world of E-Sports.

Before I get too carried away, let’s get one thing straight. I’m not saying that Nintendo is going to abandon the console gaming business in favor of cultivating competitive gaming scenes, and for that matter, I’m not saying they should. The Big N has always been about creating consoles and games for all audiences from Day One, and that’s never going to change. This is merely something that Nintendo could do in addition to that. They’re already trying to make strides in theme parks and movies, so why not branch out into one more medium?

Now, technically Nintendo has been involved in E-Sports before, at least to a degree. Games in their Super Smash Bros. series, specifically Melee and the latest entry for the Wii U, have been featured at several major fighting game tournaments in recent years, with Evo (short for Evolution, for those not in the know) being the most notable of them all. That’s not bad for initial exposure to the world of E-Sports, but who’s to say Nintendo can’t go deeper with this?

If Super Smash Bros. gets a new entry to the Switch (and if insiders like Emily Rogers are to be believed, it’s very possible), it would be the perfect foundation for a professional circuit, something akin to the Capcom Pro Tour for Street Fighter V. In addition to being a staple at major fighting game tournaments like Evo, the competitive Smash Bros. scene has plenty of exclusive tournaments like Genesis, Pound, APEX, and the Big House.

Imagine those tournaments as stepping stones toward something much grander.

It’s hard to say whether or not this will actually happen due to series director Masahiro Sakurai’s stance on Smash Bros. as a competitive fighting game. But considering how successful Smash Bros. has been competitively…one look at the attendance numbers of Smash Bros. for Wii U at Evo speaks for itself…Nintendo could open up new doors for the Smash Bros. series if they do something like the Capcom Pro Tour.

If Nintendo does get serious with an E-Sports venture, Splatoon is sure to be a part of those plans, what with how the first game absolutely exploded in popularity. While live tournaments have been possible with the first game, a new Splatoon game on the Switch essentially streamlines the process of conducting a tournament, with everyone being able to bring their own systems. Following this, another notable boon to having Splatoon on the Switch is that players on each team would be able to use their own specifically-tuned gear instead of having to rely on pre-made loadouts.

And why stop at Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon? When you think about it, Nintendo has a few series that could benefit from the E-Sports treatment. Mario Kart jumps out as a perfect first option for a professional league, and collaborating with The Pokémon Company International could yield a bigger, better Pokken Tournament circuit.

Some of Nintendo’s older franchises would make for great tournament games as well, if you think about it. Can you imagine an F-Zero pro circuit? Or an all-new Star Fox game with competitive multiplayer in mind? Sounds crazy, right? (Maybe that’s because it is, but you see my point.)

Or, if all else fails, we could see a new game from Nintendo that’s largely dedicated to tournament play. More specifically, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA for short) with characters from across Nintendo’s wide stable of franchises, with gameplay similar to games like League of LegendsHeroes of the Storm, maybe even Overwatch in some respects. The game would still be accessible to game enthusiasts of all skill levels, obviously, but for those that really want to get more out of it, a tournament series would be the perfect thing to aspire for.

By this point, all of this may seem like the crazy ramblings of a guy who grew up with Nintendo and loves competitive gaming just as much as pro sports leagues like Major League Baseball. And, honestly, I can’t fault you for thinking that. That being said, my point still stands that the Switch could be a huge opportunity for Nintendo to branch out into more unexplored territory. Would they revolutionize E-Sports in any way? Probably not, but it would still be amazing to see them give it a try regardless.

The Nintendo Switch has a ton of possibilities. Maybe, just maybe, a stronger involvement with E-Sports is one of them. Until the Big N tells us more, only time will tell.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Baton Pass, Part I: Views from the Sixth Generation

We’re exactly one month away from the true beginning of a brand new generation of Game Freak’s crown jewel video game franchise. Ever since the middle of May, news for Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon has been coming at a frequent clip, with information coming almost monthly. With so much newness to look forward to, Pokémon Sun and Moon are looking to cap the series year-long 20th Anniversary celebration with a bombastic finale.

But before we jump into the newest generation of Pokémon, let’s take a look back at the previous one.

Now, I want to start this piece off by being very clear about something. I’m not going to make too many comparisons between Generation VI and the ones that came before it. There are a few reasons for this; for one, I haven’t played many of the games past the original Pokémon Red, Blue, Gold and Silver. In recent times, I have only completed the main campaigns for X and Alpha Sapphire, both of which will be talked about in this piece the most. In addition, I am currently working on Pokémon Platinum, and have yet to play Black, White, and their sequels, though I plan to do so in the future. Any references to these games I do bring up are strictly based off of viewing experiences rather than actual gameplay experiences.

Second, and most-importantly, even if I did play any of the previous titles, I would rather not compare Generation VI to previous generations too much. While I may bring up fleeting comparisons, I would rather judge this generation on its own merits instead of weighing them against those of its predecessors. Yes, there are things that previous generations did better; case in point being the fifth generation’s storyline. But at the same time, the point is more about my own personal experience with generation six.

Having said all of that, what was Generation VI like for me? Well, on an overall scale, it was a solid generation to return to after so many years away from the series. There was a lot that Game Freak did well with this generation, and just as much that they fell short with. The story of Pokémon X is, unfortunately, one of the latter.

The story takes a very back-to-basics approach, where you journey across Kalos to collect eight gym badges and challenge the Pokémon League, all while dealing with an evil organization along the way. The thing is, this would’ve been fine if not for one key problem: Missed potential. Shauna, Tierno, Trevor and Serena/Calem are enjoyable enough to be around as human companions, and as characters, there are some cool concepts; Tierno’s obsession with dancing, for example, is a great idea that I would’ve loved to see explored and expanded on. Unfortunately, the game’s story never seems to develop these characters any further than their basic traits.

AZ is even worse in this regard. At least the companions have a presence in the story, but AZ is just…there. His backstory is explained somewhat, but other than that he has no real impact. The story could’ve had a focus on AZ and his place in the lore, and it would’ve been far more interesting. All we get instead is his backstory, very little exposition from him, a battle following the champion, and a reunion with his beloved Floette. That’s all.

That’s the biggest issue with Pokémon X and Y’s story. There’s so much potential here for a compelling storyline, between AZ’s past and the history of Mega Evolution. None of it is tapped into, and all we’re left with is a hollow story topped off by a laughable evil organization in Team Flare. (Don’t get me started on those jokers, I swear…) I understand that Pokémon isn’t known for prize-winning narratives, but if you’re coming off one of the most story-driven entries in the series to-date…Black and White, for those keeping score at home…a little extra effort would’ve gone a long way.

Outside of the story, the gameplay fares much better, albeit with a few hiccups of its own. The introduction of Fairy-type Pokémon brought a sense of parity to a series that was otherwise dominated by Dragon-types, and Mega Evolution was a good way to breathe new life into some old favorites like Gardevoir and Charizard. (That being said, I do feel like there was some favoritism involved in the development of some Megas; did we really need Mega Garchomp?) On top of that, while the likes of Aegislash, Talonflame and Greninja wore out their welcomes in the eyes of competitive players, the new Pokémon that were introduced this generation are all great additions between their concepts and designs.

Sadly, the fact that there were so few new Pokémon presents a nitpick that I have with Generation VI. X and Y’s combined selection of monsters (as well as that of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire) are curated from past generations to make up for the small number of new ones. This makes Generation VI’s games feel less like a brand new generation, and more like an anthology of the series’ greatest Pokémon. Yes, it does offer players plenty of options for in-game team building, but my point still stands.

On a final note in regards to problems I have with the game, it felt a bit too easy, even by the series’ standards. Part of it does have to do with how the EXP Share works, but it’s not the only factor. (Even though, for what it’s worth, I didn’t find the EXP Share to be all that busted.) Super Training and the benefits you get from Pokémon-Amie, like shrugging off status conditions, also factor in. Once you train and play with your Pokémon, and you have an idea of what’s coming as far as opponents go, beating the main story is a breeze. For instance, I went into the Elite Four with my team at least five levels lower than the champion’s ace, and I still managed to make it through the last fight without losing anybody. Granted, there were one or two moments where things looked dicey, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that beating the champion was fairly simple.

Whatever issues Pokémon X and Y may have had with story and gameplay, it’s tough to deny that Game Freak managed to nail the little things. Kalos is an amazing region to explore, with some incredible locales worth exploring. The soundtrack is phenomenal (try to tell me the theme of Xerneas and Yveltal isn’t epic with a straight face), it looks good, trainer customization is an excellent addition, and Pokémon-Amie is a fun, charming way to interact with your Pokémon companions in ways you never could before.

As far as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire go, the problem is that I never played the original third generation games when they came out, due to their release coming around the same time I started losing interest in Pokémon as a whole. So I can’t really judge whether or not the remakes are improvements over the originals. That said, I think they’re fine games, all things considered; they build off of what worked in X and Y, while adding features that I’m surprised didn’t make it into those games, like Soaring. The fact that they didn’t include customization for the remakes was a downer, but it doesn’t make it any less of a good game.

Overall, Generation VI of Pokémon was just as I described it earlier: Solid. It did have some growing pains, with the jump to the Nintendo 3DS being chief among them, but it still managed to do enough to succeed in my book. Not for one second do I regret returning to the series with this generation.

I do want to close on one thing that I feel needs to be mentioned. Without name dropping, there are some individuals who are far more passionate about Pokémon than I am who have said that Generation VI felt “soulless.” Now, I’m not going to say that these people are wrong; after all, that’s their opinion, and they’re entitled to it. Having said that, I respectfully disagree with that notion. The fact that you can customize your trainer however you want them to look, as well as the ability to actually interact with your Pokémon partners, shows that there is a soul to these games. Moreso, the problems with Generation VI have nothing to do with a lack of soul so much as they do missed opportunities and the aforementioned growing pains. Sure, X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire weren’t perfect games, and they made some weird design decisions, but that doesn’t necessarily make them soulless. Make of that what you will, but that’s just my two cents.

So, those are my thoughts on Generation VI of Pokémon. What do I think of what lies ahead for the series? Well, I feel that I’ve talked more than enough here, so we’ll save that topic for another time.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

David, the Goliath

You know, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write about this. At the very least, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write about this until we were deeper into the month of October. But sadly, with the 2016 Boston Red Sox coming up lame at the worst imaginable moment, as much as it hurts me as a fan, this is what things have come to.

The legendary career of David Ortiz…Boston’s beloved Big Papi…is over sooner than most would’ve hoped.

New Englanders knew that this moment was coming for a long time now, even before Ortiz announced he would be wrapping it up a year ago. Sure, there may have been times where it looked like he wasn’t getting long in the tooth…this past season was proof of that…but time catches up to even the best athletes whether they want it to or not. It’s all a matter of ‘when,’ and for David Ortiz, that time is, unfortunately, right now.

It’s disappointing that the Red Sox’ postseason run ended as early as it did. I think I speak for all of Red Sox Nation when I say that it would’ve been amazing to see the Red Sox send Ortiz off with one more run to a World Series title. But the problem was that the Red Sox were very Jekyll and Hyde-esque all season; they’d be world beaters for one stretch of games, and just as soon as they got hot, they’d go ice cold for another stretch. I could go on about what the Red Sox need to do to improve on what they did right this year, but I’ll leave that to the pro pundits.

For now, let’s focus on Ortiz. And, really, what can be said about this man that already hasn’t been said?

What David Ortiz has done for both the Red Sox and the city of Boston is nothing short of legendary. Among other factors, Ortiz is one of the biggest catalysts for what many would consider a decade-plus modern-day Red Sox Renaissance. A perfect run of trips to the World Series (with Ortiz earning MVP honors in 2013 to boot), five American League Championship Series appearances, and three American League East titles are just outliers for what Ortiz has given the Red Sox since 2003.

He helped end what many considered to be a franchise curse, alleviating the 86-year notion that October always brought disappointment to the streets of Boston, no matter what came the summer before. He lifted the weight of many previous Red Sox players who never tasted the glory of a World Series title, including the greatest BoSox player of all time, Ted Williams. He helped give the Red Sox, and their fans, all they ever wanted and so much more.

What’s most important is that whenever he was available, and injuries weren’t bringing him down, he gave the Red Sox an x-factor, an ace in the hole to pull them out of a tight spot if the need was there. There was a sense, whenever Big Papi came to the batter’s box, that there was still a chance at victory, and he was willing to swing for the fences. It didn’t always work out, but the presence of someone as clutch as Ortiz in any lineup is nothing to scoff at.

Believe it or not, my favorite moment from Ortiz didn’t necessarily come during one of the games. Rather, it came before a game. I refer to, of course, his pre-game speech in 2013. A few days after the Boston Marathon bombings, and one after a day-long manhunt for one of the bombers, Ortiz took a microphone and proclaimed that Boston was “our [Bleep]ing city, and nobody gonna dictate our freedom,” all while thanking the late Thomas Menino and Boston Police for their work. It goes to show that Ortiz’ love for Boston didn’t just stop at the Red Sox, but to the entire city itself. He cared for the city, and its people; just as the fans came to love him, Ortiz came to love the fans.

Even the FCC, of all organizations, was okay with Ortiz cursing like that on live television. That should tell you something.

True, Ortiz’s temper may not have put him in the best light at times. Camden Yards’ grounds crew can attest to that after one of their dugout phones became a target of his rage. Otherwise, Ortiz has been nothing short of classy with the Red Sox, and that classiness has been the one constant the Sox have had for so long.

Again, I truly wish that I could’ve written this later in the month, and maybe in a more positive light if the Red Sox won the World Series. But sadly, it is what it is. David Ortiz took his last curtain call at Fenway Park Monday evening, and ended what will go down in Red Sox history as one of the greatest careers by any player to don the uniform.

I end this piece off with a message to the man himself. Mr. Ortiz…Big Papi…I don’t know if you’ll ever find this message among the many you have received from fans, friends and family by this point.  But regardless, I want to say what many have already said. Thank you for all the fun times, the walkoff home runs, and the clutch moments. Thank you for revolutionizing the culture of Red Sox Nation, and giving fans a reason to believe against the odds. Thank you for being the one the Red Sox, and the city of Boston, needed most of all when times looked dark. For all that you’ve done for this team, this city, and so much more…

Thank you.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

A New Beginning

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Thomas Lydon, the man behind “The Mind of Lydon.” Or, if brevity is more your thing, you can simply call me Tom. I like to think of myself as a number of different things; one of them, as you can tell from reading this, is a writer. Writing in general has been a major part of my life ever since I was a kid. From poems in elementary school to articles in newspapers, I’ve been sharpening my skills as a writer for several years. It hasn’t received much in the way of recognition, but then again, I write more out of a love of the craft instead of a desire for recognition.

What else is there to know about me? Well, among other things, I consider myself to be:

  • A sports fan, particularly of Boston-based teams
  • A video game enthusiast
  • A music lover
  • A smalltime philosopher
  • A minor funnyman
  • A dreamer
  • A straight man…most of the time, anyway
  • An overall geek

There’s much more to me than that, but for the sake of trying to hit a sweet spot between a long and short introduction, that’s just a sample size of who I am. Rest assured, future blogs will be much longer than this. However, the most important thing to keep in mind with me is that what you are going to get out of this blog, whatever the subject might be and whatever my stance might be, is 100% honest. I’m all for different perspectives, but I’m not the kind of person that panders to certain audiences and tells them what they want to hear; my feeling is that in doing that, you’re not being honest with yourself, nor are you being honest with your audience. I get that there are subjects and topics that may upset some people, and that’s perfectly fine. I can’t change how people feel about different subjects. but at the end of the day, what I ultimately want to do is be honest with what I write, both to myself and my audiences.

With all of that in mind, I feel it’s time to take my skill in writing, and all that I am as a person, to a new level. That’s where this blog comes in. It’ll have a little bit of everything; sports posts for sports people, gaming posts for gaming people, and some posts in-between for everyone else. Sometimes, i may even answer your questions as part of a blog. I want to try and reach as wide of an audience as possible with this page, instead of being a one-trick pony. It’s bound to be a learning experience for me, but one that will be just as enjoyable as it is insightful. And my hope is that you will come along with me for the journey.

So, after reading all of this, I hope you’ll stick around; as the old saying goes, the best is yet to come.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom