Syracuse Downtown
Bossman is on vacation from his day job this week and travelling all over Central New York on a quest to catch them all.  As of this trip Bossman was at 82 Pokemon caught.  If you have a local area to suggest for great Pokemon hunting please leave a comment below!

Syracuse, NY is the largest metropolitan area in Upstate/Central NY and has a handful of great spots to check for Pokemon.  Below are three popular spots I hit up on my recent trip.

Destiny, USA

The old Carousel mall has doubled in size and now offers a number of entertainment options as well as free mall-wide wifi.  I took advantage of the wifi and did have several drops and app lock-ups, as well as some buggy GPS movement, but I'm unsure if it was my phone, the app, the wifi or a combination of all three.  Still I was able to find a lot of Pokemon here thanks to all the cellphone usage.  I was a bit underwhelmed by the number of Pokestops and found my eggs running out quickly.  I caught a Jinx and spotted a Dratini, and Cody caught a Snorlax on a separate trip the same day, so this is a good place to find some rare spawns.  The Panera Bread located a level below the carousel is a great spot to grab lunch with a Pokestop within reach and free wifi.

Green Lakes State Park

10/10 Green
This was a suggestion from Collen B. when I mentioned my lack of water type Pokemon, and a really nice location.  Entry to the park was $8 and you can drive directly to the beachfront, where a walking path around the lake has handful of landmarks and as a result Pokestops.  There are Hitmonchans everywhere as well as a number of water-type pokemon.  Cell service got spotty on the far side of the lake but otherwise this park is worth making a day trip!

Onondaga Lake Park

Located in Liverpool, NY, I hit this park around dusk and it was absolutely packed with Pokemon Go players.  The park has a nice walking trail along the water with a decent amount of Pokestops.  Pinsirs were spawning everywhere as well as water type Pokemon.  At the eastern edge of the park is a small parking area with two Pokestops within reach and constantly lured.  The village of Liverpool just down the block is littered with Pokestops and had live music happening at several locations.

Downtown

I didn't make it to downtown (pictured at top of post) but plan on heading there for a future trip, as it's within walking distance of a number of restaurants, bars & museums, and with tons of people nearby should make for great rare spawns.  Do you know of any great places in Syracuse or elsewhere upstate that I should check out or you would like me to explore?  Leave a comment below!
Whitney Point Dam
Bossman is on vacation from his day job this week and travelling all over Central New York on a quest to catch them all.  As of this trip Bossman was at 75 Pokemon caught.  If you have a local area to suggest for great Pokemon hunting please leave a comment below!

I work in New Hartford and have sometimes found myself in the countryside just south on Route 12B.  It's a beautiful drive and something I've wanted to explore more of, and my quest for new Pokemon I spent an afternoon driving down the meandering countryside in search of new spawns.  This is a path that leads through several small hamlets & college towns from New Hartford to Binghamton.

Cell Service

I use Republic Wireless which relies heavily on wifi hotspots, otherwise switching over to the Verizon network when not in range of a wifi.  Most towns I hit along my route had decent cell service, although travelling just off the main streets would sometimes see a rapid decline in cell service.  Most gyms and Pokestops had no problem connecting to the cell network.

Remote Gyms

Rolling into Deansboro I spotted two Mystic gyms on a road that currently has a bridge out between them.  I parked and in the few minutes it took me to level up the gym saw little to no traffic.  These are great gyms for parking high-level Pokemon that can last through multiple 21-hour cycles to earn dust and coins, and I'll definitely be returning here at the end of the week to grab these gyms.

Windmills

A little further down route 12B you find yourself surrounded by a small mountain range with windmill farms in every direction.  These are enormous feats of modern engineering and worth parking and taking a moment to stop and appreciate.

Hamilton, NY

Most towns I passed through had very little in terms of Pokestops or Gyms with the exception of Hamilton, a small college town.  The downtown has a square with a roughly ~5 minute walking path near the library, post office and a number of historic monuments, meaning you can hit 6-7 Pokestops in a 5 minute walk.  Unfortunately there were not a lot of players in the area, and the game seems to reward high cell usage areas with more Pokemon, so even with lures and incense running there was not much to catch.  There were events happening further up the road so it may have just been a bad day for spotting other Pokemon hunters.

Hamlets Everywhere

You'll pass a series of small hamlets on your way to Binghamton, so if you're not so focused on Pokemon but enjoying a nice drive, some shopping & small town dining it's a nice option.  Every hamlet will usually have a small town square located near public buildings like libraries, post offices and justice buildings, and these are often also parks with historic monuments, so you can find small clusters of Pokestops as you go.

Return Trip

I've heard Binghamton University is a great location for Pokemon Go, but it was late in the day when I reached it and I decided to head back via 81 North.  The return trip to Rome is around 2 hours, and I had a brief stop where I took the picture at the top of this post - Whitney Point dam constructed in the 30s & 40s to prevent downstate flooding.  The Bellsprout got away!

In my next post I'll detail three Pokemon Go hotspots in Syracuse, NY - Destiny USA, Liverpool Park & Green Lakes State Park (thanks to Collen B. for the tips!).  Know any good Pokemon Go spots or have an area you want me to investigate?  Leave a comment below!
I touched a bit on characters and their development in my previous blog posts, especially Jowy and his transitions throughout the story of Suikoden 2. If you didn't check out the first 2 parts of this series, take a look at the past posts in the side bar to the left. When it comes to characters in JRPGs, there are typically criteria for creating a solid character base. Are these characters well developed? Do they continue to grow during the (typically long) story line? Are these characters relatable? How do the characters feel in combat? I'll explore these questions and more!


Square's Final Fantasy VII has some of the most memorable characters in JRPG history



When we discuss JRPGs and characters, the first thing to come to mind is the main character, or protagonist. The main character of a JRPG typically takes one of two forms. The first being a protagonist who is silent outside of the dialogue option of the player, or even completely silent. This allows the player to become immersed in the title by simply putting themselves in their shoes and create the player character's personally themselves. Good examples of characters designed this way are Riou from Suikoden 2, Ryu from Breath of Fire and of course Crono from Chrono Trigger. This type of main character may have a bit less character development due to a different form of narrative, but ironically enough, a main character of this type can create the characters around them even stronger. We'll discuss this a bit more later. The second type of protagonist is a narrated character with pre-set lines and actions, with their own independent personality separate from the player. Obviously, this form of protagonist is a bit simpler when it comes to story telling, but more often then not, is capable of telling a story with a stronger narrative. Examples of this type of protagonist include almost every Final Fantasy main character (Cloud, Tidus, Zidane, Vaan), Hiro from Lunar 2, Dart from Legend of Dragoon and Sora from Kingdom Hearts. Now, I believe there can definitely be a grey areas (Yu Narukami from Persona 4) and the context of games can also make one type of character much stronger over another. I believe if Riou from Suikoden 2 was a scripted character, Suikoden 2 would be a less powerful game.


 Regardless of the form of narrative, the protagonist in a JRPG needs to be meticulously and carefully designed and written for a few reasons compared to other games. The first being time. The player will be spending an incredible amount of time with this character in a narrative focused game, and if the player feels that the character is boring, weak or even stupid, the immersion is lost or becomes a chore. Imagine if Cloud wasn't a badass or if Yuri from Tales of Vesperia wasn't as level-headed as he was? I have dropped JRPGs mid playthrough due to being unable to deal with/really disliking the protagonist. The main character of a JRPG called Enchanted Arms, Atsuma, is a prime example. I found Atsuma to be an absolute moron, dealing with problems in such a ridiculous way that I simply could not bear to spend 50+ hours controlling him. He wasn't even a little bit relatable! Not only was Atsuma difficult for me to bear, the supporting cast wasn't much better. Sometimes, this can be used as a tool of character development too! Luke from Tales of Abyss is an absolute jerk to everything and everyone and genuinely unlikable for the first half of the game, but slowly matures, and as the player the transition is a lot more potent. This is a great example of harnessing time to create a great sense of immersion.




He's referring to players of his game...


The second major reason for the extra care in JRPG protagonists is story telling through mechanics. I touched on this slightly in my storytelling section of this series. Not only do JRPGs focus on storytelling, and their characters developing in these stories, they also include combat. Not only does combat typically tie in directly with the storyline and the struggle of the main characters, it acts as a point of action in all the heavy narrative. Combat in JRPGs is always interesting because a lot of JRPGs do it completely differently, as it is the most creative freedom the developers have when focusing on an excellent story. Typically JRPG combat is very heavy with a relatively high learning curve (Xenogears, Persona, Final Fantasy Tactics and even Pokemon) but some titles choose to go with something a little simpler (Final Fantasy 7, Legend of Dragoon, Chrono Trigger). Combat allows you to participate in a physical struggle alongside the protagonist and the perfect metaphor for this structure is the experience bar/leveling system present in most JRPGs.




Xenogears has a complicated yet fulfilling combat system


The experience bar represents how much more experience is needed to level up, obviously. We've seen it in almost every single RPG, western, eastern, video or board game, it doesn't matter. It's a measurement of the battles we've seen, our progress in the game and even our current strength. Since the beginning of RPGs it's been a staple, and in my opinion it's the absolute pinnacle of storytelling through mechanics and character development as well, on a basic level. As your character progresses and grows in their story, combating enemies, experiencing all sorts of things and finding the resolve to carry out a difficult task (a typical occurrence in JRPGs). Obviously our character "level" is a representation of strength, learning new techniques, magic and even summons as we get stronger but next time you're playing an RPG consider the storytelling through mechanics aspect as well. You get more experience from boss fights and rare encounters, just like we become more experienced and wise due to our hardships.

Outside of the main character, it's also critical that JRPGs develop a strong supporting cast. In JRPGs you tend to see a ton of archetypes show up, due to tried and true character interactions. The goofy one, the smart one, the bad ass, etc, etc. However, these archetypes can go a lot deeper. Persona, a game series completely centered around the main character and his interactions with NPCs and even other party members hit the nail on the head when it comes to a strong supporting cast. Each character helps develop and motivate the player character as well as the player and balance out the party combat wise. Connor, LAN Mob's resident Final Fantasy IX enthusiast, says FF9 is incredible when it comes to characters and their relation to the protagonist. Connor states, "If you can connect with Zidane (the protagonist) you can connect with the entire cast. They all have some sort of semblance of Zidane, or Zidane has a little bit of all characters in him." If you're interested in Connor's analysis of Final Fantasy IX, just ask 'em! Or maybe he'll post a blog about it someday! Overall, whether it be party members or other NPCs, these characters help fill out the world and create a sense of immersion via companionship.

One of my favorite JRPGs in terms of support characters, Lunar 2.

Lastly, I'd like to touch on one of the most and usually underappreciated characters in any JRPG: The Villian! A basic concept, albeit people need reminding of it sometimes. What would Batman be without The Joker? A well written villain or even anti-hero gives, not only the protagonist, but the player as well, another reason to move forward. Whether it be a villian like Luca Blight from Suikoden 2, who is basically pure evil, or a complicated enemy like Yggdrasil from Tales of Symphonia. It's one of those aspects of JRPGs which always tends to be interesting, sometimes the main villain isn't even a person, like in the case of Legend of Dragoon, where the "villain" is an absent god. It's important to have something to fight for, especially when it's in the form of a person.      

Suikoden 2's Villian, Luca Blight, is one twisted dude.

Ultimately, players will find characters that speak to them in all sorts of ways for all sorts of reasons. One person's favorite protagonist could be another's least favorite, and that's a beautiful testament to the power of story telling when it comes to creating immersion in this genre. I love Connor's respect for Zidane, and his love of Final Fantasy IX in general. JRPGs have such an incredible amount of depth played out through their characters in an incredibly unique way, in an already incredibly unique medium. It's something else.

Whats you favorite protagonist in JRPGs? Why? What about villians? Let me know in the comments below? I'll start it off!


Favorite JRPG Protagonist

Fei Fong Wong from Xenogears



Favorite Non-Protagonist Party Member


Scias from Breath of Fire IV


Favorite NPC


Drippy from Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch



Favorite Villain


Luca Blight from Suikoden 2























Or any LoL player who likes the unique play-style of Ionia's gruesome virtuoso.  I just recently put more time into the champion myself and love what he brings to the team. It's important to note that Jhin is the second marksmen to feature a reloading auto attack.  This is imperative in understanding and utilizing Jhin's kit to its full potential.  



"Our performance begins."


This won't be a reveal of the champ as he's been out for almost half of a year, and most of you reading this have already played Jhin,  thought about playing him, or have played against him. With that being said, let's get into the kit overview to understand what we're working with:

Passive: Whisper -  Jhin has four auto attacks until he has to reload.  The final auto is guaranteed to critically strike, plus a percentage of the targets missing health as bonus AD.  

Now things will get weird.  Jhin's crit is reduced by 25% but has bonus effects.  Every time Jhin crits he gets a burst of  10% movement speed, which is increased by 4% for every 10% of attack speed. tl;dr buying attack speed will increase the burst of movement speed you get every time you crit.  

On top of this, Jhin get increased attack damage per level: 2%-40% based on level, plus 4% per 10% crit chance, and plus 2.5% per 10% bonus attack speed.  tl;dr again, you are rewarded for buying crit/attack speed items, like you should!

Q: Dancing Grenade - Point and click AD ability and the heart of Jhin's DPS output.  It will bounce to up to 3 additional targets (4 total). If Dancing Grenade kills a target, it will do 25% more damage to the next target which increases with each successful target kill.  Dancing Grenade will also prioritize enemy champions if they are close enough during the bounce animation.

Uses
-Farming minion waves under tower
-Sneaking in a 75% damage increased 4th bounce onto your enemy laner
- Close combat teamfight where the enemy team is clumped
- Auto attack reset, specifically in 1v1 scenarios where you need to maximize your damage output in a short period of time.


W: Deadly Flourish - Passive Caught Out marks enemy champions for 4 seconds every time Jhin or an ally uses damaging abilities or basic attacks.  Deadly Flourish's active fires a long ranged skill shot similar to Jinx's Zap, but it differs in that it passes through enemy monsters and stops at the first enemy champion struck, rooting champions marked with Deadly Flourish's passive.

Uses:
-I max 2nd in the 3 primary abilities because  of the sniping synergy with Deathfire Touch, it can catch low health enemies backing, forcing them to blow summoner spell heal, actives, or die to the damage over time from DT.  Secondly, by maxing W second, your root duration is at a whopping 1.75 seconds.
-Shoving the wave
-Assisting in gank attempts (this is where Jhin acts as an assassin.)


E: Captive Audience - Passive Beauty in Death creates blooming lotus traps whenever Jhin gets a kill.  The trap is created on the gray-screened enemy's champion, and since in bloom will slow and reveal all enemies.  Traps detonate after 2 seconds, doing  some magic damage plus magic damage based on a percentage of your max AD.  Actively, Jhin can place these lotus traps, giving temporary vision of the area around the trap.  These actively placed traps stealth after a brief delay.

Uses:
- An alternate ward.  Although it doesn't give extended sight, it will give vision of the clumsy jungler who paths over the flower in attempt to gank.
-Lane control.  When you're level 3 as Jhin, you can potentially have all 3 abilities available.  Give that level 3 Jhin a Leona support and you could potentially have someone locked down for over 2 seconds.
-Map control.  A team playing around the Jhin means playing off of traps that are far enough away to give the enemy a false sense of comfort, but close enough to collapse when Jhin lands his W.


R: Curtain Call - Jhin loves the number 4.  He fires 4 auto attacks before reloading, his Q bounces to hit a total of 4 targets, and although I have yet to understand where the number 4 lies in Captive Audience, his Ult does indeed follow suit in the magic number.  

On initial cast, creates a cone-like area that reveals all Caught Out targets.  For the next 10 seconds, Jhin can fire up to 4 shots (any shot not fired reduces the cooldown of Curtain Call by 10% for each shot.)  Each shot does damage to all enemies hit, but like Deadly Flourish, it will stop at the first enemy champion hit.  It can do damage to clumped enemies.  Damaged enemies are slowed, making them easier targets if they don't have flash.  To make matters worse (or better) the damage from shots fired is increased by 2% by 1% of targets missing health (HELP).  So try not to get hit!

Oh, and like Jhin's auto attack passive, the fourth shot also critically strikes but does even more based on Jhin's bonus critical damage.

Uses: 
-When your team is ahead and the enemy has no slippery assassins.  You channel during this ultimate, which leaves you susceptible to an AD Carry's worst nightmare: Assassins.  If they have none of these evil doers, you're pretty free to open a teamfight with this long range ultimate.  You are banking on hitting your shots, so don't miss!  The slow will give your team plenty of opportunity to land CC and burst down targets, giving you the map advantage to take what you want. 
-When your team is even or behind.  Hold your ultimate! Jhin players want long teamfights.  They want to land as many 4th autos and W roots to turn the tides of a fight.  When you finally have the enemy on the run, most of them have used their ultimates and are below half health.  Get a good angle and hit R.  Even if you don't get a kill from playing this way, you're likely to get some summoner spells and have the map advantage afterwards. 

A lot to take in, huh?  Jhin has developed a lot since he was released.  Players at the highest level are showcasing just how powerful he can be.  Personally I would call him a control marksman.  His weakness is found in his unreliable mobility in the early game.  You're practically gambling on a crit with your Brawler's Glove (10% crit) with 4 auto attacks to give the bootless gunman only a 33 movement speed increase.  In later levels, and with the help of Boots of Swiftness, it can certainly be argued that Jhin may have superior movement to a declared "high mobility" marksman, typically one with a dash.  

Now let's understand why you can be self-possessed with the Jhin pick.  The reason that I believe that every ADC player should play Jhin, the reason I'm taking the time to talk about this at all, comes from my years of playing in the bot lane, as well as the living meme of "my team's holding me back."  I believe Jhin holds the tools to carry practically any team.  By this, I certainly don't mean the team where you have 2 DC's and your midlaner has 500 ping.  I'm talking about the games where your top laner fed early, is blaming the jungler who got counter jungled and died early, your mid laner is barely keeping up to the roaming Zed, and bot lane has been nothing but a farm fest.  Some might not see a difference in these two very different scenarios, but the truth is that the latter is anyone's game to win.  

When you play Jhin, it's important to understand and be humbled by how powerful his skill ceiling is.  Look at the numbers!  He is not a cookie-cutter ADC, he's designed to tip the scales in these come-from-behind games.  He can fill this role more than any other ADC.  With that being said, it's your discipline as an ADC to identify what kind of team you are working with.  If your jungle Rek'Sai is 5/5/10 in the mid game but is upset that nobody is following her engage, you and your duo partner sure as hell better back him up in the next team fight.  You can't control what a player does, you can only try to have great mechanics and be able to identify where you'll be needed on a team full of egos.  Don't simply be another ego, understand how to carry.

A Jhin player that is aware of his/her surroundings may not even take damage during a fight.  Back at it again with the importance of mental approach; it's not about what your team did wrong, it's about what you can do better.  Your play is not perfect because the game was designed to deny you that perfection!

I believe this to be the strongest approach to the game overall, but its value shines with the tools that Jhin has to work with.  Here's a few parting tips that I find to be useful every time I pick this beast:

-Identify two forms of engage on your team.  Usually it will be my support and top laner.  Since I've identified this, it's much easier to pull the trigger on W when they engage because I know that they can.  
-Identify the two biggest forms of burst on the enemy team.  Some games you could have threats of being popped listed all the way from bot to top lane.  Find the biggest two and make them priority targets.  This does not mean to play reserved, it means to play around priority targets that pose the greatest threat to you.  There's no worse feeling as an ADC than getting popped by a 0/0/0 LeBlanc before you can auto attack once.
-Play to the game at hand.  Getting 20 assists still gives you gold and map pressure.  
-Be liberal with your ult, but make sure you're safe from burst champions.
-Jungle chokes can be your best friend or your worst enemy, but rule of thumb is to NOT fight in a dark jungle, even if it's your own.
- Keep track of your auto clip.  The second worse feeling after getting popped would be flashing on a low health target, and all you see is Jhin reloading. (PSA: flash is not an auto attack reset and will not reload your clip..)
-Don't risk losing pressure, but auto 3>Q>auto 4 can deal an insane amount of damage to targets below 50% health.  With W and R available after successfully winning this trade, you're sure to blow summoner spells and/or get a kill.
-When you see a squishy support clearing your team's baron wards, use W from a safe distance to aggro Nashor who will then lay a few beefy auto attacks into the enemy.  That'll show 'em to clear your vision.

I hope this helped anyone out there think about Jhin differently.  In the right hands he can be a complete monster on the Fields of Justice.  Now go get those Mastery 7 icons.


"The work is what matters."
 The Virtuoso by 0-Krysa
As I wrote previously in this blog series, Suikoden 2 continuously expresses the strength of storytelling in the interactive medium of video games. However, I am specifically examining the strength of story telling in JRPGs, which are typically linear but built around that. Other games have stories of course, but when it comes to the sub-genre of JRPGs, portraying stories well is key. I'm going to continue my dive into Suikoden 2's story and the different narrative applications used throughout the game as an example of the strength of this genre, but from here on I'm going to be skipping around quite a bit. If you're unfamiliar with Suikoden 2 or this blog series check out my previous post! Needless to say....SPOILER ALERT

The three main characters from left to right, Jowy, Riou and Nanami

Through a series of events Riou finds his way back to his hometown with Jowy and we finally get to meet "Nanami", as mentioned in one of the first lines in the game. Nanami is Riou's step-sister, both adopted by their master. Throughout this entire game, Riou and Nanami have a ton of interactions relating to their closeness and their reliance on each other. One of the most interesting and foreshadowing of these is despite what you say to Nanami in multiple instances in the game, Nanami will force herself into your party. A bit later in the story, Jowy, Nanami and Riou find themselves in a small village where Jowy is reunited with a young girl named Pilika. It is revealed that Pilika was responsible for Jowy's survival from diving off the waterfall. Pilika refers to Jowy as "Uncle" and it is clear the two have bonded during Jowy's recovery time. The next few scenes are some of the most important in the game, in my opinion. Pilika's village, where Jowy resided was burned to the ground by Luca and his men. Pilika was the sole survivor of her entire village and watched her own parents murdered in front of her. To top that off, on their return to their fort, the 2 boys see Luca Blight's savagery in person. Luca Blight is personally razing another village in which he cuts down survivors with no mercy, laughing the entire time. He then proceeded to force a young woman, the last survivor of this village, to act like a pig for Luca's own amusement, just to be slaughtered anyway. This infuriates Jowy and he attempts to run in and intervene, only to be knocked out by Tsai, a wiser party member, to prevent Jowy's own death.


Luca Blight is preeeeety evil...



Up next in Luca's path of destruction was Viktor's Fort, where Riou recovered from the waterfall scene. Luca makes insanely short work of the fort, personally taking many lives. Pohl, a friend of Riou's and Pilika's gets killed in front of her. Riou and Jowy attempt to stop Luca and quickly realize this isn't a fight they are capable of winning. Luca gives a speech about power and strength, as he has a blade over Pillika's head. Luca's philosophy is similar to Darwinism and he believes only the strong can get what they want in this world. He speaks of how easy it is to kill the weak and Riou and Jowy are powerless to stop him. Luckily the building explodes and they are able to escape, but this is the second time Jowy and Riou were presented with a situation where they lacked the strength to change the course of events unfolding. This event is the beginning of Jowy's and Riou's seperate paths., and is foreshadowed incredibly well. Following this scene Riou and Jowy follow Pilika into a cave and find themselves with "2 runes of destiny." It's a bit strange and carries some weight between stories and never gets explained in a ton of depth. Jowy is bearer of the Black Sword rune, while Riou carries the Bright Shield Rune. A bit more on this later, but a huge overarching theme of not only Suikoden 2, but the entire series, is fate.    

A bit later in the story, Jowy and Riou have a run in with their former captain, and Jowy tells Riou to run while he deals with him. Riou flees and waits for Jowy's return with Nanami at the city gates. Eventually Jowy returns, but does not say much. Jowy exhibits strange behavior over the next few days, being very reserved and having mysterious meetings with people Riou and Nanami do not know. This escalates in a very powerful scene in which we see the "downfall" of Jowy. Riou and Nanami go to the town hall to meet with the Mayor of Muse only to see Jowy standing over her with a bloody knife. Jowy apologizes to Nanami and the main character and quickly flees, leaving Riou and Nanami with the blame for the murder. If it isn't obvious, Luca's words resonated with Jowy and he's off to create the world in his own image, by any means necessary.



The murder of Annabelle is the beginning of Jowy's transition.

By this point in the story, both the player and Riou, the player's character, have plenty of reasons to be invested in the rest of the story. Through the expert story crafting, Suikoden 2 allows you to be fueled by hatred towards Luca, by making him an absolute monster, and desperately wanting a reunion with Jowy to understand his actions. Jowy's betrayal and therefore removal from the party is another perfect example of "story telling through mechanics." This tool in story telling allows the player to not only feel the absence of Jowy emotionally, but to physically miss his presence in your party. Jowy was always an incredible party member, doing above average damage and capable of magic and devastating team attacks. I think that character deaths are always an incredible tool in JRPGs thanks to the typical party system. Games like Legend of Dragoon, FF7, etc, etc, utilize this to perfection. You feel it a bit less in Suikoden due to having 108 party members (haha), but it's still prominent.

It is no secret that JRPGs have a ton of dialogue, but in the best titles, almost all dialogue is pushing the story and character development right along. Suikoden 2 is a very long game, but almost everything matters, whether it be Jowy's story or even one of the many side characters. As far as dialogue goes, many games have suffered from bad translations, (All your base are belong to us!), but most games manage to make the transition well. In a game like Suikoden, and many other JRPGs with protagonists that do not speak for themselves, immersion is a bit simpler. Allowing the player to choose certain dialogue makes their choices have some weight and this system is present in Suikoden.

Skipping ahead a lot in the story, for time's sake. Jowy has become the King of Highland, thanks to Riou's defeat of Luca. (The Luca Blight boss fight is one of my favorites of all time!!) Jowy has taken Luca's words in Viktor's Fort to heart and has embraced absolute power and his destiny of the black sword rune. Throughout the story Riou and Jowy have come at odds, and they meet up in "The Rockaxe Castle Liberation". Jowy faces Nanami and Riou and the two boys are ready to battle when Nanami steps in and demands them to stop. The hallway is sieged by Highland soldiers and Nanmi manages to deflect multiple arrows, protecting both boys. Unfortunately an arrow slips through her defense and she is struck. . Jowy, Riou and Nanami have always been pretty close, and despite Jowy's newfound ambition he retaliates. Riou and Jowy defeat the enemy force. Jowy apologizes to Nanami but remains steadfast in his ambition, leaving a dying Nanami in Riou's arms. Based on the player's choices and completion level, Nanami will pass away, which is incredibly tragic. Throughout the game Nanami muscled her way into your party, like it or not, and is present in almost every main story plot. It's incredibly jarring to lose the main character's sister to a plot of war lead by your best friend. It's downright Shakespearean! 


I originally played Suikoden 2 when I was around 12 or 13, and I gotta say this scene really bothered me. At the time I was unaware of other endings, and I felt as powerless as Riou and Jowy did when facing down Luca.


The ending of Suikoden 2 is variable, as I have mentioned before, but you typically see first time players (NOT looking stuff up!) get ending 2, which is the ending I first saw that resonated with me to this day. After the final battle the player is presented with a decision to enter the banquet hall and end the game. Jowy has escaped from the final battle and you can choose not to pursue him. However, if you think back to the beginning of the game and the waterfall scene, it's obvious where Jowy is waiting. Sure enough, if you head to the waterfall Jowy is awaiting a final stand off. You will face a very weak Jowy is a duel and this is probably my favorite choice you have as a player. You may choose to simply defend against Jowy and never strike back which will warp your ending if you managed to recruit all 108 characters. However when I was a youngster I fought back. I think this moment is appropriately emotionally charged, especially by Nanami's death. If you choose to defend, Jowy can live if you met a certain criteria, if you chose to attack he will die, passing on the rune of the black sword to Riou, to run a newly united country. Another prime example of interactive storytelling.
Damn Jowy :(

Overall, this ending is considered the "bad" ending, but it's the one I got as a kid, and probably the most emotional one. The title's theme is destiny, and it really makes you question, is this Jowy's and Nanami's fate? Could I, as as the player in this interactive medium, have stopped this? I also do not believe Jowy is a bad person, he simply did what he saw was necessary. Even if Jowy had to die with the guilt of all the things he has done, ultimately the nation was united under the same flag, ushering in a time of peace. The story is incredible, and I feel like I simply cannot do it justice here. I implore you to explore this world and it's story even if you've read the spoilers, simply to experience them firsthand. Murayama used all sorts of tools, incredible pacing, death and even deeply philosophic themes like destiny and fate to create a benchmark in JRPG story telling. The best part is, this is just ONE game in the genre. Connor could tell you all about why Final Fantasy 9's story line has affected him emotionally as well. It's incredibly important to be able to tell a story and pace it properly in this genre, and when it is done properly it is unmatched.

Like I said, I just can't do this justice without writing an INSANE amount, but I hope I didn't disappoint any Suikoden fans. If there's more story significance and examples of incredible narration please let me know below! I left out a lot of the rune talk, but that's for obvious reasons. It's a very beloved game for me, and any more input or opinions would be awesome! Next up I'm going to be analyzing the importance of well written characters in JRPGs. I touched on it briefly throughout this story telling analysis, but there's even more to mention!







As I said in Part 1, for the next few days I'm going to be exploring what makes a JRPG great. In Part 1 I did my best to describe how I think JRPGs should be categorized so if you haven't, and you're interested, check that out! When somebody says "RPG" I think one of the first concepts or major design cornerstones is "they have good stories" and that's absolutely correct! In the case of JRPGs they primarily utilize storytelling to create a sense of immersion, due to their unique style of combat. When games are linear this is pretty challenging! To best portray the importance of good storytelling in the formula I'll be using my favorite JRPG of all time as an example, Suikoden 2!  

Suikoden 2 is a JRPG published by Konami in 1999 as a Playstation exclusive. 


When I decided to start writing this series I interviewed multiple regulars, friends and family about JRPGs. I'll get into that a bit more but I'm happy to say multiple people said that not only was Suikoden 2 their personal favorite, but was one of the very best JRPGs of all time. Xifaxan, LML regular, stated Suikoden 2 was his favorite JRPG due to solid game mechanics and "a story that is never as simple as good vs evil." He went on to say Suikoden 2 has incredible depth and layers to it's main plot, and I feel this is a solid summary. That being said, Suikoden 2 is an incredibly long game with countless side missions and characters. In fact, Suikoden 2 has 108 "party"(not all of them are usable in combat but assist in other ways) members, a series staple, and a good majority of them have back stories that get explored in the game. I cannot possibly touch on everything in a blog post, although I'd love to. I'm not sure I would even be capable of doing the game justice with only words. I will however touch on major points in the narrative and their ability to create intense immersion through simple story crafting. Suikoden 2 utilizes foreshadowing, interactive storytelling, storytelling through mechanics, symbolism and even metaphors to create this beautiful piece of art that is far greater then it's 1999 presentation. I also chose Suikoden 2 due to it's incredibly potent intro scenes, and how important that is in a JRPG. Some JRPGs suffer heavily from having terrible intros and openings, not investing the player for hours, and that is not the best way to tell a story.  Before I start I'd like to touch on a few very important points -

 
SPOILER ALERT  - I will obviously be touching on some key points in Suikoden 2's main plot. I would tell you to consider playing the game before you even read this if you planned to, if not, you have been warned! I'll be giving a very thorough analysis of the introduction in the game, and touching on a few others as well.

Suikoden 2 has 3 possible endings and each one is significantly different. Now, I believe that Suikoden 2 is developed in such a way where the 2nd ending is most likely to happen if you are a new player. There are very very specific things that need to happen to have ending 1 and 3 occur, and I will touch on the options. Ending 2 was my first experience with Suikoden 2, like most players and is the most memorable to me, but I have since seen all of them. I will touch on areas where the player's decision directly effects what happens in the plot, but ending 2...oh man.

Lastly, I'd like to note the graphic style of Suikoden 2. Suikoden 2 is best described as a dark war epic set in a world of political ruin and violence. Riddled with despair and absolute betrayal, Suikoden 2 is incredibly dark, no way to argue that....SO let's take a look at some of our main characters -


Suikoden as a series is renowned for it's incredible cast of characters

Suikoden 2 does not have any cutscenes, the story is told and played out with these sprite models. I've never been a huge stickler when it comes to graphics, and I know many JRPG players aren't either. However, it is definitely worth mentioning that Yoshitaka Murayama, the game's lead director, producer and writer, was able to tell such an incredible tale with these models. Even the latest JRPGs with top notch graphics tend to fall short compared to Suikoden 2, and that's a huge ode to storytelling and it's strength. Okay, let's dive right in!

The Intro
Suikoden 2's tale starts off with an immediate camera pan in the woods. You can clearly see multiple men in the same clothing scattered about an encampment. Sharpening weapons, sitting over a fire and loafing about, it is very clear this is a military encampment. The first character to speak is a young man named "Jowy" and he is addressing the player character (the player character can be renamed, however his default is Riou). After a short conversation you can easily tell Jowy and Riou are good friends and this is their last day in the encampment before being sent home. Jowy immediately mentions "Nanami", and that Riou is her only family. Right off the bat you already have a character you haven't even met that is relying on you. Jowy goes on to confirm this world is in a time of war. After this conversation the player has the option of exploring the camp a bit with Jowy or immediately going to bed to prepare for their homecoming in the morning. Having the freedom of choice is not uncommon in JRPGs but Suikoden 2 delivers this particular one in a way that I love. It's such a simple decision and yet it is yours to make, and Jowy will abide no matter what you choose. Within 5 minutes of the game the player is aware they will have to make decisions regarding this world, and there are characters relying on him. This is called Interactive Storytelling and it's essential in letting the player immerse themselves in the story being told, even if it's in a tiny way. Interactive Storytelling is what makes video games such an incredible medium, since it is unique to this medium. Exploring the camp is a great way to get some information about your surroundings, such as learning Jowy and Riou are members of the Unicorn Brigade (youth division) of the Highland Army. Ultimately Riou and Jowy go to bed, excited for their next day. A few hours later Riou and Jowy hear a lot of noise outside of their tent. Awakened by shouts of "surprise attack!" the player character and Jowy step outside to see their camp is burning. The young boys' unit commander, Captain Rowd, orders all living soldiers to flee to the east path, stating that the city-state has broken the treaty. Following their superior officer's orders, Riou and Jowy run to the east. This is a good scene to set the stage for the state of turmoil these characters are dealing with. As Riou and Jowy run there are dozens of injured and slaughtered men crying out for assistance and guidance, with many of them passing away shortly after. It is clear from this point on Suikoden 2 does not pull any punches when it comes to the tragedy of war. As they are moving through the forest Jowy suddenly comes to the realization that the direction they are escaping the woods is the only clear path out, and a very good tactical choke point. This is another great scene of foreshadowing. As the player, you are unaware of your geography and are simply following the orders of your superior, but Jowy was very aware that something wasn't right about this situation. Jowy identified a problem and was willing to go against what was expected off him, for whatever reasons. Compared to Riou, to put it simply, Jowy is more experienced and deals with problems a bit differently. Jowy decides to run back and tell their Captain of their flawed escape plan and Riou follows suit. When they arrive at their encampment there is virtually nothing left. The entire area has been absolutely devastated. Riou and Jowy notice their own Captain standing amidst the rubble addressing a man with the title of Prince. Through some dialogue it is vaguely given away that this was all a terrible plot of war. The Unicorn Brigade has become a pawn in a mechanism of total war, being sacrificed by their own Prince to become Martyr's to insight a break in the peace treaty. Prince Luca, the Prince of Highland, was behind it all.

>.>

While this is all being revealed and the player is reading and piecing it together, Jowy is already backing up, immediately piecing together the tragedy that is taking place. This is another representation of Jowy being a little more aware of this world and the way things work, demonstrating his experience over Riou once again. The amount of foreshadowing in this entire introduction sequence is not only subtle but extremely potent, especially on a second playthrough. Jowy immediately comes up with a plan to run to the north in a desperate attempt to escape slaughter at the hands of their own military. After a bit of running they arrive at the cliff of a waterfall with no where else to run. As soon as the two boys take a breather, Jowy seems jarred by the fact that Rowd would go along with Luca's plan. Rowd shows up and makes it very clear he has no intention of letting the 2 escape, inciting a battle. After dispatching Rowd's unit, which is a surprisingly difficult battle, Rowd scurries off to get reinforcements. Jowy identifies there is now way the 2 can continue to combat the Highland military and their only chance is to take a leap of faith and jump into the waterfall. No matter what decision Riou makes here, you are locked into jumping from the waterfall. Suikoden 2 has a huge overbearing theme of "fate" and what that entails, but it kicks off at the waterfall scene. Jowy grabs a knife and carves a slash into a nearby rock and states, "If we make it...but...somehow get seperated...let's return to this spot. That way we will be reunited." Jowy asks Riou to promise, Riou complies and slashes the rock as well, creating an "X". Then both boys jump off the waterfall, leaving their lives into the hands of fate. 


This scene has become pretty popular in the Suikoden fandem, entitled "Waterfall Scene"



And THAT is the introduction to Suikoden 2. The waterfall scene is followed by the introductory credits rolling with a chronicle of Riou and Jowy's upbringing in the backround. Playing together at a young age, training under the same master and joining the military together, it is clear Jowy and Riou are incredibly close, without seeing any dialogue. As far as JRPGs go, there are relatively famous for having very slow starts with a lot of hand holding to get a grasp on the world and combat. I love Suikoden 2's approach of an introduction by establishing the world you live in an incredibly jarring look at the violence and corruption first hand, and forcing you to adapt to the combat quickly, allowing you to be immersed in the storyline easier. Establishing so much core story in such a short amount of time without sacrificing gameplay is an incredibly challenging feat and I personally feel like Murayama couldn't have done it in any better way. These truths of JRPGs and storytelling ring out throughout many titles in a ton of different ways but they all have the same goal in mind; Immersion through storytelling.

PHEW my hands hurt. I'm going to break this particular analysis of JRPGs in half due to length. In my next post I'm going to discuss the rest of the game (in less detail!) and the structure Suikoden 2's storytelling takes, as well as other JRPGs. Storytelling is the absolute cornerstone of JRPGs and there's so many amazing and interactive ways of immersing the player in these long adventures and I feel Suikoden 2 does a good job of showcasing these techniques.

What JRPG is your personal favorite and why? What is your favorite introduction for a JRPG? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for "What Makes a Great JRPG - Part 2 - Storytelling & Immersion (2 of 2)"!



 
 


With Square's "I Am Setsuna" dropping this week, I've been thinking a lot about my favorite genre of gaming; JRPGs! In my typical rotation of games I'm usually working on at least one JRPG, sometimes even a few. My current commitment is with Suikoden Tierkreis, a title for the Nintendo DS developed by Konami. (thanks Dadfaxan) and Pokemon Omega Ruby (thanks Dictator!). Out of all the games I've played in my lifetime JRPGs seem to effect me the most and become the most memorable, enjoyable and nostalgic.


"Chrono Trigger" is widely considered one of, if not the, best JRPG of all time.


What makes a good JRPG? First it's best to touch on, "What is a JRPG?" This is pretty difficult to the uninitiated so bear with me! By definition a "JRPG" is simply a "Japanese role playing game", however, the sub-genre has since surpassed this simple definition into an entire category of games. The best metaphor is how Mexican food doesn't have to come from Mexico, there can be American made Mexican food. With this metaphor in mind, consider that a JRPG doesn't have to be made in Japan to qualify into the sub-genre. I know, it's confusing. I think the main reason the name has stuck is due to how incredibly popular the style of game is in Japan. JRPGs are typically primarily story based, typically with a pre-set protagonist in a pre-set world with rich history and development. Gameplay tends to be more number based, utilizing a plethora of statistics and calculations. Think Pokemon's combat! If we were to compare the genre to the other popularized RPG sub-genre WRPGs, there's a world of differences. WRPGs or "western role playing games" tend to more open-world, with more of a focus on gameplay. Combat is more action oriented and skill based typically, with less focus on the overarching story line. This isn't to say WRPGs do not have in depth story lines, simply less focus on them. It's a very grey subject and can probably be argued in a ton of different ways, but in the way that I see it: Is Portal an FPS because it's first person view and you shoot things? To anyone still confused at the distinction and what I would consider a JRPG or a WRPG, check the list below!




JRPGs

Final Fantasy Series
Chrono Trigger

Dragon Quest

Persona

Kingdom Hearts

Tales Series
Pokemon



WRPGS


Elder Scrolls

Fallout

The Witcher

Mass Effect

Dragon Age
Baldur's Gate


These are all obvious picks for each category, but some titles tend to be a little more complicated. "Dragon's Dogma", a Japanese developed open world RPG would be considered a WRPG, as would Dark Souls. The best example of a JRPG that would seem like a WRPG is "South Park: Stick of Truth", due to it's combat style and storytelling. So quick recap! JRPGs do not have to be made in Japan, and it has become a sub-class of role playing games. Typically centered around character development and story lines, a deep combat system and distinct art styles, JRPGs are typically worth the time they require the player to commit. Over the next few days I'm going to be discussing what JRPGs are top in class and why. I've interviewed a lot of the LAN Mob regulars and I've gathered the information! If you're a fan of JRPGs comment below and let me know how you would define a JRPG. If you're new to the genre or have never played a JRPG before at all, stay tuned and maybe we can make a fan out of you!



    






Blizzard has officially released their newest Hero in Overwatch to the live servers last night. Ana, the support sniper. A sniper less deadly than Widowmaker and a support with less single target healing than Mercy, Ana excels at utility, and boy does she excel. A character seeped in lore, Ana has deep seeded lore with characters like Soldier 76, Reaper, Widowmaker and her daughter Pharah. Check out the origins video below!




Ana's Kit

Biotic Rifle 


Damage - 80 (overtime)
Healing - 75
Rate of Fire - 1.1 rounds per second
Ammo - 8
Reload Time - 1.5 seconds
 
Ana's sniper rifle, a creation using Torbjorn and Mercy's tech, is her primary weapon. The biotic rifle fires darts capable of healing teammates and essentially poisoning opponents, dealing damage over time. It's incredibly important to note that headshots do not affect how much Ana can heal or deal damage. I think this was a wise decision on Blizzard's part, because this could essentially make Ana deadlier than Widowmaker and have more healing potential than Mercy. Overall, I like the feel of the Biotic Rifle, with a pretty cool looking scope and a decent reload function considering it is bolt action.

Sleep Dart


Damage - 5

Duration 5.5 Seconds
Cooldown - 12 Seconds


Ana's first ability fires a sleep dart from her sidearm. Lasting 5.5 seconds, the sleep dart will cause the enemy that was struck to fall on the ground and sleep for the duration. Sleeping enemies will be marked with a "zzz" over their character model. Any damage done to the incapacitated hero will cause them to immediately wake up with normal functions.  Obviously this ability was meant to be used in tandem with your teammates to nuke opponents who are napping before they can react.

Biotic Grenade
Damage - 60
Healing - 100 Immediate Health + 100% additional healing from sources
AOE - 4 Meters
Duration - 5 seconds
Cooldown - 10 seconds

Ana's biotic grenade is the absolute definition of utility. Ana tosses a small grenade that will heal all allies in a small area and increase all healing done to the affected allies for 5 seconds. In tandem, all enemies caught in the grenade radius cannot be healed for 5 seconds. This is absolutely devastating if timed properly. Roadhog's Take a Breather, Zenyatta's Ultimate, Mercy and Lucio's healing will all be stopped in it's tracks allowing your team to burst down targets. Note that the grenade's ability includes healthpacks!

Nano Boost - Ultimate Ability
Damage - +50%
Damage Reduction - 50%
Movement Speed - +30%
Duration - 8 Seconds

Ana's ultimate ability, Nano Boost, has insane play making potential. Nano Boost is a targeted hitscan ability that will immediately spike the target's stats through the roof. As you can imagine, this ability works wonders with almost any Hero, but I've seen it most effective on Genji, Pharah, Roadhog and Reinhardt.  I've seen the ability described by some of our regulars and employees as making your ally go "super saiyan" and that's a pretty good description. It's really scary stuff, but luckily it has a decent cooldown.

Ana Tips and Tricks

- You can not headshot! Go for the body, it's easier and just as efficient

-Remember, you are a support class. Ana is capable of some really clutch heals that can swing a fight back in your favor.

- Hold on to your cooldowns. Wasting a sleepdart for virtually no reason will feel really bad when you need it moments later.

-Ana's sleep dart can incapacitate ulting Heros. Pharah, McCree, Reaper, Roadhog, etc etc.

-Communication! At the very least communicate with your team when Nano Boost is ready and available. Believe it or not I've seen the ability squandered due to communication issues!


Overall I'm enjoying Ana. I think she fills a pretty niche role in the game and requires a sound mind to play correctly and efficiently. That being said, obviously the game is plagued with bad Ana's who refuse to heal their teammates and play as though they are Widowmaker. This is unavoidable. Luckily a lot of Overwatch players seem to feed off of their own glory and Ana is an unsung hero. It feels virtually impossible to get POTG with her, and that's fine by me. When her hype dies down a bit I think Ana will become a huge power pick in the right hands. I think her Nano Boost might be a bit too strong, but with a very organized team you can deal with the threat pretty decently, but some of your team WILL die. I think the best way to deal with Ana right now is Widowmaker or Genji, but including the PTR (public test realm) I've only played about 20ish games with her live and available. Without a doubt Ana is powerful, but requires a team with cooperation and communication to utilize her potential. I'm interested to see how popular/powerful she becomes when Ana players become a little more experienced.

 Got any comments or questions about Ana? Let us know below!








Pidgeotto Trump

Later on in this post I'll outline a 1.5 kilometer Pokemon Go route starting from LAN Mob that has netted me up to 10k XP and several thousand dust while hatching eggs. The route takes about 30 minutes to complete and is an easy way to grind out the early levels while learning some history.  If you're visiting this blog just to see the route details, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs where I talk about the game, its impact on Rome, server issues, upcoming midnight runs & more.

It's been amazing seeing downtown come alive over the last week.  Tremendous work is done by the city & state park agencies and groups like the Rome Main Streets Alliance to keep the downtown looking beautiful, but it has been an underutilized part of our city.  Pokemon Go has changed that by attracting swarms of people to Ft. Stanwix and surrounding landmarks, mixing social gaming, exercise and rich history lessons on the revolutionary war.  I've visited other cities and can say Rome has by far one of the best Pokestop routes in terms of walkability and historical value.  I'm guilty of not really appreciating just how nice the downtown is, and it's somewhat ironic (but not surprising) that it took a video game for me to finally take notice.  I hope others are seeing it as well!

The servers have had a rough few days.  Just as Niantic was getting a handle on the insane rush of traffic being generated by the game's popularity and massive media exposure, online hacking groups flooded the servers with a denial of service attack throughout the weekend.  It's been frustrating for players to spend items like incense and lucky eggs, or encounter a rare Pokemon, only to have the servers go down.  This isn't a problem that's going to go away on its own, and I'm sure Niantic is hard at work on a way to better detect and handle DOS attacks.  They could learn a lot from companies like Blizzard and Riot who have dealt with the same issue over the past few years.  If you're having trouble connecting you can check out this real time outage map to see how widespread the problem is.

The effect on our business has been interesting.  We are all enjoying the game here (when the servers are up!) as so do many of our customers.  We had one of our slowest Saturdays in months this last week and are contributing that to the Poke Craze.  Despite this we've seen a lot of non-gamers pick up Pokemon Go, and combined with all the health and social benefits this game is ushering in we're overwhelming supporters of the game.  We were lobbying hard to get LAN Mob listed as a Pokestop up until the form disappeared, so hopefully we'll see the blue circle over our store soon!  We're also planning some midnight glow stick runs from the shop around the route detailed below - follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the details on those!

Ok enough about us - let's talk about leveling!

The LAN Mob Poke 1.5k

The LAN Mob Poke 1.5k
As a systems engineer I'm obsessed with finding efficient ways to solve problems.  I'm also often short for time, so this has shaped my Pokemon Go habits somewhat.  This route starts at LAN Mob (409 N James St Rome, NY), looping around Fort Stanwix and back, passing anywhere from 20-25 Pokestops and can be done at a leisurely walking pace in around 30 minutes, which syncs up perfectly with in-game items.  For the purpose of this walk we're going to skip gyms and focus solely on getting XP, dust, and distance on your eggs.  You'll want to make sure your phone is all charged up, wifi is switched off to avoid those pesky server drops, eggs are all incubating, and if you have incense and lucky eggs pop one of each to maximize your trip!

Why level?

Leveling up opens up new items and higher level base Pokemon.  I recommend saving your dust while powering up to level 20 before deciding which Pokemon to max out, as you're bound to get higher CP Pokemon through leveling than Pokemon you have invested tens of thousands of dust into.  The current XP per level makes it relatively easy to level up to 20, where a "soft cap" makes it increasingly difficult to level beyond this point.

A note on Incense

Incense will spawn a Pokemon every 5 minutes when stationary, as well as every 200 meters while walking.  This means if you're mobile while burning incense you should expect a new Pokemon every 2-3 minutes in addition to those you find in the wild.  Incense-attracted Pokemon will spawn at your feet and have a small pink circle around them.  So to maximize your incense it's important to try to keep moving!

Pokestops everywhere

Memorial Park
This route will take you past 20 Pokestops (counting stops you'll pass twice), and you can reach as many as 25 stops if you wander off the path a bit.  These are all historical sites and it's great to take a minute at each to read the plaque as you pass by.  Each stop will provide XP, Pokeballs, eggs, revives and other in-game items.  A stop can be visited once every 5 minutes, so some stops you'll pass by and be able to grab again on your way back.




Crossing Safely

You'll have to cross three streets each on your way there & back.  Just put your phone at your side and ignore any vibrations until you cross.  There have been reports of people stopping midway across the street or not even looking up from their phones while they cross resulting in very close accidents.  Be aware of oncoming traffic turning from side streets!  It'll take just a few seconds of your attention and then you'll be back to Pokehunting from the safety of a sidewalk.

Lures

Occasionally you'll pass a Pokestop sparkling with confetti.  This stop has been lured and will attract Pokemon to it.  You'll often find the area around Ft. Stanwix visitor center constantly lured, as you can sit on the wooden benches and reach two Pokestops at the same time.  This is also a great halfway point to stop and rest.  If you pass by a Pokestop that isn't lured and see a bunch of people nearby, consider putting down a lure (tap the white icon above the Pokestop image & select your lure).  I try to use at least one lure on my trips, and have lured the entire park on more than one occasion just for fun.

Evolving the downtime

You may hit stretches of path where there are no Pokemon to catch or untapped Pokestops within reach, and if you have your lucky egg running this is a great time to EVOLVE!  Small Pokemon like Pidgeys, Rattatas and Weedles can be found in abundance, with lower CP levels being transferred in for candy and higher levels being saved to evolve.  Aggressively evolving Pokemon while your lucky eggs are running is a great way to quickly earn some XP.

Victory Drink



Paras prefers Blue
With incense and lucky egg running I've earned in excess of 10k XP and 2500 dust from a single 30-minute trip, and this route helped me quickly hit the level 20 soft cap in around 11 days of casual play on unstable servers.  By the end of the walk your battery will no doubt be suffering.  Stop by the shop, plug in to charge, have a cold drink and tell us what you caught.  You'll be recharged and ready to go back out again in no time.
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