Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Preview: Kollision Con 2015

The following is an interview with Chris Oliva, president of Kollision Con, a Chicago-area convention occurring this weekend.

How did Kollision Con get started?
After more than two years of planning, I joined together with a childhood friend so that we could launch Kollision on to the con circuit. Kollision had it's inaugural year in 2010 and by all accounts was a great success. The rest, as they say, is history.

Who are some of this year's guests?
Our guest lineup is nearly bursting at the seams this year. We've got Alan Evans, Blake Packard, Comfort Love & Adam Withers, Gabe Bautista, Krazy Krow, Paul St. Peter, Robert Axelrod, Russell Lissau, Steve Horton, Steven Wallace, Terri Doty, The Adventures of Duane & BrandO, Trevor Mueller, and Uzuhi.

There are tournaments for both the Pokemon video games and trading card game this year. When are they?
The Pokemon 3DS tournament starts at 12 noon on Saturday, while the Pokemon TCG tournament starts at 3pm on Saturday.

There's also a Smash Bros. Wii U competition. When will that be held?
The Super Smash Brothers (Wii U) tournament takes place at 5:30pm on Saturday.

Where can people find more information about the convention?
For more information on the convention you can check out our website at, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire Soundtrack Released on iTunes

The soundtrack to the recently released Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire has been placed on iTunes for $9.99. Unlike the Japanese CD release, it does not include the soundtrack from the original Game Boy Advance version of the games, however that soundtrack is also available on iTunes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Interview: Brian Steckler ("Catch Me If You Can" Co-Writer)

I recently got a chance to interview Brian Steckler, co-writer of "Catch Me If You Can" from Pokemon: The First Movie:

In the interview, we discuss Brian's work on the song, as well as his career as a musician.

Brian's Website
Brian's Facebook

Additionally, here's the latest part of our playthrough of Pokemon Colosseum:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pokemon TCG Phantom Forces Prerelease: Madison, WI

At a recent Pokemon TCG Phantom Forces Prerelease in Madison, WI, I got a chance to interview one of the players about a few of the cards in the set:

Cards discussed:
-Malamar EX
-Lysandre's Trump Card

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Train Station at 8 Podcast + Pokemon Colosseum Part 3

I recently got a chance to be a guest on the "Train Station at 8" podcast, a show dedicated to video game music. Each episode discusses a specific song, and in this episode we bent the rules a little and talked about the original English opening to the Pokemon TV series. We talk about the song itself, as well as its cultural impact on the franchise.

Additionally, part 3 of the playthrough of Pokemon Colosseum is up:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Let's Play Pokemon Colosseum-Part 1: Just Deserts

Here's the first part of a new Let's Play of Pokemon Colosseum for the GameCube:

In this episode, we get introduced to the player character, and we fight our first battle!

Monday, September 8, 2014

PokePress-Now on SoundCloud!

Want to listen to PokePress interviews without digging through the YouTube channel or waiting on the station? Now there's a SoundCloud page! Listen to the interviews any time you want, and you can even download them!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Fake Pokemon: The First Movie Blu-Ray Appeared!

Recently, a fake disc of Pokemon: The First Movie started appearing on eBay. Here's what you need to know:


Hi, everybody. Steven here. Just wanted to alert you to something I’ve seen on eBay a couple time in the last few weeks. Now, if you’ve been following my Twitter feed, I’ve pointed this out a couple times. There is a fake Blu-ray version of Pokémon: The First Movie that’s popped up on eBay a couple times. In no way should you buy this. But, I’m going to explain it.

It’s actually a pretty good fake, to be honest. Someone did put some effort into making it look kind of legitimate. But, I’m going to go ahead and poke some holes in it just so you know what’s wrong with it and kind of how to spot fakes like this.

So, if we take a look at the front cover, you’ll notice that the picture in the front is misaligned. For whatever reason, there’s some blank space on the left that kind of forms a diagonal line. I guess what must have happened is that they scanned either the DVD cover or the VHS cover or a movie poster of it or something, in order to create this. And, that’s how they got the picture that you see there. But, you can see on the left hand side there’s this little border area that-it’s just not consistent there.

The other thing you probably notice is that the place where it usually says Kids’ WB! Presents, there’s a little Pokéball over. Personally, I don’t think it quite fits in there. I suppose if they were downplaying the Kids WB! part of it, now that that doesn’t really exist anymore in a rerelease. But, just keep that in mind.

Now, the first auction listing only had the front cover there. So, you could only see this. I knew it was fake because there is no Blu-ray version of Pokémon: The First Movie in English. The second time this was listed, which was just a few days ago from when I was recording this. We actually got a picture of the front and the back. And, if you take a look at the back, on initial inspection it might look kind of legit. But, there’s a few things wrong there too.

It has the text from the original DVD/VHS release, although a few words here and there have been cut out. It still loosely makes sense. But, the first thing that’s off is there’s negative space in the top right. You almost never see that on the back of a disc these days. Usually they fill it up with either actual pictures or with text or with something in there. So, you wouldn’t see a big space like that on the top right. Not sure what’s going on there. If you look very closely, there’s a space where there’s a bunch of Pokémon and there’s sort of a starburst behind them. You’ll notice if you look next to Charizard, there’s this white space. If you compare it against the one from the original DVD, there should be some stuff there. But, when they Photoshopped or whatever this together, they cut it out wrong. There’s that blank white space there next to Charizard’s neck.

Another big thing that’s missing, and you’ll see this a lot of these types of bootlegs, is there’s no rights information. Nothing about Warner Bros, Viz, The Pokémon Company, none of that stuff is on there. And, there are a few smaller things on there too. It’s got the same zebra code as the DVD version. It should have a different code number, since it is a different product. And, I’m sure there’s a number of other things that are off. And, if I had a close up, I’m sure I could spot even more stuff. So, I guess that kind of begs the question, what’s actually on the disc?

Well, I’m not buying this and neither should you. But, what I’m guessing is on there is they took the Japanese Blu-ray of The First Movie, which if you recall, is only sold as a set of the first 12 or 13 movies. And, they went in and spliced in the English audio and maybe they took some stuff from that remastered version that debuted on Cartoon Network earlier this year and used it to create this bootleg disc. But, that’s my best guess. Like I said, don’t buy this. If you see it somewhere, if someone else is considering buying it, tell them not to buy it. Just a little fair warning there. Thanks.

Transcript by

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Geek.Kon 2014-Super Smash Bros. Brawl Tournament Winner

At Geek.Kon, I got a chance to interview the winner of a Super Smash. Bros Brawl tournament. We discuss his choice of character and the upcoming 3DS and Wii U games:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions-Concertmistress Interview

Karen Lowry-Tucker
I recently talked to Karen Lowry-Tucker, concertmistress (first chair first violin) of the Washington D.C. performances of “Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions” about her history as a musician and her experience playing the music of the Pokémon games.

Where are you from originally, and how did you get into playing music for a living?
I am from Louisville, KY and I started playing the piano at age 5. I was introduced to the violin in elementary school, so I pursued both instruments.

How familiar were you with the Pokémon franchise before you started practicing for this concert?
I remember when Pokémon first debuted, but had not followed it.

What did you think of the music for this concert overall?
The music was phenomenal. There were some passages that were difficult but fun, and there were some very beautiful lyrical passages. It was well written and well-arranged and felt at times to me like a Hollywood action movie score.

As concertmistress, did you have any specific responsibilities in regards to the music? 
I spent a lot of time marking the bowings for my section so they would be uniform. This is one  of the duties of the concertmaster, or concertmistress in my case. We had two days to learn the music and I spent the better part of both of those days learning the notes and marking my part. The concertmaster’s markings are usually copied into the other parts in advance by a music librarian. Since a librarian is not usually hired for this type of job, it was my responsibility to arrive early to the first rehearsal and lend my part to my fellow violinists so they could copy my markings.

How many times did you get to rehearse with the rest of the orchestra?
We had two rehearsals before the performance and this great freelance orchestra nailed it in my opinion.

What was it like actually performing the music in front of an audience? What did you think of the way the crowd reacted to the music?
Since I am a member (not the concertmistress, however) of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, I love opportunities to be out of the pit or “above ground” as I call it, and actually see the audience. The crowd was “electric”. It was a force that reminded me of a rock concert. To these fans it must have been phenomenal to hear the digital tunes they all knew played by a live orchestra. I definitely felt the energy in the concert.

Is there a particular piece from the concert that was your favorite? 
My favorite piece was “Songs of the Tower”. I loved the writing and I loved putting my spin on the solos.

What else have you had the opportunity to play during your orchestral career? 
I am a classically trained musician and symphonic and opera music are a part of my soul. However I have enjoyed different genres as well. I have had the chance to perform excerpts from Hollywood movie scores such as “Wall-E”, “Star Wars”, etc.

I have played with R&B stars and rock stars, symphonic “Pops” concerts and musicals like “The Producers”, “Phantom of the Opera”, etc. My fondest memory was playing in a backup orchestra on “Saturday Night Live” for Vanessa Williams!

My latest passion is chamber music and I especially enjoy playing in a string trio. We like to take time to go in the schools and give children’s concerts. It’s personally my way of “giving back”. We have fun programs that introduce young audiences to classi¬¬cal music and hopefully inspire them to pursue the arts. That’s how I began. A woman came to my school and did a string demonstration and I was hooked!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Preview: Geek.Kon 2014

I recently got a chance to interview Adam Pulver, public relations representative for Madison-area convention Geek.Kon, to get some info on this year's event:

How did Geek.Kon get started?
Once upon a time, a bunch of students at the University of Wisconsin got together and said, "Conventions are fun. We should start one." They had no idea what they were doing, but they figured it out and ran two very successful free conventions on campus. After that, we moved to a hotel and we've been growing and getting bigger and better ever since.

Who are some of this year's guests?
We have some great guests this year. One of the most anticipated is Martin "LittleKuriboh" Billany of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged fame. This year's voice actor roster includes Chris Cason, Tia Ballard and Marianne Miller. We also have a very funny geek-oriented comedian Joseph Scrimshaw, game designer and artist John Kovalic, and comic artists Christopher Jones and Mark Stegbauer.

There's a Pokemon video game tournament at this year's event. When will that be?
The XY tournament is noon on Sunday.

There are also tournaments for Super Smash Bros. Melee, Brawl, and Mario Kart 8. When are those?
Melee is 7:00 pm on Friday, Brawl is 7:00 pm on Saturday. Mario Kart 8 is 3:00 pm on Saturday.

Where can people find more information about the convention?
Our website is We're also on Facebook and Twitter @Geekkon. Our online schedule at is a great tool for getting information on events up to and at the con.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pokemon World Championships 2014-Opening Ceremony

What's the latest on Mega Slowbro? Find out in the 2014 Pokemon World Championships opening ceremony:

Pokemon World Championships 2014-Site Tour

Here's a tour of the Pokemon World Championships 2014 event site:

In the tour, we visit:

-Information desk
-Pokemon TCG Online
-Creative Corner
-Main stage

And more!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pokemon TCG Furious Fists Prerelease: Rockford, IL

Earlier this month, I conducted an interview at a Pokemon TCG Furious Fists prerelease, covering:

-Mega Lucario EX

We also discuss how he moved from collecting cards to playing the game. You can see the interview here:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

*NSYNC's "Somewhere, Someday" on iTunes + Pokemon TCG for Game Boy Part 37

Update: The album is now also available on Amazon MP3.

Two videos this week. First, "Somewhere, Someday", *NSYNC's song from the soundtrack to Pokemon: The First Movie is now available for individual purchase on iTunes as part of the recently released "The Essential *NSYNC". You can find more information in this video:

As it turns out, members of the band weren't actually aware of the album until it got released.

Additionally, here's the latest part of my playthrough of the Pokemon TCG for Game Boy:

Monday, July 28, 2014

PokePress in Japan-Part 5-The Pokemon Center

Our tour of Japan concludes with a stop at the Tokyo Pokemon Center. What did I get? You'll have to watch to find out:

If you'd like to check out the entire series, it's available as a playlist.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pokemon US Nationals 2014: Senior Division Video Game Champion

Mackenzie Karouzos
The following is an interview with Mackenzie Karouzos, winner of the Seniors Division of the 2014 Pokémon Video Game US National Championship.

Where are you from?
My family has lived in several different states (Arizona, Illinois, Texas and Virginia), but we are currently living in Farmington, Illinois which is close to Peoria.

How did you get into Pokémon in general and competitive battling in specific?
My beginnings in the game can be traced back to the trading card game (TCG) when I was in third grade. My involvement was mostly collecting the trading cards with my friends at school. I never seriously considered playing the TCG, but it was fun learning about the Pokémon.

In 2009, I bought my first Nintendo DS Lite as well as the Platinum game. When I saw an advertisement on for the 2009 National VGC being hosted in St. Louis near my home town I thought, “Great, that sounds like fun; I’ll go play in that competition.”

My knowledge of the game at that time was very basic-I was a true novice. No one on my team was EV-trained and only two members of my Pokémon team (Rapidash and Empoleon) were even at level 50! The other two Pokémon on my team included a level 39 Snover and a level 27 Luxio-not exactly what most people would call a powerhouse team. To make matters worse, I didn’t realize that in a double battle, Empoleon using Surf while next to Rapidash depleted 80% of Rapidash’s HP (poor Rapidash…), but the VGC event was fun and started my interest in competitive Pokémon play for future years.

What was the team you used for this tournament? Did it have a specific theme?
The Pokémon on my 2014 VGC National’s team were:

-Rotom (Heat)

I don't think good players need to build teams around a theme to be successful. Instead, good players need teams with some flexibility and balance to use team preview effectively and respond to opponent challenges. As a result, my team would be best described as a “good stuff” team.

Your team had multiple Pokémon that could Mega Evolve. How did you choose which one to use in each match? If you used both, how did you choose which one to Mega Evolve? 
Although I had two Megas on my team, I never selected both Megas for a particular battle. I always evaluated the opponent’s Pokémon in team preview and selected the best-suited Mega for that battle. For example, in my finals match, I could quickly see from team preview that two of my opponent’s Pokémon had the Intimidate ability (Scrafty and Mawile) plus Gothitelle’s Shadow Tag ability.  This team design allowed his team to be very effective against physical attacking Pokémon such as Kangaskhan. So with that in mind, it was an easy decision for me to select Mega-Venusaur each time for that match.

Your opponent in the finals had actually play-tested against your team prior to the tournament. How did that end up happening, and did that affect your strategy? 
I became frustrated with the team I was planning to use in the weeks leading up to the Nationals, so I made several changes which resulted in the team that I actually used in the tournament. As a result, I did not have much experience in using my new team, so I decided to contact him for assistance in play-testing my team two days before Nationals to get some of his insight. He agreed and created multiple test teams based on what he anticipated to be popular at Nationals, however he did not use the actual anti-physical attacking team that he played in Nationals to play-test my team. So although Zack was able to see my exact team while we play-tested it together, he did not necessarily know how I might use it if I were to compete against him in the tournament.

At the end of the second game, you had just your Rotom against two Pokémon, but you managed to knock out both to win the game and match. What went through your mind and how did you decide what to do? 
Despite what many people have said of that second match, I was quite happy when I reached that point. As I saw it, I had a Rotom at full health and he had a 30% Ludicolo and a 100% Mega-Mawile. I knew that Ludicolo did not have Protect and removing its threat of Scald from the game was optimal, even if I had to lose two stages on Rotom’s special attack by using Overheat. Since Rotom was carrying a Sitrus Berry, I knew I would survive a Sucker Punch or Play Rough from Mega-Mawile with sufficient HP remaining to win the match after knocking out Ludicolo.

Finishing off Mega-Mawile at that point was primarily a function of Rotom’s accuracy with Will-O-Wisp (85%) and Overheat (90%). As long as those two moves didn’t miss and as long as my opponent didn’t get two critical hits in a row, I knew I had the game. In this case both of my moves connected and I avoided a second critical hit to win the game.

What else did you do at Nationals this year?
Well, not too much. On the Friday night before the start of the VGC, my family watched the July 4th fireworks from the parking lot of the Indianapolis Colts’s stadium. We probably got to bed too late that evening and I was still feeling the lack of sleep during the first day of the VGC. When I made Top Cut the next day I made sure to get a good night’s sleep on Saturday night and felt sharp throughout the Top Cut portion of the tournament on Sunday. Overall, it was a great event and I enjoyed being able to see many Pokémon friends.

Pokemon US Nationals 2014: Seniors TCG Winner + Cosplay

At the recent 2014 Pokemon US Nationals, I got a chance to interview the winner of the Seniors Division of the TCG event:

Cards  discussed in the interview:

-Empoleon (DE)
-Dusknoir (BC)
-Exeggcute (PF)
-Miltank (FF)
-Duskull (FF)
-Jirachi EX (PB)

Additionally, here's an interview with a US Nationals cosplayer:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pokemon US Nationals 2014: Seniors TCG Winner Mini-Interview

Here's an interview with one of the winners of last weekend's Pokemon TCG US Nationals:

Note: This interview is actually a short interview created for a broader audience. A more detailed audio interview should be coming later this week.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pokemon US Nationals 2014: Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions Preview

Earlier this week, Pokemon announced a series of orchestral concerts devoted to Pokemon music. At this year's US National Championships, I was able to get a bit more info about the event from a Pokemon Company representative:

-Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions
-Pokemon on iTunes

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

XY Episodes on iTunes + Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions

Two pieces of Pokémon news came out yesterday:

-Episodes of Pokémon the Series: XY are now available on iTunes.
-A series of orchestral Pokémon concerts will be held later this year.

You can see a brief overview here:

Additional information:

Pokémon XY on iTunes:
-A free episode (the season premiere) is available on iTunes US.
-HD episodes will download in 720p, and can be streamed in 1080p. The audio is in stereo.
-Pokémon Origins has been on iTunes for roughly a month, but was not officially mentioned by Pokémon until today.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Anime Central 2014 + Two Pokemon Charity Marathons

I've got several new videos. First, here's another press session from Anime Central 2014, this time with Trevor Mueller of "Reading With Comics":

This one discusses getting comics into the classroom.

Next, here's some info about two current video game charity marathons:

If you ever wanted to have your own Pokemon music on vinyl, this is your chance!

While you're here, take a listen to my favorite music track so far from Mario Kart 8:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pokemon Adventures in Unova Volume One Releases 9/23/3014

Amazon has recently put up a listing for volume one of Pokemon Black and White: Adventures in Unova, set to be released on 9/23/2014. Like the third volume of Rival Destinies releasing tomorrow, it is a four-disc set.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Best Buy Smashfest, By the Numbers

At a recent Smash Bros "Smashfest" event at a Best Buy in Madison, WI, I collected some data regarding character selection, stage selection, and wins for a portion of the matches. There are several relevant pieces of information about this data:

-Data was recorded for 68 of the matches (I'd estimate there were between 80-100 total that day) during the afternoon of 6/14/2014. Each match included four players, and each set of four players played two matches, each lasting two minutes.
-Unlike locations in larger markets, the line at this store was short enough that players could get back in line and play another match if they wanted, which several players did.
-The data does not include the matches I played in.

As such, I am not claiming that the data is unbiased or universally applicable, however I still think that some conclusions can be drawn.

Character Selections

Donkey Kong21
Little Mac284
Mega Man288
Rosalina and Luma255
Wii Fit Trainer193
Zero Suit Samus114

*Of the six times the random option was chosen, Donkey Kong, Greninja, Little Mac, Olimar, Pit, and Villager each came up once. Greninja was the randomly selected character that won a match.

It's clear from the data above that the new characters were selected the most often, and presumably also the ones players were most interested in. Despite there being more than twice as many returning characters available, more than half (55.26%) the directly selected characters were the new ones. The only returning character that came close to being selected as often as the newcomers was Link, one selection behind Villager and Wii Fit Trainer. It is worth noting, however, that new characters were approximately as successful as returners-discounting randoms, 26.05% of returning characters that were selected won, versus 24.49% for new characters.

Stage Selections

Mushroom Kingdom U6
Wily Castle7
Boxing Ring5
Town and City6

Stages were selected more evenly than characters, suggesting a more even preference (or lack thereof).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pokemon Origins now available on iTunes US, Canada, and other countries

The Pokemon Origins mini-series that debuted last year is now available on iTunes US and Canada, along with several other countries. The series is $11.96 for HD and $7.96 for standard definition.

Earlier this year, we were able to ask a few questions of Kyle Hebert, who performed the voice of Professor Oak in the mini-series:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Anime Central 2014: Helen McCarthy (Author of "The Anime Encyclopedia")

At last weekend's Anime Central 2014 near Chicago, I attended a press session for Helen McCarthy, author of numerous anime-related books, including The Anime Encyclopedia. You can see her answers to a variety of questions about anime and conventions in general here:

The latest edition of Helen's The Anime Encyclopedia is due out this December.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Anime Central 2014: Super Smash Bros. Melee Tournament Winner

Christopher “Toast” Woodson
The following is an interview with Christopher “Toast” Woodson, winner of a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament at Anime Central 2014.

Where are you from? 
I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee.

How did you get into competitive Smash Bros.? 
Well, I’ve always been a fan of Super Smash Bros., and one day when I was looking up YouTube videos of Melee, I saw some players doing things I’d never seen before like Wavedashing (a special way of moving following a dodge). It looked really amazing and I wanted to be able to do that too. That’s when I got into competitive play.

What were the rules for the tournament?
This tournament went by the standard rule setup-all items off, four stock, eight-minute time limit, double elimination (winners and losers bracket) and Stage Strike (1) unless players agreed on a stage. I don’t remember if wobbling (an Ice Climbers technique) was or wasn’t allowed though.

What made you choose Falco for this tournament? 
Falco has always been my main character since Melee came out. I feel that if one can win a tourney with such a technical character, that person really earned the win. I play other characters competitively as well, but Falco will always be my prime choice for tournaments.

In the finals, your opponent used Fox, a similar character to Falco. How are the two characters different? 
Well, without getting too technical, Fox and Falco are different mainly because of the way they combo. Fox is stronger with up smashes while Falco is stronger with forward smashes. Fox is also faster overall and falls more quickly than Falco. Additionally, simple things like Fox’s shine spike (used to prevent players from getting back to the stage) making a character go downward and Falco’s shine making them go up makes them very different characters to play with.

The finals were a best-of-five match, and at one point you were down 0-2. What did you do to turn it around?
When I played the first game, my hands weren’t really doing what I wanted and I even killed myself once. This upset me, and because of that I started playing more angrily than normal, and by the next match I was a wreck. My opponent even noticed this and said, “Your Falco is too salty. You need to calm down.” That was the turning point. I took a few deep breaths, relaxed a bit (it is a game after all) and played much smarter and better than I had the previous two rounds.

Of what you’ve seen so far of Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U, what are you most excited about?
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the new Smash Bros. brings to the table and I’m really excited about seeing how awesome Mega Man is. I’ve been a huge fan of that character since I first played his games on the Super Nintendo and watched the show on TV.

What else did you do at the convention?
I spent a great deal of my time in the game room and in the dealer’s room. I did walk around for a bit and wanted to cosplay, but my cold kept me from doing too much of that. Between the arcade room, the game room, and the dealer’s room, I was pretty much set and had a great weekend. I can’t wait for next year.

1. “Stage Strike” is a system by which players alternate removing stages from a list until there is only one left, which is the stage the match is played on.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pokemon TCG Flashfire Prerelease: Rockford, IL + PokePress in Japan Part 3

Chris Hoag
The following is an interview with Chris Hoag, a player I met at a recent Pokémon TCG Flashfire Prerelease near Rockford, Illinois.

Where are you from, and how long have you been playing the game?
I’m from the small town of New Lenox, Illinois, roughly 45 minutes southwest of Chicago. I started playing in 2007, but I didn’t get into competitive play until this past September.

The first card you’ve picked out from the set is Mega Kangaskahn EX, one of several Mega Evolutions in the set. What made it stand out for you?
Mega Kangaskhan EX caught my attention for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s my favorite Pokémon, and the second is that it has such a low energy requirement for a good amount of output-three colorless energy gets you at least 100 damage. With Double Colorless Energy, you’ll have multiple options for getting that attack on turn three.

Next up is Forretress. The ability looks interesting-how do you think it’ll be used?
As you said, Forretress is an interesting card. I’m all for spreading damage without attacking, and after thinking about it, I could see it being used in conjunction with Flygon and Dusknoir from Boundaries Crossed. The strategy is fairly simple: Use Flygon’s “Sand Slammer” ability to add damage counters between turns, Forretress with Devolution Spray to place them during your turn, and Dusknoir to move the counters and knock out your opponent’s Pokémon.

Finally, we have the trainer Trick Shovel-what kind of decks do you think we’ll see it in?
Trick Shovel is one of my favorites from the set. I could see it being used in an Aggron mill deck, or even Yveltal/Darkrai variants, specifically the variants that rely heavily on Junk Hunt Sableye. But who knows? Only time will tell.

The Pokémon TCG Flashfire set is available in stores now. 

As a bonus, check out the third part of our coverage of my recent trip to Japan:

This installment covers my time in Kyoto, visiting an arcade, and the bullet train.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pokemon Musician Interview: Neil Jason

I recently conducted an interview with Neil Jason, who wrote several songs for the Pokemon TV show, including:

-Viridian City
-Pikachu (I Choose You)
-Never Too Far From Home

Additionally, Neil rearranged the first two season themes for the first two movies. We discuss this, as well as his other work in the interview:

Monday, April 21, 2014

PokePress in Japan-Parts 1 & 2

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Japan. While in the country, I recorded a few audio logs, the first two of which I've edited into slide shows. The first part covers the journey there:

And the second covers our time in the mountains near Osaka:

In upcoming parts, we'll cover Kyoto, and Tokyo-including the Pokemon Center.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

“Epic Rap Battles of Pokémon” series announced, slated for 2014 release

In a press release sent out today, California-based Maker Studios announced “Epic Rap Battles of Pokémon”, a spin-off of their popular “Epic Rap Battles of History” series. No specific release date (only “2014”) was provided, but a track list was included:

Disc 1
1. Brock vs. Cilan
2. Celebi vs. Dialga
3. Mewtwo (First Movie) vs. Mewtwo (16th Movie)
4. Lawrence III vs. Kodai
5. Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka vs. Junichi Masuda
6. Max vs. Conway
7. Nurse Joy vs. Officer Jenny
8. Rice Balls vs. Doughnuts
9. Ditto vs. Zorua
10. Jigglypuff vs. William Hung
11. “Weird Al” Yankovic vs. Coba
12. Misty vs. May

Disc 2
1. Professor Oak vs. Professor Layton
2. Meowth vs. Garfield
3. Altru Inc. vs. BP
4. Lt. Surge vs. Guile
5. Pokémon Rangers vs. Power Rangers
6. Hitmonchan vs. Little Mac
7. Meloetta vs. Luciano Pavarotti
8. Looker vs. Columbo
9. N vs. Captain N
10. Tracey Sketchit vs. Dr. Katherine Pulaski
11. Gary Oak vs. Lucas Barton
12. Giovanni vs. Vito Corleone
13. Arceus vs. God

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Anime Milwaukee 2014: Mario Kart 64 Tournament Winner

The following is an interview with Keith Scannell, winner of the Mario Kart 64 tournament at Anime Milwaukee 2014.

What were the rules and what was the structure of the tournament?
The tournament was set up in games of four-player VS. Mode on 150cc. Each round consisted of two courses (usually first two courses of the cup). In each round, players were ranked using a point system was based off of the Grand Prix mode (nine points for first, six for second, three for third, and one for fourth). The top two overall players moved on to the next round while the bottom two players were eliminated. If there was a tie in points, the players involved in the tie had to play a tie-breaker in Balloon Battle Mode to determine who moved on.

What are some things about Mario Kart 64 that make playing it different from other Mario Kart games?
The tempo and rhythm of the game in general is much faster and harder to control than newer versions of Mario Kart. In the first round, my character felt out of control at times and it took a lap or two to get my kart moving the way I wanted it to. Also, there are some techniques that do not exist in the other games. A good example is that if a player runs over a banana while going straight, that player has a few seconds to press the B button in order to avoid spinning out.

What was your overall strategy for the tournament?
As a child I used to play this game endlessly, so I have a vast knowledge of techniques and courses from those days. My strategy was to use that knowledge, show no mercy, and have fun playing the game I spent hours trying to master. I stayed calm, did not let items and misfortune throw me off, and focused on making comebacks when I needed them.

What was one of the courses where you needed to make a comeback?
Toad’s Turnpike, I started off getting pelted with items and cars, but I used my driving skills to catch up and get first.

What were the races in the finals like?
We played DK’s Jungle Parkway and Yoshi’s Valley on Extra (Mirror in newer Mario Kart games) where the courses were flipped-If you made a right turn in the level, you instead made a left turn in Extra. It felt odd, but playing DK’s Jungle Parkway on the Wii game actually made it easier for me to remember the flipped turns, and I won first place convincingly. The same could not be said for Yoshi’s Valley-I made too many errors and turned the wrong way too many times. It was embarrassing, and it was my only loss in the tournament, but luckily for me, my victory in the first race kept me tied for first place.

That means you had to play battle mode for the championship-what was your strategy for that and how did it play out?
I didn’t really have a strategy until I realized what level we were playing on. We played on the Block Fort level (a fan favorite). In this level, staying at the top of the structure was the key. My goal was to stay on the highest bridges and shoot green shells into the lower levels, keeping an item for defense at all times. I would only leave the bridges to place bananas where I thought the opponent might slip on them, along with fake item boxes. The green shell strategy worked and I won the tournament. 

What else did you do at the convention?
I did a little of everything. I played other video games in the video game room and participated in the Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament (since there was no Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament). I didn’t do that well but Mario Kart is more my game anyways. I played Yu-gi-oh in the tabletop games room a few times, went anime shopping on Friday, and went to the rave Saturday night. Basically, I spent the weekend with my four other friends and we enjoyed being silly and having fun together.

Mario Kart 8 comes out May 30th. What are your overall thoughts on the game?
It looks stunning. I’m excited to see how they will use the new anti-gravity feature to impact the game while keeping it a true Mario Kart game. It looks like they are putting a lot of work into the game to make it great, and some of those new courses are breathtaking, like the underwater level and one that looks like a roller coaster. I’m curious to see what older courses they will be adding as well. The Wii U is in need of a groundbreaking game, so we will see if Mario Kart 8 is that game.

Nintendo recently announced the Koopa Kids will be playable characters. What kind of impact do you think that will have on the game? Do you think that might be too many characters?
Mario Kart is a game that does well with many characters. Not only is it a nice reward for playing farther in the game but I think it makes the game more diverse and fun. Also, you can do more with the game if you have more characters-it makes the experience more personal and lets you have your own identity when playing the game. As for the characters themselves, I think the Koopa Kids are a great idea. It’s almost an appeal to older gamers since the kids were only in a few games and then dropped from the Mario series for a long time. It will be interesting to see what they will do in the game and makes you wonder if Bowser Jr. is still in there as well. I’m hoping for a Super Mario World based level for the Koopa Kids.

Some have argued that the series should be expanded to include other Nintendo franchises. What do you think?
Absolutely! It’s one of the reasons why Super Smash Bros. is such a big hit among Nintendo fans. The levels, items, and even cars, would be much more creative and it would attract a lot more gamers to the Mario Kart series if it was done. You could even make it like Mario Kart: Double Dash where you can pair up your favorite Nintendo characters in one car with their own specials. The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ralph Schuckett Part 4 + Rival Destinies DVD Set 3

Part four of our interview with Ralph Schuckett is up:

This part covers Pokemon 3: Spell of the Unown.

Also, thanks to a tip from a fan, we've found out that the third volume of Rival Destinies will be released on DVD in the US on June 17th:


Volume two is scheduled for release on March 25th.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Musician Interview: Ed Goldfarb

The following is an interview with Ed Goldfarb, who recently started working on music for the latest season of the Pokémon anime.

Ed Goldfarb
Where did you grow up, and how did you get into doing music?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area - both my parents play piano (my father professionally, in his youth) and music (Bach, The Beatles, dixieland jazz) was always in the house. I started piano lessons when I was six years old, and…I just kinda dug it, right from the beginning. I started writing little tunes when I was nine years old, and I had my first professional gigs when I was thirteen - writing arrangements for my junior high school musical, and playing piano at a friend’s dad’s 40th birthday party.

What was your early professional career like?
I got a degree in music composition from Cal Berkeley towards the end of the 20th Century, and have had an extremely eclectic career - I’ve music-directed theatrical revues, written for and conducted symphony orchestras, composed film scores, and even produced the occasional gold record  (Boyz II Men’s “Thank You” being the most famous). I’ve also scored many advertising spots, and produced several hundred independent singer-songwriter recordings.

How much did you know about Pokémon before starting work on the show?
I’ve been aware of Pokémon since its introduction in the US in the 90s, but I’d not seen the show ‘til recently (I have an elementary-school age child). I love pop culture, extended mythologies and creatures of all kinds (real and fictional), so I can state without hesitation that I’ve become a very big Pokémon fan.

When did you start working on the show, and how did the new version of the Pokémon Theme develop?
My work on the Pokémon anime commenced with Season 17. The theme song is a “re-imagining" of the original, iconic “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” song, and it really rocks. I'm primarily a keyboard player, but I know my way around the guitar enough to arrange stuff, so I put together a guitar-centric version of the song, and enlisted my friend Ben Dixon to sing it, ‘cause he’s got a real rock tenor voice. The great Lyle Workman recorded the final guitar parts at his studio in Southern California, and Ben flew out to the SF Bay Area to record his vocals at my studio. The song was mixed by Jeff Saltzman in Portland, Oregon. 

The Sad Truth-All I Want is to Make You Happy
The band listed in the credits is called “Ben Dixon and The Sad Truth”. Who exactly is that?
The Sad Truth are a pop songwriting and record-making project that’s essentially myself and my friend Jon Seltzer, who sang all of the songs on our “All I Want is to Make You Happy” album. Jon has a thriving career as a voice actor in L. A. (he’s heard on all of Nissan Automotive’s radio and TV commercials), and he was unavailable to sing the new version of “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”. However, the musical approach we ended up with isn’t entirely dissimilar to other entries in the Sad Truth canon, so it made sense to credit the performance of the song to “Ben Dixon and The Sad Truth”.

You also started to score the show for this season. What kind of sound are you going for there?
My approach to the score for the Pokémon show is to treat it almost like an opera or classic ballet - every character (including the Pokémon) has their own little theme (or leitmotif, in classical parlance) For example, Ash has a three-note theme usually heard on a trumpet, and it reappears in various guises throughout the score, sounding different when he’s enthusiastic, sad, mid-battle, etc.

How does working on the show make you feel?
I’m extremely proud to be involved with such a unique, well-crafted and entertaining program. There’s really nothing like it, and I think Season 17 has some of the best episodes to date, which is extraordinary for a program that’s been around the better part of two decades. Composing the score for the show has certainly made use of skills I’ve developed over the years as a professional composer, but the variety of tone and plot lines from episode to episode has afforded me a wide range of opportunities for musical expression. In a given episode, I’ll compose music that’s evocative of John Williams’ film scores, contemporary classical music, electronica - you name it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s great fun.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Anime Milwaukee 2014-Kyle Hebert-Pokemon Origins

At last weekend's Anime Milwaukee convention, I got to ask Kyle Hebert some questions about has work as Professor Oak in Pokemon Origins:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ralph Schuckett Part 3: Pokemon The Movie 2000

Here's part three of my interview with Ralph Schuckett:

This part covers Pokemon 2000. Where did Lugia's them come from? Listen and find out!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ralph Schuckett Interview Part 1 & 2

I recently conducted an interview with Ralph Schuckett, composer of the dub scores to Pokemon Movies 1-3. In the first part of the interview, we discuss his history as a musician:

 In the second, we cover his work on Pokemon: The First Movie:
The second part includes information on the style and themes used in the score, and it answers the question about how much of the movie's score was performed by a live orchestra (about half). More parts will be coming in the future.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pokemon TCG City Championships 2013-2014: Darkrai/Hydreigon

This report was provided to us by Steven Vlosak, a participant I met at a recent Pokemon TCG City Championship.

The deck I choose to use for the Greenfield and Rockford City Championships was Darkrai/Hydreigon. I’ll start of by explaining my thought process in choosing this deck. I playtest with a good friend of mine, and we have most of the current meta built (such as Blastoise, Genesect, Darkrai, Yeti, etc.), and the more we tested the more we realized that every deck has at least one bad match up and at least one 50/50 deck. While this is good for the game to not see a clear best deck (like we’ve seen at times in the past), it makes it very difficult to pick a deck for any tournament. In any case, I had seen Hydreigon decks before at other tournaments, and it seemed like no two were really the same (besides the Hydreigon and Darkrai, of course), so it got me thinking what I would do with the deck, and I started to mess around with it.

When I started to put this deck together, I began to see why there were a lot of different builds. The core is obvious: With Darkrai’s ‘Dark Cloak’ ability giving any Pokémon with a Darkness Energy free retreat, and Hydreigon’s ‘Dark Trance’ ability allowing you to move Darkness Energy to any Pokémon as often as you want, you are handed incredible versatility unlike any other deck in the format. These two alone are a powerful combo, but the abilities of each give you amazing opportunities to tech for anything in your meta (mostly in the way of Pokémon). Blend Energy (Fire/Darkness/Grass/Psychic) then helps you smooth out the gaps where a lot of cards have potential, but wouldn’t fit simply due to the energy requirements.

Before I started to put together my build, I thought about the popular decks that are played in my area:              

Darkrai: I knew wasn’t much of a threat because I play Max Potion to heal my Pokémon without losing energy, so this matchup is in my favor. I also can use a Virizion tech, so Hypnotoxic Laser has no affect with a Blend Energy attached to the active.

Genesect: This deck is mostly Grass attackers, and Blend Energy allows me the flexibility to use Victini EX. Not only can this sweep Grass Pokémon, but it also gives me energy acceleration when/if it is needed. Most of the standard attackers also have abilities, so you can block them with Latias EX when Genesect doesn’t have a G Booster attached.

Plasma (Thundurus EX/Kyurem/Deoxys EX): This is a tough match up for Hydreigon, but it’s not an autoloss by any means. I run two Silver Bangle cards in this deck, giving Hydreigon the ability to hit for 170 on an EX as well as the chance to hit a fresh Kyurem for a knockout. While you have to discard two Darkness Energy, this attack can knock out anything besides the occasional Lugia EX. Since a lot of their knockouts need to be set up over two attacks, Max Potions can swing this matchup back towards Hydreigon’s favor.

Empoleon: This matchup was a struggle with my initial build, as they deal a lot of damage and if I didn’t Max Potion immediately, they just spread damage with Dusknoir and I won’t be able to keep up with their low cost attacks and ability to knock out whatever they deem to be a threat. This was the main reason I decided to add Latias EX-Empoleon can’t attack it due to Latias EX’s ‘Bright Down’ ability. This forces Empoleon to sit on the bench while Leafeon (or another sub-par attacker) has to struggle to take a big knockout.

Yeti: This deck is gaining popularity quickly and needed to be addressed. Once again Latias EX Is able to shut down most of the deck. The only Pokémon they have to deal with Latias EX with is Thundurus EX, and they typically only play 2-3, so once Thundurus EX is out of the picture I have no trouble just slowly tanking with Latias EX to finish out the game. The biggest thing you need to watch in this matchup is Snorlax. There’s an assumption by most Darkrai players that you get free retreat, so you need to be aware of what you’re promoting when Snorlax is active. Outside of that, nearly all of their knockouts need to be taken over multiple turns, so Max Potion could potentially win you this matchup by its self.

Blastoise: By far, this is the worst matchup. You really can’t miss a beat if you want to have any hope of winning and they’ll need to miss on at least one turn. I’m still working on improving this match up so it is more 50/50, but as my deck stands now I just try to take 4-5 prizes with whatever I possibly can and then setup Shaymin EX for last 1-2. While it’s nearly an auto loss when both decks run as they’re supposed to, this is still a game with luck involved and anything can happen.

Like I stated before, this deck has a lot of potential. It hits just as hard, if not harder, than all decks in the format and it can heal with no drawback of losing energy. While this was a popular concept last year, I think the errata on Pokémon Catcher (now being a flip) and using Silver Bangle gave this deck just the boost it needed. At the moment I’m not sure what I would change but I do want to tweak the list to make the Blastoise match a little better so it’s not such an uphill battle, but I’m happy as a whole with how it has performed (Top 8 in both events I’ve used it).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pokemon Rival Destinies Volume 2 to be released 3/25/2014

Amazon has recently put up a listing for the second volume of Pokemon Rival Destinies on DVD. The two-disc set is due to be released on March 25th, more than six months after the release of volume one last year.