Categories
Game

Pokemon TCG Fusion Strike booster preview and first impressions

This week we got our hands on a Pokemon TCG: Sword and Shield Fusion Strike Elite Trainer Box and a Booster Box for preview and hands-on inspection! This set was a welcome surprise in both high-end artwork and execution, to be sure. After the awesomeness that was Pokemon TCG: Celebrations, the Pokemon Company truly needed to come correct with a monster follow-up set. This Fusion Strike set fits the bill!

Before you get too deep, here, be sure to take a peek at our Pokemon TCG Celebrations unboxing: Release day time warp! That set was amazing – and remains amazing to this day. Pokemon TCG: Sword & Shield – Fusion Strike is the first expansion that’s been released since Celebrations, and is the latest in a line of sets that are part of the overarching Sword & Shield generation of card sets and games in the Pokemon universe.

The Fusion Strike set has a total of 20x Pokemon V cards and 13x full-art Pokemon V cards, with 8x Pokemon VMAX in the mix. There’s a new Special Energy card that we’ve found surprisingly few of in the packs we’ve opened – that works with Fusion Strike Pokemon as a sort of do-anything energy. There are also 20x Trainer cards and 7x full-art Supporter cards.

We have a bunch of packs in a Booster Box and we have an Elite Trainer Box. The Elite Trainer Box features Mew and the key color scheme for the set: “a hint of purple and pink.” Protective sleeves included in the box are made with the most modern materials – similar to the Elite Trainer Box sleeves included with the previous several sets.

Above you’ll see a pair of Mew cards, both “V” Pokemon. One is the standard Mew V, the other is the Full-art Mew V. As is generally the case, both cards have the exact same set of abilities and power, but the application of artwork, holographic material, and textured gloss is completely different. Both have a fairly traditional approach toward said artwork – centered, front-facing, and beautiful.

When it comes to VMAX cards, Pokemon cards in the past several sets have gone bonkers. This is a very good thing, assuming you’re collecting Pokemon cards for their unique presentation of the Pokemon universe. Look at this VMAX Cinderace, for example. The vast majority of the card is the fireball! It’s completely mad!

As has been the case with the most recent several sets of Pokemon cards, the most awesome foil cards in the set have to be Lightning-type Pokemon. Basically every card with reverse holo foil application in the Lightning-type universe looks amazing with light reflecting off the bolts. When it comes to a Pokemon V card like Boltund, the artwork comes alive!

If you’re looking for a card that might change the way you play the game completely, look at this Golem. Placing this Pokemon out in your lead spot means your opponent will need to prepare for the worst. Now, if only there were a way to win the game with only self-destructing Pokemon.

I was surprised to find that one of my favorite cards from this set wasn’t rare. It wasn’t shiny (though it could be, technically). It’s a card that’s only previously been released as a special edition Japan-only Gym Challenge tournament promo card: Cram-o-matic!

If Golem weren’t enough to change the way you play the game, Cram-o-matic might be the key to your future deck of oddities. This weird bird deserves his place in the sun!

Standard booster packs of Pokemon TCG: Sword and Shield Fusion Strike Elite will be available starting on November 12, 2021. Starting on October 30, 2021 you’ll find the Pokemon Sword & Shield Fusion Strike Build & Battle Box available in stores with an “early” option for players who cannot possibly wait until November 12. This box is the first place you’ll find booster packs, 4x of which are included in the box, alongside a 23-card Evolution pack “featuring key cards from current and prior sets.”

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Categories
Game

PowerA Fusion Review: Elite Switch Controller With a Catch

PowerA Fusion for Nintendo Switch review: Elite Switch controller has trade-offs

“The PowerA Fusion is a solid third-party option as long as you’re comfortable trading key features for customization.”

  • Robust package
  • Easy customization
  • Sturdy build
  • Handy back paddles
  • Pricey
  • Missing key features
  • Reduced battery life

The PowerA Fusion might just be the closest we get to having an Xbox Elite Series 2 equivalent for the Nintendo Switch. The third-party controller is loaded with bells and whistles that make it feel like a forward-thinking redesign of the best Nintendo Switch controllers.

Considering that Nintendo often moves sideways rather than forwards with tech, there’s a lot to get excited about here. The PowerA Fusion comes with mappable back paddles, swappable joysticks, and other customization options that have never been possible on an officially licensed Nintendo controller. Though when it comes to third-party gear, there’s always a level of compromise. Some missing fundamental features add a level of give-and-take that players will need to weigh before making a pricey commitment.

The whole package

The PowerA Fusion retails for $100, which makes it more expensive than a standard Switch Pro controller. When looking at the full package, it’s easy to see why. The box doesn’t just include a wireless controller. There’s a back paddle pack, four thumbsticks, two swappable faceplates, and more — all housed within a handy carrying case.

It’s hard to imagine Nintendo making something with the same kind of utility …

Considering that the official Pro Controller retails for $70 without any of that justifies the extra $30.The closest parallel to the PowerA Fusion is the $180 Xbox Elite Series 2, which is a similarly rich package. They aren’t exact comparisons considering that the Elite Series 2 is much more technologically advanced, but it’s the closest we’ve seen when it comes to Switch technology.

The PowerA Fusion Switch controller with all its parts.

The controller itself (without the back paddles installed) is perfectly comfortable and doesn’t feel terribly different from a standard Pro controller. Some of its buttons protrude out a little more and the grips feel a touch thick, but it doesn’t have the knockoff design of the third-party pads we grew up with.

Removing and replacing parts is a snap, literally. The magnetic faceplates pop right off and the thumbsticks are easy to swap. There’s even some flexibility with the paddle pack. Each paddle can be easily replaced, and the pack itself can be popped out at any time if its getting in the way. Just looking at the Fusion from a customization standpoint, all of its moving parts are intuitive and easy to handle. It’s hard to imagine Nintendo making something with the same kind of utility in the Switch’s lifetime.

The joy of back buttons

The back paddles are the main attraction here. When the pro pack is attached, the controller gets four metal paddles that sit between the grips. Buttons can be easily mapped to each paddle with just three quick inputs.

There are some limits to the mapping. Button combinations can’t be assigned to one paddle. I was also hoping to map the right stick’s cardinal directions to the paddles to control Tetris 99’s targeting system, but no dice. The more likely use is that players will map the four main face buttons to the back so that they never have to remove their thumb from the right stick.

The PowerA Fusion Switchj controller's back paddles.

Even with their limits, the paddles can be incredibly useful. While I couldn’t map my targeting in Tetris 99, I could assign my rotate buttons to them. It’s a simple change, but it meant that I never had to swap between target and rotate, which could have risked a misfire when dropping pieces in the fast-paced late game. When testing with New Pokemon Snap, I mapped each paddle to one of the face buttons, which added more fluidity to taking photos. I never lost full control of the camera and could scan or throw fruit without moving a finger.

I found that my hands felt a little cramped at times trying to position my fingers around the thick controller. I wouldn’t call it uncomfortable by a long shot, but it did require a less natural grip. One nice perk here is that the paddle pack is entirely removable and the slot it pops into can be closed up when it’s out. Anyone who feels like it’s getting in the way can just remove it.

Even with their limits, the paddles can be incredibly useful.

I did experience an issue with the two left paddles always mapping to the same button. PowerA says that’s likely due to a defective model. Given that others didn’t have that problem, that does seem to be the case. However, it does serve as a reminder of a risk you run with third-party gaming tech; it’s harder to assure consistentcy versus a first-party product from a company like Microsoft. Though considering Nintendo’s own, official controllers are notoriously defective (spurring Joy-Con drift lawsuits), the PowerA isn’t really unreliable by comparison.

Give-and-take

All of those shiny features may sound too good to be true — and they are, to an extent. While the Fusion features all sorts of customization that Switch players have only dreamed of, it’s also missing some fundamentals.

There’s give-and-take here as players will be sacrificing some basics for customization potential.

The most glaring problem is that the controller features no rumble. I don’t mean that it’s lacking the Joy-Cons’ HD rumble; it doesn’t shake at all. Even with all the exciting extras, that might be a deal breaker for some. It’s also missing the amiibo reader functionality, which is present in a normal Pro controller. That’s much less of a problem considering that Amiibo support has always been niche, but dedicated fans may be a little put off by its absence here.

The battery life is a step down, too. While the Pro controller can last up to 40 hours, the Fusion taps out at around 20.

The PowerA Fusion's thumbstick and buttons.

That’s where the $100 price point becomes more of a debate. It’s not like PowerA is offering all the functions of a Pro controller with a lot of extras. There’s give-and-take here as players will be sacrificing some basics for customization potential. Whether or not it’s worth it ultimately comes down to what a player values in a Switch controller. Those who just want something closer to an Xbox controller can stick with the Pro controller.

If the priority is customization, there’s no comparison, because Nintendo offers next to nothing in that department. It can also be plugged in, which is a step up from some of PowerA’s usual AA-powered wireless Switch pads.

Our take

The PowerA Fusion is a robust Nintendo Switch Pro controller alternative for players who want, well, more control. The back paddles, swappable faceplates, and removable joysticks all make this feel like a worthwhile investment. If the PowerA had rumble functionality and Amiibo support, it’d be an easy upgrade. Those omissions make the $100 price tag feel a little steep for anyone who simply wants a better version of the Pro controller, rather than an impressive, alternate one.

Is there a better alternative?

The official Nintendo Switch Pro controller is sturdier and less expensive, though the Fusion is uncontested when it comes to its customization.

How long will it last?

The battery lasts up to 20 hours, which is half of what the official Pro controller offers. Compared to other third-party controllers, it feels sturdier than usua, even with some plasticy buttons.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re specifically looking for more in-depth customization for Switch controls, the Fusion is a pretty robust package. Otherwise, stick with the Pro.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

The Fusion Project aims to optimize data collection from vehicles

The Fusion Project, which promises to provide a more efficient way to collect the data required to train AI models for autonomous vehicles, is being launched today by Airbiquity, Cloudera, NXP Semiconductors, Teraki, and Wind River.

The goal is to compress the data collected from autonomous vehicles to the point where it becomes possible to update the AI models employed in an autonomous vehicle faster. Today, autonomous vehicles rely on inference engines based on AI models trained in the cloud. The automotive industry is a long way from being able to train AI models in real time on the vehicle itself. In the meantime, the members of the Fusion Project are committing to making it easier to collect data by compressing data on the vehicles before it is transferred back to AI models residing in the cloud.

Those data compression techniques will eventually be applied to other forms of transportation such as trains and planes, said David LeGrand, senior industry and solutions marketing manager for manufacturing and retail at Cloudera.

The members of the Fusion Project are pledging to develop an integrated embedded system for collecting compressed data from vehicles that can be fed back to a cloud platform. That capability will substantially reduce the cost of collecting data from what one day might be millions of vehicles, noted LeGrand.

In addition to compressing the data collected using software developed by Cloudera, the members of the Fusion Project will enable over-the-air updates to the inference engines installed in a vehicle using software management software from Airbiquity.

NXP, meanwhile, will provide the vehicle processing platforms, while Teraki provides the AI software that will be deployed at the edge. Finally, Wind River will provide the embedded system software.

Initially, the Fusion Project will specifically focus its efforts on advancing the ability of autonomous vehicles to recognize when to optimally change lanes based on the data gathered via vision AI engines installed in the vehicle, said LeGrand. The first tests of vehicles embedded with Project Fusion technologies will take place in Europe, added LeGrand.

The immediate goal is to not eliminate the need for drivers, but rather to take the current alert systems that most vehicles have today to the next level by training AI models based on the data about the actual driving experience being collected by vehicles, noted LeGrand. “It’s not going to be fully autonomous,” said LeGrand. “It’s more like a driver-assist system.”

There are, of course, fully autonomous vehicles that can follow a highly prescribed set of programming instructions to get from one point to another. The challenge is that the level of responsiveness required for an autonomous vehicle to navigate traffic flows that include vehicles driven by humans that are likely to make random decisions remains elusive.

There may eventually come a day when AI models embedded within a vehicle could be trained and updated in real time. Today, achieving that goal would require the equivalent of a server based on a graphics processing unit (GPU) to be installed in the trunk of every vehicle. Naturally, that would make autonomous vehicles prohibitively expensive.

In the meantime, the process of transferring data between inference engines and the AI models on which they are based will continue to become more efficient. The AI model might not make it all the way out to the vehicle itself, but it will become more feasible to deploy AI models at the network edge. The challenge, of course, is finding a way to achieve that goal in a way that is economically viable for automotive manufacturers.

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