Pokemon Colosseum (GameCube) review
"It almost seems pointless even writing this review. Because, what we are dealing with is unquestionably the biggest franchise in videogames history. A franchise that has polarised the audience like none other before it. It can be said of many games that you either love it or hate it. But, the levels of devotion and detestation that this game provokes simply do not exist anywhere else in gaming. Some clamour for every latest release, determined to ''catch them all'', fully utilising the most fund..."
It almost seems pointless even writing this review. Because, what we are dealing with is unquestionably the biggest franchise in videogames history. A franchise that has polarised the audience like none other before it. It can be said of many games that you either love it or hate it. But, the levels of devotion and detestation that this game provokes simply do not exist anywhere else in gaming. Some clamour for every latest release, determined to ''catch them all'', fully utilising the most fundamentally 2 player game in existence. And at the other end of the scale, some would prefer to burn their own eyes out than ever look at Pikachu again.
What this means is, in simple terms : You either will never buy this game, or you already have it.
When Pokémon was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world, no-one could have predicted just how popular it would have become. In terms of units sold, in terms of merchandising, in terms of infecting popular culture, this game could only be described as a genuine phenomenom. Think about it this way - show your mother a picture of Cloud Strife, and a picture of Pikachu, and see which one she can name. We are talking about an almost complete penetration of public consciousness, in a way precious few video games could ever hope to emulate.
What made this possible was a combination of 2 things. Some inspired character design alongside some inspired marketing. But, most importantly, an inspired game. Make no mistake about it, cuteness aside, Pokémon was a shining example of great gameplay. A 2d top-down RPG, with some crude yet cute graphics, and some extremely simple and limited menus, the childish look belied an incredibly complex battle mechanic.
Through seemingly infinite sequels and spin-offs, the core of Pokémon has never changed. There have been tweaks and additions, but by and large a player who has been on the moon since playing the first game could still pick up the newest game blindly, and feel right at home in seconds. And, this has always been one of the series criticisms. People wanted 3D graphics. Well, people got their wish!
Pokémon Collosseum is basically an enhancement of the N64 Pokémon Stadium games. These were really just a way to battle Pokémon in full 3D, and even included a selection of AI opponents of varying difficulty. For any trainer worht his/her salt, these games were an essential addition. Pokémon Collosseum provides you with exactly the same opportunity to battle friends or virtual foes, but then goes and adds a little bit more. See, now we have a full 3D RPG to play, for the first time. The series has actually evolved, and no amount of pressing B can stop it.
And, it is the single player RPG that is the strangest paradox of this game. When you get right down to it, the game is now unrecognisable from the original Gameboy titles. This despite the fact that nothing has changed, really. Pokémon are still battled and caught. There is still a team of bad guys to defeat. There are still gyms to take on with cash and TM rewards. There are still 6 Pokémon in your party at any one time, and still only 4 options to choose from at any one time in battle. You still catch Pokémon in Pokéballs.
It's Pokémon Jim, but not as we know it.
For the first time, there are no random encounters with wild Pokémon. Instead, the story is such that the naughty Team Snagem is closing Pokémon hearts artificially, and making them all nasty. This is an official ''Bad thing''™. Enter our hero, who is actually a former member of said evil team. It is your duty to capture these Shadow Pokémon, and re-purify them. To aid you in this quest is a random bint who can read the aura of these Pokémon. What this all means is that the usual level up method has been reversed. Now, you can not trawl through grass to capture Pokémon. Now, you get to fight enemy trainers multiple times. Now, you can STEAL Pokémon!
It is a refreshing change, to be honest. Turning the game on it's head in this way adds some new strategy to your gameplay. For the first time in the series, you don't want to have a team of super-powered monsters. You instead carry about one or two weaker Pokémon at all times, partly to purify them, and partly because you don't want to accidentally KO any Shadow Pokémon you come across.
Graphically, this is more than adequate. The game does not require good looks, relying on the depth of the central play mechanic. That is not to say that this game looks poor, far from it. Sonically, this is clearly a vast improvement over the hand-held versions, with some real ear-worms amongst the tunes. The same rules still apply with regards to strengths and weaknesses. And, the same menu system is still in place. After all, if it isn't broke, there is no need to fix it.
And that is basically the rub of this game. It IS the handheld game all over again. Which means, you either love it or hate it. To be fair, the story mode is only half of this disc. The other half is a rather fantastic battle mode. Here, you can participate in tournaments against AI players, or can link up to 3 other people and battle your Pokémon on-screen in full 3D. A vast improvement over straining your eyes on system-linked GBA's.
The real question that people will ask is probably ''Is this worth buying if I don't have a GBA?'' And, possibly surprisingly, the answer is ''Yes.'' Because, the single player game is enjoyable without being reliant on connectability. And, you can use your Pokémon from the story mode in the battle mode afterwards. This may even convince people to buy themselves the GBA game afterwards, so as to enjoy battling and trading even more.
For anyone who has Pokémon Ruby or Pokémon Sapphire, it probably goes without saying that this is an essential purchase. Some of your old favourite Pokémon from Pokémon Gold, Pokémon Silver, and Pokémon Crystal make an appearance here, and can be traded into the GBA carts after completing the story mode. For any Pokéfreak, this more than justifies buying the game. Add to this that you get a whole-new adventure to play, and anyone who owns the GBA carts should probably buy this game yesterday. For anyone who has yet to be enthralled by the little bast ... um ... beauties, then this would be an ideal place to start.
There are some annoyances, of course, but none of these are anything more than just minor annoyances. The game has an infuriating habit of knocking out a Shadow Pokémon that you are attempting to capture by the age-old method of the 'Unfortunately-timed critical hit'™, just like in the hand-held games. And, every once in a while, just like in the hand-held games, you are forced into a battle you really did not want to take part in. Lucily, this is more often avoidable than it is in the hand-held games, and you can almost always get to a save-point when you want to.
Nintendo have done pretty much the best job they could have been expected to do in this game. They have updated the franchise, without taking anything away from it. As both a stand-alone product in it's own right and as a bridge to the forthcoming Fire Red and Leaf Green games, this is far above adequate. In fact, I can't think of a single reason not to buy it.
Even if you are Pokésick.
Community review by cheekylee (May 26, 2004)
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