Love 'em or hate 'em , those Pokemon
creatures are among one of Nintendo's most popular videogame franchises, and for good reason: despite the cutesy-wootsy appearance, the Pokemon
RPGs are some of the deepest adventure designs on the handheld. The idea of hundreds of unique Pokemon critters to collect is a marketer's dream come true, and Nintendo's been incredibly successful ensuring that the series doesn't grow stale. Of course, there have been the cash-in duds, like the recently released Pokemon Channel
, but Nintendo, with the help of Game Freaks and Creatures, has done a great job ensuring that at least the RPG editions of Pokemon
are top-notch adventures. And for the latest Pokemon
experience on the GameCube, the development team definitely focused, albeit in a more limited fashion, on the elements that made the series such a success on the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance.
Back on the Nintendo 64, Nintendo began its foray into the world of "connectivity" with Pokemon Stadium, a spin-off console design that gave players the ability to take their collection of pocket monster creatures from the Game Boy world into the realm of 3D to do battle with other players in a more public, and graphically impressive arena. The N64 game didn't expand the series, but supplemented it; even as it encouraged players to bring their Pokemon critters to the N64 system, it was clear that Nintendo wanted to keep the main Pokemon experience on the handheld. Without their own copy of the Game Boy Pokemon game, N64 gamers couldn't create their own party of creatures, something that's pretty much the staple of the Pokemon game design.
On the GameCube where connectivity between console and handheld is a much bigger deal, Nintendo has, relatively speaking, downplayed the necessity with Pokemon Colosseum, the pseudo-sequel to the two Pokemon Stadium games released on the Nintendo 64. The idea in this design, like Pokemon Stadium, is to get fans of the series to bring their Pokemon to the GameCube and battle in epic and impressive 3D arenas, and this design meets expectations with an impressive amount of arenas, rules, and sub-games for both single and multiple combatants. But the designers have built a second half so that console owners who lack a GBA or a copy of Pokemon: Ruby Version and/or Pokemon: Sapphire Version can get a similar experience outside of the "Colosseum" mode. The RPG design made for Pokemon Colosseum does a decent enough job building an original game surrounding the rules and gameplay of the GBA adventure, and yet it's a bit more linear and straightforward than the handheld design. And as impressive as the design is, the game isn't all that extensive; take the battles out of the equation and you'd cut down on about 90 percent of the adventure.
- Two separate games: Story Mode and Battle Mode
- Snag Shadow Pokemon for your collection
- One-on-one and Two-on-two Pokemon Battles
- Connectivity with Game Boy Advance and Pokemon: Ruby Version and Pokemon: Sapphire Version, as well as future GBA Pokemon adventures.
- Progressive Scan
- Up to four players (Requires three GBA systems, cables and games)
One of the biggest complaints gamers have with the Pokemon
series is just how sugary sweet and cute the overall universe is. In the past, the videogames and cartoons have been portrayed in bright, vibrant, happy colors surrounded in peppy music and non-violent gameplay. The adventure in Pokemon Colosseum
at least makes the attempt to "mature" the franchise with a grittier adventure, putting players in the role of a rogue trainer who's just said goodbye to the bad side. The beginning establishes the overall mood and atmosphere of the entire game, with the lead character literally laying waste -- in an impressive, dynamic explosion -- to a mysterious structure. This appropriately sets the pace of what's to come.
Since the game puts players in the role of an established Pokemon trainer instead of starting a Trainer career from scratch like the Game Boy adventures, Pokemon Colosseum assumes one already knows what they're getting into, and have at least some idea to what's expected in a Pokemon adventure. In this universe, conflict isn't handled one-on-one. Any sort of disagreement can be handled by duking it out between Pokemon creatures, and it's pretty darn important to lug around a good assortment of creatures that can handle themselves in pretty much any situation. Like in previous games in the Pokemon RPG, the fighting in Pokemon Colosseum follows the same grid-based strategy of Pokemon types. Essentially, one type of Pokemon, say Grass or Electric, is stronger against other types of Pokemon, like Fire or Ground. This is where the fun, strategic element of battling comes from, and with seventeen different Pokemon types in the realm, it's important to bone up on who's stronger and weaker against whom. It's a challenge building up a proper team since there can always a bit of a twist from a trainer with Pokemon of a type that can literally screw up a well thought out team. Though the RPG follows most of the rules and gameplay established in the Pokemon RPG series up to this point, Pokemon Colosseum brings forth a new element: Shadow Pokemon. Shadow Pokemon are essentially "abused" Pokemon creatures, noted by the writers as "Pokemon with the doors to their heart closed." The Shadow Pokemon are the foundation to the GameCube adventure's quest and storyline, as well as the gameplay itself.
See, unlike the Game Boy RPG, in the GameCube game players don't wander around the wilderness to build up their own collection. In Pokemon Colosseum, the only Pokemon one can collect are Shadow Pokemon from another trainer's team. This is called "snagging," and it's something unique to this adventure since it's considered taboo to even think about taking away someone's Pokemon during battle in the Game Boy adventures. In this adventure, players will encounter in battle a trainer who has a Shadow Pokemon in his party, and when it arrives players can attempt to snag it in battle; the same rules apply to catch one, though, so players will have to work to weaken a Shadow Pokemon and use an appropriate Pokeball to snag it. Of course, nothing's a guarantee, and if gamers encounter a snaggable Pokemon and lose the opportunity, they may never see that Pokemon again. Ever. Keep in mind that Nintendo has inserted an assortment of creatures that can only be caught in this game and not in Ruby or Sapphire to encourage trading...
Since the Shadow Pokemon remain Shadow Pokemon in one's party, players will have to use it in battle to weaken the "door to its heart" in order to convert it to a normal Pokemon status. At first, the only move they can use is the Shadow Rush attack, but as the "door" opens and the seal weakens, they can perform more of their own exclusive moves. Most of the time Shadow Pokemon can't enter tournament battles, so it's important to bring these creatures into your party to make them the happy, helpful critters they were always meant to be.
Even with all these rules in play, the adventure in Pokemon Colosseum isn't as deep or involved as the designers make it out to be; it's more an assortment of pre-determined battles strung together with control masquerading as "exploration." The actual quest is incredibly linear with almost no deviation from the set path created in the storyline. Puzzle elements are very basic, only requiring players to acquire a certain item either scattered in plain sight in one of the game's locations, or acquiring it in battle against a more powerful trainer. Even though the RPG design is based upon the Game Boy RPG designs, it's much more scaled back; players won't find any subquests or mini-games, something that's absolutely brimming in the Game Boy Advance Ruby and Sapphire versions. This was most likely intentional to not take away any value from the GBA versions; to get the full Pokemon experience you'll still need to go out and buy a copy of the handheld game.
And yes, the GameCube RPG by itself will take more than 20 or 30 hours, but it's mostly due to the fact that each of the battles eat up an enormous amount of playtime because of the amount of presentation placed in the arenas. If players could cut out the animations they've already seen, the game would be over far more quickly since the story, while interesting in its own right, isn't very deep.
The Battle Mode, the focus of the past two Pokemon Stadium games, is more secondary in Pokemon Colosseum, playing second fiddle to the single player adventure this time around. These battles utilize the same 3D engine, character models, and player interface as the RPG battles, but players have access to the rules to change up the strategies a bit. GameCube players can register their collected Pokemon from the RPG, and duke it out with either the computer opponents in the Solo Battle, or against up to three human players with Game Boy Advance players in a Gang Battle. The design encourages playing this mode, at least in single player mode, by awarding Pokemon Coupons that can be exchanged for goodies within the GameCube or Game Boy Advance adventure.
The Game Boy Advance connectivity, a huge selling point of Pokemon Colosseum is just a bit disappointing when compared to what GameCube trainers get. Most of the connectivity features, such as in-game trading, and battle registrations, are designed seamlessly enough to make everything as transparent as possible, and this makes it easy to directly control one's Pokemon. But in the Battle Mode, GameCube trainers can pull up their party's abilities, status, and list of moves with full description by using the Control Stick, D-Pad or C-Stick during play. On the Game Boy Advance, players are much more limited in what they can see or learn from their party, and no amount of button presses will bring up the same amount of data that's available to the console player. This is just more than a bit concerning, since players literally have a screen to themselves to hide from opposing players, and Nintendo should have put more focus and features here than what ended up in the final product. On a technical level, the development team poured a decent amount of effort into making the game look, sound and play decently. Graphically, it's a mixed bag, though it weighs more on the good side than bad. The style of the RPG game is wonderful, with a lot of creativity put into the design of the different towns, villages, and battle arenas. Building exteriors and interiors are beautiful in many places throughout the adventure, as are some of the gorgeously modeled Pokemon creatures that animate with such grace and fluidity during battles. And even though the Pokemon never physically touch each other during attacks, there are some really nice effects used in their place that put the GameCube's graphic processor to great use. But all this beauty comes to a screeching halt in places when players see, up close, some of the poorly modeled and animated, angular trainers. The entire game runs at a solid and fluid 30 frames per second, though there are occasional moments, like bringing up the configuration menu, where the game pops to 60.
The sound also varies. On the one hand, the background music orchestrations are well produced and fit the overall style of Pokemon Colosseum. On the other, the analog screeching of the individual Pokemon creatures is more than a bit awkward to hear; even though many of the creatures in the Pokemon universe have been given true "voices" in the anime, Nintendo continues to insist on keeping with the Pokemon sounds established during the 8-bit days. Every Pokemon has had its unique voice sampled from the Game Boy Advance version of Pokemon, but these samples are from the original Game Boy system. So, in other words, don't expect to hear "Pika!" from a Pikachu.
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