Review: Pokemon Colosseum (Nintendo Gamecube)

Pokemon Colosseum
Developer: Genius Sonority
Publisher: NOA
Released On: 03/24/04

Right. Well I’ve had the US copy of this game for quite some time now, and have beaten it to the point where I could probably tell people how to beat the game while wearing a blindfold. I’ve been running around watching people say, “Look! I have a Jirachi on my Ruby cart” only to mock them with immature cruelty and say, “Ho Ho Ho! I have a Ho-oh, Entei, Raikou, and Suicune. Oh and Nintendo gave me a Celebi. Still, that’s a nice Jirachi you have there.” My fellow Kliq members can even tell you I went completely and totally nutso over this game. Not just because it’s Pokemon, but because in essence, it has made everything old completely new, fresh, and original again in regards to my favorite franchise that doesn’t involve MegaTen games while still keeping everything that has made Pokemon adorable, addicting, and loveable intact. Truly, any person who claims Pokemon is a Kid’s game, or lame because they make girls go, “AWWWW. Alex. You have a giant stuffed Mew. That’s adorable. I’m so charmed by your sweet bouncy snuggly side that I’m gonna give you some sweet loving.” has obviously only watched the cartoon and CERTAINLY not spent time with PokeCol.

It’s important to not that yes, Nintendo has heard the pathetic bleating of the faux hardcore. Those fragile few who think games need to dark and angst-ridden and with pretty boy anti-heroes. You know, the gamers who make Goths look like spritely optimistic sorts? Well Nintendo listened. And now you whiny kids have your very own dark and morose Pokemon world. Complete with a spikey haired trenchcoat wearing anti-hero. What’s most scary about this whole situation is I pretty much own that outfit the main character wears in the game, save for the Bret Hart style sunglasses. So gone are Johto and Kanto and Hoen. Gone are the concepts presented in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and in exchange we have some strange mix of Steampunk (my favorite genre of all genres) and a PG rated Fallout. We have Shadow (corrupted) Pokemon. Actual villains with malicious intent instead of Social Darwinists like Giovanni or well-meaning Quasi fanatical zealots like Team Aqua and Magma. Which means now they would be gamers that bitch about everything under the sun no longer have a reason to complain that Pokemon is for preteens. And guess what boys and girls? Trying to win a Pokebattle against another human that’s a master at the game, is like right up there with classic KOF of SF2 games, akin to becoming really good at shooters like Ikaruga or R-Type, and other games that are generally listed in the gaming masochist Hall of Fame. You want to talk hardcore? Look at the people who have figured out the mathematical equation for Hidden Power. That can look at a captured Pokemon and tell you just what their final stats will be. That can list every move for every Pokemon and the best movesets possible for each. Trust me people, Pokemon is not a game for children or the faint of heart. And now that it’s got a darker, hipper edge, you’re going to see a lot of these overweight balding egomaniacal gamers that spend their days on website forums bitching about every little thing wrong with games feeling pretty emasculated after losing to 14 year old girl who actually paid attention to type advantage and knows how to use your own Pokemon’s special species ability against you. Good luck people, you’re gonna need it more than you did when you Managed to beat a Geese Master in SVC Chaos using Demitri.

Let’s Review

1. Story

Everything you knew about Pokemon. Gather it up. Tie it in a nice little box with a shiny silk ribbon. Then dump it in the brink. Because you’re not going to need it here. You’ve got a whole new world. And it’s pretty big. And in 3D. And the graphics are amazing. And…I’m drooling, aren’t I?

Okay. Here’s the synopsis. You’re a Pokemon Trainer with the ability to actually steal other Trainer’s Pokemon. He looks bad, but he’s a good guy. Don’t let the Morbid appearance fool you. You start the game with two Evee evolutions. Remember Eevee? He wasn’t in R/S, so it’s a great way to start off the game, especially as Both Espeon and Ubreon were rather popular Pokemon in G/C/S.

Unlike the other games were Pokemon were plentiful and life was magically delicious for 99% of the residences, you know have to deal with the other side of the coin. The land is Orre, where Pokemon, food, water, and joviality are scarce. As you go about your quest, you will end up saving a sassy redhead who has the ability to detect Shadow Pokemon. With her help, you will capture these Shadow Pokemon from Team Snagum and begin to help rehabilitate them, and allow them to remember their once good and cuddly selves.

Yes, the theme of PokeCol is that of redemption. And it’s pretty detailed. When you first rescue a corrupted Pokemon, It will have a shadowbar with 5 distinct stages. The bar will be full, and your Pokemon will only be able to use Shadow Rush which is akin to moves like Double Edge, where the Pokemon doing the move takes a bit of recoil damage.

At Stage 1, when one of the Shadow Bars is gone, your Shadow Pokemon will remember a move. Thankfully something other than Shadow Rush. You will be constantly happen when this happens. Trust me. At stage 2, you’ll get to find out your Pokemon’s personality. This is important to those that are familiar with R/S as it gives you an idea how it will level up stat wise. And speaking of leveling up, at Stage two, your Darkened Pokemon will begin to earn experience. But…you won’t be able to benefit from it just yet. That comes later on. Stage 3 and 4 open up your Pokemon’s second and third non-Shadow Rush move respectively and at stage five? You can take your Pokemon to be completely purified where it will lose Shadow Rush, gain its final move and be able to finally put that experience to good use!

The story is deeper than any Pokemon tale ever told, complete with betrayals, some pretty violent acts compared to what one is used to for Pokemon. The characters are detailed and you’ll become attached to them as the game goes on.

Years from now, this is going to be the Pokemon game people talk about plotwise. Not only because it is so different from all the other Pokemon games out there, but because it’s so good. It’s cute and dark at the same time. It fosters optimism is a world supersaturated with pessimism. And it teaches you to love can care for animals, even ones that shoot out fire or could squash you like a bug. What could be better than that.

Story Rating: 9/10

2. Graphics

It’s Pokemon. In 3D. The franchise has never looked better, and it’s very rare for me to get behind a 3D RPG in terms of looks. But I’m impressed with the fact every Pokemon that ever was is in this game and looks incredible. Mew and Mewtwo are amazing. If you know how to get them. And alas, only one is truly obtainable by normal means. Mew however is…difficult to achieve (IE Call your friends at Nintendo if you have them!), but this game completely dwarfs the Pokemon Stadium games that came before this.

Each human character looks distinct and as if they were straight from a cartoon. Every move is animated and the game just looks great. Everything from The cities your characters will explore, and the very cool vehicle your main character drives looks amazing.

Is this the best looking game ever? No. But it’s the bets looking Pokemon game ever. And it’s pretty impressive to see all that they have packed in here.

Graphics Rating: 8/10

3. Sound

I love Pokemon music. I really do. The songs are so catchy and cheesy like a bad 80’s tunes, that you end up humming the MIDI’s for hours after you play the games on your GBA. But now the music has been upgraded along with the graphics.

But the big problem is that there is one thing Pokemon Channel does better than PokeCOl. You see, Pokemon Channel actually used the TV voice actors to provide the voices for that game. All the Pokemon talked like Pokemon should. Pikachu would say, “PI! Pi Pikachu!” for example. In PokeCol? It makes the weird kind of shrill squawking noise it has made since Pokemon Red and Green. Explain to me why old Pokemon Yellow could contain Pikachu saying PIKACHU but Pokemon Coliseum can’t? This vexes me greatly. I want to hear actual pokevoices dammit! No excuse for this. This was easily achievable and Genius crapped out.

But at least all the music is new and catchy. Still, I’m really, REALLY miffed that I have to hear noises that sound like BLARK and kkkkkrkkkk instead of ‘JIRACHI!’ or “Slugma!”

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control

It’s a turn based RPG. It’s kind of hard not to have perfect controls here. But let’s take a deeper look.

Unlike other Pokemon games, in PokeCol’s story mode, every battle is a tag team slobberknocker. This means you have to make sure your Pokemon tandem are compatible with each other and don’t have moves that could potentially hurt their own partners. Example: Tyranitar automatically causes a sandstorm, so have a rock or steel Pokemon as his partner so it doesn’t take damage. The level of strategy you have to prepare for with 2 on 2 battles takes things a lot deeper than the original one on one battles that were in every game before R/S and even then were 99% of the battles when tag option became available.

Then you have to realize your Pokemon don’t have movesets you designed. No, some less than enjoyable moves may be take up a slot with your Pokemon. You may just find yourself longing for Shadow Rush with some of them. But again, this means you’ve actually got to increase your Strategy. Some Pokemon you usually use as annoyances are going to actually have to take on the offensive for example. Because these Pokemon are all preset, you’re going to have to find a good way to maximize their potential. And the designers knew what they were doing. None of the moves are useless or only decent in one specific battle. You’ll see as it goes on. Again, the Story mode of Poke Col really changes the way you look at Pokemon, whether you’ve only watched the cartoon, only heard from some gamer who only changes his clothes once a fortnight that Pokemon is lame, or one of those guys who has all your Pokemon at level 100.

Whether you’re exploring the game, or going through the very easy to follow menus, it’s almost impossible for anyone to have something to complain about regarding the interface and engine of this game.

Control Rating: 10/10

5. Replayability

Well, let’s see. You’ve got Story mode, which allows you to unlock Pokemon from G/S/C and download them to either FR/LG or R/S. Pokemon that are otherwise unobtainable for those carts. You also have in story mode, a terrific mid to high level Pokemon challenge and a nice medium length RPG that, due to the nature of all Pokemon games, can be replayed again and again with a totally different lineup. That’s the great thing about having a plethora of highly merchandisable characters after all.

In Battle mode, what we all remember from Pokemon Stadium on the N64. But now there’s the team battle mode, and the fact four players can play tag team mode, each trainer controlling a single Pokemon.

And of course, let’s not forget Poke-Coupons. You can earn these is Story Mode at Mt. Battle. But in Battle mode, you can earn them constantly. The tougher the challenge and the bigger the handicap you give yourself, the more points you will collect. Which means your team of Jirachi and Celebi are going to make your attempts to earn the special items in this game take FOREVER. At least you know PokeCol doesn’t reward cheese and powergaming.

You can play this game forever. You really can. And if you have friends with GBA carts, the fun merely increases because you can use your own team of Pokemon instead of the premade characters.

It’s been a long time since I’ve played an RPG twice through. And I’m happy to say PokeCol is just as fantastic each time you play it, regardless of which mode. And when Fire Red and Leaf Green hit US shores, the fun will defy logic and manage to increase even more.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

6. Balance

Pokemon Coliseum again, like the other Pokemon games before it, manages to be as difficult as you want it to be. You want a challenge, take on a team all Level 100 Legendary Pokemon. You want it easy, then you can kick around some low level characters. But at the same time, Pokemon has always rewarded the player for being an underdog. In the GB and GBA carts, it’s got Stat points that the game secretly keeps track of for when you level up. In PokeCol, it’s Poke-Coupons, a much more visible way for you to keep track of whether you’re a scared little wimp, or playing with more guts than brains.

Story mode will be hard for those new to Pokemon, a decent challenge for the majority of gamers, a nifty thinking game for experienced Pokemaniacs who will find it easier than most, but still have to adjust their thinking to an entirely new style of play.

With a multitude of ways to engross yourself in Pokemon Coliseum, the one thing that is constant is the fact that you have a sliding difficulty scale for whatever level of gamer you are. Can’t beat that.

Balance Rating: 10/10

7. Originality

When the game first came out, even long term Pokemaniacs groaned at the thought. We were all afraid it was going to be yet another Pokemon Stadium, which was basically an overpriced attempt to get you to pay 50+ dollars to see your Pokemon in 3D. Sure you could play a bunch of battles against the computer and get some not too great Pokemon, but so what? There was no play or real reason to play the game.

But when a certain VG web site became the first new source on the net or in print to break the story that there would be a totally new fully immerse RPG Story Mode in PokeCol (Gee…I can’t remember WHAT site that was. Hmm. Think think think. What website COULD it have been…) gamers slowly became interested in the game. Some, even pronouncing the game, the best Pokemon Game ever, even though no one had played it!

And over time, we learned all the details. The darker plot. The two on two gameplay. The fact you could get DOZENS of Pokemon that were not available on R/S that were old classics you loved and missed. Then came Jirachi. And the graphic shots. And on and on until People were ready for what would hands down be the best RPG on the Game Cube.

And looking at it now what do I think? Well, I think it’s another Pokemon Stadium with some nifty upgrades. AND an incredible RPG that redefines the Pokemon Franchise.

I’ve always said Pokemon has never been afraid to reinvent itself with each game, from branching out into things like Pokemon Snap, Puzzle League, TCG, and Pinball. And this is no exception. Pound for pound, there is not a single Video Game series on the market that comes even close to the constant improvements, risk taking, and changes Pokemon makes with each successive game. Good for Game Freak ensuring that their lovely creations are forced to the same high ideals and originality the series was lauded with when it first came out. Just remember in all the coolness from Story Mode and the return of your favorite G/S/C Pokemon, that the Old Pokemon Stadium routine is here too.

Originality Rating: 8/10

8. Addictiveness

Playing against your friends in Pokemon was never so much fun. No you don’t have to sit there with your GBA’s connected to a wire watching a little screen. You can sit in the comfort of your own home and watch Pokebattles on a big screen TV. It’s a lot of fun, especially with four gamers.

Battle Mode is decent amusement, especially now with the innovation of Poke Coupons. The real king here is of course Story Mode. The fact you know the Shadow Pokemon you collect and purify will eventually be able to go on your Game Boy carts creates an amazing compulsion to keep playing. And when I add a little hint that if you catch and purify every Shadow Pokemon in the game, you get a Ho-Oh complete with Scared Fire, well…I’m sure you’re going to scour every nook and cranny for whatever you can find just to ensure you have a complete collection.
Even if you’re not a huge Pokemon fan, this unique style of RPG will keep you enthralled. And if you’re a Pokemon addict like myself, well…say good bye to your friends and loved ones for a week or so. Because you will be riveted to this game.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Like I said, no one can complain now. The creatures are cute. The world and humans dwelling within it are not. You want angst and whiny bitchy heroes that would get shoved into lockers or that would spend all their time in coffee houses writing poetry containing words like sorrow, melancholy, and Lestat? Here you go. You want an incredible RPG with a unique playing style? Here you go? You want a ton of stuff as a reward for beating the game and actually being challenged? Here you go. You want a lot of Pokemon doing cute things and acting out a sweet an innocent form of cock fighting? Here you go.

Play the game. Admit it is amazing. And find yourself realizing all those years of being jaded and whining about how adorable Pokemon is could have been spent playing some high quality games. But it’s not too late. But down the latest crappy 3D platformer full of Camera Angles that induce profanity and play a game that is fun. Yes there are not hot chicks with giant boobs. But there’s fun. Remember, that’s why you’re supposed to be playing games in the first place!

Appeal Factor Rating: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous.

Okay. You want some MORE reasons to play this game. Here you go:

Aipom
Ariados
Bayleaf
Celebi
Croconaw
Delibird
Dunsparce
Entei
Espeon
Flaafy
Forretress
Furret
Gligar
Granbull
Hitmontop
Ho-Oh
Houndoom
Jirachi
Ledian
Mantine
Miltank
Misdreavus
Noctowl
Piloswine
Quagsire
Quilava
Qwilfish
Raikou
Remoraid
Skiploom
Shuckle
Slugma
Smeargle
Sneasel
Stantler
Sudowoodoo
Suicuine
Sunflora
Togetic
Tyranitar
Yanma

Nuff said.

Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10

Short Attention Span Summary
Here it is plain and simple. This is the best game on the cube released in 2004 so far. It’s the best turn based RPG released on any system in 2004 so far. You can play it along. You can play it with friends. You get rewarded like in no other game before it for completing the story mode and it’s a far better utilization of the GBA-GC connectivity than FF:CC, Wind Waker, or Animal Crossing. Is this the best Pokemon game EVER? No. It’s not. That’s Pokemon Crystal. But I can’t see anyone not picking up this game and having fun with it. If you have a Game Cube, you owe it to yourself to get this game. GO NOW!

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