Review: Pokemon Box (Nintendo Gamecube)

Pokemon Box (Nintendo Game Cube)
Tagline: Just because something is rare doesn’t mean everyone will eventually be clamoring for it on Ebay in 5 years…

Pokemon Box
Developer
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 07/12/04
Genre: Storage Device
Systems Released for: Nintendo Game Cube

Ah Pokemon Box. A Japanese Exclusive for so long, but now it is here in the United States. However, there are only two ways to get it. The first is to travel to NYC to get a copy of it from the Pokemon Center. Yes, for those of you not in the know, there is in fact a real live Pokemon Center where you can buy tons and tons of fluffy cuddly Pokemon and various other adorable and expensive merchandise. The other way to get Pokemon Box is to go to Pokemoncenter.com and order it off the website.

Now I will warn you, the PokeBox is not for your casual gamer. Or for a person that plays Pokemon occasionally. No, this little disc exists for a very niche fan base: That of ravenously psychotic fanboys (or girls) that love Pokemon to the point where they coo at the slightest sound of “Pika Pika?” or where they own every episode of the first Pokemon series on VHS, including the episodes never translated into English. Or those that own multiple copies of each colour cart of Pokemon games to better collect all the Pokemon they can and have multiple trainer IDS for a better chance at the Pokemon lottery or even import the Pokemon games from Japan on launch day because they just can’t wait. Gamers that make their friends and fellow 411 staff members shake their heads when they can prove their ability to recite the entire pokerap both backwards and in Japanese.

You know, gamers like me.

Like it or not, Pokemon still has one of the largest fanbases in all of gaming. You hear these thirty year old overweight virgins sitting around in their parent’s basement prophesizing this is the game that will kill Pokemon off once and for all. You see sad little video game journalists in both print and on the net trying to look macho and cool in front of their readers by saying Pokemon is falling and no one actually plays it anymore. That it’s a dead brand. But guess what? Next time you see a journalist put that fallacy in print, realize they just lost all credibility. What were two of the top ten selling games of 2003? Oh that’s right, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. Hate to break it to you folks, but Pokemon is going to last as long as Mario and Donkey Kong and Pac Man and all the other ultra classic franchises. It’s not dying anytime in the near, or far, future.

Let’s Review

1. Reason D’etre

There’s no story at all for Pokemon Box. See, Pokemon Box isn’t actually a game. It’s a massive storage devices that takes up an entire 59 block GCN memory card and allows you to store hundreds and hundreds of Pokemon on it. It allows you to sort through Pokemon moves, personalities, types, races, EVERYTHING.

Consider this not just a storage device then, but a Pokemon Data base where you can catch more Pokemon than you ever could put into your GBA box. However most of you probably would never need this. Most Pokemon gamers might fill up two to four boxes on their GBA. So why would they need two dozen boxes, each twice the size of the boxes you have on the GBA. Who could possibly fill up that much space with Pokemon.

Well, out of just the Kliq, Alex Williams, Misha and I could. And that’s three out of about 15 people. 20%. And that was never planned. We didn’t know that Misha and Williams were Lucard-lites in terms of Pokemon love. So even if we are a bizarre aberration within gaming, it still shows you a lot of people play Pokemon enough to need the PokeBox so they don’t have to discard/set free a bunch of captured Pokemon they would otherwise want.

The box is also good if you have multiple copies of Pokemon. Say one of Ruby and one of Sapphire, and a copy of PokeCol for the Cube. You can store all the Pokemon from those three games in one place, on a portable memory card. Easiest way ever to exchange Pokemon with your friends. Bring the card over to a friend’s house and you can pick and choose what Pokemon best suit you and your friends needs. And once Flame Red and Leaf Green hit US shores, there will be all the more need for Pokemon Box, especially if you really and truly DO “gotta catch ’em all.”

Basically Pokemon Box is just what one would think a true Pokemon fanatic need. It lets you store, examine, breed, and maintain your Pokearmy in a way that could never have been done with RGBY or GSC. For people that actually play in Pokemon tournaments like some people play in Street Fighter ones, this is truly a godsend.

EXCEPT FOR ONE THING. One very big almost horrific thing that practically makes Pokemon Box worthless to its own Key Audience.

REGION LOCK OUT

Yeah. For those of you that understand why this is stupidity beyond stupidity, I’ll let you keep hammering your head against your desk. For those of you missing the irony, let me clue you in.

See, Pokemon is first and foremost a Game Boy series. There are occasionally nifty and fun side games like Pokemon Channel or Pokemon Snap or Poke Stadium that add a new dimension to the series and help get console players into understanding why the games are so great. But in the end it all comes down to the GB/GBA because that is where the core games are.

Games that have no region coding. So that people can trade with anyone. That’s the point of Pokemon after all: making new gaming friends, trading Pokemon, and portable player vs player RPG goodness. A guy from Japan can trade with someone from Australia. A person from England can trade with a person from Kentucky. Something not normally possible, because console games stupidly have region coding.

And for Pokemon Box to only have region coding? Well it’s a slap in the face to all that Pokemon is supposed to be. Imagine my surprise when I have copies of Ruby, Sapphire, Flame Red and Leaf Green, all in Japanese and I can’t use Pokemon Box with them. Only my two US carts (1 of Ruby and 1 of Sapphire) are able to interact with the system. Which means I still have to do things the old fashioned way.

So much for moving my Celebi in one quick stroke. Or my PokeCol Pokemon into my Leaf Green game with the nearly complete Pokedex! Nope. Even though Nintendo knows the majority of people who would want Pokemon Box are people with Japanese carts because they love the series so much, they couldn’t wait for the translation, they’ve made it so this would be wonderful gift to Pokemon fans akin to how Tantalus spent eternity in Tartarus!

Okay, maybe not that extreme, but no in order to really use Pokmon box, you have to upload your Japanese Pokemon six at a time to a US cart, than transport them all in ONE FELL SWOOP to Pokemon Box. And trust me, as my friends can tell you, all that is so time consuming it’s frustrating.

So does Pokemon Box achieve its purpose? Yes and No. Ironically the truly loyal and zealous Pokemon fans will be burned by it and bitch about it for two pages as I just have, while the casual Pokemon fans will look at it and say, “Why the heck do I need that?”

But as long as you have US carts and either a bunch of friends or a bunch of Pokecarts, Pokemon Box will be an asset to you like no other.

Reason D’etre Rating: 6/10

2. Graphics

Well, there’s not really any graphics for Pokemon Box. It’s a bunch of boxes with the only graphics being either pictures of the Pokemon from the GBA games showing up on your TV screen, or a pic of a red headed anime girl with a short skirt who manages your Pokemon Box for you.

Pokemon Box doesn’t exist for graphical reasons. It exists as a database and storage facility so you can spend hundreds of hours trying to get shiny version of all 300+ Pokemon.
The Boxes are nicely designed and you can change how they look, and you can also make little figurines of the Pokemon you have collected and display them for whoever is sad enough to want to see that. But there’s nothing here truly amazing of processor straining.

Graphics Rating: 5/10

3. Sound

All the music is great. Like any Pokemon game, the tunes are catchy and stick in your head forever. Of course, the majority of the music comes from playing Pokemon R/S through your Game Cube, but the actual music playing while you move Pokemon from game to game is excellent as well.

Monsters still make horrible cheesy electronic sounds instead of their actual Pokespeak that they have in the cartoons. Boo to that. Just do the voice dubbing already. If the Game Boy Colour could handle Pikachu actually saying, “PIKACHU!” the GBA and GCN can do it too. This is always a big annoyance of mine, and it really does hurt the feel of the game when a Pokemon makes a garbled bleat or crackle sound. Ugh.

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control

There really isn’t much here to talk about. You’ll only use the A, B, Start, and Z buttons, and the last two will only come into play when you are playing R/S through the Pokemon Box.

Controls are intuitive and you don’t even need to read the manual. Consider it again as a database and the controller is a 2 button mouse. It’s truly that simple. Anyone can operate the Pokebox as long as they have eyes and either hands, feet, or a mouth. Whatever can work the joystick for you.

Control Rating: 10/10

5. Replayability

Well, if you buy it, you’re going to be using it a lot. It let’s you play R/S on the big screen without a GB player AND without your GBA being on. Yes, aside from when you save the game, you don’t need the Game Boy on at all while playing R/S on the screen. It’s a nice bonus for those of you without a Game Boy Player. And even more so as you can switch from the R/S or FR/LG (once it is available in English) games with only a slight load time.

If you plan on using it to have the most powerful Pokemon team ever assembled, you’ll be using this a lot. A lot at first, but eventually it will trickle down as your super team is made and you realize only a simpering weirdo with no social life is really going to go after shiny versions of all Pokemon and raise them all to level 100 with maxed out stats. It’s time consuming, but only in a way that anal retentive people with OCD or a Pokemon addiction that makes mine look harmless and normal would find pleasurable.

Replayability: 6/10

6. Balance

I’m going to stick another nitpick on here. Besides the aforementioned region control lock out, which I feel also should go under balance because it messes everything up, there is the fact Pokemon Box is only accessible when you have 100 or more Pokemon in your Pokedex. I dislike this big time simply because you can store Pokemon in there, but you can’t take any out. Again, this is supposed to streamline trading and storing, and this little clause just makes it all the harder to get any real productive use out of Pokemon Box.

Then there is also the fact if you take a friends Graveller or Machoke or Haunter or any other Pokemon that evolves through trading and stick them into your game via the Pokemon Box, they will NOT evolve. Again, supposed to be making trading easier so you don’t need two GBAs and a game link cable. But nope. Strike two for Nintendo with their weird little screw ups here.

All in all, something that should have been a simple and wonderful design became a cumbersome annoyance that frustrated me more times that it evoked happiness from me.

Would it have been so hard to add the ability to pry from or hand over items to the Pokemon. Or be able to move items from your GBA in one fell swoop to your Pokemon Box like you can the Pokemon? I was hoping Pokemon Box was going to be a giant upgraded version of the computer you are always logging into in the Pokemon games. Alas, no.

Great idea, poorly executed.

Balance Rating: 4/10

7. Originality

In a nutshell it’s just a large version of the Pokemon Storage system found in every Pokemon RPG ever. There’s no real originality into it. It’s just a chance for you to have thousands of Pokemon twittering around on a Game Cube memory card.

There are some neat twists, like being able to move tons of Pokemon at a time and the fact you have a database in addition to the storage system. But things like hidden eggs that you can get and the ability to play Pokemon on a TV without a Game Boy Player are just things from the old Pokemon Stadium games.

Nothing truly original, but what is here is decent.

Originality Rating: 4/10

8. Addictiveness

Unless you are addicted to number crunching, moving things, and staring at stats for hours, this is probably not your idea of a good game. Hell, it’s not even a game. It’s a DATA BASE you can use on your cube for all GBA Pokemon Games and PokeCol.

However, it is fun to do a big move or to arrange all your hundreds of Pokemon to see who has the best stats and movesets and thus who would be best for breeding. But the enjoyment passes after a night of owning this. Then it basically becomes work. Again, this purchase is only for those who really don’t want to play any other game save for a 2 year old GBA game.

Most people will only ever need to do a mass exodus from their GBA games to the Cube once or twice and then it will sit around unless you really need it, or as I keeping harping on, you are a true psychotically obsessed Pokemaniac.

Addictiveness: 4/10

9. Appeal Factor

Well it’s exceedingly hard to get, and even then you need to be a Pokemon addict (or read this review) to know it exists. It will piss off have of the very niche audience that would be interested in buying this, but the other half will enjoy it.

Snag this only if you want to have thousands of digital monsters on a memory card. Or if you actually think it will be worth something down the road.

Appeal Factor: 1/10

10. Miscellaneous

Oy. Not until the very end of the review can I shower praise on this. There is one thing Nintendo really did right with all of Pokemon Box and this is it. First, it’s only twenty bucks. A nice price, especially if you’re an addict. But besides getting the game you get a ton of free stuff.

You get: A GBA to GCN link cable, a special limited edition 59 block memory card that is ruby coloured on one side and sapphire on the other, and two special Pokemon badges that are different with each package. I got one of each gender of Nidoran. Awwww!

At twenty bucks, these special bonuses are like giving Pokemon Box away for free. Can’t beat free, eh?

As well, hidden in the game when you upload enough Pokemon to Pokemon Box, you can get 4 ultra special Pokemon. Ones that learn moves your Pokemon can’t otherwise. They are:

Swablu with False Swipe (Nice! A Dragon with False Swipe is just an amazing combo)

Zigazoon with Extreme Speed (WOW! Not only was the evolved form of this Pokemon a great little guy to have, but now he’s even more amazing. Possibly one of the best normal Pokemon in the game now. If not THE best.)

Skitty with Pay Day (Meh.)

Pichu with Surf (OMGWTFLOL!!!!11!!!!1)

Hey, a Surfing Raichu is crazy powerful. Probably the best Electric Pokemon in R/S after Magenton.

These aspects alone make Pokemon Box worth buying, even if the rest of your experience with it is average to mediocre at best. Sure, it takes a lot of work (1500 Pokemon) to get the Pichu, but it’s very much worth it. Thankfully the Swablu you automatically get and the Coon only takes 60 Pokemon uploaded onto Pokemon Box to get.

Again, it’s basically getting the game for free when you buy some needed accessories for your cube, and 4 one of a kind Pokemon for your game. And it’s rare and obscure. Something for everyone!

Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10

Short Attention Span Summary
The most niche release ever for the Game Cube. Only snatch it up if you fall into one of three categories: Pokemon fanatic, guy who collects rare and obscure games, or you need a new memory card and link cable and don’t mind getting a free game with the purchase.

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