Review: Pokemon Battle Revolution (Nintendo Wii)

(Alex’s Note: Sorry guys. No screenshots. This was supposed to go up yesterday but then I got a call and broke some really bad news to Glazer, Hatton and the rest of IP’s IWC guys. After that the site got so much traffic that the image loader still isn’t working today.)

Pokemon Battle Revolution
Developer: Genius Sonority Inc.
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Turn based RPG
Release Date: 6/26/2007

It’s my first ever Nintendo Wii review. Is anyone surprised it is a Pokemon Game?

PBR is actually a step down from the Game Cube games. They’re removed anything resembling a story mode and it’s just battling, battling, battling. It doesn’t even have the mini-games of Pokemon Stadium. As much as I love Pokemon, this is basically a $50 add on to your DS cartridges that lets you see your Pokemon actually battle and in 3-D to boot. Because of the pure battling nature and the need for a copy of Pokemon Pearl or Pokemon Diamond to actually achieve anything with PBR, the game is geared towards only a small niche of Pokemon fans. This doesn’t mean you need the DS games to play PBR, or that you can’t have fun with the game if you’re not well versed in Pokelore. It just means that your experience will be limited otherwise.

With this clarification in place, is PBR worth your money when it doesn’t even have the options afforded by the venerable Nintendo 64 version of this game? Is it an overpriced clunker that only lets you see how the DS and Wii can interact, or is it going to be as enjoyable as it is guaranteed to sell truckloads?


Let’s Review

1. Modes

As I said before, there is no real story mode here. Your battle mode involves your main character traveling to the island of Poketopia. Here you will battle through ten coliseums, each with their own specific rules. Some might not even let you use your own Pokemon, while others might have specific rules like Knockout battles or your opponents might get to choose the order in which you can use your Pokemon.

Once you beat all ten coliseums, you’ll get a very powerful Pikachu with moves you wouldn’t otherwise see on him. As well, four of the coliseums will change their format completely. For example, one only lets you use Pokemon between levels 1-5 and said Pokemon MUST have been one you hatched from an egg. These Pokemon also have to have multiple evolutions, so no Level 5 Spirtomb for you. You’ll also find that the post game here is without a doubt the hardest battles you will ever encounter in a Pokemon game. They are cruel and brutal. Again, only the most dedicated Pokemon gamer is going to bother with this, much less get past it.

There is also Player vs. Player mode. Here you can either play against a friend in your home, or with the Wii’s wireless internet connection, you can play against friends all over the globe. There is a catch to this though. You not only have to have your opponent’s friend code for your DS cartridge, but they also must be entered into your Wii as well. This can create a bit of frustration in both parties if you forget to do this, but it also prevents “Xbox Live Syndrome” where trolls and jackasses ruin the games for everyone.

Besides these battles, there are two other modes. The first isn’t really a mode per say. Instead it is a way to purchase items for your DS game such as TM’s, evolution stones, berries, and other rare items. You earn Pokecoupons as you battle. Then you spend these coupons on the items you want and send the items to your DS game. This and your earnable Pikachu are examples of why I say the game is really only able to reach its true value if you have the DS games. Even then, you’re basically paying a totally of 85-120 dollars to get everything. At least Coliseum and XD gave something back to the gamers who didn’t have a GBA or Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire.

Finally, there is the new ability to customize your trainer’s appearance. You’ll start off with a limited set of male and female base designs, but as you progress you’ll be able to pick from a vast array of parts for your Trainer and have them look just the way you want them to. Although this has no lasting value, it is fun when you play against your friends to see what wacky stuff they come up with.

The game can be rewarding to those devoted to catching them all in the DS carts, but for money there is no real reward. You can already play against people and trade over the internet with the DS games. If you’re looking to play against your friends, make do with what you already have, rather than spending $50 to see Pokemon in 3-D and to have a customized trainer. The game would rate higher if all these modes gave something back to those that didn’t own Diamond or Pearl. But it doesn’t. Pokemon Battle Revolution is an expensive add-on for D/P and they’re not denying it.

Modes rating: 5/10

2. Graphics

I will say that this is the best looking game I’ve played on the Wii yet. But then, all I’ve played are Wii Sports, Virtual Console games, Trauma Center, Super Monkey Ball, and Bust a Move. Still, the graphics are highly detailed and Pokemon has never looked better. For graphics aficionados, it’s going to be hard for another Wii title to top the level of detail and design in PBR.

This is also the first time you will see Pokemon attack each other. In the handheld games, the graphics are basically a static picture with some animated quick motion to demonstrate an attack has happened. It was fine in the days of the Game Boy and even the Game Boy Advance, but with the DS, there really should be a little more than that. With the Stadium, Coliseum, and XD, the graphics were improved and in 3-D, but it clung to the Final Fantasy cop out graphics where a character would take a step, do an attack where you never saw any actual contact, step back and repeat until one Pokemon won. Again, it was pretty, but ultimately unsatisfying and reeked (at least to me) of laziness. With Pokemon Battle Revolution, we get to see actual physical contact between the Pokemon. It’s full contact cock fighting at its best. As well, there is also background damage as well. It’s kind of nice to finally get an idea of the property damage Trainers are responsible for when Pikachu lets out a thunderbolt or a Gyarados releases its hyper beam.

Even the Create-A-Trainer mode is impressive with the amount of options and detail. It’s actually deeper than SD vs Raw 2007, but then the latest WWE game was pretty lackluster in the CAW department. Still it is impressive that Pokemon can show up Yukes and THQ, considering this is the formers first attempt at customized characters and the latter have been doing it for a decade.

In short, it’s the best looking Pokemon game yet as well as the best looking Wii game. Although the rest of the game is circumspect at best, PBR is the standard bearer for visuals on the Wii.

Graphics Rating: 10/10

3. Sound

Thank god they have been listening to me. “People want the voice actors in the games. People want to hear the Pokemon talk like they do in the anime. For the love of God, it’s 2007. Midis should not pass for noises in the game.” Finally, for the first time since Pokemon Puzzle League, we have the anime voice actors in the game. Well, one of them anime. The narrator of the Pokemon cartoons, Ken Gates, is your guide and commentator here throughout Pokemon Battle Revolution. When his voice starts up I have to admit I marked. Would anyone else make an appearance? A cameo by Team Rocket perhaps? Alas, no. But at least it is a step in the right direction. The game is filled with the usual MIDI leftovers from 1996, but at least there’s continuity. Or something. I’m not a fan of it myself and would prefer to see the Console Pokemon games put a little more into the overall package in this regard. Like the lack of a story mode, this smacks to me of laziness/rushing a game out to make the Japanese launch date for the Wii.

Musically the game is…decent. It’s not the best I’ve ever seen in a Pokemon game. Usually the songs to these games are timeless and get stuck in your head. Not so here. Again everything feels rushed. That really sticks in my craw because aside from a few notable exceptions (all the 3rd generation RPG’s for example), the games are pretty seamless. Music is such an important part of Pokemon and all though nothing here is bad, it’s doesn’t stand out like most of the other Pokemon scores, and that’s a disappointment. This series is usually better than “Above Average.” But not here.

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control and Gameplay

There’s two ways to play this game, one is with the Nintendo DS as your controller and the other is with your Wii controller. Both pretty much play the same way, although I would suggest the DS, as the DS’s two screens allow you to keep your attacks and Pokemon items secret. Those using the Wii controller have to use an on the TV menu, giving your opponent a head’s up and possible advantage. Once again we see the game is primarily an add-on for the DS Pokemon game owners. It sounds awful that I keep harping on this, but I want everyone who is considering buying this to realize you need that copy of Pokemon D/P in order to get use out of half the game’s rewards or features.

The actual compatibility between the Wii and the DS is quite good. I do advise you read the manual regarding their connection though, especially for younger gamers. Remember, you will need both a Pokemon Friend Code and a Wii code in order to play against each other online.

There’s not really much to the controls. It’s the same as every other Pokemon RPG . if you have played one, regardless of the system, you know the basics. The engine is solid and one of the best in the history of TB RPG’s.

I also haven’t noticed any lag when playing against people online. I was afraid there would be some akin to fighting games on Xbox Live, but in fact, it’s pretty seamless. As this is the first online game for the Wii, that promises great things ahead for this console.

I’m sure like me, you’ve noticed Wii controls are hit or miss, generally with the first party games being incredibly solid and other games like Super Monkey Ball being…not so much. Thanks to PBR being a turn based RPG and a Nintendo published title, you have nothing to worry about control wise.

Control and Gameplay: 8/10

5. Replayability

The replayability of this game hinges on to key factors. The first is if you are trying to “catch ’em all” in Diamond, Pearl…or god help you, both. Then you’re going to be playing this game a lot, if only to get the Pokecoupons. The other factor depends on how many friends you have that play Pokemon. Even then it will depend on if they have this game and want to play via the Wii instead of the DS. Without one or the other, the game is probably good for a once through…if that. Again, you can’t get any real rewards from the game without a DS Pokemon game. The game is also pretty hard to beat without your own hand raised Pokemon. The Pokemon in the rental shop are pretty awful and it takes a pretty skilled trainer to use them effectively. And if you’re that good, it’s only because YOU ALREADY OWN THE HANDHELD GAMES. See the Catch-22?

Look, I’m a huge Pokemon fan. Without any ego or hyperbole, I’m probably the best known Pokemaniac out there. PBR however, left me cold. The game is ONLY about battling, and even the most casual RPG fan knows that as solid as a battle system and engine are to an RPG, it seems some sort of plot of story to keep things flowing. Otherwise it’s mindless hack n’ slash. Much like Pokemon Stadium or the non-RPG modes of the GCN games, I was bored here. I need a why for my fighting and some sort of goal other than “because you must” as my reason d’etre.

If you’re primarily a battle fan, you’ll go nuts for this. It’s got some strong challenges and there’s a lot to do here. For most gamers, the nonstop fighting will get old fast. I liked the Pikachu reward, but after getting the same thing in Pokemon Box, and actual Legends like Lugia and Ho-Oh in the GCN games, PBR is a pretty lackluster when held up to its processors and if you’ve played the others, you’ll feel the same way to.

There’s not enough here to keep the Pokehype going, which is too bad. It looks good and it plays well, but the rewards are lackluster especially when compared to the challenges. A download disc ala the Jirachi one but with something like Celebi or Mew or even Darkrai would have really helped to make this worth out while.

Replyability Rating: 5/10

6. Balance

I’ll make this perfectly clear: this is the hardest Pokemon game ever. Especially once you beat the game. Then the four remixed coliseums get even harder. If you try just using rental Pokemon, you will be bitch slapped hard. If you have children and you want them to be in a foul mood for a few days, give them this game without the DS games. Listen to the vocabulary that ushers forth from their mouth. Words you didn’t know they knew yet.

Some Coliseums are crazy easy. Others are downright cruel. Thrill to the awesomeness of the random Coliseum where everyone gets two random Pokemon. I shit you not, when I received my beta Japanese copy of this game back in Dec ’06, I scored a Magikarp as one of my Pokemon. You know, the Pokemon that can’t DO ANYTHING. Why would you do that to someone? After I got my ass beat and went through the Coliseum again, I got a Legendary. It hurts my head.

This game is geared for a niche audience. The people that know the Generation 4 IV by heart. The people that have the Unknown power formula memorized. People who spend days just breeding Pokemon to get the perfect egg based move set. This game is going to frustrate a lot of people who play it for the Coliseum Mode.

If you’re up for a challenge, here is your game. Just know you’re going to have to have spent a long time with the DS game if you want to even start to get anywhere with this one.

Balance Rating: 4/10

7. Originality

There is nothing at all new in this game. All the Coliseums are based on previous Pokemon challenges going as far back as Pokemon Yellow. This isn’t even a stripped down version of the Pokemon Coliseum/XD games: it is a stripped down version of the freaking Pokemon Stadium games! How bad is it that a Wii game is lacking features and options missing out on an N64 game? It’s such a drop down in quality and innovation that it doesn’t just hurt me as a long time Pokemon fan, but it annoys the crap out of me in the same way Capcom Fighting Evolution did. This is your first RPG for the Wii. The first Pokemon game. The first online game. So why not put a lot of effort in, instead of cutting corners? Why not give away something other than yet another Surfing Pikachu? This is the third time it has been done after all. Seriously, have the end prize be a Mewtwo with Crunch and the game would be infinitely more rewarding to gamers. Hell, even a remixed Regi trio would have helped to sell copies and stave off the complaints people are going to have regarding this game.

Pokecoupons have been done before. Even the “Create Your Own Trainer” feature has been around in other games for a decade. It’s too little too late to be considered innovative. It’s sad that Pokemon has become synonymous with innovation and reinvention since its inception, and then one of the most touted games for the Wii has as much love and care put into it as an Electronic Arts game. For shame.

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

I will say this for the game. It is damn addictive. Even when a Trainer is pretty hard or the game throws a real curve ball at you, you want to keep playing. You want to win. You want that damn Pikachu. You want to be able to make your customized trainer look even more like Mr. T or Richard Simmons. You want to see how far you can get in the marathon Coliseum that comes up after you beat the game. Most of all, playing against your friends in this game helps fuel the addiction. Just one more game to see who has the best Pokemon.

At the same time, a lot of that addiction is based off of the DS game compatibility, and it is not fair to rate the game based just on that. Without Pokemon Diamond or Pearl, the game’s value here is reduced drastically. You can’t use your Pokecoupons purchases for anything lasting, you can’t use the game’s big prize, and you will get your ass handed to you by your friends if they have the DS games and you don’t. Again, Pokemon Battle Revolution is a supplement that costs more than the actual game itself. That’s not cool.

With the DS games in tow, you can get pretty into PBR. Without them, the game’s value drops and you’ll barely play it at all. Rather extreme, but that’s what it comes down to.

Addictiveness Rating: 5/10

9. Appeal Factor

It’s Pokemon. It’s going to sell pretty well. Pokemon is the best selling video game franchise of all time. Usually that helps a lot in this category. However, there’re issues with this game that brings the score back down to reality. The first is the need for the DS to optimize gameplay. Then there’s the need for Diamond or Pearl. You’re paying approximately 250 dollars to play Pokemon Battle Revolution: the same cost as the Wii itself. Ouch.

D/P has proven itself to be amazing in terms of getting people to trade and battle online. Before then the pvp aspects of Pokemon were hit or missed, based on your friends group. Now it’s flourishing like never before. Can PBR mimic this feat? It’s possible. There are less Wii owners than DS owners though. And even less people who own both and a Pokemon game for the DS. Can PBR be a system seller? It’s possible. After all the GCN Pokemon games were, but then they had an RPG mode.

In the end due to the challenge level of the game mixed with the Wii drought and the need to have another system and another game just to play this against friends, the actual amount of people willing to invest that much just to have some 3-D Pokemon is going to be quite low compared to the people jamming away on their DS playing Pokemon in all its glory.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

You know, I really am scared to death that this is the future of Pokemon. That is going to take the Final Fantasy approach to gaming. That from now on each game is going to be about style and not substance. That little to nothing will occur in terms of innovation. That is will now be geared to the lowest common denominator.

Of course, that isn’t true. Just look at the challenge level of this game. It’s definitely geared towards the hardcore elitist zealots of we amongst the Pokemon faithful. I am highly disappointed it is missing any real substance. Again, at least the Pokemon Stadium games have mini games, and the Game Cube games had an actual RPG game you could go through without the need of Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald/Fire Red/Leaf Green. This just smacks of a cheap ploy to make some quick cash off the ardent fan base this game has and also to see, “See? RPG for the Wii! Online gaming for the Wii! POKEMON FOR THE WII!” I understand this was a launch title in Japan for the Wii, but even then, there should have been something more. This feels like more of a tech demo than Wii Sports was. In all I’m really disappointed by this, especially after how outstanding Pokemon D & P were. Hopefully the next Wii game will really showcase the franchise instead of being a technically sound but ultimately soulless creation.

Miscellaneous Rating: 4/10

The Scores
Modes: 5/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 6/10
Control & Gameplay: 8/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 4/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 4/10
Total Score: 55 /100

Final Score: 5.5/10

Short Attention Span Summary
Unless you’re a really big Pokemon fan, there is absolutely no reason to get this game, Not even casual fans or occasional RPG dabblers should bother with this. You’re going to need a DS and either Pokemon Pearl or Diamond to even make considering buying this a rational thought. For those that have the necessary pieces, you’ll find Pokemon Battle Revolution to be a solid and beautiful game designed to test you like very few turn based RPG’s ever have. It’s a lackluster first RPG/first Pokemon game for the WII, but it is a solid one.

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