Retrograding Advance 02.01.03

Quick note before we begin, it appears the wheels are back in gear for Alex to do the first “All Flesh Must Be Eaten” Graphic Novel. No idea when it’ll be on shelves, but it gives you a reason to pester to get he buzz started. 411comics will probably be enjoying that bit of news, even though I admitted to one of their writers that I haven’t read comics since Justice League International, the best series ever.

Now, I know a massive amount of people have probably tuned out simply because its covering the ALL Pokemon system. And trust me, I understand completely. But I do cover hand-held systems for 411mania and it’s been sitting in my home for over a year. And whatever web page is going to cover it in detail? Even EGM only had a paragraph about it many moons ago. So I’m covering this because it’s there.

The first thing to note is that in the US and Japan, you can only get a Pokemon Mini at a Pokemon Center. This may have changed in the six months I’ve been in England, but still claims it’s exclusive to there so you have to go to Kyoto, Tokyo, or The Big Apple to get this system and the games. Not so for Europe. England VG stores have Pokemon mini’s and its games all over and going for dirt cheap. Pokemon never hit the UK like it did the rest of the world, being that people here like scary puppets instead of cartoons. BARNEY is still huge for kids in England people. The system is by no means common in England however, as I’ve only seen it in London, but it’s a non-exclusive thing as it is in the US and Japan. It is sold across Europe as well, but I have to admit ignorance to its popularity and location on the continent.

The Pokemon Mini is actually based on the same design for the Pocket Pikachu GS, only the Pokemon Mini is in Black and White. The system comes in Smoochum Purple, Chikorita Green, and Wooper Blue. I know, three crappy Pokemon. The Smoochum Purple was a gift from my now fiancee, who correctly thought the way to my heart was combined Pokemon with a rare and unusual piece of video game paraphernalia. Don’t let the colors fool you though. All the systems look exactly the same with 90% of them being transparent plastic. The colors refer only to the buttons and D pad.

The system is insanely tiny, hiding in the palm of your hand, but has graphics in-between 8 the GBC and GBA. And the graphics aren’t the only bit of amazement in this tiny system. The system has rumble technology, as well as tilt n tumble’ tech from the very cool Kirby GBC game. The control pad and buttons are very sharp and handle much easier than you would think due to their size. It’s like the anti-xbox controller. It’s probably the most impressive hand held I’ve seen just because of the size compared to the capabilities. It doesn’t have the graphics, game supply, or even the hardware behind a Pocket color, gba, or Wonderswan, but it’s small, cute, and packs a lot of power behind it. Best of all, the battery (a single AAA) last forever. I’ve had my system for over a year, and it’s still on the same battery. Very nice money saver.

Now for the down sides. It’s cute and petite, but that’s a down side to the games. They’re about half the size of my thumb and about a quarter of an inch thick. So they can get lost easily. And since the system and games are hard to track down in the US and Japan, losing a cartridge is not only annoying, but expensive to replace. My fiancee managed to lose one in her purse for two weeks. That’s how small they are. Another problem is the obvious Pokemon theme. As usual, I ignore the cute “kiddie” graphics of Pokemon and enjoy the gameplay. However as these games are not about Role-playing or strategy and solely on Pokemon doing Pokemon things, it can (and will be) a turn off to people who like gore, violence, and games that don’t make them appear to be lacking machismo. And those people will be missing out on some of the toughest games ever made. Don’t laugh: Pokemon pinball and some of the Pokemon Puzzles have to have been made by Satan. And that’s another problem. There is no clear market for the Pokemon Mini. The games can be super hard, thus pissing off kids, and because so many gamers fear Pokemon’s cuteness, they won’t try something that will turn out to be too challenging. And who wants to admit being beaten by a Pokemon game? Finally, you can really only get the system and games online via unless you live in a city with a Pokemon Center or in Europe. And again, this is bad business making any system hard to find is just not cost effective. Not to mention annoying your fanatical fanbase and retailers by saying “only certain people get to have this game/system/figure/comic book cover, etc.” Like with the new Mega Man Battle Network games (Blue and white). It’s Capcom’s equiv of Pokemon but now you’ll only be able to get one of the games at a specific retailer (still to be determined). I normally praise Capcom for being the best customer-minded company in the business, but crap on a stick was this a stupid idea not only for Capcom financially, but it’s just made Mega Man blue worth twice as much as White before the game is already out, and twice as hard to find. Collecting is all well and good for things as cheap as comics and toys. But a 40$ game? It’s just wrong wrong wrong in my opinion. Okay, rant over. Back to Pokemon.

There are four games for the Pokemon Mini, each containing a ton of games within. So even though each game is only 15$, you really do get a lot of options with each. S let’s take a look at them.

Pokemon Party

This is the cutesy little game that comes with all Pokemon Mini’s. All the games are surprisingly easy, but go up in difficulty rather quickly.

The first game is Pikachu’s rocket start. It’s easy to learn, hard to master, a common line I would use throughout this column if I wanted to be lame and boring. Basically all you do is wait until the Pokemon mini rumbles, than hit any button or shake the system to make Pikachu run. If you hit the button right after the system rumbles, you win. If not, you lose. Even a dead monkey can understand that. The difficultly is that with each race you win, the timing of the rumble and it’s length changes. This makes you jumpy and you’ll find you often jump the gun with impatience.

Slowking’s judge is my favorite game. Basically you have a volleyball court without the net. A ball is thrown and you have to call whether it’s in or out of the court. Again, sounds simple. You press A for out, B for in. But when the ball starts flying at the speed of sound, your fingers and eyes will eventually stop co-operating. An easily addictive and time-consuming game, especially when you get your score over 100.

Chansey’s dribble is a racing game that involves some actual skill. Basically you have to get Chansey to dribble a ball to the goal in a certain amount of time. The closer the ball is to the center of Chansey’s chest, the hard you will kick it, but the harder you kick it, the more out of control the call goes. Yet another simple but cute game.

Bellosom’s dance is the worst game of the all, as it’s just a Poke version of Space channel 5, but with hair trigger controls. Being a person who absolutely sucks at these type of games, I’m going to admit my opinion of this is biased, but again, the game is really simple to learn the basics of.

Hitmonchan’s boxing reminds me of the old track and field games for the NES which I adored. They were just button mashing. But this game is all about system SHAKING. That’s right, if you want the worst fighting Pokemon in the entire collection of Pokemon to pull off a Rocky Balboa, you shake your mini as hard as you f’n to act as your flurry of punches. But when the system starts rumbling, you have to stop shaking it and stay perfectly still to rope-a-dope.’ This is truly a weird game, but another cute one. Especially the end scene if Hitmonchan loses.

The last game on Pokemon party is 2 player only and as I don’t know anyone else with a Pokemon mini, I can’t comment on it. However according to the rules, one player is offense, the other is defense. If both people hit the same direction, defense gets a point. If the hit opposite ones, offense gets one. It sounds horribly lame, but at the same time, so do many of the games in Pokemon party until you play them.

Pokemon Puzzle Collection

Probably the best game in the series, PPC is just a bunch of brainteasers that range from super easy, to so fucking hard you’ll blow a vein. I’ve never seen a game piss my fiancée off more, except for maybe Silent Hill.

For each puzzle you solve, you free a Pokemon. Obviously, the object is to free all the Pokemon to get a complete pokedex. And when you finish each puzzle, you get a neat little animation and a pokedex page. It adds a lot to the game, simply because you do get a reward for finishing something that can take you up to 30 minutes to solve.

There are 4 kinds of puzzles, but you have to clear a third of the game, before the fourth type (the evil hard maze puzzles) are unlocked for you to solve. Again, VERY cool addition to a game already packed full of stuff. The first type, motion puzzle, are like the little shifting block puzzles you get as party favors, but because the finished puzzle is a Pokemon in some sort of movement, it’s a little more difficult than it sounds. Easy puzzles include Poliwhirl bobbing up and down, but they get harder with two Magnemite and a Magneton circling each other to a whole platoon of Voltorbs rolling across the screen. Trust me when I say you will find yourself having so much fun you can’t believed you’re also crazy with frustration. Next we have shadow puzzles, which are using various shapes to fill in silhouettes of a Pokemon. Again, they start off easy enough for a blind quadriplegic to solve, but become harder the more you do. The third set of puzzles are rescue puzzles. These involve trying to get a Pokemon down a hole by sliding blocks of various shapes and sizes around. Finally, there are the bane of my existence puzzles, that have no name but are very reminiscent of this old game I can’t remember the name of for the PC when I was still ins ingle digits. You have to attach the puzzles pieces to create lines from a lightbulb to Pikachu. Once you have done it correctly, Pikachu makes the light come on and a Pokemon is freed. They are the devil sent in electronic form into my precious Pokemon game. I hate them. Hate hate hate.

But seriously, if Nintendo got a clue and repackaged this for either game boy, it would sell hard, get high ratings, and really enhance the Pokemon puzzle collection already out for the N64 and GBC. It’s a great time waster and you’re actually using your brain instead of just blowing stuff up.

Pokemon Zany Cards
And with every launch there’s one steaming pile of fecal matter. Here it’s Zany cards.
Wild Match is a bizarre card matching game that actually has a pile of rules to it, where you match cards by picture, evolution, and Pikachu with legends. It’s slow, the computer cheats like hell, and the commentary from famous Pokemon cartoon characters drives you insane, as you can’t turn it off.
Special 7 is an UNO rip off. It’s the best game on here. Next.
Card Duel is a 2-player game only, so I haven’t played it, but according to the rules, it’s a rip off of WAR, the lamest card game ever.
4 Kings is a rip-off of Solitaire, except the game cheats to make sure you can win every time. How often does one actually win at Solitaire?

Okay, time to move on to the last and really good game in an attempt to strike from your brain that Pokemon Zany cards exists.

Pokemon Pinball Mini

If you’ve played the very cool Pokemon Pinball (first GB game with rumble feature) for the Game Boy, then you’ll be shocked to know this game is EVEN better. And harder, which is going to also annoy you at the same time since Pokemon pinball was a cheating turd when it wanted to be.

What’s neat about this is that PPM has a campaign mode. And that it’s more like skeet ball than pinball. Each level (and there’s tons!) has a specific goal, from a certain amount of shots made in a certain amount of time, to achieving or beating a score the game sets for you, to even catching a Pokemon. Now catching these Pokemon are rare, but when you have managed to get one, you can PLAY as them. ,br>

That’s right. You play as a Pokemon. They’re your “plunger”. Each of the 6 Pokemon (Diglett, Pikachu, Wobuffet, Clefairy, Poliwag) hits the ball in different ways. Diglett is best over all, Pikachu hits at angles, Clefairy can control the ball after you shoot it, etc. And some levels can only be beat by using the right Pokemon. So PPM becomes a game of skill, strategy, and luck. It’s probably the second best portable pinball game after Pinball of the Dead (Seriously people, GET THAT GAME!).

You can also play just score or time challenges if you want, but only the ones you have already cleared. So it becomes once again in your best interest to beat quest mode.

You can get the system and all 4 games off for under 100$ and it’s a very good buy. Pokemon Mini games are more for the person who enjoys thinking games than action based games, and if you’re that kind of fan, you won’t go away disappointed. In fact if you like puzzles, you’ll spends more hours with your Mini than with a very long RPG. But at the same time, with only two of the cartridges being excellent, one being mediocre, and one only for the braindead, it’s not worth running around JUST to get one. If you can, do it, just don’t go out of your way for one.

See you next week with another reader request: The History of Shining Force. Golden Sun fans may not want to read it, as they’ll learn about how much better Camelot’s original RPG series was.