8.0

Pokémon Colosseum review
Transcending a mere pocketed experience

Summary:

The Introduction:
I remember reading reviews for Pokemon Colosseum, stating that it started the downfall for the Pokemon series. Even back in 2004, I was laughing my ass off at how absurd the concept of Pokemon getting worse was - if anything, the Pokemon series has only been getting better. Not just back then but even now, the Pokemon series continues to improve its style of play by introducing new features and/or expanding on their older concepts. Having said that, there was one mechanic introduced to Ruby and Sapphire that was underappreciated, underused and generally left to sit in the corner, and that, my friends, is double battling. Essentially, it revolves around each trainer using two Pokemon at once. It opened the floodgates for a wide assortment of strategies, but Ruby and Sapphire instead decided to take a nice big shit all over it and essentially used it as a gimmick. Genius Sonority were tasked with developing a console Pokemon game, and they all decided to base one on double battling. Surprisingly, they do a fantastic job of this with Pokemon Colosseum.

The Story:
Instead of basing it around the act of acquiring eight badges and challenging the Pokemon League, it's instead based on righting the wrongs caused by your former gang. See, you play as Wes (or whatever you name him), once a member of Team Snagem, but now trying to distance himself from said crime syndicate possibly after realizing why it is they snag Pokemon. As a sort of kiss goodbye, he blows up their base and makes off with the Snag Machine, which is used to snag Pokemon owned by trainers – as a rule of thumb, you cannot capture a Pokemon owned by a trainer; Pokemon are only bound to one Poke Ball until the owner of that Poke Ball releases them back into the wild. When he enters the oasis city of Phenac, he saves a girl by the name of Rui, who can discern Shadow Pokemon from regular Pokemon, from the clutches of what'll eventually be revealed to be Team Cipher. What Team Cipher want is total domination of the world via Shadow Pokemon, which they manufacture by snagging Pokemon and then corrupting them to become emotionless killing (well, fighting, but they may as well be killing) machines with no possible way to bring them back to normal... or so you would think.

I have to say that this is a refreshing way of handling the Pokemon series and no doubt, Game Freak took notice and would cite this as an influence for their storywriting for Diamond/Pearl/Platinum and the Black and White games (erm, the Pokemon ones, of course). I do have a number of grievances with it however – for one thing, I felt that Wes's involvement with Team Snagem wasn't explained outside of “well, he snagged Pokemon” and thus it's rather jarring when you think about Wes wanting to save the world. Now, I'm not expecting a five hour long soliloquy detailing his disgust with Team Snagem's plans as this isn't Metal Gear Solid 4. No, all I really want is for Wes to develop his character. But no, he's a silent protagonist, because that never went the way of Blink 182's relevancy at the time or anything! The other issue is that really, it's a game of ideas. You're presented with Shadow Pokemon that are for the express purpose of world domination. Rui is able to see Shadow Pokemon... but how? Just for the sake of plot convenience? It's clear that Genius Sonority's shot for a darker take on the Pokemon universe could use some more development because as it is, it has a good setting with not much to really take advantage of it... It's also a shame because the writing is good. The dialogue you read from the various NPCs range from helpful to genuinely funny. Ordinarily, the Pokemon series indulges in this style, but Pokemon Colosseum I feel does this the most justice. However, that's all the story seems to amount to. Color me disappointed.

The Graphics:
The graphics are rather unimpressive and seem to come in two distinct flavors. One such flavor contains the environments and human character models, looking like something out of a Dreamcast game. Texture resolution isn't even in this game's dictionary – the textures are either far too blurry or look as if the sharpen tool had been applied too much to them. There are also some ghastly jagged edges around the character models. Their clothes have a little bit of detail to them, but otherwise, with the exception of Wes's badass jacket, they don't really have anything to them. It's... alright. The other flavor comes in the inconsistent quality of the Pokemon models. One look at the first and second generation Pokemon models is enough to wonder if they had actually grasped how powerful the Gamecube truly was. I mean, they look like ever so slightly touched up versions of their Nintendo 64 models. It's more baffling once you look at the third generation Pokemon models, which actually look nice. Their colors are more vivid, smoother and have a more shades of colors than their first and second generation counterparts.

But in reality, the graphics are mediocre – most of the attack animations consist of simple effects you could make after reading tutorials for some 3D program, flying animation looks more like airwalking and the inconsistency between the older and newer Pokemon models is... well, baffling to say the least, and even at best, it's merely presentable. It's a shame because I do like the designs – I like the desert resort town, the slummy town, the more relaxed retirement village and the grittiness of the underground city. These are some interesting designs that help differentiate the different towns from one another unlike the handheld games which are perfectly content with recycling basic designs ad nauseum. It's just a shame that I've seen better looking launch titles for the Playstation 2!

The Sound:
On the flipside, the sound design is fantastic. Each song is peppy, upbeat and memorable, whilst managing to suit the moment. The song present in the slummy streets of Pyrite Town is but a fine example – clicks, trumpets, bass and the odd cymbal, topped off with some synthesizer gives it a dirty jazzy feel. The song played when you face the Cipher Admins may consist of a short symphonic loop, but the composition leads to an epic track that gives the feeling of facing particularly strong Pokemon trainers. Well, not all Cipher Admin fights have this track, as the first time you face Miror B, you get the salsa dance mix, which will be stick in your head for all of eternity. Thankfully unlike the dreck from some flavor of the week boyband, it's a tune that you would love to have stuck in your head. God, I love this track, and really, every song in this game manages to convey the right atmosphere whilst retaining an upbeat aura. I do have to wonder why the Pokemon Stadium games have original, high quality cries for the Pokemon while on the superior Gamecube, the Pokemons' cries consist of their cries from the GBA games, complete with the quality of a GBA sound system... just why?

The Gameplay:
While Pokemon RPGs typically focus on capturing a team of Pokemon to take down the gyms, win the Pokemon League and occasionally thwart some diabolical plan, Pokemon Colosseum changes things up a bit. No doubt, a lot of people were upset with the vastly limited array of Pokemon that you can capture, not to mention the fact that you can only capture specific Pokemon from specific trainers. No more running in circles around tall grass to hopefully run into that Furret you've always wanted – there's a trainer whose Furret is affected by a dark aura which is detected by our walking plot device, Rui. The idea is to weaken it and capture it with Poke Balls using the Snag Machine. After the capture, it'll be in your party or in your PC. Perhaps the limited options are a bother as part of the fun of any given Pokemon game is having a wide assortment of Pokemon at your disposal, and perhaps you don't like having to only capture Pokemon from bosses and specific trainers, but in reality, this is actually more interesting. Let's face it – outside of newbies, most people gravitate towards a lineup consisting of their starter Pokemon, an obvious bruiser from early in the game, Gyarados, Kadabra/Alakazam/Gardevoir and an obvious bruiser from about halfway through the game, with perhaps the token Dragon type for good measure. All Colosseum does is make that process a bit trickier as you'll be required to experiment with which combination works best.

However, Shadow Pokemon are not quite as simple as that, as you'll also need to purify it in a sanctuary. But in between the capture and the purification, you'll need to open their hearts completely, meaning that you'll need to either battle with it or give it massages – no Millennium Puzzles and Keyblades in this game, folks. In battle, Shadow Pokemon may enter Hyper Mode, which can make Shadow Rush hit harder, although Shadow Rush also deals 12.5% recoil damage, making it rather risky especially for those with low HP. That is... if they listen to you, because in Hyper Mode, they may disobey you completely. You can call out to them to snap them out of it, thankfully. The more you use it, the higher the heart gauge gets, and the higher that gets, the more benefits you'll get. Well, okay, they're in the form of it remembering moves, but still, it'd be nice to have attacks other than Shadow Rush... yes, Shadow Pokemon initially only have Shadow Rush at their disposal. Yeah, I couldn't imagine doing this with nearly 400 Pokemon, especially since doing this with most of the 48 Shadow Pokemon alone feels like work. You don't necessarily have to purify them all unless you're gunning for 100%, but you may want to do this with whoever you plan on using on your team as Shadow Pokemon cannot acquire experience points. Only when they are purified, can they gain experience points, though they'll gain the experience points that they've accumulated as a Shadow Pokemon once they're purified, so there's also that to look forward to.

Perhaps the problems some would have with the whole limited options thing could be remedied by simply not having them as Shadow Pokemon or at least not having to go through the arduous process of using certain items or battling just to open up their hearts, but actually, this idea is one that works well in its favor. It not only adds a bit of challenge early on with the tension of them possibly doing nothing, but it also lets you truly raise these Pokemon much like you would an adopted child. There's actually more satisfaction to be gained from raising a successful adopted child than one that's always been under your care as you utilize their abilities to your advantage, rather than passing your abilities down onto them. Perhaps it seems like I'm justifying what may sound like bad game design, but really, it's one of those things you'll need to experience for yourself in order to know why I am in support of this in this particular game and its sequel. No, I'm not suggesting that you adopt a child or anything... unless you're ready to do so, of course. No, but I am suggesting that you give it a chance. It will grow onto you and give you a lot of satisfaction, guaranteed.

Pokemon operates on a rock paper scissors system where types of attacks are either strong, weak or neutral against certain types of Pokemon. For instance, Fire attacks do double the damage against Grass, Bug, Steel and Ice type Pokemon, but only half against Rock, Dragon, Water and fellow Fire type Pokemon. Each Pokemon have their own strengths and weaknesses as dictated by their stats and movepools – look, I've covered this before in my review of LeafGreen, so let's keep discussing what Colosseum in particular does. Each battle is a double battle. Essentially, you send out two of your Pokemon and the opponent sends out two of theirs. At first, I was baffled by this decision – in Ruby and Sapphire, I never really needed to do much more than just have my Pokemon either go for one Pokemon or have both of mine hit both of theirs. For a while, Colosseum emulates this, but then you get to a certain point where you'll begin to notice why they've gone with this decision. That first fight against Miror B is what sets the scene for what's to come. Not only does he (and the other Cipher Admins, for that matter) have Pokemon with movesets that work well with one another, but he also has Pokemon that can cover one another. For instance, one of his Pokemon can set up a Rain Dance for his other Pokemon to either power up their Water attacks, hit all the time with Thunder (which, under normal circumstances, hits 75% of the time, but when it rains, it never misses) or utilize abilities that can double their Speed or heal a portion of their HP in the rain.

Then it dawns onto you that Genius Sonority wanted to ease you into the true genius of double battles with a slow and easy first third before throwing the kitchen sink at you with bosses and eventually trainers with movesets that compliment their partners in battle. Hell, even on their own, these Pokemon have movesets that can cover a lot of types of Pokemon and work well with their stats. True, we're still in the third generation and it's the type that defines whether it's a physical or special attack rather than the actual attack itself, but hey, these fights can actually be rather challenging. Although can you grind in the colosseums and maybe even get some items out of the deal, the AI is smart enough to know how to deal with your Pokemon and given that every battle is a double battle, strategies involving attacks that affect all Pokemon involved except for the user will be utilized whenever possible and there's hardly a moment where their brains fart. Okay, Camerupt using Earthquake when Entei is alongside it is pretty dumb, but that's the exception, not the rule. Very much unlike the handheld games, particularly the early ones. No full health Dewgongs using Rest here... no Dewgongs, period...

The Conclusion:
Pokemon Colosseum is more than a means of acquiring Johto Pokemon and transferring them to the Game Boy Advance games; it's a very good game that manages to utilize the parts that make up Pokemon's gameplay style very well. While the Nintendo 64/Dreamcast quality graphics and underdeveloped story may make one scoff and the idea of having limited Pokemon to choose from turn others away, the advanced strategies when given the double battle setting, mixed with some well thought out Pokemon teams and movesets, manage to to make this game a lot of fun to play. Hell, I actually liked the limited choices simply because it forced me to look deep into what few Pokemon I could get and make do with what I could find. The heart opening mechanic may seem a bit needless, but then comes the satisfaction gained upon purification – the satisfaction one gets from raising a successful adopted child as opposed to their own. In fact, Pokemon was temporarily Genius Sonority's adopted child while making this and XD: Gale Of Darkness, and they managed to make it work out very well in their own little way, enough to give Game Freak a nice kick in the ass to make the move towards better difficulty, AI and storylines. If nothing else, Pokemon Colosseum is a fantastic game in its own right, lackluster graphics and story aside.


8/10

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Comments

0 thumbs!
^
Slash Apr 1, 13
I think you were to generous with the score.
The lack of wild pokemons, double battles only, and not to mention the limited amount of pokemons you could catch were all big flaws to it.
0 thumbs!
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Lukas Apr 1, 13
quote
The lack of wild pokemons, double battles only, and not to mention the limited amount of pokemons you could catch were all big flaws to it.
How is the lack of wild Pokemon bad? How are doubles only battles bad? Not asking how that third thing is bad because yeah, limited options is kind of silly in a game series that encourages varied teams.
0 thumbs!
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Slash Apr 1, 13
quote Lukas
How is the lack of wild Pokemon bad?
quote Lukas
limited options is kind of silly in a game series that encourages varied teams.
Not only you can only snag a small amount of pokemons they don't even give you the option to capture some wild pokemons. How is that not bad?

quote Lukas
How are doubles only battles bad?
I don't know abut you but doing 100 or so double battles gets pretty boring it'd be nice if there were some single battles to keep it varied.
0 thumbs!
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Lukas Apr 1, 13
quote
Not only you can only snag a small amount of pokemons they don't even give you the option to capture some wild pokemons. How is that not bad?
the fact that you can snag Pokemon plus you can grind in the colosseums if needed kinda makes wild battles pointless. Would've preferred it if you had like double the Shadow Pokemon to snag so this wouldn't even be an issue haha - speaking of Shadow Pokemon, I'm surprised you don't have that problem haha

quote
I don't know abut you but doing 100 or so double battles gets pretty boring it'd be nice if there were some single battles to keep it varied.
Kind of like how in generation 2, there were only single battles - damn I wish Crystal had some double battles to keep things fresh, you know?
0 thumbs!
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Slash Apr 2, 13
Yes because we have so much variety when snagging the pokemon.
Why would I have a problem with that? That's basically the entire core of the game.
Yes because generation 2 had double battles. And lets ignore the fact it had twice as much content to it.
0 thumbs!
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InsanityS Apr 7, 13
To be fair, it's not like Gen III really had a whole lot of doubles battles in the handheld games during the story, so for all intents and purposes you fought through hundreds of singles battles in them for every double battle you had. As much as I don't like this game, I did appreciate the focus on doubles battles after two generations of singles only battles.

The game does have problems but I never personally saw the doubles focus as one of them.
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