Review by AstralFire

Reviewed: 04/01/04

Very, very flawed... but somehow, addictive.

Pokémon Colosseum is what most Pokémon fans have been waiting for; their favorite game series finally making a real transition to the home console as a full-fledged RPG. How did it handle the transition to the Gamecube?

I should logically argue ''very poorly.'' Why?

If you look at it critically, it really is flawed. Many of the graphics look very lazy. 251 of the character models are very similar to those used in the N64 Pokémon games. Umbreon, for example, makes essentially the same movements it did for attacking, getting hit, and fainting that it used in Stadium 2. In fact, I would venture to say that it is the exact same set of subroutines used in Stadium 2, and the only improvements on the Character models from there comes by virtue of the Gamecube's superior processing power. If you don't believe me, compare images of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64 with those of the game emulated on the PC or Gamecube. The latter looks much, much sharper even though not one bit of code was touched. Still, the character models do their purpose. They're not bad at all, to be honest - I rather like most of them.

For backgrounds, the game resembles a Dreamcast game; peer closely at the edges of walls held at an angle and you'll see lots of horrible, horrible edges. They look nice in general, but these graphics are certainly not on par with the other Nintendo first-party games, even the launch titles.

The attack graphics are a mixed bag. There's still no actual contact between two pokemon, though that is certainly understandable given the wide variety of both moves and pokemon. Many of the attacks are vastly improved, and I'm fairly sure that all of the technique graphics were redone from scratch. Fire Blast is one of the most painful looking attacks ever, and Solarbeam actually looks like a grass attack. However, several techniques rely too much on particle effects and circles - basic cool-stuff that's not hard to make with a 3-D engine. While this doesn't bother me, a somewhat common complaint I've heard is that every attack involves a circle of some sort.

Some of the attacks do look worse, though, and multi-turn moves aren't handled in the best of ways. While in Stadium 2, weather effects were constantly visible during play, they are only seen at the end of every turn in Colosseum. Fly also suffers from the ''Air Walking'' it did back in Stadium 1 that was corrected in Stadium 2; a Pokemon using Fly is standing in air most of the time, not flapping their wings or anything. This is even odder looking with moves like Bounce. Likewise, the hole made by a pokemon using Dig disappears when not in use.

The plot of this game is VERY tenuous. You're never given any sort of explanation for the character's motivations, and considering how you start this game blowing up your former place of occupation, there really should be. Additionally, there are many plot ''twists'' that simply seem to be Deux ex Machina or are so blatantly obvious that you will be surprised they expected you to be shocked by the events. For obvious reasons, I can't really get into them, but trust me when I say that you're not buying this game for its deep and satisfying plot.

There are few new mechanics added to the game, the greatest being stealing shadow pokemon, purification of shadow pokemon and the ability to buy items that only exist to raise happiness levels. While this is fine in battle - if it ain't broke, don't fix it - there are less out of battle mechanics than in any previous pokémon game, and that simply doesn't make sense to me. Surely the transition to 3D lends itself to environment manipulation moreso than 2D. But if you had hopes of wielding Surf like the Surfing Pikachu Mini-game in Yellow, too bad - HM moves and field moves don't exist out of battle. You do, however, get a partner who will be your character's single greatest physical impedance ever. After she joins you, try not to do 180 degree turns if you can help it, because she really, really gets in your way.

Despite this fact, the game does feel and play like a whole new game. This is primarily because the entire game is played in 2 on 2 battle as opposed to 1 on 1, like the GBA games. While the 2 on 2 battle mechanics were introduced in Ruby and Sapphire, they were sorely neglected in that game, making Colosseum feel like something brand-new for most.

For those of you hoping to use Colosseum as a great organizational tool like Stadiums 1 and 2, unfortunately you can't; Colosseum treats itself just like a GBA game, so you trade rather than transfer pokémon, and only one by one. I personally find this a big mistake on Nintendo's part with no release for Pokémon Box around the world in sight.

As for the gameplay, Colosseum feels really quite shallow for a power player; getting the bare minimums, you can beat the game in a matter of hours with little trouble. But this game isn't about the bare minimums; it's about getting as much as you can that was not in Ruby and Sapphire. While the number of pokémon you can catch is honestly very limited, the fact that there's actually a reward at the end for doing so - and the much greater difficulty in catching any single one of them - provides real incentive for going all out. And the fact that many of these pokémon are already at their evolved forms means that you have to breed them, giving greater value to those who also have or plan to have Ruby/Sapphire and the upcoming Fire Red/Leaf Green.

My complaint lies in the fact that so many of the few pokémon available here are Ruby/Sapphire pokémon (and often the less popular ones of that sort) and none are RBY pokémon. There's enough incentive to buy Fire Red/Leaf Green as it is, and I personally find the lack of really ''new'' (meaning previously unattainable in R/S) pokémon here to be one of Nintendo's most money-grubbing manuevers ever. I also have to question the logic here; you can steal Shadow Pokemon no matter who the trainer is (bad guy, misinformed good guy), but you can never steal normal pokemon no matter how evil the trainer is. Logic stands that all the trainer's pokemon are being mistreated, and the less pokemon that trainer has, the less he can use them on other people as well...

On the other hand, Colosseum does benefit from some of the hardest battles in the game's history; in particular, the last six battles are a real challenge for those who don't use a guide, and a pleasurable challenge at that.

All in all, this game has a lot of potential, and Genius Sonority didn't do bad for one of their first games ever; they did great in fact. It just feels like an unfinished product and not entirely thought out, either, which upsets me. Despite the fact that it feels so unfinished, the ability to steal pokemon from enemy trainers and the 2 vs. 2 battle mechanics makes the game strangely addictive. The harder one-player mode battles are very nice since the one-player RPG has gone seriously soft ever since Gold and Silver were first released. It's nice to see some punch in the game's bosses. So nice, in fact, that I actually went without sleep for 39 hours due to a combination of homework and this game, something I haven't done since the original Pokemon Red and Blue came out. If you look, those two games were also very flawed; but they held promise. I think this game series does as well. If you buy it, I doubt you'll be disappointed, and like me you'll probably eagerly await the next installment - which is hopefully a finished product.

Rating: 9

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