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Pokemon Trozei! [Nintendo DS] – Review

Pokemon Trozei!Pokémon Trozei! is a game I’ve wanted to play for many years. This comes naturally as I’m a fan of the franchise and puzzle games, in general. Even more so with it being a Nintendo DS game, meaning it was well-suited for bedtime play. I finally encountered a copy of the game for a fair price not too long ago, and have recently completed the single player campaign. It was a brief playthrough, but I found it to be a solid matching puzzle game with a unique style, all its own.

Each gameplay field was limited to less than a dozen Pokémon.
Each gameplay field was limited to less than a dozen Pokemon.

The game followed the exploits of Lucy Fleetfoot – a secret agent intent on rescuing stolen Pokémon. Following the guidance of her commanding officer and equipped with the Trozei Beamer, Lucy was able to track down storage units containing stolen Pokémon, and transfer them to a safe place. Her Trozei Beamer allowed her to see what Pokémon were in the Poké Balls, and when four or more like Pokémon were lined up, safely export them. In gameplay terms, this translated to sliding rows and columns of Pokémon icons around on the touch screen.

Games like this are usually noted as match-three, but this one started off like a match-four, requiring me to match four like Pokémon. But, once a row or column (no diagonal matching) of four Pokémon was matched, a Trozei Chance would happen. When this occurred, the requirements were lessened so I could match three like Pokémon, and if I was successful again, I was able to match pairs. Almost always, this resulted in large chains, clearing most of the Pokémon from the play field. The columns would plummet quickly, and the half-second I still had to line up multiples was ample time to react.

The campaign was void of story beyond the initial setup, although Lucy would do battle with bosses of the rival organization. In these instances, they spouted quick diatribes regarding Lucy’s cause and promoted their nefarious intentions. These quick little segments highlighted the unique art style of the game, which didn’t truly shine in the gameplay. The Pokémon icons were cool too, and highly distinguishable (to a fan like me, at least) but the character designs were evocative of 1960s spy cartoons, circa Nickelodeon during the 1990s.

Lucy Fleetfoot herself.
Lucy Fleetfoot herself.

It took me roughly three hours to complete Pokémon Trozei! and of that time, nearly an hour was spent battling the final boss. I didn’t spend any time with the multiplayer, but it seems like it’d be fun and that there’s some variation in the available modes; plus, it’s has single-card play which is always awesome. There’s a Pokédex of sorts to complete in-game, but it’s nothing more than a listing of the Pokémon, which totaled about 380 when this game was released. I didn’t find it incentivizing, personally. Still, I did enjoy the basic gameplay the game offered. It provided a unique take on the match-three formula and the implantation of the touch screen was perfect.

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Pokemon Battle Revolution [Wii] – Review

Pokemon Battle RevolutionHaving done a little bit of reading on Pokémon Battle Revolution before playing it, I tempered my expectations. Its predecessors, specifically on the GameCube, featured drastic changes to the Pokémon formula, while still maintaining the foundations of what a Pokémon game was. And, Genius Sonority was successful in creating full-fledged console Pokémon games after many years of fans wanting them. This game had none of that ambition. Or at least, none of their ambition went towards a single-player component, which was all I was interested in. Because of this, and because I was such a latecomer, I found the game to be very disappointing.

The setting for this game was Poketopia, a theme park of sorts.
The setting for this game was Poketopia, a theme park of sorts.

Instead of a full-fledged story, this game features a set of colosseums. These pit the player against a barrage of opponents, battling in a style unique to the venue. Each colosseum featured a unique rule set, although many were very similar. The rule sets affected the progression structure and the battle style. Many new battle styles were introduced in this game too, or at least, introduced to me. As I felt with Colosseum and Gale of Darkness, the double battles were a high point for this game. In that case, the low point would undoubtedly be the Neon Colosseum which introduced Fortune Battles.

In Fortune Battles, both trainers’ parties were input onto a spinning wheel, and they chose by shooting Poké Balls at it, like darts. Until I got the timing down (I spent two of my twelve hours on this single colosseum) it was maddening. Getting stuck with my opponent’s shoddy Pokémon was difficult enough, but having to restart after making it all the way to the leader? Now that was infuriating! However, most of the colosseums were cakewalks – this was a very easy game with imported Pokémon. After overtaking the leaders of the eleven colosseums, I had my Surfing Pikachu and was content. Replaying yielded new costumes for my avatar, but that wasn’t my bag.

The visuals were noticeably better compared to the GameCube games.
The visuals were noticeably better compared to the GameCube games.

It may have been more of a draw when the online was still… well, online. With the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection now offline, that whole component is nonexistent. Of course, the game also features a robust local multiplayer mode, with support for all generation IV titles, but truthfully, I haven’t tried that yet. I’m looking forward to it though for two reasons. Being able to use the DS as a wireless controller is fantastic and it should allow for more cinematic battles (relegating all or most of the user interface to that system). Also, having the announcer return from his absence in the GameCube games is great! It reminds me of Pokémon Stadium on the N64; plus he’s helping learn the “correct” pronunciation of a few Pokémon!

Ultimately, I think I know why the single-player component of this game was so lackluster. Its release date tells the story. It was released in North America in June 2007 – two months after Diamond/Pearl released, and about six months after the Wii did. More telling though is its Japanese release date – a mere two weeks after the Wii. For all intents and purposes, this game was launch window. I expect Genius Sonority didn’t have the luxury of a lengthy development time. For Colosseum, they probably had a year-and-a-half development time, while Gale of Darkness may have had upwards of two years.

Perhaps for the first time, many of the physical moves actually saw Pokemon making contact.
Perhaps for the first time, many of the physical moves actually saw Pokemon making contact.

Also, in a potentially cramped development window, they had to develop for a new platform which featured improved visuals and fewer limitations on storage, implement compatibility with the Nintendo DS and the generation IV games, and perhaps the biggest hurdle for them was the integration of online play. This was only their fourth title, and their first to include any online functionality. Granted, they are closely affiliated with Nintendo and undoubtedly received much support, but Nintendo wasn’t so sharp in that regard at that time either (and many would say they still aren’t!). I imagine just getting the game out was an accomplishment in itself, but as it is, it’s an entirely skippable release, unless you’re like me and NEED THAT SURFING PIKACHU!!!

Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness [GameCube] – Review

The 2005 follow-up to Colosseum might be indistinguishable to the layman.
The 2005 follow-up to Colosseum might be indistinguishable to the layman.

Unsurprising to me, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is nigh-indistinguishable from its predecessor. The 2005 follow-up to Pokémon Colosseum takes place five years later and still features Orre as a backdrop. The morally bankrupt Cipher has made a return and they’ve begun foisting their Shadow Pokémon on the land again. Snagging Pokémon remains the major conceit of the game, although there are a scant few wild Pokémon. Double battles are also the primary method of battling, which, in itself is different from the mainline games. This is essentially the same game as Colosseum, which was solid, but not great, and will appeal only to those Pokémaniacs, like myself.

The game's ultimate Pokemon was the shadow Lugia, codenamed XD001.
The game’s ultimate Pokemon was the shadow Lugia, codenamed XD001.

As mentioned, Cipher is making a return in the land of Orre, albeit, under different leadership. They still intend to conquer the world through the use of Shadow Pokémon, but there are those willing to confront them. The nameless (in my case, Sherbet), silent protagonist is simply a shell for the player to experience the goings-on of Orre. His allies are diverse, and mostly new faces, but as was the case with Colosseum, the narrative is very light, and the characters, mostly forgettable. Except for Mirror B…

The player receives the snagging machine that Wes used five years ago and with that, the game takes on the form of its predecessor, verbatim. Double battles still make up 95% of the battles, and I was still a big fan. In conjunction with the great 3D renderings of the Pokémon, the battles were hands down my favorite part. Perhaps in an effort to differentiate itself, or, at the very least, build a common tie to the mainline games, there are wild Pokémon to catch. And, there are, literally, twelve to catch. To do so, bait is left at one of three designated areas and then, when one comes snacking, the player is alerted. I found it to be an insignificant, basically pointless, addition.

One positive facet of this game is the density of the snaggable Pokémon. This game and its predecessor are unique due to the limited palette of Pokémon to compose a party. Colosseum had a little over 40, while this title features more than 80. They’re mostly from the first generation, which may make this title more favorable if one began with the original Game Boy games. Even though it took me six more hours to complete the story, time flew by since my party and collection was consistently changing. Also, purifying the Shadow Pokémon was way easier/streamlined in comparison to Colosseum. You don’t even know!

Purifying Shadow Pokemon was much easier in this game.
Purifying Shadow Pokemon was much easier in this game.

As a whole Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness bears more than a similarity to Pokémon Coloseum – it’s barely anything more but that game! With the only major differentiating feature being a new roster of Pokémon, this game is definitely for the Pokémaniacs only. Both it and Colosseum are interesting takes on the tried-and-true formula on the mainline games, and truthfully, at least one of them would be worth giving a shot. Thanks to nothing more than the larger roster of snaggable Pokémon, I’d probably give this game the edge.

Pokemon Colosseum [GameCube] – Review

Pokemon ColosseumReleased back in 2004, Pokémon Colosseum was Nintendo’s first attempt at making a full-scale console RPG out of their Pokémon series. Having been an avid fan at the time it was originally released, I remember being severely let down by the nontraditional take on the Pokémon formula. My teenage self couldn’t even bother to complete the game, despite the allure of trading some truly worthy Pokémon into Pokémon Ruby. Think of all the free time I had then! I’m revisiting the game now as a part of my grand Pokémon ambition, and I came away enjoying it more than I originally did for the exact reason I disliked it then – it’s different.

Double battles all the way in this game.
Double battles all the way in this game.

Wes, the player’s avatar, is a mute antihero attempting to foil the plans of the nefarious gang he recently betrayed. Alongside a spunky girl named Rui, who is the only known person able to detect Shadow Pokémon, the duo set about snagging and purifying all Pokémon that have had their hearts corrupted. I thought the storyline and characters were ridiculously simple, although some were just plain ridiculous. Of course, I didn’t begin this game with expectations of a riveting story. In fact, I don’t think anyone plays these games for their story; it’s the gameplay that draws people in.

The backdrop of the game is the Orre region, and as it is rather desolate, and a little more rough-and-tumble than other regions, there aren’t any wild Pokémon. The only method of building one’s collection in this game is snagging Shadow Pokémon from other trainers, which goes against everything that had been ingrained in the series up to this point. Once they’ve been snagged, they need to be rehabilitated through use in battle, among other procedures. While battling, Shadow Pokémon may enter Hyper Mode from time to time. While in this mode, their chances of striking a critical-hit increase, however, they may also ignore orders. Calling their name will calm them down.

A second distinguishing feature of this game is the battles themselves. For the duration of the storyline, every battle is a double battle. Each trainer plays with two active Pokémon. I really enjoyed the developer’s dedication to this feature. Most other games only feature double battles intermittently, which in a way, dilutes their appeal. Instead, the opportunity presented itself to build my party around combinations that made sense. I didn’t necessarily strategize in such a way, but the other trainers sure did; the combination of Earthquake and floating Pokémon did grow to be annoying.

Cities and dungeons weren't as much a part of this game.
Cities and dungeons weren’t as much a part of this game.

Due to the structure of the game, there is a set number of obtainable Pokémon. Following the storyline and having an inquisitive nature will generally result in catching snagging them all. Once the game has been completed, players can freely trade between Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. There is also Mt. Battle, a 100-trainer challenge, and a few multiplayer battling modes. Should one snag and purify every Pokémon and complete Mt. Battle, they’ll be awarded a Ho-oh – my current quest.

Mirror B. is one of the goofier antagonists.
Mirror B. is one of the goofier antagonists.

Back in the day, I couldn’t get beyond Colosseum’s differences from the Game Boy Advance games. I simply wanted one of those games with full-scale console graphics, nothing more and nothing less. Instead, Nintendo and developer Genius Sonority developed a different type of Pokémon game. Coming to it now, and with tempered expectations, I actually really enjoyed myself. The gameplay differences kept it fresh as I was coming to it having just completed LeafGreen – a very traditional game. Not only that, getting to see so many Pokémon visualized in respectable 3D was exciting for me. This isn’t your grandfather’s Pokémon game.