A couple weeks ago, I posted a rather heated rant about the unnecessary amount of hate the Generation Three (Hoenn) Pokemon games get. In a way, this is a much less angry follow-up to that. I mentioned that people overlook Gen Three as only Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. People forget that the Kanto GBA re-makes, FireRed and LeafGreen, are also considered Generation Three games, even though they don’t take place in Hoenn. Along with these games, Gen Three introduced a GameCube-exclusive spin-off series, and, in my opinion, the best Stadium Pokemon games ever. Like everything else in Gen Three, Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness are the punching bags of the Pokemon fandom. I’m aware that the bulk majority of people reading this aren’t going to agree with me this time, because I simply love this series. Tough. Here is my review of Pokemon Colosseum. XD will be my next project.
If you’ve never played this game, be aware that it is almost nothing like a GBC, GBA or DS game. It is a completely new experience and has some mechanics that you will never see in any other Pokemon game. There are many differences, some good, some bad. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that this is the greatest game ever made, because it’s not. Pokemon Colosseum has many gameplay elements that can be downright annoying, and to many people, it’s part of the reason they can’t stand it. As far as this game goes, you either hate it or you love it. There’s no middle ground, and I can honestly understand why some people aren’t fond of it.
There are three major reasons Pokemon Colosseum can be a mind-numbing experience:
1. The lack of save points. They are view and far between. You can only save at PCs (which are for the most part only located in Pokemon Centers, hotels or Colosseum lobbies) rather than just pressing Start and saving from there.
2. Purifying Shadow Pokemon (we’ll get into that later) is a tedious, repetitive process that can last hours, literally. They can’t level up until they’re purified, and they can’t be purified until their Heart Gauge reaches zero. In later stages of the game, you can’t use these Pokemon in normal battles and expect to win because they’ll go into Hyper Mode, which not only uses up a turn, but also locks them into the recoil damage attack with no type advantage, Shadow Rush. The next sensible thing to do is to waste yet another turn calling them out of Hyper Mode for minimal Heart Gauge progress. Guess where you’re headed? Mt. Battle for hours of training to get your Shadow Pokemon purified.
3. The level curve is so bad that it requires hours of grinding at Mt. Battle. Once again, I’m not over-exaggerating when I say it takes HOURS. Here’s the thing with Mt. Battle: it is a huge mountain with 100 trainers. Each group of ten trainers is divided into a “zone.” Upon completing the tenth trainer, you receive PokeCoupons based on which zone you’re in. Eventually, you can save the coupons up and exchange them for items. The problem? You don’t get your coupons until you beat the Area Leader, meaning that, since you don’t earn money, you get nothing for your efforts if you leave before completing a zone.
So, here’s my first tip: if you are going to play this game, be prepared for countless hours of uneventful side training that has almost no reward to it. Be prepared to get screwed over royally at the first boss when you’re unable to level up your Shadow Pokemon, due to lack of a purification process. Be prepared for a very long play-through that can be boring and tedious at times.
Why, after all this, do I still defend Colosseum? Because this game is dark, strangely enjoyable, and above all, it’s different. As much fun as challenge play-throughs like Nuzlockes are, the main series of Pokemon gets boring after a while. Now, don’t think I’m saying that Pokemon is a boring series. Hell, I can’t even count how many times I’ve played through my FireRed version. I just think that spin-offs are necessary to keep the series fresh. Nowadays, it’s going stale. Fans don’t want a Gen Six. They want re-makes. They want new spin-offs, like Mystery Dungeon and Pokemon Rangers. They want a Wii Pokemon game that is more than just stadium battles. Hell, some even want an MMO. If that ever happened, World of Warcraft would be finished in a heartbeat.
We need games that does what Pokemon Colosseum did. So without further delay, allow me to explain exactly why I loves this game so much.
This review will be judged by, Difficulty, Story, Graphics, Music and Replay Value.
Story (SPOILER ALERT):
In order to explain what I meant about this game being dark, I’ll discuss plot first. Arguably, Colosseum is the darkest in the entire series. Ever since Red and Blue, what has been a core part of Pokemon? What is the biggest taboo of them all, the one thing in Pokemon that makes you look like the biggest bastard on the planet, but also is the one thing we’ve all wanted to do (without the use of Gamesharks)?
Steal other trainer’s Pokemon.
Folks, right here is a game that not only lets us steal Pokemon, it encourages us to do so. In this region, Orre, the land is too barren and blighted to support wild Pokemon. Therefore, a group of Pokemon thieves called Team Snagem have been running rampant through the usage of their Snag Machine, a device that creates Pokeballs capable of catching other trainers’ Pokemon. As a former member of Team Snagem, your character steals the Snag Machine and betrays them. Not soon after that, you meet a captive girl, free her, and realize her gift: she can see an aura given off by Shadow Pokemon, Pokemon “that have been turned into a fighting machine by artificially closing the door to it’s heart.” Your villainous past quickly changes to a noble future as you seek out the Shadow Pokemon, steal them from the evil organization Cipher, purify them and train them for battle.
Let that sink in for a moment, and tell me that isn’t an amazing concept for a Pokemon game. Your character is essentially a thief, and, although you can only catch Shadow Pokemon (and there are only 48 in the entire game), that doesn’t change the fact that you are stealing other trainers’ Pokemon. And you know what? It’s surprisingly difficult, like you’d expect in a situation like that. These aren’t wild Pokemon; they shouldn’t be easy to catch.
Also, these Pokemon have been turned into heartless weapons of mass destruction that may even turn on you or other trainers (literally) in battle. Do you realize how satisfying it is to steal a Suicune from a Cipher Admin, then let it attack its former slave-driver? Fun as hell. But in a way, this is a plot that is exceptionally sad for a Pokemon game. Shadow Pokemon have no concept of anything – memories, feelings, love, friendship – nothing. They only feel anger and know they are powerful.
This is a Pokemon game, right?
Ahh. Here we have one of the single biggest reasons people throw bitch-fits about Pokemon Colosseum. Yes, this game is hard. It’s one of the most challenging Pokemon games ever made. I’ve done a Nuzlocke of it (SO MUCH DEATH) and I can personally agree. Why is it hard?
1. The lack of Pokemon. As mentioned before, you can only catch 48 Shadow Pokemon, in addition to your two starters, Umbreon and Espeon, and an underleveled Plusle you receive as a gift. You can also obtain Ho-Oh, but there’s a lot of pain that goes into it. You have to catch and purify all 48 Shadow Pokemon (and there are a few you only get one chance to catch), beat Mt. Battle in Story Mode and Battle Mode, and clear the main storyline. By that time, it’ll be useless. The Pokemon you get aren’t exactly powerhouses. Typical Pokemon you’d see on a team, such as Gyrados, Dragonite, Snorlax, Alakazam, Gengar, any Kanto and Hoenn starter (you can pick one Johto starter), Salamence, Lugia, Mewtwo, etc aren’t even obtainable in the game, forcing you to play with Pokemon you normally wouldn’t use. If you really wanted, there is a feature where you can trade between Ruby/Sapphire and Colosseum if you still have a GBA and GameCube, but I’m talking just in-game.
I’m talking from personal experience when I say this game makes you appreciate certain Pokemon. On my first run where I actually completed the story, I kept Umbreon and Vibrava, whom I had never used before in any game. Long story short, Umbreon and Flygon became my favorite pair. I was always a fan of Jolteon as far as Eeveeloutions goes, but now I honestly believe that Umbreon is the best Dark Type in the series. And as for Flygon, Salamence and Dragonite can’t compare in terms of favoritism. Flygon may not be the strongest Dragon Type out there, but it’s my favorite Pokemon ever, all thanks to Colosseum.
2. The level curve. Yeah, I already mentioned this. You really shouldn’t have much trouble if you, ya know, actually train. Mt. Battle is there for a reason. Seriously, though. The first boss, Miror B., has pretty fair levels; his strongest is 35, right around what your Shadow Pokemon will be, provided you’ve caught enough recent ones. A word of warning: the level 30s you caught in Pyrite Town aren’t going to cut it. However, the next boss, Dakim, who appears in a very short amount of time (about 30-40 minutes of gameplay) after Miror B., has a level 40 Entei. As I’ve said, use Mt. Battle. You’ll need it.
3. Catching Pokemon. This is, in my opinion, the hardest part of the game, and that’s due to one thing: Shadow Rush. Shadow Rush is a unique move that only Shadow Pokemon can learn. It isn’t effected by type and it has recoil damage. Now, imagine this scenario: You’re fighting Suicune. You’ve obliterated Lady Venus’ team, Suicune is paralyzed, it has one HP left, Sunny Day has weakened its water attacks, you have thirty Net Balls, and your team is going strong. You’ve done everything you could possibly have to catch it, but are still failing. Suddenly, Suicune uses Shadow Rush and kills itself.
And that, my friends, is why you save constantly.
Honestly, I love the challenge this game presents. I love how it forces you to use new Pokemon, and it truly tests your skills as a player.
There is truly nothing about Pokemon Colosseum that isn’t debated violently by fans and haters, and graphics are no exception. My personal opinion? They’re good, but not great. When I was eight, this game had graphics that were the shit. Now, they’re still decent (better than the DS sprites) but they have been outdone by games like Pokemon Battle Revolution. Battle Revolution was a terrible game, but it had good graphics. That’s one thing. The animations are interesting, but can get repetitive to watch and the Pokemon (and trainers) are very stiff. however, I will bare in mind that Colosseum was from 2004 and was a huge improvement over Pokemon Stadium. The backgrounds and overworld maps were unbalanced; some got a bit boring, like The Under and The Lab, but others, like Agate Village, were beautiful.
If there’s one thing we can all agree Pokemon Colosseum did right, it was the music. From the calm, mystical theme of Agate Village to the finger-snapping tune of Pyrite Town, to the downright sinister music that plays in the Shadow Pokemon Lab, the soundtrack in this game is surprisingly memorable. In a Pokemon game, music is the only thing you really hear – there is no verbal dialogue. Therefore, music is necessary to set the scene and the emotion. The overrworld songs do that pretty well, but where this game really shines is in the Cipher Admin fights. Just listen to it.
The champion battles doesn’t have shit on this.
Honestly, my only disappointment comes from the Pokemon cries. This isn’t Colosseum exclusive; it applies to all games beyond the GBA era. Nintendo, look: how old is this series? How long has the series had an anime with fully voiced cries for the Pokemon? Can’t we make Pikachu scream “PIKA!” when it comes out of its Pokeball, instead of a sound effect? Just food for thought…
Honestly, I find this game has an endless amount of replay value. Out of all my Pokemon games, Colosseum is the one I never tire of restarting. I really don’t have a good reason for why. Maybe it’s the graphics. Maybe it’s the music. Maybe it’s the story. Maybe it’s the challenge aspect. I really can’t explain why, it’s just a game that has stayed with me and I find endless in joy in replaying it time and time again. Arguably, it shouldn’t have much reply value – the story is always the same, the game is tedious, and there’s huge restrictions on your teams. To most people, it probably doesn’t, but to me, it does.
Story: 10/10 – A dark and unique storyline that is unlike anything else in the Pokemon series
Difficulty: 10/10 – It challenges the player beyond your typical Pokemon game, while still being fair
Graphics: 7/10 – Nothing revolutionary, but were still impressive for the time
Music: 9/10 – Some of the best in the Pokemon series
Replay Value: 10/10 – I never tire of it
Final score: 9.2/10