Pokémon Colosseum was another one of those spinoffs I never had time to play when I was younger either due to insufficient funds or just the lack of interest and in this case, it’s the former. I never owned a GameCube. In fact, the only console I owned from that generation was the PlayStation 2. While it upset me seeing commercials of the newest Pokémon console adventure and knowing how out of reach it was, I didn’t worry too much. I had a GameBoy Advanced and the games I owned on it and the PS2 was more than enough to keep me distracted.
Fast forward to the Nintendo Wii era and I finally had my chance to jump into the Pokémon games I had missed during the GameCube generation, thanks to the Wii’s ability to play GameCube games! I played it a long time ago and only recently played it again to see how it held up so let’s find out!
Players take control of silent protagonist Wes, a Pokémon trainer in the new region of Orre.
After blowing up the headquarters of his former employers Team Snagem and stealing a mysterious catching device, Wes sets off on his one-wheeled motorcycle with his two Pokémon partners, Espeon and Umbreon. Eventually, Wes meets a young lady named Rui who can see the “Shadow Pokémon”. In this region, an evil group called Team Cipher has been corrupting the hearts of Pokémon, turning each into vile and violent versions of themselves, surrounded in a purple-ish aura.
Using the device stolen from the Snagem’s base, dubbed the Snag Machine, it’s up to Wes and his friend Rui to capture Shadow Pokémon and restore them to normal while taking down the villainous Cipher.
Replacing the old gym leader setup of the past games, Colosseum goes for a more story oriented approach which I’m fine with…but…the problem here is that the story isn’t much to write home about and by the end becomes the typical save the world plot. I was even disappointed by the main protagonist Wes who clearly appeared to be going for a more anti-hero approach at the beginning of the game, but becomes the bland silent protagonist right after. It’s so jarring.
Now, like the mainline titles, Pokémon Colosseum allows players to explore the Orre Region on the big screen! However, unlike the mainline titles, routes are nonexistent. Players pick an area from the world map and travel to it via a loading screen. Honestly, part of the charm of games like Ruby and Sapphire is the ability to explore new horizons and catch Pokémon along the way, but I can see the developers of Colosseum had other plans in mind in the way they wanted to do things. See, because there are no longer routes, players cannot catch wild Pokémon.
How do players build a team in Colosseum then? Simple. I mentioned the Snag Machine earlier—well; it has a huge role in the gameplay, but we’ll get back to that later so let’s move on to what players will spend most of the game doing: battling.
Similar to the main games of its generation, Colosseum plays out in turn-based, rock-paper-scissors format but with a twist. Every battle is now a double battle. Longtime fans complained about Ruby and Sapphire having little to no double battles even though the games main gimmick is just that, but the developers took that criticism and applied it here. Double battles force players to think up strategy because now there are two Pokémon on the field to worry about. Moves like Earthquake or Surf affects all Pokémon in battle, including partner Pokémon, meaning players will have to decide whether they want to take the hit and other such things.
And remember the Snag Machine? Well, Rui will sometimes point out a Shadow Pokémon’s presence before a battle begins. From then on, it plays out like a regular wild battle. Weaken the Shadow Pokémon and then throw a Pokéball at it, catching it. Be careful because if that Shadow Pokémon faints in battle, players will lose their chance to catch it!
After adding a Shadow Pokémon to the party of six players will notice right away that it’s a lot different from normal Pokémon.
First, in battle, Shadow Pokémon can only use the move “Shadow Rush”, a devastating attack that hurts not only the opponent but itself. Sometimes that Pokémon can enter a state called “Hyper Mode”, making it even more difficult to control (as it does what it wants to do in this state) unless players use the “Call” option in the battle’s menu to calm it down.
Second, Shadow Pokémon cannot gain experience points and level up, meaning they cannot evolve or learn new attacks until they are purified. To purify a Shadow Pokémon, players deplete their heart gauge, making it friendlier. To help with this, players will need to walk around with that Pokémon in their party, use it to battle and massage it in certain places. Eventually, after unlocking a story related area, players can take the Pokémon there where they’ll find the mythical Celebi who will restore them to their regular self. Once that happens, that Pokémon will gain experience from all the battles they had competed in and will level up and perhaps evolve.
And this is where the tedium of Colosseum comes into play.
Along with a constant barrage of story battles, slow double battles and Shadow Pokemon that only drag down the team, I found Colosseum to be a huge slog. It came to a point in time where I was so bored with the game that I had to put it down for a couple of days. This is something I never experienced with a mainline title. While Shadow Pokémon is a unique concept, I felt it was a chore using them, but if I didn’t use them, I wouldn’t have a full team to take on the story which was pretty difficult for a standard Pokémon game. There were times I had to grind levels to get my team in shape. By the end of the game, I was going through the motions until I hit the credits.
Throughout the game, there are several Colosseum battles that players can enter for the chance to earn Poké Coupons, currency in-game. Players can use that money for items to tackle the post-game section called Mt. Battle, a huge mountain-like area where players can challenge one hundred trainers in a row and well… I honestly couldn’t muster the strength to do it. Players can transfer Pokémon from their GameBoy Advanced copies of Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Firered, and Leafgreen to aid them and because I didn’t have a transfer cable needed, I couldn’t use this feature at all.
As you can see, I didn’t care much for this spinoff at all. It was something I eagerly wanted to try out, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. For longtime players, this was the only way for them to catch Johto Pokémon as the GBA games were incompatible with the Gameboy Color titles, meaning they would have to suck it up for a chance at catching something like Aipom. Would I recommend this title? Only if you are a huge Pokémon fan and are curious about this title. It didn’t do much for me, but who knows, maybe it will for you.
Thank you for reading.