If there’s one thing I love, it’s Pokemon. The series, despite doing its best to stagnate, is just as good as it’s always been. However, there’s one place that it’s still lacking entirely: A real Pokemon game on a major console rather than a handheld. We’ve got a few tries, such as Pokemon Stadium 1 and 2 on the N64, and then a half-hearted attempt with Pokemon Coliseum and it’s sequel for the GameCube. But it wasn’t until Pokemon Battle Revolution that things really took a turn for the worst. How so? Well let’s get into that with today’s Bad Game That Should Have Been Great.
Ever since the Game Boy days and the very first Pokemon versions, Red and Blue, fans began speculating where the series could go. What new Pokemon would be right around the corner? Would they ever make new types of Pokemon past the original 15? New attacks? More complicated battles? But biggest of all, we wanted to know when Pokemon would show up on the consoles.
At the time of Pokemon’s rise to popularity, the N64 was poised to be the perfect system for us to get our fix. Games began releasing as if to taunt us, such as Pokemon Snap, a great title that was sadly only about taking pictures of Pocket Monsters and limiting the creatures in-game to roughly 60 or so. Then Stadium and its sequel came out, though those titles were largely about the novelty of seeing the once pixilated characters in full 3D on the TV screen, fighting with elaborate battle animations and such (“elaborate” being relative for the time).
Eventually, when Nintendo Power started showing bits about the GameCube Pokemon games, specifically that they’d have a full story and everything, you couldn’t help but get excited. Sadly, that too would be a letdown as you couldn’t catch all 386 Pokemon at the time in either game since there were no random battles, somewhat eliminating the point of the open-ended world with limitless team combinations. Still, they weren’t awful as they packed in a lot within that simple story, so it wasn’t a total cop-out.
No, that would happen when the Wii got its first Pokemon game to tie in with the release of Diamond and Pearl versions on the DS. At this point in time, a 3D Pokemon game needed to be more than any of the previous installments. It needed to impress us with amazing graphics, excellent sound, and a rich, full experience to justify a purchase or even really a rental, though really, if a Pokemon game is doing its job correctly a rental will never suffice.
Needless to say, I stand before you a disappointed Pokefan. Why is that? Because those three things I mentioned before –graphics, sound, and completion- were severely lacking with the new update. What we wanted was a version of the Game Boy/DS games for the Wii. What we got was a mild update to Stadium, which is pathetic considering the title called it a “battle revolution.”
Now it wouldn’t do any good to just say that the game was a disappointment and leave it at that. No, I’m going to hit those three points and explain what they needed to do and how they were lacking. So are we ready for a closer look? Well too bad because here we go.
Since the very beginning, Pokemon games have stuck to a very basic formula where there are hundreds of monsters but each creature only has four attack slots. Battles are always turn-based and consist of a simple battle animation for each attack, so a jet of water shooting at the opponent or seeing a shadow flung upside-down and dropped. When it came to the 3D games the same rules applied for some reason, so despite being in 3D, when a Pokemon performs an attack like Headbutt the animation still stops them from making physical contact with the other side of the arena.
This total disconnect always bothered me. The anime showed us these elaborate battles with Pokemon leaping around and dodging and performing amazing maneuvers in real time. The games however were slow and somewhat archaic by comparison, but it was understood that there were certain limitations due to graphics and memory restrictions and such. Those restrictions are no longer an excuse, so why haven’t we had more dynamic 3D battles?
Here’s my suggestion for how the game should look: Imagine the arena is set up like normal, perhaps with rocks and hazards and such, then the two Pocket Monsters are released and they size each other up while you decide to give them their first move. From there the attack phase goes normally with the Pokemon directly contacting each other with character-specific interactions and damage animations, so that if for instance Pidgeotto used Sky Attack on a Machamp, you’d see Machamp recoil from the hit and act accordingly as it looked up and saw the attack coming. After that first turn, the in-between phase would look like the two Pokemon battling back and forth essentially bouncing off of each other and dodging out the way or blocking or circling around or such without any damage being dealt until the next round of commands is issued. The goal is to make combat more dynamic without sacrificing the basic formula. Wouldn’t we all be happy with a more exciting presentation instead of seeing Pokemon jog toward the screen, punch, and then see the reverse shot when the opposing Pokemon falls back?
Next we have the horrible sound, something that’s still an issue even though we’ve moved so far past the humble Game Boy beginnings. For some reason that I can’t figure out, every Pokemon has a distinctive battle cry when they come out of their Pokeball, during certain attacks, and when getting knocked out. However, Pokemon from the original Blue, Red, and Green versions have had their voices entirely unchanged since the beginning, and all new Pokemon have to hold back what they could sound like in favor of something that more closely resembles the 8-bit chippy bleeps and screeches.
We’re past this by now; we have to be. The Wii isn’t the most powerful system out there, but it’s a heck of a lot stronger than the N64, and even that had games with fully spoken dialogue such as Star Fox 64. Heck, the GameCube had a vast number of games with tons of spoken dialogue beyond just RPG’s. Take Smash Bros for example where there are hundreds and hundreds of character grunts and sound effects. All I want is a Pokemon game where each Pokemon has a unique battle cry similar to what you’d hear from the anime, so that’d be around 649 different battle cries, plus perhaps maybe three variations of each, so we’re looking at 2,800 3-second voice clips? That doesn’t seem unreasonable really. Remember, the hope is to someday bridge the gap between the show and the games so that they seem one-to-one instead of seeing Ash do so many awesome things and devise all these brilliant strategies, only to then play the game and feel like something’s lacking.
So the graphics and sound have been taken care of, but that still leaves us with the story. I’ve complained enough about the handheld games and their insistence on retaining the same formula over and over again of “get starter Pokemon,” “collect eight Gym Badges,” and then “defeat Elite Four.” Oh, and of course “Catch ‘em All!” Despite my desire to see something new, (and nothing like the Coliseum games, please), at the very least what I and many others would love to see is a 3D Pokemon game that has those four aspects present. So far we’ve been able to battle trainers and Gym Leaders in Stadium and catch a few of the exorbitant number of Pokemon in Coliseum, but when Battle Revolution came out we were given only the bare minimum with generic battles and that’s it. At least Stadium gave us mini-games and a means to store and trade Pokemon easily from one version to the next.
What Battle Revolution should have been was a fully fleshed-out version for the consoles. Nintendo and Game Freaks could have played their precious game of releasing two matching versions with exclusive Pokemon between the pair if they really wanted, but we deserved to see these games in 3D. Who wouldn’t want an open-world map where you can actually see the creatures wandering around, waiting to be battled and caught? The technology is there. The demand is certainly there. Where is this perfect game?
There are three simple ways to improve Battle Revolution, or rather the next console Pokemon game. But what do you think? What are you most wishing for in terms of a console Pokemon game? Were you pleased with Battle Revolution? Leave a comment and let me know. In the meantime, I think I’ll just go back and play Stadium some more.