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Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness

Bryan: Way to go, Nintendo! It took you only roughly four years to bring out the game that Pokémaniacs across the country have been waiting for since the GameCube launched. Sarcasm aside, Gale of Darkness—the first fully fledged Pokémon role-playing game for the system—is much like the popular handheld installments...and that’s a good thing. This one retains the series’ simple yet strategic two-on-two battle system (some fights can be damn tough), length (it requires a 40-plus-hour commitment), and addictive nature—once again, you’ll find yourself obsessed with catching and training every pocket monster. Plus, like 2004’s combat-heavy Pokémon Colosseum, Gale has the nice option of letting you import your critters from the GBA titles and sending them into the ring for some versus play.

But anything this cute is bound to be annoying in almost equal measure. You’ll have to complete a few too many fetch quests, and listening to the in-game tunes is about as pleasant as Sandshrew’s nails on a chalkboard. Even so, if you haven’t spent quality time with Pikachu for a while, Gale is a good series re-entry point.

Shane: Strange but true: Pokémon only seems to really work on Game Boy. Previous attempts to re-create the gotta-catch-’em-all magic on home consoles have faltered, and Gale of Darkness succeeds only barely. Unlike the limited Pokémon Stadium and Colosseum games, Gale manages to play like the traditional handheld RPGs, albeit in streamlined, dumbed-down form. Linear to a fault, this game rarely allows you to feel like a true Pokémon trainer—don’t expect to wander the wilderness amassing an army of handpicked critters here. The core combat gameplay still sparkles with that mysterious Poké-charm, but mediocre graphics, forgettable music, and a lame, baby-game story line hold the overall quality in check.

1UP.COM—Richard: Before even playing Pokémon XD, I was gulping down my hate-orade. Its plain graphics, cheesy songs, and prehistoric battle system that resembles a rock-paper-scissor game made me believe that Pokémon was only for kids who didn’t know what a real RPG was. But after playing 60-plus hours of this beast, I became engrossed with capturing every shadow Pokémon and was muttering, “Gotta catch ’em all.” I was also surprised by the difficulty—I launched many F-bombs at the computer for being a one-hit-kill cheater. The battle system is surprisingly complex—if you’re unfamiliar with the Pokédex, you will get your butt handed to you. The story is a definite improvement over Pokémon Colosseum’s, but the short ending is a tad disappointing.

Good: Finally, a real Pokémon RPG for consoles

Bad: Music will make your ears bleed

Import Your Critters: From the GBA games for versus play

The verdicts (out of 10):

Bryan: 7.0

Shane: 6.0

Richard: 7.0

Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Genius Sonority Players: 1-4 ESRB: Everyone www.pokemon.com

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.





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