Before Pokémon Legends: Arceus, people have clamored for a true 3D Pokémon console experience. Everyone who has ever played a Pokémon game has prayed and hoped for the natural evolution of the series to a mainline Nintendo console. Other 3D Pokémon games such as the Stadium Series, Battle Revolution, and Pokepark were fine. However, the one that came closest to fan demand was Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness.
Pokémon Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness were the first ever Gamecube games I ever played. There were a lot of hidden gems in the Gamecube’s lunchbox: Super Mario Sunshine, Wind Waker, Super Smash Bros: Melee, and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. However, these two Pokemon games from Genius Sonority captured my attention like no other game could at the time. However, now that I’m older and far more cynical, I have to ask, were these games actually good?
There’s a lot to enjoy with both entries. I always loved the outlaw wild west aura of the Orre Region. It feels darker and more personal. These entries feature darker story moments such as kidnapping, torture, and political corruption. It was refreshing to play a Pokemon game and avoid the tepid gym leader challenge. Instead opting to focus solely on the evil team to save the world.
The concept of Shadow Pokémon was a welcome addition. Turning Pokémon evil and closing the doors “to their hearts” is an effective tool to add stakes to the world of pocket monsters, especially considering the entire goal of the series to befriend these creatures. Facing a secret society of villains wanting to destroy Pokémon friendships as we know it is a clever next stop for Pokémon at the time. Nothing got me more nervous than battling a Cipher Peon and wondering which Pokémon would be a shadow. I wanted to save them all and felt more invested in this goal than with the core series.
My absolute favorite thing about these games? The Double Battles. Much like tag team wrestling in AEW, Pokémon Colosseum invests in a style people want to see more of. Double Battles are the quintessential competitive Pokémon experience. Not only are they more difficult, they force the player to think strategically rather than rely on the standard type of matches that have been done to death. Colosseum even features fantastic Double Battle strategies; from the Protect/Earthquake style of Dakim, to Miror B’s iconic Ludiocolo Rain Team. Having a Pokémon game with actual difficulty after years of the 3DS games being dumbed down feels cathartic.
With all that being said, these games have problems. Catching Shadow Pokemon is not fun to say the least, and repeating the process over and over again is exhausting. Especially when it’s time to face the Cipher Admins and the three Legendary Dogs.
The worst part about Shadow Pokemon? Shadow Rush. If the Shadow Pokemon isn’t put to sleep, it’ll use Shadow Rush if able and take recoil damage. Sure paralysis is an option as well as confusion, however, confusion causes damage and paralysis fails more often than not. When you want to capture a Legendary Pokemon the last thing needed is for it to keep inflicting damage on itself. It took me 40 painful minutes just to capture Raikou when battling Ein. I had to rematch Venus FOUR TIMES just to capture Suicune.
Pokemon XD alleviates a lot of issues. Yet it comes at the expense of the atmosphere Colosseum had. Colosseum felt new and special on release, while XD was more of the same with a copy and pasted world that didn’t do anything to stand out. It was a better way to play the game. Yet compared to it’s predecessor, it doesn’t capture the same immersion. It’s akin to the first Avengers movie versus Age of Ultron. More of the same, some unique ideas, less enjoyable at the same time.
I think modern 3D Pokémon games get compared due to these two entries giving players something different. It felt more grounded, more human, and more relaxed at the same time. These aren’t the best Pokémon games ever made. However, they are a pretty good alternative for those tired of the mainline series and wanting something fresh. I still say the battle animations are more preferable than the ones Game Freak made in 2013.
I think of these two entries as a guilty pleasure. They aren’t great yet I always look back on them fondly as part of the Gen 3 experience. These games are more or less battle simulators with a barebones RPG quest. Kinda like a Pokemon version of Gran Turismo. Back then, The Pokemon Company could get away with selling an entire game for the sole purpose of it being 3D. Who am I kidding, they still do that. Regardless, Pokemon Colosseum and XD still feel like an important aspect of that era. A way to get more people into Generation Three and restore the National Dex. If you’re looking for an alternative take in the Poke-World. Feel free to hunt down a Gamecube emulator and give both Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness a spin.
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