Let Lickitung Live Larger than Life!
Today marks the dawning of a new era. For time immemorial, the tiny, frisky little creatures known as Pokemon have lived within the cramped and bitter confines of handheld systems. Valiantly, despite their diminutive size, these brave souls – Chimchar and Bidoof, Luxio and Pikachu – have managed to charm the hearts and warm the fragrant cockles of young and old alike with their melodious calls, their fighting prowess, and above all, their irresistible cuteness. All this despite measuring less than half an inch tall!
[image1]Until now, that is. In a transmutation previously considered unthinkable, the dwarfish, runty pipsqueaks of the handheld universe will finally get their due. Now, for the first time ever on the Wii console, the bent and stunted pokemon will be able to breathe freely, stretching and expanding to fill your 40 inch – nay, 60 inch gigantic TV. Destiny is upon us, my friend, for the era of the life-sized Pokemon has begun!!!
Well, kind of. First off, Nintendo has released Pokemon titles for their console systems before, so I may be going a little bit off the deep end with my flowery introduction there. Seriously, though, that is the mindset I found myself in when I picked up Pokemon Battle Revolution. I mean, it’s the first Pokemon title for the Wii. That should be a big deal, right? Well, apparently I’m more excited about this than Nintendo is, because even though there are some nice bells and whistles in the game, Pokemon Battle Revolution adds little to the extensive and epic Pokemon franchise.
In Pokemon Battle Revolution, you explore the land of Poketopia. A rather limited, highly specialized land - Poketopia’s sole purpose for existing is to provide battlegrounds for the cheerful, ball-inhabiting minions of you and your friends. As a Pokemon trainer, you and your charges can challenge the computer players in one of several colosseums, or you can play with your friends or strangers via either a DS connection or the internet.
And really, that’s it. That’s all the content you get. Yep.
[image2]Arceus help you if you don’t have Pokemon Diamond or Pearl for the DS, because otherwise there’s not a heck of a lot for you to do. The game gives you a few Pokemon to start out with, but there are no opportunities to catch, hatch, or grow new ones. You either need to import the ones you have lovingly fostered on the DS, or you’re stuck with one of the standard sets, which offers little if any opportunity to hone, refine, or strategize your play.
If you do have your own team of Pokemon that you want to send into battle against worthy opponents, then Poketopia is the place to do it. You can battle against a buddy in the same room using a DS, or explore the big, bad world of Pokemon fever through your Wii’s internet connection. Online play is straightforward and not too difficult to set up, though they do make some dubious interface choices that needlessly complicate your life (for the love of Pichu, why would you ever make players use a touchpad-style interface to key in their names when you’ve got a giant screen and a remote pointer? Pure, unadulterated malice?!) If you can overlook these minor issues, however, you can get up and running pretty quickly, and it’s great to see the tiny, pixilated little critters you’ve come to know and love grow up and become full-fledged three-dimensional beings on the big screen.
Even here, however, I would have liked to see more. The graphics are fine, but there were few, if any, ‘wow’ moments. The turn based fighting animations seem nearly as clunky as on the handheld systems, and are sometimes just flat out badly done. For example, when your pokemon is dealt a death blow, it reels, stumbles, picks itself up, shakes it off… and then falls over and faints. Would it have killed them to make one more animation showing the blow that knocks them down for good?
[image3]You also have the ability to customize your trainer by purchasing clothing and hairstyle options in Poketopia’s shopping district. Be prepared to invest a lot of time and energy to afford that new outfit you’ve been eyeing, however, as the costs are high relative to the money you can earn defeating opponents. Challenging a coliseum – seven battles in all, and a time commitment of 30-45 minutes, will net you enough to buy about half of a pair of pants. If you want that ultra-hip T-shirt, you’re going to have to work for it.
It’s also nice to finally hear your Pokemon roar, chirp, and screech through an audio system that’s actually capable of full, rounded sound instead of the imbedded speaker. But again here, there was nothing that stood out as a vast improvement over the handheld sound effects. One interesting audio addition to Pokemon Battle Revolution is the commentator, who narrates the ups and downs of your battles with the fevered pitch of a baseball sportscaster. You can mute the excitable guy, but I found I actually enjoyed having a Don Pardo-like figure explaining to some unknown audience how much I was pwning my 9-year-old opponent.
For the die-hard Pokemon player, this game is a must have: the thrill of seeing your team of Pokemon on the big screen duking it out against your buddies will outweigh any flaws, fumbles or complete lack of content the game might have. For the rest of us, however, we may as well sit down and wait for the dawn of the era after this one.