Pokemon enters a dark `Colosseum'

Adventure: The new game from Nintendo is much nastier than the version your kid brother cut his teeth on.

April 08, 2004|By Chip Carter and Jonathan Carter | Chip Carter and Jonathan Carter,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Whoa, Pikachu ... we're not in Kansas anymore. And you thought you had seen it all when it came to Pokemania.

Those who grew up playing the original Pokemon classics for the Game Boy and N64 are in for a surprise. Those who skipped the whole thing because it somehow seemed too light and fluffy might want to take a closer look.

Pokemon Colosseum ($50, for the Nintendo GameCube) in the game's title is fitting. As with the original in Rome, there are some dark and nasty elements to this one. This ain't your kid brother's Pokemon.

For those who have lived in a cave or on another planet for the past few years, the idea behind the Pokemon Game Boy titles is to capture and train bizarre critters that battle each other for the glory of their masters. If you've been around Pokemania for a while, you'll remember the two Pokemon Stadium games that let you bring your stable of Pokemon to the N64 for some huge arena battles. Colosseum combines all those elements and adds a single-player adventure that's sure to satisfy fans of the genre.

But there is a darker side. No longer are you the cute young boy who's looking to win fame as a Pokemon trainer. Instead, you're a teen-age thug who doesn't bother going to the trouble of capturing and training Pokemon - you steal them instead.

Our, um, "hero" starts his adventure by bombing the headquarters of a Pokemon team to get his hands on a machine that makes it possible to steal Pokemon from other trainers during battles. There is an upside here. Not all trainers are kind and gentle with their critters. In fact, some of them are downright cruel.

It seems Pokemon raised under these conditions have developed a bit of an edge. Known as Shadow Pokemon, they're nasty little critters. Your job is to rescue and salvage the ones who have turned mean.

Shadow Pokemon have just one attack, can't build up experience points and often fly into a hyper-rage that can't be controlled. Using these Pokemon in combat lets you find ways to unlock more attacks and "purify" the poor little devils. After that, you can train them as you would any other Pokemon - and deliver them to your Game Boy Advance versions of Pokemon Ruby or Sapphire.

But the real star of Colosseum is the multiplayer action. Here's your chance to show off your skills, as well as the arsenal of Pokemon you've collected and trained in GBA games. As many as four players can connect their GBAs to the GameCube at once to battle it out.

Graphically, this one isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that's to be expected - you are transferring data from your handheld GBA to the Cube and vice versa; the two systems have to be able to communicate and process the same data. But Colosseum looks good enough, grittier and more mature-themed than its predecessors.

JON SAYS: The original Pokemon audience is growing up - or has grown up. Nintendo's smart to realize that. I never imagined I would still be playing Pokemon at 18. - A

CHIP SAYS: Nintendo is smart. Taking chances with proven franchises is always risky, but the payoff here is large. Don't know what's next, but here's a suggestion: Mario Mob, wherein a made Mario and Luigi take baseball bats to "clients" who are slow to pay. We're waiting. - A

OVERALL RATING: A - BUY IT FOR POKEMON FANS.

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