Game: Pokemon Pearl

by Mike Morier

Pokemon Pearl Cover

Pikachu and his pantheon of phonic ticsters are back in what must be about the thirtieth Pokemon game on a portable system. I must confess. I’ve never before been compelled to “catch them all” (though I am a firm believer in the practice of “captcha them all” – because your Ugly Betty discussion board is no place for bots and spammers).

Nintendo seems to have taken an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the game. It was all new to me, but even I could see that very little had changed from the Game Boy Advance versions of the series. This doesn’t seem to deter Pokemon veterans, because everything here, while similar, has been refined to the point of perfection on the DS.

That being said, I’m a little disappointed in the graphics. The environments are well done, with a cartoony top-down view that you’ve doubtless seen before if you’ve ever played an older RPG. They’ve rendered these locales in a sort of quasi-3D that really suits the style of the game, while giving it a facelift. However, you’ll be spending a great deal of the game in battle mode and there is very little to see here. The character designs, while cute and reminiscent of past Pokemons, are very simple and feature very few animations. Backgrounds are also very sparse. When Pokemon Battle Revolution comes out for the Wii, there will be an option to have your DS battles played out in full 3D on your television. I have a sneaking suspicion that Nintendo is very actively trying to encourage this practice by downgrading the portable visuals of the DS.

Pokemon - Screenshot 1

Sound and music, on the other hand, are excellent. The tunes are catchy and among the best on the system. All of the various Pokemon you will face and train also have their own voices (they don’t just repeat their names ad-nauseam like their cartoon counterparts – this is a good thing).

You play the part of either a boy or a girl trainer. Soon you’ll meet a renowned Pokemon scholar and researcher who will present you with your first minion and a “Pokedex”, which will store information about all Pokemon in your inventory (delightfully imprisoned in charming little red and white balls). To “catch them all”, you’ll have to slog through uncharted wilderness. Random wild Pokemon will attack and you’ll need to defeat them (your opponent will faint rather than die) in order to capture them for future use. As your arsenal grows, so too does your reputation and you’ll soon find yourself involved in skirmishes with other rival trainers.

Seems simple enough, but an RPG-lite this isn’t. The complexity of the game comes in leveling up your various Pokemon and studying their attributes and skills to best decide how to defeat your enemies. At first, this too seems simple. Elemental conventions abound – fire-based creatures are weak against water-based attacks, for instance. As you progress, your battles will be based less on convention and more on experience and experimentation. Also, in terms of actual battle mechanics, the proceedings have been tailored to the DS in the form of giant action buttons on the bottom touch screen (suitable for thumb-mashing if you don’t feel like holding your stylus for the game’s duration).

Pokemon - Screenshot 2

Another huge DS upgrade comes in the form of Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection service. This will allow you to trade, battle and even chat (a headset was released in conjunction with the game) with friends over the Internet. There is one setback here, however. Nintendo is very wary of its core demographic and does not want children to be able communicate with just anybody online. As a result, you are required to enter a 12-digit number (known as a “Friend Code”) before engaging somebody, confirming that both parties are willing to play together. Just be prepared to do a little legwork if you’re interested in playing with random entities. Local wireless play is also supported and far less restrictive.

So, while the presentation and premise here is very kiddiesque, the training system and rich multiplayer mode will have you strategizing and scheming before long. And, if you’ve got room for a little Squirtle in your heart, you’re also likely to become completely addicted. After all, three million Pokemaniacs (somehow disturbingly distilled into the essence of this kid) can’t be wrong.

  • Game: Pokemon Pearl
  • by Mike Morier
  • Published on June 17th, 2007
Pokemon Pearl
Game Freak
April 22 2007
Game System:
Nintendo DS
Game Type:

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