It probably helps that my initial expectations were low, based on the mess that was Colosseum. I can't even remember whether I "finished" it & got Ho-Oh - I ran out of desire to play it before I even finished the main "story", long, long before I got to the end of the 100 Trainer Mt Battle sheer tediosity. The sarcastic voice at the back of my head says "Yeah, that's a good way to impress someone - make sure they start with low expectations :P". But, I think this would be a fantastic game even if I'd been looking forward to it for years.
Reasons it rocks:
Things they kept from Colosseum that were actually good: (not much)
- All battles are Double Battles, where you and the opponent both send out 2 Pokemon at a time. I love, love, love Double Battling. If you thought Pokemon was a kids' game because it looks fluffy, think again. With 17 Types/elements, each having strengths and weaknesses against the others, and some pkmn having dual-Type, the level of strategy involved just in a Single Battle can be pretty high. Double Battles don't double that, they square it. You can have both your pkmn attack a single foe, have each of them attack a different foe - or even use your own attacks on your own pkmn, to power up other moves.
- They haven't messed with the layout of the areas they kept from Colosseum - so your mental map is the same. (I was particularly tickled that the "secret" item locations in Agate Village were exactly the same!)
Things they have completely improved on:
- There's a story that actually makes sense. Games don't have to have a story, but if there is one, I expect it to be meaningful. I hated with Colosseum that you never found out why the main character had left Team Snagem (the evil team that you were fighting), or what his motivations were.
- As the game's set in the same world 5 years later, the characters from the first game have returned a bit older. I like continuity.
- The number of Shadow Pokemon! Pretty much everyone you fight has one! I believe there are over 80 in total, compared to only 40 in Colosseum.
- The movesets of the Shadow Pokemon. Oh, wow :D Pretty much all of them contain at least one move that that pkmn can't normally learn, or an egg move that's difficult to achieve. Like Poison Fang on Poochyena - you can breed it on, but it takes a bit of doing.
- As the movesets are different from the standard movesets of those Pokemon, it's actually worth catching them! There's a reason for bothering to get Yet Another Poochyena (a pkmn you normally have 10 of, as they're one of the first you encounter at the start of Ruby or Sapphire), if it has Poison Fang and Heal Bell. I approve.
- The Purification Chamber. Eeee! For a strategist like me, this thing is perfect. Basically, you arrange any 4 non-Shadow Pokemon that you have in a circle, with a Shadow Pokemon in the middle. To get the maximum Tempo of Purification, you have to make sure that every pkmn in the Set is of a Type that is Super Effective against the next one in the circle. Then, the Shadow Pokemon in the middle must be of a Type that is Super Effective against one of the four non-Shadow pkmn, and it must be facing that one. I've already worked out four "perfect" Sets for maximum Tempo, just based on the first few Shadow Pokemon that you catch.
- The new way of Purifying the Shadow Pokemon makes intuitively more sense to me than the way it was done in Colosseum. Same with Reverse Mode. (This only makes sense if you've seen Colosseum I suppose.) Basically, Reverse Mode is a mode where the Shadow Pokemon get overwhelmed and start damaging themselves. If you Call the pkmn's name, it goes back to normal. There was a red mode in Colosseum where Shadow Pokemon would go bezerk, refuse to obey your orders, and do such powerful attacks that they caused some damage to themselves - but it made no sense why you'd ever want to Call the Pokemon to get it out of that mode, considering how much more powerful their attacks became!
- In Colosseum, you had this bloody annoying girl following you all the time, while contributing nothing to the battling. In XD, you only have a follower some of the time, and you get different followers as the story goes on.
- There is an insane mini-game called Battle Bingo, where you move across a Bingo card flipping over squares, and battling whoever's hiding behind them. It's a reminder of why we play video games - so much fun you're sitting there laughing at the absurdity, with a big grin on your face.
The absolute best thing of all are the Battle Sim CDs. These rock so much that I'm going to have to go into great detail about how much they rock.
OK. So, as you travel around the main story, you pick up CDs as you go. You can take these to a place with a simulator and run semi-prescripted battles against computer opponents. Doesn't sound good so far? Here's the catch: You have to use every bit of that Type match-up strategy to defeat a seemingly-impossible situation. Like, for example, knock out 3 Level 50 Pokemon in 2 moves? Or defeat a Level 100 Pokemon using a single Level 5 Pokemon? Both of those challenges are possible, I've just played them today. There is no way on earth the kind of players who just pick a team of 6 pkmn that look "the coolest" and level them up to Level 100 could do the kind of utterly devious thinking required, and I love that they're rewarding the people with brains, by giving us this lovely brain food.
Here follow spoilers, because I need to boast about this stuff somewhere. Solutions are written in yellow font - if you view the page using my usual style, they should hide until you highlight the text with your mouse. If you use your own style to view pages, that won't work, sorry :)
Disc 16: Slowpoke Family Feud. Sharpedo, please don't thrash about!
You have 2 pkmn: a Sharpedo and a Misdreavus. The Misdreavus is not much good for attacking - it's a Ghost type, with only 3 moves - none powerful against the Psychic-types Slowpoke, Slowbro and Slowking. Your Sharpedo is powerful, but it only knows the move Thrash. This lets it rampage for 2-3 turns, then get Confused. Confused pkmn have a tendency to attack themselves. This pretty quickly knocks out your Sharpedo. How do you stop this happening?
Misdreavus has the move Skill Swap. This swaps the Ability of the pkmn with another that you select. Slowpoke has the ability Own Tempo, which prevents Confusion. So you use Skill Swap once to get Slowpoke's Own Tempo onto Misdreavus, and then a second time to get it onto Sharpedo. After that, Misdreavus is knocked out, but it doesn't matter, because now Sharpedo can rampage continuously until all the Slowthings are knocked out. They can't affect Sharpedo at all, because it's Dark-type and completely immune to Psychic moves.
Disc 28: Bomb Squad. Prevent the opponent's Explosion!
The opposing team has a pkmn that only knows Explosion. You can't skip a turn - if it's your move, you have to do something. How on earth can you prevent an Explosion?
By making sure that the opponent is forced to send the Electrode into battle at the same time as Psyduck. Psyduck's Ability is Damp, which means that while Psyduck is in play, no one can use Explosion or Selfdestruct. The Electrode tries to use Explosion, but it always fails.
Disc 19: Volcanic Reaction. A fiery ordeal of invasive flavor!
Most evil puzzle EVER! (Or at least, of the ~20 or so discs I've obtained & tried). You have a team of 4 pkmn: Rhydon, Golem, Flareon and some bird, while the opponent only has 3 pkmn in his team... but you have to defeat him in 2 turns! There are so many red herrings in this puzzle, it's crazy.
Red herring #1: Both of the foes that start out are Super Vulnerable to Ground-type moves. Both of your starting pkmn have Earthquake in their moveset. Temptation to use it = High. Resist that temptation.
Red herring #2: Gengar is a Ghost/Poison type. Poison are also Super Vulnerable to Ground-type moves. Yay, let's just EQ that Gengar as well! Ain't gonna work. Gengar has Levitate ability, making him Immune to Ground-type moves. Temptation to do this? Not terribly high, if you've ever used a Gengar. (I had 2 in Colosseum, one with entirely Physical attacks and the other with entirely Special attacks. Both had very high IVs (Individual Values, that boost an individual pkmn's stats). Neither of them were much good. Even with the high IVs, Gengar's stats suck for a third-evolution pkmn.) But certainly tempting if you haven't.
Red herring #3: All of your pkmn have the move Protect, that enables them to skip damage for a turn. Temptation to have one of your starters Earthquake and the other Protect? Extremely high. But you don't need to.
Red herring #4: If you crack and look at the hint, it tells you that pkmn with Flash Fire ability power up if they're hit by a Fire-type move. Gengar, the last of the opposing pkmn, uses Will-o-Wisp, a weak Fire move at the start of Turn 2, on the first of your pkmn. Temptation to try to get your Flareon into slot 1? Ridiculously high! But that's not the Fire move that'll hit her.
Red herring #5: I guess the bird in your team is a red herring as well. Flying-types are Immune to Ground-type moves, so you might want to swap him in instead of using Protect while Rhydon or Golem Earthquakes. Totally pointless, just wastes a turn - and you only have 2 turns to finish the battle in!
This is what you do: Get your Rhydon to use Flamethrower on YOUR pkmn in slot 2. At the start, this is Golem, who can't do anything with it. Tell Golem to do an Explosion. This is a very powerful move that will make him faint, but also knock out BOTH of the opposing pkmn. Golem is faster than Rhydon, so it explodes first. Rhydon is a Rock-type, and can survive the Explosion.
Then, you get a "free" swap without using up a turn, as your Golem has fainted. Put Flareon into slot 2. She can't move during that turn, but she's now in place to get hit when slow Rhydon finally moves with his Flamethrower. That hits her, activating her Flash Fire ability and powering up her Fire-type moves. Now, in your second turn, use Flareon's Overheat. Powered up to the max by having been hit, she can easily one-hit KO Gengar. How devious is that? :D
Woo, that was long.
So I'm feeling generally much more benevolent towards Genius Sonority, and will probably buy Pokemon Torouze/Trozei on import from the US. Because it's Zoo Keeper with Pokemon - and you have to catch all 386! Is that not something I need?
Oh yes, if you click on the link and read all my wittering, please comment, even if it's just a smiley or something. Nothing worse than spending an hour typing in a long, excited ramble about how excellent something is, and then no one reads it because "Pokemon is just for kids". Like hell it is ;)