"...Colosseum's unique premise still makes it worth a playthrough if you're a fan of Pokémon."
Welcome to the Orre region!
When I was a wee lad, I didn't know much about gaming. I just knew I loved Pokémon. So when I heard kids at school talking about Pokémon Colosseum, I knew I needed a GameCube. Not too long after the game came out, I turned down my parents' "one-time only" offer of putting a TV in my room in order to get a GameCube. Of course, Pokémon Colosseum was the first game I had for the system. I have fond memories of waking up around 5AM to play this game before school started, and once my homework was done, I would start playing again. However, how does this game hold up today?
You play as Wes (you can change your name), a member of Team Snagem. The syndicate known as Cipher has created the Snag Machine, which allows its user to capture other Trainers' Pokémon. Pokémon are captured by Team Snagem using this machine and then sent off to Cipher to convert the Pokémon into Shadow Pokémon. Sick of his gang's ways, Wes destroys Team Snagem's hideout at the start of the game and makes off with the Snag Machine along with his partners in crime, Umbreon and Espeon. Upon meeting Rui (you can change her name), who has the innate ability to see Shadow Pokémon, Wes decides to walk the path of redemption and take back Shadow Pokémon from Cipher.
The story of Pokémon Colosseum isn't anything too special, but it is interesting in a couple of ways. For one thing, it tries to actually tell a coherent story, years before Pokémon Black/White. Second, it features a protagonist with a criminal history, looking to right his past wrongs. I wish they dove more into this part of the game to make things more interesting. Perhaps in the future, there can be another protagonist like Wes with a criminal background, and we can have a story focused more on redemption.
One of the most emphasized things about Pokémon games is the relationship you have with your Pokémon. All of the characters in the mainline games say that you have a strong relationship with your Pokémon, but it's hard to really see that from a player perspective. However, in Pokémon Colosseum, you can feel the relationship that you have with your Pokémon more so than any other Pokémon game. Shadow Pokémon are Pokémon that were stolen from their Trainers, had their hearts artificially closed, and are used to commit evil deeds. Since their hearts were closed by humans, Shadow Pokémon are simply terrified and lash out at anything that tries to get near them. You need to spend time with them and get them to open their hearts to you. Every time you are able to purify a Shadow Pokémon, it feels like you're saving it from a cruel fate. It's a concept that was toned down in the sequel, Gale of Darkness, and hasn't been seen in Pokémon since, which is a shame.
Colosseum sends you on an adventure through the region, like the mainline games, and features the same battle systems. That's where the similarities end. In Pokémon Colosseum, you start off with Umbreon and Espeon at level 25, and the game features double battles almost exclusively. The third generation of Pokémon seemed to have this crazy obsession with double battles, and Pokémon Colosseum is a prime example. Anyone hoping for single battles will be disappointed; they are few and far between in Pokémon Colosseum. If you love double battles, you'll love the game. I know I did as a kid, but it's a little odd nowadays.
In addition, wild Pokémon are nowhere to be found in the Orre region. I have no idea how Trainers in Orre get their Pokémon, especially considering an early shopkeeper mentions how nobody asks for Poké Balls — he has to look through his storage area to find some old, dusty ones. The only way to add new Pokémon to your team is to catch Shadow Pokémon. While there's a nice variety of Shadow Pokémon for you to catch, it is a bit of a shame that you can't catch anything else outside of battles with Trainers who have Shadow Pokémon.
At the time of Pokémon Colosseum's release, it was criticized for reusing some of Pokémon Stadium 2's animations for the various Pokémon. While I didn't mind this back when I first played the game, it's crazy how they have continued to reuse a lot of the same animations even in today's games. For the upcoming Pokémon Sword and Shield, I would like to see them change some of the older animations. Despite this, there was the novelty of Colosseum being the first Pokémon game with 3D movement.
The music of Pokémon Colosseum was very impressive for its time, and it still sounds good today. Since the main Pokémon games were on handhelds, and the console entries were spin-offs, the music wasn't used to its full potential. Even though Colosseum is also a spin-off, it closely resembles the main games, and being on GameCube meant the composers could work with better hardware. Right from the main menu theme, I knew I was in for a treat when I first played this game. Colosseum was as close as Pokémon got to an orchestral soundtrack for quite a few years. Battle music is epic, with the Cipher Peon and Cipher Admin tracks still placing near the top of my all-time favourite Pokémon themes. Then there is, of course, the infamous "Miror B.'s Retro Groove" that you either love or hate. I personally love it, but it is incredibly cheesy. The music has personality, much like the game itself. There are also remixes of Ruby/Sapphire music for when you connect your R/S games to Pokémon Colosseum.
If you have the chance, I would say Pokémon Colosseum is worth checking out. It is a bit awkward going back to the third generation of Pokémon today, but Colosseum's unique premise still makes it worth a playthrough if you're a fan of Pokémon. For their debut game, Genius Sonority did a good job capturing the essence of Pokémon in a new spin-off. There's a reason why people who have played Colosseum and its sequel, Gale of Darkness, are asking for a future Pokémon game to be made in the same style as these two.