For the victors of Pokémon Colosseum, who think that Shadow Pokémon and Cipher are things of the past, it's time for a wake up call. Both of these menaces are back and ready to wreak even more havoc in Nintendo's latest Pokémon game release for the GameCube, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. The XD stands for Extra Dimension, because this full-scale RPG will be done entirely in the latest 3D graphics that Nintendo has to offer.
Five years after the events that took place in Pokémon Colosseum, the threat from Cipher is even greater than before, as the group is now claiming that they can permanently "close" the hearts of Pokémon, making them immune to any kind of purification process that might bring them back to normal. Why is this very, very bad? Closed-heart or "Shadow" Pokémon have a tendency to be unpredictable and to attack both the Pokémon and the trainers that they battle. Plus they're just downright nasty when it comes to attitude. Cipher's goal in the game is to create an army of these creatures that they can use to take over the world.
Instead of normal attacks, Shadow Pokémon use a variety of special Shadow moves, which are very powerful and equally effective against any type of Pokémon.
Shadow Attack: normal physical attack.
Shadow Crush: a more powerful version of Shadow Attack.
Shadow Wave: a physical attack that targets two Pokémon simultaneously.
Shadow Rave: a more powerful version of Shadow Wave.
Shadow Mist: a status attack that lowers a Pokémon's evasiveness by two points.
Shadow Half: a special attack that cuts any Pokémon's HP in half.
"Cipher's goal in the game is to create an army of these creatures that they can use to take over the world."
Just like in Pokémon Coloseum, however, there are still a few good trainers out there who don't want to see innocent Pokémon succumb to a cruel fate. The hero of Gale of Darkness is a young, spiky-haired boy named Michael who journeys around with a pet Evee as his fighting companion. Early on in the game, a sailor will offer him one of five items which can bring about the Pokémon's evolution. Depending on which item players choose, Eevee will evolve into Vaporeon, Jolteon, Flareon, Espeon or Umbreon. But even with an evolved Eevee, taking down the game's evil trainers and their Shadow Pokémon will not be an easy task. Luckily for Michael, his mother works at the Pokémon HQ Lab, where technology to "Snag" and "Purify" the Shadow Pokémon has already been developed.
Snagging an evil trainer's Pokémon is a two-fold process of engaging said trainer in battle, fighting them until they use their Shadow Pokémon against you, and then stealing that Pokémon. Throughout the game Michael will carry a small device with him called an Aura Reader that will activate and identify any nearby Shadow Pokémon. Once a Shadow Pokémon is on the battlefield it can be weakened and then captured using a special device called a Snag Machine that was designed by the brilliant Pokémon scientist, Professor Krane. However, snagging a Shadow Pokémon does not automatically purify it. For the hearts of these Pokémon to be reopened, they must be put into special chamber, also created by Professor Krane, called the Purify Chamber, along with several normal Pokémon. The normal Pokémon can then use their energy to reopen the heart of the Shadow Pokémon, giving it back its true nature, stats, and special moves, which were otherwise hidden from use. As many as nine Shadow Pokémon can be purified simultaneously in the chamber. The more normal Pokémon used for the purification process, the faster it will go. Also Pokémon of the same type can purify other Pokémon faster than those of different types; i.e. fire types purify fire-based Shadow Pokémon the fastest and so on.
One new feature that has been added to Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness that wasn't seen in Pokémon Colosseum is the ability to capture wild Pokémon in special areas called Pokespots. Players can travel to these different areas, throughout their journey and drop food to lure the Pokémon out from hiding. Once these wild Pokémon appear, they can be captured with a regular pokeball, but only after a good, old-fashioned battle, of course! Capturing wild Pokémon can prove exceedingly useful for building up arsenals to combat and purify the Shadow Pokémon, especially when the latter activity works better if all the Pokémon involved are of the same type.
In addition to its main quest option, Gale of Darkness also has a battle mode and a host of minigames. The battle mode option will allow players to engage their captured Pokémon in two and four way battles. As an enhancement to this option, a system of connectivity between the GBA Pokémon titles of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, and Pokémon Emerald is offered, allowing players to upload previous human characters and Pokémon from their old saved games. The level of transference between Gale of Darkness and the other game titles, however, is directly influenced by what is accomplished in the quest portion of the game.
Two of the minigames that players can look forward to are Battle Bingo and Battle CD. In Battle Bingo players start out by choosing a certain Pokémon to act as a battle partner. With that Pokémon at their side they then proceed to flip over a number of bingo cards that have been laid out on a panel. Each card will stand for a certain Pokémon, and once it is flipped the player must choose to either battle or catch it. Beating the Pokémon in battle keeps the card flipped, while losing turns it back over. Players can catch their opponents with a Master Ball for any easy win, but the number of Masterballs provided is limited. Completing four panels in a row gets a Bingo.
The other minigame, Battle CD, is a virtual battle, strategy challenge in which players will play out battle simulations that involve only specific kinds of Pokémon and maneuvers. Each simulation is on a Battle CD that Michael can present to the receptionist at the desk of Battle Sim System. If players beat the simulation, they will receive a special prize; if they lose, then they will receive valuable advice that can be used for future battles in the game.
Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is slated for a North American release of October 3, and a European release on November 18. Will it enthrall fans of the series everywhere, or will it be a flop? Keep an eye out for our official review in October.