Pokemon Battle Revolution – Staff Review #2

Over the years, Pokemon has made constant changes to its basic combat system, eventually resulting in a system that is wonderfully balanced and provides a wealth of customization options to advanced players without making things too terribly complicated for beginners. Where Pokemon Battle Revolution goes horribly awry is where it decides to completely shuck all of the secondary aspects of the Pokemon series, such as the plot, the capture-and-train theme, and the sense of growth as a Trainer, in favor of a laser-sharp focus on the combat system. The game becomes dull quickly mainly due to the fact that without anything to support the combat or provide it with any sort of context, it’s just a series of challenges without purpose or direction. To put it simply, Pokemon Battle Revolution is a stripped-down title whose only real saving grace is the inclusion of a handful of systems which really should have been included in the DS titles in the first place.

The plot of Pokemon Battle Revolution is simple – there isn’t one. The game’s opening sequence presents Poketopia, a theme park that houses a number of different colosseums, each one with a different set of rules. The player is introduced to the various features of the game via a pretty blonde be-scarved counter attendant. From there, the player is simply let loose – you can immediately copy over your entire backlog of Pokemon from Diamond and Pearl and create a custom Battle Pass to enter into the various colosseums, or use one of the fairly wimpy Rental Passes. Completing each colosseum opens up new ones, for a grand total of ten, and  the credits roll after finishing each of them once. There are no characters to develop, no theme to support, and no real purpose behind the game other than the basic idea of critter-on-critter violence.

The animations are solid, but they get a bit repetitive after a while.
The animations are solid, but they get a bit repetitive after a while.

Frankly, the complete lack of a storyline is a major disappointment. The last Genius Sonority-produced Pokemon game, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, had one of the best storylines of the series to date, and although it lacked the colosseum battles of the N64 games, it was, in the end, a much richer and more satisfying experience. The return to the Stadium-style gameplay of the N64 games just does not stand up well against a fully-fleshed out Pokemon game, making Pokemon Battle Revolution come off as flat, predictable, and uninspired.

The main purpose of Pokemon Battle Revolution appears to lie in providing players with a series of challenges that they can run Pokemon raised in D/P through. These challenges range from the basic (defeat a series of seven trainers) to the obnoxious (your party is mixed with that of your opponent, and then both teams are semi-randomly selected) to the absurd (the Pokemon in your party must be Lv. 5 or below), and for the most part, they aren’t particularly difficult to complete. Or, for that matter, particularly engaging. Most of the colosseums can be won through brute force, using a team of high-order Legendary Pokemon to run through the foe’s team with little difficulty. The game does reduce the rewards given to a player who uses this kind of strategy, but it’s barely enough to be noticeable.

To the credit of the designers, there is at least a fair amount of things to unlock. Beyond the basics of new clothes and costumes to purchase for your Trainer avatars and various items which can be sent to your DS game, playing through each colosseum unlocks new rules to play by. After the first run-through of the game, the player can change the level rule of most colosseums from Lv.30 Open, which bans Pokemon whose level is lower than 30 and sets all opposing Pokemon to the same level as your highest leveled critter, to Lv. 50 All, a much more fair rule which simply sets all Pokemon to Lv. 50. The unlockables featured in Pokemon Battle Revolution fail to cover up a major problem with the game: the lack of progression. As players progress through the game, enemies get stronger, revealing new strategies and tougher creatures for you to battle… But your party is likely to stay more or less the same. All of which makes the cries of “You’ve gotten stronger!” from foes in the later parts of the game ring hollow.

For many Pokemon fans, the major attraction of Pokemon Battle Revolution is the ability to battle randomly selected opponents over Nintendo WiFi. Although it may seem like a rather minor feature to command so much attention, the ability to randomly battle people from around the world cuts out one of the major problems of the Friend Code system Nintendo is so fond of – the hassle of tracking down and challenging other players. The hours spent finding an online Pokemon community with active battlers? Gone. Issues with the language barrier? Not a problem. Problems tracking down people to play against at all hours of the day or night? No longer an issue. It simplifies things so much to be able to find an opponent with a few button presses that this feature almost makes Pokemon Battle Revolution worthwhile all by itself, and indeed, begs the question of why the DS games never included it.

One area that the Genius Sonority-produced Pokemon games have always done well in is the music. Like Pokemon Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness before it, Pokemon Battle Revolution features a soundtrack with some very good music, expertly composed and complex without feeling out of place on a Pokemon title. The main issue with the soundtrack is that, while it is good, there just isn’t much of it. With each of the ten colosseums having only one theme, there are a disturbingly small number of songs on the soundtrack, even including all the incidental counter and menu music. One point of controversy with the overall sound of Pokemon Battle Revolution is the battle announcer. When done well, this style of ringside commentator can add a much-needed sense of drama to the proceedings, while a poorly-done one will just come off as pretentious and overbearing, oftentimes referring to the actual events of the battle only vaguely. The announcer of Pokemon Battle Revolution straddles the line between annoying and entertaining, using a melodramatic flair that, while fitting for the Pokemon setting, definitely isn’t going to appeal to everyone.

Visually, the game works fairly well. Each arena feels solidly unique, with some interesting incidental effects, like shooting stars in the Stargazer Colosseum and the flicker of gems in the Crystal Colosseum. The overall tiny size of the game affects Pokemon Battle Revolution negatively here, too, however. With only ten different colosseums to run through, it doesn’t take long before a player’s surroundings become all too familiar and prosaic.

Kung-fu Monkey versus Battleship Penguin - now in 3D!
Kung-fu Monkey versus Battleship Penguin – now in 3D!

One thing Pokemon games have struggled with in the past is menu construction. Only recently has the series managed to come to grips with the not inconsiderable task of giving players quick and easy access to the multitude of critters, items, and information available to them, but Pokemon Battle Revolution‘s interface is really more of a step backwards. Though the multiple control schemes are done well, the overall menu construction is a bit labyrinthine and doesn’t always give players the information they need when they need it.

Pokemon Battle Revolution is a very oddly constructed game with regards to actual completion time. Technically, the game ends after the player has run through each colosseum once, with the credits rolling after one final battle against the leader of each colosseum, all of which should take around twelve to fifteen hours, if not less. After the credits, however, the rules of several areas change, and the player will be free to replay already conquered colosseums at increasingly higher difficulty and with new level rules. The practical upshot of all this is that there is more to the postgame of Pokemon Battle Revolution than there is primary content. The actual difficulty level of the game varies pretty wildly, too. Some colosseums will be such smooth sailing for anyone with a copy of Pokemon D/P that it’s a wonder they were included at all, while others present an obnoxious element of luck that will make for some tough going.

During the Gamecube era, Genius Sonority ditched most of the Colosseum systems of the N64 Pokemon Stadium games in favor of a richer, more coherent storyline. This caused something of an uproar in some quarters of the fandom, who demanded a return to the days of old. In my opinion, listening to these fans was a mistake. Pokemon Battle Revolution presents a stale series of challenges without reason or direction, open for the most part only to players with a good head start by way of the DS titles. For the vast majority of the fans, and even for those of us who are obsessed with the intricacies of the combat system, Pokemon Battle Revolution simply isn’t worth the price of admission.

One Comment

  1. Jordan "J_Sensei" Jackson:

    Story gets a 0? Tell us what you REALLY think, CJ. XD

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