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GDC 07: Pokemon Pearl impressions

The Pokemon machine just doesn't stop. Pokemon Pearl was available at GDC on a pretty pink DS Lite, and while no one was looking, I got to get my hands on it. While the Pokemon franchise isn't known for its graphics, the first thing I noticed as a long-time Pokemon fan was how improved the graphics have become. The screens may not show it off too well, but the game features much better character sprites in the game world. Looking at the aliasing issues in the game, it appears that the world may even have a psuedo-3D engine behind it as well. Unfortunately, the battles haven't received as nice of a makeover: they still look incredibly primitive, even by GBA standards: the uninspired battle animations certainly don't leave a good impression.

Other than the cosmetic changes, it doesn't appear as though the world of Pokemon has changed too much. Like previous iterations of the franchise, this version introduces even more pocket monsters to capture ... but not much else. The game doesn't stray far from the original Pokemon formula: classic elements, such as being forced into a fight when spotted by a rival trainer, are still retained in this latest update.

Strangely, use of the touch screen seems conspicuously absent. Of course, with other titles like Pokemon Ranger trying to take the franchise in a different direction, maybe it's best that Pokemon remains unchanged for its next major DS release.

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Reader Comments (Page 1 of 1)

Author X1

3-08-2007 @ 6:30PM

Author X said...

As someone that imported the japanese version (I'm learning the language, plus I thought it would take longer to localize like the past games have), I can answer a few questions about it if necessary. While the people and pokemon are 2D sprites as usual, they are placed on a simple 3D world, as you mentioned. I thought it was kind of neat, the fixed view makes the effect subtle but there's a sense of perspective - the stuff at the top of the screen is a little smaller than the stuff at the bottom, and as I'm sure you noticed the buildings change perspective as you walk from left to right as well.
As for the touch screen, it's used pretty pragmatically during battle - it seems like you didn't notice, or perhaps the demo versions didn't have this, but the touch screen can be used to navigate the battle menu. Just touch "attack" then the name of the attack. It's also used nicely in the pokedex and inventory, which can be navigated using buttons and virtual scroll wheels. Honestly, it's an RPG, how else would you use it in regular play (not minigames, obviously) other than menus?
Speaking of minigames, they've brought back some features from the past games that have been on and off, like the real-time clock (since the DS has one built in) from G&S and the pokemon contests from R&S. Instead of pokeblocks, though, there's this kind of pokebread, or something like that, which is made using a stylus minigame, in the same style of the blender minigame that made pokeblocks.
Oh yeah, another neat use for the touch-screen when you're walking around is the "pokechi" (poke-watch), which is a multi-function LCD watch, whose face takes up the bottom of the screen. It's a cute little inteface you can use to do various simple things like count your steps, montior your team's status, or... you guessed it, tell the time. You actually get more modules for it as you go through the game, but to be honest, I didn't get that far (There are plenty of FAQs and what-not but RPGs lose their appeal to me when I can barely understand what everyone's saying - my favorite part is wandering around and talking to everyone)


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3-08-2007 @ 10:14PM

Kefka said...

So yet another pokemon game that changes sweet FA since the last 20 of them? No surprise there.

How long are people going to lap this stuff up for? I mean seriously, the first ones came out on the freaking GAMEBOY. Two generations of handhelds later, and the gameplay - not to mention graphics - have barely changed.

If you thought the Final Fantasy series was formulaic, it has nothing on the pokemon games. At least Squeenix comes up with different battle/magic/ability/skil systems in FF games...

I'm not saying the pokemon games are shit - theyre great little RPGs... it's just that theyre the same great little RPG time and time again.


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3-09-2007 @ 3:51AM

Drew said...

Your point being? The Pokemon Franchise (like Mario, Zelda, Madden) hits upon a formula that works and people like it.


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