I spent two straight hours straight of my life watching a Psyduck wearing a tie read the news. Then I spent an hour and a half watching Wobbuffet read out quiz results. This game is hypnotic.Review by Ben Kosmina
When I first received Pokémon Channel, I was told that Nintendo had said I should keep in mind that this game is aimed at kids around the age of five. With that, I dove into my latest bout of Poké-insanity. The game starts with a couple of Magnemite delivering a television to your house. Professor Oak informs you that you're lucky enough to be participating in Pokémon Channel, a television station designed with Pokémon in mind. You're soon interrupted by a Pikachu at your door, who wants to see what all of the fuss is about, as it saw the TV being delivered. Oak tells you that it is rare for a wild Pokémon to do something like this, and that he recommends that you let Pikachu watch TV with you. With that, you're given access to a few channels and some of the most bizarre entertainment you'll ever see.
Initially, you'll have access to the first part of a five part anime called "Pichu Bros. in Party Panic!" along with a Squirtle-hosted shopping channel where you'll spend all the Poké-money that you earn, an exercise channel featuring an army of Smoochum, a quiz show featuring Wobbuffet which has interactive sections where you can earn money, and a 24 hour news channel hosted by Psyduck and his on-the-spot reporter, Meowth. This news channel, known as Pokémon News Flash (or PNF for short) is where you'll get information on what's happening in the local area, and where you can spot rare Pokémon such as Celebi. Later on you'll get Smeargle's Art Study (Smeargle is entertainment in itself), a channel with nothing but Mareep jumping over a fence and being counted, and Chansey's Lucky Fortune Channel, where Chansey offers such pearls of wisdom as 'Long ago, people didn't have video games. What would you have done then?'
For those of you who haven't seen the show, most Pokémon only speak by either making a strange sound, or, more commonly, repeat various syllables of their name over and over. This makes for really, really abstract conversation. While the subtitles at the bottom of the screen for Psyduck will say, "Our crew member Aipom narrowly avoided a nasty fall in Viridian Forest today," all you will hear is "Psy-ay-ay, ay-ay-ay duck. Psyduck psy, duck duck." And so on. Meowth is the only Pokémon who can actually talk, and he talks with a Brooklyn accent. Sadly though, he only gets a few lines, which are repeated quite often. (But Meowth fans will be pleased to know that he gets a big role in the Pichu anime.)
Graphically, the game is nothing spectacular. All Pokémon, with the exception of Pikachu and Meowth, have really noticeable polygons, and most look like they've been taken from Pokémon Stadium 2. You'll often see Pikachu clip through objects and other Pokémon, and the animation for Delibird reaching into its sack to give you a package is so bad that you'll see its arm clip through its face -- and you'll be seeing this a LOT. A game like this is just begging
for cel-shading. No such luck.
On the flipside, the sound is pretty good. All the music is very short, but it all fits the channels. The Exercise Channel has boppy dance music, and Mareep Farm has a relaxing melody. Effects are good, whether it's the bleeping you hear when you flick channels, or the amusing sounds the paint program makes when you use the eraser. Hearing Pokémon speak is always hilarious, and with approximately a hundred different Pokémon making the cut for Pokémon Channel, there is a favourite for everyone. It's got Shuckle
in it, for goodness sake. And Smeargle.
By this stage, you're probably thinking that sitting in front of a TV watching virtual TV with a virtual pet would be pretty damn boring after a while. And you'd be right. Luckily, this is not all that you do. Some TV shows are interactive, and aside from this, there is a whole (admittedly small) world to explore. You can decorate your room, or play with your own Pokémon mini. The Pokémon mini comes with an original game called "Snorlax's Lunchtime". In this game, you must help Snorlax eat food, but not eat Pichu. You can also buy additional games from the shopping channel, but these are more disappointing. Rather than full versions of the games, they're watered down versions. The first two I got were mini games from Pokémon Party mini, the game that is included with the actual system. The next, Pokémon Pinball mini petit, was a shortened version of Pokémon Pinball mini, and on top of that, didn't save your scores. I haven't come across any Japan-only games, and from what I've gotten so far, I doubt I will, which is incredibly disappointing.
There are four different areas that you can access: Springleaf Fields (where you live), Mt. Snowfall, Viridian Forest, and Cobalt Coast. You can meet various Pokémon in each area depending on both the time of day, and the area's weather. Chatting to a Pokémon starts up a quiz, and if you can answer the question relating to the Pokémon, you'll earn yourself a "Pokémon Nice Card". These cards are like the ones that you find in chip packets that animate when you move them. Some of the questions are surprisingly tough, so you might need to dig out your copy of Pokémon Red or whatever and check the Pokédex entry for the answer! There are also activities available in most areas, such as fishing and tic-tac-toe, or perhaps a spot of gardening. You can even play Catch with Pikachu! Whoo!
A tool you'll earn early on is something called "Smeargle Paint". It's a simple painting tool that can be used to capture an image of the anime, and then colour it in yourself. I've found that close up shots of characters tend to work better than images of multiple Pokémon or faraway shots. You can also use the e-Reader to scan in a couple of cards that come with the game and interact with Smeargle Paint. The first card unlocks additional colours for you to use, and the other two are line art cards that you can colour in to your liking and save.
Is Pokémon Channel an enjoyable game? If you got a kick out of Pokémon Snap or Hey You, Pikachu!, then this will be right up your alley. Younger players will enjoy the game, too, as well as being rewarded for playing with a cartoon. It's not likely to convert older players who didn't like Pokémon in the first place, but those craving some bizarre Pokémon antics will certainly get their fix with Pokémon Channel. If seeing Voltorb exclaim "MY HEART THUMPS WITH EXCITEMENT!" when it's shown a packet of cards makes you laugh uncontrollably, then you'll most likely get your money's worth.Pros
- The awesome Party Panic anime, available in both English and Japanese.
- Meowth and Psyduck are the new Abbot and Costello.
- e-Reader support, though minor, is still pretty cool.
- Splitting up Pokémon Party mini into separate cartridges was really cheap.
- I don't care what age group it's for - a Pokémon's arm doesn't go through ITS FACE.
- Why aren't there subtitles for the Japanese version of Party Panic?
- Older gamers will burn through this if they fiddle with the internal clock, but they shouldn't.
Mediocre in parts, really quite bad in others. The quality of the shows is great, though, and Party Panic is just as clear as a televised episode of Pokémon.Sound 7.0
Nice and clear, but the music can get fairly repetitive. The speech is fine, and each Pokémon included has its own voice. Finally. Sound effects also get the job done.Control 8.0
A simple, clear interface makes Pokémon Channel a dream to play. All that is required are the Control Stick and the A and B Buttons. Ideal for those who are being eased into videogames (young or old). Gameplay 8.0
Surprisingly enjoyable. Who would have thought that you could make a game where the main focus is watching television with someone. Additional side-quests, collectible cards, and a home shopping network featuring a turtle in sunglasses make the game a lot of fun.Lastability 7.0
While most of us will get through this fairly quickly (if you don't fiddle with the internal clock, it takes a minimum of five days to complete), there's a fair amount of extra stuff to collect, such as extra channels, room decorations, Pokémon mini cartridges, and 100+ Pokémon Cards to collect. Some basic e-Reader support also injects a bit of life into the game.Final Score 7.0
It's fairly short, the graphics aren't too flashy, but it has an irresistible charm. And it comes with a full length cartoon. You'll keep coming back to see what the next bizarre channel will be. Hearing the same syllables of a name over and over has never been so much fun.