Pokemon Legends: Arceus proves that there's a place for Pokemon Colosseum in 2023
While the tail-end of 2022 was dominated by Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, I keep thinking back to the other Pokemon game that released last year; Pokemon Legends: Arceus. While both games are “mainline” entries in the franchise, they couldn’t be more different - and I think the success of both proves that we’re more than due for a new Pokemon Colosseum.
Although the history of console Pokemon games feels quaint now that we’ve been battling and catching them all on Switch for the past 5 years now, it’s still striking to think about the games that came before, and how different developers attempted to deliver a Pokemon game tailor-made for a home console audience. Pokemon Stadium offered a means for players to battle their Pokemon in 3D for the first time, but Pokemon Colosseum - as well as Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness - stand out, even today, for what they offer that no other entry in the series can muster; a traditional RPG using a Pokemon framework.
Foregoing much of the more freeform teambuilding of traditional Pokemon games, both Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness not only forced players to contend with an entire Pokemon RPG where double battling was the standard, but also forced players to use Pokemon they might not have otherwise considered. Both games offered a wider variety of Johto region Pokemon - a novelty at the time, due to there being no means of transferring Pokemon from the first two generations of Pokemon to the GameBoy Advance titles. Locking the majority of the Pokemon you could use in your party to the snatching mechanic also meant that players well and truly could only take what they could get. Even if Shadow Pokemon as a concept had their issues, the basic idea of limiting which Pokemon a player could use during a Pokemon title still stands out as a bold move, even today.
A bold move that in many ways feels mirrored in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. While it’s ostensibly a much different game - while Pokemon Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness relished in restricting players in ways that mainline Pokemon never quite did, Arceus took a completely opposite approach. Players could, and would, be catching many Pokemon at a time; the core loop of the game revolved around interacting with Pokemon in their natural environment, and even the Pokedex offered different challenges tied to each of the Pokemon you could find in the Hisui region.
Even other core aspects of the Pokemon experience saw major overhauls; Effort Values were simplified, allowing players a much more easy-to-understand and streamlined method of investing in their Pokemon teams. The battle system was gifted another wrinkle in the turn order; and how you could strengthen or weaken moves in order to exploit it in the middle of battle. Even the most cynical of Pokemon fans would find themselves hard-pressed to argue that Pokemon: Legends Arceus was a “safe” Pokemon game; it offered the most significant reimagining of the core gameplay loop in the series’ history.
While I still wish that the game hadn’t been forced to release the same year as Scarlet and Violet, it does offer a succinct argument that there’s indeed room for the franchise to grow; and that fans are more than willing to give games that differ from the tried and true formula that we’ve grown to love. These different experiences don’t have to be locked to spinoffs such as Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, or Pokemon Conquest; they can very much offer something unique while standing toe-to-toe with their mainline contemporaries.
When mainline Pokemon first went fully 3D back with Pokemon X and Y on the Nintendo 3DS, part of me was worried we’d never see a game quite like Pokemon Colosseum ever again, but now more than ever it feels as if the possibility of more games in that same vein are possible. Pokemon doesn’t have to be restricted to the same sorts of games each and every time, and if there’s anything I hope that The Pokemon Company takes away from Pokemon Legends: Arceus’ success, it’s just that. Pokemon Colosseum was the first game to truly try to make a Pokemon game that was something new, and there’s been no better time to give it another chance.