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TEEN: Battle With Me: Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness


Snuggle Tier List

What I tell you three times is true.
Feb 15, 2019
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Additional copyright information is provided in the spoilers below:
As per the Bulbagarden Forum's Terms and Rules, this author has granted the providers of the Bulbagarden Forums "with a non-exclusive, permanent, irrevocable, unlimited license to use, publish, or re-publish your Content in connection with the Service. You retain copyright over the Content." (emphasis added by me, the work's author) Thus, I believe I, the author of my work, have legal standing to license my work to other parties via Creative Commons.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this work's copyright, please start a conversation with the user @Snuggle Tier List. Due to safety concerns raised by staff operating under the authority of the Bulbagarden Forums, I intend to share as little personal information as possible about my location. Nevertheless, if you have legal cause to learn more about me (for instance, learn my address so I can be properly served by a court), please contact @Snuggle Tier List through a direct message via the Bulbagarden Forums. This requires registration with the Bulbagarden Forums, which you may do by clicking "Register" at the top of the page and confirming an email address.

TEEN Content Warning: Sparse strong language for emphasis. Discusses political themes both surrounding and within Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. Includes discussion of hospitalizing mental health issues experienced by the author.

Spoiler Warning: This is an analysis of Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. By it's nature, it contains spoilers for both Pokémon XD and its predecessor Pokémon: Colosseum. In addition, even though this is a sequential playthrough, parts of the game may be discussed before they happen for the sake of analysis. No knowledge of Pokémon XD is required to read this playthrough; however, if you have not played either Pokémon: Colosseum or Pokémon XD and would like to go into those games blind, do not read this analysis.


"They [ideologies] work most effectively when we are not aware that how we formulate and construct a statement about the world is underpinned by ideological premises; when our formations seem to be simply descriptive statements about how things are (i.e., must be), or of what we can 'take-for-granted.'"
—Stuart Hall, "The Whites of Their Eyes"​

Remember that Pokémon game where a news executive tells you to meet a whistleblower, and you do it?

The whistleblower's name is Hordel. He contacts you through the region's leading news broadcaster, who you've been working with for a good half of the game at this point. So far, you've rescued reporters trying to uncover major criminal coverups, defended their headquarters from a literal raid due to a data leak that certain people really didn't want them reporting on, agreed to a missing persons request that was reported directly to one of the broadcaster's executives (when your ambiguously sentient pet goes missing, heck the police), and even participated in one of their environmentalist-focused reality TV shows.

Younger self, what were you playing?

Welcome to Battle With Me: Pokémon XD. I'm MC Snuggles, and I'm here to revisit my childhood. Like, really revisit my childhood. I'm going to be giving one of my favorite childhood games the deepest critical cut I can manage, in a pseudo-Let's Play style inspired by NYU Game Center Professor and freelance game designer Robert Yang's Level With Me series. Only I'm going to be completely disregarding any charade of objectivity and explain how Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness impacted me personally. I'll be drawing on patchwork knowledge of, well, everything: animations and cinematography, music and game feel, narrative and level design, industry politics and art style. Strap your interdisciplinary hat on, 'cause I'm dissecting all this game's got.

For transparency's sake/to prove I know what I'm talking about, I will be using citations to support statements of fact. You can view citations by clicking the carrots (this symbol: ^). I've made an effort to archive as many as my sources as possible using the Wayback Machine; however, some sites resist archiving. If any of my sources are broken, appears wrong, or are simply irrelevant, please comment! Your help is appreciated!
I have no idea.

I plan to take this playthrough as far as I can. However, there's a certain endgame location which I seriously doubt I can complete. Regardless, I will be playing to 100% completion the best I can.

In addition, updates are dependant on how fast I play the game and perform research. I will not be rushing, as I want my gameplay to be at least somewhat representative of a typical play experience/want to avoid the low quality of "crunch gameplay/writing". My informal target is bi-weekly updates; content will be posted as soon as it's publishing quality.
Click up there!
July 7th, 2019: Today's news update was meaty enough to warrant its own post. Check it out if you haven't already; it's quite the tale. But long story short, CH7 is in the works and planned for release sometime this week. Huzzah!


June 29th, 2019: It's very hot.

As I've previously mentioned in these here updates, my recording setup is stuck in an attic with a skylight. There is no screen for the skylight. Which, because of the heat, has been quarantined for most of the past week. I've gotten little-to-none progress; if this keeps up, I might need to restructure my updates. I don't have plans to call a hiatus, but I'm considering shortening my chapters to accommodate.

I've also set up a new subseries I can lean on: Reader FAHT CHEHKS! The first should be posted momentarily; I'm not sure if other rumors will come up during discussion, but if you know of any, let me know. It might take some time before I can fully assess a rumor, but as I go further and further into the plot I'll be able to test more internet rumors. Expect to see Reader FAHT CHEHKs interspersed with traditional analysis.


June 20th, 2019: I'm still finding grammah errors in my earlier posts. In case you're wondering why the "Last Edited" data keeps shifting, that's why.

Otherwise, business as usual. I'm starting to settle into the groove of things, at least on the backend. I'm sticking to my plans better, I've had a nice string of cloudy days that've let me play longer sessions, though stopping every minute to take screenshots/adjust my draft is a pain. But there's a burning fire in me to show the good parts of Pokémon: XD, and as I progress I'm able to zoom the microscope out. Lower my wordcount, not describe every single NPC's dialogue. This analysis has been rougher than I've expected, but I'm finally on top the hill. I wrote half of CH6 in a day., and I'm framing screenshots now.

Break time over. Back to video games! Poor me.


June 12th, 2018: Editing is finished and a draft of CH5 is in production! Sorry for the delay; I've had an unusually demanding couple of weeks (three birthdays, a wedding, and mounds of paperwork). I'm not completely out of the real life-o-sphere yet, but I've got a solid plan for CH5 that shouldn't require another draining research deep dive.

That said, I should temper expectations somewhat. My current play environment is an attic cubby with no AC, heavy insulation, and a skylight with no screen. And summer has hit. I can't currently play XD without sweating to death, so I'm limiting my play sessions to cool evenings and nights. This will absolutely slow the pace of updates until I get a permanent solution, which would be much easier if I owned this cubby. Instead, I have to consider a landlord before I start getting all DIY, which between some lingering real life whack-a-mole time sinks makes stabilizing my playspace harder than it sounds. I can still write during the day (I do my writing on my phone), but getting screenshots is holding this analysis up.

I've made a vow to myself to complete everything I start, and so I will be spending my fanfic time on
Battle With Me: Pokémon XD. Unfortunately, there will be delays due to temperature. If I find myself unable to write at the moment, you can probably find me bumming around the Written Word as a means to stay attached to the community. Humorous PMs where you nag me about the next chapter are appreciated.


June 4th, 2019: Been a while since I've posted some news. And I'm afraid it's not so good.

Real life for me has been getting extremely complicated and time consuming. It's looking like this too shall pass, but I need to make sure I keep food and shelter before I spend time writing anything non-commercial. I'm not calling hiatus as I still have free time, but I can't keep the current pace of updates up.

Instead, I'm going to do some polishing. I noticed quite a few blatant grammah errors rereading my fan-nonfic. Plus, my writing system's getting a little disorganized behind the scenes; my local copies don't match text with published copies, for example. Thus, I think now's the time to do some housekeeping.

I'm going to be making edits to my currently-published chapters to remove blatant unintended grammah errors. Spelling, missing words, etc. I won't be editing the fic beyond that; while I see flaws beyond basic grammah, I prefer not to edit my fic's content. It's a personal vow to avoid "publish now, fix later" mentality. Unfortunately, I've had to take hours off my sleep cycle to keep this fic going, and the blemishes show. It's to the point I feel an emergency after-publication edit is justified, and it happens to coincide with my personal life intruding on my free time. Until I weather what's looking to be a tempory storm, I'm going to halt publishing new chapters and instead spell check old ones.

Hopefully, this strategy will keep real life from derailing this project. I already have an admittedly-paltry draft of CH5 in the works, but expect a delay while I tidy house. I'll have an update about a week from now detailing my progress. Check this space!


May 22nd, 2019: Another update to copyright notice, this time to make my intro post more readable and satisfy the lawyers. Got this formatting via a review by @unrepentantAuthor on another of my fics.

As for CH3: it's pretty deep into production. Due to attachment limits, I'm going to be splitting it into two posts. The first post will focus on the opening cutscene, while the second post will focus on the first bit of gameplay. There's a clever bit of player instruction hidden within an at-max 3-turn battle, plus I want to stuff in my first music analysis. Research has been slower than expected due to some dead ends, but I still think I can pull it off in time for the next Writer's Workshop weekly announcement. Fingers crossed!


May 13th, 2019: Small update to copyright notice, most readers probably don't care. But the lawyers do, so I gotta pay attention to this stuff.

I'm also doing a revamp of my older fics so they all have consistent styling. I've finished KAIJUMON's, but Snuggle's Grand Poetry Grab Bag will take a while. I'm placing the revamps near the top of my priorities list due to copyright issues; once those are done, CH2 is likely to be posted soon after. Time estimate on CH2 is a couple days, revamp included.

Also, writing Battle With Me: Pokémon XD CH2 might have been the most surreal experience I've ever had as a writer. My research revealed...subtext. Much, much subtext. It's, uh...wow. I'm gonna take the time to
really get the facts right here, because researching CH2 was like falling down the rabbit hole, except Wonderland is stitched from all your childhood memories. And the rapture. It's complicated. This paragraph needs to end.


May 8th, 2019: CH1 is up, with all images hosted on Bulbagarden's servers! Long story short, I'm using BulbaBlogs as my "image host" after getting permission from that section's moderators. Thank you @Zachie and @Lillie for making this hodge-podge "fic" possible.

As a consequence, I'm going to be avoiding too-frequent Battle With Me updates so as to avoid spamming BulbaBlogs. I'll be watching the section over the next couple of days to see how quickly my "blog" falls off the front page. Ideally, I'll wait until my boring contentless blig falls to at least the second page, so actual bloggers don't get buried underneath my image repository. And I still don't have a rough draft for CH2 yet anyways, so the next chapter might take a bit. But regardless, Battle With Me is futureproofed the best I can manage. Writing should be
much smoother, at least.


May 7th, 2019: CH1 is complete and ready to be posted! And then I discovered Bulbaforum only allows ten attachments per post.

Ironically, I had exactly ten screenshots of actual gameplay. What put me over the limit was company logos I had touched up so they'd be readable no matter the background color (forum themes, yo). I'm looking into third-party image hosts and carefully considering reformatting. But getting third parties involved doesn't sit right with me after Photobucket's image cap started whiping away fora images across the 'tubes, and I made an effort to only use gameplay images,when absolutely necessary. I'm brainstorming ideas; I might have to get creative (.gif time?)

In the meantimes, I do have one image I can share with you. If you look at the top if this thread, you'll see a title card. The border around the title card is the same border I'll be using to frame screenshots. I have everything setup so native-resolution screenshots can be displayed professionally and quickly, which means future chapters will be faster to format. Expect more frequent updates once CH1 is sorted.


May 4th, 2019: Let it be known that I, MC Snuggles, got the name of the game I'm playing wrong. The title is
Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, not Pokémon XD: Gales of Darkness. It's almost like this fic wasn't quite ready for publication or something.

Also, April 38th is not a real date. I may have panicked a little. Expect more housekeeping; while I'm normally feel dishonest editing an already-published fic, I'm making an exception for Battle With Me due to the surprise rushed production and nonfiction subject matter. If you spot any errors, please let me know; I don't feel comfortable spreading misinformation.

In more positive news, I have a rough draft of CH1 completed! I'm currently getting all the attachments ready for a final draft, which includes a much larger amount of company logos than I was anticipating. And many of them have text over transparent backgrounds, which means manually inserting backgrounds for me! But CH1 should represent the last of my industry politics talk, which means future chapters will be easier to research and format. Here's hoping this here rocky start smooths itself out.



So, uh, yeah. I had the intro and prologue written in .txt files and I was testing to make sure the BBCode was formatted correctly, but my finger slipped and I posted the thread. So I guess this is going up! It wasn't supposed to be a final draft, I'm still bugswatting errors, but it should at least be readable. I don't have a Chapter 1 ready, but I guess we're in "write or die" mode now. What could possibly go wrong?
Latest News Update: July 7th, 2019

Special Thanks:
@Nitro Indigo
And everyone that comments or reviews!
Last edited:
Prologue: How Does This Game Exist?

Prologue: How Does This Game Exist?

Before we start playing, let's put this game in context. Pokémon XD: Cross-Eyes of Darkness is a sorta-sequel to Pokémon Colosseum, both for the Gamecube. These games were in turn spiritual successors to the Pokémon Stadium series on the Nintendo 64. Which means it's time for faht chehking!

According to internet, the Pokémon models from Stadium were the same ones used in Colosseum.^^^ So I downloaded some model rips to see for myself.^ Now, I don't have the full set, but from my admittedly small sample, well, see for yourself.

Articuno Compare.png

Golduck Compare.png

Model source: Models Resource (models rendered via Blender in identical lighting)

Yup! They're the same. FAHT CHEHKED!

Anyways, so these models. The development studio that made Colosseum and XD, Genius Sonority, is not the same studio that made the Stadium games. So...how did Genius Sonority get these models? Well, buckle up, kids, we're about to wade into game industry politics.

As far as I can tell, some of Genius Sonority's head staff, at the time of Pokémon Stadium, were working on a different franchise, and boy, was it a big one. Dragon Quest, or Dragon Warrior for the US market.^ If you don't live in Japan, you can't appreciate how big a name Dragon Quest is. Long story short, if there's a JRPG trope, it probably came from Dragon Quest. The first Dragon Quest game is credited with being the first console RPG.^ Dragon Quest III was so popular, an urban legend sprang up that the Japanese government passed a law preventing Dragon Quest from being released on workdays, because too many people would skip school and work.^ Dragon Quest V had you battling and recruiting monsters, in 1992.^ Seriously, it's heck'n ridiculous.

Genius Sonority didn't work on Dragon Quest, but some of their lead staff had. While I can't verify exact numbers due to localization issues (we'll get to that), I can confirm at least five people that would later work leading roles at Genius Sonority originally worked at a studio called Heartbeat.^


Image source: Heartbeat

Heartbeat didn't create Dragon Quest, but they did develop Dragon Quest VI,^^^ VII,^^^ and remakes of III and IV.^ Heartbeat's most successful game, as far as I can tell, was Dragon Quest VII. IGN at the time called it "one of the longest, deepest, and most enjoyable RPGs around",^ for whatever that's worth. Metacritc is oddly low, at 78,^ but it seems localization had problems. Looks like their publisher, Enix, hecked them over.^ But in Japan, the game sold over 3,700,000 copies.^ A Japanese magazine voted it the 9th best video game of all time, according to Wikipedia.^ Full disclosure: I can't find as much info as I'd like on Genius Sonority or Heartbeat, mostly due to the language barrier. Genius Sonority's website isn't even in English.^ I'm giving sources when I can, but don't expect full-scale journalism here. Point is, Heartbeat could make games.

This is where everything goes to hell.

From what I can tell, Heartbeat was struggling financially, at least according to them. I found a 2002 Heartbeat press release, claiming that they "[could] no longer ensure their financial independence" because of "the raise of development costs".^ I've heard this one before, so I looked up the sales numbers for the last game Heartbeat worked on, the remake of Dragon Quest IV. IV's remake sold over 1,000,000 copies,^^ which was less than Dragon Quest VII but still a million copies. While I couldn't find an earnings report or anything like that (Heartbeat being a private company that wouldn't need to share data with shareholders), I did find a talk by Mark Cerny, video game industry analyst. He estimates that an average game budget around 2000 was about $10 million.^ Compare that to an average $40 retail price for games at the time.^ 1,000,000 copies at, we'll say $20 each to account for sales and discounts:

1,000,000 x $20 = $20,000,000

That's double the average budget. That gives Heartbeat $10,000,000 in profit, assuming no massive mismanagement. So forgive me if I call bullpoop.

Oh, and that localization? Hackers found a complete English translation in the game files, but Enix still chose not the release the game in the US.^ And to rub salt in the wound, Enix reported that Dragon Quest IV was getting a localization, which meant major outlets like IGN were hyping it up to fans.^ They even advertised "Dragon Warrior IV" on the back of the Dragon Quest VII English manual.^

Oddly enough, in an interview with Enix rep Justin Lucas, Enix acknowledges the English translation, the advertising, the good sales, all of it.^ He claims that Heartbeat took a mass sabbatical and so was closing up shop. He says Enix didn't "sack them", and that it was entirely Heartbeat's decision to dissolve their studio. Now, why Heartbeat would want to close up shop when they're making millions, he doesn't explain.

I'm not entirely sure what the heck happened. However, because of all this, Heartbeat closes up shop, while Enix comes off unscathed. So I'm placing the burden of proof on Enix. Best guess, Heartbeat wasn't seeing any of that $10,000,000 profit. Something in their contract with Enix meant they weren't getting the funds they needed, even though Enix was making boatloads of cash. So now a lot of talented people are unemployed. And we still haven't gotten to Pokémon.

Okay, we're getting there. Enter Heartbeat lead developer Manabu Yamana. Now out of a job, he founds a game development company called, wait for it, Genius Sonority!^


Image source: Wikipedia

...But Genius Sonority didn't have money, so he went to Nintendo. Nintendo invested 100 million yen in Genius Sonority,^ or just over $800,000 US.^ Reportedly, Creatures Inc., a Pokémon Company affiliate, was a party to the Genius Sonority funding deal,^ which would give them access to Pokémon Stadium's models. Who's idea it was to make a Gamecube Pokémon game, I don't know for sure, but it's safe to say some kind of Pokémon game was expected.

As an aside, the lack of an official English localization for Heartbeat's Dragon Quest IV remake meant I couldn't properly compare staff between Heartbeat and Genius Sonority. Best I could find was a Youtube video of Dragon Warrior VII's end credits that lists some of Genius Sonority's staff:^^

• Director Manabu Yamana as VII's "Director of Programming",
• "Scenario Writer" Kazunori Orio as "Scenario",
• "Programming Director" Masayuki Kawamoto as "Programming",
• co-"Battle Unit Programmer" Makoto Hirashima as "Programming",
• and "Music Director" Tsukasa Tawada as "Sound Designer"

Five people ain't much, but these ex-Heartbeat staff seemed to have gravitated towards leading roles, which would've given them more creative control than most new hires. But not every lead at Genius Sonority came from Heartbeat. Thus, while Heartbeat's shadow is an important influence, I wouldn't go so far as to call Genius Sonority "Heartbeat 2.0".

Spoiler alert! Genius Sonority goes down. XD was a flop compared to Colosseum.^^ XD's follow up, Pokémon: Battle Revolution for the Wii, had similar sales numbers and was a critical flop.^^ XD and Battle Revolution still sold over 1,000,000 copies each, but so did Dragon Quest IV, and, uh...you can see where this is going.

Genius Sonority didn't close, but it seems they've downsized drastically.^ I can't verify exact numbers as I don't speak Japanese, but Bulbapedia says they had only 17 employees as of 2014^. I found a list of games on Genius Sonority's website which I can barely make out,^ though it seems to roughly match up with the list on Wikipedia.^ Hey, there's XD!


Image source: Bulbapedia

XD in English, on Japanese box art. They knew what they were doing. Anyways, Genius Sonority made this heck'n poop:^^


Image source: Bulbapedia

So that should give you an idea of where they've ended up. The child in me died today.

So this explains why Genius Sonority made a Pokémon game and got access to Stadium's assets. But it doesn't explain Hordel the whistleblower. I can't find much in the way of interviews with Genius Sonority staff, or rather, I can't read any of them.^ I found a partial translation of an interview with, uh, "Genius Sonority".^ Who at Genius Sonority? Ah, heck it. Translation courtesy of Source Gaming:

"I wanted to create a world that was a little different, a little more grown up than the Pokémon world we’ve known up until now...it might be a little different from the image we have of the Pokémon universe you have now."^
—Genius Sonority which is apparently a hive mind​

Okay, looking at Colosseum's credits,^ I'm guessing this quote is from either Manabu Yamana, credited as director, or Kazunori Orio, credited as "Scenario Writer", whose title sounds to me like "Head Writer". Might be a translation hiccup. Anyways, the quote. For the record, this was referring to Pokémon Colosseum. Or at least, I'm assuming it was; the source interview is surrounded by Colosseum concept art.^ But it also refers to the world of Colosseum, which is shared with XD. So I'll consider it pertinent.

As for the quote itself, I kinda agree? He's talking about the Pokémon universe, and there's a lot of dark poop in Pokémon.^^ I guess if you limit yourself to the games, Colosseum and XD are a bit darker than usual, but the core series Pokémon games at the time had you preventing an environmental apocalypse, so it's not too much a shift. But darker doesn't necessarily mean more mature. No, when I think of Colosseum and XD...

...I'm sorry, I need to address this. This is an XD analysis, as in, not Colosseum. In my opinion, and please don't kill me for this, Colosseum's not that deep. It's not a bad game, but it's not ripe for analysis like XD is. Colosseum's more narrative driven than the baseline Pokémon games, as in you're not battling random strangers 70% of the time. But your character's a blank slate, you're saddled with a walking exposition dump with the personality of whatever the plot wants, the antagonists flip-flop between needing more personality (everyone other than Miror B) and needing more screen time (Miror B). There was some cool set pieces, there's this part where you go undercover into a bad guy town and have to avoid getting outed as a spy, but there just wasn't anyone to care about. It was a cool world concept, but it's a linear RPG, you can't just live in the world, you gotta follow the plot, and there just isn't anything engaging about the plot. No philosophy to test, no characters to explore, none of that. There's still merit to the game, I can see why people would be fans, but almost all the good parts of Colosseum can be found in XD. Literally; a good 70% of Colosseum's assets can be found in XD, from the 3D models to the music. Plus, the vast majority of mechanics, the battle system, the out-of-battle exploration: same mechanics across games. XD is Colosseum with a tanker full of needed polish, which makes Colosseum hard to go back to. The amount of asset recycling is borderline suspicious, but I already have like a jillion citations and I really need to move this analysis along.

Maybe it's the nostalgia talking. I had XD as a kid, and didn't play Colosseum until I was an adult. Then again, I didn't know Colosseum existed until I was an adult. XD doesn't let on that it's a sequel; it features a new protagonist, gets rid of the exposition companion, and recaps the plot of Colosseum within side conversations in bits and pieces. Keep in mind, Colosseum's plot wasn't exactly complex, so when sprinkled into dialogue, it feels more like world-building, like giving brief historical context to the events of the game. Characters that were involved in the events of Colosseum share their experiences, either during personality-building side conversations or when trying to predict what the villains' plans are. If anything, not playing Colosseum makes XD even better.

I'll get back to this, but right now, we're talking about Genius Sonority. So, if the quote I found is to be believed, then the team was actively trying to make a "grown up" Pokémon game. What "grown up" means, humanity's still debating that. I'd argue XD is indeed grown up, it knows where to be realistic and where to be escapist, but I'm not sure me and Genius Sonority are on the same page. Looking at their past work, they never strove for highbrow art. They weren't in it to convey a message, they were in it to make games. Which makes XD's political undertones an outlier in an otherwise consistent portfolio.

So how did this game get made? Thanks to too much research, I have an educated guess. And to illustrate this, here's a rather famous quote from Junichi Masuda of Game Freak:

"It’s the type of place, the Pokémon world, where problems we face on Earth just wouldn’t happen. There wouldn’t be global warming, water shortages, or anything like that. It’s a world where the people in it really want to work together with each other. Their value system is such where they would prefer to work together and eliminate these problems rather than feud."
—Junichi Masuda (core series producer)^

The fact that Junichi cites "no global warming" as integral to Pokémon's appeal is as direct a pro-environmentalism statement as possible. And I could see that falling under the umbrella of pro-science in general. I'm not sure the intent gets across all the time, but I could see a writer looking to make a "mature" Pokémon game tapping into this franchise subtext. Playing off the appeal of your license seems a good business move, at least. If your game's got Pokémon in the title, your audience is going to expect a certain type of game, of appeal.

Then again, I'm not sure how many people play Pokémon for the narrative. A good chunk of Pokémon's appeal is social; trading Pokémon, showing off your collection. But in order to trade Pokémon, you and your friends need to link your games. Literally. Back in the olden days, they had a heck'n cable you'd plug into you and your friend's Game Boy. It was crazy, but it worked, and it only worked because it was for a portable console. And XD is a single player home console Pokémon game on a system that didn't have built-in internet.

The Gamecube is not portable. It's a heck'n brick. You could club someone to death with it. That poop ain't going in your backpack. But perhaps most importantly, it needs to be plugged into an electrical socket and television. Which meant any social elements inherent in Pokémon as a commercial product doesn't work without leveraging that social aspect, where you and your friends all bring your portables to play together. And the Gamecube could've facilitated that! It has its own cable that could plug into a controller port and link with a Game Boy Advance,^ and there were couch co-op games on the system that expected each player to own a GBA-to-Gamecube link cable (plus a GBA for each player). The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.^^^ Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.^^ And in theory, the Colosseum subseries could've gone that route. Keep in mind, this is the generation 2 v. 2 Multi Battles were introduced to the franchise. That's potentially four players in one Pokémon battle.

But as you might expect, the cost of one Gamecube plus four link cables plus four Game Boy Advances plus four Gen III Pokémon games is decimating for any potential couch co-op. It's great to push GBA sales, not so great for the wallet. I stumbled across a backlash article expressing straight anger at Four Swords Adventures for the business practice,^ and as a kid whose parents weren't poor but certainly weren't loaded, I can relate. Any content requiring a GBA-to-Gamecube link cable was to me permanently locked away, because I didn't have that heck'n cable. Which makes me eternally grateful Pokémon XD sacrificed the social aspect for narrative, to the point you don't even unlock Gamecube-with-GBA trading until after the credits roll (with one major catch we'll get into soon). The designers saw the pitfalls of embracing Pokémon's social aspects, and I think this decision has been vindicated by history.

Which leads me back to the Nintendo deal. Pokémon XD: Gale Of Darkness should not have been a Pokémon game. Colosseum should not have been a Pokémon game. Genius Sonority should not have been working on Pokémon. Don't get me wrong, Genius Sonority had talent, but it was clearly off-brand. They were best suited for a single player, narrative driven RPG, and people just don't expect that from Pokémon. That doesn't mean these are bad games; far from it. They just weren't what people expected.

At the same time, the concessions these games did make to the Pokémon brand didn't exactly help. When I say "the Pokémon brand", I don't mean the Pokémon world. I mean it in the marketing sense, the cold, clinical, corporate side of Pokémon. The "let's make one game and split it into two because you dumb poops are gonna buy it anyway" side of Pokémon. The "this game's a Pokémon game, so marketing's saying to add trades" side of Pokémon. I don't want to get too specific before we jump in, as it's quite possible my memory's failing me. But we'll get into that when we boot the game up.

Next time: we actually play the game! Fancy that!

While writing this prologue, I wanted to cite a paper mentioned during educational video series Crash Course's lesson on Pokémon:

Their research cited wasn't linked in the description, so all I had to go off of were three names: Laven, Gelman, and Galotti. So I type this into Google Scholar and found...a single page .pdf?

Apparently, Crash Course wasn't citing a study. They were citing Beth Lavin, Rochel Gelman, and Kathleen M. Galotti's When children, not adults, are the experts. Explorations of the Pokémon phenomenon (link to .pdf). This was a poster presented at a June 2001 meeting of the American Psychological Society, according to the bibliography of Factors associated with the early emergence of intense interests within conceptual domains (link to .pdf), an actual research paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Cognitive Development. And according to the poster itself, the researchers used a sample size of "11 child-parents pairs", which represents 0.0000003507% of Pokémon Red/Green/Blue's 31,370,000 sales. Which makes this poster pretty much useless.

I'm not sure what it is about Pokémon, but I cannot find a single reputable academic study focusing solely on Pokémon. Granted, I only have anecdotal experience with "Pokémon academia", but I'm also a crazy Pokémon fan who reads research papers for fun. For instance: Can Pikachu die? Online fan conspiracy theories and the Pokémon gaming universe (link to .pdf), published in the Journal of Fandom Studies. Here's a quote:

"I would argue that the conspiracy theories listed above are examples of fan fiction, stories written by fans who have an intimate knowledge of the original text but feel it somewhat lacking in depth, detail or characterization. The lists of different theories, attempts at explaining game glitches, exploring narrative history or providing more detailed backstories for characters, represent an ongoing process of making and remaking the Pokémon story world."
—Actual published study in peer-reviewed journal​

I don't mean to bash on academia — this entire analysis is inspired by NYU Game Center's Robert Yang, whose blog is a favorite of mine — but something about Pokémon resists science. All the research I could find on Pokémon stutters due to small sample sizes, unreproducible results, lack of falsifiability, or other basic scientific errors. I have no explanation. Pokémon academia is cursed.
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  • I was surprised to see this. I thought you were still going to do this as a video series.
  • Since I had a Pokémon burnout in 2017 that was mainly caused by me having "heard it all" (ie: every Pokémon trivia video ever basically regurgitates the same misconceptions and Bulbapedia trivia that I've known for years), it's refreshing for me to learn new background information.
  • I've wanted to play XD for years, but PAL copies are really rare and expensive. I can't get into any let's plays of it.
  • My opinions on Colosseum: The soundtrack makes me want to weep tears of nostalgic joy for someone else's childhood. I like the more peaceful locations. Unfortunately, it looks like an N64 game: besides literally using N64 Pokémon models (that were also used in Snap, apparently), the environments look blurry and the humans barely have any animations. There's also a lack of direction.
  • The Orre games feel like the kind of thing that Pokémon just doesn't do anymore. Like, is it just me, or have Pokémon spinoffs become cuter and more focused on catching 'em all and cramming in all the gimmicks in recent years? Notice how there's barely any Gen 7 spinoffs, and only one is focused on story. It's like Pokémon is becoming the new 8th gen Mario. I didn't believe Let's Go was real when it was leaked because it felt like a parody of this.
• I was surprised to see this. I thought you were still going to do this as a video series.

I wish. Logistics were too much for me.

• Since I had a Pokémon burnout in 2017 that was mainly caused by me having "heard it all" (ie: every Pokémon trivia video ever basically regurgitates the same misconceptions and Bulbapedia trivia that I've known for years), it's refreshing for me to learn new background information.

Thank you! I might retread common trivia ground, but I also got some talking points that are more general game design stuff. I don't have a written plan because I accidentally posted this early, but I got a few key mechanics and moments I want to dissect I don't think anyone's touched.

• I've wanted to play XD for years, but PAL copies are really rare and expensive. I can't get into any let's plays of it.

I think my copy's the same one from my childhood. And I also can't find good Let's Plays, so I'm making this. Maybe one day I'll do proper video format, but the amount of research I'm doing won't easily be adapted. For instance...

• My opinions on Colosseum: The soundtrack makes me want to weep tears of nostalgic joy for someone else's childhood. I like the more peaceful locations. Unfortunately, it looks like an N64 game: besides literally using N64 Pokémon models (that were also used in Snap, apparently), the environments look blurry and the humans barely have any animations. There's also a lack of direction.

...apparently, Colosseum's soundtrack comes from a guy who wasn't even a creative lead at their old job. And a lot of songs from Colosseum are recycled for XD, so I'll probably talk about them!

And from looking at Colosseum's credits, there was a ton a direction. As in, so many directors, I'm surprised the game was as coherent as it was. My hypothesis is "too many people with different visions", which I'm planning to touch on in CH1.

Plus side, some of the issues you mentioned get addressed in XD (human animations in particular; it's like night and day). And we'll get to revisit most of the locations from Colosseum, because hooray asset recycling! Though Phenac in particular is...different. Muhahahahahahaha!

• The Orre games feel like the kind of thing that Pokémon just doesn't do anymore. Like, is it just me, or have Pokémon spinoffs become cuter and more focused on catching 'em all and cramming in all the gimmicks in recent years? Notice how there's barely any Gen 7 spinoffs, and only one is focused on story. It's like Pokémon is becoming the new 8th gen Mario. I didn't believe Let's Go was real when it was leaked because it felt like a parody of this.

The game industry's changed since Pokémon's younger years. There was this sweet spot of "AA" gaming; games attached to big publishers but didn't have through-the-roof budgets. Lower development costs let publishers take more risks, with game studios allowed to chase cult followings instead of blockbuster sales. Heartbeat and Genius Sonority are/were rather lightweight studios, with sparse credits even before Genius Sonority's fall-from-grace. I'm planning to research this further; Genius Sonority's an odd studio at an odd time.

Thanks for the comments! I think this prologue might sit for a bit as I attend other projects/my gosh-darn real life, but this is definitely my next Workshop project. It's an idea I've had in my head for years, and now I accidentally hit "Post Thread", so I guess it's happening! What could possibly go wrong?
CH1: What Could Have Been

EP1: What Could Have Been

In the Prologue, I talked a great deal about XD's developers and their history. What I didn't talk about was their publisher.


Image source: Wikipedia

And the party to the publishing deal...^


Image source: Wikipedia

From what we know so far, Nintendo would've likely been in charge of marketing this exclusive game only their console can play (and not losing that 100 million yen they invested),^ and Creatures, Inc. would be in charge of giving Genius Sonority access to other development studio's assets.^ One company provides assets, one company develops game, one company publishes game. Clear roles for everybody.

On closer inspection, it seems things were not so simple.

A quick look at XD's credits gives names outside of Genius Sonority in what normally would be developer's roles.^ In particular, Tsunekazu Ishikhara, President and CEO of The Pokémon Company,^ and Satoro Iwata, the late (and great) president and CEO of Nintendo^^ are credited as XD's "Executive Producers", with Manabu Yamana taking the title of "Director". Which means we have a new player in the field!

The Pokémon Company
Yes, their logo is just "The Pokémon Company".

The Pokémon Company is the marketing arm of the Pokémon franchise.^ I have a lot of respect for Satoro Iwata, but The Pokémon Company's involvement signals Gale of Darkness was considered part of the wider Pokémon brand. I'll make it clear as crystal: I think Tsunekazu Ishikhara's involvement made Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness a worse game. He is not at fault for every flaw, but because his name was put on XD's credits, I will tie design decisions made by The Pokémon Company to him. You stamp your name on it, you're responsible for it.

But before we get into that, there's a few more secrets hidden in XD's credits. Namely, the credits include a list of "Pokémon Advisors" from...Game Freak?^^


Image source: Wikipedia

For those unaware, Game Freak is the developer behind the "core" Pokémon games. Boot up any of the big Pokémon releases, you'll see some variation of their logo. It'd make sense they'd have an advisory role; Gale of Darkness uses the same battle system as the core series games at the time. But it does mean we have four different companies working on one game.

To make things more confusing, we have an additional director within Genius Sonority! Yoshiaki Iwasawa, or "Director of Development",^ a person who only warranted a "Special Thanks" mention for Colosseum.^ A quick google turns up a sporadic list of games he's worked on, but no source seems to be completely reliable unless I want to watch credit sequences again (I don't). Whatever the case, we have new blood within Genius Sonority in what seems to me to be a redundant leadership position.

For what it's worth, Genius Sonority hasn't demoted their creative leads — Tsukasa Tawada's credited as "Music Director", Kazunori Orio's credited as "Scenario Written By", etc. But it does seem Nintendo and The Pokémon Company had more design input than I initially gave them credit. Plus, there's a new director doing...something at Genius Sonority. Plus, we have advisors from Game Freak added to the mix. Development is starting to look a little haphazard.

So, what does the box say?


Image source: Bulbapedia


Both Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. No credit to Genius Sonority, Creatures Inc., or Game Freak. And yes, I did check the back of the box, but all scans I could find of the North American release were too shamefully low quality to spread around. But the back does have the Nintendo Seal of Approval™, which knowing my guardians is how they based their entire purchasing decision. Ah, sweet parental ignorance.

★ ★ ★​

I'm tired. I want to stop talking industry politics for just a little while. I want to take you back to one of the few innocent times of my life. I can't remember the specific year because I've blocked most of my childhood memories as a self-defense mechanism (they probably weren't important probably), but I do remember one Christmas day when I got a bunch of stuff I didn't care about, plus some video games.

When I first ripped off the packaging, I did not know a full console Pokémon RPG existed. I remember owning Pokémon Snap and renting Pokémon Stadium from Blockbuster (I miss you, physical game rentals), and I had played through my Poké-gateway drug Pokémon Silver and eventually Pokémon Sapphire on portables, but a console Pokémon RPG? In my hands? And not only that, but my introductory mascot Lugia was in a starring role!

My guardians had a VHS tape of Pokémon: The Movie: 2000 they'd use to not interact with me, so to me, Lugia might have been the coolest Pokémon ever. Keep in mind, back in ye olden days of Gen III, there wasn't yet a giant list of legendary or mythical or whatever those super-rare Pokémon are called. Lugia had the trio of birds under their command, and that represented a significant chunk of the legends. And, come to think of it, I wasn't even aware of Jirachi or Celebi or even Ho-oh at the time (my friends weren't into Pokémon, because I had no friends). Lugia was my boi, and that box art was the coolest thing in the heck'n world.

I think it's time. Let's play.

★ ★ ★​

Nintendo Splash.png

Pokemon Company Splash.png

Genius Sonority Splash.png

All screenshots taken at native resolution and framed. Note that aspect ratio isn't consistent across the Gamecube library or even individual Gamecube games; my screenshots so far are 480x600, but certain scenes may change aspect ratio (hence the frame).

Oh, nostalgia. But more importantly, these splash screens are the final bit of context to our "who's responsible for this?" puzzle. Genius Sonority finally gets its due credit, and both Nintendo and The Pokémon Company stamps themselves within the product. I had no idea what these screens meant as a kid, and to be quite honest, I don't think I'll ever fully understand. I've dug as deep as I could, but the internal workings of Genius Sonority still elude me, leaving me with only educated guesses. I was lucky enough for Santa to never taint my innocence with Genius Sonority's later titles, which meant their logo here would remain untarnished and mysterious. As the franchise moved on, it felt like this 3D Pokémon RPG had been forgotten, with the core series's "wow" factor depleting over time partly because XD did all these cool new features first.

And to add to the mystique: I didn't even know Pokémon: Colosseum existed until high school. For the longest time, Gale of Darkness was the only console Pokémon RPG I knew. And when I did learn it was a sequel, my curiosity only seemed to increase. And here I am today, once again looking at the title screen.

Title Screen.png

Well, they weren't kidding about darkness. Or a gale, for that matter. Swirling clouds and thunder, all while an orchestra plays a generic adventure theme/doom march:

Having played through this game before, I think they're trying too hard. I personally think XD deals with more mature subject matter than your typical Pokémon game, but it isn't "darker" in the content ratings sense. For instance, if I go into Vs Mode...

Vs Mode Hub.png

A quick fade and the color pallette brightens. Oh, and that orchestra? Not anymore!

Yes, the song is called "Rumba of Love". It's a long story.

There's another reason I'm in Vs Mode. And that's because I want to show how crap this entire section is. And, now that I know Nintendo and The Pokémon Company were unusually involved in this game's development, I think I know why.

First, let's check out Quick Battle.

Quick Battle.png

I didn't choose my Pokémon. You don't get to choose your Pokémon. All battles are double battles. All teams have exactly two Pokémon. You don't even get to choose the arena. Closest you get is relative levels of Pokémon, but since your opponent matches your level, battles play our more-or-less the same no matter what you pick. And the randomly assigned Pokémon come from a curated list, which ensures a mostly-balanced battle but a depressingly small amount of combinations. If you keep reshuffling your team, you'll see repeats within five entries at most.

This is the only Battle mode you can play without a Gamecube-to-GBA link cable.

Now, let's check out Group Battle!

Group Battle Hub.png
Group Battle Rules Depth.png

Group Battle is multiplayer only. Out of all these options — battle type, stage select, level limits, team total level limits, turn timers, whether certain moves are allowed, who wins if all Pokémon faint, whether particular moves work under certain conditions, whether heck'n Deoxys gets camouflage — none of them allow an AI opponent. In fact, player two isn't even allowed to use a Gamecube controller; they have to have a Game Boy Advance with a third-generation core series cart inserted and a Gamecube-to-GBA cable inserted into controller port 2. And, if you're looking to do a four-player Multi Battle, every player besides player one has to have their own GBA, their own core series game, their own link cable. Outside of microtransaction economies, this might be the most expensive multiplayer mode I've seen in a game.

But most importantly, having researched this game's development to the best of my ability, I believe it was all deliberate.

Let's go back to the main menu and start ourselves a new game.

Character Creation.png

I am immediately naming my character. I did not get to choose their gender, which had been a core series staple since Pokémon: Crystal^. But most interestingly, I did not and will not get to choose a save slot. XD has the exact same save system of the core series games, which means you and your sis can't battle teams you raised on the same disk.

For the record, I do believe the male protagonist requirement would've rested with Genius Sonority. However, save slots are and were a common feature of long RPGs, and especially for a game aimed at a younger audience, they're vitally important. That way, no single kid "owns" the game; kids with siblings could take turns without anyone missing anything or anyone wiping away progress. And since Pokémon: XD doesn't allow trading until after the credits roll, it's not like multiple save slots would unbalance the game. Each slot could unlock trading separately, with only post-credits save slots allowed to trade. Why this basic feature isn't implemented...I need a minute.

★ ★ ★​

When I was a kid, I used to sneak a GBA under the covers whenever it was time for bed. It was gaming without distractions, and so every game was made funner. But I must have turned the volume up too loud one night, because my sister snuck into my room and pulled my blanket off of me.

My sister, also being a young kid, wasn't all that concerned with ratting me out. As it turns out, we ended up starting a new game of Pokémon: Sapphire together. And while I can't remember the exact wording, I absolutely remember her comment:

"You can play as a girl?"

Pokémon was one of the first mainstream gaming franchises to let you play as a boy or a girl. And considering your character is designed to be an avatar for yourself, having that option doubled its potential playerbase. And from a purely self-interest level, the more people playing Pokémon, the more people trading Pokémon. If there had been a female protagonist option and multiple save slots, my experience playing Gale of Darkness would've been radically different. An entire section of the game would've been unlocked. Or at the absolute bare minimum, if group battle had the option to battle against bots, I could've at least used the massive amount of rules to create my own style of Pokémon battling.

I think it's time for a preachy philosopher's quote:

"...faced with this world of faithful and complicated objects, the child can only identify himself as an owner, as user, never as creator; he does not invent the world, he uses it..."
—Roland Barthes, "Toys"​

Never been a big fan of the source essay, but boy, does that excerpt apply to XD. And looking back at all the other games from my childhood, I was a creator of a lot of things. Around this time, Timesplitters 2's mapmaker was tricking me into learning programming! But XD, as my first impression of console Pokémon RPGs, showed me Pokémon doesn't want you breaking its world. And now, I write fan fiction, because fuck it, Pokémon is mine.

★ ★ ★​

One last thing before we start a game proper. What's in the options menu?

Options Menu.png

Nothing! No difficulty settings, no ability to enter cheats, nothing. Imagine cheats codes that let you start with any Pokémon you choose. Imagine the replay value such a simple cheat could've given. Let alone "wacky" cheats that could've fundamentally changed how you play the game. Steal Pokémon from any trainer. God mode. One hitpoint for all. Turn time limits. All Pokémon shiny. No EXP points. Pokémon start with zero loyalty. Teach TMs to anyone. All attacks guaranteed hits. Forced battle types. The lost potential of this options menu is, to me, the biggest black stain against Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness's legacy.

And now, knowing the context under which this game was created, I think I know why. Pokémon doesn't have cheats because Pokémon has a very delicate trading ecosystem. The Pokémon Company, being the literal Pokémon Company, has a vested interest in protecting that ecosystem. And it seems XD was considered part of that ecosystem. Plus, I'm sure Nintendo didn't mind Group Battle pushing sales of their hardware.

The cold, clinical Pokémon brand left Genius Sonority with little choice than to make a tightly controlled narrative RPG, with any "extras" neutered. And despite (or perhaps because of) these decisions, Pokémon XD undersold its predecessor, putting Genius Sonority on the path to the chopping block. Genius Sonority shouldn't have been making a Pokémon game, because the Pokémon brand set them up to fail.

...so who wants to play Pokémon?

Next time: We start a new game and stop talking industry politics! Hooray!
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But it does mean we have four different companies working on one game.
Does this count as a licenced game? I've also wondered for a while why it's the games with lower profiles that always have the most logos.

This reminded me of a game from my childhood that I'm currently let's playing: THE DOG Island. There are four logos at the start, which make perfect sense (the developer, the publisher, Nintendo or Sony, and Artlist Collection), but they're all still images that hold for too long.
Yes, the song is called "Rumba of Love". It's a long story.
Where do the track names come from?
Why this basic feature isn't implemented...I need a minute.
Colosseum takes up almost an entire memory card. Maybe multiple files would have taken too much space?
Does this count as a licenced game? I've also wondered for a while why it's the games with lower profiles that always have the most logos.

In this case, I think the best term is second-party development. Genius Sonority didn't buy the Pokémon license; Creatures, Inc. paid Genius Sonority to make a Pokémon game. Problem is, the details of the contract Genius Sonority signed are not publicly available. Thus, I'm stuck googling names in credits and making educated guesses. Seeing as Genius Sonority got the short end of the stick and Manabu Yamana was out of a job when signing that contract, my industry secrets sense is tingling. Thus why I'm suspicious of the "Executive Producers".

Where do the track names come from?

"Rumba of Love" is a key item. It's a long story.

As for the rest, I'm using BrawlBRSTMs3 X's tracks when possible. But it seems they themselves got confused, so I'll switch to a different Youtube channel if the track is wrong or missing. I should note a lot of music got reused from Colosseum, causing all sorts of wonderful music naming problems in the process. Long story short, most tracks are named after locations they're played at or situations where they're played in.

Colosseum takes up almost an entire memory card. Maybe multiple files would have taken too much space?

Good question! I tested a "fresh" XD save and found it took 43 memory blocks. For perspective, my niece's save of Mario Party 6 takes 5 blocks. And Wikipedia tells me official Gamecube memory cards came in 59 block, 251 block, and 1019 block formats. That does mean the game as coded can't support more than one save on the smallest memory card, but it could fit three saves on the mid-size card.

Still, even if Genius Sonority were concerned with memory, I do wonder why they didn't use memory card slot B. The Gamecube has two slots for memory cards, but XD can only read data in slot A. Why the Pokémon team in slot A couldn't duke it against slot B is odd, but not 100% unprecedented within the Gamecube library.

XD's giant file size might warrant a more in-depth analysis. I'm thinking of doing a "Things I Missed" chapter at certain intervals, as comments and my ongoing research might reveal things I've missed. Glaring errors will warrant an edit (for instance, getting the name of the game wrong) (not that I did that) (don't read my May 4th news update), but I'd rather pressure myself to get facts right the first time. I feel my analysis, while not objective fact, is at least backed by the best evidence I can find at this time. Though between you and me and the internet, I'm kinda itching to get on with the "real" game. Vs Mode is just a sideshow; from my experience with this game, Genius Sonority's main efforts went into the single-player story mode. For all I know, Quick Battle could've been a internal battle system test that was reframed as a whole new mode. But I don't know, so educated guesses it is.
How many games did that? The only one I know of is Animal Crossing.
Quick google shows Animal Crossing shipped with a 59-block memory card and had a huuuuuuuge save file size (57 blocks minimum)...

...and that Pokémon: XD was bundled with a special edition Gamecube at one point? Presumably, a memory card would be part of that bundle, putting it in a similar boat to Animal Crossing. The plot thickens. I'm definitely doing a "Things I Missed“ chapter where I go deeper into how XD was marketed and sold, though it'll be down the line.
My PAL copy of Colosseum has an icon on the boxart saying it came with a memory card, but I got mine used, so it didn't.
CH2: "Dragon Junior"

CH2: "Dragon Junior"

MATURE Content Warning: My research for a simple fact check uncovers extremely dark, perversive action by localization. I'm talking "doomsday cults" here. That is not a joke. A portion of this chapter gets very dark and very political, and it's timed like a sucker punch. Thus, I've formatted this chapter so all mature content is contained within an entirely skippable spoiler tag. The tag is labeled "MATURE CONTENT"; you do not need to read it if you feel uncomfortable with mature themes.

We're 6,000 words in and still haven't started story mode. Might as well get on with it.

...after a quick* FAHT CHEHK!

While getting distracted doing research, I found an unverified claim on XD's Tv Tropes page about our protagonist's default name. Apparently, the Japanese first-choice name is meaningful in some way, but the page self-contradicts itself: either his name is a reference to "sacrificial lights placed on an alter to the gods“, or "generic Japanese dragon symbolism", depending on which troper you put stock in.^ Depending on if any of this is true, this may give the English preset name some symbolism.

So, what exactly is our protagonist's pre-localization name, and does it carry any meaning? If only I had a screenshot of the XD's Japanese character naming screen OH WAIT I DO


And now, with the aid of Wikipedia,^^^^^^ plus a second opinion via Jisho search,^^^^^^ I will attempt to butcher translate this name myself! The Snuggles Translation™ of XD's Japanese "canon" name is:

リ — pronounced "ri"^
ユ — pronounced "yu"^
ウ — pronounced "u"^
ト — pronounced "to"^

All together now!

リユウト — pronounced "Ri-yu-u-to"​

But wait, there's more! This name was written in Katakana, AKA "Japanese westerner/computer alphabet". The government-endorsed Japanese alphabet, Kanji, is huuuuuuuuuuge, with a universal government-issued secondary school benchmark (the jōyō kanji) requiring knowledge of 2,136 letters.^^ This sucks, so you'll often see the much smaller Katakana or Hiragana alphabets used to phonetically imitate Kanji.^ This lets younger audiences who aren't literate in Kanji read text boxes, with the added bonus of XD's Japanese custom name entry screen being less than a jillion pages long. More specifically, it means when you press the X button when typing in a name, you swap between alphabets:




It also means we can match the phonetic pronunciation of Katakana with the phonetic pronunciation of Kanji. Thus, "リユウト" can be converted into the "official" Japanese alphabet, which uses single letters for what English would call a word. And thus, we can find out リユウト's "words", AKA its literal translation. All I need to do is sift through 2,136 letters.

...this might take a bit.

★ ★ ★​

After scouring the Kanji alphabet, I have made a discovery! リユウ, aka "Ri-yu-u", is 竜 in Kanji! And 竜 means "dragon"!^^ Alternate pronunciations include "ryū", which roughly lines up with our Katakana pronunciation.

Unfortunately, I hit a snag with ト. Wikipedia and Jisho give conflicting answers. ト lines up with either 68 and 73 different Kanji, depending on which source you use.^^ I'm leaning towards Wikipedia as their citations are more transparent and up-to-date, but I could be wrong. Keep that in mind as we go forward.

For the sake of your time, I'm not going to dissect every possible Kanji interpretation. Nearly all are obviously wrong anyways. So I'm going to just flat-out state what I think is the most plausible Kanji name:

竜徒, when written in official Kanji
リユウト, when written in less formal Katakana
Ryūto, when pronounced
"Dragon Junior", when translated literally^^^

Out of all the options, "Dragon Junior" seemed obvious. You're a kid with a team of monsters; "monster" doesn't appear on the secondary school benchmark,^^ so dragon seems like the closest synonym. Plus, Tv Tropes says names starting in Ryu are a trope of Japanese media, for whatever that's worth.^ Also, dragons are cool.

But there's a snag. Based on the preset names used in the English localization, I think "ryūto" was translated as "ryūtō", which changes its meaning to:

竜刀, when written in official Kanji
リユウト, when written in less formal Katakana
Ryūtō, when pronounced
"Dragon Sword", when translated literally^^^^

"Dragon Sword", while I think it's incorrect, is notable for matching both internet rumor and a Shinto myth. Quick crash course: Shintoism is the official unofficial traditional religion of Japan.^^ From what I can tell, its canon is less centralized than Abrahamic religions (AKA Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc). The most authoritative collection of Shinto beliefs I can find are at minimum over a century old and thus my westerner knowledge will have gaps.^^^^. But from the facts available to me, I think I could find enough information to "close enough" recite the story of one Shinto mythological artifact: the Kusanagi.

The Kusanagi, sword of Susanoo, first detailed in the historical ("historical") text Kojiki^^, was taken from the body of the dragon Orochi,^^^. The Kusanagi is one of the Three Sacred Treasures, AKA the most holy existing artifacts in Shinto. It is kept in a sealed package whose contents are never seen in public or even accessible to historians,^^^^^ making it difficult to determine if the Kusanagi even exists. But, uh, don't go shouting "your religious beliefs are a lie!". Please.

Pop quiz! Do you know who else has a divine sword used to slay "the dragon"? Archangel Michael, the Abrahamic God's top general.^


Based on the biblical roots of the other English names (David and Goliath, Adam and Eve), I think localization took some major creative liberties. Instead of "Ryūto“, they heard "Ryūtō". Instead of "Dragon Junior", they localized "Dragon Sword". And instead of Susanoo slaying Orochi, they used Michael slaying Satan.

For those not caught up on your theology, Revelation 12:7-9 refers to "the dragon" Satan (actual wording) being cast out of Heaven by Archangel Michael's hand.^ However, the idea of a holy sword doesn't appear in King James's text. Instead, it seems to have first appeared in the 1674 poem Paradise Lost, Book 6, lines 320-322.^^ Yes, even the Bible gets fan fiction.

I am not a fan of this localization.

The Book of Revelation and especially Paradise Lost are extremely touchy subjects for me. Long story short, there's these sects of Abrahamic religions collectively known as Millennialism, and at their worst they are highly prolific doomsday cults attempting to instigate the rapture.^^^^ Their entire theology is based on six lines of scripture, Revelation 20:1-6^, with the entire rest of the King James Bible ignored or misquoted in favor of biblical fan fiction. And the fact that a Pokémon game chose to lean on Paradise Lost when giving their character a canon English name is an attack against humanity's continued existence, let alone Pokemon's core values. Localization took someone else's art and butchered it.

Or maybe not. I want to stress I'm an amateur translater who doesn't speak Japanese and doesn't live in Japan. It's possible I made an error, and if so, then "Dragon Sword" may be the actual literal translation. Or perhaps the three biblical heroes in name entry were just coincidence. Stranger things have happened.

Regardless, I do feel whatever symbolism may or may not be there is at best too cloudy to decipher. There's so many possible meanings, any translation may not convey the original writer's intent. So, uh, faht chehked, I guess. And since we've come so far, why don't we do some localization ourselves?

For my playthrough, I'm going to name my character by creating a Snuggles Localization™ of 竜徒, aka リユウト, aka Ryūto, aka "Dragon Junior". Partly for the fun of it, but also to show just how difficult, subjective, and important localization is. I promised an XD deep dive; we're diving deep.

First, we know from the limited jōyō kanji that "dragon" may have been used in place of "monster". But a name that literally means "monster" doesn't strike me as protagonist-y. We could go with something that means "beast tamer", but then we'd lose out on the "kid hero" aspect. Plus, dragons are cool. Dragon's staying in.

The literal "dragon junior" isn't a plausible name. We can probably rephrase it as "young dragon" without losing any of its meaning. But we still need to make it a plausible name.

XD takes place in a region inspired by the American Southwest, in particular Arizona.^ That means we can draw from US Social Security Administration data to find a common baby name.^ Pokémon XD was released in late 2005,^ so let's find the most popular baby name of 2005 that references young dragons. Social Security doesn't display names by year in an ordered list, so I used third-party site Behind The Name's list of most popular baby names in 2005,^ fact-checking via Social Security's own website just to be sure.

So, who's our winner?


Translaten' from the bottom, now we're here. While Drake's an uncommon name, it's not unseen in pop culture.^^ And at the time of XD's release, Drake was the 247th most popular baby name in America. For reference, that's two places behind Derrick and five places above Simon.^^ Not common, but nowhere near "your parents suck" level.

So, after quite the journey, we finally have a name for our playthrough. But before we kick things off proper, there's one last point I want to emphasize: Genius Sonority took time to think about their protagonist's name. Considering that, at the time, Game Freak's protagonists were finally breaking past "named after a color", Genius Sonority's writers were well ahead of the curve. Granted, this is no masterpiece of symbolism, but combine their above-par name with their hive mind's quote about a more "mature" Pokémon world, and I think Genius Sonority's writers want to be taken seriously. They put time and effort into little details, and it'd be a shame if those details were dismissed. For some reason, they cared about this silly little Pokémon RPG. They considered it art. And as a Pokémon fan, I think that deserves respect.

Next time: we start a new game, I swear!

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Ever heard of Digimon Tamers? You might like it.

Been very interested for quite some time, but haven't been able to find a way to watch. Though judging from the main character's design, I bet someone in Genius Sonority's art department has watched some Digimon. I mean, the goggles are right there.

You might want to re-read that.
Impossible. Everything with a carrot next to it has a source. For instance, "Pokémon was released in 2005" cites the Bulbagarden page for Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. Thus, Pokémon XD was the first Pokémon game ever released.
Though judging from the main character's design, I bet someone in Genius Sonority's art department has watched some Digimon.
Digimon XD: Gale of Darkness is the crossover I never knew I wanted. By the way, remember that fanfic about a Beautifly I mentioned? It'll be a Digimon crossover.

(The first three seasons of Digimon - Adventure, Adventure 02, and Tamers - have been released on DVD in the UK by Manga Entertainment, but I don't know about elsewhere. Apparently Hasbro owns the localisation rights now?)

Looking at the Japanese title screen again made me swear there was a game where the English title screen is a lot more boring than the Japanese one, but I can't think about what it is. Whatever the case, the Japanese XD title screen gives me mockup GBA screen vibes.
Hi there! I've been eyeballing this thing for a while now, and I've finally decided to just sit down and write a reply here. This won't really be a "review" since this isn't really a fanfic, but rather it'll be just my assorted thoughts on certain things. As you might suspect from your last experience with a certain something that I wrote, I'm someone with a lot to say at any given opportunity, haha. But I'll try not to take up too much room on here. Here's some of what I was thinking while reading this below:

According to internet, the Pokémon models from Stadium were the same ones used in Colosseum.
Wait, what!? No way! <looks at images> Wow, they really are pretty much the same. Even the new textures aren't that far removed from the originals... and the new ones arguably look worse on that Golduck! I guess that explains why so much of Colosseum and XD looks like an upscaled N64 game at times, and why they don't hold up as well in emulator screenshots or in HD compared to actually good-looking GameCube titles like, say, Super Mario Sunshine or one of the Metroid Prime games, to name a few. At least some of the attack effects looked pretty decent, though.

Now on to the more philosophical stuff:

Then again, I'm not sure how many people play Pokémon for the narrative. A good chunk of Pokémon's appeal is social; trading Pokémon, showing off your collection.
Yeah... I personally never cared much for that latter part of Pokémon myself; I was always more interested in the universe and in my own personal connection with my Pokémon. And nowadays, I actually do care about narrative in Pokémon games too, if only because the games have actually been offering somewhat interesting narratives as of late. Sun and Moon comes to mind as a more recent example, but then I was talking about interesting narratives, not necessarily well-executed ones. And if anything, that game shows just how much the requisite badge quest can get in the way of an interesting narrative... but that's a discussion for another time, I suppose. For now, let's just say that I think the lack of a requisite badge quest in Colosseum and XD probably made them much better games than they otherwise would have been, at least in the story department.

Also, I have my opinions about that certain famous quote you mentioned:

"It’s the type of place, the Pokémon world, where problems we face on Earth just wouldn’t happen. There wouldn’t be global warming, water shortages, or anything like that. It’s a world where the people in it really want to work together with each other. Their value system is such where they would prefer to work together and eliminate these problems rather than feud."
—Junichi Masuda (core series producer)
Fair warning: I'm about to go on a bit of a rant here. Basically, I can't say that I can ever be 100 percent on board with the idea of the Pokémon world as some kind of utopia where everyone works together and there are basically no problems and all of that. Sure, maybe some problems could be eliminated or at least greatly diminished compared to those in real world (like global warming, pollution, and other ecological issues), but the idea of a world where there are almost literally no problems whatsoever (especially societal ones) feels to me like a rather naïve one, at best. Why? Simple: because the Pokémon world is also a human world. And in a human world, there will always be some people, somewhere, who lust for power, who enjoy inflicting suffering on others, who look down on people who they see as inferior, and who care about themselves above everyone and everything else. And more importantly, there will always be those who — for one reason or another, intentionally or not — allow such people to exist, or even thrive, in the world.

As it turns out, the games themselves acknowledge this inevitability in many little ways — some hidden, some less so — as well as some big ones. The most obvious "big one" is the existence of extremely ambitious (and often extremely insane) villains — including the likes of Giovanni, Cyrus, Ghetsis, and Lysandre among many, many others — who will happily take advantage of both the immense power provided by Pokémon and the futuristic, near-omnipotent human technology available in the Pokémon world to wreak havoc on a global scale over and over again, all completely unchallenged and barely even noticed by that a society that supposedly works together, let alone one with a powerful Elite Four and Champion hanging around. And who's the one that ultimately stops these existential threats to the world? Some random plucky kid who just happens to show up at the right place at the right time. Essentially, they're the only reason that the Pokémon world doesn't completely fall apart every other year, which doesn't exactly scream "perfect world with no problems" to me. Rather, it screams ignorance and incompetence at practically every level of society, which sounds a lot more like the real world except with different problems, not less problems (and with many things that haven't really changed at all). It makes one wonder if Orre is what ultimately happens to a society that lacks a random plucky kid to save it from itself for too long...

(If you can't tell, I'm more a fan of the Genius Sonority hive mind quote. :p)

I didn't even know Pokémon: Colosseum existed until high school. For the longest time, Gale of Darkness was the only console Pokémon RPG I knew.
My exposure and overall interest with Colosseum and XD was pretty much the complete opposite of your experience, it seems! You see, I played Colosseum around the time that it first came out, when I was around 11-12 years old. I never actually owned the game, though. Instead, I just rented it for a few days (indeed, I kind of miss physical game rentals, too). I also never actually finished it, not only because of the limited amount of time that I had with it, but also because of the limited amount of space that I had on my pathetically small 59-block memory card (I don't miss those, haha). I'd imagine that I tried to keep the console running to mitigate that, but I also remember having to restart the game at least once, so at the very least I wasn't successful, or perhaps I never actually bothered trying at all. Nevertheless, my pre-teen mind was totally captivated with a fully 3D Pokémon game on a console, and combined with its attempt at delivering something resembling an interesting story (or something better than Ruby and Sapphire's story, anyway... I was not a fan of those games at the time), I have pretty fond memories of Colosseum.

XD, on the other hand... ugh. I never actually got the chance to play it, but I did learn about its existence when it was first announced. Strangely, I was completely uninterested in it from the very first moment I heard about it. Why? Well, maybe it was because I was kind of turned off by what, at the time, appeared to be a lighter and softer (and recycled-looking) version of my favorite "darker and edgier" Pokémon game. And yet...

Well, they weren't kidding about darkness. Or a gale, for that matter. Swirling clouds and thunder, all while an orchestra plays a generic adventure theme/doom march:


Having played through this game before, I think they're trying too hard.

...pretty much this. Even as a kid, none of that really tickled my pre-teen fancy, especially after just coming back from Colosseum. How did I see it? XD: Here's this evil-looking Lugia on our cover with dark foreboding swirls everywhere and an "X" in the game's title, ooh... and you'll get to experience the same region as last time through the eyes of this goofy-looking kid with goggles, yay. Colosseum? Welcome to this brand-new region that's nothing but desert wasteland, presented to you in full 3D glory! Now watch this cool kid with shades blow up his own team's base before riding off on a badass hoverbike with not one but two awesome Eeveelutions by his side, all in the very first minute... and guess what? You get to play as him! Yeah, no contest there for me...

Now, maybe the novelty of a 3D Pokémon game simply wearing off around the time of XD had a lot to do with things as well, but I'd also argue, at least from my perspective, that while XD was trying to be badass yet ultimately failed at really doing so, Colosseum actually was legitimately badass, if only for that one glorious minute (nothing else in the game really came close to topping that intro, sadly). Given all of that, I'd imagine that hearing about XD back then would've made me more likely to feel nostalgic for Colosseum than be excited for XD itself, but that was just me.

Back to philosophy again:

"...faced with this world of faithful and complicated objects, the child can only identify himself as an owner, as user, never as creator; he does not invent the world, he uses it..."
—Roland Barthes, "Toys"
Never been a big fan of the source essay, but boy, does that excerpt apply to XD. And looking back at all the other games from my childhood, I was a creator of a lot of things. Around this time, Timesplitters 2's mapmaker was tricking me into learning programming! But XD, as my first impression of console Pokémon RPGs, showed me Pokémon doesn't want you breaking its world. And now, I write fan fiction, because fuck it, Pokémon is mine.
I think there's a discussion to be had about just how much someone else's fictional world truly "belongs" to them vs. those who consume and experience it, but then I'd have to write another wall of text like I did with that other quote, haha. Let's just say that the existence of fandom — with everything that comes with it like fanfiction and forums for discussion — is a wonderful thing when it comes to franchises like Pokémon. But like with anything that a large group of people are passionate about, it can also be a frightening thing.

One last thing before we start a game proper. What's in the options menu? Nothing! No difficulty settings, no ability to enter cheats, nothing.
That's indeed one of the most pathetically sparse options menus I've ever seen, wow. Even Game Boy games had more options available than that! Speaking of which, you know what else had more options? The mainline Pokémon games themselves. I wonder where the text update speed, frame type, and battle shift/set options went?

Imagine cheats codes that let you start with any Pokémon you choose. Imagine the replay value such a simple cheat could given. Let alone "wacky" cheats that could've fundamentally changed how you play the game. Steal Pokémon from any trainer. God mode. One hitpoint for all. Turn time limits. All Pokémon shiny. No EXP points. Pokémon start with zero loyalty. Teach TMs to anyone. All attacks guaranteed hits. Forced battle types. The lost potential of this options menu is, to me, the biggest black stain against Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness's legacy.
I'm not sure I'd go that far, if only because of the sheer unlikelihood that Nintendo/Game Freak/etc. would ever actually allow things like that (as awesome as they sound) in a Pokémon game. As you've alluded to here, "status quo" tends to be the rule when it comes to Pokémon, even for non-traditional games like Colosseum and XD. But again, that's why fandom is a wonderful thing: there are no shortage of mods and ROM hacks for Pokémon games to provide a different experience for those who want it. That said, changing something to fit your desires is a lot harder when what you want to change are features and mechanics in a video game, as opposed to simply the story and universe of your favorite novel or anime. After all, anyone can write a fanfic or create a metagame around something, but not just anyone can code. And even if you can, there are always limits. To use an analogy: you can renovate the interior (assets, basic game rules and mechanics) as much as you want, but changing the whole foundation (source code, the game engine itself) is a much more difficult task, if not an impossible one.

The cold, clinical Pokémon brand left Genius Sonority with little choice than to make a tightly controlled narrative RPG, with any "extras" neutered. And despite (or perhaps because) of these decisions, Pokémon XD undersold its predecessor, putting Genius Sonority on the path to the chopping block. Genius Sonority shouldn't have been making a Pokémon game, because the Pokémon brand set them up to fail.
As much as I'd like to fully agree with that sentiment, I'd argue that being released at the tail end of the relatively unpopular GameCube's lifespan, as well as being a direct and outwardly similar sequel to a game whose concept was once novel but not so much the second time, might have been major factors at play as well.

As for the rest, I'm using BrawlBRSTMs3 X's tracks when possible. But it seems they themselves got confused, so I'll switch to a different Youtube channel if the track is wrong or missing.
You might want to; it's missing now. :p As a frequent poster on the video game music thread (which relies on channels such as that one), I can tell you that you will be encountering issues like that every so often, especially on a blog where posts are going to be visited over and over again by passing readers... you don't want them to be seeing blank videos, obviously! As for a replacement for that particular track, try this one (PocketMonstersMusic probably isn't going anywhere). Incidentally, I may have to post that track on the video game music thread one day... it's quite catchy!

Colosseum takes up almost an entire memory card. Maybe multiple files would have taken too much space?
Good question! I tested a "fresh" XD save and found it took 43 memory blocks. For perspective, my niece's save of Mario Party 6 takes 5 blocks. And Wikipedia tells me official Gamecube memory cards came in 59 block, 251 block, and 1019 block formats. That does mean the game as coded can't support more than one save on the smallest memory card, but it could fit three saves on the mid-size card.
Fun fact I found about the GameCube's memory cards: the 59-block size is equivalent to about 512 KB of space. Divided by 59 blocks, this equals 8.6779661, which is very close to a common computer block size of 8 KB, so essentially: 1 GameCube block = 8 KB. That means that 43 blocks, multiplied by 8 KB, equals a roughly 344 KB save file size for Pokémon XD.

Now, that may not seem too unrealistic at first. That is, until you look at the save file space reserved for Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire on the GBA, which is 128 KB, or almost one-third of XD's save file size. But wait... it gets even better! Ruby and Sapphire's save file itself is actually half of that — or 64 KB — because there are two save files stored in that 128 KB reserved space: a main and a backup (in case, say, the power shuts off in the middle of a save for some reason, or if you simply have bad luck one day). So ultimately, depending on whether or not XD's save system has a similar backup feature (which, if I had to guess based the little information I found on the subject, it doesn't seem to), that means that XD's save files are anywhere between 2.7x and 5.4x (!!!) as large as the closest equivalent Pokémon game. You have to wonder what Genius Sonority was doing with all of that space...

One more thing:

Ever heard of Digimon Tamers? You might like it.
Been very interested for quite some time, but haven't been able to find a way to watch.
By any chance, are you familiar with the anime Serial Experiments Lain? If you're interested in Tamers, you might like Lain, if you haven't seen it already. They're both written primarily by the same person, and they both explore technology being used in powerful and potentially dangerous ways (although Lain's narrative approach is very different from most other TV shows, in an arguably love-it-or-hate-it kind of way). And if TVTropes' description of Tamers as "Serial Experiments Lain for kids" is anything close to apt, then both shows should have analysis material for days (and you seem to be someone who really likes analysis, so... yeah).

As for where to find Tamers... I see pages for it on Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Amazon Prime Video, but apparently the license to the series expired recently, so I'm not sure if they're actually still hosting it (Amazon definitely isn't). Speaking of Amazon, I also see a still-in-print DVD collection available there for around $50, if you don't mind having the English dub only. If you're more interested in the original Japanese version, then I unfortunately can't help you there (unless you have over $350 to spend on an imported Japanese Blu-ray with no English option).

Whew... that's all I have for now (or all I'm able to write for now, haha). Looking forward to more!
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You have to wonder what Genius Sonority was doing with all of that space...
Bad compression? Or maybe it's for GBA connectivity?

I had to wipe my entire memory card (which consisted of Pikmin, Thousand-Year Door, and a collectathon platformer by Acclaim about a boy with claws that I can't remember the name of) to save in Colosseum, so I decided to get another one for my other games. Before that, the first GameCube memory card I got had no metal in it. And before that, I accidentally got a PS1 memory card when I asked for a PS2 one and couldn't replace it until a week later. Gah!

As for Digimon Tamers, here's what I have to say about the English dub:
  • I read that they censor alcohol in one episode, but I'm not certain if it was Tamers or not. (It involved a Digimon based on Yamata no Orochi, an alcoholic Japanese hydra.)
  • They don't hide that it takes place in Japan. (A YouTuber named Billiam praised the English dub of Adventure for doing this, too.)
  • Digimon sometimes get dub name changes, but they're so rare that it feels like the ones that aren't misromanisations were picked out of a hat. For example, there's Cocomon and Chocomon, which were changed to Conomon and Kokomon FOR NO REASON EVEN THOUGH THEY BOTH CONTAIN PERFECTLY VALID ENGLISH WORDS WHY DID THEY DO THIS GAAAAAAH!
I thought that Snuggles would like it because of the similarities to KAIJUMON. Billiam said that the good Digimon animes are about childhood, and the inciting incident of Tamers is that a kid's drawing of a red dinosaur came to life! Awesome! Shame that he talks like Gollum, doesn't understand social cues, and eats a lot. There's a really funny gag in an early episode where the main character tries to hide his Digimon from his parents by putting him in a cardboard box, and his parents think he's pretending to have a pet because he's lonely. It turns out later in the episode that his dad thought that the protagonist had become emotionally attached to a cardboard box. It's that kind of noughties anime charm that I love.
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@InfiniteBakuphoon Thanks for the detailed response! I'm legitimately surprised this analysis, of all my Writer's Workshop submissions, seems to be attracting the most discussion. I just wanted to revisit my childhood as an adult. I have a draft of CH3 nearly finished and, while XD absolutely lacks Colosseum's badass factor, it does seem to be the more mature of the two games (Genius Sonority hive mind ftw). Ironically, by shifting to a kid hero protagonist, they seem to have made a game better suited for adults. There's more subtext that'd be lost on kids but picked up on by adults, for instance.

I should disclose; I'm a former ROM hacker. I barely went beyond "script kiddie" status, but it did feel unnecessarily difficult to make a playable Pokémon adventure. And Nintendo has been actively hostile towards fanworks. It always blows up in their face, and it might be biasing my opinion of the company a little. For Pokémon alone, my put-me-on-the-spot examples are the takedowns of Pokémon: Uranium and Pokémon Essentials. There's more out there, I could research the topic further, but long story short I trust Genius Sonority over their bosses.

Long story short, think the Nintendo/The Pokémon Compamy/Genius Sonority partnership was (intentionally or not) tilted against Genius Sonority. It's gut feeling due to lack of information, under similar reasoning to the Enix/Heartbeat arrangement. XD sold over a million copies; if that isn't enough to sustain a studio, then I smell something fishy.

Not that other factors didn't play a part. I don't think any game made by Genius Sonority for the Gamecube in 2005 could've outsold Colosseum. In fact, I think if they didn't utilize the cash cow Pokémon license, they'd be idiots. But the Pokémon brand also comes with oversight, and it appears that oversight intentionally neutered the game to some degree. While XD might've been the best option for Genius Sonority financially, I think they could've made a better game by creating a Poké-knock off. Then they'd be free from The Pokémon Company's oversight, which would've resulted in a better product. Imagine a narrative-focused monster battler rated T for teen, aimed not necessarily at kids but a certain type of adult. But then they'd lose the brand name recognition...it was a rock and a hard place for Genius Sonority, business-wise. Game quality and game sales don't always match; XD sold enough to keep the lights on, so there should've given more room to make a better quality product. But there wasn't, because of "the Pokémon brand".

I'm rambling. Thank you for pointing out the broken link, swapping it out ASAP. I definitely want to revisit the business side of XD, but I want to get a feel for story mode first, check out how XD stacks up when the studio's let loose. Game Freak might've been consulting, but the way battles play out don't feel very Game Freak. I'm planning to talk more about this in CH4, but for now, I got some screenshots to frame.
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CH3: Everything Is Fine (Part 1)

CH3: Everything Is Fine

Hey-o! As my way of worming around Bulbagarden's attachment limits, I'm separating this chapter into two posts. The second post should be up within minutes.

Anyways, I was going to spend this chapter analyzing the player avatar's as presented on the character naming screen, but these really persuasive people with pitchforks convinced me to start the damn game already. Here goes!

Intro Ship Lense Flare.png

Oh, a boat. I'm sure everything will be fine. Nice lens flare effect, really reminds me of Titanic. That ship did okay, right?

Serious note; while this game's models are literally ripped from the N64, the particle effects are amazing. I actually have a tiny bit of experience with particle effects in the Unity game engine, but I wouldn't be able to craft a rainbow sun flare like this. I'll touch more on this later when we get into particle effects-heavy battle animations, but for now, know that Genius Sonority has ways of making sub-par models look good. They don't always use them, but they have ways.

Heli Raid.png

Oh, look. An air raid. Nothing to be concerned about. Everything is fine.

Probably A Seagull.png

Props to the cinematographer for this shot. The scale of our soon-to-be-revealed legendary couldn't be more imposing. Let's see how the crew reacts, shall we?

Crew Crapping Pants.png

It appears they have emptied their bowels. This is not the correct course of action.

Scouter Dude.png
Lugia Eye Flash.png

And within a minute, our box art has appeared! And it's tied to a plot-important cutscene! It's like the purple bird on the cover is what people bought the game for.

Huh. Their eyes flashed red when the pilot's headgear flashed red. No implied meaning there. I'm sure everything is fine.

Lugia Lifting Ship.png

Oh, look. Lugia is telepathically lifting the ship out of the water after receiving eye flash fever. Everything is fine.

Not A Dutch Angle.png

Everything is fine.

Well This Sucks.png

"Hey, uh, captain-"
"I don't know, either."

...and fade to black! Cutscene over. Let's review, shall we?

• A large ship is stolen by a villainous organization.
• Our villainous organization is capable of executing a coordinated operation.
• They have access to skilled pilots and helicopters.
• They have mind-controlled a legendary Pokémon.
• They are willing to strand civilians in the ocean.
• They can make a beautiful sunset disappear by their mere presence (I watched this cutscene a dozen times for this playthrough, and I didn't notice this until reviewing my screenshots).

And all this information was given visually, without any voice acting or text boxes, in about 57-seconds of cutscene.

For those of you unaware, the golden rule of exposition is "Show, Don't Tell". You're usually able to deftly cram lots of information if you show something happening, rather than make characters talk about whatever. That isn't an ironclad rule, but this opening cutscene demonstrates exactly why the rule exists. We, the audience, have been made aware of a serious threat. They are shown ruthless and efficient. And we have several plot threads hooking us in; Lugia's mind control, and the stolen ship. And all of this in under a minute.

This is possible thanks to XD's pseudo-anime art style. Knock the graphics all you want, but at the end of the day, the artists knew how to handle limited resources. Cartoony eyes and exaggerated proportions show emotion far better than more realistic graphics could. Hence, when we get that wonderful shot of the crew crapping their pants, or their mutual glance as they're stranded in the ocean, we wordlessly know what they're feeling. And both shots combined take under five seconds. I talk about XD being a narrative-focused game; the art style and cinematography is very much part of that.

Unfortinately, there's one major flaw to discuss. The biggest plot hook introduced by this cutscene is left hanging until the game's last moments. You will not see Lugia again until immediately before the final boss, and when you do, they're a speedbump compared to said boss. Lugia's presence will be teased, but since Lugia's already revealed to the player (they're on the box!), the teasing accomplishes nothing. Lugia is XD's box art hook, and the writers severely underutilized them.

On the flip side, the characterization given to our obligatory villainous organization is leagues ahead of anything Game Freak's put out, at least at the time of XD's release. And this is just our first encounter. We'll be talking about their continued characterization soon and often.

But this is just a cutscene. We're playing a game. "Show, Don't Tell" < "Play, Don't Show". We're making good time, but if we don't give the player something to-

Opening Battle.png

-and it seems we're immediately dumped into a battle! Less than a minute after confirming our name and we have full control, plus a good deal of exposition under our belts. I'm not going to argue Gale of Darkness is the greatest story ever told, but this opening is fantastic storytelling.

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CH3: Everything Is Fine (Part 2)



We've been dumped into a Pokémon battle with no context. We got a lot to unpack.

First, we're playing as us! There's our character model behind Salamence.

Drake And Salamence.png

According to the UI, we're commanding a level 50 Salamence. It's a big ol' dragon, and we're fighting in front of a cheering crowd. We ain't no nobodies...right?

I'm a quitter. What's this GIVE IN?

Tutorial GIVE IN.png

And it turns out this battle is an unguided tutorial! We can skip if we wish, or fool around with the battle interface on our own. And since Pokémon's battle system is simple on its face, it isn't overwhelming. There's never more than four choices on screen, which plays into a psychological theory popularly known as either "choice overload" or "choice paralysis".^^

Long story short, choice paralysis is what happens when there's too many options available, and you gotta pick one. It sucks. Since we don't have time machines, we'll never know if our choice was the best option out of a jillion, which stems both indecision and regret. But this particular battle has been specifically set up to avert this. Besides GIVE IN, both POKéMON (which lets us review our party Pokémon) and BAG (which lets us use special items, such as healing potions) can be explored but not used. And that's because this battle's designer gave us no items and only one Pokémon. In the end, our only option is to FIGHT...

Tutorial Salamence Moveset.png

...which gives us four options to choose from. And our cursor just so happens to default on the best one: Earthquake.

Tutorial Supereffective Earthquake.png

A subtle trick, but this doesn't 100% guarantee a new player will select Earthquake. So I did some testing.

I deliberately battled as poorly as possible, and it took 3 turns before our opponent's Metagross KOs our Salamence. Metagross spammed the same move (Sludge Bomb) over and over; according to Bulbapedia, this is the only move our opponent has.^ But we get first move, which gives us three moves before our time runs out. It's a hidden timer mechanic; question is, what are the odds we lose the tutorial?

Thanks to the power of starting a new game (did I mention the intro cutscene's under a minute?), I tested a couple different approaches a new player might take to this battle. Here are some of the ways it could play out:

• They take the subconscious hint and use Earthquake. At the end of turn one, Metagross is below half health. Player decides "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and uses Earthquake again. Metagross faints. Battle over; player wins.
• They use Earthquake, but decide to experiment afterwards. They use either Brick Break or Dragon Claw and find themselves dealing significantly less damage. They could theoretically still win the battle if they spam the same move again and damage RNG is kind, but this isn't guaranteed. Dragon Dance, meanwhile, does no damage at all; while our Attack stat is increased, it's not enough to make anything but Earthquake a winning move. They can still get a guaranteed win if they return to Earthquake.
• The player doesn't take the bait. They use Brick Break or Dragon Claw, they deal significantly less damage than Metagross, indicating they need to change their strategy. If they then use an attack other than Earthquake, they're a dead kid walking. If they use Dragon Dance, they can still win if they then use Earthquake (the Attack boost gives Earthquake just enough juice to clinch it).
• The player doesn't take the bait. They use Dragon Dance right out the gate. Salamence's attack is boosted; in my testing, Earthquake became very close to being a one-hit KO, letting me finish the battle with any damage-dealing attack.

And then there's this:

Tutorial Early Faint.png

This tutorial battle uses all the mechanics of "real" battles. That includes critical hits, which made Salamence above faint on turn 2. There's also the 30% chance of poison from Metagross's Sludge Bomb^^, which will start slowly ticking away Salamence's health. I encountered this twice during these tests: when poisoned on turn 2, Salamence hung on with a slither of health. If poisoned turn 1, Salamence fainted on turn 2. Unless player spammed Earthquake, battle over; player loses.

Regardless of the battle result, the plot moves forward the same way besides a few lines of altered text boxes. But depending on how the battle went, they may have encountered any of the following core Pokémon mechanics:

• Super effective moves v. not very effective moves v. standard effective moves
• Status-changing moves
• Critical hits
• Status effects, particularly poison

They're also roughly familiar with the battle UI, depending on how many options they explored. The cursor defaults to FIGHT, encouraging them to, well, fight. And I doubt many players would intentionally select GIVE IN. But they might've explored the BAG or POKéMON, depending on their personality.

All in all, it's a good action opening, albeit risky. Within Pokémon's battle mechanics, there's a lot of ways this tutorial could play out, and I do think the devs could've tweaked the odds in the player's favor some more. Extend the battle a turn, give them more time to experiment. For instance, the move Dragon Dance comes off as useless, since the player doesn't have time to compare pre-buffed Salamence with no-buff Salamence. This could easily lead a player into thinking stat buffs are useless, encouraging the belief "no damage, it's useless". I remember kid me shunning all non-damage dealing moves, especially those that altered stats. I was a dumb kid.

But something's off. We have been dropped into a battle with no context whatsoever. And that GIVE IN screen told us we're learning the basics of Pokémon battling, even though we seem to already be an experienced trainer. What's going on?

And the music. Oh, the music.

We got a nice high-tempo techno-y beat going. Full disclosure: I used to be a drummer before moving into an apartment and trying my hand at synthesizers, and I can break down a beat pretty well. And I can tell from the first four notes that not everything's as it seems.

For those unfamiliar with a drum kit, those four notes are what's called a straight four using a bass drum. The bass drum's the biggest drum, the one in the center of a drum kit:


Image source: Wikipedia

A straight four means four notes evenly timed, one after the other. You use it to show how fast the song's tempo is. Faster tempo, faster (and thus more intense) song. Textbook demonstration: Foo Fighter's "The Pretender", where a beautiful guitar and soft vocals gets a wake-up call around the 0:32 mark:

Granted, "The Pretender" doesn't jumpstart with a bass drum specifically, but you get the idea. A straight four played on a drum conveys energy, especially when played at a high tempo. And that's exactly how the tutorial battle jumpstarts its own battle theme. Gets the adrenaline pumping, contrasts against the more melancholy orchestra the intro cutscene ended with.

Except it's not played on a drum, is it? It sounds like a bass drum, but my ears are telling me it's too distorted, like it's being played through an amplifier somehow. It's synthetic. A synthesizer. It's fake.

Almost all the instruments in this battle theme sound fake. The almost-guitars, the almost-organ, the almost-drums. I think the only real instrument is the bass guitar shred. There's some obvious synthesizers, but there's a lot that eerily straddles the line. This doesn't make it bad; in fact, I think it's spot-on. It's a high-energy battle theme for a fake battle.

First Battle Victory.png

Sim Trainer? Why is the screen fading to black?

I'm sure everything is fine.

Exiting Tutorial SIM.png

Next time: we leave the matrix and get schooled!
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This could easily lead a player into thinking stat buffs are useless, encouraging the belief "no damage, it's useless". I remember kid me shunning all non-damage dealing moves, especially those that altered stats. I was a dumb kid.
Same. I started playing Pokémon around 2008. I didn't learn what accuracy/evasion and speed did until 2010, and the rest of the stats the next year.

I've always thought that Pokémon games look subpar compared to other games on their systems, both main and spinoff, from the flat colours of Rescue Team, to every main 3DS game's performance issues despite having relatively undetailed graphics.
Please note: The thread is from 5 years ago.
Please take the age of this thread into consideration in writing your reply. Depending on what exactly you wanted to say, you may want to consider if it would be better to post a new thread instead.
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