Pokemon Channel: A Quick Review by TR Rose

After hearing several rumors about this adorable non-RPG Pokemon game, I decided it was worth a rental. The concept seemed simple enough, watch TV and report back to Professor Oak about what kind of shows Pokemon might like. In many ways, it reminded me of other non-typical Pokemon games like Pokemon Snap - simple, cute, but painfully short. Worth a rental, but not a purchase. Definitely more for the tiny kiddies than the serious Pokemon RPGs are.

First off, I was blown away by the amount of detail crammed into this little disc. We're treated to beautiful 3D renderings of the three new starter Pokemon: Torchic, Mudkip, and Treecko in a lush environment. Of course, Pikachu is with them... and Pika becomes your TV-viewing buddy (read: couch potato), helping you critique the shows available. Pika will "learn" things as you go along. For example, this dialogue takes place:

"Pikachu is sniffing the TV."
"Pikachu wants to know if the TV should smell."
Answer "no" and the dialogue says, "Pikachu became a little smarter."

Pikachu will run around your room and interact with the various objects inside. For instance, he'll bounce around on your bed, kick a Ditto-print cushion about, and climb on top of the dresser.

The first channel available for viewing is "Anime Channel 1" (and they actually call it "anime", not "cartoon", which is appreciated). The screen lights up with a DVD-quality visual of what promises to be another Pichu Bros. episode. I was happy, the first Pichu Bros. short was my favorite of the mini-movies. To my surprise, I learn this mini-movie is unique: there's no Pikachu in sight! Better yet, this movie seems to be all about getting to Meowth's Party! Yay! My favorite Pokemon video of all time!

Then the theme song begins: it's a translation of the *original* Pichu-Pichu Brothers Japanese song, as found on Pokemon Best Collection 2! The original was cute, and the English version isn't bad either (although a guy sings it, not a lady). The Pichu Bros. and some of their little buddies from the city playground are back! Aww...

But Part 1 quickly ends, leaving me wanting more, an incentive to keep playing.

Pokemon Channel features quite the variety of programming, including a QVC-like shopping network (hosted by a Spencer, sunglasses-wearing Squirtle), a Fortune Cookie channel (with Chansey), a News network (hosted by Psyduck, with on-the-scene reporter Meowth), an Exercise network (featuring Smoochum), Smeargle's Art Study, two Game Show networks, and more.

But there are more things to do than just sit inside and watch TV. Once you obtain bus passes from Shop n' Squirtle, you can visit Viridian Forest, Snowfall Mountain, and Cobalt Coast. You can also visit your back yard and Springleaf Field from the get-go. And did I mention that there are random Pokemon appearing in all these locations? The Pokemon that appear depend on the time of day and the weather (which can be changed by watching Slowpoke's weather channel). What's the point of meeting new Pokemon? Why, because they'll give you "Nice Cards", little trading cards collected by all Pokemon, which you can store in a Binder for later viewing. You can also purchase cards from Shop n' Squirtle, but only the cards obtained from Pokemon friends will have that character's voice when you view the card (which moves, by the way).

There is also a mini-game area called the Pokemon Mini, which you can collect games for. I only obtained Chansey's Dribble (which was boring), and Snorlax's Lunch Time (which comes with the system). Snorlax's game is by far the most messed-up game you'll ever play: various foods appear in front of Snorlax, and you must push A to tell him that it's good to eat. The faster you push, the higher your score. The problem is that PICHU will randomly appear along with the food, and you must NOT tell Snorlax to EAT PICHU! Great fun.

Also included with this game is a Mario Paint-like painting program. The neat thing is that you can essentially snap screenshots from any of the television programs to paint. The only drawback to this is that the detail level isn't very good, and unless you have a closeup Pokemon on the screen, it won't look like much of anything. However, it was lots of fun to paint a shot from Pichu Bros and create the "First Pichu of the Apocalypse", or "Demon Pichu" by making the colors all strange. :)

Pokemon Channel reminds me of Hey You, Pikachu, except that the frustration of making Pikachu listen has been taken away. Just literally, point and click on objects and Pikachu will interact with them. Quite simple to learn, just like a kid's game should be.

The main problem with this game, of course, is that it is too short and far too easy. I know there was a bunch of stuff I didn't have time to do before returning the rental, but I did acquire all the TV programs. The only real quest involves collecting the last piece of the Pichu anime, but that's not terribly difficult. I did not get all the nice cards (I got up to the Superior Binder), and I never got to Camp Starlight's star-viewing area. I still had lots of Pokemon to meet, and more items I could have bought for my room. And the TV stations have new programming every day (especially the News and Game Show networks). Also, a Japanese language option is available that I didn't yet access.

What impressed me most about this game were the Anime channels. I loved the Pichu Bros. Party Panic. And best of all, as the Pokemon are headed inside to watch the concert held by "Meowth's Music Attack", the screen switches from anime to full 3D! Also, I watched the Meowth's Party segment three times, and saw three different animations. Although the song was the same as the video we know and love, the animation was all new. No Team Rocket, sad to say, but lots of neat visuals. Meowth slides down huge sliding boards, bounces on a Snorlax's belly, teleports around the stage, plays with a huge slot machine, and interacts with all different Pokemon. Remember those screenshots for a "Meowth's Party" game that were released back when the 'Cube was new? This is where they ended up. I'm so happy, I was afraid that project was permanently shelved.

Another great thing was that the original VA's from the Pokemon series did all the voices. No 'sound effects' like in the original Pokemon Stadium, these were all the real deal. AND there were Pokemon from all three generations of Pokemon: R/B/Y, G/S/C, and Ru/Sa. Nice touch. That means that for the quiz questions, you REALLY have to know your Pokemon!

Yet another nice feature was a 3D appearance from Jirachi, one of the new unobtainable Legendary Pokemon (like Mew and Celebi). Very cool.

Overall, this game is excellent for a few days of fun. Terribly short, as all non-traditional Pokemon games are, but worth a rental. There are lots of fun little events (watching Pikachu build a Snowman Pika, Jigglypuff's concert, buying stuff from TV, and just messing around with my room), and you won't see reruns for quite a while as there are MANY variations on the basic shows. Pikachu is endearing in this game, and he has lots of animations - he sings, he dances, he even salutes you sometimes! Besides the game's length, there's only one thing about Pokemon Channel that might annoy you: getting the "commercials" music stuck in your head... especially when Pikachu starts singing along with it! "Pika-Pika. Pika-PI-ka..."

TR Rose's final review: Rent it, don't buy it. Wait for it to go clearanced before picking this one up. You'll beat this one in a few hours.

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