Review by horror_spooky
"Can we be friends?"
For years and years, fans have been clamoring for a fully functional traditional Pokemon RPG on one of Nintendo's consoles. Instead, Nintendo has made just about everything else. They've made a game about taking pictures of Pokemon, a game about battling Pokemon, and a game about putting Pokemon in different mini-game competitions. PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure continues the long-standing tradition of keeping a full-fledged Pokemon RPG away from consoles.
Pikachu's Adventure is very cute. That's the first thing you'll notice. Everything about the game is good-looking, even the cover. The bright, colorful, and beautifully designed Pokemon stand out amongst the equally gorgeous environments. Seeing nearly 200 Pokemon rendered fully three-dimensionally is a very impressive feat; it just goes to show that there really is no reason why Nintendo hasn't created a handheld-style Pokemon RPG for consoles yet.
The allure of seeing all these Pokemon walking around the different zones aimlessly wears off after a while. The great visuals are consistently impressive throughout the game, and complemented by short load times and a solid framerate.
Just as cute as the visuals are the sounds that the Pokemon make. The music is good, if not horribly inventive. Yes, the overall presentation of Pikachu's Adventure is rather pleasing, especially for Pokefanatics. That's all fine and good, but how is the gameplay?
Rather limited, actually. I'm not saying that it's not possible to have fun with Pikachu's Adventure; that's exactly the opposite of what I'm saying. Pikachu's Adventure's undeniable charm and fun gameplay work to build a rather entertaining experience, but the game feels very restrictive. There aren't many new gameplay concepts introduced throughout the game, and the title tends to stray into the realm of repetitiveness.
Repetitiveness isn't necessarily a bad thing if the gameplay concepts are fun and work together. Pikachu's Adventure is certainly an acquired taste, so what is the point of the game? Well, to make friends.
Players don't take control of a Pokemon trainer this time around, but instead players take control of the franchise's mascot Pikachu. Pikachu, Charmander, Piplup, and Chikorita all travel to the PokePark at the behest of Mew to collect Prism Pieces. That's essentially the storyline of PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure. It's nothing complicated, and it doesn't need to be for a game like this. However, the dialogue between the Pokemon and the relationships between the different zones are surprisingly complex. I never expected this game to be as deep as it ends up being, but it sort of reminded me of the Mystery Dungeon games for handhelds. The overall plot may not be a winner, but the smaller plots nestled in the game really stand out.
Anyway, back to making friends. Pikachu needs to make friends in the zones, collect berries (currency), and complete Attractions in order to be rewarded with Prism Pieces. Each zone is modeled after a Pokemon type, which is neat, and they are designed rather wonderfully. There is a mini-map that is very helpful on the bottom right corner of the screen at all times so exploring the zones is never that daunting.
Pikachu's Adventure is very much an adventure game, with Pikachu always needing to please some Pokemon by doing something else, and doing something else before that, and doing something else before that as well. It can get repetitive and rather boring, but the drive to discover all of the different Pokemon in the game and play all the different Attractions will push dedicated players along.
In order to make friends with the different Pokemon that populate the zones, Pikachu has to complete Skill Challenges. These are little games like tag, hide-and-seek, interesting trivia quizzes, and others. They are all rather easy and don't really provide all that much to the game after a while, but it's fun to collect all the different Pokemon as friends. That was a very odd sentence. Regardless, this system works, but the real entertainment comes from figuring out exactly what you need to do to reach the next zone, and of course, playing the Pokemon Stadium-like Attractions.
These are mini-games that, like I've said, are in the vein of the Pokemon Stadium games from the glorious days of the Nintendo 64. They are short and sweet, and almost always take advantage of the motion control capabilities of the Nintendo Wii. It's fun passing the controller around to beat each other's high scores, and what's even better is that these mini-games, once completed, are sent to an arcade section in the main menu. This allows players to access their favorite mini-games without having to find the location in the game.
Yes, it's fun. It's pure, simplistic entertainment. Pikachu's Adventure won't blow your mind like BioShock, and it won't provide run-and-gun gameplay like Call of Duty. No, it's a game about Pikachu making friends, and for what it is, it's fun. However, I can't help but feel that this concept was horribly underutilized. The zones feel so constrained and linear, and it's a shame. This game should have been one that was allowed to breathe, one for innovation and excitement.
Though controlling Pikachu is a lot of fun, and having access to Pikachu's trademark abilities is really neat as well, the controls get in the way. Players hold the Wii remote sideways and control Pikachu with the d-pad. This control method was abandoned in the fifth generation when Sony switched to the first DualShock controller, and for good reason. Shigeru Miyamoto and the folks at Nintendo figured out that three-dimensional games are much better controlled with analog sticks as opposed to the conventional d-pads. It's not a huge problem a lot of the time, but the platforming can become kind of frustrating. It amazes me when developers don't utilize the nunchuk. That thing works wonders. There was absolutely no reason why the game shouldn't have used ithuge missed opportunity here for sure.
Also, another huge missed opportunity comes with the lack of multiplayer. These mini-games just scream for a multiplayer mode to be added. It would kick up the replayability significantly and provide for a better overall experience by far. The game will still provided quite a few hours of fun, and there are really fun mini-games that are impossible not to go back to and enjoy. The charm factor is big, and if you are a Pokefanatic, you'll fall in love with this game before you even get to shock Snorlax with a thunderbolt.
With all that being said, PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure is an ideal game for fans of the franchise. The gameplay can get repetitive and it's certainly uninspired, but at its core, it's fun. The graphics are great, the charm is undeniable, and the audio isn't too shabby either. This game could have been a surprise hit for Nintendo if they just would have worked out the kinks in the gameplay, but hopefully this game is a steps towards a fully realized Pokemon RPG on consoles.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 02/14/11
Game Release: PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure (US, 11/02/10)
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