Review: Gale of Darkness

“To catch them is their real test; to train them is their cause.” Pokemon fans are now celebrating 25 years of the franchise’s initial 1996 Japanese release, with more products and advertising than you could ever imagine. From cereal boxes, to T-shirts and stuffed animals, the Pokémon craze hasn’t diminished in popularity since its debut. Among  their slew of main-series games, where you train Pokémon to defeat the forces of evil, one of two unique games hit the market a little over 15 years ago: ‘‘Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness.”

It’s hard to believe that a series so beloved and unique has managed to hold the attention of fans for this long. Games like XD hardly get the recognition they deserve, with their ability to immerse players being shunned away in favor of more pristine games that follow the basic formula of catch, train, repeat. “Colosseum” and “XD” were a breath of fresh air in a genre that was meant to end in 2001, just years before both games hit the GameCube.

Set in its own region of Orre, “XD” is a sequel to the 2003 game, Pokemon Colosseum.” In this game, you play as a young boy who lives in a lab. In this lab, he lives with a younger sister, Jovi, and his mother. He himself trains with his Eevee, which you can evolve into five different forms early on. However, not everything is as it seems, as the professor of the lab is soon kidnapped. Your role is to save him by battling one of the villains. But there’s a catch in these games that is different than any other. You steal back the Pokemon with a “shadow aura,” a mechanic that will be your sole usage for a while to capture new team members, which means that the Pokemon you catch have their hearts closed by artificial means. You can purify them by battling, calling their names when they get overwhelmed, and by simply walking around with them in your party. 

In “XD” your goal is to capture all 83 shadow Pokemon and purify them. This means battling across the region against Cipher, an evil organization that aims to control the world with Shadow Pokemon due to their ability to attack trainers who get in their way. Simply put, it’s a straightforward path from point A to B, but you have to prepare yourself for difficult boss battles and the ultimate Shadow Pokemon; Shadow Lugia. Together with your party of six chosen Pokemon, you must push forwards to save the region, or let the darkness consume them.

This game is the best game that Pokemon has made. I can recall playing the game countless times with my family as a child, and every time I play through, it’s a wave of nostalgia. 

The only problem is that if you yourself want to play this, you have to have a Gamecube or Wii, controllers, and most importantly, the game. Of course, memory cards are recommended to save progress, but “Pokemon XD” is quite the pricey game nowadays. Prices can range from as little as $30 to as high as over $100, but due to Gamecube’s short life span, you would be better off buying the game new or used in good condition, as scratches can make the game virtually unplayable. 

I cannot recommend this game enough. It’s a wonderful way to spend a weekend, especially since the long story and side missions that can occupy easily more than 12 hours. So grab your snacks and unwind. This game’s where it’s at. 

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