We continue our mission to save'em all, that is hoover up all the unique pokémon from the third generation games onwards. You can read about Operation Last Bus Home here and the first instalment, clearing out Pokémon Fire Red, here. 

One of the things I've always loved about the pokémon series is the evolution of the games building on and tweaking the fundamentals set down in the earliest Game Boy games. For those who aren't fans of the series or those only looking back over the series from today's viewpoint it can be difficult to appreciate these tweaks to the formula. Superficially, you catch, train, battle and trade pokémon in all of them but each game added something new. Some of these tweaks became permanent features. Others were limited to one or two titles and then superseded by something else.

Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, released for the GameCube in 2003 and 2005 respectively, have a cult following but were far from perfect games. Both were in some ways, spiritual successors to the Stadium pair of games on the N64 in that you could connect your handheld games and see your pocket monsters in the GameCube's characteristic dreamy filtered 3D to move pokémon between them or battle against friends. Cynically, these games and the associated hardware needed to play them and connect them to the handheld games (and bonus discs, and e card readers) were extremely expensive DLC allowing players to 'Catch Them All' in the third generation following the reset of the series in the jump from Game Boy to Game Boy Advance. In another reality we could have just got home console rereleases of Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver (as we did with Pokémon Fire Red and Pokémon Leaf Green on the GBA) but there's enough different in these games to say they were pure cash-ins.

Pokémon Colosseum takes us to a new region, the somewhat Mad Max-feeling Orre region. Instead of starting with a choice of three pokémon, you're given fan-favourite eeveelutions Umbreon and Espeon to start with. There are no wild pokémon here, instead you make your way through the game rescuing pokémon whose hearts have been corrupted by Team Snagem and evil organisation Cipher (a task made ridiculously easier thanks to this glitch). Instead of a template swapped male or female protagonist, you lead Edgelord Wes and aura-spotting psychic Rui through the game. The Orre region, despite it's definite sand-blown aesthetic, had some interesting locales to explore and a mix of memorable music. Characters for the most part were forgettable, aside from the ridiculously proportioned bodybuilder character models found throughout these games and fan favourite, disco dancing, jive-talking Miror B.  

Gameplay-wise, I remember these being a real slog to go through. Purifying snagged pokémon was more time consuming that it needed to be. Colosseum is much loved for its expressive pokémon animations (and it is still brought up when newer games skimp on them) but as lovely as it is to see Kirlia do a five second death pirouette when it gets KO'd or Rayquaza tie itself in an aerial knot to unleash a devastating hyper beam, you quickly find yourself mashing the A button in a futile attempt to make them go faster when you're on your third run of the 100 battle Mt. Battle challenge.

In addition to the games themselves, no history lesson about them is complete without mention of the various bonus discs and software that came with them, some of which now worth quite a bit on the reselling market. In addition to the bonus discs, mentioned below, some versions of the game came bundled with Pokémon Box Ruby & Sapphire, software with limited availability otherwise. 

Aside from Colosseum and it's sequel XD:Gale of Darkness, set five years later, neither of these games have received much love from later games and media releases in the Pokémon series, a series that otherwise actively mines its own history to bring older fans back to the series. We've not returned to the Orre region since and I'm struggling to think of even a nod to it in any later games, in any of the anime series, the card game, films or in any of the mangas (beyond the one tied in with this series). 

Surprisingly, Colosseum seemed to sell quite well, whether or not every player had invested the small fortune in the full amount of hardware and software to get the most out of it is another thing. I picked up the Colosseum black GameCube bundle that came with Pokémon Box Ruby & Sapphire years after it came out. I spotted the bundle for a fraction of its original price and although at the time it was buy this bundle or eat more than bread and beans for a month, I opted for the former and have fond memories playing it when, fittingly, given the Orre region's dystopic feel, most other aspects of my life were looking pretty bleak. 

LOCATION: Orre Region

SITREP: Pokedex: 384/386 (no Celebi or Deoxys). Playtime: 67 hours. Money: $500. Items: Nothing. Nada. Cleaned out. In game team; In order to exchange Pokémon between Ruby, Sapphire, Fire Red and Leaf Green, which I did, many times to rotate a full set of pokémon through to complete the in-game pokédex you can only trade the 'mon in your party of six with a connected GBA which meant hours of setting up in each game, connecting, trading, disconnecting, swapping out six and repeating. Consequently, with the exception of a surprise in-game trade Plusle, this game is full of trade fodder I used to evacuate Colosseum previously. Weedle, Wurmple, Whismur and Zubat. I really didn't plan on coming back to this one. 

OBJECTIVE 1: Just four legendaries in this one Raikou (FLASHBACKS), Entei, Suicune and the star of the box Ho-oh. 

OBJECTIVE 2: Strictly speaking there isn't an in-game trade in this game. However, by pure chance I did find a Plusle rattling around in a box with, self-styled mayor and built like a brick shithouse, Duking's OT. A rare example of a gift with another trainer's OT. One and, as they say, done. 

OBJECTIVE 3: Ribbons. Here's where it gets a bit complicated. Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD:Gale of Darkness work differently to all the other pokémon games to date. Instead of catching wild pokémon, in these two games you 'snag' shadow versions of them from trainers and then by using them in your team, rubbing them with cologne and calling out to them in battle they get purified and can be transferred to other games. There are 48 pokémon to run through this laborious process here, what's more is you can KO them in battle and then have to find them again. The only reason I mention them here because when you purify them they get given a unique ribbon, the national ribbon, only available in Colosseum and XD. Making them unique catches. There's also the Earth ribbon which can be acquired by running a team of six through 100 Mt. Battle trainer battles without losing or changing your team. You can get this ribbon in XD too which is where I aim to get Earth ribbons on all the third generation pokémon left in these games. 

Side note: There were several limited pokémon in this game, sadly now impossible for me to get without seriously investing in consoles, hardware and very pricey software from other regions. In America and Japan, pre-ordering Colosseum netted you a bonus disc with a preview for the game, a trailer for the Jirachi film and access to downloadable, incredibly rare at the time pokémon: A Celebi and Pikachu (ok not so rare) in the States and a Jirachi in Japan. Bless digital conservators, you can see what the US bonus disc looked like here

Additionally, with the e-card reader accessory and a complete set of Pokémon Colosseum Double Battle e cards if you beat all 24 e card battles on easy, medium and hard, you could snag and purify a Togepi, Mareep and Scizor respectively. Although, technically you can catch all three in XD, these three pokémon caught through the e card system and purified with a Colosseum OT are probably some of the rarest ones out there. This was only possible in the Japanese version of Colosseum as e cards and the e-reader wasn't as popular in other regions and were promptly dropped. 

Where's That Pokémon? 

I'd put A LOT of time into Colosseum so was fairly confident that I had snagged them all as I'd unlocked Ho-oh, and snagging them all is a prerequisite for this. However, cross referencing under my Colosseum OT in Pokémon HOME there were gaps. Worrying gaps. After an extended period of cable switching and rummaging through various games I eventually found an enclave of 16 Colosseum OT 'mon exploring the green fields of My Pokémon Ranch. Unfortunately/Fortunately, they'd been moved up to the 4th Generation games meaning that there was no bringing them back for all the Sapphire ribbons or the Earth ribbon so I parked them in Pokémon Diamond to pick them up again when swinging through that game. That left just three Colosseum OT pokémon to find, three legendary ones at that, Raikou (TRIGGGERED), Entei and Ho-oh. 

I definitely had them at some point and weirdly I still have the third dog, Suicune rattling around. I have a sinking feeling that given their comparative rarity before more recent games I may have leveraged them in trades for other legendary pokémon from versions of games I didn't have or shiny ones when they were significantly rarer to catch. I'd be extremely disappointed if I did trade them away though, especially the Ho-oh, which, although it didn't have the National Ribbon, it was a real grind to unlock having to battle through 100 trainers in Colosseum's battle mode. Before pre-emptively pouring one out for these, I remain hopeful that they're stashed away in a day care centre or something in another game.  

Aside from that, with the lucky find of Duking's Plusle, that was me done with Colosseum. On to the sister Game Cube game, Pokémon XD:Gale of Darkness, the slightly edgier and somewhat expanded version of this game. Time to get these bad boys a ribbon, bro.   


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