Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness journal - entry one

My familiarity with the third generation Pokémon games is limited when compared to generations one, two, and five. I never owned a Gameboy Advance, though my brother did, and at the time that Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were releasing, I was more or less over my initial obsession with the franchise. However, recently I have noticed many fans of Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald reminiscing and claiming that the generation three releases were among the best in the entire series for various reasons. While I would like to pick up a copy of Emerald some day in the future, the closest I currently have available to me is Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, a game that is even more difficult to come by and is on loan to me from a friend.

As with other side games in the Pokémon franchise, your character is given Eevee as their starter Pokémon. One of the first locales you visit allows you to pick one of five evolution stones (two extras due to the game not having a day/night mechanic), and instantaneously evolve your Eevee into Flareon, Jolteon, Vaporeon, Umbreon, or Espeon. You can hold onto the evolution stone for use at a later time if you so choose, but knowing which evolution you are going to select early on will help in building a balanced team. My personal favorite Eevee evolution happens to be Espeon, and based on the incredibly small number of psychic-types or psychic secondary-types I have been granted the opportunity to catch thus far, it seems I made a wise choice.

Though Gale of Darkness is the closest thing to a fully-realized traditional Pokémon game on a home console, the gameplay differs slightly from the core mechanics of the handheld Pokémon releases. All the battles are double battles, adding a unique flavor to combat tactics. Only wild encounters are one-on-one battles, but these must be triggered at specific locations by leaving bait out. The main method of catching Pokémon comes from snagging shadow Pokémon - Pokémon who have been forcibly corrupted by Cipher, resident baddies of the Orre Region. Occasionally, the protagonist will recognize a shadow Pokémon via a Dragon Ball Z-esque eyepiece, and can then catch it. Catching all shadow Pokémon is not necessary and they can simply be k.o.'d for experience points, but catching shadow Pokémon does prove beneficial for building a basic team early in the game.

Due to all the battles being double battles, as well as the time it takes to display the surprisingly well-animated Pokémon in action, battles tend to last longer than the occasional sweeps that can easily occur on the handheld entries. However, battles in Gale of Darkness are not quite as frequent, and are - on the whole - easier, save for a few local "boss encounters" against trainers prominent to the plot. While there are Pokémon Centers present in every major locale, some of the buildings that players will spend a fair amount of time exploring contain Pokémon healing stations, reducing players' dependency on potions.

Though Gale of Darkness does seem to push the generation three Pokémon into the spotlight, overall the Pokémon are pretty well balanced between generations one, two, and three. I tend to try and keep a rather balanced team, and I am also quite fond of dual-type Pokémon. At present, my team consists of five main members: Espeon, Houndour, Shiftry, Spheal, and Flaaffy. I recently caught a Mawile, and will likely use it in place of the Teddiursa I've had along for the ride since the first couple of hours of the game. In the past, I used Pokémon whose secondary-type was steel or were primary steel-types with another secondary-type, but I've never had a pure steel-type until playing Gale of Darkness, so this will make for an interesting experience. At the same time, I am keeping my options open in the event that a ghost-type, ground-type, or fighting type that may prove more practical presents itself before me.

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