Pokémon has been a very popular franchise for some time now. We’ve seen Pokémon games for all Nintendo systems since it has been released and nearly all of them sold in the millions of copies worldwide. It is Pokémon that boosted the GameBoy’s sales worldwide and so it was just normal for Nintendo to bring the series to GameBoy Advance, and now to Nintendo DS.
This game, though, is not an RPG. Instead, we get a racing game featuring everyone’s favorite yellow electric mouse, Pikachu! This isn’t the first time Nintendo has released a non-RPG Pokémon game, as they have released Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo64, a game in which you had to take pictures of all of your favorite Pokémon. While it may sound dumb at first, the concept was well executed and the game was surprisingly enjoyable. Unfortunately, Pokémon Dash! isn’t as enjoyable.
First of all, this game was available at the Japanese launch of the system and it shows that the game was rushed, or at least I hope it was considering how boring it is. The presentation of the game is poor with a 3D model of Pikachu on the main title screen that you can play with, just like you could with Mario’s face in Mario 64 DS. Then, you get a very simple menu where you pick what races you want to do. Everything looks dated and you get the feeling Nintendo could have done much better than this. I know it’s just a menu but we are used to more polished menus, so they could have worked on the presentation a little bit more. Just take a look at Feel The Magic’s menus, for example. They are all animated and colorful and it makes you want to play the game. Given how much content the developers had to work with here I’m surprised they couldn’t do any better.
The gameplay isn’t any better either! You and 5 other Pokémon race around a big map, going from checkpoint to checkpoint until you reach the last one. You move Pikachu around by rubbing the screen in the direction you want to go, and the faster you rub, the faster you’ll go. Of course, you won’t just run around as you’ll need to fly to go from island to island to reach some checkpoints. You can find balloon pads on the map and when you get to those, little icons will appear on the sides of the screen. When you rub those icons up, Pikachu will elevate itself in the skies and you can move him around wherever you want and when you want to jump off to do a little bit of skydiving, you rub the icons down. Pikachu will be coming down slowly as he has 3 balloons attached to his back, but you can hit those with the stylus and they’ll pop, making him fall to the ground very fast if you’ve pop all 3 simultaneously.
Since there are various terrains in the game, there are various special abilities that you can acquire to make you go faster. For example, if you pick the fire skill, you’ll be able to walk over lava to reach some checkpoints. Another one will make you go through forests faster while another one makes you walk over water. That means that you’ll need to use a little bit of strategy in the game in order to win, but the game isn’t all that difficult.
Now, I know that some may like that kind of gameplay, but frankly I had to force myself to finish this game to write the review as it became boring really fast. Running around with the touch screen is fun for the first few races, but afterward it becomes repetitive and you find out it’s not as revolutionary as you thought.
It’s kind of sad because I thought they could have done so much more. Why is it that you can only control Pikachu? There are 351 Pokémon, why not use them and give them all different abilities so you could use different Pokémon in different races? You could have unlocked them in some way or another by winning races or maybe there could have been some kind of Pokémon store where you could have spent points to get new ones. One of the few things that are impressive is that you can plug in your GBA cart of any of the GBA Pokémon titles and upload 6 of them on Pokémon Dash! What it does is that it creates maps in the shapes of your Pokémon, so that means you can race around on an island that has the shape of Mewtwo, for example. If that’s possible, then why didn’t they make it possible to also race as those Pokémon?
There are 3 different circuits, each being different than the other and adding new terrains that you haven’t previously raced on, but it isn’t enough to keep you interested in the game. There’s a multiplayer mode, but like the single player, it’s only fun for a few minutes but it does offer a better challenge. They could have added some Pokémon themed mini-games like Nintendo did in Mario 64 DS or Pokémon Stadium. Again, so much to work with, but very little results.
The visuals of this game are somewhat passable, but far from being jaw dropping. It looks like a Super Nintendo game, nothing more, nothing less. Character animation is poorly executed with each Pokémon having 2 or 3 frames of animation, the worlds seem dead with nothing going on in them, and worst of all, none of the maps are from already known locations in the Pokémon universe! They could have re-created areas from older Pokémon games or from the TV show but instead, they’ve created some uninteresting maps that all look the same. And with the space available on the DS cartridges, maybe they could have added a few minutes of video from the show or from the movies to make for a better presentation and more impressive game overall.
And I hope you are ready to listen to the 4 or 5 tunes in this game as they are not only bad, but none of them are remixes from other Pokémon games! I mean, if you make a Pokémon game, you use as much content from the other games as possible to re-create the universe and make people feel right at home. There’s a reason why Nintendo always uses the same music for Mario and Zelda games: because it’s good! The same thing applies to Pokémon and I can’t see why it wasn’t done. There were some catchy tunes composed for Pokémon games in the past so I don’t understand why they weren’t remixed or at least available in the game. There aren’t that many sound effects and I guess they do their job, but it’s nothing incredibly spectacular.
So in the end, we get something that might have had some potential, but that was rushed to market just to make a quick buck. Frankly, I’m disappointed to see a Nintendo product like this being released as I’m used to their titles being polished, but this one isn’t worth your money. If you are a diehard Pokémon fan you might want to check it out, but I consider myself one and I’m sorry I bought this game. At least both Pokémon Diamond and Pearl are coming later this year, and they will probably be great games so I’d suggest waiting for those.