There are two types of gamers in the world: those who like Pokémon and those who don't. It's a pity too, since this series has been underrated by a lot of older games who simply don't know what they're missing. There's good reason for its endurance, as anyone who has spent any amount of time with the stellar Game Boy titles knows why this franchise is so popular. The combination of a large, simple to manage quest with multiplayer capability has become a huge phenomenon worldwide, and it was only a matter of time before Nintendo brought the action to their home console.
I have to admit that I'm somewhat jaded when it comes to console Pokémon games. I was never a fan of the virtually plotless combat of the two Stadium releases on the N64, and Coliseum on the GameCube left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. When Gale of Darkness was first announced, I decided to adopt a “wait and see” approach. Eventually, my love of the portable installments was too much to overcome, and I went and got myself a copy. Truth be told, I'm glad I did. While it isn't the exact same formula as Nintendo's Game Boy bread and butter, it's one heck of a step in the right direction.
Taking place a few years after the events in Coliseum, Gale of Darkness continues the storyline of the Shadow Pokémon (those whose hearts are closed, making them aggressive). An evil group known as Cipher is out to capture these rogue creatures and use them to conquer the world. As a young trainer, you set out to stop them from exploiting the Pokémon for their sinister purposes. The world of Orre seems to have a strange definition for animal abuse, I suppose, since it's perfectly legitimate to wander around with them in little balls tucked in your pockets, but world domination is unacceptable. Sounds like a PETA nightmare to me.
Finding the Shadow Pokémon is an easy task, thanks to a neat little device you attain early on. Once you've identified your target in battle, you can snag him to use as one of your own. None of the Pokémon captured this way can use their full abilities until their hearts are purged, and this is accomplished through combat and special items you can buy. Later on, a purification chamber is made available, which speeds up the process considerably.
All of this takes place in your typical Pokémon fashion. You travel from town to town, battling other trainers to improve your squad's abilities, and the famous gyms are also waiting for you to challenge their leaders. Battles are more or less the same as always, and while this means that fans of the series can completely ignore the manual before playing, newcomers won't really find anything to new entice them, save the fact that it's a fresh game for their GameCube. Long story short: if you weren't a fan before, chances are you won't be converted now. That's perhaps the biggest flaw with Gale of Darkness, though sadly it's not alone.