Pokemon Colosseum
Image: The Pokémon Company

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. Today, ahead of its 20th anniversary on 21st November, Nathanial looks back on a Pokémon region that's been pretty much ignored for two decades...

A common mislabelling seen online is Pokémon X and Y as the first fully 3D Pokémon RPGs. Of course, those in the Poké-community know better: it is 2003’s Pokémon Colosseum for GameCube that holds this distinction.

Colosseum was the first game developed by Genius Sonority. Colosseum and its 2005 sequel, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness famously threw out gym battles and wild encounters in favour of a grittier story and only a handful of ‘Shadow Pokémon’ to ‘snag’ from the evil Team Cipher. While these changes limited team-building opportunities, both games set in the barren Orre region ramped up the difficulty and crafted an aesthetically unique and engrossing Pokémon experience like no other.

So, on Pokémon Colosseum’s 20th birthday, there seems no better time to ask: could Game Freak package them up into an emulated collection akin to Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a remaster like Metroid Prime, a remake like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DX, or even deliver a long-awaited sequel taking cues from New Pokémon Snap?

The answer is likely disappointing, but there’s still a glimmer of hope; a small glowing Manaphy tail for fans of these forgotten gems who want to play them on modern hardware.

Why Pokémon Colosseum and XD would be perfect for Switch remasters

Pokémon Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness sell for big bucks at secondhand game outlets. Even if fans do have the necessary equipment (the games, a memory card, a GameCube with controller, plus a GBA-GC cable if you want to connect to the handheld games) the chances of having a scratched disc or malfunctioning hardware aren't zero. To avoid piracy — or to save plenty of Pokédollars — Game Freak and Nintendo would be wise to re-release both games in some form or other.

In addition to making life easier for Pokémon fans looking to re-experience Orre, a remaster or remake also makes sense from a technical point of view. Pokémon Colosseum has its fair share of dodgy human character models, which a Nintendo Switch remaster could nicely iron out. It could also improve gameplay, speeding up Colosseum’s long-winded double battles and removing the need to save at PC terminals, something Pokémon XD already fixed.

There is precedent for porting older Pokémon games. The Generation I and II games were famously brought to 3DS Virtual Console, yet the release of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DX presents perhaps the strongest case. The original Mystery Dungeon was released the same year as Pokémon XD. If Nintendo and Game Freak can see the value in crafting a loving remake of the first game in the Mystery Dungeon series, perhaps its spinoff cousins in Orre could also be on their radar. Colosseum and XD did sell nearly 4 million units, after all. While this pales in comparison to the core series’ sales figures, it could be enough for Game Freak to recognise a potentially solid return on investment in remastering them.

Why Orre fans might be out of luck

Pokemon Colosseum
Image: Nintendo

It’s true that Genius Sonority has been making Pokémon games as recently as 2020. However, the developer hasn’t made a full-scale Pokémon RPG title since XD, back in 2005, instead having developed puzzle titles like Pokémon Shuffle and Pokémon Café ReMix.

Additionally, many of the original team who worked on Colosseum and XD have since moved on to new horizons, such as Art Director James Turner co-founding his own studio, All Possible Futures. Considering all this, banking on Genius Sonority’s existing relationship with The Pokémon Company and Game Freak doesn’t mean a remaster is on the horizon.

Moreover, Pokémon Colosseum and XD need to be considered as products of their time. As Colosseum released only a year after Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, its wide range of available Johto Pokémon such as Croconaw, Quagsire, and Noctowl made it an essential purchase for players looking to complete their Pokédex, owing to the lack of backwards compatibility between Generations II and III. As the Pokémon landscape is vastly different today, the developer may see both games as relics that existed to fill in the Pokédex gap between Chikorita and Celebi.

This also extends to battling. Where Colosseum and XD filled a neat niche by allowing players to see their 2D sprites from the Generation III games in glorious three dimensions, this obviously is a non-issue in Generation IX.

Additionally, while the Orre games are enjoying a renaissance in the Pokétuber space, with notable names like SmallAnt running through them with Let’s Plays and Nuzlockes, The Pokémon Company itself has barely acknowledged them for nearly two decades. Wes, Team Cipher, and every other location and character from these games have received almost no recognition since 2005. The only exception is Orre’s inclusion in Serebii’s map of Pokéarth which possibly makes an appearance in 2014’s Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire; a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, quasi-easter egg. Maybe.

Yet, if any one piece of evidence dispels the idea of a remaster, remake, or even sequel, it is the words of Junichi Masuda himself. When asked in 2016 by Nintendo Official Magazine Spain if a new game in the style of Colosseum would be possible, he reportedly laughed and replied ‘no’. A remaster, of course, wouldn't be nearly as time-consuming as the development of a sequel, but Masuda’s words don’t bode well.

Remasters of Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness don’t seem likely, then, but nobody really knows what’s on the horizon except Game Freak, The Pokémon Company, and any Pokémon that knows Future Sight. There was a time, however, when a remake of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue/Red Rescue Team seemed about as likely as a mega-evolution for Flygon, yet DX still made it to market. With the continued appreciation of these edgier, creative, and altogether special GameCube games, there’s always hope that we’ll eventually get to play them on modern hardware.

Until then, you’ll have to dust off your 20-year-old disc, partner up with Espeon and Umbreon, and purify Orre’s few Shadow Pokémon the old-fashioned way.

Pokemon Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness
Image: Nintendo Life

Have you played Pokémon Colosseum or XD: Gale of Darkness? Do you want to see them on Switch? Snag us down in the comments and let us know.