rfeatures MSquadron'Z WebPage - Features/Reviews
  Please e-mail me at psymaster@usa.net for any questions

Feature: Just Try And Catch 'Em All
By The Collector

Source >> Gamepro Website


The little critters have taken over schools.  They've taught children valuable "watching" and "trading" skills.  There's one hanging from my keychain, pulsating with a hypnotic red light.  There's another crammed under the rear glass of my car, taunting anyone who dares tailgate his cruel Trainer. One of the puffy blue ones is in this bag with my cheeseburger.  There's a red one on the disposable camera I got from my cereal box, and there are fourteen stuck to this telephone pole; and that accursed yellow Pikachu keeps watch over us all dangling from a rear view mirror, making the air smell like fresh summer strawberries.

I can't explain why, but I am compelled to capture each and every one of them.

The Pokemon infestation began in Japan in 1996, by 1998 it had reached American shores, and with the middle of 2000 rapidly approaching, they seem to just keep on spreading.  This is the plague Hello Kitty only dreamed of.  The Pocket Monsters already have their stubby paws and claws in a hugely popular animated series, a big-screen movie, countless stuffed animals and toys, a collectible card game, comic books, and individually wrapped slices of American cheese.

With a Trading Card Game just released for the Gameboy Color and another movie in the works, let's take a moment to dip into the vast Pokemon well for a quick look at some of the Pokemon paraphernalia already at our fingertips.

Pokemon: The First Movie DVD

When the first Pokemon movie was released last November, Pokemania was at an all-time high.  The film grossed a record-breaking $31 million its opening weekend and topped off at around $86 million.  Now Pokemon The Movie 2000 (previously known as Revelation Lugia) is coming to American screens this July, and a third Pokemon movie (tentatively titled Pichu to Pikachu overseas) will soon be on its way to Japanese theaters.

Click here to read about the DVD release of Pokemon: The First Movie!

The Advanced Master's Pokemon Guide DVD

It isn't uncommon to wander into a store on a weekend and interrupt a Pokemon Trainer League Competition.  Now it may be difficult to believe, but not everybody out there has played the omnipresent Pokemon Card Game, or even knows its rules.  For those of you who are wondering just what exactly the deal is, The Advanced Master's Pokemon Guide might be just what you're looking for.  And for those of you already versed in the ways of the Pokemon wrangler, consider this a chance to improve your game and refine your Trading and Training techniques.  And for those who don't care, well, what if I told you your Pokemon guide Ztorm turns out to be one helluva rap-masta?


DVD Review: Pokemon The First Movie
By Star Dingo
Source >> Gamepro Website


Few things in this life will top the awesome surreal majesty of Pikachu's Vacation, the twenty-some-minute short that leads into Pokemon: The First Movie.  For anyone who's never seen a Pokemon (also included are those who pronounce it "po-kee-man"), the resort paradise where insanely cute mouse-type Pokemon Pikachu and his friends wind up will seem like a baffling and terrifying trip, since the 150+ delightful vacationing creatures speak not a single line of distinguishable dialogue for the entire duration of the short.  For you see, as any Pokemon connoisseur knows, a Pokemon speaks only its name (or broken syllables from it) in order to communicate.  To top it off, the strange Pokemon misadventures are frequently interrupted by unrelated Austin Powers-like transitions, adding new depths of madness to the already insane screen happenings.

Now if only the rest of the movie were this good… But alas, once Pikachu's Vacation ends and the hour-long Mewtwo Strikes Back portion begins, the First Pokemon Movie just isn't as engaging.  In its favor, Mewtwo Strikes Back doesn't really feel like an extended episode of the series.  The animation is only of slightly higher quality than the TV show, though it's less noticeable on the small screen than it was in theaters.  The story is a bit darker in tone than an episode of the series, and a bit more epic in scope; the ending is actually surprisingly emotional.

The story centers on the disgruntled Mewtwo, a genetically engineered psychic Pokemon who takes vengeance against his creators by trashing the lab where he was born and setting up a contest to lure Pokemon Trainers into his grasp.  Mewtwo is sort of a cartoon version of Rutger Hauer's character in Blade Runner, a brooding artificial creation bent on finding his identity.  And of course, Ash, Brock, Misty, Pikachu, Team Rockets and the rest of the standard Pokemon crew get mixed up in Mewtwo's warped plans.  

The plot, strangely enough, is more interesting than it had any right to be.  Where the movie falters is in the heavy-handed moral it delivers.  Without any subtlety or grace (not that I was expecting it), the Pokemon movie repeatedly beats you over the head with the same "Fighting Is Wrong!" message; and then, at the last moment, everyone conveniently forgets the lesson they have learned so that the series will be able to continue.  After all, what would the Pokemon cartoon series be without any Pokemon battles?  Oh no, Team Rocket!  Pikachu, I Choose You… to… invite them over to enjoy a refreshing beverage 'neath the shade of a mighty oak!

The DVD release of Pokemon is one of the least careful video transfers I've ever seen.  All of the colors seem muted and murky, and there's a significant amount of blockiness surrounding the edges.  The audio, however, a Dolby 5.1 mix, is actually quite a different story.  The sound is clean and properly balanced, and it's pretty spiffy how Mewtwo's telekinetic voice kind of fills the room thanks to the surround channels.

The disc also contains a teaser trailer for the next movie (creatively titled Pokemon The Movie 2000) as well as a completely useless deleted scene concerning Mewtwo's origin.  The best feature is running commentary track by the English version's producer and director, which goes into a lot of detail about what's been changed from the Japanese version - not only in the movie, but in the series as well.  To be honest, I'm having a tough time picturing Meowth as a poet / philosopher.  The worst (and most amusing) feature would have to be the wildly inappropriate music video for "Don't Say You Love Me" by sassy teen sensation M2M, a God-awful song about the tribulations of the modern adolescent dating scene.

Of course, all of this is pretty much meaningless.  99% of Pokemon fans don't care if this is a widescreen anamorphic transfer or if Pikachu's red cheeks appear washed out; they're gonna get it regardless.  But for those who haven't been inducted into a Pokemon League yet, this disc is worth checking out just to see that twenty minutes of baffling footage detailing what Pikachu did last summer.

DVD Features:

Dolby Digital 5.1, Full Screen, Deleted Scene, Preview of Pokemon 2000, Audio Commentary, Music Video, Trailer

The Scores:

  • Movie: 3.5 / 5.0
  • Audio/Video: 3.5 / 5.0
  • Extras: 3.5 / 5.0
  • Final: 3.5 / 5.0

The Info:

  • Genre: Adventure  
  • Movie Title: Pokemon The First Movie  
  • Running Time: 96 Minutes  
  • Director: Michael Haigney  
  • Rating: G  

Review: The Advanced Master's Pokemon Guide

Source >> Gamepro Website


Apparently, DVDs are extremely easy to produce.  Just ask Jamie, the hip wise-cracking funster who serves as your guide through a Pokemon Tournament at a local card shop for the first two, er, "lessons" on the Advanced Master's Pokemon Guide DVD. It's pretty clear Jamie was on the scene for at least two days, since every now and then he shows up wearing a second outfit.

Or maybe ask Ztorm, the intimidating Master Trainer who serves as your guide through the hallowed halls of the Pokemon Combat Center for the second half of the disc.  But his talents do not stop at training and teaching, my friends.  Oh no, Ztorm can put his smack down and drop a sweet line of phat rhythm and rhyme.  His "Pokemon Combat" rap shall be filed forever in the GamePro Hall of Legends.

Or try asking the people behind the scenes, who apparently were sharply divided on whether it should be spelled just plain-ol' "Storm," or if they should kick it up a notch by making it "Ztorm."  They were also apparently confused whether chapter "one" should come before or after chapter "two."  And in a remarkable feat of Ed Wood-like directorial prowess, it would appear that every scene was filmed in only a single take! Luckily, every moment is carefully documented, with each second of heavy breathing captured in glorious Surround Sound, accompanied by a pleasant undercurrent of tape hiss.

The Advanced Master's Pokemon Guide is a piece of priceless trash.  That something so slipshod and unfit for community access could make it to production as a four-tape VHS series - and then as a DVD compendium - is beyond explanation.  The back of the case purports to teach you all the tenets of the Pokemon Training Card game, but not once throughout the entire 2 hour and 20 minute tutorial do we see a useful close-up of a Pokemon card for any sort of point of reference.  Admittedly, by the time it was over I had some idea what was going on, but it's kind of like picking up a few words of French because you happen to be lost in Paris for a month.

The disc is divided into four parts… the first two parts involve the aforementioned funster Jamie wandering about a Pokemon tournament, interviewing passive-aggressive kids about who likes Beedrill and if they think the Scratch attack is good or bad.  When he gets bored, he interviews an obviously drunk Furby ("last year's fad") and a man and woman inexplicably dressed like Tarzan and Jane.  The second half takes place in Ztorm's secret lair, where two kids play the longest, most excruciating card game in history.

But don't get me wrong.  This disc isn't a total waste of time.  The highlights are few and far between, but they're certainly there… Watch as S/Ztorm teaches a table full of bored kids and deceptively enthusiastic parents how to play Pokemon cards, and then wonder how you managed to sit through the entire forty-minute session without learning a damn thing.  Witness as Jamie uncovers the ominous "Truth About Charizard" from the nine-year-old leader of the heretofore unknown Secret Underground Society Of Charizard Detractors.   As it turns out, Charizard ain't so great, and hordes of Pokemon players are simply blind, bleating, damn fool sheep under the fire lizard's seductive spell.  Then listen as S/Ztorm warns unwary adults that kids are deceptive worms, and may in fact not be totally honest in their trading tactics.  Let's not forget "The Card Guy," the thirty-year-old who wears an opulent intergalactic black sash with his initials (CG) embroidered on the shoulder.

Oh, and then Ernie Hudson shows up, which just about sums everything up.

DVD Features:

Scene Access, Ztorm's "Pokemon Combat" Music Video

The Scores:

  • Movie: 2.0 / 5.0
  • Audio/Video: 1.5 / 5.0
  • Extras: 5.0 / 5.0
  • Final: 1.5 / 5.0

The Info:

  • Movie Title: The Advanced Master's Pokemon Guide  
  • Running Time: 2 Hours 20 Minutes  
  • Cast: Ztorm et al.  

Source >> Gamepro Website

Last updated  2008/09/28 05:06:29 PDT