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by Perry Wild - June 29, 2017

Pokémon Mini (ポケモンミニ) - (2001)

Chikorita Green Cover

Smoochum Purple Cover

Wooper Blue Cover

Nintendo has had its fair share of ups and downs as a console manufacturer, from the dominance of NES to the recent commercial failure of the Wii U. However, one area where the company has seen consistent success has been in handheld gaming. The Game Boy line was so iconic that for years its name was used as the go-to term for any handheld gaming system (the phrase 'oh is that a game boy' will be all too familiar to indignant PSP owners the world over.) The mighty brick's successor, the DS, is currently the second highest selling video game system of all time at around 150 million lifetime sales. Indeed, Nintendo became so confident in the handheld sector that they started to experiment with some rather outlandish ideas. One of these experiments, the widely mocked Virtual Boy, is well know amount retro fanatics as the companies shortest lived system. Few though are familiar with an equally innovative and bizarre console released in 2001, the Pokémon Mini.

A Pokémon themed gaming system? It makes perfect sense when you consider that massive success the series was enjoying around the turn of the millennium. Anything with Pikachu's face slapped on it was bound to sell, why shouldn't he have his own console?

At only 74 x 58 x 23 millimetres the Pokémon Mini was by far the smallest handheld of its time. While at first glance it may resemble a Tamagotchi or Game & Watch it is actually a fully fledged gaming system, with multiple games released on minute cartridges. The Mini boasted a number of unique features, such as built in rumble - unheard of for a handheld - and even a rudimentary motion sensor! Infrared transceivers like those used in the Game Boy Colour were also built in, and the system is capable of 10 player wireless multiplayer right out of the box. It is also notable for being the only game console designed exclusively for a single franchise; all 10 games bear the Pokemon license. Interestingly Game Freak - Pokémon's original creators - had little involvement and most of the games were instead developed by Jupiter (who later worked on the excellent DS RPG The World Ends With You.)

The Pokémon Mini was unfortunately rather short lived, it was supported for a year in Japan while in America it didn't receive a single new game after the four launch titles. Several factors contributed to the Mini's untimely demise. The system suffered from poor marketing support as Nintendo were putting most of their efforts into selling the GameCube and the Game Boy Advance, both released the same year as the Mini. For some reason the console was available exclusively in toy stores and most games retailers didn't stock it. This led many to believe that it wasn't a true gaming system and it was largely ignored by the gaming media as just another electronic toy for children. On top of this Pokémon was seeing a temporary downturn in popularity. The frenzy that had surrounded the series a year earlier had largely passed and Pokémon fatigue was beginning to set in, the timing was unfortunate. The console's main downfall though, was its underpowered technology. Motion controls and other gimmicks aside, the system was essentially a slightly less powerful Game Boy with the same severe limitations in memory and processing power. It had a monotone display and single channel audio, meaning music and sound effects could not be played simultaneously! Even at the very reasonable price of $60 ($20 for the games) the Pokemon Mini was too far out of step with technology to capture the public's attention. Ultimately though it's still a fascinating console with some fun games, it's worth checking out for retro fanatics and those curious about Nintendo's history.

It's worth mentioning that a large part of the Pokémon Mini's appeal is the tactility and charm of the console itself. The games may seem over simplistic when divorced from their original context and don't come across particularly well via emulation. They are intended to be played on the move and in short bursts, with nearly all the games allowing you to put the system into sleep mode at any time and carry on later. The Japanese games are rather rare but fortunately some enterprising souls have developed a flash cart, allowing more people to experience these titles on the original hardware.

Pokémon Mini Chikorita Green


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Pokémon Party Mini (ポケモンパーティミニ) - Pokémon Mini (2001)

Japanese Pokémon Mini Cover

Pokémon Party Mini is a collection of several mini games designed to show off the consoles various features. All the games are focused on high score chasing or time trial challenges. Released as a stand alone game in Japan, but boxed in with the console in Europe and America, Party Mini will have been the first game for the system most people were exposed to. Indeed, it bears all the hallmarks of a pack-in title, being somewhat low on content compared to the other launch games.

The first mini game, Rocket Start, is a simple reaction test. Two Pokémon stand poised at the starting post of a racetrack and when the system vibrates you must press the A button as quickly as possible to launch full speed towards the finished line. There are 3 rounds where you take on increasingly faster opponents and when you're finished your times will be added to the leader boards. It's unfortunately a little too simple to have any lasting appeal.

More fun is Baseline Judge, where you are tasked with refereeing a Tennis match. When the ball flies past you must declare weather it landed inside or outside the court by pressing A or B. This sounds incredibly easy but the ball will go out of its way to confuse the player by suddenly speeding up, changing direction, or casting a shadow in completely the wrong place. The nonsensical ball physics are very amusing and actually make the game much more engaging.

Ricochet Dribble sees you attempting to kick a soccer ball towards the goal as fast as possible. The ball swerves from side to side and you must try to hit it in the centre to kick it straight and maintain your speed. If you miss the ball you must shake the console rapidly to run back and fetch it.

In Dance Delight you control flower Pokémon Bellossom, as she tries to keep in step with her two dancing partners. To do this you must imitate their movements using the D-pad. It's not quite a rhythm action game as you don't need to keep in time with the (rather grating) music, but if you take too long to react you will fail. To spice things up a bit you occasionally need to shake the system in order to make Bellossom jump.

Boxing Frenzy is probably the most unusual game here. You are engaged in a boxing match and must shake the console as fast as possible to keep landing punches. Every so often the system will vibrate to warn you that your opponent is attacking, when this happens you must stop shaking in order to block. The constant transitions between vigorous shaking and complete stillness makes for a tense and rather disorienting experience. It's a testament to how well the Pokemon Mini is built that it can survive such rough treatment.

Two multiplayer games are also included to showcase the infrared sensors. Speedy Fakeout is a basketball game where one player tries to dribble past their opponent by 'Faking' in one direction or the other. The second player must block them by guessing which direction they chose to move in. Battlefield isn't a game in it's own right but rather a tournament mode where up to 5 players compete in various games to see who can get the highest score.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Denyusha Co

Publisher:

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Pokémon Party Mini

Pokémon Party Mini

Pokémon Party Mini

Pokémon Party Mini

Pokémon Party Mini


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Pokémon Pinball Mini (ポケモンピンボールミニ) - Pokémon Mini (2001)

European Pokémon Mini Cover

Definitely the most original of the four launch titles, though the name is a misnomer. It's not really a pinball game as such, there isn't a flipper in sight and instead you control one of five Pokémon who must headbutt a Pokéball towards a series of pockets. Unlike a regular pinball game most tables have no drop-out zone, so the only way you can lose is by running out of time. The emphasis here is on short 'n' sweet challenges, and lots of them! There are 90 stages to take on spread across three modes, Quest, Score Attack and Time Attack. There's honestly very little difference between these modes as all of the Quest stages can be replayed and your best time/high score will always be recorded.

The controls are extremely simple, hold the C button to make you Pokémon duck into the ground and release it to make them pop up again. Holding the button for a few second will generate a power shot which is useful for breaking obstacles or earning bonus points. Despite the limited player input the game controls extremely well. The ball physics are complex enough to keep things challenging, but predictable enough to reward practice. You can also select the spawn point of the ball by tapping the C button which is handy on larger stages with a lot of pockets.

While most pinball games are geared towards high score chasing, Pokémon Pinball Mini has a tangible goal, completing the 70 stage Quest mode. It's a great incentive to keep playing and the bite sized nature of the levels makes them very addictive. Most stages require you to hit a series of pockets within the time limit while some task you with racking up a specified score. Tables are quite varied and the difficulty curve is well balanced. New elements like breakable rocks and moving bumpers are introduced gradually so you're given a chance to acquaint yourself with them. Special mention must go to the Gravity Changers, which alter the direction the ball will fall in when hit. This leads to some mind melting moments where you must guide the Pokéball through maze-like tables while continually switching the direction of gravity.

At the start of the game you can only select one Pokémon, Diglett, but you will soon be able to unlock more characters by completing special battle stages. In these stages a Pokémon is seen wondering around the table and you must hit them multiple times to lower their HP. Once weakened the Pokémon can be captured and the Pokéball must then be landed in a pocket in order to complete the stage. The five playable characters each have subtly different effects on the trajectory of the ball so choosing the right one can make a real difference. The most interesting is Clefairy, who can use telekinesis to slightly alter the direction of the ball in mid air.

The Quest mode will take a decent amount of time to play through and it gets quite tricky towards the end with multiple hazards to avoid and strict time limits to adhere to. Even after you've finished the game there's quite a lot of reply value here. Revisiting levels in an effort to beat your best run is a highly addictive challenge. Due to the misleading title Pokémon Pinball Mini has been unfairly criticised by many expecting a more tradition pinball experience. Judged on it's own merits the game is one of the strongest titles the console has to offer, with an unusual premiss and great level design.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Jupiter

Publisher:

Genre:

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Pokémon Pinball Mini

Pokémon Pinball Mini

Pokémon Pinball Mini

Pokémon Pinball Mini

Pokémon Pinball Mini


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Additional Screenshots



<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Pokémon Mini
Pokémon Mini Party Mini
Pokémon Pinball Mini

Page 2:
Pokémon Puzzle Collection
Pokémon Zany Cards
Pokémon Tetris

Page 3:
Pokémon Puzzle Collection Vol. 2
Pokémon Race Mini
Pichu Bros. mini

Page 4:
Togepi's Great Adventure
Pokémon Breeder Mini
Legacy

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index