It wouldn"t be so obvious had the game changed its adventure presentation, but even though Game Freak pushed a 3D engine for the overworld exploration, the team kept the visual style incredibly close to the Game Boy Advance game. So even though there"s hillsides and mountains, polygonal mountains and 3D trees, everything still has that Game Boy look to it. The battles are still using that limited sprite battle system where creatures animate in two-frame sliding motions, though the developers enhanced that action with some special effects that are specific to the Nintendo DS capabilities. After seeing these creatures in 3D way back on the N64, it"s a little awkward to have it all come back to 2D on a system that can do so much more.
Like it or or lump it, though, this is the definitive Pokemon experience. Even if you"ve spent hundreds of hours doing the Pokemon "gotta catch "em all" thing on the Game Boy Advance or Game Boy Color, if you want to keep up with the series, it"s going to be done again on the Nintendo DS. Luckily the game design still holds up after ten years on the market. And sure, we"ll admit that there are little elements tossed in to help keep things somewhat fresh in the move. Real-time system clock function, multilayer level designs, touch-screen mini-games...listing all the additions would take forever, but they"re all pretty minor and supplemental in the whole swing of things.
What is one hundred percent new to the Pokemon franchise is the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support, and it is undoubtedly a way-cool function of the Nintendo DS version. Where battles were once confined to local areas using link cable or the temporarily free Wireless GBA adapter is now open to anywhere you"ve got access to a compatible Wi-Fi spot. In other words, you can be either face-to-face or thousands of miles apart in order to battle and trade between systems. Nintendo went the extra mile, too, by incorporating voice chatting using the Nintendo DS microphone, or optionally a headset peripheral. The ability to talk to the other user during a fight makes everything that much more interactive and "in your face," even when the other person isn"t even in same room with you during the fight.
There is a limitation, however -- the only way you can simultaneously voice chat and battle over the internet in this game is if you"ve already arranged to do so with a friend by asking for and adding his or her Friend Code, and likewise to their copy of the game. This is one of the few Nintendo DS games that does not allow for random user connections over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. You can"t even connect to the Internet without a Friend Code entered into your game. Nintendo locked this one down hard. Of course, this "friend" limitation is only for the Internet portion of the game -- as long as you can physically see someone, you can connect to them using the traditional Pokemon network means. There"s even an earned Poketch gadget that you can turn on to see if anyone in the local area is looking for a match-up or trade.
But obviously to take advantage of the trade and battle portion, you really have to play through the adventure. And even if that"s all you do, there"s more than forty hours of adventuring required to get through to the end of the campaign. As a reward for your service, once that happens, any person who did the Pokemon thing in the Game Boy Advance version can bring over their collection using the cart slot on the bottom of the Nintendo DS.