Stop me if any of this sounds familiar: In Metal Walker, you play a young boy on his quest to find and train little robots called "cores." As you progress you find power-ups that allow your cores to evolve into new, more powerful robots and gain new abilities. There's a jealous spikey-haired rival and helpful professor who pop up every so often, other core hunters as bosses, and a two-player battle mode via the link cable. OK, if you haven't gotten the message by now, reread the above, substituting each instance of "core" and "robot" with "Pokemon." That's not to say Metal Walker is just another of the recent rash of pokedones; there are some instances of originality here, especially in the battle system. You basically bounce your robot around to strike enemies, setting the speed and angle like a pool ball, ricocheting for extra damage or to pick up items. It's a fantastic idea, the problem is it just wasn't thought all the way through. Items (which can either help or hurt the user) are automatically and randomly tossed on to the battlefield, which takes away from the strategy and makes winning more a matter of tuck than skill. You also spend way too much time in combat; I'm all for building your character through battle, but every three or four steps is just ridiculous. With a lot of little fixes and some polishing Metal Walker might have been something special. As is, it's more than another Pokemon wannabe, but just barely.
Holy Pokemon. While not exactly a direct rip-off, you can tell what the developers had in mind when they made this game. You run about collecting "core units" and battling other "core hunters," then evolve your sidekick by using various elements. Barring that obvious lameness, the battle system in the game is more dynamic than the aforementioned RPG, and actually kind of fun at times. It requires ricocheting your walker off walls in an arena to collide with your opponent and pick up power-ups. The result is kind of like a biUiards-RPG. Random encounters occur way too often, though, and that really gets old when trying to navigate the overworld.
For some reason, Metal Walker reminds me of the NESdays, when games weren't always in the smoothest English but had that intangible quality that made them addictive. The combination of Pokemon's collecting with billiards' gameplay makes for an interesting mix--but as I played I kept hoping the gameplay would get a little more complex. The biggest problem with the game is that your items get placed on the battlefield, regardless of whether you need them or not, making it easy to accidentally use one or lose it to an opponent. A lackluster translation, but considering the state of third-party GBC titles, this rates above-average.