just pokemon

The Pocket Pikachu Color is the updated version of the popular Pocket Pikachu virtual pet released several years ago in Japan. I was lucky enough to be in Hong Kong on the day it was released there on November 20, one day early from its official release date in Japan--the same release dates of the eagerly-awaited Pocket Monsters Gold & Silver. Here are my quick first impressions of this nifty little gadget:
Size & Shape
From the photo, the Pocket Pikachu Color (PPC) is almost exactly the same as the original Pocket Pikachu (PP), but the shape is rounder--the PP is somewhat trapezoidal, while the PPC looks more like an egg with a flattened top. Exact dimensions are as follows: 49.5 mm x 66 mm x 26 mm.
Color & Buttons
The PPC looks almost like a miniature Game Boy Color; the front panel has a clear transparent shell with white buttons, while the back is a solid dark navy blue color. The buttons are exactly the same as the original, but the A button is larger and is placed more to the top right of the B button. The buttons also have a much softer feel to them when pressed. The B button has a new function as well--it serves as an OFF button to shut down the screen. The PPC has an auto-shut feature like the PP, but now you can turn it off manually just by pressing the B button.

Pikachu in full color

The contrast slider control

The color LCD screen follows the same layout as the PP, with the obvious difference that it's in full color this time. The screen dimensions look almost the same as the one found in most cell phones, and you can adjust the color contrast via a sliding control in the options panel.

One thing I didn't like about the screen was that it can get scratched very easily; so take extra care when handling the PPC. A plastic screen protector like the one used in cell phones should take care of this problem--wonder why Nintendo didn't provide the PPC with one. 
Infrared Port
Unlike the original PP, the PPC has a prominent infrared port located at the very top of the device. The port has two functions: one is to link up with other Pocket Pikachus, and the other is to interface with Pokemon Gold & Silver. Since the port is already on the top, a small eyelet where you can attach a wrist strap has been placed at the back of the unit.
Sound & Musical Alarm

Pokemon theme, anyone?

The sound is much louder and more melodic than the original PP. In fact, a cool feature of the PPC is the ability to compose your own musical alarm tone. Why settle for the boring "beep beep" when you can create your own tune? It's easy to do, and the manual provides you with a piano keyboard layout and the appropriate buttons to press to generate the notes.
Earning Watts

Pikachu plays a game

The PPC still has the same pedometer feature of the original PP, where you earn watts with every step or shake, but the slot machine for earning more watts is gone. Pikachu now plays a "High - Low" game with you, where he shows you a card then you guess whether the next card is higher or lower. A correct first guess earns you 8 watts, and this amount increases steadily for each successive correct guess. In the event of a tie, Pikachu lets you win instead. When you win, you have the option of playing again or get the watts you've won. Be warned though: one wrong guess forfeits every watt that you've earned for that play session, so you lose 5 watts. Also, you can't play this game while Pikachu is asleep--you'll have to wait until he's awake again.

Pikachu walks around

Pikachu is much more animated here in PPC, doing all sorts of things. He walks around when you view the time, and so far I've seen him playing videogames, twirling a hulahoop around its waist, singing or dancing with a radio, taking a bath, rolling on the floor doing nothing, or giving you a menacing glare when you shake it and it doesn't have enough watts. Now and then some pals pop up; playing in the sand will make Diglett appear, and Poliwag makes an appearance in a fishing scene.
This gadget is great--it looks cool and has good sound. Not only does it allow you to bring Pikachu anywhere, it also links to Pokemon Gold & Silver, and that alone makes it worthwhile for any Pokefan to have. Some questions remain on whether the Japanese PPC can interface with the US Pokemon G/S, but that's still a long way off, so enjoy this one for now.

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