If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then PokÃ©mon has to have some of the highest self-esteem of any game franchise around. Over the years, a myriad of different imitators have tried to re-create the monster training, trading, and collecting formula that PokÃ©mon essentially turned into a phenomenon. Capcom has now become the latest company to tip its hat to PokÃ©mon with its development of Gotcha Force for the GameCube. Gotcha Force revolves around a group of anime-faced kids who command not monsters, but tiny robots who are out to save or destroy the world. Whether the robots save or destroy the world depends on which faction they belong to--be it the heroic Gotcha Force or the evil Death Force. Gotcha Force's gameplay is decidedly more action-oriented than its monster-training inspiration and actually seems to draw the bulk of its influence from Capcom's Power Stone series. Unfortunately, Gotcha Force really doesn't emulate PokÃ©mon or Power Stone very well. Instead, it comes off as a pale, perfunctory imitation of both that crutches itself far too heavily on brainless, clunky, spastic action that doesn't so much entertain as it bewilders.
Gotcha Force is equal parts PokÃ©mon and Power Stone, though it doesn't reflect the better aspects of either.
There are three gameplay modes available in Gotcha Force--the primary of which is the story mode. As mentioned before, the story of Gotcha Force involves warring factions of robots, who are referred to as Borgs. The story opens up with the game's hero, Kou, meeting G-Red, a Gotcha Borg who has come to earth to seek out and destroy the Death Force and its leader, the Galactic Emperor. G-Red asks Kou to be his commander, and from there, the battle is on. Along the way, you meet numerous other youngsters with their own rosters of Borgs, some of whom will become your allies and others who are out to simply antagonize you. Battles are determined by friend or foe location on a map of Kou's city, Safari Town, which is divided into sections. Trouble spots are denoted by an exclamation point, in addition to an icon that either represents Death Force or one of the other commander kids. How you progress is essentially open-ended, but the story itself moves in a fairly linear fashion.
Battles in Gotcha Force are team-based but in sort of a unique way. As you go through each battle, you consistently earn energy, which can be used to store more Gotcha Borgs (which can be acquired throughout the story mode). Each Gotcha Borg costs a certain amount of energy, so you can only have as many Borgs as your energy level will allow--with up to 30 available for a team. Actual combat begins with one of your Gotcha Borgs or one of your Gotcha Borgs and one of your allied commanders' Borgs. If your Borg is destroyed while the battle rages, then the next one you have lined up on your team jumps in. The same goes for your allies, and the same goes for your enemies. Whoever's side has the last remaining Borgs standing wins the battle. As there are more than 280 different Borgs you can collect in Gotcha Force, it may seem like this ability to combine near-limitless types of teams would make for a highly varied type of gameplay experience. Sadly, the game's actual combat pretty much kills that notion right off.
Combat in Gotcha Force is pretty much relegated to just running around and hitting attack buttons while hoping for the best.
Your basic battle controls in Gotcha Force involve the B and X buttons for attacks and the A button for jumping. Every type of Borg in the game has its own unique form of attack, but most of them are just variations on the same basic hack-and-slash, projectile attack, and dash-attack moves. You can also target specific enemies by using the right and left trigger buttons. Everything during combat moves at an extremely feverish pace, so basically, the only real strategy to your attacks should involve locking on to the enemy closest to you, hitting the attack buttons as many times as you can until the enemy's dead, and then allowing the game to auto-lock on to the next enemy for you. Then, just lather, rinse, and repeat until the next opponent is dead. As the game goes on, enemies do get a bit harder, but really, all you have to do is just occasionally dodge their slightly more-focused and damaging attacks, which, all told, isn't hard at all.
Ultimately, the biggest challenge in Gotcha Force's combat comes from just trying to figure out what the heck is going on at any given point. Gotcha Force is incredibly fast-paced, but more often than not, this speed serves less to keep things exciting and serves more to just completely obliterate whatever attention span you might have had going into the game. Much of this has to do with the game's practically seizure-inducing camera. All the Borgs move around very quickly, and once you've destroyed an enemy, the camera will sharply and suddenly jerk to a new angle to shift your focus on to the next target. Since a lot of the lesser enemies only take a scant few hits to kill, you can find yourself in a position where the camera will continuously jerk around--all over the place--as you mow through the opposition. This is highly disconcerting, to say the least. It's often very hard to tell if you're actually hitting an enemy or not, so there's simply no predicting where the camera may shift next. On top of its abrupt movements, the camera also has an inconceivably dumb habit of moving underneath the floor of the battle environment, as well as getting stuck in some really awful angles. This was seemingly intended to make targeting airborne enemies a little easier, but what it actually succeeds in doing is adding the final straw that breaks an already shallow, obnoxious, and deeply unhinged gameplay experience.