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The Poke Ball in original Japanese language versions) is a spherical device used by Pokemon Trainers to capture wild Pokemon and store them in the player's inventory when not active. Upon contact, the balls draw a Pokemon inside and then close automatically. Wild Pokemon are able to resist and break free; however, weakened Pokemon and those with status conditions are less able to struggle and therefore more easily captured. Legendary Pokemon will resist being caught much easier, and will often require many Poke Balls or more powerful Poke Balls in order to catch them. If the player attempts to capture a non-player character's Pokemon, the opponent will block the Ball to prevent its theft, stating that it is illegal to capture a Pokemon already owned by a trainer.

As depicted in the anime and manga series, the Poke Ball, when not in use, is the size of a golf ball and, with a press of the central button, enlarges to the size of a baseball. The Pokemon is released for battle by throwing the ball; when retrieving a Pokemon, a beam of red light converts the Pokemon into energy to reclaim it. Poke Balls are explained as being incredibly comfortable for Pokemon, so much that they would willingly enter one without any sort of encouragement. The Pokemon Voltorb, Electrode, Foongus, and Amoonguss are often mistaken for Poke Balls, due to their shape and color schemes which highly resemble Poke Balls.

Various types of Poke Balls exist. Introduced in Pokemon Red and Blue, are, in order of progressing strength, the Poke Ball, Great Ball in Japan, and the Master Ball, which has a 100% success rate against any Pokemon that can be captured, and of which typically only one is available in the game. In Pokemon Gold, Silver, Crystal, HeartGold and SoulSilver, there are fruits called Apricorns, which, when given to Kurt in Azalea Town, make one of seven special types of Poke Balls, depending on the Apricorn's color. The seven kinds of Poke Balls Kurt can make (and the seven color apricorns they are made out of) are Level (Red), Moon (Yellow), Lure (Blue), Friend (Green), Love (Pink), Fast (White), and Heavy (Black). Beginning in Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, other specialized balls appear, including the Timer Ball, which becomes more effective as the number of turns in the current battle rises, and the Net Ball, which has a better chance of catching Water and Bug-type Pokemon, among others. In addition, in several games there exists an area called the Safari Zone in which only Safari Balls can be used; these cannot be used elsewhere in the game. Other Poke Balls that exist are the Heavy Ball (useful for catching heavy Pokemon), the Heal Ball (heals the caught Pokemon's health and status), the Luxury Ball (similar to the Friend Ball, in that the caught Pokemon bonds more quickly with its trainer), the Dusk Ball (useful for catching Pokemon at night or in caves), the Nest Ball (useful for capturing Pokemon at a lower level than your own Pokemon), the Repeat Ball (useful for capturing Pokemon you have previously caught), the Lure Ball (useful for Pokemon encountered by fishing) and the Dive Ball (useful for capturing Pokemon encountered while diving). There are also special kinds of Poke Balls (Cherish Ball and Premier Ball) that can only be obtained through special distribution events.

In the Nintendo GameCube RPGs, Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, the player is able to capture non-player character Pokemon through the use of the Snag Machine which turns Poke Balls into Snag Balls. Snag Balls are capable of capturing any Pokemon (with the same strength limitations as the standard Poke, Great, Ultra, and Master Balls), and they are developed by the antagonists to steal Pokemon where they are not common in the wild. Snag Balls can also be used by the player to capture the specific Shadow Pokemon who have been tainted by the antagonist group and that the player is required to purify for game completion. listed the Poke Ball eighteenth on their list of "Our 50 Favorite Video Game Power-ups" citing how everybody runs to get it in the Super Smash Bros. series.

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