Review by striker64

Reviewed: 11/24/02 | Updated: 11/24/02

The hype returns with a great game.

Ah yes... who remembers the advent of Pokemon Gold and Silver? When they were released in Japan, they became the highest imported game in history by Americans. With good reason too... we wanted that game. And we got it. Now, just one day after Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire are released in Japan, we feel that hype return once more. Creators of online battling programs are already picking apart the ROMs of the games to upgrade their programs to include Ruby and Sapphire into the experience. Ladies and gentleman, this is big. This hype and this energy that these games have created is unlike anything I have ever experienced before in my 10+ years of being a gamer.

But is it all worth it? Let us take a look.

Ruby and Sapphire are the third installment to the Pokemon series. If you don't know the basic storyline to Pokemon, let me take you out from that rock you've been living under and fill you in on a little information. At the beginning of the game, you choose from either a male or female trainer, depending on your etiquette. This character's basic goal is to become a Pokemon master. Form a team of six of the best Pokemon that you can find and tackle the Elite Four to be declared a Pokemon master. You choose from three Pokemon at the beginning of the game: Treecko (a lizard), Torchic (a bird), and Mudkip (a marine animal). They all have their own characteristics, and which one you choose really does make a difference on the difficulty of the game. Throughout the world you travel in you will encounter Gyms, where you get a chance to prove your skills and earn a badge for defeating the Gym Leader. If you choose a certain starter over the other two, you will have an advantage over some Gym Leaders and a disadvantage over others. Of course, in between all of these gyms and towns, you will be in the wild, where you will find Pokemon yours for the catching. Tackle those wild Pokemon with your trusty Pokemon and thrust your Pokeball at them to make them part of your collection.

Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow started things off with 151 Pokemon for you to catch. Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal raised that number to 251. And now, Ruby and Sapphire raises the bar once again to 351. There are 351 Pokemon for you to make part of your collection here. The special legendaries this time around are Groudon for Ruby, a huge earth monster, and Kyogre for Sapphire, a huge whale... fish? Dunno. Anyway, that's not a spoiler, as the legendaries are shown on the intro to the game, just like Ho-oh was for Gold, Lugia for Silver, and Suicune for Crystal. I don't know yet if Groudon and Kyogre are both obtainable in both versions or, this time, if they are indeed exclusive to their respective titles.

What really defines this game is battling. That is what made Pokemon the ridiculous craze that it is, and the reason that it is still alive today. You have your little battles in the game, but those are really nothing compared to the battles you have against other people who have Pokemon of the same experience level that you do and who actually know what they are doing, much more than the AI in the game. Each Pokemon is comprised of either one or two types which define their characteristics. For example, a marine Pokemon will usually be of the Water type. A jellyfish Pokemon is of the Water/Poison type, as jellyfish live in the water and also inject a poison to fend off predators. There are a total of 17 types in the game. Each one has other types which it is both strong and weak against. It is extremely important to keep this in mind as you form your team... to be able to cover your team's main type weaknesses. Given that equation, there are endless numbers of teams you can make and test against other people of the same, or better, skill level. It is the battling that keeps this game alive.

Graphically, this is one of the most beautiful games I have seen so far on the GBA. Everything flows smoothly. When your character walks over a puddle of water, you can see his/her reflection on the water, as well as drops that you would expect to see when you yourself put your foot in water. Footprints appear as your character walks through the sand. Every attack that your Pokemon use have a specific animation. All of the animations have been redone from the other games, and look extraordinary. Constrict shows tentacles/vines wrapping around you. Water Gun is a bubble of water that hits you. And possibly my favorite aspect of the graphics - every Pokemon has their own sprite that you can see as you view your team. Everything was done wonderfully in the graphics department.

The sound is quite good. The background music can sometimes be mundane and boring, as the same sound is generally used from route to route and from city to city. However, the sound effects are where this game really shines, specifically with the Pokemons' use of their attacks. A Vine Whip attack produces a nice thwacking sound. A Scratch attack produces that lovely nails-on-a-chalkboard sounds. A sporing attack produces a gentle breeze sound.

Overall: 9/10
Pokemon is, and always has been, one of those games that you simply cannot put down until you beat it. It will hook you and it will ruin your life until you've beaten the game. Now, as I play, I stand by with my glass of water and bottle of aspirin, anxiously awaiting the day that I reach the end of this highly addictive game. If you are searching for a game that will keep you hooked to the end, give this one a try - I believe you will be quite pleased with the results.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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