Review by ND9k

Reviewed: 12/12/02 | Updated: 11/15/06

The game makes a nice technical leap in exchange for several innovative features.

Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire versions are the first two games of the third generation, part of the Pokemon franchise. What does the third generation bring? In addition to 135 new Pokemon, bringing the grand total up to 386, Pokemon R/S also feature many technical leaps, thanks to the GBA platform.

The first of several improvements were made to the graphics. Instead of the bland graphics of generations prior, R/S feature rich color and beautifully animated attacks. The Pokemon sprites are large and detailed, and even some over-world sprites like trees have received makeovers. In addition, more detail than ever is now present in the over-world, such as footprints in the sand, shadows on the pavement and reflections in the water.

Many of the technical improvements that I've cited are found in battles. For the first time ever, you can have what's known as a "double battle," where you have two Pokemon battling together. This creates new strategies, and new moves that specifically work only during double battles. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. There is also the new "abilities" system that all Pokemon possess. These abilities are in-battle effects that start working before the first punch is ever thrown. For example, Gyarados has an ability called "Intimidate," which works like Growl, cutting the foe's attack power. As a result, Gyarados is at an advantage before the battle even begins. Abilities are going to change the metagame as we know it. New strategies will be built entirely around abilities. But wait, there's more! In addition to abilities, all Pokemon also have "natures," which affect their total stat growth. Some natures promote Speed while cutting Attack, while some natures are neutral and don't affect stat growth at all. While this may not seem useful at first, consider Tyranitar, a Pokemon often regarded as one of the best physical sweepers. If you catch a Larvitar with a nature promoting Attack, that stat will be higher than it ever could be before, making Tyranitar even more lethal. Together, abilities and natures have created a completely new metagame, with old standards being broken and new ones coming to power.

But, as the tag line of this review has stated, several innovative features from the second generation were removed to seemingly make room for the technological improvements. Remember the real-time of the second generation? You won't find it here. The day and night system has been removed. The world of Hoenn is stuck in a permanent morning. This means that Pokemon can always be found, instead of certain ones only being available during the day or night. In some ways, this cheapens the overall feel of the game. And remember how the second generation featured two regions, Kanto and Johto? Not so here. You're limited to the region of Hoenn and stuck with only eight badges to collect, instead of an impressive 16. Therefore, R/S are considerable shorter games than G/S/C were. Many other innovative features from G/S/C, such as the radio and the phone, were mysteriously removed for no good reason. Another minor feature removed were the sprite animations first seen in Crystal version. In R/S, the sprites are static, never moving. I thought the appeal of the GBA platform was that it could hold so much more data than a GBC cartridge. But, judging by the amount of features removed for no good reason, perhaps this is untrue.

While I genuinely enjoy R/S, and I think it's a great preview of what the third generation has to offer, I still rate the game at only 70%. This is mainly because of the many second generation features being removed, but also because of some persistent annoyances that still have not been addressed. For example, the item management is still as clumsy as ever. If you want to rearrange items, you have to highlight this, move it here, highlight another item, move it somewhere else, etc. There also are no visual icons of each item, which helps greatly in a largely text-based game. Also, PC management is still annoying. What if Pokemon in your PC have items? There should be a simply way to remove items. But no, you have to move them to your party, exit out of the menu, open up another menu, remove the item from your Pokemon, put it back into the PC, blah, blah, blah. I'm hoping that future games of the third generation will address these issues, as minor as they are.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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