Review by Gladius727
Reviewed: 07/31/03 | Updated: 07/31/03
Perhaps The Best Entry So Far, But What Differentiates It From The Rest of The Series?
For years now, Pokemon has been one of the best selling and most popular games in both Japan and America. Since the time of the creation of “Pocket Monsters,” the game has been hailed and enjoyed as an unique, yet deep RPG in which the player is thrust into the world of Pokemon, and has the task of “catching them all.” With the next and third installment on Game Boy Advance, the adventure continues, but is it new and innovative enough to keep old fans playing? Will it be the game that hooks new fans and introduces them to the world of Pokemon? Read on to find out!
As with any RPG, comes an enthralling story and dialogue to boot. However, this is not entirely the case with Ruby/Sapphire. Indeed some story exists, but it is no more than the usual and much expected “beat everyone to become the best.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just that it has been done since the first game, and results in a game that feels too similar overall to the previous installments. On a lighter note, there are some features that make the game different and fresh, which I will mention later. Now let’s move on to the aesthetics of the game.
Since the first screenshots of the game, many have complained about the sub par graphics and how the Game Boy Advance is capable of much more. However, I find these complaints unfounded, as compared to the previous games in the series, this one is a big leap in the graphics department. People look like people. Lakes and rivers have a realistic quality(for a handheld game anyway) to them because of how the water moves both when you’re looking at them and moving across one. Towns are vibrant, often with a distinctive look associated to them. For example, one city is built on stone tiles giving it a “rustic” feel while another lies on farmland where crops are grown. The result is a positive one, giving the many cities and towns you travel through some variance.
In addition, there are now different backgrounds that correspond with the environment you are currently in when you encounter a battle. Wandering through a desert? Expect to see a sandstorm and yellow sand when you enter a battle. Searching in the depths a cave? You’ll see rocks and a dark, brown, background upon entering a battle. These touches make for a polished feeling and are much nicer to look at than the “white void” encountered in battles in the earlier games. Speaking of which, just playing Gold/Silver even in color makes me realize how fluent and colorful this game is in comparison. Perhaps it is just because of the game being on Game Boy Advance which can host these looks, but all the white that colored people, the ground, and sometimes even Pokemon in these older games is now replaced by fluent colors which indeed contribute to the game’s overall look and feel.
Lastly, I believe it is worth mentioning the different effects that were showcased since the first three screenshots of the game were released. If you remember, those pictures showed footprints in sand left by the character and reflections in puddles and large bodies of water. While not as great as they made them seem, they still add a level of detail, and are a nice addition, nonetheless. You will encounter them rather quickly as you play, since sometimes you are almost “set-up” to observe them. Still, they never hurt, and although not perfected(the footprints in sand don’t always match your characters movements), they add to the polished feel of the graphics as a whole.
Although there’s not nearly as much to say about the sound as the graphics, that doesn’t mean this department is lacking, although it isn’t quite up to the graphics. The music, for one, is not nearly as varied as the graphics. What’s there is good, and some tracks are even somewhat catchy, however, certain themes for the towns are repeated. What I mean is unlike how the towns look and feel different due to the graphics, not all of them sound different. This of course is understandable considering there are numerous towns, but it still would have been nice if each town had a distinctive track.
As for sound effects, there really aren’t that many other than each Pokemon’s cry. I will say considering there are now 351 Pokemon, each cry sounds surprisingly different; very few sound similar. Also, it seems in this version each Pokemon’s cry actually matches how they would sound. For example, many of the fish Pokemon have cries that sound like water or waves, which is nice considering it is representative of their character and where you can find them. Snakes have hissing sounds, rock types have hard, loud cries; it’s all nicely done. So, overall, redundant music found throughout the game is the only thing that brings this score down.
In this section, there is much to cover, including many aspects of the game from fishing to the overall challenge presented in the game. I’ll begin with less noticeable and thus less important points and end with those that determine if this game is different enough to warrant a buy.
Let’s begin with fishing, as I just mentioned. The only reason it’s worth talking about is because it has been tweaked slightly, and you do need to use it to catch many aquatic Pokemon. So, how is it different? Where as in previous games you would just walk up to a body of water, select a rod, and have a chance of a random battle, now you must always be ready to tap a button when told to do so. This makes it a little harder, especially if you don’t have the greatest reflexes to pull it off. It just takes time to get used to, nothing more.
Now, I’ll make mention of another fairly small point that is new to this series, although I can’t imagine why it has been left out until now. Finally, each time you level up, it actually tells you by how much each statistic increased. This will be one of the first things you notice, but for Pokemon veterans, the feature is very welcome. No more memorizing each statistic before a level, like you had to do in the past.
Moving on, we come to rebattling trainers. Just as you could in Gold/Silver, certain trainers can be battled over and over to earn much more money and Exp. Points than you could training in the wild. Although this isn’t introduced until halfway about through the game, it makes training significantly easier, but can be abused, as trainers will battle again with you more often than they did in the Gold/Silver. Even more, their team will continue to grow(although only to a certain point), as long as you keep battling them. To be fair, I can’t say all this is bad, as it’s an alternative to otherwise repetitive training with Pokemon in the wild. However, I feel this feature could have been enacted without reducing too much challenge by making it less frequent. As it stands, however, it still is never a bad thing, I suppose.
Next we come to a category that affects how much one can potentially enjoy the game. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it “Navigating the world.” This is important as without certain measures, a game can become very redundant, boring, and even frustrating. Especially with a game that sends you around the world, it is important to have certain means of travel that cut down on unnecessary time just wandering through the same place and looking for your next destination. I can say, however that this game addresses these concerns, and provides you with many different ways of getting around. For example, at the very beginning of the game you are given “running shoes” which increase your walking speed greatly. In the other two series, they didn’t provide anything such as this until nearly a third into the game. In addition, you will get a bike(which even seems faster, just harder to control), and the ability to “warp”, just as in the other games. Even more, your map includes a function that provides another map for each individual town. With all this, it becomes nearly impossible to get lost.
Another noteworthy feature is the inclusion of weather, such as rain, lightning, sandstorms, and even falling ashes to represent your character nearing an active volcano. Although these effects could have been classified as graphical feats(and thus put in that section), I prefer to think of them as additions that add strategy and reduce repetitiveness while training. For that reason, they belong in this section. Anyway, how do they add strategy, you ask? It is because certain Pokemon are much easier to train in an area where the weather can be used to their benefit. For example, some Pokemon have the ability to become harder to hit during a sandstorm. So, take someone like that to a region known for sandstorms, and watch how easier it is to train them if they are hit less often. This level of strategy is much welcome, and allows for other techniques that can be executed due to the weather.
Unfortunately, one feature similar to this has been taken out, that being the changes from daytime to night that existed in Gold/Silver. This changed the course of catching Pokemon, as certain species only would appear at a given time of day. The exclusion of this feature is a shame, but will not impact gameplay that much. So unless you truly enjoyed that feature, you are not missing out on too much.
Alongside with the mention of weather and how it changes battles, I should mention the new “abilities” that each Pokemon has. For a while now, we have known that each Pokemon has an ability or two in Ruby/Sapphire. These abilities, usually beneficial, provoke thinking up new strategies that otherwise would not be possible. They vary combat, and add another thing to think about while battling. Indeed, they are a positive addition.
Next, I will discuss one of the more anticipated features that has been shown to us since some of the earliest screenshots; contests. Totally new to this game are contests, in which your Pokemon will compete in one of five categories(smartness, toughness, and cuteness to name a few) by using its battle moves which are now labeled as one of these attributes. For example, while the move “Tackle” is a weak move in battle, upon using it in a contest, you will find it is effective and works well in these competitions. In truth, contests are like a game of their own, and add yet more strategy and openness to the game, as you can participate in them from early on, and are entirely optional. Without them, the game would honestly be little different from the other installments, making this addition vital to Ruby/Sapphire.
Lastly, I will touch upon the level of challenge presented in this game. Just like the other games in the series, this game is truthfully rather easy. Between trainer rebattles, and the fact that gym leaders use weak Pokemon to begin with, you will find this game, despite what “they” try to say, can mostly be breezed through with a single strong Pokemon. Despite this, it’s nothing new to the series, so Pokemon veterans will not find the lack of challenge too bothersome.
Perhaps the strongest point of this game, even the entire series, is just how much time one could spend playing, collecting every Pokemon and item. With some 200 Pokemon, old and new, you will find there is always something that can be done. If you truly enjoy this game, it is possible to spend over 250 hours playing. Considering it’s only a Game Boy Advance game, and thus only $30, it is well worth the money.
In truth, numerous aspects of the Pokemon series have already been perfected. Combat and collecting Pokemon, to name two, have little room for improvement. With that in mind, what I look for in each new installment are features that make it stand apart from the previous games, and add realism to the world and make it more interesting to interact with. For the most part, I believe Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire accomplish that. With the addition of contests and 2 vs. 2 battles, the game doesn’t entirely feel like just another installment in the series. However, the exclusion of certain features such as day and night and the fact that over 100 Pokemon are missing make parts of the game feel like a step down from the rest of the series. New fans of Pokemon will find this an acceptable entry point into the series, while veterans may still find this too similar to the other versions. At the very least, it is a great game, and worth looking into.
Final Score: 8/10
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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