Player (Rumble), GBA Link Cable
Following in the footsteps of this year’s successful release of
Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire comes Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire.
If this pattern seems familiar to you, it should. That’s because
Nintendo did the exact same thing with the first two Pokémon
releases on Game Boy Color, as the original Pokémon Pinball
followed the release of Pokémon Red/Blue. Thus longtime
Pokémon fans can expect a sense of déjŕ vu when playing Nintendo’s
latest Poké-title, although that’s not a bad thing at all.
Much like Pokémon Pinball, this game basically takes the “catch
‘em all” premise of the regular series and translates it into pinball
form. There are two boards to choose from (Ruby & Sapphire), each
with it’s own layout and game-specific obstacles. Common elements for
each board include paths for Hatch, Evo, Bumper, Mart, Catch, and
Get. The Catch path activates “Catch ‘em Mode”; once two arrows are
lit on the path shooting the ball inside Sharpedo (Ruby) or Wailmer
(Sapphire) will activate it. This causes the center panel to display
a silhouette of a different Pokémon depending on the location
currently selected and number of arrows lit. Hitting the bumpers
three times will then cause the Pokémon to appear, and then hitting it
three times catches it. The catch (get it?) is that the player only
has two minutes to do this entire process once Catch ‘em Mode is
activated. The location is determined by a set path of switching
locations, and can be switched by hitting the appropriate
The other major way
of catching Pokémon is to activate Egg Mode, which is accessed through
the Hatch path. Once an egg has been hatched, hitting that Pokémon
two times with the Pokéball will catch it. Lighting up all three
Evolution Arrows, then shooting the ball inside the appropriate
location, activates Evo mode. This will bring up a separate screen to
choose which Pokémon to evolve. Once it’s picked, the player then has
to snag three separate Evolution items within a two-minute time limit
to successfully complete the evolution. Finally, the Mart allows the
player to purchase a variety of items with coins acquired throughout
the regular game.
As far as the actual pinball action is concerned, Pokémon Pinball:
Ruby & Sapphire is rather tame. Having a wide variety of stuff to
aim for does make strategic play and good aim important, and there are
ball upgrades and bonus multipliers to generate the sky-high scores
all pinball fans crave. However, since the game is aimed more at
Pokémon fans than pinball fans the action is tame in comparison to
other pinball titles. The ball feels slower (even on normal) and
frequent saves by Pikachu and Latios/Latias when Ball Saver is
activated make the game a bit too easy. Additionally the lack of a
multi-ball mode will surely disappoint many pinball fans; I know that
personally I’ve always found those moments spent trying to juggle
multiple balls at once to be among the most enjoyable moments in any
Several things do extend the life of the game however. First, there
are a few bonus fields to uncover…each with it’s own specific goal.
These are fun, and require a good bit of skill to successfully
complete. Secondly, high scores and Pokédexes can be exchanged with a
friend through the GBA Link cable. Exchanging data can cause the
Pokémon one player is missing that another has to show up more
frequently in gameplay, thus making this a worthwhile endeavor. Some
form of multiplayer would’ve been nice, but it’s really not missed in
this game that much. Finally, if played on a Game Boy Player with a
GameCube controller the game supports a very nice rumble feature.
It’s not as nice as having a rumble pack in the actual cartridge like
in the original (no rumble support when played on a regular GBA or
using a GBA as a controller), but at least Nintendo provided a form of
rumble support in the game.
Pinball games are rarely graphical showcases, and that’s the case here
as well. Much like the game it’s based on, this game’s graphics can
also best be described as pleasant. Not overwhelming, but nice to
look at all the same. It’s obvious they developed the title with Game
Boy Player support in mind as well, since it looks just as solid on TV
as it does on GBA without any of the weird glitches found in earlier
GBA titles. Sound fares in much the same manner, with plenty of
Pokémon sounds and various pinball effects thrown in. The breezy
music on each main board is decent, but after extended play (which
happens frequently given how easy the game is) becomes repetitive and
The catch ‘em all philosophy of the series translates well into
Plenty of replay value and other extras with over 200 critters to
catch, data exchange, and rumble support via Game Boy Player.
Pleasant graphics that also translate well to the big (TV) screen.
If you’re in love with the franchise, you’ll like this game.
Much like Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire, Pokemon Pinball: Ruby &
Sapphire isn’t much of an upgrade over the original.
The music during regular gameplay gets annoying pretty quickly.
If you’re not much of a Pokémon fan, there are better portable
pinball titles available.
Strictly as a pinball title, Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire
is unremarkable. Having only two boards is a shame, even with the
several bonus boards available. How about one board per travel area
per game color instead of an unnecessary travel mode? It’s also too
easy for most pinball pros. Overall there are several better
“pinball” games already out for the GBA, including Pinball of the
Dead and Sonic Pinball Party.
Of course, a game such as this isn’t really aimed at hardcore fans of
the genre in the first place; it’s aimed at Pokémon fans. As a
Pokémon title, this game definitely gets the job done. It’s full of
that Pokémon charm, the replay value is through the roof with over 200
to catch and bonus boards, and the whole concept of catching ‘em all
translates well into pinball form.
In short, if you’re a Pokémon fan who’s worn out their copy of Ruby
and/or Sapphire, go ahead and splurge on another excellent Pokémon