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Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire

Review By:  Andrew Joy

Developer:  Game Freak
Publisher:  Nintendo
# of Players:  1-4 (Link Cable)
Genre:  RPG
ESRB:  Everyone
Accessories:  GBA Link Cable, e-Reader
Date Posted:  6-22-03

An avid POKéfan with great expectations for the third series installment, I did what any decent fan would do: I went out there and bought both versions.  That's right, both Ruby and Sapphire have contributed to my review, and for good reason, too.  With one version, Sapphire, my goal was to simply beat the game's competition aspect; fight trainers, fight evil-doers, beat gyms, beat the elite four, all that.  In the other version, Ruby, my goal was to collect and train, making the game last a lot longer (Sapphire was over very quickly when I played to challenge).  So, I now have a good idea on both types of the games' cherished mechanics.  And, with that said, on to the review.

In order to decide how good the two new POKéMON games are, I have found that it depends on how you look at it.  On the one hand, as a game on its own, the new POKéMON is a fairly good game.  Sure it has its problems, but we will get into those later.  But, on the other hand, if you compare the new games to POKéMON Gold, Silver, and Crystal (assuming you liked G/S/C), than this game is pretty much an utter failure.  The game did make some advancement as far as some of the classic features go, though.  For instance, both the statistics pages and the POKédex itself had some big chances.  When you check the statistics of a POKéMON, now, you can see exactly where you caught it and at what level; an interesting feature for those who like to check their progress.  As for the POKédex, you can now see a size comparison chart, showing you how big you POKéMON is compared to you.  That last one is not particularly helpful or even that interesting, but I am sure it is pleasing someone out there who is curious and has no understanding of measurements.

To begin with, I will give you some points to be frowned upon as compared to the first two series of POKéMON games; after that, a look at the game on its own, both the highlights and the downfalls there.  First off, my biggest complaint when compared to the games before these would have to be the POKéMON.  Now you can agree or disagree with me here, since by now you have probably seen them all on the net, but I personally feel most of the new POKéMON just suck, completely, and that most are highly unoriginal, if not blatant POKéclones of the originals.  Some of it is enough to make you feel bad, even lowering your head in shame. And, if you purchased this game already, you should be ashamed; you are only fueling their evil!

I also have to make mention that while Hoenn is quite huge, I think perhaps a little bit more of the old games should have been squeezed in, if not at least a portion of Johto you could visit.  To that same note, the new games are advertised on the back of the box to have "over 200 POKéMON appear with over 100 new discovered species," you can do the math, but that is a lot of the games heritage lost.  Also, on the further not that perhaps I just need to see in words to understand, you are going to replace Pidgey with Taillow, its clone, but you are going to leave in Magikarp, even with its clone, Feebas?  And Zubat, oh Nintendo, why did you keep Zubat?  There isn't even anything remotely cool about this I'll-appear-every-two-steps-inside-a-cave POKéMON, except maybe Crobat.

I also have to mention, for those of you who don't know, the clock in your bedroom is fairly worthless.  Aside from apparently regulating berry growth and the tides, night and day have been completely abolished from the game.  And, as you might have guessed, the wonderful diversity of POKéMON that only appear at certain times of the day has disappeared with it.And for this I will never forgive Nintendo.  Days of the week also went the way of the Kabuto, and with it are the day-corresponding special events, like the bug catching contest (though the Safari Zone has returned).  The POKégear, which originally contained said clock, has been replaced by the POKénav.  This also means that your cell phone is gone, so there are no calls about rare POKéMON or trainers looking for a rematch; if you want that, you are forced to learn how to use that bizarre Trainer Eye-thing.  I am still confused on that one.

Now, a few small notes to finish off the comparison.  There is no specialized POKéball maker in R/S, instead the old craftsmen from G/S has been somewhat replaced by Devon Corp, who released something like three new POKéballs.  The berries from G/S have also been changed, aside from being more varied, the trees they grow from now disappear once they are picked, forcing you to replant them with the berries you just got.  Many of the gym types that were in G/S were duplicated in R/S, yet there is still no Dark-type gym.  Your rival, who is the opposite gender than you and the child of your starting town's professor, is no longer evil or misguided, but instead is a guide.  As you progress, he/she will show up often giving you directions or an item after every encounter.

And now, an analysis of the game by itself, or at least with limited allusion to previous versions.  Though, be forewarned, a look at the game on its own does not mean a series of isolated compliments, because the game does have flaws on its own.

Let us start with the highlights of POKéMON Ruby and POKéMON Sapphire.  I must admit that I do enjoy some of the new POKéMON that Nintendo introduced, especially the starters (though I think Mudkip and its evolutions are Wooper and Quagsire rip-offs).  Other than those, I should say that some of the POKéMON did feel a much-need and desired gap that had been lingering and expected for quite some time.

While there is unfortunately no new POKéMON type or the much-rumored third type in this series, Nintendo give each POKéMON a characteristic.  A special ability that lends them certain in-battle attributes that, at times, can be almost as good as a third type.  When the characteristics rarely give a POKéMON a defense to something, there is hardly a case where the POKéMON gains a weakness from its characteristic.

Another of the games highpoints includes the two-on-two battles, which allows you to, well, have a battle with two of your POKéMON with two of your opponent's, at the same time.  Sadly, no Final Fantasy-like battles featuring multiple creatures of the wild.  Also, the Coliseum competition has been extended to allow up to four trainers connect their GBAs and engage in combat.

The Team Rocket fill-in groups of R/S, Team Magma of Ruby and Team Aqua of Sapphire, play a more active role in the game than Team Rocket ever did.  In fact, the teams are the story in this game, as you play to avert the world's destruction at the hands of these deluded and land/water-loving POKégangsters.  As a side not, the team opposite your version, almost works along side you, realizing the consequences of the other team's actions.

POKéMON Ruby and POKéMON Sapphire also have another great first: the main character actually has a father this time.  That's right, no more struggling single-mother anymore, because good old dad is also a successful gym leader.  A gym leader whom you will have to face and beat fairly often in order to progress.

The new games have the traditional revamp of the POKédex, as well.  Only, this time, it is not only style but also size.  While both the R/B/Y series and the G/S/C series followed the standard of six lines of 18 characters across, the new format has almost doubled that, sporting six lines with almost 40 characters across.  It may look odd in writing, but I am sure you will notice the difference.  As you might expect, I must now move into the downfalls of the new game.  And guess what, it starts with this new format.  Nintendo, if you are not going to use it, why have it?  Half of the new POKédex files hardly fill up the space they have; instead they have a one full page and then little more than a single sentence on the next.  You were better of sticking to the old standard, Nintendo, either that or get some more "think" into those "think tanks."

The game also had the much-awaited weather, however, certain weather was only in certain areas and it lasts forever.  Certain areas, like the town covered in a constant cloud of volcanic ash, are understandable, but having an area of eternal sandstorms and rain is not going to pass.

The new games also tried too hard to make-up the types that were under-represented in previous version, such as Dragon-types and Dark-types.  I mean, in my opinion, I see no reason why a blue bird should evolve into a dragon, and a dragon that doesn't even look like a dragon, at that.

Finally, as has been said, I too was disappointed with the complete lack of the L and R shoulder buttons.  Even if one activated your POKédex and one activated your POKénav, it would have been something, at least.

Highs:

  • Over 100 new POKéMON.
  • More varied and useful berries, including the making of POKéblocks.
  • Two-on-two battles, including a gym with one.
  • More involved evil gang and strong plot adds to epic feel.
  • New POKédex size include much more info, sometimes.
  • Hoenn is a huge area.

Lows:

  • Kanto and Johto were also very large, but they and hundreds of classic POKéMON are nowhere to be found.
  • Unoriginal POKéMON.
  • Zubat is still here.
  • Day, night, and days of the week are all gone.
  • Character clones: Lanette replaces Bill, Devon Corp replaces Silph Co.
  • Zubat.

Final Verdict:

Flashing the illusion of a good game, riding on the fame of R/B/Y/G/S/C, and toting a "Return of POKéMON" banner, POKéMON Ruby and POKéMON Sapphire probably sold more copies than it should have.  Before POKéMON fans knew what had happened, we were plunged into a world where it was always day, where the weather is always the same to some people, and where POKéMON and people all try to be something that they are not. And personally, I want out.

I have heard that the missing POKéMON are in the game, but that they cannot be acquired until Nintendo unveils its [Insert random rumor about E-Card, Game Boy Player, or POKéMON Stadium III here] scheme.  Maybe the traditional Special Edition version will give us something to look forward to.

If you can accept this game on its own, without comparing it to the other games in the series, than feel free (and safe) to buy it.  However, if you are like me and cared deeply for much of the game play in G/S/C and you were a fan of all the classic POKéMON, than stay back, way back.  If you go within a five-foot radius of this game it will suck (or sucker) you in and make you purchase it.

The same principles for above can be used for the scoring.  If you are in the demographic that loved G/S and despised Zubat, subtract two points from the score.  However, if you can accept this game on its own and love Zubat, add two points to the score and then seek medical attention.

Overall Score: 7.5

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