Not quite the "advance" the series needed.
- New, improved graphics on the Game Boy Advance
- Adds 135 new pokemon to catch and train
- Introduces pokemon Abilities and Natures, which dramatically changed the game for vets.
- Also added a host of small things, like double battle, tweaks to the IV/EV system, and contests
- Each version now has a different story: In Sapphire Team Aqua wants to flood the world, in Ruby Team Magma wants to cover it with lava
- Same addictive formula
- Has METAGROSS, which is my favorite pokemon
- When compared to Gold/Silver, this game doesn't add all that much
- Removes the day/night cycle. Why?
- Adventure doesn't seem particularly compelling in this iteration
- Improved graphics are nice but not substantial
- Loses the animations that were in Crystal
- E-Reader compatibility. Woo.
- Pokemon "ribbons" and "events" start what is easily my least favorite part of the Pokemon series
- Music is just ok, instead of the series' usual memorable tunes
- Pokemon in this generation really started to look stupid, like Game Freak was running out of ideas
- Grinding seems especially bad in this generation
- Can't go back to an old region for more post-game gameplay like you can in Gold/Silver/Crystal
Here we go again.
I'll make no attempt at hiding this: Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire was the game that caused me to get off the Pokemon train for a few years. After playing Pokemon Crystal and Pokemon Blue rather religiously, I was super pumped for a new Pokemon game on the super-modern handheld, the Game Boy Advance. Touting better graphics, music, and gameplay, it looked like it might be the best Pokemon game yet. But minimal improvements, the exact same gameplay, and design ideas that seem a step back rather than forward, and I put Pokemon Sapphire away and didn't pick it back up until nearly a decade later. This could also be since 2003 was when I was a junior in High School (I'm age-dating myself here...) and it was no longer "cool" to play Pokemon anymore (vs now, where I'm an adult and just do whatever the crap I want). We may never know, but Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire left enough of a sour taste in my mouth that it took a great deal for me to pick it back up in 2009.
It does have Mudkip, though. Mudkip is awesome.
Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire has a slightly different "plot" than the two Pokemon games before it. Rather than being a kid forged by destiny to be a pokemon master, instead you are some kid who moves into a new town, where your dad is a gym leader...in a different town. Huh. So why didn't you move to that town? Are your parents secretly separated? Well, whatever.
Anyway, your "rival" in this game is the other gender character choice (if you picked boy, it's the girl, and vice versa) and he/she is more of a friendly competitor than a douchebag (like in Red/Blue) or outright criminal (like in Gold/Silver). After that, you get to pick your starting pokemon from the usual selection of fire/water/grass, and off you go.
This generation of tons of pokemon who stand around with their arms in the air
The only one out of this crew worth picking is Mudkip, because he becomes a Water/Ground and has massively fat stats. Torchic is funny because it's a fire bird that turns into a kung-fu fire chicken, but he's somewhat subpar, and Treecho always has his hands in the air like he's Gandalf going "You shall not pass!" to every enemy. Plus he's grass, and nobody picks a grass starter (well, except in Black/White, but that's for another review).
Can I just say right here that I think 90% of the pokemon of this generation look really stupid? I know most aren't just horridly designed (like the infamous Ice Cream Cone or Goth Girl pokemon from Black/White), but there are really very few this generation that are visually appealing to me. When you no longer think the pocket monsters you catch look cool but instead look really stupid, you've sort of lost a good chunk of why you play Pokemon.
Why is your guy's hair white? I thought he was a kid?
There are a few changes made to this version that continue to increase the complexity of the series. First off you have Pokemon Abilities. These are passive traits that each pokemon has. Some are useless, some are extremely useful (like "grounded," which makes flying pokemon negate their electricity weakness). Each wild pokemon had one of usually two-three options, meaning if you really want to catch them all, you'll have to also get the ones with the unique abilities. These passive abilities really switch up the game, because some of them are pretty wild (like summoning a sandstorm that buffets both foes and allies the duration of the battle, even if the pokemon is swapped out), so picking both the right pokemon and getting the one with the ability you want is important.
Abilities also play a key role in breeding, but I won't get into that. Suffice to say baby pokemon can inherit abilities, which opens a whole new can of worms for those that like getting really deep into the pokemon breeding system.
Double battles are a fun diversion, but there's only a few and they don't radically change anything
The second big stat is Natures. Natures change stats (aside from HPs) by both 10% in the positive for one and 10% in the negative for another. Meaning that, again, the same pokemon you catch in the wild can have radically different stats than another. Following a pokemon's nature, and getting one with the right nature can be a pain (I never cared too much, even though I probably should have), but if you are just playing through the game and don't plan on fighting any actual people you'll be fine not worrying too much about it. Still, a nice new layer of depth.
Third we have double battles, which are like regular battles except...two at a time. These are slightly more tactical but not by much; some abilities now hit multiple enemies and others hit just one, but overall these are never more challenging than a regular trainer (except the secret double-boss battles after you beat the Elite Four).
Lastly, changes have been made to EVs and IVs, the secret exp stats that you gain over the course of the game on each pokemon that unlocks bonus stats at lv 100. This is really just for the hardcore, so I'm not going to go into it, just know it's been better balanced. If you can balance something as crazy as that.
"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"
These are all decent changes, but hardly as radical as anything in Gold/Silver, which introduced breeding, two new elemental types, held items, and more. But hey, it's still Pokemon, right? Even if the new monsters are dumb and it doesn't add that much, there's something sweet new in here, right?
Well...no. Not really. The game is the same as the past ones, to a fault. While this worked in Gold/Silver because technically it was just the second game, by the third you'll expect something switched up. While Gold/Silver was a solid sequel, this one feels like a meandering one. It just sort of wanders in, offers a few changes, and then stumbles around drunkenly before its friends have to order it a taxi home.
The worst part is it actually changes things for the worse. The most noticeable difference is the fact that the night/day cycle from Gold/Silver has been removed. What? Why? That added so much, from both an immersion and gameplay perspective, and axing it seems like a huge step back.
Those bugs just look so...stupid.
The other new "feature" from Ruby/Sapphire is one I hesitate to talk about, because I believe it was the beginning of the end for a lot of pokemon players. The "Pokemon Contests," which basically consist of just parading your pokemon with other pokemon in a selection of awful minigames (many of which you don't even play) make up a good part of the side-stuff in this game. Each pokemon now has five more stats (Beauty, Cool, Cute, Smart, and Tough) which are all completely useless except in these pokemon beauty contests. Later versions expanded on this stupid mechanic (why?) and it's...it's just stupid. Yeah, I get that this is a kids game, and I get that this is technically supposed to be "immersing" me in the world of pokemon, but parading my killer death machine in some beauty pageant just seems...dumb. Urk.
From a presentation standpoint, Ruby/Sapphire is just...ok. Yeah, the graphics look lots better because they are on the GBA, but battle backgrounds, rather than being solid white, are now solid green with some circles where your pokemon are. Nice. The animations from Crystal are gone for some inexplicable reason, meaning the pokemon are just as static and immobile as before. It looks as good as pushing cardboard cutouts around. The art style in this version is also weird (you'll notice if you put it up against any other pokemon game, before or after, it seems inconsistent), and the actual world you tromp around in looks dull. There is a cool town that lives in treehouses, though. So that's cool I guess. I just wish they'd put a little more time in their graphical presentation.
Music is...ok. The songs in Pokemon have always been a staple of the game, and switching over to the improved GBA soundboard meant it should sound better (like an SNES game vs an NES one). But to be honest, I can't think of one song from Ruby/Sapphire that I'd want to listen to again, while from every other generation (even Pearl/Diamond, which I also wasn't that fond of) there is at least one song I'll listen to on youtube from now and again. It just seems like a mediocre effort all around.
The final boss song is still cool though. I guess.
As it stands, I think Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire was a few steps forward, a few back, and it ended up close to around where it left off in Gold/Silver. It added a few decent improvements, changed up a few things that would help shape how Pokemon is played today, and added a bunch more pocket monsters to nab, but there was no denying the formula was going stale. You still caught the same crappy pokemon at the beginning, still got to the place with the bug pokemon after that, the first two pokemon were a rodent of some kind and a bird of some kind, etc. Game Freak and Nintendo were so comfortable in their formula they were terrified to change it, something that (unfortunately) continued into the next generation of Pokemon as well.
As it stands, there's a better Pokemon game on the GBA worth looking into if you really need one (more on that later), but for now I'd honestly suggest picking up Crystal before Ruby/Sapphire. It just doesn't bring enough new to the table, and the stupid-looking new pokemon don't help.
Also: I will not be reviewing Pokemon Emerald. Needless to say it's like Crystal only with less: there are a few more bonus missions at the end, you can catch both legendaries instead of just one, and it mixes up a few of the final bosses. That's it. I guess it's the "definitive" edition, but it wouldn't get any different of a score.
For its extreme lack of innovation, I give Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald a three out of five.
|But hey, at least you have a boatload of pokemon to choose from.|
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