Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were the first in the generation of GBA Pokémon games, and were considered a massive step up from the limitations of the Pokémon games on the GBC. Ruby and Sapphire were also the first in the series to try and introduce a true narrative to the game, beyond the standard “win all eight badges and become the champion and catch ‘em all” story that previous games had. Results from this were mixed, and began the first split which was seen in the fans of the series, with some people remaining stalwarts of the older generations, with others being supportive of the third generation, beginning with Ruby and Sapphire.
Well, it’s a better attempt at a plot than the older games were, I will give them that much. Yes, you still have to defeat all eight gym leaders and become the champion by defeating the Elite Four, but there are also the strands of more plot woven into it. For the first time in the series, the two games have a slightly split storyline between them, with a different rival team to fight against depending on the game, and different events leading up to the culmination of the fight with the cover legendary. There’s also some gender different dialogue depending on which character you select to play as at the beginning at the game. Ah, and for the first time, you know who your dad is in the game.
Well, on one hand, some of the music for this game was brilliant, especially the disaster music for when the plot kicks in near the end of the game. Other music, such as that for Mt. Pyre (inside and outside) is very atmospheric. Some of the other stuff is very much an earworm – although I’ve not played these games for a long while, I immediately have the Lilycove City music in my head.
Other bits of the soundtrack aren’t so brilliant though. Most of the remixes of older tunes from Gold and Silver butchered the original (in my opinion), and it was quite painful hearing what has happened to them. Saying that, I liked what they did with the SS Anne music…
Some variation in the surfing theme would have also been appreciated, especially considering how much of the game is spent surfing, and the surf music will grate on your nerves after a while.
One of the areas where this game is let down, but not let down at the same time is the noises the Pokémon make. A lot of criticism is made at the fact that the Pokémon cries are not the names of the Pokémon, as is the case with the animé, and it’s more some weird… urm… cry. It’s also quite difficult to tell some of the Pokémon apart from just their cry. However, it’s a series staple for the Pokémon to have this kind of cry (still the case into the 6th Generation main series games!), so I personally wouldn’t like to see a change here.
I will admit, I was hoping for a much larger leap from the GBC 8-bit graphics to the 16-bit GBA graphics, especially compared to other games which were out on the GBA at the time that Ruby and Sapphire were released.
However, the graphics are pretty. I personally like how you leave footprints in sand and the reflections when standing next to a water feature such as the ponds or puddles. However, more could have been done in the way of detailing the backgrounds. They look quite flat and plain, especially when you’re surfing on the sea. The weather effects were pretty good; I especially like the lightning flashes that you get when there’s a rainstorm, as well as the sandstorm effect in the desert.
One other criticism I have is that of the battle screen backgrounds. Surely more could have been done there? Make no mistake, I like the effects used for attacks, but the actual screen is kinda boring. As for the Pokémon themselves, they work, I like the style of sprites which are used for them, and they’re nice and colourful, so no complaints there.
Guess who never had anybody to multiplayer with? Yeah sure I had two GBAs and a link cable for trading, but that was the extent of my multiplayer experience.
It’s a Pokémon game, so the game can be won with something as pathetic as a Magikarp, as long as it’s grinded in level enough. Sadly any challenge in this game can be easily overcome by grinding. I once did a Zigzagoon challenge on this game (6 Ziggies, no evolving and nothing else) and I managed to complete it with very little hassle. Though I have developed a bit of a nervous twitch around Fighting types now as a result.
As far as setting yourself a challenge to make this game harder, there’s several, ranging from monotype challenges to the famed Nuzlocke challenge. This game can be difficult if you want to make it so.
What can I say? The game follows the near-inviolate formula just about every other main series handheld Pokémon game has. Start with one Pokémon, head out into the grass and catch more, and raise a team of six Pokémon to take on the Pokémon Gym Challenge, win all eight gym badges and take on the Elite Four, defeat them and become the champion. Oh and also fight off a rival and the enemy team at the same time.
However, slight changes have been made to the battle system, although it still follows the basic you send out one Pokémon at a time, you select an attack, your opponent does, and so on in a turn-based system. Double battles have now been introduced, where you send out two Pokémon at once, and care has to be taken as some attacks now affect more than one target.
Pokémon now also has a nature and an ability system. One affects battles directly, whilst another is more subtle in how it affects the gameplay. The ability system means that each Pokémon has an ability which can come into effect during a fight, and change the course of things. For example, a Pikachu may have the Static ability, which means every time the enemy makes a move which physically contacts Pikachu (so most Fighting type moves, etc.) there is a 30% chance that the enemy will become paralyzed.
Natures on the other hand, of which there are twenty five, are more subtle. They directly affect stats by giving one a multiplier of 1.1% and decrease another by 0.9%. This makes choosing Pokémon for training slightly more tactical – for example, you wouldn’t want a special attacker to have a nature which decreases its special attack stat. Oh, and there are also five neutral natures which don’t have an effect on stats.
There have also been some additions made to the game so that there is more to do. You can now enter your Pokémon into contests where they have to show off their moves and impress the judges. There is a tactical element to these contests where you have to take advantage of certain moves to disable the opponents, or set up a move for the next turn where you can score more points. The nature system also ties into these contests. Before a contest, you have to feed your Pokémon items which improve its prowess at each contest type, and certain natures see a larger increase in these improvements for these contest types. It’s usually worth having separate Pokémon for contests and battles, as optimal contest movesets usually end up being fairly crappy battle movesets.
There is one major complaint with these games. Usually catching all the Pokémon is a major premise of this series. When Ruby and Sapphire came out, it brought the total to 386 Pokémon to collect. So of course… there’s 202 Pokémon available in these games. Although the problem was somewhat rectified when Firered and Leafgreen were released, as well as Emerald, some Pokémon have remained uncatchable in this generation.
Oh and the day and night system was removed from the second generation, that bugged me quite a bit. I liked having Pokémon which were only catchable at certain times of the day or certain events happening at different times of day, and I’m sure these games would have been able to cope with it, especially as the last generation did.
Ah, before I forget, there is one problem this game does have with the in-game clock. After a year (or 100 hours of game time, whichever is first), the in game clock will die and timed events will no longer occur – for example berries won’t grow and sales at the department store won’t occur. It’s mildly annoying when it happens, especially as there’s no way to prevent it from happening. Since this became a known problem though, there is a way to patch the game through Leafgreen and Firered, although this does require a second GBA, a copy of those games and a link cable. At least it’s fixable, eh?
Well I can keep replaying this game over and over again. It’s one of those games you’ll pick up after a while to dust off and go through again.
Replay Value: 7
It’s a Pokémon game on a handheld with a very set formula so anyone who’s played one should know what to expect from it. It was a good first time outing for the series on the GBA.
Written by Karen