"A Worthwhile Experience, but Could've Been So Much More"

Introduction: Ah, Pokemon. The cult hit that's made so many tykes go crazy. It isn't as popular in America now as it once was, but that doesn't mean the games have fallen in quality. The games are really the only parts about Pokemon I ever liked. (Excluding the lukewarm Pokemon Snap, Hey You Pikachu, and Pokemon Channel games) Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire is as good as ever. The graphics are decent for a GBA game, the new tunes are catchy, the classic formula is there with some new features, and the story is...erm...ok, I guess, for a Pokemon game. I became addicted all over again when I started playing it. But do you really want to go through the same game again with a new face?

Graphics: The graphics for Ru/Sa aren't exactly ''wow''-ing. Yeah, there's the reflections in the water, the footprints in the sand...but where's the big graphical leap everyone was expecting? It's not there, but that doesn't detract from the game one bit. I've never really cared for overworld graphics in a Pokemon game that much. But if you're one of those people who absolutely must have everything improved in a sequel, you might be disappointed. The Poke-monsters themselves look very well done. They're all very colorful and some are kind of weird. Actually, that's one of the problems Ru/Sa has. The characters aren't as original as the old ones, especially the awesome G/S/C batch. Still, that doesn't kill the game. There are some cool-looking newcomers, such as Groudon and Absol. In battles, the animations aren't Matrix-quality or nothing' but they're still good. I kind of wished there was more going on in the battles and that some monsters would move a bit more. Also, the battle backgrounds are a bit plain. That area could've used a little innovation. Overall, graphics gets a 7/10.

Sound: Not the best here, either, but good. The new tunes are pretty catchy. The song playing when the title's up, oh my god, they could've at least put something that won't make your eardrums writhe in pain. Anyways, the music's ok. One of my favorites is the gothic-sounding one when you fight Groudon or Kyogre. So, the music's better than average at least. The sounds are good for the most part, nothing particularly annoying. However, the Pokemon cries I still find questionable. Half of them sound the same and listening to them with the new Pokedex feature is pretty pointless. Still, like graphics, this won't kill a game. You can always turn the sound off, anyways. Sound gets a 7/10.

Gameplay: Here's where the game starts to go uphill. The classic Pokemon formula is all here. If you've never played Pokemon before, here's a typical battle: You encounter a Linoone. Let's say you send out your Swellow. You attack with a lightning-fast Aerial Ace move. The enemy Pokemon is a higher level than your Swellow, though, so it resists the attack and KOs your Pokemon in a few turns. What next? Well, Linoone is a Normal-type and is therefore weak against the Fighting-type. You just happen to have a Makuhita with you, so you send it out and after a few turns the Linoone is out. See, this simple formula is what makes this game so great. It's so easy to use, but tricky to master, so you're always finding new strategies. No wonder it was so popular. The different types make you think and find certain strategies to use. One of my complaints, however, is that no new types were added to this installment. Why's that? G/S/C added TWO new types: Dark and Steel. And Ru/Sa has none? C'mon, Nintendo, get off your butts and add more new things to this series! One thing they did add was Abilities. Each Pokemon has an Ability, which affects certain conditions in battle like the weather or stats. That adds a nice twist to the standard formula. Also, each Pokemon has a nature. There are different natures such as Naive, Quiet, and Impish. These natures affect how your Pokemon's stats will increase. One nature may raise strength a lot but raise defense slowly. Finding a good Pokemon with the right nature can really help you dominate the opposition. Most Pokemon have genders as well. Some, like legendaries, have no genders. I'm not going to ask why. These genders enable your Pokemon to breed and create offspring, which have characteristics of both parents. Using breeding, you can have a baby Pokemon learn moves from its father it otherwise wouldn't have been able to learn. Also, some Pokemon can only be obtained using breeding. Kinky. Also added to Ru/Sa are berries. These berries played a minor role in G/S/C, but this time around they serve many different purposes. There are many different berries, and each one does a different thing. Some cure status ailments, others can be fed to your Pokemon by combining them with other berries in ''berry blenders'' to make Pokebloks. These Pokebloks raise Beauty, Cute, Smart, Tough, or Cool attributes of your Pokemon. These attributes are used in talent show-like contests where your Pokemon is judged on how Beautiful, Smart, Cute, Tough, or Cool it is. These contests are quirky, but the fun dies down after going through a few contests. With that out of the way, I LOVE what they did to the storage boxes. In the past games, the boxes were a clunky and confusing nightmare. You also had to save EVERY time you changed boxes! Well no more! The PC storage boxes have undergone a badly needed makeover. Withdrawing, depositing, and changing boxes has never been easier in a Pokemon game. When you open a box, you see a bunch of colorful little Pokemon symbols all together so you can instantly pick out which one you want. Changing boxes is nothing more than pressing right or left on your control pad. You can even change the background of the boxes! This new accessibility is easily the best improvement of Ru/Sa, period. Now on to the hideouts. In Ru/Sa, you can make your own little hideout in the wilderness to keep all your digital Pokemon stuff. It's quirky, but nothing special. Then there's the addition of the Mach Bikes and Acro Bikes. These are cool and help you get through tough spots in the game, but they aren't used nearly enough. They're used mostly in the Safari Zone later in the game. A new feature is the 2-on-2 battles. These add even more strategy into battles, but sadly there aren't nearly enough 2-on-2 battles in the game. Adding more could've helped. There's so much to do with gameplay in Pokemon, it's hard to remember it all! Overall, gameplay scores an 8/10.

Story: Well, this is certainly the best story in a Pokemon game I've seen. It's different from the ''catch 'em all, become the best'' premise of the last games. This time around, Team Rocket is gone and replaced by newcomers Team Magma and Team Aqua. Which team is your enemy depends on which version you're playing. In Ruby, your nemeses are the members of Team Magma. They want to expand the land on Earth to make more room for humans and Pokemon alike. In Sapphire, Team Aqua wants to expand the oceans to make more living space for water Pokemon. That kinda puts a damper on your plans to become the best, eh? Each team wants to capture one of two legendary Pokemon: Groudon or Kyogre. Magma wants Groudon and Aqua wants Kyogre. You have to stop them from capturing these beasts. It's a simple enough plot, but not as deep as they should've made it. When are the developers going to take some time to craft out a good story? *sigh* Oh well. Over 100 new Pokemon have been added, unlike the previous installment where only 100 were added, now it's over 100. Sweet. Too bad the new Pokemon aren't as original as I'd have hoped for. Ruby and Sapphire takes place on the new island Hoenn, distant from Johto and Kanto. Unlike G/S/C, you can't travel back to these islands. That would've extended this surprisingly short game's play time. There are also some side quests, like hunting for the Regi-Pokemon, but those are too quick too. Might as well wait for the next installment to bring any major improvements to the story. Story gets a 6/10.

Replay: Pokemon is one of the few RPGs to actually include some decent replayability. You'll spend hours looking for all of both games' 200 Pocket Monsters, just to fill up those empty spaces in your Pokedex. This alone can keep you playing for over 100 hours total. Also, there's the Battle Tower that tests your abilities to win prizes. Sadly, that's all there is to do once you reach the end. Once you beat Ruby/Sapphire, everything's too easy. One-hit-KOs become too common, which brings down the challenge quite a bit. That's a shame, really, as some more challenging battles would have made me a happier camper. There is some E-Reader connectivity that adds some replay value...about five minutes of it. Replay scores a 7/10.

Buy or Rent: Buy if you're a Pokemon fan, rent first if you're not. For the Pokemon fans who buy the game: be prepared for some fun, but also for the disappointments that come with it.

Overall Score: 7/10. It's plenty addictive, but it wears thin once you're done. Here's hoping that Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green are better.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/14/04


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