Review by EJRICH
"A Dragon....Oh My!"
Foreword: Rather than letting a substantial time gap elapse before releasing a remake of Pokemon R/S, Nintendo decided to role with the flow and finish out pokemon's legacy on the gba with a nice remake of the smash hit pokemon gba games that definitely lead the franchise into its golden age. Yeah, they definitely could have held out to release a remake of a title that was still practically new, but rather than waiting and people loosing interest in the games in favor of pokemon D/P, they released a game that definitely treats those who have yet to buy into the franchise. I will say it here and now; you probably won't get much out of the game until you beat the elite four, as until then basically everything is the same with little additives to allow for a somewhat dry main game experience. It's when the post game roles in that you will be truly treated to a stellar experience. The inclusion of the Battle Frontier is definitely the saving grace in Pokemon Emerald, as not only does it allow for countless hours of fun, but it also is what I like to call a moveset fanatics dream come true. The Battle Frontier houses the game's move tutors, and with that you can have unlimited use of them. This was a great step above fire red's use it once and it's gone philosophy. Granted, you do have to pay for the moves through the area's currency, but in the end the ends justify the means in the fact that it allows you to put together sets without as much a hassle as getting the sets through breeding. That being aside, you also have access to the previous game's version exclusive legendaries, so that in itself basically saves time and drives the game's value to higher heights. The inclusion of the extra area in the safari zone was a nice plus as well, but to me it was just a way to include more of the game's critters.
The pokemon total is close to 356, and of that total you have access to a good amount of them. It still fuels the publishers greediness, as to complete your dex you'll still have to link up with the other titles to get the remaining few. Not that it really does anything, but it's always nice for the sake of completeness.
I'll say it here and now; I really thought that the story that this game tried to piece together was poorly done. It would have been better if they just ditched the idea altogether, as there's practically no use for it. The story, if you could even call it one, revolves around two teams trying to awaken the ancient beast of either the land or sea, and to that fact they wind up being a nuisance to you over all. I could have done without them, as to me it was basically a waste of my valuable time. Not to say that I don't appreciate the fact that they tried to put something together, I just believe that if you start something you should finish it. Don't just put something in and only give it a half hearted effort. I truly felt that they really gypped the story in the fact that they could have done more with it. Don't just stick something in and not fully develop it. That being said, the pokemon games have never really been known for a stellar story, so anything in reality is fine to the masses. You just sometimes wish that they could have proved themselves in what they do, fleshing out what some of the series long time players would have wanted.
This is what the pokemon fans truly relish every time they get their hands on a new game. In this game you may not have access to new critters to toy with, but you do have access to critters that were previously unobtainable. That to me makes it worth it to buy this game, as some really good pokemon never saw the light of day with the release of the previous titles. What I really like about Pokemon Emerald is that while it may not add too much during the main game, it really does toward the end. Not so much to actually warrant buying it if you already own the previous titles, but more than enough if you haven't already decided to get one. With the inclusion of the abundance of legendaries, it really gives you more of a controlling your destiny type of feel that is definitely hard to come by in most of the things you do. For example, while in previous game you had access to only one of the dragon birds, in this game you can actually choose which one you want to get your hands on. Not only that, but both groudon and kyogre make appearances at level 70, so that will save you some time in leveling up. With that, they also make you go and find them in a hint type of hunt, which ultimately makes you have to move at top speeds in hope of getting them before they move.
Battles are what truly makes this game what it is, as to me they are the only thing that really makes me return in the first place. The system itself is not terribly complex on the outside, which is fine for someone who just wants to play the game. On the inside however, you have a much more outrageously complex system that puts you in a guessing game without the proper resources. EVs and IVs make a return, along with Gvs and some other mechanisms that I can't seem to remember off the top of my head. To a competitive battler, these things can really make the difference when it all comes down to the wire, so whether or not you choose to invest the hours it will take to make your team is really up to you. It really adds to your time that you will be playing the game, as to be quite honest a team can take anywhere from a week to a month to complete depending on how much time you have to invest in the game. Whether or not you want to do it really depends on how you intend to use your team anyway. If it's just for in game, then it really doesn't matter; if it's for real life though, then it definitely does to all extents of the word. Not only will real life opponents have the ability have evs in their pokemon, but they may or may not also focus on the sets that make a pokemon tick.
I'll be really honest here; I believe that pokemon is one of the best games ever for one reason and one reason alone. And it's not because of the designs of the pokemon or the world in which you travel; it doesn't really even have anything to really do with the game. It stems from the fact that customization is truly there, and I believe that because of that the game excels. Not only can you choose between upwards of 356 party members, but you can also further customize them with move sets and stats and everything else. It's that kind of talent that is really lacking in the games of today, simply because they would never really bother to try and do something special. Not to say that the game itself is really special; they could have done much more with the series, but just the fact that is really has a strong base to work with is what makes these games what they are. Granted, all of the extras really help, but in my mind customization and how you execute it is what will really either make or break the game. I feel that over the years series have tried to duplicate this, and to a certain extent some really have, but I feel that what pokemon has accomplished just really can't be duplicated by some cheap trick. Back when these games first came out, the level of customization that was offered was basically unheard of, and I think that because of the timing pokemon really put its roots into the ground and flourished.
Now getting back to the game itself. The same get the eight badges and fight the elite four still seems to be the main focus of the game, and that's really nothing new. It's the world in which you travel to get to those leaders that really hits it home. I think when you first play this game you will be filled with a feeling of wonder and excitement, simply because you will never truly know what to expect next. I feel that because they created such big world filled with diverse inhabitants, they really added to the overall exploration. It's not like they just put the places on the map either; they really pushed the overall aspects of what to expect to a great degree of perfection. Each town is wonderfully designed, even if they do follow the same basic requirements of a center, a mart, and some buildings. That may be all well and good, but what they do with those structures is what truly makes each area special. Just the fact that they do include those necessities is always good, as without them you'd normally be in a real bind, but just having the towns filled with items to find and shops to explore truly pushes the fun of the game along. Not to say that it is terribly fun, as it's not, but just the fact of what they did with it is good. For example; one town has everything that I previously mentioned, but along with that it has beautiful flower petals flickering in the breeze, with the steam of the bath house rising in the air. This all sets the tone for a peaceful atmosphere in which to go about your business. A gym sits in the middle of it all, waiting to be conquered by your squad of pokemon.
Gyms typically entail you going in and fighting a bunch of trainers in hopes of reaching the leader. The leader generally specializes in one type, and depending on that type you could either have a hard or easy time of it all. The leader's squad usually is of a high level, and to that extent they usually test you to see what your team can accomplish. You'll know if your not good enough when you reach the gym, as it will quickly become apparent if your not of a high enough level. Your pokemon's levels gradually increase as you fight opposing pokemon, and depending on which pokemon you fight your pokemon will receive a general increase in experience points. Once your pokemon reaches a certain level of those points, they level up to the next level. I believe that this system is very well done, as it forces you to do what you have to do in order to be able to fight stronger opponents. Your ultimate goal is to reach level 100, but to the few of you that actually do bother to raise your team to that level I commend you, as it takes a good amount of time to do it. Pokemon contests return in pokemon emerald, with very few changes, if any at all, added to its general frame. You still compete in the same categories, with the same style and what not. I found pokemon contests to be a useless diversion, but my opinions are often different from that of other players. Still, to those of you who like to actually take the time to enjoy everything, this always helps. Along with pokemon contests, secret bases return to liven things up a little bit. I personally had little use for it, although through the irony of it all I used it to train my team by a substantial amount. You have the ability to link up with a friend, and once you do that you have the ability to fight that person's team as many times as you want, allowing for some easy ev training to those who take the time to do that.
briefly decided to go over the inclusion of the battle frontier in the opening paragraph of ht his review, but in this section I'll hopefully go over it in a more in-depth manner. The battle frontier can be accessed upon the victory of the pokemon league, and to that extent this is what would really drive the point home of not including much until the end of the game. You see, this is were you'll most likely be clocking several scores of hours as you try and conquer its depths. The battle frontier is divided up into several battle zones, each boasting its own form of a challenge. Once you beat that challenge a certain amount of times without loosing, you get to fight that area's frontier brain. The frontier brain could be considered much like the head honcho of the previous game's battle tower, and to that fact the battle will be much like it, only except you will be following that particular area's set of rules. The frontier brain is normally a good challenge, taking the things you've learned while you were traversing his or her area and putting it to the test in one heck of a battle. I personally felt like I was doing gym battles, just with trainers not specializing in one type in particular. The trainers basically require that you have a well diverse team, as some brains in particular are really nasty to battle with. I really liked the amount of diversity that was presented as I went throughout this place, as it really added to the game's overall experience. Now probably the most useful part of the battle frontier is the ability to use the move tutors. I explained previously that the tutors could be used multiple times, unlike fire red which had a one use limit. The one big difference though is that while fire reds were free, you have to pay for the moves in emerald. When I say that you have to pay, it's not with just regular cash either, no that would be too easy. They make you use an entirely different currency that can only be won at the battle frontiers facilities. The points aren't really that easy to come by either, as it usually takes a good amount of your time to just to win a couple. Of course there's the gambling alternative, but I really don't approve of it. Not only that, but it is generally a big waste of time to gamble as it generally just doesn't pay out. BP is the official name for the currency, and it can be used to purchase more than just moves. Sought out items such as leftovers or choice band are purchasable, as well as vitamins that are a steal at only one BP. Items that can be used to decorate your secret base can be bought for a rather hefty amount of BP, but to those of you that really want something unique they are definitely worth it. I personally love the ability to get all of these items, as previously they were either too expensive to buy or just too time consuming to get. Aside from the shops and battle areas that dot the map, you can also catch some pokemon that are native only to this island. Smeagle and sudowoodo are good finds, and are generally useful in their respective tiers. Other small houses dot the landscape, and are generally good if you want to have a good conversation with the locals.
Evolution is once again the basis of getting stronger pokemon, and to that fact it has probably generated a lot of hate for the series in general. Back when pokemon first came out, parental groups attacked it on the basis that it incorporated the basis of evolution. Evolution is probably one of the most controversial subjects to ever grace the planet, and for pokemon to include it as a basis of game play really seemed to tick these groups off. Needless to say, hate still resides, but I don't look too much into it, as it really is only just a distraction. It is really interesting though how the Japanese took something that predominately grew in their culture and introduced it into a game; just something to chew on as you say.
One thing that I can always say about the graphics in pokemon games is that they are always top notch in excellence. Every little detail is color saturated, and I think that that is an important part of what gba games should look like in general. Not to say that they are perfect, as they really do mess up in some areas, but just the level of quality that is expressed through these graphics is what you should truly focus your attention towards. Pokemon sprite movement returns in this game and whether people like them or not is another subject all together. I believe that they really look more like little dances, taunts almost, compared to just some movement. I don't like them, as they look kiddy sprites look even worse. Let me put it like this; pokemon sprites in general are made fun of on a consistent basis, and to that point I think that the people who do make fun of them have just cause. They really do look kiddy. Even the supposed cool pokemon look like pieces of little monsters out of a coloring book, and I don't appreciate it. The anime hasn't really helped this at all, and to be quite honest it kind of makes anything good that could possibly stem out of this worse. I could personally care less, as I've never liked the sprites anyway. I seem to just gravitate towards the game play out of it, as it truly is something else. One thing that I can say is that in my opinion the dancing being taken out of pokemon R/S was a god send to the series, as some people that I know actually avoided crystal for that very reason. One other bone I have to pick with it is that it is a waste of time. Sure; they look good at first, but after a while it is just a plain out waste of time. I really don't appreciate it, and maybe it's because I have spent so much time with the game that I have kind of grown immune to them. I don't know. All I do know is that if you spend any extended period of time with this game you will quickly care less for the animation. Moving forward to the next order of business; pokemon emeralds cities are really designed fantastically. One city in particular has you moving about a field of wild flowers swaying across the screen, with hot smoke protruding for a nearby spring. It is things like that that truly set a peaceful tone to an overall cheerfully rendered game. I like those moments of tranquility, and I really appreciate them that they would go to that extent to give that to me. I'll get into music in the next section, but I'd thought I'd mention this here while I'm on the subject. While you're in those peaceful moments, there really furthered by a nice, soothing melody that really puts a relaxing tempo inside of you, not to say that you play a game to feel tranquil, but it's things like that that I really appreciate. Other than that, most of locals you will be visiting as you go throughout your quest will range from a village of trees to a sea port. In between those types of areas will be huge towns and villages that can either really makes you take a ton f time to explore or not. One thing that I noticed as I was playing the game was the amount of pixels that would some times be distorted while you were playing. I didn't happen frequently, but it was there. Just thought I'd mention that. Getting back to the environments; the battle frontier in particular has some splendid attractions that range from you entering a giant seviper head to a rugged palace that sits atop the sky. Really interesting if you ask me, and it adds to the overall amusement of the area. The trainer sprites that make up you opponents are basically just rehashes of the previous game's sprites, so there's really nothing new there.
The musical tracks that this game presents to its viewers are truly both amazing and diverse. I thought that for the majority of the game they hit everything they did perfectly, and aside from some trivial mistakes that they may make here and there there's nothing really to complain about. Granted, I don't like the overall repetitiveness of the battle audio, but it's there, and it's always been the same throughout the game in all of the games. There's just nothing that they can do about it. Granted, it's not like it is that bad, it is just that they could switch it up like they did in G/S. I appreciated them doing that, and I am definitely sure you did to. As I commented on in the last paragraph; the game's audio really hits its mark in the form of knowing when to play something and were to play it. Going back to that peaceful area that I was talking about, a nice piano set is being played in the background of the area, and in it you can feel the nice little touches of trumpet and flute. The little additives like this that would populate a peaceful area really set a marvelous tone for the tranquility of the area. Normally, they use the same town music over and over again as you enter each new town, but since you really don't spend that much time in any particular town it really doesn't matter. It's not like what they do with the regular annoying route music that will keep being recycled from route to route. Since you are normally on these routes, it gets annoying. I'll be honest though when I say that even with those annoying moments, you really still remember those peaceful ones above all else.
I would definitely say buy here, as just catching all of the pokemon alone can take quite a bit of time. Raising a team doesn't exactly take peanuts either, so I'll say that you will most likely want to buy this game rather than pay the high rental prices to keep it for a couple of weeks. If you are just in it to beat the main game, then by all means just rent it, as it can be beaten in about 15 hours if you're going at a decent clip. My personal record is nine, but that's just me, a returning veteran that new what I was doing. Whether or not you want to pay the high game fee to buy it is up to you, as even being out for a long time it still costs just as much as it did the day it came out.
It's a great game overall, just plauged by some problems.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 03/05/07
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