Review by Ice Water

"It makes you wonder why the hell you even bother with the first two games anymore."

Nintendo sure has come up with the perfect formula for their hot series Pokemon: create a new game one year with two versions to get people addicted and then create a superior version in a year or two that puts the last two to shame. In 2003, Nintendo created the two versions of Pokemon that created a revolution for the way the game was to be played. Ruby and Sapphire came, brought forth new Pokemon, moves, items, contests, and features that caused quite a ruckus. 2004 came, and Nintendo brought back Red and Blue in a completely made over form known as FireRed and LeafGreen. These two games brought back all of the Pokemon that you remember and loved from back in the day, along with all of the features that made Ruby and Sapphire great games. 2005 is now, and Pokemon Emerald has hit the market, being the Yellow/Crystal version to Ruby/Sapphire. So how much has changed within a year or two's worth of time? Loads of stuff.

Of course, no Pokemon game would be complete without the storyline that's used over and over with minor changes! You are a gym leader's kid, and have recently moved to a small town in the Hoenn region. You decide one day to meet your neighbor, who is a boy/girl (depending on the gender you chose for yourself) about your age that has no ambition whatsoever in the Pokemon world except to help his/her father Prof. Birch to complete his Pokedex.

You get bored and leave his/her house, only to find that Prof. Birch is in trouble! You swipe one of his Pokemon, be it the fire type Torchic, the water type Mudkip, or the grass type Treecko. After you save the professor from the renegade Pokemon, you head back to his lab and are given instructions to go take on his child. You take him/her on, and decide you liked the taste of victory so decide to go hit the road. Your adventure begins.

Along the way, you will face not one but TWO evil teams known as Team Aqua and Team Magma that are trying to change the face of the Earth permanently, much like they did in Ruby/Sapphire, but this time the storyline actually works them in better. Somebody called for an exterminator, and you are the one to answer the call during your quest. Happy evil corporation hunting!

Not too much of a difference compared to any other version of Pokemon, but its still good enough to keep you interested. My only problem with the story is that your rival in this game has no ambition to take the title of Pokemon Champion like your rival did in Red/Blue/Yellow/FireRed/LeafGreen, or in Gold/Silver/Crystal. Bogus.

Game play
AKA the stuff that keeps you coming back for more. Pokemon Emerald surely does not fail in this department. Keeping the original formula of using your starter Pokemon to weaken wild Pokemon to the point where you can throw your Pokeball to capture it, and then add another Pokemon to your team (max of 6 for your useable party). The concept of being able to customize how you play this game to the very core can make this game as hard or as easy as you want it, and with 386 Pokemon to choose from, you have a vast selection to choose from. And with the paper-rock-scissors battle style (i.e.: Lightning moves will destroy Water types, but won't do a thing against ground types), you can know for sure that your team will need a healthy balance to be able to defeat anyone or anything.
Every Pokemon in the game also have special Abilities that are unique to the Pokemon, and natures that are unique to each and every Pokemon that you will come across. Abilities can range from protection to sleep, to increasing your Pokemon's attack after they lose 2/3 their health. Natures on the other hand effect how your Pokemon's stats will develop. An example of this would be a Pokemon with a Hasty nature will gain speed at a faster rate than a Pokemon with an Adamant nature, but will gain stats in another category at a much slower rate. Creating the perfect Pokemon with the nature's and stats that you want may take a while but adds to the game play in general.

So...if everything is the same, how does Emerald differ from the others?
Nintendo followed everything to the book on what they did for Crystal that they didn't put into Ruby or Sapphire beforehand. Taking an idea from Pokemon Stadium 2, Emerald introduces Battle Tents, which have replaced the Pokemon Contest halls in every town (except for the one in Lilycove City, which has now become the ONLY place for contests, with all the original ranks placed in there). These Battle Tents offer challenges that vary from tent to tent. One tent may issue you three rental Pokemon much like the Challenge Cup in Stadium 2, while another tent may test how well you have placed your moves on your Pokemon based on their natures. The Tents are a welcome challenge to the game, and may even add on more hours of game play.

Added at the end of the game is the new Battle Frontier, which works in a similar way as the Sevii Islands did to FireRed/LeafGreen, offering you a new location to battle trainers, and put your Pokemon to a further test against the new Frontier leaders. Even better, you can now catch Pokemon previously seen in Gold/Silver/Crystal that did not make an appearance in Ruby/Sapphire originally! Holy crap!

A handy new feature is in your already handy Pokenav. Removing the Trainer's Eyes feature completely, the Pokenav now has the Match Call feature, which works similarly to Crystal's Pokegear phone. Most trainers that you battle now will add their phone number to your pokegear, which has the same amount of storage as the Trainer's Eyes feature in Ruby/Sapphire instead of the 10 number limit in Crystal (Thank God). You can now add your rival to the gear, which may result in getting a better chance in getting more matches in with that pansy. The best feature however is now you can actually get into a rematch with the gym leaders! It only took nearly 10 years for this to happen, but FINALLY you can take on gym leaders for a second time! Of course this won't happen until MUCH later in the game, but the fact that you can get in a rematch is good enough.
There are many more features hidden in this version of Pokemon that I haven't even discovered yet, but more noteworthy features that I have noticed are as follows:

-More Pokemon to catch after you beat the Elite Four
-The ability to control breeding to an extent
-More spots to catch certain Pokemon (Abra is now in two locations instead of one!)
-Pokemon originally uncatchable are now in later area's (Mightyena anyone?)
-Gym layouts have changed
-More double battles than ever before
-BOTH Team Magma and Team Aqua are there to wreck havoc
-And more!

Talk about a complete makeover.

Graphics and junk
Aside from having an entirely different intro, Emerald's graphics have not made a change at all, which is a good thing. The game is beautifully designed as it is, what with the solid animations of your character running, water reflecting clouds, rain falling to the ground, raging sand storms flying in the desert, ash falling to the ground near a volcano, mist forming in a cave, etc. And those are just the over world graphics! The graphics in the battle have all been tweaked, much like they were in Crystal with animations for EVERY SINGLE POKEMON. And not only the Pokemon are you battling, but YOURS AS WELL! Before each fight begins, your opponents and your Pokemon will move around a bit to show that they are more than just a picture now, and will then do battle with classic animations of your attacks being thrown at one another. It's even more than what was done in Crystal, and that is saying something.

Music and Sound
I don't know what to say about this really. The sound is your typical Pokemon fare, keeping the original cries from Ruby/Sapphire, as well as the classic dinging sound every time you hit the A button. The music seems to have actually GAINED a few extra seconds of play time as well, seeing how I don't remember a few tunes from a few of the original tunes playing on the over world map. Nothing wrong with that, but wow, they could have put the full version in Ruby/Sapphire. Other than that, the music from Ruby/Sapphire is still here, and still as nice as ever.

This game seems perfect, so why the hell did you only give it a nine?
Despite everything in this game that seems to be perfect, Emerald suffers from the same problem that FireRed/LeafGreen had: Trading limitations. Sure you can trade to any version of the game, do berry mixing with your friends in Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, or do berry crushing with your friends in Fire/Leaf/Emerald, but the very core of the game involves TRADING. And since I can't trade a Charmander egg over from Fire/Leaf/Ruby/Sapphire until I beat the friggin' game once to get a friggin' National Dex, I ain't happy, considering this was the one feature I loved most in Gold/Silver/Crystal/Ruby/Sapphire.

Being able to breed an entire team in egg form in your previous quest, trade the eggs over to a new game, then have an entire team jacked up and good to go in your new game was friggin' awesome! Cutting it all back to being able to trade with only Ruby/Sapphire in the beginning of the game hinders your trades to the 200 or so Pokemon limit that the Hoenn dex has to offer. Sure you can get a few trades in like this, but if your dream team involved a few Pokemon from Fire/Leaf, then you're royally screwed. If they had kept the Pokedex similar to Ruby/Sapphire, this truly would be the best Pokemon game ever.

Despite this limitation though, there is still plenty of room for replaying the game once you are done, and with all of the rematches going on, you may never even have to change games again, unless of course you really want to.

Buy this game now suckah.
Despite some limitations that prevent this from being the best Pokemon game ever (that title still belongs to Crystal in my opinion), this game has so much more stuff to offer than any previous version of the game, and therefore is a must by provided you like this sort of stuff. If you haven't bought Ruby or Sapphire yet, save 30 bucks and just get this version! If you have bought Ruby and/or Sapphire in the past (like I did), you're still able to fire it up with this version.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/10/05

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