Reviews: Pokemon Ruby And Sapphire
A halfhearted remake that doesn't know what it wants to be.
Since 2009, Pokemon crawled out of it's 2000's Dork Age with Pokemon Platinum, a vastly improved remake of Diamond and Pearl, and the best one since Emerald. Platinum was the breakthrough hit the series needed to get back on track, and Pokemon games since have reaped the rewards. Heart Gold and Soul Silver in 2010 were not merely great remakes of the Gen 2 games, but great games period. Black and White completely shifted the formula entirely, turning all the traditions and tropes the series became known for on it's head, and Black 2 and White 2 were great sequels that totally expanded the Unova region. The 2013 Pokemon games X and Y, brought the series into the third dimension, and was newstalgia done right. A perfect blend of Pokemon Past and Present. In short, Pokemon games have been on an upswing. The franchise was soaring to new heights never before seen. Each new game brought something new and spectacular to the table. Until this game. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, after their stellar predecessors, seem to be made on the quick and cheap just so Gamefreak could get the increasingly inevitable Gen 3 remakes out of the way. It's headscratching design choices making this one of more mediocre entries in the series. This game doesn't know what it wants to be. A faithful remake of the original or an improvement, and it ends up being neither. If this game is going to add dumb bonuses like the Delta Emerald Episode, why is the Battle Frontier missing? Heart Gold and Soul Silver had it even though it wasn't in their original games. It gets worse when you learn the Frontier made it's DEBUT in Gen 3! So why isn't it here? You brought contests back. Why isn't THIS back? Also, for some reason, as if Pokemon X and Y weren't easy enough games, ORAS just goes over the edge of mockery. There is not a single difficult battle in the entire game. Trainers, the Villain Team, the Gym Leaders, and even the Elite Four are mowed down effortlessly. Little to no strategy involved at all. Unless you have terrible luck, this game is total cruise control. Besides access to some new legendaries, new Megas and Move Tutors, or you simply want to enjoy Hoenn again, there is really no good reason to play these games if you already have X and Y. Everything you can do here, you can do just as good if not better in X and Y.
ORAS: Remakes that succeed in a new way.
I've always been all for remakes, as they let a new genertion experience a game they missed, but tweaked for modern times. Heart Gold and Soul Silver were a Tough Act to Follow for me though, so I was a little worried... For those who played the originals: But these games ended up surprising me, though not in the way I expected. These are the first remakes made after Black and White, and it seems they took that game's approach: the main improvement of the remakes is the plot. The originals' plot was ambitious for its time, but it's become somewhat Snark Bait these days for its incredibly stupid villains and Admins who are practically non-entities. ORAS fixes that. Team Aqua and Team Magma now have actual reasons for what they're doing, and a lot of the more idiotic aspects of their plots (Sapphire's version of the Mt Chimney battle, mainly) have been Retcon'd to be actually threatening. Maxie and Archie are given far more unique characterisation, and their Admins are actual characters now rather than generic grunts with slightly different sprites. The rivals have vastly better story arcs, battles, and dialogue and even the more minor Gym Leaders have a huge amount of personality in their animations. A lot of the issues with the originals have been fixed too, Surfing encounter rates are lower, Flash is FAR less annoying and Trainer's Eyes rematches are vastly improved (making training easier and more fun). For those who haven't: With the sheer amount of improvements, I genuinely believe these to be far better games than X and Y, and would recommend them over those to any new players. The Dexnav in particular is such a great new addition you actually miss it going back to older games. It's a wonder they've never done something like it before. A huge amount of legendaries from older gens are available in this game, as well as a large amount of other Pokemon, making them great value. You are also able to obtain all Mega Stones with just one version, unlike X and Y. There's certainly enough content in these games to keep coming back for a lot time to come. The game's aesthetics are also better than X and Y IMO, really bringing Hoenn and its diverse environments to life with beautiful battle backgrounds and detailed areas. OR and AS are remakes that, ironically, feel the most fresh in their generation.
Pokemon Emerald (NOT ORAS)
This review concerns the core adventure (beating bad guys and being Champion). Multiplayer, contests, postgame, catching 'em all do not apply here) Pokemon Emerald, or the Chinese bootleg of it, was my first Pokemon game. For this reason, I do not have good memories with it. But biases aside, is it any good? Gen III introduces double battle, during which the balance of the game changes instantly. Moves like leer, growl, and surf became buffed while you'll need to think twice before pulling explosion. They don't happen often enough (and even less so in later non-spinoff games)to built a party specifically for them but they add a nice variety. The GBA games are before the Physical/Special split so if you have a fire Pokemon with high attack and low special you're screwed. I don't like how the Bag is limited, especially when Berries do not have their own pocket. Maxie and Archie are the first ambitious villains in the series as opposed to local Mafia, and the only two (in core games) to duke out at each other, creating some cool enemy mine. That being said they really need to have their eyes checked and think through their plans thoroughly. The Admins are there for the sake of having Admins. Steven is also the first Champion to be more involved in the plot. He is also one of the most popular, competing with Cynthia from Gen IV The shortcomings of the game have apparently addressed in ORAS. I do not have a 3DS (financial problems) but I hope in the 7th/8th gens Sinnoh will be improved and Vindicated by History. As it is I'd put Emerald above FRLG (blasphemy, I know) and below the DS titles. Why do I think so low of Gen 1? I don't, but you can read my review there.
Diversity is key
First things first: If you want to avoid meeting Tentacools on water, use repels. That solves ALL of your problems with surfing, so I see no reason to complain about that. Second of all, I will admit this was the generation that introduced me to Pokemon, so Nostalgia Filter may be in play here, but I will say that this region is the prettiest. You get to see deserts, volcanoes, secluded basins, floating houses, rainforests, heck, you can even go underwater. I have never seen such diversity before or after this generation was introduced, and for that I will never forget Hoenn. Continuing on, we have the actual Pokemon you see in Hoenn. The first pokemon you see in Emerald is Vigoroth, a sloth with the strength of ten men. Then you choose your starter; will you choose the Kickboxing Fire Chicken, the Ninja Sword Gecko, or the ever-so-loved Mudkip? You go through the routes and you meet Puppies that turn into Hyenas, Acorns that evolve into trees, a little girl that becomes a beautiful woman (or not), torpedo sharks...They've definitely stepped up their game from evolutionary lines that went from thing to bigger version of that thing (Grimer to Muk, Ekans to Arbok, Ponyta to Rapidash, the list goes on). Next up, the Legendaries. This was the first generation to explode with Legendary pokemon, and I've got to say, I love each and every one of them. There's a male and female Jet. Behemoth, Leviathan, and Ziz. Poke-golems. Pokemon from outer space. This generation seems to be going for a very diverse generation as a whole with tons of diversity, and having grown up in a place where I've been taught to celebrate diversity, this is just the perfect region for me. If you want to be introduced to an entire planet in one continental island, if you want to see just how Crazy Awesome Pokemon and their evolutions can be, and if you want to be introduced to a place so diverse that rumors where you go into Outer Space could actually be believable, then try Ruby, Sapphire or Emerald out. I can't guarantee you'll like everything, but for me, this was the perfect way to introduce me to a franchise.
The Problem with Ruby/Sapphire
Terrible villians. This is probably the single worst thing about Ruby and Sapphire. The simple fact that the antagonists are just... lame. Team Aqua is an organization that wants more oceans. Team Magma is an organization that wants more land. Why? I dunno. I really... I really don't know. Maybe the guy who started Magma's parents drowned or something? I don't know. Team Rocket was a criminal organization that stole Pokemon for profit. That doesn't make them great villians, but they at least have a clear goal, and you can understand why they would have that goal. You might question their methodology, but you don't have to question their reason. You constantly, constantly have to question everything Magma and Aqua do. They're almost pathetic, what with their childish squabbles. Hell, they are pathetic. They're arguing about land and sea like nerds over Star Wars and Star Trek. Sure. Their plans would have been more dangerous, more deadly than anything Rocket could come up with. But honestly? That somehow makes it worse. A lot people would die because some moron wanted more water. That's about as bad a death as you can get. The whole thing feels like an environmental message. A very bad, very poorly written environmental message with no connection to the real world. I could mention how the Pokemon new to this game all seemed kind of lame, or how having a space port but not letting you go to space is a real kick to the balls, but those are just little things. Story's never been important to Pokemon, but this game was just a little too weak for me to stomach. And I blame it on Magma and Aqua.
Generation III review
Gen III, disregarding the Gen I remakes, includes Ruby and Sapphire, and later Emerald. Setting: The Hoenn region, which is half terrain and half water, has a nature theme. Story: You fight against Team Magma (Ruby) or Team Aqua (Sapphire); both are fought in Emerald. The former wants to increase landmass for terrestrial life with Groudon while the latter seeks to expand the seas for aquatic life with Kyogre. It's unique from Team Rocket, but both are quite myopic about the side-effects of their goals, especially Aqua. Pokémon: Gen III introuduced 135 new Pokémon. Notice that the designs have become more detailed (some would say "complicated") as Ken Sugimori, while designing all the Mons of the first 2 Gens, developed a design team starting here. Competitively, they're generally better than what Gen II added, but not many aside from the legendaries (who started receiving a portrayal as deities as opposed to forces of nature like in the earlier Gens) remain top threats in the metagame, and this is when some of the more notable Joke Character Junk Rares debuted (ex. Luvdisc). Verdict: Gen III is probably the most neglected Gen, with the decline of "Pokemania" driving many fans to turn to Yugioh or simply drop the series. The lack of 2/3 of the first 251 Pokémon, along with Hoenn's isolation from Kanto and Johto and the lack of backwards connectivity with any previous games, didn't help matters. These games were actually much better than people think, having the first visually pleasing region, a slew of new Pokémon worth more to try than Gen II's, and the Battle Frontier in Emerald to give people a taste of competitive battling. However, there are several negatives. Aside from the aforementioned isolation from the first 2 Gens, Hoenn had WAY too much surfing, leaving you spending several hours seeing monotonous blue, the same Mons in the wild and on trainers' teams, and nothing to hear but surfing music. There also weren't quite so many new mechanics as in Gen II. Despite these complaints, Gen III is still a great addition to the series and I pity those who simply skipped it. 8/10 Don't miss my Gen IV review!
Why are Ruby and Sapphire often called "The boring Generation"? They're not bad games, they introduced a lot of new concepts, the graphics were lush... And yet, there still exists a vocal hatedom. Well, here's my personal account. Oh boy. I remember first reading about Ruby and Sapphire in a random gaming magazine, and what interested me the most was the new region: Hoenn. Truth be told, I was not a fan of Johto when I played Gold. Johto lacked the mystique of Kanto, the variety of pokemon, the feel. In many ways, Johto was Kanto 2.0. Yet here, we had a completely new region with no resemblance whatsoever to Kanto. Most of the previous pokemon were gone, replaced by 3rd Gen equivalents. There was a tram, a volcano, a desert with an eternal sandstorm... So many new locales! And the new evil teams... There were two of them! So cool! Then I played the games, and noticed the one thing I had missed before: A third of the region was water. I was not a fan of water routes before Pokemon Ruby, so I was not pleased to learn that many of the routes were water paths. Worse, despite the many new additions, pokemon variety on water routes stayed mostly the same: Tentacool, Tentacruel, and more Tentacool. Oh sure, there were Wailmers and Wingulls too, but the sheer amount of Tentacool killed my excitement to ever approach the sea again. The developers even seemed to notice how much water they included; the final gym leader is a water-type user! Now, Ruby and Sapphire did many things right. They introduced a plethora of new ghosts, darks, steels, and dragons, more than doubling previous numbers. They introduced natures, allowing more customization, as well as abilities, allowing for more battle complexity. Hell, the games were lush, colorful, and exploding with variety! New pokemon gazed out from every corner. There were trees, gremlins, chickens, dinosaurs, camels, sharks... Even a wind chime! And yet, I just could not stomach the single player because of the massive sea. This isn't really a review, so much as an explanation of what I personally found to be wrong with the game. Still, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire are landmarks in series history. They started many trends for future games, some positive (More ghosts, dragons, steels, and darks!), other negative (Multiple running or event-only legendaries). I like them, but I just can't love them.
Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald (Generation 3) (Game Boy Advance)
Possibly the most disliked generation in the series (until recently, I'll expand more on that later), Generation 3 was criticized for not having enough old Pokemon in it's regional Pokedex, too big a sea, and 'losing the magic' (most kids who grew up with Generations 1 and 2 were now adolescents who entered their "Pokemon is stupid and for kids!" phase) which the previous two generations had. Hell no. Pokemon RSE were groundbreaking. It was the first 'reboot' for the series, changing the underlying mechanics like E Vs and I Vs and making them simpler for the players. It included several things which make these digital mons more unique and lifelike, such as abilities and natures (which also add to gameplay). Berries from GSC were expanded upon, and now you're able to plant your own. And we finally got Double Battles! But let's not judge this game by the features it adds. In a series like Pokemon which has many installments to come, if a certain feature wasn't introduced this generation, it would be in the next. I wouldn't say RSE was good solely based on the features it introduced, what's important is the adventure and the gameplay. Gen 3 had the best atmosphere and variety in the regions, having a desert, a jungle, a volcano, a vast sea (YMMV, see first paragraph), and even an underwater cave! The music is some of the best in the series (just go listen to "Route 120" on Youtube!). Even Pokemon designs were top notch (Sceptile, Blaziken, Swampert, Flygon, Manectric, Salamence, Aggron... all incredibly badass). The difficulty was a huge step up from being non-existant in GSC (your paths branched after Ecruteak in Gen 2, meaning cities on both sides had the same level range, and post-game Kanto was dull and boring.) So, I mentioned that it was the most disliked 'until recently.' I have been noticing the fanbase for this generation growing in message boards, image boards, and everywhere else. There have been a lot more people supporting RSE in 'which generation is best' debates which crop up frequently. I'm fairly sure it isn't something I'm imagining simply because I want to believe it. It might even have to do with it's Woobie status. I'm quite glad that the hate for these brilliant games seem to be ebbing away. I'm eagerly awaiting the R/S remakes.