Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire - Review

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 4
   Plot 3
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30-80 hours


Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire

   Pokémon is the most widely recognized name in the RPG genre. While the bulk of that recognition comes from the overwhelming amounts of merchandising, at its core, the Pokémon series is a solid line of RPGs with an emphasis on strategy and completism. This series now moves to the Game Boy Advance with Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire.

   The first things RPGamers will notice about the latest Pokémon game are the improvements that have been made to the graphics and sound. While still rather lackluster compared to the average game, Ruby/Sapphire no longer features the minimalist graphics and grating tunes the series is normally known for. Although each Pokémon's battle graphics are once again static after a brief foray into animation with Pokémon Crystal, while wandering the world, various staple features of the 32-bit RPG can be found. Still ponds reflect the main character as you walk alongside them, footprints are left in the sand, and so forth.

   As one actually begins to play the game, it will also become clearly evident the biggest problem which has plagued the series through its history, a highly awkward interface, has finally been addressed. Ruby/Sapphire adds a much needed run button, and makes drastic improvements to the system for organizing your Pokémon. The older games required the player to sift through boxes listing off twenty names at a time, with save prompts constantly popping up. This has been replaced with a customizable, graphical interface, with a number of extra features making it easier to sort and search your collection.

It's no Golden Sun, but they're getting there.
It's no Golden Sun, but they're getting there.  

   Surprisingly however, not everything about this new title is an improvement. The majority of changes implemented by the Gold and Silver versions have not carried over. Ruby/Sapphire lacks any backwards compatibility, although this is inevitable with the transition to new hardware. No longer however can players revisit the settings of the earlier games, no longer does the time of day and day of the week play a major role, and while the ability to crossbreed Pokémon remains, doing so is far less easy than it once was.

   Perhaps the biggest shock when comparing this game to its predecessors is the number of Pokémon available. While 135 new Pokémon have been added for this new title, a whopping 184 Pokémon did not make the cut from previous versions.

Twice the strategy.
Twice the strategy.  

   Aside from the obvious tweaks and cuts, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire have a handful of gimmicks to set them apart from the older games. The most publicized of these features are the occasional two on two battles. While these make for a refreshing change of pace from the usual one on one duels, ultimately they are too rare to be memorable, and too brief due to the opposition in such battles never having any Pokémon in reserve. The feature does however allow players to compete in 2 on 2 battles with their friends, greatly enhancing the multiplayer experience. Also receiving a good deal of hype was the fact that the plot differs more than usual between the two versions of the game, but ultimately this has no effect on anything but the ratio of fire and water based enemies encountered.

   The final gimmick is worth significantly more mention however. Aside from the usual battles, Pokémon can now be entered in a variety of contests, where they are judged on factors ranging from beauty to intelligence. While these have no real effect on the main game, this side quest offers up as much strategy and complexity as the battles do.

All in all, Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire is really a sleek streamlined version of the original. Fans of the series can expect to enjoy it, but in many ways it pales in comparison to the last set of sequels.

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