Thursday, 13 November 2014

Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald versions: Care for a tropical holiday?

On this day in 1995, I was born. On this same day in 2005, I received what would be the first of many games in this series: Pokemon Emerald version. And it is for that reason why I held this review back an extra day, to coincide with the 9th anniversary of me picking my first starter Pokemon.

Pokemon Generation III was a weird time for Pokemon. A large chunk of its fan base left the series as they thought they were to mature for it or they were "Pokemon'd out" due to the last two generations, while at the same time, a brand new wave of fans started to play the series. If you ask any older Pokemon fan, they'll tell you they either came in during the hype of Pokemon Generation I, or during Generation III more often then not. There were people who hated Generation III during its prime, but what about 9-11 years later? As with all my reviews, no nostalgia goggles here, time to pick apart Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire and in particular, Pokemon Emerald version.

As with Generation I and II, the formula for completion is still pretty much the same: Get starter Pokemon, defeat 8 Gym leaders, stop people who are trying to do evil things, defeat the champion and congratulations, you're done. However there are a few new things to this (for their time) along with gameplay that newcomers would find archaic. This is the list of new features from Bulbapedia:

  • The addition of 135 new Pokémon, the most added since Generation I (at the time of its release), bringing the total to 386. Many new Pokémon have previously unseen type combinations, while only two of them are related by evolution to older Pokémon.
  • Two new forms of Unown are also introduced.
  • The addition of 103 new moves, bringing the total to 354.
  • Pokémon may now have one or two of 77 different Abilities which can change the tide of battle or affect out-of-battle gameplay.
  • The Pokémon Storage System has changed from a text-based interface to a full-color graphical user interface. Boxes, while remaining at 14, now have 10 extra spaces, allowing for storage of 140 additional Pokémon (for a total of 420 Pokémon).
  • The introduction of Pokémon Contests, where Pokémon show off their style in one of five Contest conditions, with Contest stats enhanced by Pokéblocks. Through this and other methods Ribbons can be won for Pokémon, which they will retain when transferred to a Generation IV game.
  • A brand-new region, Hoenn, with its own set of eight Gym Leaders and Elite Four. Player characters are also different from before.
  • Seven new Poké Ball variants, replacing those found in Johto.
  • New villainous teams, Team Aqua and Team Magma, whose focus is on capturing the legendary Pokémon Kyogre and Groudon, respectively.
  • Weather conditions, introduced before, can now be found on the field and activate at the start of battle, while one more, hail, has been added.
  • Double Battles, where both sides use two Pokémon at a time, introduced.
  • Communication capabilities with the e-Reader to activate certain events.
  • All handheld Generation III games have a framerate of 60, allowing for smoother animations.
  • Link trades and battles are made possible between Japanese and international releases due to the use of a worldwide character set. Due to the fact that online trading was introduced only in Generation IV, however, most are not made aware of this. 
  • A complete overhaul of the Pokémon data structure; Pokémon now have an individual personality value which can range up to a number above four billion. Abilities and natures, also newly introduced, are determined based on this value, as is a Pokémon's gender, while the IV system has been overhauled for greater variance (0-31 rather than 0-15 as it was before). Shininess is now based on a calculation between the personality value and Original Trainer's Trainer ID number and secret ID number with the same rarity.
  • An overhaul of the Berry system introduced in Generation II: old Berries rejected in favor of Berries which grow individually as plants and can be picked and planted elsewhere. The effects of the first ten new Berries are similar to the ten Generation II Berries.
  • Each Pokémon has its own status screen sprite, for ease of use in the party screen or PC. 
  • The function of the built-in clock was greatly reduced. There are no cosmetic changes during different times of day and Pokémon appearances are not affected by time. Also, the day of the week is no longer tracked.
  • The seven Poké Balls made from Apricorns, along with Apricorns themselves, are unavailable in Generation III.
Implemented in Fire Red and Leaf Green (remakes of Generation I), but in Emerald verison:

  • Wireless communication between games (requires adapter boxed with FireRed and LeafGreen).
  • The ability to move multiple Pokémon in the PC at once.
Exclusive to Emerald version:

All links go to Bulbapedia so if you're curious, check them out but I will be covering some of them here.

As for the Gymleaders, most of them aren't anything special in game but I do want to bring up one in particular, Norman. While being a Normal type Gym Leader isn't much to talk about, he is the player's father. There's a bit more of a emphasis on family in Generation III overall, even though you don't have much of a reason to talk to your mother, unlike in Generation II. Professor Birch is the father of one of the rivals, who will be the unselected character when the player is picking their gender (something that will be retained in Generation IV and VI). While the battle itself may not be much to talk about (at least from my experiences), the fact that the Gym Leader is your father is a inspiring moment for the player and is a nice touch.

Team Magma and Team Aqua, two teams that changed how the villain teams interacted with the story. Up until Generation III, the only villainous team was Team Rocket who, overall, didn't play that big of a role in the story (but I'll explain that when I get to reviewing Generation I and II). Team Magma and Team Aqua started a trend in the series which would tie the legendary Pokemon closer to the main story. Team Magma want to make more land for the land based Pokemon and humans to survive and thrive while Team Aqua want to do the opposite, make more sea water for the water Pokemon to survive and thrive. To do this, they seek to take control of Groudon and Kyogre respectivly. I should note though

  • Pokemon Ruby: Team Magma are the villains while Team Aqua are the good guys. This means you CANNOT capture Kyogre in Pokemon Ruby, you need to trade.
  • Pokemon Sapphire: Team Aqua are the villains while Team Magma are the good guys. This means you CANNOT capture Groudon in Pokemon Sapphire, you need to trade.
  • Pokemon Emerald: Both teams are the villains with the villain events being split between the two and Team Magma getting a new secret base. You can capture both Groudon and Kyogre in Pokemon Emerald but only in the Post game.
 Speaking of Secret bases, throughout the Hoenn Region there are special trees and holes in walls. Using the move Secret Power, you can create a secret base to which you can decorate to your hearts content. If you exchange save files via the Game Boy Advance Link Cable (this was before good wireless transmission), you can go to friends secret bases and battle their teams at the time of the exchange at any time for some extra experience and money.
You can purchase new furniture and plush toys from markets throughout the region and, if you're lucky, you can go to the Lillycove Department Store during a sale and buy exclusive furniture, lie that slide shown in the screenshot above (sadly I've never been lucky enough personally :( )

Another new feature to Generation III was Pokemon Contests. Each Pokemon Move was assigned one of 5 traits: Cool, Beauty, Cute, Tough and Smart with special mini games representing the 5 traits. You are competing in a competition to see who can raise their meter the highest before time runs out by using your Pokemon's Learned moves, repeating a move equals less of a result, whereas if you use a move that fits the competition (eg a cute move in the cute contest), you earn a slight bonus.

As you collect berries, you can turn them into Pokeblock, which is used to raise specific traits for each of the contests so that your Pokemon performs better in them, each contest has 4 ribbons that you can earn equaling a total of 20 contest ribbons. In Pokemon Emerald, the only place you can participate in contests is in Lilycove City but in Ruby and Sapphire, Contest halls are also in Slateport City, Verdanturf Town and Fallarbor Town each one only dealing with one of the 4 classes/ difficulties. The three halls were replaced with Battle tents (more on that later). Once you know what you're doing, the contests are a fun little distraction, however they could have been better incorporated in the game, especially Emerald.

 

Now for something else that's completely new... kinda... Well new at the time. While an aspect was in Ruby and Sapphire, introduced in Pokemon Emerald was the Battle Frontier, the ultimate test of skill for any Pokemon Trainer. The Battle Tents from before follow specific rules that mirror rules in some of the battle facilities, those facilities being:

  1. Battle Tower: Run by Salon Maiden Anabel, 35 victories to get the Silver Ability Symbol, 70 to earn the Gold Ability Symbol. Features 3-3 single and 4-4 double battles with no major changes to the battle format. This is the only facility in Ruby and Sapphire.
  2. Battle Palace: Using similar rules to the Verdanturf Town Battle tent, the player cannot control the Pokemon in battle, only being able to watch with fighting styles changing depending on the nature of the Pokemon. Apart from that, same battles as the Battle Tower with 21 victories earning you the Silver Spirits Symbol and 42 to earn the Gold from Palace Maven Spencer.
  3. Battle Factory: To earn the Silver and Gold Knowledge Symbols from Factory Head Noland, you need to win 21 and 42 battles in either 3-3 single or 3-3 double battles using rental Pokemon like in the Slateport city tent
  4. Battle Pyramid: Do you dare to travel through a Pyramid to earn the Silver and Gold Brave Symbols From Pyramid King Brandon? To do so you need to concur the Pyramid 3 times for silver and 10 times for Gold. But the lights behave the same way as Brawly's Gym does and you can't bring in your own items, but instead finding items in the pyramid itself.
  5. Battle Dome: Time for a tournament, plain and simple. To earn the Silver and Gold Tactics Symbols from Dome Ace Tucker, you need to win 5 and 10 tournaments in 3-3 single or 3-3 double battles.
  6. Battle Arena: Arena Tycoon Gretta holds the Silver and Gold Guts symbols, and to earn them, you need to survive 3 turns and have the higher score then your opponent 28 times for the silver and 56 for the gold... If that sounds confusing then I suggest that you look up a battle in it.
  7. Battle Pike: Ah yes, Pike Queen Lucy. Luck better be on your side for this as you'll need it to earn the Silver and Gold Luck symbols. Each main room has 2-3 doors in it and a maiden who will give you info on one of the doors. You must then decide which door to go through and that door will lead you to one of these scenarios: 
  • Single battle: The Trainer walks up to the player and battles.
  • Double battle: Two Trainers walk up to the player and battle.
  • Single battle and healing: 3 Pokémon per side; winner's Pokémon are completely healed.
  • Wild Pokémon: wild Dusclops, Seviper, Milotic, Wobbuffet, Breloom, or Electrode appear.
  • No event: An NPC stands in the room but does nothing.
  • Status effect: A surprise attack will inflict a status on one or more of a player's Pokémon. The status includes Kirlia's burn, paralysis, poison, or sleep and Dusclops's burn or freeze

    Clear this puzzle 2 times for the Silver and 10 times for the gold

 While the Battle Frontier may not be as big as Kanto was in Gold, Silver and Crystal before it, personally think this is much better simply due to that fact that this is all new content (minus the Battle Tower, but that depends on how you look at it). Kanto is still the same as it was in Generation 1 with a few new changes to it which is fine, but not as substantial in comparison to something completely brand new, even if it's just new kinds of challenges.

Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald do come with some BIG problems though. For one thing, there is no compatibility between the GameBoy Advance series and the GameBoy Colour (yes I know the GBA can play GB and GBC games, that's not what I'm referring to) and as a result, if you have Pokemon in Gold, Silver or Crystal, they won't be able to be transferred up. To add to this, in order to complete the Pokedex in any Generation III game, you needed EVERY GAME RELEASED. You needed Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Fire Red, Leaf Green and the Gamecube games, a Gamecube GBA connector, and a GBA link cable. Both back then and today, that's a big money sync and an option a lot of people didn't have.

Another issue concerns the aesthetics. While Ruby and Sapphire's sprite work looks great, even to this day, small features from Generation II, mainly Crystal, were missing including animated sprites and a visible Day/ Night cycle. There is a Day and Night in the game as there is a clock, but nothing that tells you its day or night (in comparison, Generation II had a visible cycle as the sprites would change depending on the time of day). Finally, this is moreso a problem with Emerald, but Emerald's sprite work looks dated when compared to the games released the year before, Fire Red and Leaf Green. While still looking good for GBA standards, the quality diminishes due to the release schedule (the reason probably being that they just took Ruby and Sapphire and edited as they saw fit rather then recreating the artwork).

Music wise, if you're used to 16-bit music, then you'll love this. The GBA's soundcard isn't great but with what they did, the soundtrack fits the theme of the game perfectly. The use of the instruments (like the trumpets) give a lot of the songs a greater impact, making the moments feel grander then they may actually be. There are people who hate Generation III's soundtrack, I love it, I think it works.

If you're going to play any of these games before Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are released next week, you're better off either emulating them or finding them on ebay, they're cheep (assuming they actually work) but you'll need either a GameBoy Advance (in some form) or a Nintendo DS/ DS Lite to play them (though you could try the Gamecube's GBA player). The games are fun to play so long as you're not attached to newer game concepts like infinite Backpack space and infinite use TM's). The games are fun to play, not perfect games, but gems never the less.

Next week, time to bring out the firepower, master the Rocket jump, kick back next to your sentry and be driven insane should you wish to heal. Team Fortress 2

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