The year was 2002, on my 8th birthday a friend of mine got me Pokemon Ruby. I still remember holding the box in my hand, seeing this really cool lizard like Pokemon on the box. The shine of the box and I had it. I didn’t know anything about these games, just that this was Pokemon on the GBA. 18 years later, how do these games hold up?
We start our adventure in the Hoenn Region, based on the island of Kyūshū in Japan. We can choose between Brendan and May and upon our decision, we are in the back of a moving truck….yea, see our parents (yes PARENTS) don’t care about us so into the back we go.
This region is very different though from Kanto and Johto, that being it is mostly water. If you didn’t like water type Pokemon then you are in for a rough time. You will encounter rainy marshes, oceans upon oceans, explore sunken ships and underwater caves, and of course, catch all new Pokemon
New Pokemon and Rivals
As always, a new region means new Pokemon. This game introduces the starters of Treecko, Mudkip, and Torchic. Along with the trio mentioned above, there are another 132 Pokemon to grow and love with. Obviously, Pokemon aren’t the only new additions since we have two rivals being May or Brendan and Wally.
The introduction of the friendly rival with May made a turn that has followed suit since. May was there to help you (barely) throughout the story while Wally felt like true character progression. Wally was a shy child and by the end, became a confident trainer and I felt bad beating him at Victory Road.
The Gyms and Elite Four
Just like the other Pokemon games, there are eight gyms and the Elite Four, finally leading to the Champion. The gym leaders are as follows: Rock, Fighting, Electric, Fire, Normal, Flying, Psychic, and Water. There are two things to note that I love about the gym leaders in this game.
The first being, your father is a gym leader. Upon reaching Petalburg City, he tells us to challenge other gyms before battling him. This encourages exploration and gives you the goal to surpass him, instead of just focusing on becoming champion. The other is Tate and Liza. Catch that? Two gym leaders. See, Ruby and Sapphire open up double battles and to have a gym leader based around this mechanic made it very enjoyable.
The Elite Four are your standard run of the mill members, you don’t know them, never associate with them in the story, just battle and continue forward. This leads up to Steven, while he doesn’t have a “type” I would consider him to be steel/rock. Like Lance in Gold and Silver, Steven was always around and contributing to the player’s adventure so this battle felt rewarding.
Ruby and Sapphire open the idea of having a Legendary Pokemon be the driving factor in the story. Depending on the game, you will have a different legendary and Enemy Team. By choosing Ruby, you battle against Team Magma and prevent them from using Groudon to destroy the waters and make a gigantic landmass.
In Sapphire, the enemy team is Team Aqua where they wish to use Kyogre to flood the lands. This is simple, and that is because it is. This was a new idea so the simpler the better. That being said, it doesn’t make these games bad. GameFreak will perfect the idea of a legendary being contributed to the enemy team in future installments.
While the story is simple, it doesn’t justify the lack of creativity with the Enemy teams. The only thing that makes Team Aqua and Team Magma different in terms of battling is would you rather battle the numel line or carvanha line.
Along with this, May feels like she has the worst character development in a rival because there was NOTHING. You even battle her for the last time before the 7th gym….no option to battle her again. Finally, no way to transfer Pokemon from Gold and Silver to Ruby and Sapphire. While this is fixed with other games (more to come) at the time of 2003, the only Pokemon you could get are the 202 available in the game leaving 184 others non-existent.
These games helped bring Pokemon to the 16-bit era. It was alright, not the best, but also not the worst. GameFreak wanted to get their feet wet with the new hardware and again, this is a common practice that happens whenever a new generation comes onto a new console. This game gets a final rating of 6/10.
Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire is available on Gameboy Advance:
Pokemon Ruby: Pokemon Ruby
Pokemon Sapphire: Pokemon Sapphire