Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire (GBA)
Pokémon and pinball: Two great tastes that taste great together.
By Darryl Vassar | Aug. 24, 2003


87
Excellent
The Lowdown: An excellent video pinball game that should even please the Pokémon-averse.
Pros: Excellent fusion of Pokémon basics and pinball; solid graphics; balanced gameplay.
Cons: Very similar to the GBC's Pokémon Pinball; only two tables.

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How the review scores work
Platform:  Game Boy Advance
Game Type:  Turn-Based Strategy
Developer:  Nintendo
Publisher:  Nintendo
ESRB: Nintendo

Full Game Information
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Since the days of the first Game Boy, Nintendo has been a leader in video pinball. At the time, Revenge of the Gator, one of HAL Laboratory's first forays into video pinball, seemed like an odd proposition, but quickly proved to be an excellent and addictive pinball game. Since then, HAL has gone on to produce Kirby's Pinball Land and the original Game Boy Color Pokémon Pinball. While HAL Labs didn't make Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire, it builds on the excellent gameplay of the original.

While it may sound like an unlikely pairing, Pokémon and pinball are apparently practically made for each other. What makes Pokémon Pinball unlike any other pinball game is the series' ubiquitous tagline: "Gotta Catch 'Em All." The ball is itself a Pokéball, the device used to catch and transport Pokémon, a brilliant adaptation of the license. Over 200 of the titular pocket monsters can be caught on the game's two tables, providing the basis for the game's scoring events. At the beginning of each play you'll be assigned a "location" to hunt Pokémon in, such as the beach or volcano areas, which will determine which Pokémon will appear. By flipping the ball into the correct target you'll activate the Catch 'Em mode.

The screen at the center of the board will display the silhouette of a randomly selected Pokémon, and hitting the bumpers at the top of the board will gradually reveal the Pokémon. Once revealed, the Pokémon can be caught by hitting it three times. Once you've caught yourself a Pokémon, you can travel to other areas to catch different Pokémon or evolve your current Pokémon, both of which have massive points attached to them and open up other aspects of play, like the awesome bonus tables.

While all of this may sound a little overwhelming, thanks to a number of helpful indicators on the board, you'll always know what you're doing. These handy arrows tell you which loop does what, when you should be hitting the bumpers, and how many hits you have to go before you've caught that Pokémon taunting you from the middle of the table. Also handy is the Pokémart, a store on the table that allows you to buy ball savers, extra balls, and instantly jump into Evolution or Catch 'Em mode by spending coins accrued during play.

Aside from its excellent and accessible pinball basics, Pokémon Pinball makes excellent use of the Pokémon license and "Catching Them All" becomes a strategic overgame above and beyond the standard score-mongering that comes with pinball, giving the game, well, more of a point. This also provides the gameplay with an excellent rhythm -- the game is generally pretty mellow, but catching and evolving Pokémon are time-limited, providing regularly scheduled interludes of tension.

While it's unlikely that Pokémon Pinball will win any awards for its aesthetics, it is a well-made game. The tables are large, colorful, and teeming with animation and character. And, for those of you frustrated by the original game, the tables actually scroll now. The music is also nice, consisting of an appropriately mellow collection of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire remixes. Finally, Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire is the first game to actively take advantage of the GameCube Game Boy Player peripheral, providing vibration support through the GameCube controllers. While I guess this is a nice feature, I found it easier to get into that Zen-like state pinball state on my GBA-SP's small screen, as it gave me a better overall view of the action than my television did.


Choose your table.
After Sega's disappointing Pinball of the Dead and average Sonic Pinball Party, it's not like Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire had many hurdles to overcome to be the system's top pinball game. The game is a blast, possessing excellent pinball basics, surprising depth, and an addictive collection overgame. Not just for Pokémon fans, and not just for pinball fans, Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire is an excellent game for both camps, or just about anyone else for that matter.

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Essential Links Reviewer System Specifications
Game Boy Advance, Labtec® Earbuds.

System Requirements
Game Boy Advance or Game Boy Player.


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