N Amer - 03/17/2003
Intl - 07/25/2003
Pokemon Ruby Review
Come September '98, the critics were silenced, almost as if they had been put to sleep by a giant Snorlax. But they weren't asleep – they were engrossed by Pokemon's unbelievably addictive gameplay.
The battles were stellar. Like a simple RPG with lots of depth, Pokemon's battles used a menu turn-based system. Point, click and repeat. It sounds simple, it looks simple and it isn't hard to learn. But the genius developers at Game Freak – yes, I'm calling them geniuses – took that simplicity and turned it into a masterpiece. I had more fun with Pokemon than any other Game Boy game ever released. It gave me memories that I will never, ever forget.
And now, five years later, Game Freak has done it again, with a larger world, tougher battles, dozens of new Pokemon to collect and a number of new gameplay additions. This truly is Pokemon Advanced.
Pokemon Ruby starts with a very similar introduction. The main character (male or female, the player chooses the name) has to choose one of three Pokemon. It was a tough choice for me, since I was not familiar with any of the new Pokemon: a small bird, a gecko and a funny-looking water creature that I can't even describe. I ultimately chose the gecko, who is named Treecko. He's not overly powerful at first, but becomes quite useful later on in the game.
Before I knew it, I was off and on my way to becoming the world's greatest Pokemon trainer. Or so I thought. Completely addicted by Pokemon Ruby's gameplay, I didn't think it would take too long for me to finish the game. Sure, it could take months to collect each and every Pokemon, but I'll defeat the gym leaders in a couple of days. Wrong! Pokemon Ruby is much more refined than the previous titles, and follows the strength and weakness rules much more harshly. Rock is strong against electricity, so you're not going to be able to pick an Electrike (an electrifying Pokemon found early on in the game) and beat a Geodude unless you have 15 level advantage. Even then it won't be easy. This was not the case in the previous Pokemon games, where it was possible to raise six Pokemon and defeat everyone that stood in your way. There are more than 200 Pokemon for a reason, and Ruby makes it vital that you use a wide variety of them.
Furthermore, skilled trainers and all eight of the gym leaders are better at choosing the appropriate attacks to take down your Pokemon. They use potions and other expensive items very frequently, and will they also switch Pokemon if they feel threatened. Money is easier to obtain this time around, but there are more things to buy, so the increased income doesn't guarantee that you won't go broke.
Among the hundreds of Pokemon are several returning favorites, but it'll be a while before you see any of them in Ruby. The game starts off fresh with the choice of one brand-new Pokemon, followed by a few caves and several woodsy areas where other new Pokemon live. It's both cool and surprising to see all of the new monsters available in the game. There's no denying that some of them scream "child's play-thing!" But their ability to kick some butt in battle more than make up for that. This is the only kiddie game on earth where the gameplay exceeds its childish nuisances. 90% of the time I don't even think about or notice them.
There are so many new additional gameplay elements that it wouldn't even be practical to name them all, so I'm only going to note the most important ones. First off, four Pokemon can battle at once (two-on-two), both in the game and via the link cable (for a four-player battle!). From time to time you'll come across two trainers that just can't seem to pull themselves away from each other. Chances are it's because they like to battle together.
During four-Pokemon battles, you'll have the option of making two selections on the menu, one for each Pokemon. Everyone will take their turns and then you'll be able to make two more selections. It plays out almost identical to a one-on-one battle, except that it gives the player the advantage (at least it did in my case). Regardless of not adding anything revolutionary to the gameplay, this is a great addition, and could be greatly expanded on in a GameCube version of Pokemon.
One surprising new feature is that Pokemon now have personalities. From bold to bashful, Pokemon develop a personality based on their life in the wild, how they are raised and/or how much they battle. Pokemon also have a rating system that decides how "cool" and how "cute" they are, among other things. Think your Weezing is the cutest of all? Then enter him in a beauty contest.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it? It is, and it isn't. I wouldn't want to spend a long time doing this, but it doesn't take much time, especially since the beauty contests are coincide with other things that need to be done in the game, like growing and eating berries. Some berries are merely intended to increase the Pokemon's appearance (figuratively speaking -- the aesthetics don't actually change in the game), while others can be given to a Pokemon to hold for use in battle. Their battle uses include: replenished HP, PP and the ability to heal ailments like burns, poison and confusion.
To make a long story short, berry trees disappear when they are picked. You can plant a berry in its place to grow another tree (which will sprout in about a 12 to 24 hours real time). There are several places to grow them, many of which you'll cross several times throughout your journey. This makes it easy to plant and pick berries without having to worry about wasting extra time going to specific areas where berries are grown.
As you'll eventually find out, Pokemon's many diversions from battle are there to do more than kill time; they are there to aid you on your quest. Winning beauty contests is beneficial to both you and your Pokemon, and picking berries is well worth the extra time and effort.
But when it comes down to it, Pokemon Ruby is all about collecting, raising and battling Pokemon. Ruby is just as entertaining as the previous titles, and is in many ways a more polished, more perfect game that is worth even more of your time.
It's hard to believe that something so simple can be so addictive! Game Freak has once again given us an amazing sequel to one of the best games ever created. Tougher battles ensure that you'll be using more potions, and guarantee that you'll be going to the Pokemon health centers much more often. Months from now, when you've finally collected each and every Pokemon, you'll want to start a new game and go on this wonderful journey all over again.
Pokemon's graphics haven't changed much over the years. Ruby is more detailed and more colorful, but it still uses the simple animations and basic character designs that were created for the original, color-less Game Boy.
Pokemon's music is annoying at times, but it's also very good. My ears were rarely bored, and as with the previous games, I found myself humming the music when I wasn't playing.
This is a game developed for all ages, but you'd never be able to tell that from its difficulty. Pokemon Ruby features more challenging battles than the first two games combined!
The Pokemon themselves have not evolved a whole lot, but they have a ton of new attacks, there are a ton of new items and more diversions than you could have ever imagined.
The battles are extremely entertaining...when playing against the computer. Pokemon Ruby is a fun multiplayer game, but most of the fun lies within your own personal experience with the game – not the multiplayer battles you have with friends.
No one will know for sure until we see what Nintendo has in store for us this Christmas, but from the looks of things now, I'd say that Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire could be the best GBA games of the year. Ruby is as engrossing and as entertaining as the highest quality GameCube games. It's packed with secrets, hidden Pokemon and a variety of ways to evolve them. This is the only Game Boy Advance game that you absolutely must own right now. Seriously, you must own it. I honestly can't get enough of it, and I know that every other Pokemon fan out there will be just as addicted as I am. Don't think twice – buy it now.
GameZone Review Detail
Ruby is as engrossing and as entertaining as the highest quality GameCube games.
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 03/24/2003