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Opinion: Pokémon Ruby – the best Pokémon game?

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Pokémon could probably be the series that I could credit with introducing me to video games – or at least is certainly one of the first series’ of games that I started following. It started off with Pokémon Gold (though I had played Red, Yellow and Crystal on my cousins GameBoy Colour).

Of course I was super excited for Pokémon Ruby and its counterpart, Sapphire. I had owned a GameBoy Advance for some time but I was always stuck playing Pokémon Gold on it – with a very small amount of GBA games for it. Pokémon Ruby possibly represents the biggest leap forward that the Pokémon series took, and here are my reasons for why it might be the best one out of the lot:

It’s in colour! (Also sprites > 3D)

Technically speaking the previous Pokémon games were too, but lets be honest – things didn’t exactly look great back on the GameBoy Colour. Ruby and Sapphire took advantage of the extra hardware and really fleshed out the game world – there were even neat little effects like reflections in the water, and environmental effects like rain and sandstorms.

I’m of the belief that the sprites used in the GameBoy Advance games look better than the 3D effects in the games on the DS. The DS simply doesn’t do 3D very well and ages badly. Sprites on the other hand generally age quite well. Look at the screenshot above for example – Pokémon Ruby was released way back in 2003 and it still looks great. The 3D models on the upcoming Pokémon Black and White? Not so much.

Hoenn is just fun to explore

Every new major instalment in the Pokémon series takes place in a new region – Pokémon Ruby introduces gamers to Hoenn – the biggest area that we could explore at that date and was just a joy to explore.

Again this is mostly in part of the huge boost that the GameBoy Advance brought us – Game Freak really went to town to flesh out the environments and have crafted a fun world to explore with a wide variety of environments. From sandy beaches, to lush rainforests, urban metropolises, a desert and a floating city – exploring Heonn for the first time was an exciting prospect because you didn’t really know what to expect next.

In many ways I think that the forth generation of Pokémon games overcomplicated things. In Diamond and Pearl we had to contend with areas covered by fog that impacted the accuracy of your Pokémon – often turning battles in to a chore (yeah – apparently creatures that can breathe fire and shoot electricity can’t see through some fog). And do we really need to have a bazillion different HM moves just to get from A to B? Ruby and Sapphire found the sweet spot by giving us a huge, expansive world to explore without getting too carried away.

2 vs 2 battles

I can fight with two Pokémon at once now? Mind = blown.

But in all seriousness – this wasn’t just some cheap gimmick, it changed the way that the game could be played – especially when fighting another real human player. Being able to fight with two Pokémon at once opened up new avenues for battle strategies, trying to find two Pokémon that could complement each other properly, using attacks that could work well together, it really added some extra depth to the same old battle system that gamers had been used to for the last couple of games – it’s just a shame that this couldn’t have been more fleshed out until the arrival of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection on the Nintendo DS with the next games in the series.

Secret bases

Secret bases were cool additions to Ruby and Sapphire that didn’t make it in to the later games – at least not in a way that I would have liked. With a secret base you could fine a tree or a cave to discover an area that you could decorate. Though this seems superficial it actually has an additional purpose when you mixed records with other players.

Record mixing allowed players to swap data – integrating another players actions in to your own. For example – TV shows would start to tell stories about the people who you’ve mixed records with. My favourite feature of record mixing was that it saved your friends secret base in to your game that you could visit – and you could even battle your friend “offline” with the Pokémon that they had on them at the time.

Due to the lack of secret bases in the future games, this is something that Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Heart Gold, and Soul Silver didn’t have – a shame, since this was a good way to gain EXP for your Pokémon more easily without having to resort to excessive grinding.

Pokémon abilities

Another small and seemingly minuscule addition but one that actually provided some neat effects were Pokémon abilities – typically unique among a particular species. Some Pokémon would pick up items as you went along, some would gain boosts to their stats under certain conditions, or some Pokémon would become immune to a particular type of attack. A small change – but one that changed the game both in and outside of battles.

Pokémon before they looked stupid

I consider the third generation of Pokémon to be the final set of Pokémon that were released that were well designed – providing us with a wide variety of new Pokémon with various new abilities and strong designs. It was after this time in which we started to get ridiculous designs that demonstrate that Nintendo is simply running out of ideas. Nintendo need to spend more time investigating new avenues of gameplay instead of just saying “Here’s 649 [yes, there really are that many now] Pokémon. Gotta catch ’em all right?” Surely we have enough now?

Of course these are simply my thoughts on the matter – and I’m aware that some old school Pokémon fans can be fanatical about Red and Blue being the best of the bunch – though I’d have to disagree given that you can’t even rematch other trainers in the game – I’m of the personal belief that Ruby and Sapphire have made the biggest leap forward for the series since the original games.

It’s also worth pointing out that I’m not here to put down the other games in the Pokémon series – I place a great deal of sentimental value on Pokémon Gold given that it was a childhood favourite – and for what its worth Pokémon Platinum was a great deal of fun to play as well. Here’s hoping that the future Pokémon Black and White can be just as fun as the previous games in the series!

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Written by Pokeh

January 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Opinion

Tagged with , , ,

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