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Developer:
Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release Date: April 30, 2005

by Tony Ames




Nintendo is always an interesting company to ponder. While it is usually very easy to guess what they are going to do, they always go that extra mile to defy your expectations somewhere along the line. In the case of Pokémon Emerald, that a director’s cut variation of the Ruby and Sapphire games would be made was easy to predict. What I didn’t predict was that a game so very similar to several others I had played would be so very engaging.


You can’t help but feel, looking at the majority of games on it, that the GBA has plateaued graphically. Of course, this is probably a good thing, because it means that mere graphical brilliance is easy to achieve, allowing the focus to be on art and design. Pokémon is unique in this regard due to sheer volume; with a grand total of 386 distinct designs, there was bound to be a great deal of eccentricity eventually. Of course, this was already visible in the Ruby and Sapphire versions, and Emerald only adds minute details that some players probably wouldn’t notice. Still, at this stage you wouldn’t expect any different.


Which leads right into the audio presentation, because I’m honestly having trouble figuring out if there’s anything new or not. The background music is just as I remember it; there aren’t any new blips or beeps or wails or anything. It clearly wasn’t the first thing on anyone’s mind.


Being Pokémon, the same could be said of the story, though there are a few differences from Ruby and Sapphire. Most notably, both sets of antagonists, Teams Aqua and Magma, now engage you in battle as well as each other. This results in the awakening of both legendary beasts, requiring the entry of a third party, the dragon Rayquaza displayed so prominently on the box, into the main story. Beyond that you’ll find standard Pokémon fare, which does its usual job of making sure the player knows what they should be doing above all else adequately.


The meat gameplay of Pokémon, the careful system of weaknesses and strengths, the call for maintaining a balanced team, the catching and competition, are back and finer tuned than ever. The mechanics of the third generation (the set starting with Ruby and Sapphire) remain unchanged, retaining innate Abilities and changing only a few of Pokémon’s moves. Perhaps the biggest change is a general toughening of the game. It’s noticeably harder than the original Ruby and Sapphire games, due in large part to the revamped teams of the Gym Leaders. In a long anticipated move, you can even challenge Gym Leaders after initially defeating them, as they will occasionally alter and power up their teams!


Perhaps the biggest draw of Emerald is its compatibility with the wireless adapter, allowing for a lot more connectivity with other gamers. Unfortunately, like the Fire Red and Leaf Green games that introduced the device, interaction between differing versions is only possible after completing the game, a distinct annoyance for players who already have those versions and want to immediately launch into multiplayer possibilities. This doesn’t diminish the usefulness of the device, but it is annoying considering that Fire Red and Leaf Green already had similar requirements.


Pokémon ultimately just keeps on truckin’, with little sign of slowing down. While Emerald is hardly a massive change to the series, it’s still varied just enough to keep things interesting for any long-time players, and there’s certainly no reason for new players not to start with it.


Final Grade: 80%




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