Pokémon Emerald - Review  

Another Third Version
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

20-100 Hours


Rating definitions 

   After Red/Blue and Gold/Silver led to Yellow and Crystal respectively, it came as little surprise that Ruby/Sapphire would also be receiving a third version. Players will once again be making a trip to the Hoenn region in Pokémon Emerald, but there are a few minor differences and several additions. Most major aspects however, such as the battle system, remain essentially the same.

   While it does go to waste a bit due to a lack of two versus two battles and a general lack of difficulty, the battle system is by far the best part of the game. Developing the perfect party requires a great deal of strategy considering that there are hundreds of Pokémon to choose from, each with their own element type, statistics, special ability, and natural skills. There are even differences between members of the same species due to individual natures and the fact that each Pokémon can only have four skills at once. Additionally, each Pokémon can be equipped with an item. These items range in effect from boosting elemental damage to automatically healing wounds. As can be clearly seen, quite a bit goes into developing a party.

   The actual battles themselves are simple yet surprisingly fun. Each Pokémon can only learn a few skills, but more complicated combinations are also possible. For example, a player can change the weather so that it rains. This will power up water element attacks and enable certain abilities such as Swift Swim which doubles the speed of certain water types. The best part about the battle system is that it's very simple and very easy to learn the basics, but there's still plenty of room for careful planning and advanced strategies, especially in two versus two battles.

The game's strong point The game's strong point

   Though battles have the potential to be very advanced, they rarely are. In fact, the main quest does very little to challenge the player, especially since most bosses broadcast their weakness and powerful healing items can be used at any time for little cost. The extra battles that are unlocked after completing the game are more difficult though. Most aren't as challenging as another human trainer, but they at least offer more of a challenge than the rest of the game.

   Due to the lack of difficulty in the main game, it's very easy to defeat the final boss without working hard to create a complete Pokédex or create the perfect party. This makes it possible to rush through the entire game in about twenty hours. Of course, as with all Pokémon games, they can easily add far more playtime than that, especially with the number of extras Emerald has to offer. It wouldn't be much of a surprise if a player trying to do everything exceeded a hundred hours.

   Some of the more convenient additions since Gold/Silver show up in the interface. Players now have the ability to run while outside, use shortcut keys for commonly used items, and carry far more items than they used to, so repeated trips to the item PC are a thing of the past. Keeping track of captured Pokémon is also much more convenient. There are even descriptions for each skill and ability so players no longer have to guess before deleting a move to make room for a new one. As with its predecessors, there aren't really any problems with the localization either.

Ominous Ominous

   The story itself is fairly minimal, but it is still better than that of its Gameboy predecessors. For example, rather than the villains simply saying that they are using Pokémon for evil, the villains in Emerald actually manage to cause real problems in the world. There are also far more semi-developed characters and rivals than in previous versions. The story isn't quite as good as that of Colosseum though.

   Though there are some twists to the story new to Emerald, this new version is far from being original. As with the previous third versions, it is very similar to Ruby/Sapphire. There are several new additions, but most of them are also quite similar to those found in the two Stadiums, Colosseum, and Crystal.

   One nice addition, though not particularly original, is that of battle animations. These animations liven up battles and look very good. They help make up for the fact that the rest of the game's visuals are beginning to fall behind. There are a few new special effects and cinemas, but little else has changed visually since the original.

   The music and sound effects aren't bad, but they aren't especially good by today's standards either. While most of the music is new and some of it is pretty good, there are quite a few prominent tracks that become a bit annoying after a while. The sound effects have fallen behind the most though. In order to preserve the cries from the original game, the new cries that have been added are of the same quality. While this is understandable from the point of view of continuity, it also means that most of Pokémon sound like Gameboy bloops and bleeps instead of like animals. It's not a real problem though.

   As usual, the excellent battle system, addictive Pokémon collecting, and the multiplayer mode are the main reasons to play Pokémon Emerald. Though it's still by no means epic, the story is also more fleshed out than previous Pokémon games with the exception of Colosseum. It's certainly worth picking up for those who don't already have Ruby/Sapphire, but those who do might want to think twice. While it's a good game on its own and has numerous bonus features, it's still a very similar game. Those disappointed with Yellow or Crystal will likely feel the same way about Emerald.

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