Pokemon Emerald, Nintendo’s latest Pokemon title is here and it’s available for the GBA. Before I get going, Pokemon fans should know one thing. Pokemon Emerald is an extension and compilation of the Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire games released a few years ago. Emerald also includes the additional material introduced in Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green games, released last year. Basically, it’s a combination of all of the above with just a few new twists and additional content (new towns, gym leaders, Pokemon) to keep fans of the series coming back for more. This makes Pokemon Emerald not only the most complete game in the series but also the most polished. If you’ve never picked up a Pokemon game, this is a great place to start. Nintendo continues to create quality Pokemon games and here’s why.
If your new to the series, don’t worry, one of Pokemon Emerald’s greatest assets is its simple, straightforward and intuitive gameplay. At its heart, Pokemon Emerald is an old school RPG game. You travel around the map, from town to town and are instantaneously and randomly thrown into a battle with Pokemon and their trainers. Not unlike the random battles seen in Final Fantasy type games. Pokemon are strange little creatures which can be tamed, collected and taught to fight. You play the role of a Pokemon trainer and your goal is to roam the land collecting different Pokemon by battling them and other trainers, increasing your strength as you progress. The ultimate goal is to collect badges by defeating the local Pokemon gym leaders. Each gym leader, one per town, is found in the city gym and are the most challenging trainers to take out.
In battle, you won’t be fighting yourself. You’ll be leaving the fighting to your Pokemon. Pokemon increase in level after they gain experience by winning battles. At certain levels, Pokemon will evolve into new Pokemon with new abilities. You can either stop this transformation or accept you’re new Pokemon and lose the old. Each Pokemon is of a particular type. Some may be of the water type, rock type, poison type, etc.. This is where the strategy comes in. Pokemon, depending on their type, are resistant or susceptible to different types of attacks. Rock Pokemon will take a beating from a Water Pokemon who specializes in water attacks. Fire Pokemon will take more damage when fighting a Water-based Pokemon. So on and so forth. Selecting which Pokemon will do the fighting for you takes some thinking and a couple of quick decisions.
Everyone once in a while you will get caught between two trainers and you’ll have to take them both on at the same time. In this case, you’ll be taking on more than one Pokemon and sometimes several; trainers can have up to six Pokemon ready to fight. It’s up to you to put together a team of your own Pokemon, depending on their types, to face off against the opposing Pokemon. Each takes a turn attacking.
Battles are turn-based and each turn you’ll have several options to choose from. You can fight and select one of your Pokemon’s four attacks. You can look in your backpack and use a potion or other power-up, swap Pokemon or run.
While Pokemon Emerald does have a story and goals to accomplish during the way, Nintendo teases our obsessives compulsive side by keeping track of every Pokemon you come in contact with and every Pokemon you catch. During the battle, after the opposing Pokemon is weakened, you have the option to throw out a Pokemon ball. If the Pokemon your fighting is weak enough, he will be caught in the ball and that Pokemon will become part of your collection. Collecting Pokemon soon becomes addictive and another part of the game in itself. All info on Pokemon is collected in the Pokedex so finding out what Pokemon you’ve come across and what Pokemon you still need to find is easy. By making Pokemon collectable, Nintendo is adding a whole other dimension to the game adding to its longevity and replay value.
Controlling your trainer is a snap. You use the d-pad to control his movement and the B button to run. Along the way, you will pick up special moves that can be mapped to the select button. Battles are menu based. You’ll use one button and the d-pad to cycle through the menus and select your actions. It’s easy to learn. Everything else, like checking your Pokedex and your map is handled through the options menu. The easy to navigate menu system makes the battles easy to handle. You won’t be bogged down by menu after menu or option after option.
Graphically Pokemon Emerald is rather bland. If you’ve played the last few Pokemon GBA games you’ve seen Emerald’s graphics. They often seem to lack the colour and vibrancy found in the Zelda worlds but they get the job done. The animations are basic, both in world mode and battle mode and the effects are simplistic. Overall, they are disappointing. Fortunately, this is one game that can get away without jaw-dropping graphics because of its depth and. On the other hand, the music isn’t bad. It’s catchy and memorable and each town has a different tune.
The game is long. There are lots to do and the story will keep you going. It took me over ten hours to complete the main mission and collect all the badges. If you would like, you can continue to max out all your characters and then collect all the Pokemon you’ve missed which is a game within itself. Some Pokemon are quite rare so completing your collection will keep you busy for a long time.
Adding to the longevity of the game is the ability to connect wirelessly with others. By doing this you can trade with other players, collect older Pokemon and take on fellow trainers. One of the games key features.
Overall Pokemon Emerald is a great game despite it’s lacking visuals and played out gameplay. Its simple, addictive and any of its other weaknesses. Its appeal is broad, and the game will interest both those new and old to the series.
If you’ve played Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire there’s not much here to see. If you’ve found yourself growing tired of Pokemon, stay away from this title. I would suggest Pokemon Emerald to new players or anyone who’s missed the last few Pokemon titles and of course, to hardcore Pokemon fans who just can’t stand the thought of not catching every Pokemon Nintendo creates. Pokemon Emerald is a great game and retains the solid gameplay that has the made series fun and addictive. This is a deep, turn-based, game with a complex battle engine hiding beneath a youth-friendly exterior, don’t pass on this one because of that.