Late in 2002 in Japan, Nintendo released the Game Freak-developed Ruby and Sapphire versions of their long-running Pokémon series for the Gameboy Advance, with these versions seeing an American release early the next year. Two years later saw the release of a special edition version of both games entitled Pokémon Emerald, with this director's cut version seeing its Japanese release in 2004 and its North American release the next year. Emerald generally retains the solid gameplay of the Pokémon series, in spite of some flaws.
The core gameplay of Emerald is largely the same as in other Pokémon games, with random encounters in tall grass patches and caves, and trainers occasionally forcing themselves to battle the protagonist, with these fights rewarding money. All living Pokémon that help kill an opponent Pokémon gain experience, with level-ups, and occasional evolutions, sometimes occurring. All Pokémon are of one or two different elements, with their elemental strengths and weaknesses providing a semblance of strategy throughout the game. As with other games, the player can use Pokéballs to try to capture wild Pokémon, with a greater chance of success the weaker the enemy Pokémon is.
Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald were also the first games in the series to introduce double battles, with two of the player's Pokémon facing off against two opponent trainers' Pokémon, usually happening when two trainers are near one another in the game's fields. All in all, the core Pokémon gameplay remains solid, although it suffers from the same faults as other Pokémon games, what with occasional nasty spikes in difficulty, the fact that switching Pokémon wastes the player's turn, and the need to grind in order for the last parts of the game to be bearable.
Emerald's control scheme is decent, with an easy menu system and the ability to save anywhere, although there is occasional poor direction on how to advance the main game. Some dungeons would have also benefitted from in-game maps, and overall, while the control scheme isn't terrible, it isn't great, either.
As with other Pokémon games, the story isn't a good reason to play the game, with scarce developing cutscenes, and the villains, Team Aqua and Magma, not being terribly threatening. The translation is more than adequate, with no flagrant errors of which to speak.
Some of the music is a bit catchy, but the quality leaves something to desire, although the sound effects, consisting of diverse Pokémon cries, are adequate. The graphics also leave something to desire, with simplistic battle scenery and animation that players will likely want to turn off for want of faster battles.
Finally, the game can be somewhat lengthy, forty to sixty hours, depending upon how much grinding is necessary to make it past the final parts of the game, with plenty of lasting appeal, what with all the sidequests and Pokémon to catch. Ultimately, // Pokémon Emerald// is an experience largely on par with the rest of the series, with solid gameplay but everything else, especially the story, leaving room for improvement. Those who don't mind the franchise's lack of evolution will likely enjoy the game, while those who believe RPGs have to be innovative in order to be any good will likely be in for disappointment.
+Retains solid Pokémon gameplay.
+You can save anywhere.
-Last few battles are tough.
-Sometimes poor direction on how to advance.
-Music and graphics fall somewhat flat.
Platform: Gameboy Advance
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Playing Time: 40-60 Hours