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Pokémon Emerald Version – GBA

Pokémon Emerald Version – GBA

Pokemon Emerald VersionPlatform:  Game Boy Advance

Developer:  Game Freak

Publisher:  Nintendo

Release Date (NA):  May 1st, 2005 

Genre:  RPG

Nerd Rating:  6.5 out of 10


Pokemon Emerald Version

The reader must excuse my previous lack of Pokémon knowledge; this is the first Pokémon title I have ever played, based mostly on the recommendation of that girl at the weird game store and upon finding out it was the second-highest selling franchise of all time, behind only Mario in terms of units sold.  A lot of my recent interest in the GBA has led me to articles regarding Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, so a couple of weeks ago I headed over to Ed McKay’s to fully assess the used Pokémon situation.  Turns out that some of these games are fetching top dollar right now, especially those for the original Game Boy, GBA, and N64.  I wasn’t able to locate the vaunted Ruby and Sapphire editions, but I did find Emerald Version for a cool $24.00.  When I got home I discovered that Pokémon titles are released in groups of twos with an enhanced and combined edition of both being available a few years later.  Emerald Version was just that; the combination and enhancement of both Ruby and Sapphire.

Pokemon Emerald VersionTo be perfectly honest, I had to really sit down with this title for awhile before I got into it.  It does demand a bit of attention and as usual in RPGs, the player starts with virtually nothing and must learn and infer vast sums of knowledge through conversational snippets, experience, trial and error, and at times flat out luck.  Slowly I began understanding, and I can see why the franchise has a loyal and devoted fanbase, though simultaneously there are aspects that come off as annoying and tedious.  To what degree these are characteristics of all not-so-recent RPGs or unique elements to Pokémon I can’t be sure.

Pokemon Emerald VersionThe player acts as a “trainer” wandering through some large expanse of land with  a corresponding island system.  Over the course of the first couple of hours, it becomes apparent that the trainer’s objective is not one single task but a very loosely oriented amalgam of goals.  The player is tasked with both catching and training Pokémon (literally “Pocket Monsters”) and then challenging rivals of varying expertise across the region.  Different objects are needed during the process of traveling and catching/training Pokémons, most which can be bought at any number of stores scattered about a network of towns.  Money itself doesn’t seem to be abundant.  It can be gained when defeating other trainers, but since these battles only occur once, I’m not sure where any additional funds are to be found.  So far I have spent my cash very conservatively and as such have not run into a situation where I’m heavily in need of any, though the prospect is a minor source of anxiety.

Pokemon Emerald VersionBesides battling with other trainers, the player will inevitably encounter hordes of wild Pokémon that must be dealt with.  This is the main way to increase the standing of one’s existing Pokémon through a system of experience points and other typical RPG standards.  This process isn’t altogether fun but it is necessary in order to elevate one’s own Pokémon to the levels needed to defeat gym leaders (the toughest, smartest trainers; analogous to “bosses”) whose defeat generally predicates one or more significant changes, such as access to more information or increased opportunities to perform actions within the region.  I don’t particularly appreciate the number of times this process must be enacted, but I do understand it to be a fairly expected happening in games such as this.

Pokemon Emerald VersionIn addition to the combat that peppers Pokémon Emerald Version there is also a great deal of exploration which needs to be done along with various problem solving.  Many of these smaller tasks are rather enjoyable and clever, but it is here where one can really tell that Emerald Version is aimed at a predominately younger demographic.  Apart from simply battling creatures which are larger, stronger, and all-around better fighters, none of the other aspects approach difficult.  For example, at about the time knowing the map becomes increasingly important, one of the NPC’s hands a map to the player.  Before this, the map could only be viewed from a location at the beginning of the game.  Now, does the fact that the map was at the beginning and is now portable the developer’s attempt at scaling back the difficulty, or is it a well-founded design feature that eliminates the need to make long journeys home to view the map?  It’s impossible to say one way or the other with complete certainty.

Pokemon Emerald VersionThe sheer number of Emerald Version’s available Pokemon is staggering.  When combined with all the types, the necessity of having to continually fight with them, the limitation of only keeping 6 on one’s person at any one time, and the two-fold evolution of these little bastards the game becomes overwhelming to a fault.  We’ve all heard the tag line “gotta catch ’em all!” but when you’re dealing with 693 and you’ve only caught 20 after 15 hours of gameplay, does it really seem like a reasonable objective?  Admittedly I was drawn in to “catching them all” as well but after assessing how much time and how many resources were needed to catch even 1 in some cases, I began to wonder how many I really needed (and beyond that how many of those I really needed to actively train) to appreciably progress through the game.  On the one hand it can appeal to the completist in us all; on the other hand it can demand far too much time from the player devoted to pointless and petty tasks to keep gameplay engaging and enjoyable.  It remains unknown to me how much of all this “catching” is truly necessary.

Pokemon Emerald VersionThough I’ve spent considerable time playing Emerald Version during the past 2 weeks, it’s painfully obvious that I’ve only barely scratched the surface.  What I’ve seen so far has been enough to pique my interest, and it definitely makes me eager to see what sort of gameplay is present in newer titles, though I’m not yet so sure how much I want to see of older ones.  I really enjoy the exploration aspect and the seemingly vast nature of Pokemon Emerald Versionthe environment.  Other cool touches like refilling all of my Pokémons’ stats via the “Pokémon Centers” keep frustration to a minimum.  I’m also a fan of the whole short term – medium term – long term goal structure of the game, and it is fun to watch one’s creatures evolve and otherwise increase in abilities.  Some combat is not terrible, but I fear that I’ll be forced to engage in far too much of it to keep me interested until the end.  I’m also finding it difficult to consistently level up the 6 Pokémon I’m carrying around let alone the 30 others in “storage” that I haven’t so much as even fought with.  Furthermore I’m struggling with what type of Pokémon needs to go up against what other type and there doesn’t seem to be any in-game documentation  aside from a few comments by NPC to assist with the issue.

Graphics are decent but perhaps not as great as they could be on the GBA.  While the walking around/exploration gameplay in the cities, towns, forests, and other areas is quite pleasant to look at, Pokémon combat is markedly sparse.  The Pokémons themselves look good, but seem to be fighting in a featureless void.  Most attacks and special moves are painfully represented, apart from a minority that change the background to flashing, colorful, geometric repetitions (trippy).  Emerald Version is likely a notch above the mass of forgettable GBA titles, but there’s just not enough attention to detail to place it among the greats.

All in all, I can’t say that I was completely enthralled by Pokémon Emerald Version, but I can gain a more accurate understanding of what has made this franchise so enduring and profitable for so long.  I am at least moderately looking forward to what sort of improvements have been added to the DS release, as well as the upcoming and for the 3DS (in stores this Saturday, the 12th).

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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  4. Sweet review, and totally accurate. I have played the crap out of this game, and many of the other PM releases. I will tell you the combat never gets better, but the graphics do, I look forward to playing the new ones for sure.

    • I’ve been spending the last few months really digging into Pokemon. It’s fun and all, but I’m surprised at the lasting popularity since all the games have essentially the same mechanics.

      I spent a few days playing Yellow Version for the original Game Boy (via my GameCube Game Boy Player of course) before X and Y came out, and then once I got X and Y I was shocked at how little the gameplay had actually changed.


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