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Platform: GameBoy Advance

Genre: Role-Playing Strategy

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Game Freak

ESRB: E (Everyone)

Released: April 30, 2005

 

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Pokémon Emerald

Score: 8.3 / 10

 

Pros:

- Seemingly simple strategy proves to be quite deep

- Easy to get into if you’ve played the other Pokémon games

- Straightforward presentation

- VS. mode fits right in

 

Cons:

- Battles sometimes feel a little protracted

- Not too engrossing for anyone looking for deep, deep RPG

- A lot of trial and error as you figure out the strengths and weaknesses of each Pokémon

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"Pokémon Emerald is a great strategy RPG."

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the Pokémon concept – all three of you – here it is in a nutshell.  In your role a as Pokémon trainer you wander the gameworld battling wild Pokémon and challenging other trainers to earn more experience for your roster of Pokémon creatures that can conveniently be stored in Pokéballs.  As you battle your way through the turn-based combat you’ll collect and discover a wide variety of power-ups and useful tools to help win battles on your way to being the Ultimate Pokémon Champ.  And as a serious game reviewer, I’m not supposed to like Pokémon games but Pokémon Emerald, the latest in the long-running series, but for some reason I got suckered in. (After three days of playing video games at E3, I spent almost six straight hours with Emerald while waiting for my flight and in the air on the way home.)

 

pokemon-emerald-1.jpg (39875 bytes)          pokemon-emerald-2.jpg (38851 bytes)

 

Emerald’s story is pretty threadbare, but it’s mostly about the combat.  There are wild Pokémon all over the place and there’s never a shortage of challengers so you’ll constantly be tripping into battle.  Surprisingly (for me, at least), the combat is relatively complex.  There is a massive roster of Pokémon that come into play (but only six in your backpack at any one time) and each of them typically has a point/counter-point, which means that a specific Pokémon can be really effective against another type of Pokémon but completely useless against another type.  At the same time there are a variety of attacks that have varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the Pokémon you’re battling.  Besides levelling up and increasing your Pokémon stats, Pokémon can also evolve and until I really started to 

know more about the abilities of each Pokémon and their evolutionary stages, I always held my breath – just a little – when a Pokémon started to evolve.

 

Because the game is mostly turn-based – the exploration is all real time – you don’t have to do a lot of button mashing but when a Pokémon starts to evolve one can actually prevents it from evolving by wailing on the A-button.  It’s the only time that Emerald demands a fast and furious reaction.  Emerald definitely leans to the thinking side of things, with just enough in the way of role-playing elements to make it more than just a strategy game.

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In comparison to the other handheld Pokémon games, the general layout of the combat should be entirely familiar to fans of the series.  Actually, hardly anything has changed – so it is also with the presentation.  No fancy, far-out 3D here!  Simple animations without a lot of razzle-dazzle to confuse things.  The same can also be said of music and audio in general.

 

pokemon-emerald-3.jpg (52859 bytes)         pokemon-emerald-4.jpg (48255 bytes)

 

Besides the single-player game, which can be extended quite a bit if you want to “catch ‘em all!”  Emerald comes equipped with a VS. mode so you can play human opponents (as long as they have a cartridge too) via the link cable or the wireless adapter.  To set-up a multiplayer game just visit a Pokémon healing centre, head upstairs and talk to one of two “hostesses” to set-up or join a game.  It’s a neat feature that let’s you seamlessly move from single-player to VS. mode – it creates a feeling of the whole thing being part of the single-player experience even though you’re battling human opponents.

 

I know I didn’t play Pokémon games for the simple fact it looked so kiddie-oriented  and sweet I’d wind up being sick.  Now I’m going back to play the other iterations.  Don’t be fooled as I was – Pokémon Emerald is a great strategy RPG.

 

- Omni

(June 6, 2005)

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