Ruby: a Diamond in the Rough?
Another day. another Pokemon game it seems. Ruby does what every new Pokemon game does, adds a huge amount of Pokemon to the same game under a different name and region. This time, they add 135 new Pokemon and take you to the region of Hoenn. That brings the total Pokemon to 386. Now, this may sound a little Far'fetch'd, but I almost preferred the Pokemon games back before they were Muking around with adding more and more Pokemon. The task to catch-em-all was cool at first because it was something attainable, not to say that catching every Pokemon in these games is impossible, I just find it a bit Oddish that the way the game increases the difficulty of your achieving your catch-em-all dream is simply to add more to catch, no increase the actual gameplay difficulty. All the developers have to do is look outside for some sort of animal they can emulate in a Pokemon (Slug), slightly change the name (Slugma), and add some element effect to it, then Abra, Kadabra, Alakazam, you've got yourself a new Pokemon game.
I don't mean to be all Gloom and doom here. I know I'm asking for people to attach some Electrodes to me and fry me with electricity. I'm not saying this is a bad game. It's a Pokemon game, carrying over all the gameplay elements from previous games. But the Exeggcutive Director does not stray too far from the original formula. While there are some new additions (and I'll cover those in a sec, don't get your undies in a Tangela) these new additions really don't add anything substantial to the game or are underused.
Basic Pokemon game goes thus: Boy (or girl) receives Pokemon, embarks on glorious quest to obtain all gym badges without Slaking, MUST BECOME THE VERY BEST. LIKE NO ONE EVER WAS! ...*cough* *cough* Pardon the throat there. I know it wasn't the best singing ever, but I've been dealing with a cold all week and have been Koffing and Weezing all day. Ouch, what a Ghastly pun. My main point is that the real core difference between one Pokemon game and the next is the set of Pokemon, and eventually they are going to run out of Pokemon to make, or this will turn into Rocky or Jaws where they just keep adding numbers onto the end of the title.
But for those Seaking the nitty gritty aspects of this game, grab a Lanturn and let's go deeper. What's new here? The most obvious would be the double battles, in which two Pokemon from each team battle at the same time, for a total of two combatants. But, before you open your Meowth to say that this is the addition that saves this game, it by no means Seels the deal. The main problem is that the double battles happen far too infrequently. I can understand wanting to play your cards close to the chest, but the double battles, one of the coolest additions to Pokemon, are played so close to the chest you'd think they were tattoos.
But what about Abilities and Natures, cried the huddled masses. Yes, yes, these are actually what I enjoyed about this game. But before I Jynx myself, allow me to explain why. These Abilities and Natures, passive abilities that certain individual Pokemon have, change the way you play the game. You have to employ new strategies and team compositions to deal with the addition of these Abilities. To avoid sounding a bit cliched, or like I'm beating a dead Horsea, these are literally game-changers. Where I would have normally tackled a battle one way in a previous game, I now have to deal with Abilities as well.
And that's pretty much it. That's what's new. They even took out some of the old that was interesting... night and day sequences? Why would those not be implemented? Was someone afraid of taking a Chancey? And no one can say that the new region counts as something new, because it contains the same old same old as the old regions, someone just took a label maker to the game map and renamed the locations. It's not Johto anymore, it's Hoenn!
However, begrudging as it is to admit, this game is still a blast. Which is unfair really, because the only reason its such a blast is because of what came before it: the solid gameplay of the first Pokemon games reused and recycled is a pure gem. But what keeps the game from Bellossoming is that it relies too much on its tried and true formula. You all can think me a mean reviewer, as mean as Genghis Kangaskhan, but I would prefer to curl up with a chocolate Ho-oh and play Pokemon Red or Blue.