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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Freak
PLAYERS:   1-4
March 17, 2003
Pokemon Black

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More in this Series
 Written by Jeff Milligan  on April 17, 2003

First Impressions: Gotta catch ?em all...again!

There's no denying it, the Pok?mon series has become a huge hit in both North America and Japan. It has its own TV show, card game, and has been on numerous gaming consoles including the Nintendo 64 and the Game Boy Color. Now Nintendo is bringing it to new heights, with two brand new titles exclusively for the Game Boy Advance, Pok?mon Ruby and Pok?mon Sapphire.

The winning formula behind the Pok?mon games remains the same in Ruby and Sapphire, capture Pok?mon, become a Pok?mon master, and of course, catch ?em all! Yet there's more to the existence of Pok?mon than just that, especially in Ruby and Sapphire. Both titles have their fair share of differences, but the objective remains the same.

First of all, there are some similarities between the 2 new versions. Both versions will feature all 251 Pok?mon that have been identified thus far, plus an additional 135, bringing your grand total to 386 Pok?mon. Along with these 135 new Pok?mon comes 3 new Pok?mon which can be chosen from at the beginning of your adventure. They include Torchic, a bird type with fire attributes, Mudkip, an amphibious frog Pok?mon with evenly balanced stats, and Treecko, a grass type with powerful special attacks. Players will also be able to choose their characters gender before starting out on the quest to become a Pok?mon master.

You'll also notice the slightly upgraded graphics in both versions, which comes standard with the Game Boy Advance. The games will still run in 2D, but some minor shading effects have been applied, making the characters look more like they're 3D. Environments also get a splash of color, making the scenery and cities more vibrant.

Players start their journey in a whole new town, complete with a new Professor. Professor Odamaki is his name, Pok?mon is his game, and with his help you'll be off in no time. You will be starting your adventure in the small town of Mishiro, but certainly won't be staying there long. The usual journey to 8 gyms to collect badges is in play once again, which means you'll be traveling to at least 8 different towns. One thing that is a little disappointing is that players will not be able to travel back to Kanto or Johnto, the setting of the previous Pok?mon games. This inclusion could have upped the replay value to a new level, as it did with previous versions.

One of the nice features in Gold, Silver, and Crystal was the implementation of the system clock. While the clock is featured in Ruby and Sapphire also, it doesn't seem to have that big of an effect on the overall gameplay experience. In the previous versions, events and even some Pok?mon were triggered by different clock times, which made the replay value higher. For Ruby and Sapphire, it seems the only real purpose to the clock (besides telling time) is for the raising and picking of berries, one of the games new features.

Berries can be found in numerous areas you visit throughout your journey and can be picked up and planted in other areas to create berry trees. Berries can also be fed to your Pok?mon, but must first be converted into ?Poroks? via an odd mini-game. Once these Poroks are fed to your Pok?mon, it will raise various attributes, including strength, cuteness, beauty and cleverness. Raise your stats up enough and you can compete in Pok?mon pageants, with a chance to win fabulous prizes like this brand new car! OK, more like poke balls and items, but you get the idea.

Do you like Animal Crossing? Well good, because another new feature for both games is the ?hideout.? Using your Pok?mon, you can dig yourself your own little room, which can be furnished with all sorts of junk, ranging from furniture to Pok?mon toys and posters. The real purpose behind the hideout is still unknown (assuming it does indeed have a purpose), but it sounds like fun nonetheless.

The new additions don't stop there, as the one we saved for last may just be the biggest one. Players can now call out not one Pok?mon to battle at a time, but two. The game's strategy level will shoot through the roof with this new addition, and will hopefully reinvigorate the somewhat boring multi-player battles. The dual Pok?mon battles will be available for use both in single player and multi-player modes. Speaking of multi-player modes, Ruby and Sapphire will also allow up to 4 players to battle via link cable, another new feature.

You've now seen the updates that will take place in both versions, so let's take a look at the features that will be color specific. Team Rocket, the most annoying duo of trouble on the planet, are now gone. Pok?mon Ruby will replace them with ?Team Magma?, and Sapphire with ?Team Aqua.? They have pretty much the same motives behind them, but hopefully they won't have the annoying long slogan before every single battle.

Of course, each game will also have Pok?mon which can be found only in its respective version. However, not all 352 Pok?mon will be able to be caught in the 2 versions alone. I know what you're thinking, no big deal, I'll just be able to connect my GBC to my GBA and upload all my Pok?mon from my previous versions right? Wrong. Players will only be able to find and catch 202 Pok?mon, where the rest of them went is a mystery which can only be explained by Nintendo. Whether they will be available in the upcoming GameCube version of Pok?mon is a possibility, but until more facts come through, 202 Pok?mon will have to curb your Pok? needs for now.

In a similar move to giving fans who preordered upcoming title The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker a free bonus disc, Nintendo is giving fans who preorder Ruby or Sapphire a little something too. A limited-edition, holographic Pokemon collector's coin will be given out to fans who slap down their preorder. While not being the amazing bonus disc that comes with Zelda, it's something, and something is better than nothing.

Final Thoughts
Although there are a few things that have been left out of Ruby and Sapphire, as well as a few unexplained factors, both versions should be just as good, if not better than the previous Pok?mon games. Nintendo loves making their fans sweat a little, just to make some huge announcement right before the games release that blows away all worries. Hopefully the big ?N? will make the announcement of making a GameCube to GBA Pok?mon connection of some sort. Until then, all we can do is wait, and pray.

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