When did pokemon ruby come out? The third generation of Pokemon games marked the series’ first appearance on the GameBoy Advance, but it also came at a point where the Pokemon brand was beginning to die down.
According to a recent interview with Game Freak co-founder Junichi Masuda, creating a whole new Pokemon adventure was such a difficult experience that it took a toll on the director’s physical health.
Releasing in 2003 to impressive sales figures and lasting praise, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire was a great step for the franchise that proved that the Pokemon brand wasn’t going away.
Thanks to an increase in screen size, as well as a lot more colors and sound channels to work with, the developer was able to do a lot more with the game than it could with previous titles, but it also took far longer to make changes.
The biggest issue wasn’t the development however, it was the question of whether there was a demand for a new generation of Pokemon.
Masuda goes on to say that there was a huge amount of pressure to prove the world wrong, as toy stores were beginning to abandon their old Nintendo merchandise in favor of Star Wars products. To further the issues, trademark research suggested that Game Freak would not be able to publish the game under the names Ruby and Sapphire, uprooting the developer’s plans completely.
Despite the stress-induced hospital trip, Masuda continued work on the upcoming games, finally releasing them after getting the all-clear on the names Ruby and Sapphire. The morning after release, the Game Freak co-founder went into his local shop and saw eager fans lining up to get their copies of the games, feeling a tremendous sense of relief. Since then, Ruby and Sapphire have become so popular that they received a long-requested remaster on the 3DS.
The Pokemon in the third generation are also so loved by fans that their inclusion in worldwide phenomenon Pokemon GO is being eagerly awaited by the AR title’s player-base.
Despite how difficult the production of Ruby and Sapphire was, it’s clear that the Pokemon franchise lives on to this day because of the quality of the Game Boy Advance generation, proving that Game Freak didn’t let the stress get to it too much while developing another esteemed Pokemon game.
Do you have to play the Pokemon games in order?
Most of the big titles in the mainline Pokemon RPG games are great standalone games to dive into, but if you want want to start from the beginning, there are two different ways to play in order: by release date or chronologically.
How Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire Refreshed the Series
But before we even start listing the ways Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire revitalized the series, we should discuss some background information. From the very outset of the adventure, fans of the franchise could tell this generation of games was going to be something different from what they’d seen before.
In both previous generations, the player started out as a long-time resident of a quaint little village. In Red and Blue, they woke up in Pallet town in the Kanto region.
And as for Gold and Silver, New Bark Town set the stage. What’s more, the two regions were connected as part of the same continent. And in the second generation, players could explore both Kanto and Johto, which made for a lengthy journey.
Not so with the third generation of games. In Hoenn, players literally arrived in the back of a moving van, where they hopped out to meet their mom in front of a new house.
So, from the very start, it was apparent this new region was something entirely different. It was far away, it was exotic, it was exciting. And this is the backdrop for everything in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire.
It’s the breath of fresh air that propelled the series past its successful origins into the titan it currently is. And arguably, without the advancements of Gen III, Pokémon would be a beloved but archaic series.
1. Players Don’t Receive a Pokémon in the Lab
In Pokémon Red and Blue, Professor Oak guides players to his lab, where they receive their first partner. And in Gold and Silver, Professor Elm summons them for an errand, offering a Pokémon to help out along the way.
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with this story trope, because at the time, it was new enough to keep from getting stale. However, repeating the same narrative for the third game in a row easily could have left fans feeling like they’d done the exact same thing twice before.
So, rather than going to a lab to receive a Pokémon, Gen III changed the idea around. While wandering around the outskirts of town, players hear a voice crying for help.
And after discovering Professor Birch trapped by a wild Pokémon, they must quickly claim their own starter to battle with and save him.
Essentially, this helps Ruby and Sapphire jump straight into the action, setting the tone for the rest of the story. And though later generations have a similar method for choosing a starter, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were the first to deviate from the generic, lab-based introduction.
2. Teams Magma and Aqua
In both of the first two generations of Pokémon games, players repeatedly run into the infamous Team Rocket. And thematically, it makes complete sense.
Kanto and Johto are part of the same continent — of course the criminal organization operates in both areas. But Hoenn is an entirely different region, and it only followed to introduce a new team of enemies for fans to struggle against. But Gen III took it a step further than that. Rather than having one underground organization, there were two. And narratively, they not only fought against the player but each other as well. In Ruby, Team Magma acted as the primary antagonist. And in Sapphire, Team Aqua took center stage.
But perhaps the most interesting development is the integral part that these organizations play in the main story. Because while Team Rocket definitely showed up in first two Pokémon games, they weren’t necessarily the catalyst for events.
At least, not the way Teams Magma and Aqua are in the Gen III. Because in large part, the narrative for Ruby and Sapphire is taken up with the player’s attempts to stop these teams from reaching their world-shaking goals. So, at the very least, the stakes are higher. Team Rocket might steal Pokémon, but Magma and Aqua threaten the safety of the world.
3. Legendary Pokémon as Major Plot Points
Not only did the rival organizations, Teams Magma and Aqua, play a larger roll in the narrative for the third generation. So, too, did the legendary Pokémon.
Because in Ruby, the entire goal of Team Magma was to revive Groudon, the Pokémon responsible for creating land. And ultimately, dry up the seas.
Alternatively, Team Aqua wanted to raise Kyogre, the Pokémon of the seas, to return to world to primeval waters. And in large part, the story revolves around a race between the teams and player to get to the legendary Pokémon first. Otherwise, the world is threatened with destruction.
In previous generations, there was little to no such centrality of the legendary Pokémon. If anything, they were more of an achievement than a plot device.
In other words, worked into the story rather than a part of the narrative. So, for Ruby and Sapphire to break away from that format and include Groudon and Kyrogre so intrinsically in the story was a major achievement for the series. And like many of the changes these games brought to the series, this carries forward to every other entry.
4. Introducing a Third Legendary Pokémon
Pokémon Red and Blue were largely similar in terms of legendary Pokémon. After defeating the Elite Four, the player had the option of traveling to the deepest part of Cerulean Cave and catching Mewtwo. Gold and Silver at least improved upon this formula by introducing mascot legendary Pokémon.
In other words, Ho-oh was the version Pokémon for Gold and Lugia for Silver. And while both were obtainable in each version, the catchable order varied by game.
However, in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, players had the option to obtain a third legendary Pokémon that was on-par with the version specific mascots, Groudon and Kyogre. Rayquaza, the dragon/flying hybrid, could be caught in both versions of the game.
So, in a sense, Gen III combined the ideas of the first two games by introducing version specific legendary Pokémon while also including an “ultimate” legendary available in both versions.
This triumvirate of legendary Pokémon was an idea carried forward for at least two further generations. So, in Diamond and Pearl, players could obtain Dialga, Palkia and Giratina.
And in Black and White, Reshiram, Zekrom and Kyurem. While later games seemingly moved on from this concept, it was first introduced in Ruby and Sapphire and was the standard for ten years.
5. From the Depths of the Sea to the Highest Mountain
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the first two generations of Pokémon games have stagnant environments. After all, there are oceans, lakes, caves, mountains, fields and many other geographically diverse areas. However, Ruby and Sapphire again went one step further, introducing many new types of terrain to explore.
Perhaps the most exciting of these is the ability to dive to the ocean floor and glide through the depths. In fact, there are some Pokémon in the games which can only be found there. And even one town which cannot be accessed except from underwater.
But the changes don’t end there. Players can ride to the top of a volcano in a cable car, traipse through the treetops in Fortree City, brave desert sandstorms, and even explore a shipwreck along Route 108.
Of course, many of the important landmarks in Pokémon games are specific to different generations. And some of these are more exciting than others by nature.
But even the way Gen III approached exploring the environment is worth talking about. Because some of those features were never used again, and remain wholly unique to Hoenn.
6. Introducing Double Battles
So far, most of the discussed changes introduced in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire have been thematic. Or, at least most of them haven’t had much to do with the actual mechanics of the game.
Double battles are the opposite. They only affect the gameplay. In the first two generations of Pokémon games, it was only possible to fight one-on-one battles.
But in Gen III, on Route 104, that all changed. Because for the first time ever, the player was challenged to a two-on-two battle. Here, Pokémon could attack opponents and others on their team. So, navigating battles became somewhat more difficult. Some moves, like Surf, would actual impact every Pokémon on the field during a double battle.
So, it was as likely to make your own partner faint as the opponents’. Again, double battles are a feature which the series retained moving forward, and has appeared in most other versions.
7. Abilities and Natures
Type advantages made up the bulk of battle strategy in Gens I and II. So, if an opponent sent out a fire Pokémon, the best idea was to counter with water. If electric, then ground, and so on. And while type advantages have played a major roll in battle mechanics in every mainline entry, Gen III introduced two other important factors: abilities and natures.
Pokémon abilities are innate, mostly unchangeable characteristics specific to individual Pokémon in a given species. And in effect, they provide passive support during a battle.
However, not every ability is helpful. Some might actually hinder a Pokémon. For example, the Comatose ability causes Pokémon to take double damage from specific moves and Klutz prevents held items from having an effect. However, other abilities are largely beneficial, such as Intimidate, which automatically lowers the opponent’s attack stats.
So, trainers in Gen III suddenly had to account for the abilities of their chosen Pokémon as well as type advantage and disadvantage. But that isn’t all.
Another new development was Pokémon natures, which affect the growth of a Pokémon whenever it levels up. So, a Pokémon’s stats were no longer dependent on its species and level (as well as any boosting items like HP Up or Calcium). Instead, a creatures nature could influence the way it grew.
For example, a Pokémon with the Gentle nature will grow higher in Special Defense and suffer in normal Defense. Those with a Jolly nature sacrifice Special Attack stats for Speed. So, in terms of Pokémon breeding, players would have to pay close attention to nature to ensure a Pokémon met their expectations.
One thing worth noting, though, on abilities and natures is that it is entirely possible for players to ignore these effects and still play through Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire normally. Because they’re passive and latent, they’re always there, and they have been since Gen III. But only hardcore trainers tend to pay close attention to these stats.
8. Pokémon Contests
While the first two generations focused on becoming the best Pokémon trainer in terms of battles, Ruby and Sapphire offered a different option.
Pokémon contests were beauty pageant of sorts, where players could enter their Pokémon to win different ribbons. This incorporated an entirely new move structure beyond attack type. Now, moves were also classified in one of five different categories:
Each of these characteristics represented a different type of contest. So, if a Pokémon knew several “Cool” moves, they stood a chance at winning a Cool contest. In a contest, moves had different effects, all meant to impress judges and an audience. And at the end, whoever scored best won.
Across Hoenn, there were four levels of contests: Normal, Super, Hyper and Master. Naturally, each rank increased in difficulty. And sometimes, players would have to choose whether they wanted a Pokémon to be good at battling or good at contests, then teach them moves accordingly.
9. Making Pokéblocks
Part and parcel with the introduction of contests is the option to feed Pokémon different treats to influence the way they grow. And in Gen III, this took the form of Pokéblocks. In a mini-game of sorts, players could mash up their harvested berries to create colorful candies to feed their partners.
These could help prepare a Pokémon for contests by raising their basic stats in one of the five contest categories. So, different combinations of berries would result in various kinds of Pokéblocks, each enhancing a contest Pokémon’s stats in different ways.
Both Pokémon contests and food enhancement items carried forward to different generations, though often in different forms. For example, Gen IV had Pokémon Super Contests and Poffins, while Gen V boasted Pokémon Musicals.
10. Secret Bases
We’ve saved one of the coolest features for last. Using the move, secret power, Pokémon could discover suitable places throughout Hoenn to form a secret hideout.
Sometimes, these bases could be found in rock walls, and other times trees or bushes. But the effect was largely the same. It opened up an empty space where players could decorate and personalize a base of their own. Up to sixteen items could be used at one time in a secret base, including chairs, tables, beds, posters, mats and Pokémon dolls.
And if players were lucky enough to catch the department store at the right time, they could purchase rarer items to decorate with. Such items included tents, slides, breakable doors, and mats that played musical notes when stepped on.
Though far from the most integral change Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire brought to the series, secret bases were an entirely unique concept. And though they held little practical value, they were simply a fun way to express personality and individuality in-game.
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