After six hours with the U.S. version of Pokémon Sapphire, Bloodworth gives his impressions.
While I’ve never been a huge Pokémon fan, or had the opportunity to play multiplayer, I did manage to put about 88 hours into Silver before losing interest. When Pokémon Sapphire first arrived, I was rather indifferent. After having put six hours on the clock, I have yet to find anything that makes me feel like this is a different experience — but still the addiction is setting in.
The game starts out with a young boy or girl (the instructions recommend you pick the character of your own gender) moving to Littleroot where you meet Professor Birch and his family. While the professor is out researching, you happen to find him in trouble and pick one of three Pokémon to assist him. In return, he gives you the Pokémon you chose as well as the Pokédex, and your journey begins.
Much like previous games, you hunt for wild Pokémon in the grass and catch them with Pokéballs. You have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your Pokémon, raise their levels, and battle against other trainers. One of the new and most significant additions to the system is 2-on-2 battles. Although they seem to be designed for multiplayer, you do encounter them from time to time in the main game. It’s hard to say that the additions are really innovative in any way, but having doubled the number of Pokémon significantly raises the level of strategy in the game. You can have one Pokémon attempt a risky move to confuse an enemy, while the other goes for a straightforward tackle. Furthermore, depending on the types of Pokémon you’re up against, finding a winning team can be challenging since a Pokémon that has a move that’s “Super Effective” against one opponent might be weak against the other opponent’s attacks.
With the upgrade to Game Boy Advance, there are a significant number of minor improvements that can easily go unnoticed. Unfortunately, Pokémon still aren’t truly animated, but the menus have been greatly improved with a stylized look that fits the Pokémon theme. The graphics and sound are nothing to really get excited about. However, once in a while, little details like added background instruments in a song, or seeing your reflection in the water will grab your attention.
Having only series that retains its addictive charm without taking any major steps forward. For the millions of Pokéfans out there, that will likely be enough.