"The air is tasty here!" is the new "Hi! I like shorts!"
Finally, a Game Boy Advance version of Pokémon! Ruby & Sapphire are thoroughly upgraded versions with great graphics & sound and tons of new features, even if it's almost the same old game under all of that. For the benefit of the clueless, the game is a turn-based RPG in which players collect, battle, and trade monsters (Pokémon) and can link up with other players. The player controls a trainer, either a boy or a girl (the other becomes a friendly rival) and leaves home to become a Pokémon master!
The sounds consist of the usual menu sounds and a distinct sound for each Pokémon. The music is pretty good - there're some great sounding songs, like an upbeat marching tune along some of the routes. There are stereo effects in the songs, too. The graphics in Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire are bright and colorful, and also include a bit of scaling. It looks quite a bit like Advance Wars. There are a couple more nifty effects, like leaving footprints in the sand. Instead of generic icons for Pokémon, the game menus show scaled down pictures of the actual Pokémon. Someone can easily see every Pokémon in a box instantly. It's very convenient.
Speaking of convenience, there are a good number of new features that make in-game tasks less of a chore. There's no need to switch to a bicycle to move fast - early in the game (once running shoes are acquired), running can be done with the 'B' button. There are new bicycles though, like the MACH BIKE which moves insanely fast. Items can be registered to the select button for quick use, just like before - but the the L & R buttons don't seem to be used at all in the game. Why the heck not?
The core gameplay is still the same, though, excepting the 2 on 2 Pokémon battles. Catch the Pokémon, beat the rival, and get the gym badges. Since the game doesn't connect to old versions, however, it's a completely fresh start. Many of the old Pokémon have been dropped entirely - there are about 200 Pokémon total in this game.
The 2 on 2 battles are a simple new addition to gameplay; each trainer has two Pokémon playing at the same time. It doesn't seem to happen very often in the single-player game, but four players can link up and play battles on teams. Players can also mix "Records" which exchanges various data between the games. For example, if a player encounters a news crew in the game and selects a comment such as "LOL" from the menu, it will appear on a TV in the game. If players mix Records, other players can see their friends' televised shenanigans within their own game. There are many opportunities to share information about yourself in the game - one character asks you to create a profile from a list of pre-selected words. It might seem limited, but it's still possible to create fantastic phrases like "I AM A DANCE MACHINE".
Like in Pokémon Gold & Silver, there are berries that regrow regularly. They now bear more than one berry, but the catch is that they need to be replanted. This way, you can replant what you want and forget about the useless ones.
There's another big feature with Pokémon Contests - you can try to win over the crowd in a popularity contest in the categories of Cool, Beauty, Cute, Smart, and Tough. There's a bit of strategy that needs to be used in this mini-game; each move that a Pokémon uses affects the performance of others and affects the judging of the Pokémon. Four players can play this, too.
To improve stats for Pokémon contests, Pokémon need "Pokéblocks" - these are made by gathering certain berries and playing the mini-game with the Berry Blender. Up to four players can play this, or a single player can play this with computer characters. It's fun and easy; it's a cooperative timing game in which the player attempts to tap 'A' when the arrow on a spinning disc matches with their own. The disc gets faster with each successful hit, and records are kept for the fastest speeds reached.
At a ballpark guess, it might take about 40 hours to beat the game, or more if your name is Daniel Bloodworth. There's a good chance you'd want to catch all of the Pokémon or raise an ultimate team to battle your friends with, so in reality, a person could play it endlessly (and some die-hard players do). It's definitely an improvement over previous Pokémon games, but it's also still very similiar to the past ones. If you're a veteran player, you can decide for yourself if you want to catch 'em all (again). For someone new to Pokémon, this is a great buy - you don't need prior experience with the games to fully appreciate Ruby & Sapphire.