Pokémon Sapphire is one of the third generation of Pokémon games and is for the Game Boy Advance. I’ve already explained Pokémon in past reviews so look up my Pokémon Blue review for further information on the series in general. Sapphire has basically the same concept as the previous titles. You’re supposed to catch and raise Pokémon in a quest to catch them all, get the eight gym badges, defeat the elite four, and become the Pokémon champion. You fight other Pokémon, level up, learn new moves, evolve, and all the other standard stuff for Pokémon games. The story element of the game revolves around Team Aqua and Team Magma, which are trying to basically destroy the world through the waking and use of legendary Pokémon. In Sapphire, you’ll mainly be dealing with Team Aqua as they try to use Kyogre, the legendary water Pokémon, to flood the land. So once again, as you get tangled up in the evil plans of others, you’re forced to try and stop them as well.
The gameplay is more or less the same as previous titles, but there are many more conveniences and some new additions as well. This time around each Pokémon has a nature that can determine some changes in their stats and a Pokémon power that will give them some type of passive ability that’s either constant or triggered by specific actions. There’s now the ability to see full descriptions of your moves as you’re learning them to help decide if you’d like to learn them or not. Of course, as with basically all Pokémon games, there is another big batch of new Pokémon to battle and capture. There are also contests you can compete in by doing certain moves to try and win over judges at Pokémon shows and a system for turning berries into blocks that you can feed to your Pokémon to enhance their stats for competing in the competitions. This game even introduced double battles, which allow you to battle two Pokémon at a time against two other Pokémon. The time system is back but has been changed to simply day and night cycles. The time capsule from the previous generation has been scrapped. There are also new moves, new hold items, a graphical enhancement, and numerous small changes all over the place in this brand new region.
I like that the game is so much more convenient, especially with being able to learn about your moves before teaching them to your Pokémon. I like that the week system got changed to just day and night so that you weren’t waiting long amounts of time to do specific things. The development of the villains is interesting because they slowly build up to their big plans and present a serious threat that you need to help stop. There’s also some mysterious buildup to the legendary Pokémon Kyogre. There’s a nice amount of polish, some great conveniences, and some interesting changes that make the game offer a good new experience.
However, a lot of this game fell flat for me. There seems to be no noticeable difference between night and day other than checking your clock and seeing what you encounter in the wild, which is slightly less convenient, and having special events on certain days was kind of nice. The double battles are neat, but there are barely any in the game so don’t get attached to them as a selling point. The buildup for the legendary Kyogre came rather abruptly. It didn’t seem to be mentioned until later in the game, as if they had forgot to mention it and then just started advertising for the thing halfway through. Also, this huge deal about saving the world still seems to be playing second fiddle to your main goal of becoming a Pokémon master, which doesn’t make much sense. The contests are basically just mini games thrown in to make you treat your Pokémon well. Even the block making process is just a mini game. It seems to be putting more of an emphasis on connecting with your Pokémon and treating them well, but you don’t really gain anything from doing so. It feels more like a distraction than anything else. The rival isn’t much of a rival. Unlike the previous two titles, the rival is actually your friend that challenges you to friendly battles throughout the game. It’s not necessarily bad, but it doesn’t really push you to want to beat them as much as continually fighting with a huge jerk. The biggest letdown is the size of the game. There’s a good amount of hours to be had and replay value with the different Pokémon and everything, but it’s just the one region that is mostly covered by water. You get a new HM that is supposed to go along with the water theme, but now there are four water HMs so you’ll need to either get multiple water Pokémon or lump all the HMs onto one Pokémon to be efficient, which means they can learn no other moves. Neither method is terribly efficient.
There are lots of good things here. The improvements to conveniences and new variables to consider when catching and raising Pokémon, along with all the new Pokémon to see on top of that, are definitely welcome to the formula of the series. However, there’s just nothing spectacular about this game. It feels more like an expansion than a memorable installment. Most of the game is bland and forgettable. The few things that are unique here tend to get lost in poor execution. Overall, Pokémon Sapphire isn’t bad. If you like Pokémon games, you’ll probably like it. It just probably won’t be your favorite of the series. I’d really only recommend it to big fans of Pokémon. Besides, I hear Emerald is better anyways so maybe shoot for that instead. If only it had been in the store I went to when I was looking to buy… oh well.