Monday, March 16, 2015

The Pokemon Retrospective: Gen III

Yes, there really is too much water.

I will be one of the first people to admit that I don't like Gen III. I think that Ruby/Sapphire set a lot of negative trends of the Pokemon series that fans are still trying to grapple with today. I will fully admit that while the changes made to Ruby/Sapphire were necessary, they were handled very poorly and the overall results leave me very mixed. I'm downright confused as to how many fans call it their favorite Pokemon generation, but I will not harp on them for their own opinions. Instead, let me explain why I think that Gen III is the most flawed generation in the franchise.

Gen III had a steep decline of Pokemon fans and could easily be identified as the end of the late 90's-early 2000's Pokemania. It wasn't because of the quality of the game though. Even though I'm about to bash Gen III like never before, I can't blame it for marking the end of Pokemania. For Gen I and II, you could conceivably play both of those games on one handheld. If you had a Gameboy Color, you had all of the Pokemon games on one system. You didn't need to go out and buy a new system the keep up to date on the world of Pokemon. However, with various hardware updates and the Gameboy Advance becoming more popular, in order for Pokemon to survive, it needed to make a hardware jump. Unfortunately, not everyone had enough money to pay for a Gameboy Advance and a new game, so a loss of fans was to be expected. However, Ruby/Sapphire tried to update the game in new and interesting ways to very divisive results. I feel like now that it's been 12 years since Gen III was released and several months since I've played through its updated remakes Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, I can judge what worked, what didn't, and fundamental changes in the philosophy of Pokemon design.

For example, Ruby/Sapphire was the generation that began the new Team ________ storylines. Every since Gen III, all Pokemon games have made it a significant point to include a side story to the main game where you must defeat and evil Pokemon team before the 8th gym from them conquering the world. It usually involves a legendary Pokemon and a ridiculous plan that would never work in any other game ever. I don't think we need to reiterate how stupid Maxie's plan of removing ALL WATER ON EARTH truly is. The problem with these forced storylines though is simple. The entire point of Pokemon is to beat the Elite 4, become the Champion, and capture Pokemon to your heart's content. You can't do that when the game physically stops you and limits you on where you can go and what you can do until you beat this forced story event. You're meant to be free, not tied down to a plot that no one cares about. Gen III at several points stopped your exploration, forced you to go to a set location, beat enemies that all used the same Pokemon, then allowed you to continue on your quest. It grinds the game to a halt, and being sent of medial tasks is not what I want to do in a Pokemon game.

Adding on to new series elements that annoyed me, we now have the incredible amount of new legendary Pokemon in Gen III. For Gen I, there were 5 legendaries. In Gen II, there were 6. In Gen III though, you had 10 new legendaries. 10! Before, the legendaries you encountered were rare, hard to find, and posed a huge challenge. In Gen III, the legendaries are ridiculously easy to find and overpopulate the game. What's the point in being legendary if I am forced to encounter you during the story? It's not as bad as Gen IV's over reliance on legendaries, but it's irksome when a significant percentage of the new Pokemon added are legendaries. Legendaries are not fun to use in teams. They're overpowered, incredibly hard to kill, and are generally banned from competitive fighting anyway, so what's the point in having a plethora of them. 

And yes, I do think that there's too much water in the game! When Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire released last November, IGN gave both games a 7.8 out of 10 with one of their major negatives being that there is too much water later on in the game, effectively making the game very boring as you constantly surf, fighting Tentacools for EXP, and explore a region that is mostly islands. People laughed off their reasoning, but it's true. The last two gyms are in the ocean, and large portions of the game center around water. 16 routes are along the water, Dewford, Mossdeep, Sootopolis, and Pacifidlog reside on the water, as does the Sunken Cavern, the Sky Pillar, and Ever Grande City, which is the home of the Pokemon League. There is too much water in the game and forced water exploration. I had to use 3 separate HM's to navigate the last fourth of the game, and no one likes using HM's. I had to use Surf, Dive, and Waterfall on a near constant basis, and while I can excuse Surf for still being a great move in its own right, the rest are worthless in battle. It essentially forces you to always carry a Water Pokemon that will always be your HM Slave. They serve no other purpose than to have you navigate the overworld. 

Is there anything else I can rant on about? Of course! The music is blaring trumpets, the graphics are murky and no vibrant in the slightest, the battle theme in underwhelming, Poke Contests were worthless, Double Battles didn't really as anything new to the formula, and the Pokemon introduced this gen, while visually interesting, served very little purpose in battle. I have yet to see a man who claims that the Pokemon in Gen III are the best designed Pokemon of any generation. 

Everything about Ruby/Sapphire rubs me in the worst possible way. I don't find the games entertaining. I've played every other game much more than Gen III and Gen III was the first Pokemon game I ever sold. Yes, I sold my copy of Sapphire when I was younger. I got a new copy of it, but I was just that uninterested and bored with the game. It didn't do anything for me. Gen III was the necessary development that the series needed, but it developed in all of the wrong ways. And that is absolutely apparent in the next Pokemon generation. It's a generation generally perceived as the worst generation and was the lowest point in the Pokemon franchise. Next time, we discuss Gen IV. 

The Pokemon Retrospective:

1 comment:

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