Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were important because they showed how the series had changed.

(Last Updated On: May 3, 2023)

The 20th anniversary of Ruby and Sapphire and the release of Scarlet and Violet show how much Generation 3 changed the future of the franchise.

The release of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet last week marked the beginning of the ninth Generation of Game Freak’s creature-collecting RPG franchise. The reception was mixed. Scarlet and Violet is, on the one hand, a bold step into open-world design with a story that encourages thorough exploration. However, the games suffer from a multitude of bugs that suggest Game Freak should have kept their creation in the oven for longer. This transition may cause fans to reminisce about games that landed better, such as Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire from Generation 3.

Hoenn, a more tropical region of the Pokemon universe based on the Japanese islands surrounding Kyushu, was introduced 20 years ago (though it would not come to America until March 2003). Ruby and Sapphire forged their own path, whereas Pokemon Gold and Silver could almost be considered expansions of the original titles, including a post-game trip to Kanto and a battle against former protagonist Red. Game Boy Advance (GBA) graphical updates, new gameplay mechanics, and a more linear storyline established the template Game Freak would follow for decades.

Iconic is the “Advanced” Pixel Art of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire.

Pokemon’s Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow versions started an anime and trading card game empire that made the game famous all over the world. Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green were Japan’s best-selling games until Animal Crossing: New Horizons dethroned them last month. Most people associate Pokemon with the Game Boy and Ken Sugimori’s influential artwork. Gen 1 is used a lot in games like Pokemon GO because of this, and original 151 monsters like Charizard get a lot of attention.

Nonetheless, it is not an exaggeration to say that Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire established the style that modern audiences recognize. The series’ chunky pixel art underwent numerous revisions throughout its Game Boy library, with the original Red and Green monster designs deviating significantly from contemporary standards. The GBA hardware enables sprites that are closer to those seen on the SNES, making each Pokemon more colorful and detailed.

The fidelity of GBA graphics extended to Hoenn’s aesthetic design. Kanto and Johto have unique regions to explore, but nothing even close to the sophistication of the middle section of Ruby and Sapphire. The players travel from a beachfront market town to a road covered in volcanic ash, then to a limestone cave, before climbing Mt. Chimney, exploring desert ruins, and finally arriving at a city built into a forest canopy.

Review by IGN of 2014 remakes Omega The now-famous meme that Hoenn has “too much water” was spawned by Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, but the region’s diverse environments set a strong standard overall. Its pixel art style was also carried over to the 2013 release of Pokemon X and Y, with Diamond and Pearl and Black and White expanding on the use of animated sprites and 3D environments. Despite reimagined character designs, some still prefer the hand-drawn graphics of Gen 3 over the polygonal models used in Ruby and Sapphire remakes.

Ruby and Sapphire Set the Stage for Contemporary Pokemon Gameplay

Though Gold and Silver initiated the process of making each Pokemon more distinct through mechanics such as breeding and shinies, Ruby and Sapphire did more to set the stage for competitive battling. Generation 3 introduced Abilities, which give every monster a passive effect on battle, and Natures to complement its more modern stat system. The “Effort Values” (EVs) obtained by defeating specific monsters in battle are now distinct from the “Individual Values” (IVs) inherent to a single Pokemon.

Pokemon with specific Natures, such as “Jolly,” serve two purposes. On the backend, it means that they have one increased stat and one decreased stat (in Jolly’s case, Speed is improved at the expense of Special Attack). In addition, flavor text that gives their partners an identity is displayed on the summary screen for casual players, contributing to the impression that these are living creatures. Other recurring additions, such as Contests and Secret Bases, were introduced in Ruby and Sapphire to help players enjoy their personal journeys, such as Contests and Secret Bases.

These stat-adjustment mechanisms facilitate competitive breeding and combat. Generation 4’s introduction of Physical/Special moves, which built upon changes such as Generation 2’s split of Special stats and Generation 3’s clarification of EVs, marked the beginning of a true competitive scene. Ruby and Sapphire also introduced Double Battles, which have since become the official format for Pokemon VGC (outlasting subsequent iterations such as Generation 5’s Triple Battles).

Following Ruby and Sapphire, the Pokemon universe is more defined.

Hoenn may be rendered better than its predecessors, with Route-by-Route gimmicks such as collecting soot for glassblowing, but Ruby and Sapphire are frequently criticized for their linear structure. Prior to Paldea in Scarlet and Violet, Kanto was arguably Pokemon’s most open-ended region, allowing players to battle multiple Gym Leaders in any order. In Gold and Silver’s Johto region, players could visit Olivine City’s Lighthouse or Mahogany Town’s Team Rocket base in either order, but in Ruby and Sapphire, the only comparable deviation is the option to briefly bypass Brawley’s Gym in Dewley Town.

Having a more linear adventure made it easier to set balanced level pacing, which was a problem in Generation 2, and made room for now-standard ideas such as foiling a villainous team’s plot that involves a region’s Legendary Pokemon. In fact, Ruby and Sapphire’s lore and monster design could be viewed as a direct precursor to modern entries that base almost everything on Hawaii, the United Kingdom, and Spain. Hoenn’s Pokemon, from seagulls and lily pads to ancient deep-sea creatures and fruit tree dinosaurs, have a distinct tropical flair that complements its island setting.

Naturally, Pokemon Emerald version would improve almost every aspect, especially in terms of narrative – Team Magma has its own base of operations, getting Rayquaza to end the battle between Groudon and Kyogre results in an iconic cutscene, and the post-game Battle Frontier provides a challenge that many fans feel the series continues to pursue. Still, Ruby and Sapphire planted seeds that helped make this franchise what it is today, for better or worse. Perhaps, in several decades, Scarlet and Violet will be viewed similarly by fans.

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