Pokemon Emerald Retrospective: A Return To Simplicity

The legendary entry in the Pokemon franchise. The game that refined the idea of a 3rd complete version. The game that introduced the mother fucking Battle Frontier!

I never played it.

Now now, just give me a break. This game is around 200 bucks on ebay…and that’s not even getting into it being fake. Be real with yourself. It’s a fake. You spent your rent on a fake game.

Coming out in 2004 as the final and refined addition to the 3rd generation of Pokemon, Gamefreak took Ruby and Sapphire and smushed them to sell them again…I mean make you pay for overpriced DLC…I mean sell you definitive version. Or an advanced Sapphire. I’ll prove that hot take later. This is a game that, in my opinion, deserves retreading, especially if you haven’t played an older style Pokemon game before. If you’re an older fan and played it before, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s your money. Or your stolen product. I’ll never tell.

“So, you finally became a pirate. 2 seconds of downloading a file just to finally face me.”

Generation 3 stands in a weird place for me as a Pokemon fan. It was my introduction to the franchise, through the anime and playing my brother’s copies, but I never truly played through the games. Generation 4 would be where I started playing the games, with my first being Diamond. Generation 3 was actually the only generation where I haven’t played through a single game for years. I may have played Omega Ruby, but they don’t count as they are Generation 6 games. I was also watching Morbius, so you know I have no free time or maidens. To play Emerald after so many years feels like everything is coming full circle. Like the end of a character arc, where the main character comes home only much stronger. You know, an ego stroke. With two hands. Maybe a third…oooooohhhh.

With all the games I’ve played, how does Emerald hold up? Was it good? Was it bad? Was it ehh? This isn’t gonna be a deep dive like, say, KingK’s video or even my own Saber post. More a chill look at the past.

But first, I want to get into the team I made for this playthrough.

The Team

When it came to teambuilding, I always went with the designs I liked the most over actual strategy, with the only rule being no redos. But for Emerald, I took a page out of KingK and experiment with actual strategic thought through research and Pokemon Showdown. However, what I didn’t expect was how much thought I did have to put into it and how much reward I got from it.

The main thing I had to consider was how types worked. Back in the day, if you didn’t know, Pokemon moves weren’t as complex as they are now. From generation 1 to 3, attack moves were either special or physical based on their type. For example, all normal, bug, and ghost moves were physical while all water, fire, and grass moves were special. This would be changed in Generation 4, where the physical special split occurred. Now any move of any type could be either or. I’m used to it since I played Red, Blue, and Yellow twice (don’t ask why), but I still have to remind myself when returning to these older games.

With the lack of the physical special split in this case, teambuilding wasn’t as easy. A lot of Pokemon back then sucked because of this, like Sneasal and Rapidash, so making a balanced team means researching their stats and deciding which is the most optimized for their type. In a way, it goes against the mantra of “using your favorite Pokémon.” Then again, breeding Pokémon for perfect ivs is just a naturally fucked up message that’s still a mechanic today so who cares. I actually liked the challenge of meticulously choosing what Pokémon I wanted to use for my team. I personally liked the challenge presented here because I could better connect with the team I put thought into. However, I understand the flaws of making some Pokémon inherently obsolete. It causes dissonance with the anime’s message of “use your favorite” and it makes it hard for people to use their favorite Pokemon if its stats don’t agree with its type.

Anyway, this was the team that I went with. My focus was a rain team in honor of the mechanics introduction here. Plus, I like water types over fire types.

Skipper The Swampert

Grovyle: I’m not stuck in here with you. You’re stuck in here with me!

Do you like Mudkip? Axelotctl are in style right now, and I’m a trend seeker. I had used Sceptile in Omega Ruby but I wasn’t very interested in Blaziken, so I chose Swampert because it was my second favorite designed starter evolution. I named him Skipper for two reasons. One, skipper is a common nickname of ship captains on the sea and, two, Generation 3 was a generation of games I skipped.

As a Quirky water and ground type, Skipper served as my bulky rain dance setter. With only grass as a 2x weakness, and a decent amount of bulk, Swampert tanked a lot of hits. Strangely more than my actually dedicated tanks. Crappy part is that he didn’t get Rain Dance until after the 7th gym so my rain team barely got to be a rain team. I gave him Protect to scout out opponents moves, though I didn’t really use it that much. I basically overestimated the difficulty of a Pokémon game. Despite his defenses, Skipper was also a powerhouse. With rain dance and a sea incense, Skipper dealt huge water damage with his great special attack. Which is why I chose Waterfall over Hydro Pump. With 130 physical attack, Skipper also dealt huge Ground damage with moves like Mud Shot and Earthquake. Although he didn’t have a lot of good type coverage and didn’t get a lot of chances to sing in the rain, Skipper was an amazing team member and one of my favorite starters in 13 years.

Esmerelda the Ludicolo

Me: Now, as a Puerto Rican and El Salvador, if I make a immigrate joke, how well will that-
Self-conscious police: Stop! You’ve violated the law!
Me: Oh damn it…

When it came to a rain dance team, a Pokemon with an ability that benefits from it is necessary. Abilities exist like Rain Dish, but I wanted Swift Swin to utilize its speed boost. Problem was who to choose, as many are pure water. The best one I found was Ludicolo, who’s Grass typing helped with type coverage and benefited from the reduced fire damage. She also gave some choice when it comes to building her, as she can either be a wall or a cannon. With Rain Dish and Swift Swim at her disposal, and based on the Kappa of Japanese culture, Ludicolo was a fantastic member for a rain team. I ended up focusing on making this Gentle soul a special attacking cannon while finding a nature best suited for its high special defense. Basically, a mix of both her options.

All of Esmerelda’s moves focused on high damage and type coverage. Ice beam for dragon and flying types, Giga drain for other water types with a little health recovery, and Surf for rock, fire, and ground types. Also surf because I needed to traverse the water routes. The final move was Toxic, so that I could deal chip damage in case Esmerald went down. Honestly, Toxic wasn’t that useful and there wasn’t a lot of times when I needed it. Swift Swim’s speed boost made up for her slow speed, so she would hit hard and fast. Esmeralda did have Fake Out at one point, but I ended up replacing it with Ice beam because my Dragon type sucks at defeating Dragon types. Although I didn’t have Rain Dance for a long while, Esmerelda was an irreplaceable member of the team.

On a side note, while Esmerelda was fantastic as a Ludicolo… fucking hell, good luck with raising one. You don’t get a water stone till you get access to surf, so you’re stuck with a Lombre until after the 5th gym. This wouldn’t have been so bad if Lombre had water attacks to use…but to my surprise, that’s asking for a lot. Lombre learns no water moves until lv 47, being Hydro Pump (which Ludicolo can’t learn for some reason), and the only grass move it gets is Absorb. So, it’s okay for the rock gym, useless for the fighting gym, useless for the electric gym, and useless for the fire gym. Great job Gamefreak, you made a water type useless against a fire type. I had a hard time with Esmerelda because of her lack of good moves besides Secret Power and Fake Out. I love her. I respect her. But never again.

Isekai the Slaking

When you’re the only person in the group who does the work

Roses are red, better get some luck, because this sloth hits like a truck. And where you’re going ain’t filled with big titty women, but the glutes of Valkryie women which will only turn on half of you. I chose Slaking because I wanted a powerhouse and was inspired by Chuggaconroy to use him. Slaking is a very gimmicky Pokémon because, in its base and final form, it can only use moves every other turn due to its ability Truant. Vigoroth doesn’t suffer this, but don’t get used to it. And you don’t want to.

Isekai, despite this set back, was a Jolly nuke with raw power. A powerful physical attacker with a scary base attack of 160 and all the type coverage he needs to put other mons on the extinction list! Earthquake for the bulky types like Rock and Steel. Shadow Ball to join Godzilla in his crusade through hell. Brick Break for other normal types. Finally, Hyper Beam. A normal move that takes advantage of the Truant ability to commit war crimes. With this move, I actually used Slaking sparingly because I wanted to use him on the bulkiest Pokémon of the bosses. Isekai just one shot everything if given the chance. An absolutely broken mon when used right. How is he based of a Sloth?

Zaku the Dusclops

When you meet God but he says, “your card declined.”

What’s a bulky girl without being named after cannon fodder? So, Dusclops was a very different Pokemon for me, and I want to do it again. I chose Dusclops because I’ve always to use one in a team, but also because of its balanced defenses. Originally, it was gonna be a Substitute tank that would use Will-o-Wisp to cripple physical attackers and use set damage moves like Night Shade to deal damage based on her level. For a while, that was the plan.

And then this happened.

Curse was an absolute unit of a move! Zaku went from being a substitute tank to a tank that’ll curse at you. To those who haven’t used it, Curse is a weird move as it was a ??? type back then. Any mon that uses it and isn’t a ghost type would get a boost in attack and defense but would lower speed. For ghost types, they…hurt themselves to afflict a status ailment? Okay.

You might think Curse on a non-ghost type is the better option, and I thought that for so many years. But Curse is a gimmick that’s a really good one. The reason I barely used Esemeralda’s Toxic was because of Curse. Sure, it doesn’t increase in chip damage, but it can hit every Pokemon type. Curse is also not healed by opponents using full restores, so the elite four and champion can’t remove it with their spamming bullshit. The other thing made Dusclops my favorite little Impish mon was the synergy I found with the team. When the opponent sent their strongest Pokémon, I had Zaku use Curse. Then I send in the others to either take the chip damage as an opportunity to take them down in one swoop to avoid them being healed or set up status moves to benefit the team or themselves. With Zaku’s curse, Champion Wallace didn’t get to use any of his full restores because all his Pokémon were either one shot by Slaking, had lost enough health for one of my other mons to faint them, or survived at the red but Curse finished them off. He almost did with Whishcash, but he wasted a move because he previously used Hyper Beam.

At the end of the playthrough, Zaku ended being my favorite mon in a long while. It’s the beauty of Pokemon. Just because a strategy looks stupid doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Watch Tempt on YouTube, who’s a master at this kind of strategy. What surprised me was that Dusclops is considered amazing because of the eviolite from Gen 5, so to love it before that was available is an incredible feeling. If I had a personal Pokemon hall of fame, she deserved to be in it the most.

Naydra the Altaria

Remember kids, family isn’t everything. Eat Taco Bell.

A beautiful, majestic mon who ended up being my weak link. Admittedly, through every team revision and battle in Showdown, Altaria never fit the team well. Although Altaria should work as a mixed attacker, with the physical flying and special dragon type, it honestly works better as a physical sweeper since it has access to Dragon Dance. It’s made worse when many of the moves/TMs that would make it great, like Earthquake, were to be given to my other mons in the game. I tried a heal bell set, but I learned Altaria only learns Heal Bell through the side game Pokemon XD. After a while, it just became a hassle. You may say I should have gone for Salamence, but I already used one in Omega Ruby and I try to use different mons every playthrough. Flygon might have worked, but I feel as though that mon fits with a Sand Team better. At the end of the day, Altaria was a hard fit.

In game, Altaria didn’t fare any better. Aerial Ace and Dragon Breath work as good attacks, but Dragon Dance only benefitted one. It’s hard to describe, but it didn’t feel fluid in every battle. The other team members had this fluidity with their moves, where no move compromised the other in any way. It was like being in a zone. Altaria’s move set was It makes me not want to use Dragon Breath since it doesn’t utilize the boosted attack. But so many moments call for it rather than Aerial Ace. The final move was Sing, which ended up being a double edge sword. Although sleep is a useful status effect in general, the move’s low accuracy meant Naydra was left off-guard a lot. Sleep is also random as the Pokemon could wake up at the very next turn, so it felt very useless compared to Curse or Paralysis. Worst of all, Naydra doesn’t have great defenses, so being off-guard with a powerful boss mon that I really wanted to sleep could potentially become an unnecessary sacrifice.

I really should have switched up movesets and not have forced this, but with TMs not reusable it was hard to experiment with something new. That’s a small issue I have with the game; TMs are breakable. It’s why Pokemon Showdown was rewarding, since I knew what TMs I was going to use before starting up the game. But when something didn’t work, I hesistated because using any TM meant it was gone forever and many were either hard to get multiples of or no multiples existed in the game. I thought that having limited TMs would have made the game harder, but it ended up making it more frustrating. All in all, a mixed attacker just didn’t work at the end, and Naydra’s use during the elite four was minimal. Cannon Fodder in some moments. It’s sad to say, but this majestic but Lonely chicken dragon ended up being an outlier to the team’s synergy. Every occasion just wasn’t an opportunity to switch into Naydra because every other mon was a better switch in. That’s the worst thing to happen with a team member.

Amateratsu the Manectric

Gyarados: I am inevitable!
Amateratsu: I’m not 4x weak to a battery.

Yes, I named the electric type of my rain team after a Sun god. Amateratsu was something different for me, as it was the first time I ever bred for a permanent party member. Manectric is a good mon, but its main drawback is poor type coverage. They have not improved this…(checks Serebii) oh, okay it’s improved a little better. As a shitty competitive veteran, I would classify Manetric as a “hidden power cripple,” as its type coverage is so bad that it needs Hidden Power to make up for it. Some mons could have Hidden Power, like I’ve seen on some Celebi sets from this generation, but Manetric NEEDS it. Unfortunately, Hidden Power requires precise breeding as Hidden Power is tied to IVs. I can go on about how ridiculously tedious and dumb this mechanic is, but we’d be here for longer than necessary.

So, what did I breed for? Well, although Manetric learns bite, it can’t learn Crunch naturally. Yes, this dog needed to be bred to know how to bite down harder…ladies?

So, I caught and raised a Poocheyena to level 40 so that it could learn Crunch, then have it do the giggity giggity with a caught Eletrike. Now, by raise, I mean I dropped it at the daycare…like a…responsible parent who can’t raise their child? Yeah, let’s go with that. It may seem tedious to do all of this for one move, but it really made the difference. It felt like a necessary move for a mon with such low type coverage.

Besides Crunch, I gave Amateratsu Thunder so it had a benefit from rain turning it into a 100% accurate move. Funnily enough, despite not always using rain dance, Thunder’s hit rate was surprisingly consistent for a 70% accurate move. Not a focus miss at all. The next move was Thunder Wave for 100% paralysis. Fun fact, back before Generation 4, Thunder Wave could hit electric types no problem so they weren’t immune to paralysis. Combined with Static, as Lightening Rod wasn’t as effective in gen 3, Amateratsu paralyzed a lot of opponents frequently. Finally, because I wasn’t bothering with Hidden Power, I gave it Quick Attack as a priority move in case the opponent lived and was faster. Not the most used, but it fit its situational role well when given the chance. Amateratsu was a decent but viable member of the team, making use of what she had despite the setbacks.

“When you and your friends finally pass Highschool.”

Overall, I really liked this team. Balanced with the benefit of rain, checking for each encounter I could come against, they definitely one of my favorites due to how much work I put into it. A lot more than teams in the past. Maybe I could have used the mons I wanted the most, like Flygon or Aggron. But these mons pulled their own and delivered some of my favorite moments in Pokémon.

The Story: You’re Parents During Divorce

A-Story

“Ah, a dance battle. My 2 years of watching Guardians of the Galaxy has prepared me for this day.

The A story of Emerald is about as simple as you can get. Not bad, but there is some mud in the waters. You play as <INSERT NAME> moving from <INSERT REGION> to the lush environment of Hoenn due to your father, Norman Dafoe, becoming a local gym leader. You meet your neighbor, May beline or Brendan Mahire, and you watch the local professor get harassed by a walking prostate exam. Look at Zigzagoon. So, to save his ass, you gotta pick from 3 starter Pokémon. Treeko Opeko, the green one known for confusing Ash on its type, Mudkip Pie, the blue one that will point a gun at you while asking if you love him (so a typical Gen-Z kid), and White Torchic, the red one that’ll visit Buffalo Wild Wings soon. With your buddy by your side, you travel around the Hoenn region catching, battling, and winning your way to the top. Emphasis on winning.

I thought this A story was the height of the game. Traveling around the really beautiful sprite work of the Hoenn region was an amazing experience. Although not every trainer fight was difficult or fun, I still had a few surprises. The bosses were where it’s at. Flannery’s Torkoal surprisingly took me off guard. Before, I thought nothing of Torkoal. It was just one of “those Pokémon;” the kind you don’t find too interesting so anyone who asks you about it you usually respond with “oh yeah, that was a Pokemon.” How naïve I was. Anyone who’s a Torkoal fan, I have respect for your favorite mon. I must also ask if your into women like Revy from Black Lagoon or Lady Dimitri from Resident Evil 8?

“RECENTLY!”
“God, just kiss me at this point. Actually, don’t. This whole journey is already child endangering already.”

The issue I had with A story was the characters. This was early Pokémon, so I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of the characters are, what I’ll term, a “consistent dopamine rush.” Barely any of the major challenges you on a character level. You’re barely faced by someone who questions you, who challenges you, or anyone grounded enough to ask if you’re ready. Everyone just believes you’re a great trainer who’ll beat the champion. Steven, your rival, the gym leaders, the professor, and even the damn champion himself. It’s overly nice. The only people who even bring you downs are some random trainers, but they’re so far between. You’re basically the second coming of Christ. Everyone complains about the new game’s rivals being bottom beds. This whole game is a bottom bed.

“Man, I must have beat you at the game so hard you have only 3 remaining brain cells left.”

May, I will say, is a bit arguable because she’s kind of a passive aggressive asshole. Blue was at least open about it, and even proved he was better. And Silver was just a poorly written jerk, but at least he was open about it. May won’t say it, but she knows she’s better. This girl, despite getting her ass handed to her, had the gall to say you’re doing all of this preparation and battling because you’re afraid of her. She even ended the conversation by challenging your dad, as if you ain’t on her level. This bitch even beat the entire elite four just to give me advice on how to beat the Champion. Gotta say, we need more rivals like this. Passive aggressive dicks who act like they care but really think they’re superior.

Even then, that’s my interpretation of the rival. People could also take them as a caring person who wants the best for them. In that perspective, they’re a friendly rival in a game that’s overall friendly. Besides the evil team, this story was very anti-conflict and got really boring.

B-Story

“But you didn’t have to cut me off
*Cue epic ass music*
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothin’
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
*angel choir goes hard*”

B story is the one involving gods, realized legends, political arrest, and the awakening of Jesus Christ the Dragon. The evil team, this time, came in a bundle of two as Ruby and Sapphire really wanted to expand on the idea of two versions. Team Magma and Team Aqua, who try to summon the Legendary Pokémon of their choosing, Groudon and Kyorge, to expand the land and rise the seas. All of this for the benefit of Humans and Pokémon, making them more as antagonists with well intentions. Man, imagine being a fan since Gen 1 or Gen 2 around the beginning of Gen 3. Going from evil teams who caught and stole Pokémon for profit to “evil” teams trying to summon deities in order to progress climate change for our benefit. Everything ends when you, the independent, finding the the 3rd Titan, Rayquaza, in order to quell both beasts when they go on a rampage.

Team Magma and Team Aqua were perfect antagonists for this story…in concept. Hoenn took the harmony of Pokémon and People to its fullest, creating an ecological masterpiece that we, today, are still trying to achieve. People protecting the land for Pokémon’s benefit, which in turn protect us. Both teams wanted to protect and expand this world, with no intention of disrupting it. But they do. Magma’s extreme view that land is most required and Aqua’s view that the sea is most required ended up disrupting the balance established. They wanted to destroy in order to create. But both the land and sea are needed, but they were so blind to their ideology that they unintentionally caused ultimate destruction where no creation is left. Their self-righteousness’ will end up destroying both Pokémon and People. A hard lesson that we, unfortunately, haven’t learned.

Unfortunately, both teams were not treated equally in the story. The reason I called Emerald an updated Sapphire is because Team Aqua was made into a more threatening antagonist for eco-terrorists, story wise. Despite their inclusion, Team Magama felt like a secondary antagonist due to how many more times you stop Magma’s boss over Aqua’s. Maxie and his team are made an absolute joke. Despite being the big boss of eco-terrorists, Maxie’s beaten 3 times over the course of the game. I get level scaling, so you’re not curb stomped, but it made no sense for a Pokémon team boss to have a level 25 Camurupt? Like why stoop to a twelve-year old’s level; you’re trying to blow up a fucking volcano. His plans are stopped twice before Aqua.

Maxie, volcanos explode every few decades and they barely kill the local life anyway. You’re not special.

The part that made me think Magma was more of an afterthought is what happens when they failed at controlling Groudon. After the beast escapes them, you’d think they would go and find it. But, instead, they decided to go to a random space center to steal some rocket fuel so they can use it to erupt the volcano. You know, cause the best way to expand the land for people and Pokémon’s benefit is to erupt a volcano that’ll kill the surrounding people and Pokémon. Great consistency. I mean, how the hell do you lose a Pokémon the size of Godzilla!? And then, when Maxie’s plan failed again, he was all like, “oh maybe I’m wrong. Okay I’m good.” As someone who’s played Omega Ruby, they really dumbified Team Magma in this game.

Me: Please, don’t do this. There must be some good in you left.
Archie: Well, I still support gay rights.
Me: Oh, that’s pretty goo-
Archie: By killing all the homophobes!
Me: No, come on.
Archie: Yes. Gay people will love me. I’ll have 1 hour video essays explaining why I was actually right!

But all that SHIT can go because Team Aqua is the bomb. They got the good end of the stick. Not only does Team Aqua succeed more, stealing a completed submarine even if the subplot for that was a bit stupid, but also Archie is only fought right before he summons Kyorge. Basically, at the end. Archie, to me, was the true antagonist of the game. Unlike Maxie, who’s immediately hostile to you, Archie questions whose side are you on with a gentler tone. Now, this is my interpretation, but I think the player unintentionally help Archie by taking down Team Magma, which allowed him to succeed with his plan. Archie’s placement as the “final” boss of this story had greater build up, which made his fight all the more satisfying, even if his Pokémon team sucked. Seriously, although my own post is invalidated due to my flawed interpretation of the character, you can’t deny his team is terrible. It’s only 3 Pokémon and there’s no strategy to it. Great antagonist, terrible fight.

Unfortunately, the story took a nosedive right when the beasts get released. After summoning Kyorge, Archie became distressed because, and I’m not kidding, it was raining too much.

It’s raining too much…it’s raining too much…

“What did you envision!”

Oh yeah, sure. Let’s ignore the fact that the sky is both stormy and blazing hot at the same time. Glad we’re seeing it your way! I understand the message that they’re meant to realize they’ve taken things too far, but hinging that on too much rain makes Archie look dumb. Witnessing it first hand, it felt like the dumbest choice they could have gone for.

The actual change to the overworld was at least pretty sweet. Seeing the environment change between too much rain and too much sun back-to-back really sold the crisis of the situation. One of the coolest things about early legendaries was that you weren’t given everything about the legends. Were just creating the land and sea the only power Groudon and Kyorge held, or was there more? Were they nothing but doomsday Pokémon that had to be quelled by Rayquaza? Maybe the legends were true? That sense of mystery really sold the threat Groudon and Kyorge present. No one knows if the legends really are accurate so, as the first Pokémon in the series like this, to see it before their very eyes brings a level of dread that we don’t see often in Pokémon anymore.

Because then we’d need to reform the two party system-I mean because they’re both giant deities who clearly hate each other.
“To overcome the problem I chose to ignore. Now, would you like to eat crumpets in my room temperature bunker?”

Now, one issue that’s just inherit to the Pokémon franchise is why aren’t any of the Gym Leaders, police, or Elite four stopping the teams from summoning ancient deities? It’s really stupid, especially here. The Space Facility was specifically sent a warning by Team Magma that they were coming. Yet there were no police, no guards or even the town’s gym leaders come in to protect them. Most of the time I just suspend my disbelief because this is just a Pokémon thing, but this game’s finale really shines how poorly written it gets. Everyone is apparently on holiday because the player, a 10-year-old who just became a trainer (depending on when you started), are the ONLY one on standby to help Steven and the champion. Not the other gym leaders or the elite four. Not the gym leader who’s at the LITERAL epicenter of the titan fight. I get the reason why, to make the player the main protagonist of the story, but the set up just came across as the bare minimum. With my compliant of the player being a Jesus figure, it doesn’t help.

Getting to Rayquaza was an amazing feeling. Discovering where it lived instead of the game forcing you to on the path felt like a good compromise to what comes later in the series. A lot of the modern games just tell where the box legendary is or just give it for the story, while Gen 1 and 2 were vague about their whereabouts since those legends had nothing to do with the story. Emerald combines both well, where they push the player to the legendary while giving the player freedom to find the location themselves. Plus, his crib is this ruined tower with no explanation. My one nitpick was how you meet Rayquaza. As in, there’s not fight with the beast. I think it would have helped the tension if Rayquaza could have been fought ala Kyurem in Black and White 2. Just seeing it fly away was cool, but not very epic. It would have been a funny series gag where Rayquaza, despite a literal disaster around it requiring it stop the disaster, fights anyone who disturb it.

“That’s not boss music. That’s a whole fucking symphony.”

Finally, the scene. THE first cutscene in the series. Where Rayquaza flew down from the heavens, diving in between Kyorge and Groudon, and roared… EPICALLY. As someone’s who’s watched it on YouTube and spoiling myself, actually getting to the scene on my own was still worth it. Unfortunately, it ended up turning the finale into an anti-climactic disappointment for me. The cheery music afterwards didn’t help. Seeing Rayquaza descend was incredible, but for all that buildup just to end with a single roar was downright insulting. It’s why I wish Rayquaza could be fought before. Would have it padded out the pacing a little? Maybe. But anything to not have this void that was created. Afterwards, everyone just goes back to normal as if that was a regular Tuesday. Even Maxie and Archie escaped un-arrested, so the two dick heads who caused all this got away scott free with a lesson learned. Hurrrrraaaaayyyy. It fell flat and left me unsatisfied. Overall, the B story had its moments, but it was a lot of ideas that get half-assed with an execution that’s just pitiful.

C-Story: Theming

The theme of Generation 3 was environmentalism and nature, with more cities attuned to nature than large technological areas. I guess Wattson in the remakes didn’t get the memo. Anything resembling high tech, like Lilycove and Mossdeep, is small compared to how much nature surrounds it. Such places that fit this theme are Fortree City, where every home is a treehouse, Lavaridge Town, which situates itself near the major volcano, and Pacifilog Town, which is primarily log houses floating on top of a Corsola reef. With legendaries represented by the 3 main elements of the Earth, Hoenn is a natural paradise in the Pokémon World only rivaled by Alola.

Everyone in the region wants to protect nature and the Pokémon. Respect is the big word here…like my pee-I’m very lonely. An example includes the Rock Tunnel, where they stopped drilling due to the Pokémon not being able to handle the noise. Not everything is perfect, as it seems the “air” is polluted. Most of this is from Wally’s character arc, who’s illness is suspected to be due to the “air,” which is why they send him to the cleaner Verdant Town.

“That was a month ago. Baths are just not part of my programming.”
If the air is making you pay rent to breathe, then why not buy an air cleaner. If politicians can buy electric cars from ma main man Musk, then you can afford a 4000 dollar air cleaner.

While a good message, I found it to be as half-baked like the B-Story. The game never gave an answer to who’s causing this polluted air that caused Wally to have anthrax. I can’t say Team Magma or Team Aqua are causing the problem. They may have unleashed Ragnarök, but they never littered. The only thing I can think of is Magma’s involvement with the volcano, especially when they drill into it to find Groudon. Yet, there was no explicit mention of that causing any air pollution. It was never implied that any of the major corporations are causing any trouble. The president from Devon Corp. was so nice and kind that it didn’t seem like he’d do anything…okay bad example. The point is, despite there being some kind of environmentalist issue, there was no real logical origin in-universe, and it had no real baring to the plot. It felt like a thrown-in theme with no real thought put into its inclusion.

The Gameplay

Battles

I literally spammed Thunder Wave and Spark. Shit’s easy

With the story out of the way, the battles were a mix of hard and very simple. One of my biggest complaints with modern games is how easy it is, and I think that has to do with a combination of the team set up of bosses and the inclusion of gimmicks like dynamax or z-moves. There’s no real strategy to them. Totally call me out if you disagree, but modern gym leaders come across as if they don’t have checks for the type matching these games are known for. Plus, the game goes out of the way to give you enough garbage like the Rotomdex lottery or EXP candies to take away any challenge. Of course, there are some exceptions like Raiden from Sword and Shield and, also, I am not the target audience anymore. But Gyms suffer from the type matchups, with barely ever using stat buffs or ailments, and the game hands you so much that they become laughable. I think there’s a linear easiness to them, which comes across as no thought was put into making a boss that scales with you as you get stronger. It feels backwards.

I lost once to them. Now, understandably, the game doesn’t consider me not paying attention but damn do their buffs stack after awhile.

Emerald, on the other hand, had various bosses that were either easy or hard depending on the teams you use. Winnona is generally regarded as the hardest due to her Altaria knowing Dragon Dance, yet I didn’t find her that difficult even without an ice type. I pretty much used paralysis as my wing man. But, as I said before, Flannery ended up being the most nerve wracking due to her Torkoal, but I also struggled with Tate and Liza’s stat buffing moves. While it wasn’t the scaling I prefer, with each boss getting progressively harder, I don’t mind the challenge being based on your team choice. There’s enough difficulty to make every playthrough different. It creates stories. I may tell you I had no difficulty with Winnona, but you may tell a different tale. Every type-based gym battle, every boss, and even every forced Pokémon fight should have this level of thought. Even some trainer battles have some thought put into them, making them some of my favorite because they broke the slog. I would rather have a difficulty system that creates stories rather than being hard for no reason or easy for inexcusable reasons. If you feel like the modern games are too easy, give Emerald a shot.

The Overworld

I like how there was no indication that this space station stops the smog of rocket fuel from hitting the town-is that what’s causin the air pollution!?

The Overworld was absolutely my favorite part of the game. Especially when it’s not a hallway. I’m not apologizing for my Sword and Shield hate. I know I should be past this, but my god is it awful. The vibrant sprite work here is amazing. Gamefreak really knew how to do pixel art back in the day, making something that looks primitive pop enough to have felt like a real world. The colors come at you, creating fascinating areas like Route 113, which is covered in soot, or Meteor Cave, which has a subtle purple to it that really focuses on the astral vibe of the area. This may be more subjective, but I love the look more than Omega Ruby. The look of the 3ds games feel desaturated, making the region boring than it actually is. Emerald’s sprite work makes traveling so much more eye appealing.

Unfortunately, while the best areas are on land, the water routes sucked. Water routes have sucked in every generation from 1-4. It all looked the same. It’s all blue. It’s all rocks. There’s barely any variety in it. They took the fun of exploration and turned it into a tedious ass maze. Some are pretty simple, like the Gen 1 and 2 routes from and to Cinnabar where it’s just down or up. And then there’s Emerald. Imagine me, a fat little baby, who liked trying to discover everything a route has to offer. I loved finding stuff in Pokémon because it’s rewarding. So, imagine that in an area where everything was identical and there are several branching paths. It’s not even fun since all the trainers and Pokémon are typically water types, unless it’s on a small island. The only change was diving into the underwater routes, which was and is still a cool gimmick. But it doesn’t remove the fact that Hoenn’s sea routes are way too long and way too confusing.

“Hoenn creates more terrorists than your average subreddit.”

Minigames (Pre-Post Game)

Oh my god, actual meaningful content in a Pokémon game! And a majority sucked! Let’s just get them over with. I’m only talking about the main story side content. I’ll get into the Battle Frontier in a part two post.

Game Corner

“I guess being old enough to own mystical creatures means you’re old enough for an addiction.”

The first is the Game Corner, because nothing screams children’s game than slots and pool. Does it ever occur to Japan that kids are not adults? Anyway, Game Corners were prevalent back in the older generations until parents around Gen 5 were like, “huh, this kids game has gambling.” So, they’re now a dead breed since the Pokémon Company wants to make sure the Europeans allow their children to play a cock fighting simulator. There are so many ways around this so they can bring it back, such as minigames based on certain Pokémon in a similar vein the Pikachu Surfing minigame back in Yellow version.

Now, I’m not saying bring back the gambling because the gambling was BS. Why? Cause it was gambling. That’s it. There is no thought into it because gambling is all luck based. Slots was just mashing A so you can get points, and roulette was…roulette. Place a bet now and probably win something in 2 hours! These weren’t fun. And it’s not like real gambling where the sucker wins money, so it’s not as addictive. Also, the rewards suck, like getting the TMS Ice beam and…. flamethrower, never mind. Even with those prizes, imagine a player wanting to build a team for competitive but the most valuable TMS are behind an unwinnable mess. This is one of those aspects of Pokémon that haven’t aged well. But, again, make it an arcade with games not based on luck and having the Game Corner back might be possible.

Secret Bases

“It’s just memes! And not even the good kind, like dabbing or Amoongus.”

One of Hoenn’s most famous mechanic. Wanna play with your friend, but you really don’t have the energy to actually be together? Just send them your records and they’ll see your secret base in their world. Be happy knowing your AI version talks to your friend more than you do.

Because I played on emulator, and it’s been 19 years since Gen 3 came out, I can’t say anything about other people’s secret bases. The most you got out of it is battles, but that’s unlocked after beating the E4. What you can do in the game is make them. In every route, special looking textures are scattered, whether it be a small square in the wall or a special tree. Using Secret Power opens it and makes it the player’s secret base, with decorations like plushies, tables, and chairs to make it personal. Annnnnddd that’s it. It’s like Minecraft, where people make these elaborate creations on single player survival mode. At least ORAS and the Gen 4 remakes allow new fans to experience and share bases, preventing it from being a product of its time.

Pokemon Contests

“I call BS. I clearly won!

The other most recognized feature from Ruby and Sapphire, and it sucked. There are those who do like this feature and want it to come back somehow besides just remakes. I respect their opinion, but I’ve always cared very little for contests because it always came across that the game doesn’t care about it. The idea is definitely creative. A mode with no fighting. It’s an appreciation of the beauty of Pokémon and seeing how beautiful a move can be made. So, a glorified dog contest.

My issue with the mode is that none of what makes it good as a concept is in the game. The actual mode was really boring. For the most part, it was just battles except there is no opponent. Unlike regular battle, moves are categorized by how they “look” to the audience rather than elemental types. There’s Cool, Tough, Smart, Cute, and Beautiful. Every Pokémon can be fed blocks to be optimal for these categories, primed and fattened to be the best in the contests specific in one category.

All of that amounts to nothing more than a boring version of battles. You and 3 others performers perform moves in front of a judge to get style points. I understand that this was a Gameboy advanced game and would never be like how the anime portrayed Contests. But these battles lost the magic that Pokémon battles brought. To see these moves brought to life through the burning of the enemy. When these moves are hitting nothing, it loses that. It’s like a punchline but no one’s laughing. Winning also had no investing. Each contestant has an order in which they go, and that changed every time everyone goes. I could go first one turn but then 3rd the next. Moves gain a set number of affection. The more a move gained affection, the more points earned in order to win. When using a move in the category of the contest, like a cool move in a cool contest, then additional affection is earned. When every contestant uses enough moves of that category, one of them lucky enough will excite the audience enough to get a bombardment of affection. There was a randomness to it that can be fun since it was anyone’s game, but the luck factor of it made it a chore to win.

Me: For my next trick, I’ll have my puppy perform a vasectomy through the move I bred it with. Who in the audience doesn’t want children?

The biggest problem with Contests was there’s no investment in the mode entirely. It sounds like an alternative path to Gyms. No fighting. No gym badges. A “pacifist” route in a sense. But it could never work as replacement with the story formula of Pokémon. Contests sound like an interesting route, but it would have none of the excitement as the regular route. What sounds more fun? A route where you do no fighting, where you go to each town performing to get attraction points? Or the route where you fight everyone, beat gym leaders, and fight an evil team trying to summon an ancient deity. For the target audience, they would choose the gym route because it’s the exciting sounding one. Even then, with the way Contests are, getting through the game where the main mechanic relies on luck sounds like a chore. Some may say to have the legendary Pokémon in the contest route, but how? You won’t fight it and you really have no reason to get a powerful fighter in a game mode about beauty. Maybe today, it could have worked if they adapted the game around it. Look at Undertale, a beloved game with a Pacifist and Genocide route. But, looking at the various Pokémon generations, nothing about contests has any merit over the gym route.

Even in the game, the mode was treated like an afterthought. Instead of being spread throughout like it was in Ruby and Sapphire, it was in one area with no benefit of learning the mechanics. There’s no other place that used blocks or “cool type” moves and the story never even directed me to it. Worst of all, there was no reward for it. Nothing from contests benefit the real journey except for evolving Feebas, which needs a max Beauty Stat. At the end of the day, Contests were an amazing idea unfortunately in the wrong games. It was too big an idea for the Pokémon formula, but it couldn’t be shrunk down enough to be accommodated into it. It needed to be its own thing, its own spin, instead of a side mode where it’s completely out of place. The fact that it hasn’t returned until a Gen 4 remake, which it already was in Gen 4, is a sign that this mode was never a perfect fit.

Battle Tents

“Came for Pokémon, entered a secret underground Beyblade arena with a bunch of 2000s lookin kids with hoodies. If one of them didn’t whip out Storm Pegasus like he whipped out 100 bucks, I would have feared my life.”

The final minigame of the main story, replacing the Contest Halls, is the Battle Tents. Each tent held a special format, with 5 battles in a row with your Pokémon reduced to level 30. What I adored about the Battle Tents was that they actually teach and build the player up to a future mechanic in a very linear but satisfying way. In this case, the Battle Tents were meant to be an introduction to the Battle Frontier, getting the player accustomed to their rules while not revealing about the location. I love this. The fact that it’s building up to the most remembered feature in the game was incredible. Plus, it was better at foreshadowing the Frontier than Scott, an NPC who just appears out of nowhere with the huge sign saying, “Hey, there’s a Battle Frontier but I’ll be vague for absolutely no reason. Okay bye, love you.” It’s not as intrusive as the Contest Halls. The Battle Tents fit well into the game while offering something different than the battles we’re used to.

To go in-depth into the Battle Tents would get into the Battle Frontier, which would make my post game retrospective redundant. What I will mention is that some modes were better than others. Some were a fun spin of the battle mechanics, and others left me screaming at a jumble of code to use Mud Shot…for fuck sake Skipper, hit the damn Wailmer with anything other than Water Gun. Jesus Christ, are you blind!? We’re gonna lose because you think spamming water gun and protect is an effective method, you stupid FU-

Music

If you have trompetaphobia, get your corner ready because Gamefreak was not about diversity back then. If it’s not trumpets, it’s not Gen 3. The music in Emerald isn’t my favorite per say. It’s hard to describe, but not a lot of the tracks really vibe to me. It’s more of a feeling than a logical reasoning. Despite that, the music is still really good. The trumpets gave routes this larger than life adventure feel, while giving caves this mystical ancient feel. The battle music is also incredible, with the best being the Team Boss themes and the Elite 4. There isn’t much for me to say, other than the soundtrack is good.

Drake: I have come for the CEO of Sex.
Me: Sir, put a shirt on!
Drake: Not until I’m givin full permission to get my rockers off.
Me: Oh dear lord…

Overall, the game had its ups and down. It’s aged well as a game in terms of presentation and the battle mechanics, but the story and various minigames were pretty bad. Anyone coming in will basically go into the barest bones of a Pokémon game, but there is still some substance to it that doesn’t turn into Sword and Shield.

And now, for an old man talking about Nostalgia

Matt: Prepare your watering hole.
Me: Am I talkin to the average Pokemon fan?
Matt: Which one, Sada or Turo?
Me: Sorry, the prospect of a cavewoman mommi made me a Sada fan.
Matt: Then you will never truly be based!
Me: That doesn’t sound pretty chad-like.
Matt: Kill yourself.

This is gonna be a huge subjective rant about the feeling of playing Emerald after so many years. Generation 3, and Generation 1-4 as a whole, is a simple but magical experience. I think Gamefreak really knew how to use simplicity back in the day. Despite the flawed story, this game brought back the joy I felt watching the anime, collecting the cards, and discussing it on the playground. And, yes, I had a huge crush on May back then. Who didn’t? Hoenn’s vibe, in a few words, is exotic. Kanto felt modern, a lot like Earthbound, while Johto had a traditional Japanese mood. Hoenn felt like a summer vacation at the Bahamas, which makes for a cozy summer vacation game.

Being able to explore the region in Emerald helped me traverse a well-known region with fresh eyes. There are some things in here that were new to me, like Team Magma’s base being in the volcano or Scott being a stalker. I knew Emerald would be a different ride, but to have actually played it showed a different side to the region that started it all for me.

This kid: Does being from Hoenn make me a ho? Come back later for more bullshit from me.

Looking back, Hoenn, Johto, Kanto, and Sinnoh all felt like a connected vision. Despite being vastly different versions of Japan, they have a unified look which, yes, is what Japan is. But also, because it’s due to the formula they created. The remakes of the first two gens within 3 and 4 help with this feeling, and the anime back then built upon each other with characters and Ash’s Pokémon frequently coming back. As much as Generation 5 is my favorite, it’s vision to reboot the franchise ultimately made the future generations less unified within each other. Sometimes I think it was for the better as it helped differentiate Alola or Galar, but I can’t help but reminisce the old simplicity of the older generations. In an ironic twist, the unified vision made gen 1-4 all the more special.

Overview

Now kindly piss off!

At the end of the day, I enjoyed my time with Emerald. It was a fun kids game with strong gameplay but a terrible plot. But it still brought back that spark I’ve had for the franchise since I first popped in Diamond and forgot to delete the previous person’s save file before putting 30 minutes of my life into it. If you started out with generation 7 or 8, I definitely recommend playing it. It won’t make you feel like an old man like me, but it’ll give you a textured look into how the past was. You may also miss what the current generation spoiled you with. Back in my day, we had to train our Pokémon individually with the Victory Road like a bunch of starving drug addicts. Just one more level today, I said, I’ll be done with the session. Trust me, you will appreciate your end of the stories from Generation 7 a lot more after seeing their first attempt. And, if you’re a veteran that’s either jaded or peachy, I still say give this game another chance. With Scarlet Violet seemingly pushing the franchise away from the dead cigarette and into a brighter future, it’d be a good idea to relive where the franchise used to be.

Anyway, that’ll do it with this look back on my childhood. Tune in next time in about a month. See ya!