Pokémon Sapphire journal - entry four

It is highly unusual for me to get past this far into a Pokémon game without having a full team that I intend to try my best to carry on through the Elite Four and League Champion battles. Even though I swapped out Chimecho for Azelf during the late hours of my Platinum playthrough, I still knew that I wanted a psychic-type Pokémon to complement the other members of my party. While I intend to keep Sableye, Torkoal, Breloom, and Loudred, I’m having second thoughts about keeping Pelipper at my side – he’s decent enough, but his jack-of-all-trades role has been similarly filled by Loudred, the latter of whom does not have a four times weakness to electric-type moves. Finally, my current sixth party member, Castform, is something of a one-trick pony – not entirely useless, but a slow horse out the gates at the start of any battle, unless the weather is already in his favor. It’s a shame, really, because I like the way Castform looks, and his distinct forms are a clever idea, but the time it takes to utilize any of these takes far too long.

I’m also coming to realize that these routes being so single-minded in their focus on trainer battles and wild encounters may not be as great as I initially believed. Nearly every area I’ve come across thus far had to be explored for some angle of the main game, leaving little in the way of optional sidequests or bonus content. When I played through Platinum, one of the things I found a bit annoying was how there was a plethora of half-baked ideas from the sidequests and minigame content, but in Sapphire, those elements have been practically nonexistent thus far.

It was around the time that Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald left their mark on the world of handheld gaming that the Pokémon community began drawing their dividing lines between the games and claim one generation or another as the ‘very best’ (pardon the play on words). This process of fans aligning with one generation or another as their personal favorite became even more prominent after the DS titles came onto the scene. Long before playing Sapphire, I had heard exceptionally good things across the board, from personal friends of mine as well as the anonymous Pokéfan masses of the internet. Honestly though, I think that Sapphire is currently a little below Platinum with regards to my own personal enjoyment with the game. While I appreciate the Pokémon native to Hoenn, the game itself feels too cut-and-dry an experience. Yes, gen IV was far from perfect, with its insistence on pushing old and boring Pokémon during wild encounters and its over-reliance on event-distribution legendaries, but at least the overworld was colorful and the gym leaders a decently interesting spin on the familiar. The majority of Sapphire’s main game has been rather predictable, and the fact that Team Aqua and Magma are so thoroughly uninteresting only hinders the game's aspirations. I realize that it’s difficult to live up to the wonderfully-plotted ideals of Team Plasma, or the classic villainy of Team Rocket, but the expansion of the sea/land depending on which version of the generation III experience you are playing is simply yawn-worthy. Does Pokémon Sapphire look good for its day? Certainly. Does it play well enough? Sure. But does it feel anywhere near as inspired a title as any of the other five generations of Pokémon? Not even close.

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