You Just Might Want to Catch’em All
There have been many pinball games released for the Game Boy during its lifespan, but Pokemon Pinball Rudy and Sapphire is one of the best. All Pokemon games will make Nintendo a fortune, but it’s nice to see them put forth a great effort to make a quality game. Pinball games might grow boring after a while as you are just trying to achieve the highest score possible, but Pokemon Pinball gives you more incentive to play. Capturing all the Pokemon is what will keep players coming back to this game.
Pinball games are simple. Use the flippers to keep the ball alive for as long as possible and try to generate the high score. This newest Pokemon game adds to that. Since the whole story behind Pokemon is “catching them all,” it is in the player’s best interest to do so. This game consists of two game boards: Ruby and Sapphire and both compliment the newest games of the RPG series.
Each board is designed for the player to hit certain targets to make Pokemon appear. The player must first shoot the ball through a particular path on the board. Once the player has hit this target a certain number of times, a “Catch” icon will appear in front of the target that should be hit next. If the ball manages to find its way inside this hole, then “Catch ?em” mode appears. If the player then hits the Pokemon that is stationed at the bottom of the table three times, then that particular Pokemon will be added to your Pokedex. There are 200 Pokemon to collect in this game. The Pokemon that were caught can be seen and read about in the Pokedex.
Once Pokemon have been caught, the player can enter “Evolution” mode. This mode appears similarly to the “Catch ?em” mode in that the player must hit certain targets to activate it. “Evolution” mode is the only way to capture some Pokemon.
Also on each game board are a bunch of extras. Coins can be collected and spent in the Pokemon shop. Here, helpful items such as ball savers, extra balls, and ball upgrades can be purchased. There is also a random slot machine that will appear from time to time. One necessary part of each pinball video game is the mini boards. There are two in each level. These mini games are mostly used to rack up millions of points. Besides from getting a lot of points, they are also a nice break from the rest of the game.
Just because this is a pinball game it doesn’t mean that it will shy Poke fanatics away. Besides catching the Pokemon, other Pokemon are littered about on each table. Spoink is the ball shooter, Pikachu is a ball saver (as is Pichu if you activate him), and a pack of wild Shroomish will serve as bumpers.
Each table has its own Pokemon to catch. This means that the Pokemon you find in the Ruby table might not be the same kinds you catch in the Sapphire table. To capture specific Pokemon, “Travel” mode will have to be used. While playing, a picture of a type of land will appear at the bottom of the screen. For example, if a grassy field is shown, then only grass type Pokemon will appear. “Traveling” to another type a land is necessary to collect all the Pokemon. Some other types of land layouts to travel to are water and cave.
Collecting all the Pokemon can be a pain, especially when trying to capture the rare ones. To ease this frustration, Nintendo has included a link function. If two GBAs, two Pokemon Pinballs, and a link cable are all connected, then Pokedexes can be updated. If a friend has collected Pokemon that you have never seen, then there will be a greater chance that they will appear in your game if you link up your Pokedexes. That takes care of the Pokemon aspect of this game, but what about the high scores? This is not a problem, but high scores can be exchanged too. This will keep the competition between friends high.
The game is very forgiving too. If the player activates “Catch ?em” mode, “Evo” mode, or plays in a bonus board, the player cannot lose his or her ball. If the ball manages to travel down the hole, it will respawn in a few seconds. Since all these special modes are time based, if a ball falls off the table, only short time penalty will ensue. Pikachu and Pichu will help save your ball from traveling down the side gutters as well.
The first Pokemon Pinball game was made for GameBoy Color and supported a rumble feature. This was a unique way of playing a GameBoy game but only a select few games supported the rumble feature. To use the rumble in these games, an AAA battery was needed and the game cartridge was slightly bigger. Instead of making a big cartridge, Nintendo included a rumble feature only if you play it through a GameBoy Player. The GameBoy Player is a small device that hooks on to the bottom of your GameCube and allows for the play of all types of GameBoy games on the big screen. If players play this game on their GameBoy Players, then every tap, bump, and hit can be felt through a normal GameCube controller. This is a nice addition and is the first game to have a specific feature added just to the GameBoy Player.
Besides from having great table design, there are two types of ball speeds to choose from: Normal or Slow. If new comers are having trouble with the speed of the ball, the just set it to slow. There isn’t a big difference between the two speeds, but it is noticeable.
This game is very simple to play. The default control layout will satisfy most gamers, but there is always the option to customize your own controls. “A” will be used to flip the right flipper and “Left” on the D-pad will control the left. Uniquely, “L” and “R” will be used to tilt the screen in the corresponding direction. However, if both shoulder buttons are hit simultaneously, then the screen will tilt up. Tilting the screen can make the difference when the ball is in trouble. I have actually saved my ball by tilting the screen upward right before it was going to travel down the hole. Tilting the screen will be a very handy tool. And feel free to tilt the screen all you want because there is no penalty for doing so.
Pokemon Pinball Ruby and Sapphire by no means push the GBA system to the limits in the graphic department. It doesn’t really have to. Everything on the screen is very colorful and very clear. Everything can always been seen because there will never be any overlapping or muddy sprites blocking the way. The game does make some good use of visuals though. In each bonus board, nice water effects, mirroring, and transparency effects are noticeable.
The music isn’t all that bad either. Each board kind of has its own pleasant ice cream parlor sound. The only way you’ll tire from this music is if you have a really great run and are playing on the same ball for an hour. When “Catch ?em” mode or any other special event happens, a faster, more nervous tune will play. The player will then feel the pressure to complete the task at hand. The sound effects are also well thought out and even a few voice samples from popular Pokemon are present. You can even hear each Pokemon’s cry in the Pokedex.
Despite being one of the best Pinball games on the GB, I still have some small quirks. The ball physics, while being some of the best seen on GB, are not perfect. There were times when my ball got stuck on a bumper and bounced in the wrong direction. These instances are rare, and don’t really affect game play in a great manner. While I understand that this game is supposed to be a spin off of the Ruby and Sapphire series, I wish there were more game boards. The designers tried to fix this with the addition of bonus boards, but I would have liked to see more. Having only two boards seems a bit too limiting.
I also would have liked a see a two-player mode as well. Swapping scores can be useful, but a two-player co-op or vs. mode would have made this game great. Another disappointing fact is that there is no multi-ball function. Only one ball will be on the table at one time. I would have liked to see five or more balls on the table at one time.
The appearance of Pokemon slightly upset me too. Keep in mind that there are 200 Pokemon to collect. I by the time I caught seven Pokemon, I already started to catch double Pokemon. This annoyed me, but then I learned to make more use to the “Travel” function. Along with the same appearance of Pokemon, I found the random select of the slot machine to be anything but random. I played this slot machine about ten times before I finally got something different from a 30 Second Ball Saver.
These are only slight negatives about this game. I did, however, like the fact that the scores are extremely high. The first time I played I got more than 100 million points. Having a high point total just makes the game more fun. This game also strays away from the typical pinball game. The added support of Pokemon gives the player more incentive to play this game. Not only will you try and get the highest score, you will also want to collect all the Pokemon. If you see a new Pokemon that you never seen before, you will feel that it is your duty to capture it. This brings a refreshing sense of excitement in a pinball game. The added link function to swap high scores and Pokemon is a great feature as well.
Pokemon Pinball Ruby and Sapphire is one of the best handheld pinball games. Even players that hate anything to do with Pokemon may enjoy this game. The thing that makes this game successful is that the player won’t tire of it easily. The collecting of Pokemon is a great way to keep players coming back. The ball physics aren’t perfect, but they’re close and scores will swell with the high point system. The added rumble feature makes this a great game to play on your GameBoy Player too. Don’t blow this game off because it has Pokemon on the cover? in fact, this is what makes this game so great.