The year is 2003 and for my eighth birthday, I was gifted a copy of Pokémon Ruby Version! Yay!

Originally released November 21, 2002

At this point in my life, I was a huge, mega-fan of the franchise, sporting tons of merchandise for the hit franchise and although the series was losing its appeal in the west, my love was only growing.

What do I mean by that? Well, remember how I talked about Pokémania in my previous write-ups on Pokémon Generations I and II? Unfortunately, around the time of Ruby and Sapphire’s release, popularity was at an all-time low and the higher-ups at Game Freak (developers of all main series Pokémon games) were worried about on how they could keep the momentum going for the foreseeable future of the brand. Something worked as we’re still getting games to this day, but around that time, Junichi Masuda, music composer and game director of Ruby and Sapphire, had stated how he had nightmares about the franchise losing relevancy.

But enough history. From my point of view around that time, I was absolutely in love with Ruby and Sapphire and while it may have scared off long-time fans (I know I said enough history, but more on this later), I was hooked from beginning to the end. I remember spending countless nights, grinding and capturing for the best team I could have. However, I was a stupid, naïve child back then

Like previous titles, players start off in a small town with dreams of becoming one of the best Pokémon trainers of all time. How does one go about doing that? By capturing and training Pokémon and challenging the eight gym leaders scattered across the Hoenn Region. By this point, Game Freak was fixated on keeping core components of what worked while making small increment changes in the background. What do I mean by this? The games, anime, and card games were criticized over the years on how they rarely innovate compared to other long-running franchises. But even so, Game Freak followed the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it model” for several years to come.

And remember how I said Ruby and Sapphire scared away longtime fans? This was one reason. Fans moaned and groaned because of the constant retread of previous games repurposed into the newer titles. And oh yeah, Ruby and Sapphire were the beginning of Game Freak’s new policy of cutting older features which further divided the fan base. Features such as the night and day real-time clock system and compatibility with Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, and Crystal thus cutting several Kanto and Johto Pokémon available within the game!

Back then, I didn’t care about any of that. To this day, Hoenn remains my favorite region with its many exotic locations:

I mean, look at it. All that sea to explore different and unique towns and all that nature to observe. Sea exploration is the main criticism Hoenn receives, but it never bothered me. Although, it needed a lot more diversity with its water-type Pokémon selection… also, you can explore underwater in some places giving us a selection of more Pokémon and items exclusive there.

People also seem to forget that Ruby and Sapphire added mainstay elements as well such as abilities and natures; the former is shared by every Pokémon of a certain species, while the latter may vary among a particular species. Abilities grant their holders certain powers in battle, such as immunity against certain types of moves or strengthening a certain type of move. Natures, like innate abilities, affect the strength of Pokémon in battle; however, they affect the stats of the Pokémon rather than directly affecting the strength of the moves.

Introducing double battles also changed the way we battle in which players now send out two of their own Pokémon to combat opponents own two. Double battles became so popular that official tournaments these days only allow these types of battles.

Oh yeah, let’s talk about that god tier soundtrack!

Okay, enough gushing because I can write and write and write and write more and more on why I love this region. It may not be perfect (the hate is well justified in some areas), but I would be lying if I said I let the criticism affect the way I feel about these games. Although the games go for higher prices these days, if you want to explore Hoenn, you’re best bet is picking up the 3DS remakes, Pokémon Omega Ruby or Alpha Sapphire. I personally didn’t care much for the remakes, but they are the only modern and cheap way to play through this region sooo…

Thank you for reading.