Pokemon Emerald

Sometimes, on those cold and windy nights, I lie awake in my bed tossing and turning, the only thoughts racing through my brain being, "Please! Please Nintendo! Make yet another Pokemon game that's pretty much a rehash of some of the older Pokemon games!" Funny thing is, I always get my wish, because Mario and Co., instead of just melting the glasses of its fan boy horde with a brand spanking new adventure has lately been merging colors, slapping a new name onto a box and reselling the same old stuff, and this is sort of the case with Pokemon Emerald. Essentially Ruby and Sapphire squeezed onto a single cart, Emerald features very few new additions, though in typical Nintendo fashion, the stuff that the developers have added is cool enough that the game warrants a play through.

With your powers combined! I am Captain Planet!

Well not exactly. Pokemon Emerald is merely the love child between Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, so what you're getting is really the best of both worlds, which is all of the Pokemon on a single game pack, but there's a lot more to this latest adventure than some new Legendary Pokemon and slightly-improved visuals.

Fans will be treated to an entirely new story that revolves around stopping either Team Aqua or Team Magma, both of which are trying to use Pokemon Kyogre's water or Pokemon Groudon's ground powers respectively in an attempt to take over the world of Hoenn, but let's not kid ourselves here. This isn't Shakespeare. In fact, even to the most dedicated Pokemon fanatic it may not even be interesting and it doesn't need to be. That's because Emerald, much like its predecessors, is all about capturing Pokemon, training Pokemon, beating up other Pokemon, and then trading Pokemon with friends, or teasing them because you have a rarer battle monster than they do, whichever you prefer.

On the plus side, Nintendo has made a couple of new additions to the gameplay, the first being four-player battles. They won't happen all of the time, but occasionally you'll need to vanquish a few opponents, and as your Pokemon fight you'll be treated to brief animation sequences that play before the creatures launch their attacks. You'll also be charged with making possibly life-threatening decisions when faced with what's being called a Battle Tube, a device that presents you with three choices that will heal your battle monsters, damage them, or throw you into an environment with a bunch of wild critters. As the knight said in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Choose, but choose wisely.

Also cool is the ability to battle friends and trade Pokemon wirelessly using those nifty GBA adapters, and you can connect to Ruby, Sapphire, FireRed, LeafGreen, and Colosseum. However, I'm not yet sure what the benefits are to doing this, but I'm going to assume that it allows you to upload as well as download different Pokemon between all versions.

Aside from that character animation that I mentioned, Pokemon Emerald doesn't feature any serious graphical upgrades over its prequels, though that doesn't mean it's bad looking. The simplistic yet sharp visuals evoke the essence of the cartoon series, and all of the Pokemon look exactly like their... umm... uhh... real-life counterparts! It's amazing!

Despite the fact that Pokemon Emerald is built around Ruby and Sapphire, there appears to be enough new additions to warrant a purchase, and if you never played either game then this is a must buy, not only because Pokemon has still managed to remain cool after all these years, but also because you're looking at well over 40 hours of gameplay. Nintendo still hasn't delivered an original entry in this series (Pokemon Diamond, anyone), but Emerald looks like it's going to be a rewarding RPG that has a lot to offer. The battle begins April 30.