Nintendo 3DS (originally for Game Boy Advance)
The player starts their journey in Littleroot Town, where the family has just moved after the player’s father, Norman, became a gym leader. As usual, the game follows the player on their path to collecting the gym badges and becoming the next Pokémon Champion.
Pokémon Emerald was the first video game that I ever picked up. I initially played this game when I was around 5 years old, using my brother’s Game Boy Advance SP. After hearing the news of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet being released this year, I felt a bit ‘homesick’ for the older generations and decided to replay the one that got me into the series.
As my talk with Prof. Birch finished and I was greeted by a scene of my character inside a moving truck, a wave of nostalgia hit me. You see, when I was 5 I wasn’t allowed to save my game until my brother had beaten his own save file because doing so would cause him to lose his progress, meaning I had to start a new game every time. I witnessed this same scene many times, but it still made me feel excited for the adventure ahead.
One of the first things I noticed when I embarked on my journey to become the champion was the game difficulty. Compared to the latest entries, this game felt less forgiving. Your little friends won’t avoid being poisoned, put to sleep, or paralysed just because they love you like they do in Pokémon Shield. In fact, status ailments are carried from one battle to the next, and being poisoned means your pokémon loses health even outside of battle. There is no easily-obtainable experience candy to level up your pokémon quickly, and only those that you actively use in battle will gain experience. This makes training them, and choosing which ones to train in the first place, more strategic.
I also found it interesting that earlier games like Emerald seem to be more cryptic. While you will get hints about your next destination, you won’t be told exactly how to get there and might even struggle a bit if you don’t talk to NPCs. In contrast, newer games tell you exactly what to do next every time there is a stop in your journey. While I’m not a massive fan of this new approach, I understand that the old one can be frustrating at times. I think finding a good balance would be great for the series.
Overall, I have really enjoyed replaying one of my childhood classics. When I choose to re-experience a piece of media that I grew up with, I often find that it’s not as good as I remembered it. However, Pokémon Emerald managed to match my expectations. It also managed to make me feel a bit old…