When the original Game Boy was released in 1989, it came with Tetris, one of the best launch titles of all time. Nearly a decade later, the handheld would see a revival of interest, in the form of Pokémon Red & Blue. These games were tailor made for the Game Boy and managed to sell millions of copies worldwide. Despite the popularity of the Pokémon franchise, many fans yearned for a game in the series that was on a more sophisticated system. When the Game Boy Advance was announced for release in 2001, the most hotly anticipated games were the upcoming third generation of Pokémon titles.
In 2003, players outside of Japan finally got their chance to experience Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, the latest games in the Pokémon series. These games changed the formula in many important ways and set the standard for Pokémon gameplay that is still used to this day.
When Game Freak reinvented their biggest cash cow, a lot of changes had to be made. We are here today to look into the secrets of the Hoenn region. From the early Nintendo DLC to the most frustrating Pokémon in the series, here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Pokémon Ruby And Sapphire!
15. You Couldn’t Catch ‘Em All
When the Pokémon anime series debuted in 1998, it hit the audience with one of the greatest advertising slogans of all time – “Gotta catch ’em all”.
Catching all of the Pokémon was a big part of the promotional material for the Pokémon animated show and video games. It was the name of the theme tune and it was repeated numerous times throughout the PokéRap. “Gotta catch ’em all” became the rallying cry of a generation of children. It was even parodied on South Park.
When Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire were released, the “Gotta catch ’em all” logo was missing from the box. The catchphrase was dropped from this point on. The reason for this was most likely because catching them all was no longer possible. Due to the fact that you couldn’t trade with the older games, it was now impossible for you to catch all of the Kanto/Johto Pokémon in Hoenn (at the time the games were released). There was also the issue of almost 400 Pokémon existing in the games by then (there are now over 800).
14. Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire Were The First Games In The Series To Have DLC
The Amiibo line of toys-to-life has been very successful for Nintendo. Despite the popularity of things like Amiibo and Skylanders toys, the concept is not new. Consoles like the HyperScan used cards that could be scanned in order to load things into the game. There was also the Barcode Battler game that was hugely popular in Japan. The game would create stats for fighting characters through scanning a barcode.
Nintendo created a device for the Game Boy Advance that acted similarly to the Barcode Battler. It was called the E-Reader and if you connected it to the console, then you could scan data into the Game Boy Advance with cards. In some cases, these would unlock full games (usually NES or Game & Watch titles). Despite being popular in Japan, the E-Reader never took off in America or Europe. This means that the few English language cards have become collectors items.
The E-Reader device was compatible with the Game Boy Advance Pokémon titles. In Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, you could use the E-Reader to battle unique opponents, travel to new locations, and to catch Legendary Pokémon (such as Latias or Latios through the Eon Ticket E-Reader card).
13. Torchic Almost Looked Different
When you are creating up to one hundred new Pokémon per game, it is only natural that they go through some changes during development. The Weedle line, for example, changed a great deal over the course of its creation. It originally resembled a maggot and would evolve into a four-armed ladybug. Poliwrath was originally supposed to wear a crown (which would later make its way into the game through a King’s Rock evolution form for the line, called Politoed).
One such Pokémon that underwent a design overhaul was Torchic. The original version of Torchic had large rabbit ears and a tuft of feathers on the back of its head that was in the shape of a flame. The ears are a big mystery, considering the fact that it is supposed to be a bird Pokémon. Birds are not exactly known for their huge, floppy ears. This was probably the reason why the ears were cut and Torchic was given a new design that made it into the final game.
12. Sprites Exist Within Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire From Game Freak’s First Title – Mendel Palace
The Pokémon series is developed by a Japanese game studio known as Game Freak. Since the release of Pokémon Red & Blue, they have mostly worked on Pokémon titles. Since 1998, Game Freak have only released a handful of non-Pokémon games. These include the excellent Nintendo 3DS games HarmoKnight and Pocket Card Jockey. With the millions they make from the Pokémon franchise every year, it’s doubtful that Game Freak feel bad about having to concentrate on one series alone.
Before the Pokémon series was created, Game Freak had a few other successful titles. These include Mario & Wario for the Super Nintendo (which was actually referenced in one of the Pokémon games) and Pulseman for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. The first game they ever released was Mendel Palace for the NES. Mendel Palace was an action/puzzle title, where the player ran across a board made of cards.
Hidden within the files of Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire are a set of updated sprites for the main character of Mendel Palace. These were most likely used for testing purposes. It is possible that Game Freak might have wanted to include the character in some capacity as fan service, but changed their minds due to the relative obscurity of the game.
11. Norman Is The Only Father Of A Protagonist To Be Seen
The creators of Pokémon must have a real problem with fathers. In the Pokémon anime, we have yet to see Ash’s father (or either of Gary’s parents for that matter). We did not see Red’s father in Pokémon Origins. Throughout all of the Pokémon titles, only one protagonist has had a father that appears in-game. In Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, the main character is the son or daughter of Norman, the Petalburg City Gym Leader.
In Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, your whole family actually comes from Johto. The reason you move to Hoenn is so that Norman can take up the role of Gym Leader. Despite the fact that you are his child, he won’t go easy on you. As the player, you cannot tackle Norman’s Gym until you have acquired at least four other badges. Norman uses Normal-type Pokémon in battle. Much like the only other Normal-type Gym Leader who existed in the series up to that point (Whitney), Norman is very difficult to defeat.
10. The Legendary Beasts May Once Have Stalked Hoenn
In Pokémon Red & Blue, there were three Legendary Birds that were hidden around Kanto. They could be found in the same location in each game and were some of the most difficult Pokémon to catch. Unless you were willing to use your only Master Ball, then you were stuck hurling Ultra Balls and hoping for the best.
When Pokémon Gold & Silver were released, they added the Legendary Beasts. Unlike the Birds before them, the Beasts would roam Johto. Your chances of encountering one in battle were slim and they had a tendency to run away from you during the first turn.
It has been discovered that the battle theme for the Legendary Beasts is hidden within the code of Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. This song cannot be heard during normal gameplay. It has been speculated by fans that the Beasts were intended to appear in Hoenn at one point during development.
9. You Cannot Lose To Zigzagoon
It is not uncommon for a game in the RPG genre to include a battle that you are not supposed to win. The reason for this is usually plot related. The game needs your characters to lose in order to continue the story. The developers have chosen to do this through a battle where the player gets creamed. This is usually to show that the enemy is way out of the players league (like in many of the battles against Beatrix in Final Fantasy IX).
In some cases, the game throws a battle at the player that is impossible to lose. This is usually for story reasons. The final confrontation against Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII will always result in a victory for Cloud. The game is programmed to make Cloud use his Omnislash Limit Break on Sephiroth (even if he doesn’t have it) in order to defeat him for the last time.
Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire has a battle that you cannot lose. At the start of the game, you have to save Professor Birch from a rampant Zigzagoon. You do this by selecting your starter Pokémon from his bag. If you try to lose the battle (by not attacking), then the Zigzagoon will simply flee when your health drops too low.
8. The Dreaded Berry Glitch
One of the scourges of modern gaming is a poorly optimised release. This was always a problem for the PC gaming community, but it didn’t become a big thing for console games until the past few years. Due to the recent ability for players to download patches for games after release, some developers have gotten lazy during the bug testing phase. Companies like Bethesda and Ubisoft have no problem with releasing a game before it is ready in order to meet a deadline.
Nintendo is one of the companies that take pride in their games. They didn’t even include the ability to patch their games until the Nintendo 3DS! The only real exception to this are the first Pokémon games, which were bug-riddled messes. That all changed with Pokémon Gold & Silver and the games have reflected Nintendo’s high level of quality control ever since.
Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire did actually have one major bug that affected gameplay. After a year has passed, the internal calendar won’t work anymore. This stops time sensitive events from occurring, the most notable of which is the fact that berries will no longer grow. This bug was referred to as the “Berry Glitch” and later versions of the game fixed it. It was actually possible to patch the game with the aid of later Pokémon titles. This usually meant connecting your Game Boy Advance to another system through the use of a Link Cable.
7. Losing The Master Ball
One of the most prized items in any Pokémon game is the Master Ball. It is the only Pokéball that has a guaranteed 100% catch rate. Do you wanna catch Mewtwo in one turn? Use the Master Ball. Is Zapdos refusing to be caught, despite being asleep and only having one hit point left? Use the Master Ball. Is Suicune running away at the start of the turn before you can act? Then throw a Master Ball right into its stupid face.
In most Pokémon games, you are given the Master Ball at the resolution of a quest. In Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, it is actually possible to miss the Master Ball and lose it forever. Depending on the version of the game you are playing, it is hidden somewhere within the Team Aqua or Magma base. Once you complete the base and leave, you will not have a chance to return. If you did not pick up the Master Ball before leaving the base and saved your game once you made it outside, then you cannot go back for it. The only other way to get a Master Ball is through winning the Pokémon Lottery, which has about the same odds as winning the actual Lottery.
6. The Journey To ORAS
When the Pokémon series moved over to the Game Boy Advance, a lot of changes were made to how the games worked. Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire included Double Battles for the first time, where you could experience 2v2 Pokémon battles. The third generation of games also included an Ability for each Pokémon. These were passive effects that added new levels of individuality to each Pokémon.
The changes made from the 2nd to the 3rd generation of Pokémon games were the biggest of them all. This is why it is possible to trade Pokémon from Ruby & Sapphire into the Pokémon games on the Nintendo 3DS.
To do this, you need copies of the games that you want to trade from/to (obviously). You will need one of the older models of the Nintendo DS that still carries a GBA slot. This will allow you to trade a Pokémon into one of the fourth generation of games (Diamond & Pearl). You will then need to trade that Pokémon over to one of the 5th generation of games (Black & White). If you put the 5th generation game into a 3DS, you can use the Poké Transporter and Pokémon Bank apps to trade your Pokémon into one of the 6th generation games.
If you trade a Pokémon from Ruby & Sapphire into Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, you will receive a special certificate.
5. The Missingno Of Hoenn
One of the most notorious secrets from the first generation of Pokémon games was Missingno. It was possible to create a Pokémon that should not exist. If you forced the game to load a wild Pokémon in an area where it had no data, then a Missingno was created. Missingno stands for Missing Number. The game cannot load a Pokémon from its designated number, so it will create one from assets within the data.
When it came to making the later Pokémon games, Game Freak made sure that the players could not create anything similar to Missingno again. In Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, there is a creature called ?????????? that is similar to Missingno. It is created when the game loads a Pokémon without any relevant data (such as if you try and cheat with a Gameshark device). ?????????? will appear on the field as a question mark within a black circle. It is possible to catch one of these creatures (under very specific circumstances), but it will not have the amazing utility that Missingno had (as it could duplicate items for you).
4. Blaziken Almost Looked Different
There have been accusations of favouritism towards the Blaziken evolution line of Pokémon over the years. It has consistently been one of the most powerful Pokémon in the competitive scene since its introduction in Ruby & Sapphire. Blaziken received a Mega Evolution in Pokémon X & Y, while the other Hoenn starters had to wait for the next game in the series to get one. People who bought Pokémon X & Y within a few months of its release could download a free Torchic with its Mega Stone equipped (which dissuaded a lot of players from using the Kalos Fire-type starter, Fennekin). Blaziken was also one of the few Pokémon to be playable in Pokkén Tournament.
It seems that Blaziken was always intended to be special. According to concept art for Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, Blaziken originally resembled Latias, one of the Legendary Pokémon of Hoenn. This creature is known as “Latiken” by the fans. It is unknown whether this creature was the original design of Blaziken or Latias and why it was changed.
3. The Bizarre Braille Puzzles
In 1829, a man named Louis Braille published a form of language that allowed blind people to read without assistance. The language was named Braille (after its creator) and it was made up of indentations on a page. Through these indentations, a person could interpret the letters of the alphabet (and forms of punctuation) through their sense of touch. Braille went on to become one of the most widely used forms of interpreting literature for the visually impaired.
So what does this have to do with Pokémon? For some reason, Game Freak decided to include a series of puzzles based around Braille in Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire.
The use of Braille is based around the quests involving the Regi-trio (Regice, Registeel and Regirock). The games came with a physical chart that explained what the Braille symbols meant. You needed to be able to decode certain messages that were written in Braille in order to find the secret Legendary trio of Hoenn.
2. Surfing On Land
People who have only become interested in video games within the past few years will never understand the suffering that older players went through. Nowadays, most video game developers will aim for a worldwide release of their latest titles. The worst case scenario is that you will have to wait a few weeks after the game comes out in Japan (which means that you will have to be on spoiler watch on the Internet in the meantime).
In the old days, players would sometimes have to wait for a year or more before the game they wanted was localised. When it came to Pokémon, almost every main game in the series from Red & Blue to Black & White had around a six month wait for North America and a year wait for Europe.
There were benefits to this delay, however, as the games we got were generally more polished. The Japanese players had to suffer through all of the bugs, which would then be fixed in time for the Western release. One of the biggest examples of these was in Ruby & Sapphire. In the original Japanese version of the game, it was possible to Surf on land through the use of a glitch.
1. Finding Feebas
The Pokémon games have never been shy about being cruel to the player, especially when it comes to catching Pokémon. In Red & Blue, you had the Tauros in the Safari Zone that would flee almost straight away. You also had the Legendary Birds and their stubborn refusal to be caught, no matter how many status effects you hit them with. In Gold & Silver, you had the Legendary Beasts, who could only be encountered randomly and would usually escape on the first turn.
When Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire was released, the series hit peak cruelty with Feebas, the most difficult to catch Pokémon in the game.
Feebas is basically a remake of Magikarp. It is almost totally useless in battle, but it can evolve into a much more powerful form. In Feebas’ case, it can evolve into Milotic, one of the best Water-type Pokémon in the game.
So what’s the problem with catching Feebas? It can only be found on Route 119, which mainly consists of water. Out of all of the water on this route, only six spaces will contain a Feebas. These six spaces are randomly determined and will change over time. The only way to reliably catch a Feebas is to just fish repeatedly in every single spot on Route 119.
In Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, the whole six random tiles thing was dropped. This was most likely due to the fact that you can just trade for a Feebas at any time you want through the Internet. It was only through the progress of technology that Game Freak was made merciful.