Pokémon Ruby is from the 3rd generation Pokémon games, releasing alongside Sapphire. The typical Pokémon gameplay remains the same. You start out with one Pokémon and travel the world, catching more Pokémon, training them up, and battling your way to beat the Elite Four; the best trainers around. Your secondary aim is to collect them all, but this is only possible by owning other versions, then trading between them.
Pokémon are found in long grass, caves and water and are encountered randomly. The various species are found in certain areas of the world and have different rarity. Sadly, the day and night feature that was introduced in the previous game has been removed. Now it is permanently day-time, so there's no incentive to revisit previous areas at a different time in hope of catching some nocturnal Pokémon. Another 135 species have been added though. There's plenty of really creative Pokémon and the majority don't look out of place from the original generation.
Once you enter a battle with them, you engage in a one-on-one fight. Knocking out your opponent gives your creature experience points, or you can choose to capture them to add them to your collection. You do so by throwing a Pokéball which has a random element to your success. Your chances also increase the weaker the Pokémon is, and if it is inflicted with a status (such as Asleep or Paralysed). You can only carry six Pokémon at all times, so exceeding this limit automatically transfers them to your PC storage facility.
There are plenty of rival trainers to battle over the course of the game. Defeating them gives you more experience points compared to battling wild Pokémon. Additionally, they give you a cash reward which is used to purchase Pokéballs and healing items from the Marts. Double battles have been introduced where you take on two trainers at once. These 2 on 2 battles are a nice idea but your opposition never has any back-up Pokémon. They can also end quicker since some moves (such as Surf) can attack two Pokémon at once, and there's even some moves like Earthquake that will hurt your own too.
Your Pokémon fall under different categories which modify their strengths and weaknesses. This follows a rock-paper-scissors mechanic e.g. Water beats Fire, Fire beats Grass, Grass beats Water etc. The amount of types in the game, and the fact a Pokémon can be classified under multiple types mean the strategy is much more complex than this.
Pokémon now have abilities which adds an extra dimension to the battles. For example, Tentacool have 'Clear Body' which prevents you from using stat-reducing moves. Poochyena have 'Intimidate' which reduces their opponent's attack power when the battle begins.
An individual Pokémon is also assigned a nature which modifies their attributes as they level up. For example a 'Hasty' nature increases speed but lowers defence, whereas 'Naughty' increases attack but lowers special defence.
The moves that a Pokémon learns varies by species. Each move has a type, attack power, accuracy, usage limit, and can have other properties like being able to poison, paralyse, sleep, confuse, burn, freeze and more. Your Pokémon gain more moves as you level them up, but can only know four at a time, so moves must be forgotten. You can also teach your Pokémon moves that can't be gained by levelling up, using items known as TM and HM (technical machines/hidden machines).
There are other types of items available which can heal them or boosts their statistics. You can go to the Pokémon Centre to fully heal your roster for free of charge. If all your roster are defeated, you are sent back to the Centre but with a financial penalty.
You can choose to be a boy or a girl. The other character is then introduced as the Professor's child and becomes a friendly rival. In addition to your quest to become the best Trainer, there are a few sub-plots which drive the story. Team Rocket is no more, but instead Team Magma plan to destroy the sea and replace it with more land. Team Aqua try to stop them, but it's only with your help can they thwart Magma's evil plans.
The graphics have been enhanced and so the aesthetics of the game are really pleasing to the eye. There's no animated sprites like there was in the Crystal version of the previous generation. There's plenty of User Interface tweaks. One of the most helpful is clarity on what your attacks do in terms of description, attack power and accuracy. This makes it easier to choose if you want a new move your Pokémon has learnt.
The map is much more interesting and varied. The previous two versions had similar layout which made it predictable. Near the start of this game, you are boarding a boat to travel to a small island. Later on, you're climbing mountains and visiting a town covered in volcanic ash.
Walking speed has been reduced, but now you can run in outside areas. There's two types of bikes Mach and Acro. The Mach bike builds up speed and can travel much faster than the Acro bike. Each bike can travel to exclusive areas. The Mach bike can traverse mud hills whereas the Acro bike can do bunny-hops over small rocks. There's only a handful of these areas in the game though, so you tend to forget about the bike's features.
The berry system has been expanded. You can now plant berries in soil and come back later to collect them. There's essentially two types of berries. One are hold items which your Pokémon can automatically use mid-battle which heal health or cure status effects. The other type can be used to create Pokéblocks. These can be fed to your Pokémon to boost a separate set of stats that are used in Pokémon Contests. In these contests, you show an audience your moves over a set of rounds with the aim of impressing them.
The Pokégear remains with some changes. The phone system has been removed, but now has a list of all the trainers you have battled, and shows if they desire a rematch.
If you find a flashing TV, you can read the subtitles of the show. If you have transferred data to your friend's game, you may get a show about a battle they engaged in, or details of their extravagant bulk purchases in the Marts. It's a simple idea but puts a smile on your face. A better feature is the Secret Bases. There are many locations around the map that can be converted into a base which you can decorate with all kinds of furniture. It's always great fun to try and find your friends' Secret Bases and see how they have kitted it out.
Pokémon Ruby is a brilliant game. The majority of newly introduced Pokémon are great and the UI tweaks and enhanced graphics really enhance the experience. I also felt there was a greater challenge in this game compared to the previous iteration, but with a huge difficulty spike at the end of the game where you take on the Elite Four; who are seriously tough. The biggest disappointment is the removal of the Day/Night cycle which was the main feature in the Gold/Silver games.