This game seems very familar, but it still is a solid game.
So again, like with the previous games in the series, you play as a trainer who this time lives in the new region of Hoenn. In this game, you start out moving to the town of Littleroot before assisting the town's local professor, Professor Birch, who you meet cornered by a wild Pokémon. Like before, you select one of 3 starter Pokémon from the Professor's bag and assist him with his troubles. Your choices this time are the Grass Pokémon Treecko, the Fire Pokémon Torchic, or the Water Pokémon Mudkip (again, sound familiar?). After helping the professor out, you head out on your journey across Hoenn to take on the region's Gym Leaders (one of them actually is your character's father (I'll give them credit that was a neat twist) and the Final Four as well as dealing with criminal organizations who want to take over the world. In Ruby and Sapphire, you either deal with Team Magma (Ruby) or Team Aqua (Sapphire), both of which want to awaken a legendary Pokémon, Groudon in Ruby and Kyogre in Sapphire. But in Emerald, you have to deal with both of them as they unearth both Groudon and Kyogre with the trainer having to awaken the Pokémon Rayquaza in order to deal with the two other Pokémon. After beating the Final Four in Emerald, you can go to a new area known as the Battle Frontier where you fight in various competitions (in Ruby and Sapphire, this area was mainly known only as a tower aptly named the Battle Tower) in hopes of beating the 'bosses' of the area known as the Frontier Brains. Unfortunately, you can't go back to the regions of Kanto or Johto. You're stuck in Hoenn.
Again, the gameplay is the same we've seen before. Go around Hoenn, catch Pokémon, battle trainers and Gym Leaders in a turn based battling system… yadda yadda yadda. I definitely am not going to try to talk about that for a 3rd time so what's new in this game besides the Battle Frontier? The first addition is a new type of battle where if you come across two trainers working as a team, you face both of them at one time and each member of that team uses one Pokémon each in battle. So, that introduces Double Battles. They work out similar to regular one on one battling except here you use two Pokémon at a time. Starting with this game, Pokémon now have unique abilities and natures which are applied during battles. Abilities can affect a Pokemon's own stats or even weaken their foes. Some examples of abilities include Overgrow, which powers up Grass-type moves or Lightning Rod, which allows one Pokémon to protect its partner Pokémon in a double battle from Electric-Type attacks. Natures basically affect how a Pokémon grows during the course of the game.
A new mini game introduced in these entries of the series is the Pokémon Contests, which test a Trainer's talent unlike Battles which focus on power. There are 2 main rounds to a contest, the Visual Competition and the Acting Competition. In the Visual Competition, the Pokémon you select to participate in the contest are simply just shown and the audience selects their favorite out of the 4 Pokémon that participate in a single contest. You can increase the Pokemon's conditions in certain aspects of the competition (which are essential to winning a contest) as well as their chances of getting good scores in this round by using Pokeblocks, which is basically food for Pokémon which you can make in another minigame, Berry Blender, where you just simply press the A button at the right time.
The other competition in this minigame is the Acting Competition. In this round, each of the four Pokémon performs one of their 4 battle moves in front of both an audience and judges who will determine your overall score in the contest. The battle moves have different uses in contests, which can affect how you perform. Some of these effects include switching the order the 4 Pokémon compete in or keeping one Pokémon from earning appeal points. Using the same move twice in a row will only result in your Pokémon losing points.
Pokémon Crystal introduced two new aspects to the gameplay: the first is the ability to have your character be either a boy or a girl. Here in the 3rd generation games, whatever character you didn't pick becomes Professor Birch's kid who is your main rival in the game. It also introduced the Battle Tower. In Crystal, Ruby, and Sapphire you fought a number of trainers in order to win prizes. In Emerald, that Tower becomes the Battle Frontier which is a battle facility consisting of 7 main 'attractions' where you fight trainers in hopes of beating each 'attraction's' leader known as a Frontier Brain. Here now is a list of each location in the Battle Frontier and how each locale runs:
Battle Tower: Just like in past games, the Battle Tower has you fighting multiple trainers (7 at a time).
Battle Palace: In this arena, your Pokémon fight by themselves without you issuing commands to them.
Battle Factory: Here you fight trainers while using random Pokémon which could include using Pokémon from a trainer you defeated. Before each battle, you will be told about your opponent's team and will be able to switch one of the Pokémon you have at that time with one from the trainer you last beat.
Battle Pyramid: The goal here is to get to the top of the 7-floor pyramid. Each level is shrouded in darkness and you will only be able to light it up by facing opponent trainers.
Battle Dome: Basically you compete in a 16-Trainer Tournament and before you compete, you are able to find out all about your opponent.
Battle Arena: In this arena, two Pokémon are pitted against each other for 3 rounds and if they stay alive through these 3 rounds, the winner is determined by how they battled through 3 aspects. These are mind, which judges Pokémon on their offensive style, Skill which judges accuracy, and Body which judges how much HP the Pokémon has at the end of 3 rounds. Whoever has the higher score keeps fighting and the lower scoring Pokémon loses. Both Pokémon lose if they tie and if one of them gets knocked out the opponent gets an automatic win.
Battle Pike: This building shaped like the snake Pokémon Seviper houses 21 different rooms. The trainer goes through 7 of these in each round and what they face in each room can be completely random.
So that's the game in the nutshell and to completely honest, this was when I began to think 'Okay, I've seen this before'. Aside from the new location, new trainers/Gym Leaders/Criminal Organizations to fight, and the new Pokémon it is still the same old story. What this series honestly need is a new story which doesn't have you doing the same thing every new game. Heck, this series needs a lot of new ideas because how long are people going to be buying the same game over and over again. So why am I still giving this game a good score? Because it is still a very damn addicting game no doubt about it and that honestly must be why this franchise is still doing the same thing every single game.