I first got my hands on Pokemon Emerald shortly before my tenth birthday, meaning I was pretty much at the peak of my endeavors to become a bonafide Pokemon master. I remember we all used to stack massive piles of books at the ends of our desks in school so that we could cheekily play our GameBoy Advances behind them. Our teacher at the time was quite old and almost completely unsuspecting of any mischief – all we had to do was chirp up every now and then and we could battle away to our heart’s content. I feel a bit bad when I look back at it now, but I reiterate: we were nine.
The reason I’ve included that anecdote is for the sake of transparency, because I am admittedly quite biased when it comes to the first five generations of Pokemon. I also like Sun & Moon quite a lot, so Gen 7 is in with the cool kids as well. This obviously means that most of my favourite ‘mons came out in or before 2012, except for the ones from Sun & Moon. And so yes, Pokemon Emerald is included in the very large group of games I hold in particularly high esteem (which constitutes like, 90% of the main games when you include upper versions and remakes, so really it’s not that biased at all, is it?)
What I’m trying to say here is that the only gens I consider to be a bit boring are six and eight. So yeah, I’m not just saying I like Emerald because I’m nostalgic for it. I’m saying Emerald is the single best Pokemon game ever made because of one very specific reason: the Battle Frontier.
Pokemon games are usually pretty good until they’re not, meaning that the main trajectory leading up to the end of the Pokemon League is generally enticing and worthwhile. However, unless you’re a Shiny seeker, a Pokedex packrat, or a competitive crackerjack, there’s not much else to do after becoming the regional champ. Some games have decent postgame sections – I’ve always been a fan of LeafGreen and FireRed’s Sevii Islands – but the Battle Frontier catapulted this concept to heights that have yet to be matched almost 17 years later. That’s the main reason as to why there has yet to be a serious contender for the untouchable Pokemon Emerald’s status as top Mightyena (because Mightyena is a dog from Gen 3, get it?)
You see, once you – a ten-year-old – defeat a bunch of grown-ups who are stuck up their own holes and part of a supposedly elite but easily-defeated-by-a-child battling core, you’re a hotshot with no real reason to prove it anymore. That’s why the Battle Frontier was so unprecedentedly brilliant – you could continue to knock about Hoenn going, “Yeah, I’m ten, but you’re shite.”
For those unacquainted with the Battle Frontier, it did pretty pretty much exactly what it said on the tin: hosted battles. In terms of facilities, this uniquely excellent location had no less than:
- One Battle Arena
- One Battle Dome
- One Battle Factory
- One Battle Palace
- One Battle Pike
- One Battle Pyramid
- One Battle Tower
As you can see, Battle Frontier had quite a lot of battle shit. The best bit about this is that each and every location had its own unique gimmick, meaning that you could bounce between them without the whole premise beginning to feel stale. This whole structure rewarded your endeavors to continue catching and training Pokemon even after you completed the game’s main story, because there was always something else to do, or something new to experiment with.
I understand that a lot of this stuff is provided by online play in more modern games, and I genuinely like competitive Pokemon battling. However, I’ve always been more of a PvE player than a PvP one when it comes to these games – I’ll indulge in the latter, but it’s never what gets me to open up my wallet.
All of that being said, nothing has ever come close to Pokemon Emerald when it comes to the sheer amount of bang for your buck you get in terms of longevity and continued purpose. What’s more, Pokemon games are known as being fairly replayable – when you extend the amount of time you can get out of each and every playthrough, it creates an even larger gap between the end and its subsequent new beginning, drastically accentuating what’s already widely regarded as a series that emphasizes replay value.
Also Rayquaza is one of the only good Legendary Pokemon, the others being (in order): Suicune, Lugia, Mew, Tapu Fini, and Galarian Moltres. Celebi is alright as well.
Play Pokemon Emerald.
Next: I Tried Out Ash Ketchum’s Dream Team In Competitive Pokemon And It’s Pretty Good
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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