Following on from the highly enjoyable Pokémon Pinball on the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color, Nintendo released a successor to coincide with the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. Now, with Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire firmly secured by many a 3DS owner, Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire appears on the Wii U Virtual Console. Is it worthy of your hard-earned Pokédollars though?
Pinball games need one thing to be worthwhile, and that’s elements that you couldn’t have on a real pinball table, otherwise they’re not really doing anything special at all. Luckily, Pokémon Pinball Ruby & Sapphire is bursting with unique elements that you couldn’t find in real life. Once you’ve picked one of the two available tables, you’re straight into the game with no instructions, but of course you can refer to the original manual by tapping on the question mark in the bottom left hand corner of the GamePad’s screen. That being said the controls are very simple and you’ll probably be able to work them all out for yourself in under a minute, along with what the different parts of the tables do in terms of gameplay. It should also be made clear that this game looks utterly gorgeous on the GamePad’s screen as well as the main screen. Like so many other GBA titles before it, the GamePad is ideal as it simply feels a lot like an extra large GBA, but playing with a Wii U Pro Controller on the big screen is just as enjoyable.
Naturally, one of the biggest parts of the game is catching Pokémon, otherwise it’d have a hard time making itself stand out as a game worthy of the Pokémon title. Once you fulfil certain requirements, you can aim your ball – which is of course a Pokéball – to certain areas to weaken and eventually capture a Pokémon that appears in the centre of the table. The Pokémon that appear depends on where you are, and you can change location whenever you like by hitting the appropriate element on the table three times. This along with the Pokémon that appear is entirely random, and considering that there are 200 monsters to capture in this game, you won’t be at a loss for things to do.
This game is also fairly forgiving, as the paddles are very close together and Latias or Latios will be on hand to save your ball for what really is a very long time, meaning that this is ideal for younger gamers. Don’t think that it's without its challenges though, as in order to rack up the highest scores you’ll have to take advantage of all the bonus rounds and opportunities to catch, evolve and hatch different Pokémon; this can take a very long time. If you’re serious about getting a ludicrously high score, what starts off as a gentle jaunt rapidly becomes a test of endurance as you attempt to get as much out of a single round as you can. The physics are as solid as you can expect for a title designed to appeal to a wide audience, but are a bit floatier than many pinball veterans made be accustomed to.
Presentation-wise, the game is simply a joy to behold. The animation is fluid, ludicrously colourful and incredibly charming. Due to the simple nature of the game more work has been put into the visuals than the main series titles they are themed around, breathing extra life into the third generation. Everything feels very lively and connected; you won’t find your eyeballs becoming bored in this outing. Unfortunately you may find the rest of you becomes a little tired after a while, as the simple gameplay can become a little monotonous through extended play. You can switch tables to vary the experiences, but it’s a game that’s overall more suited to being played for short periods of time rather than several consecutive hours.
Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire is an enjoyable entry-level pinball game designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Its colourful, charming visuals look even better on the Wii U than they did originally, and the vast number of Pokémon available to catch and evolve means that if you’re looking for a long-term dip-in, dip-out sort of game, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied. It can become a bit tedious if played extensively, so it’s much better to play it in short bursts. A charming little game that is – like many Virtual Console titles – a bargain for what you get.