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Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire

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Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire
The logo depicts a large Poké Ball being ridden by Pokémon including Pichu, Pikachu, Treecko, Torchic, and Mudkip. The background is red and blue, and depicts several other Pokémon with Poké Balls.
Box art for Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire
The Pokémon Company
Platform(s)Game Boy Advance, Wii U Virtual Console
ReleaseGame Boy Advance
  • JP: August 1, 2003
  • NA: August 25, 2003
  • PAL: November 14, 2003
Wii U Virtual Console
  • JP: December 10, 2014
  • PAL: December 11, 2014
  • NA: January 1, 2015
Mode(s)Single player

Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire is a 2003 pinball game developed by Jupiter, published by The Pokémon Company and distributed by Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance handheld game console. It was first revealed at E3 2003. The North American release was done to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the North American release of Pokémon Red and Blue. It is based on Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, and is a sequel to Pokémon Pinball for the Game Boy Color. In some ways, it plays like a traditional pinball game, where the objective is to get a high score by keeping the ball in play as long as possible and hitting bumpers. In keeping with the theme of Pokémon, it features Pokémon collection, where while the players play pinball, they must also capture the eponymous creatures.

Ruby & Sapphire has received generally positive reception. It was well received when it was revealed at E3 by publications such as IGN and GameSpy. Its release was similarly well received, with Metacritic and GameRankings giving it aggregate scores of 82 and 80.83% respectively. It has sold 2.5 million copies worldwide, and has received significant praise from review outlets such as Nintendo Power, GamePro, and IGN, the latter awarding it the Game Boy Advance Game of the Month award for August 2003. In spite of the positive reception, some reviewers found it to be an inferior pinball experience, such as TechTV and The Guardian, though felt that Pokémon fans would enjoy it.


Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire plays similarly to traditional pinball games, using a similar engine to its predecessor, Pokémon Pinball.[1] It features two boards, each themed on either Pokémon Ruby or Sapphire. They have similar layouts, though they feature some differences, the Sapphire table being noted as slightly more annoying due to its setup.[2] The player launches a ball onto the board, at which point it descends towards the bottom of said board. The objective is to ensure that the ball does not reach the pit at the bottom. Players must utilize a pair of flippers located right above the bottom to hit the ball upward, keeping it from falling for as long as possible. There are two spots located on either end of the board where the ball may fall, rendering players helpless. A Pikachu sits at either side of the board, and if players have filled its meter, it will be able to shoot the ball out of this spot. Under certain conditions, a Pichu will appear, allowing both spots to be blocked. This only occurs when the player has activated the four circles that sit in both the side slots and flipper paths, shown here. Consequently, a gravity field appears in the central hole that starts a "Start Slot" minigame that resembles a slot machine. In the blue field the player is able to utilise a Zigzagoon (shown here on the right side of the board) so that it can pounce on the selected tile and obtain the result. After finishing the Rayquaza bonus stage, a new Start Slot tile appears, which is simply labeled "Arrival", signifying the arrival of a Jirachi. Activating this tile results in a bonus mode similar to Catch 'Em Mode, where the player only has thirty seconds to catch Jirachi. This is the only way to add Jirachi to the Pokédex.

The image depicts the pinball hitting Marill, the target, on the Ruby board. The player has hit it once and has to hit it two more times. The board is decorated with several Pokémon, including Zigzagoon, Pikachu, and Latias. The statistics are shown on the bottom, while the time remaining is shown at the top.
Gameplay of Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire, in the Catch 'Em Mode.

As players hit various objects around the field, their score goes up. At certain scores, players gain a new ball. If the ball falls to the bottom, that round is over, and the players' scores are tallied, given bonuses for their achievements. In order to prevent players from losing a ball, the game features a Ball Saver, which allows the ball to fall without being lost. This eventually goes away, however. The game has a shop system that can provide boosts for players, such one that adds a Ball Saver. Coins are collected through various means, and are used to purchase items from this shop. If all balls are lost, the game is over. The other objective of the game is to complete the Pokédex, similar to other Pokémon titles. Occasionally, a hole will open in the field, where players can either gain bonuses, such as an added Ball Saver or a score increase, or allow them to go to a special mode. There are four primary modes - Catch 'Em Mode, Egg Mode, Evolution Mode, and Travel Mode. These modes are typically activated by going through a certain path on the board three times, and then entering an area on the board, such as the Sharpedo, which will activate Catch 'Em Mode.

In the Catch 'Em Mode, players must reveal a silhouette of a Pokémon by hitting bumpers. Once it is revealed, players must hit the Pokémon that appears three times with the ball as it sits in one spot before the time runs out. Egg Mode is a similar concept, though the baby Pokémon roam around the board as opposed to standard Pokémon, which stand still. As opposed to being timed, players must capture it before it returns from whence it came. Evolution Mode is also similar, requiring players to hit all of the evolution item markers in order to evolve their Pokémon that they have caught or hatched. These include several traditional means of evolution in the Pokémon series, such as stones and experience points. Lastly, Travel Mode allows players to leave the current location on their pinball board, allowing them to capture more kinds of Pokémon not found in the current area. Ruby & Sapphire featured additional bonus modes that often diverge from the standard gameplay. These modes sometimes feature rare Pokémon such as Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza, and take place on separate fields. Outside of the gameplay, players may also view the Pokémon they have caught, listen to sound effects and music from the game, and view their high scores for each board.


Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire was first revealed at E3 2003 for the Game Boy Advance.[3] It was also shown at the 2003 Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany,[4] as well as at the European Computer Trade Show in London, England.[5] It was developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo.[6] It is based on Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, and features Pokémon available in those games.[6] It was first released in Japan on August 1, 2003, and in North America on August 25 of the same year. The North American date coincided with the five-year anniversary of Pokémon Red and Blue's North American release.[7] It was released in PAL regions several months later on November 14.[6]


Pre-release reception[edit]

Before its release, Pokémon Pinball Ruby & Sapphire received generally positive impressions from critics. After a play test by Anoop Gantayat of IGN, he felt that fans of the series would enjoy it. He also praised the visuals, calling them "bright, colorful, and happy". However, he bemoaned the lack of e-Reader support, a feature common in Game Boy Advance games at the time.[8] Craig Harris, also from IGN, found it to be a fun game, anticipating its release.[9] IGN also included it in a list of the 10 big Game Boy Advance games of 2003.[10] GameSpy described it as "much more than a pinball game", describing its gameplay mechanics as "unique".[11]

Critical and consumer reception[edit]

Aggregate scores
GameRankings80.83 percent (based on 25 reviews)[12]
Metacritic82/100 (based on 16 reviews)[13]
Review scores
Game Informer8.5/10[17]
GameSpy4/5 stars[19]
Nintendo Power4.5/5 stars[21]

Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire has been met with generally positive reception. It holds an aggregate score of 82 from Metacritic and 80.83% from GameRankings.[13][12] Ruby & Sapphire has been met with great consumer success. It ranked number one on's top 10 list for the week ending October 8, 2003.[22] In the week ending September 4 in Japan, Ruby & Sapphire sold 19,400 copies, ranking sixth, with sales at that time at 170,247 copies total.[23] The next week, it ranked 10th.[24] It has sold more than one million copies worldwide.[25] The News Tribune's Bill Hutchens called it "addictive",[26] while GamesRadar's Carolyn Gudmundson called it an "awesome game".[27] Nintendo Power praised it as being more than "just a GBA makeover" of Pokémon Pinball, calling it an evolution and gameplay and describing the Pokémon and areas as more lively.[21] However, GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann found that while the game was entertaining, it was "practically identical" to the first game, and easier too.[1] Denver Post's David Thomas called it "one of the most enjoyable pinball experiences", citing the Pokémon brand for why the game is so popular.[28] Electronic Gaming Monthly praised the pinball table designs for their incorporation of Pokémon themes, noting that everything, save for the flippers, has a Pokémon theme.[15]

GMR Magazine praised the combination of the Pokémon franchise with pinball gameplay, saying that the combination leads to "good times".[29] While IGN's Craig Harris praised Ruby & Sapphire as the greatest pinball game for the Game Boy Advance, he noted that the Sapphire-themed board was slightly more annoying than the Ruby-themed one. He awarded it an "Editors Choice" award.[2] Lucas M. Thomas, a fellow member of IGN, agreed with Harris, going further in calling it one of the greatest portable pinball games ever. He added that it had more fun and playability than most Game Boy Advance titles.[30] It was ultimately awarded Game of the Month from IGN in August 2003, winning over Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition.[31] IGN praised Ruby & Sapphire as being one of the best pinball games on the Game Boy Advance, hoping that Nintendo makes a sequel to this.[32]

Edge commented that while this is not a conventional pinball game, citing a lack of "well-designed skillshots and a challenging layout", the Pokémon series was never noted for its conventionality.[14] praised Ruby & Sapphire, noting that while they were not as interested in the Pokémon series, Ruby & Sapphire was one of their most anticipated games of the summer. They add that Ruby & Sapphire improves on the original in "just about every way".[33] GameNOW compared Ruby & Sapphire to the WarioWare, Inc. series, praising it as a "perfect handheld game" and "instantly playable".[34] The Guardian's Rhianna Pratchett praised Ruby & Sapphire for being good for pinball novices and Pokémon players, but criticized its lack of deeper pinball mechanics such as multi-balls and skill shots. She also criticized the lack of variety in pinball boards, commenting that the two boards were very similar.[35]

TechTV criticized it as being less "addictive or diverse as the great pinball videogames", though noted it to be fun for those looking for a Pokémon title.[36] Game Informer praised its ball physics and controls, calling them "dead on".[17] GameSpy's Darryl Vassar gave similar praise, describing the game as a "blast". He added that it had surprising depth.[19] GamePro's "Dan Elektro" commented that Ruby & Sapphire would not interest those who do not have interest in the series, but fans of the series would enjoy its "unusually satisfying" gameplay.[18] Games(TM) praised it for combining pinball and Pokémon, adding that the pinball gameplay would be more likely to draw those who are not fans of the series into playing Pokémon more so than the adventure games.[20] Eurogamer's Martin Taylor commented that only the "most demanding of pinball wizards would be right to turn their nose up at Pokemon Pinball's charming slant on the genre."[16] Computer and Video Games praised it for its broad appeal, commenting that it is "fast and fluid for the casual player, yet has collecting and evolving for the obsessive."[37] Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire has been compared to other pinball video games, including Mario Pinball Land, which GameAxis Unwired treats as an inferior to Ruby & Sapphire.[38] Eurogamer described Ruby & Sapphire as a spiritual predecessor to Metroid Prime Pinball.[39]


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