Generation 3 is known as the "advanced" generation. However, it is probably more widely known as the "controversial" generation.
Generation 3 arrived in a very transitional time for the Pokémon franchise. "Pokémania" or the intense obsession and popularity of the Pokémon franchise that was brought about by the success of the first 2 generations had come to an abrupt end when the generation 3 games were released. The kids who had played the first two generations were growing up and out of Pokemon, while the new fanbase that was first introduced to the Pokémon franchise through Gen 3 was young and undefined. Also contributing to this transitional time was the fact that Game Freak (the developers of Pokémon) had decided to take the franchise in a new direction in order to give it a fresh twist.
You see, the Pokémon franchise was supposed to come to an end with the release of the Gen 2 games. However, considering that the fanbase for the games was so strong, Game Freak decided to push on with the series because the demand was so high.
As a result, they made a lot of changes to many of the game's mechanics, introduced a brand new region, Hoenn, on a more technologically advanced system, and created 134 new Pokémon for trainers to catch and enjoy.
Older Pokémon fans were disappointed that Hoenn held very few familiar faces
Unfortunately, many fans of the series didn't respond well to the new changes. Firstly, the games weren't backwards compatible (I'll explain why this was later), meaning that players who had trained teams of Pokémon they had grown attached to couldn't trade them over from Gens 1 and 2 into the new games. Sure, there were 134 new Pokémon to catch and train in Hoenn, but many players felt too unfamiliar with these new creatures and the new region since many of the Pokémon available in Kanto and Johto were absent from Hoenn. Not to mention that in the Gen 2 games, the player could revisit Kanto, while in the Gen 3 games, the player was stuck in Hoenn. In a nutshell, the Gen 3 games really alienated older fans of the series, while at the same time creating a brand new and innovative generation of Pokémon for new fans.
That's where I come in.
I fell into the "young and undefined" category of Pokémon fans that existed at the time that Ruby and Sapphire were released. Sapphire was the first Pokémon game I tackled and completed on my own, and I remember playing it over and over again and never tiring of it. So, when I say that Gen 3 is my favorite generation of Pokémon, maybe it is because I'm a little biased, but looking back at Gen 3 after the newer generations have come out since then, I can confidently say that in my opinion, many aspects of the Gen 3 games are superior to its successors.
Firstly, so many new features were added in Gen 3 that the games that came before them had become obsolete, hence why they weren't backwards compatible. For instance, the developers of the game re-did the individual values system (IVs), and increased each potential number of IVs for a Pokémon from 15 to 31, meaning that any Pokémon coming from Kanto or Johto wouldn't be able to compete with the new Pokémon with 31 IVs. They also added abilities, which forever changed the way Pokémon battle. Another new battle mechanic that was added were double battles. These double battles added a new dimension and strategy to battling Pokémon considering that two Pokémon are sent out at once. Other features such as secret bases, the Battle Frontier, and contests also gave trainers a lot to do besides beat the standard eight gyms and challenge the Elite Four. And on top of all that, the environment all this took place in was absolutely breathtaking.
Double battles added a new level of complexity to Pokémon
Hoenn is absolutely gorgeous. The GameBoy Advance is a 32-bit system, meaning that the graphics got a major upgrade from their 8-bit counterparts on the GameBoy. The environments became more diverse and alive. The water sparkled and churned, footprints were pressed into the sand, flowers blew in the wind, ash drifted down lazily from the sky, rain drizzled to the earth below, and players could see themselves mirrored in puddles on the ground. Hoenn is a region that focuses on nature, and as a result, so many different aspects of nature are represented in the game. Hoenn has everything: deserts, rainforests, beaches, vast oceans (7.8, too much water), volcanoes, mountains, caves, and underwater caverns. The player has so many options when exploring the region of Hoenn. There are two different types of bikes to choose from, and you were able to dive underwater for the first time. I love Hoenn because I get to explore so many vast landscapes all within one region. As the story progresses, the landscapes become more diverse, which really makes the player feel like they're on an epic quest. So many locations in Hoenn are really unique as well. There's the breathtaking Meteor Falls with its sparkling cascades of water, sleepy Dewford Town on the beach, eerie and somber Mt, Pyre, the water-borne Pacifidlog Town with its floating houses, and the decrepit abandoned ship, to name a few. There's so much to see and explore in Hoenn, and it's all accompanied by a compelling story.
There is much adventure to be had in Hoenn!
In my opinion, the Gen 3 games have the best story of any Pokémon game. For starters, the villain teams aren't goofy, Slowpoke tail-eating loons anymore. Team Aqua and Team Magma are environmental extremists whose plans actually succeed. They awaken Groudon and Kyogre, and the two proceed to either drown or dry up everyone to death in order to make the world more habitable for Pokémon. Granted, since they are the antogonists, their plans get foiled by a preteen, but all the same their environmental message got across clearly. I always thought it was so compelling and dark to be immersed in seemingly eternal rain after the mighty Kyogre was awakened. When I was a kid, Kyogre always seemed so maleficent to me because of its raw and ancient power. I think the emphasis the story puts on the Legendary Pokémon's power makes the story deeper. Not to mention that the designs of these teams are really awesome. I mean, come on! Team Aqua are a bunch of pirates! It doesn't get much cooler than that.
Where do I sign up to be a member?
I love a lot of the little story elements that Gen 3 introduced as well. For the first time, the playable character had two parents, with the usually absent father being a gym leader. Being able to battle and best your own father was always a touching moment in the game for me. But, for me, the icing on the cake is how great the music is.
The fantastic music makes the journey you are on feel as if it has a purpose. For the first time in the series, the music didn't consist of simple bleeps and bloops. The GBA's advanced sound allowed there to be sweeping melodies with multiple instruments, including the trumpets Hoenn is so famous for.
I love Gen 3 because of its controversies, the beautiful and diverse region of Hoenn, the gorgeous music, and the compelling story. But, I completely understand why people love to hate Gen 3.
Even though Gen 3 is my favorite generation, it's not perfect. The games (at least the first two) have a few short comings including there not being animated sprites, or as someone in the comments pointed out, day and night cycles are absent as well. I do have to admit that I don't care for many of the Hoenn Pokémon like Volbeat/Illumise, and Makuhita/Hariyama among others, so I understand when people say that the Gen 3 designs are some of their least favorites. But at the same time, my top three favorite Pokémon are from Hoenn. As a whole, I feel like Gen 3 consists of a lot of give and take, so it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. But, if you happened to skip Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald when they came out, or if you didn't care for them when you first played them, I highly recommend you go back and give the originals or their new remakes a shot. Speaking of the remakes, I will be doing a review of Alpha Sapphire here in the coming week so stay tuned! Also, I'd love to hear about why you loved or hated Hoenn, and all about your favorite generation of Pokémon!
I'll see you all in Hoenn very soon!