Every Pokémon fan has their favourite generation. Whether you’re keeping it old school with the original 151 Pokémon from Red and Blue era, or experiencing the world of battle monsters and collecting in 2013’s Pokémon X and Y, there’s a generation for every taste. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is one such generation, a remake of the third era games in the series, Ruby and Sapphire. And it’s pretty much my favourite Pokémon game ever made.
2003’s Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, were just as revolutionary in their time as the previous entries in the franchise were. Bolder colours, puzzles that took forever to decipher and a whole new selection of the critters to catch and train in the Hoenn region added up to create one massive game. It’s a game that felt truly special, even as the years ticked by, thanks to that plethora of secrets, raising the bar for future instalments in the series.
And on the surface, not too much has changed. Pokémon is still essentially a hyper-quick JRPG, with players assembling a small army of Pokémon that they use to battle the Pokémon of other trainers, raising, caring and evolving your friends into more powerful forms. You’re still proving your skill by battling the tougher gym leaders dotted around Hoenn, collecting badges so that you can challenge the greatest trainers in the land, the Elite Four. And yes, you’re still going to become the Pokémon Champ when you dethrone the current master of that title.
And that’s a formula which never has to, or will ever be, changed. Developer Game Freak could have taken the original game, slapped some of the new 3D paint from Pokémon X and Y on the pair of games and called it a day. That would have still been a winning formula for series fans. And yes, Game Freak has done just that. And a ton more.
While the majority of the game design has been retained, the 3D graphics now add some extra visual fidelity to make everything pop. There are over 700 Pokémon to collect now, and they all look fantastic in the third dimension, keeping the charm of their 2D origins and translating that into the new graphics. Each one has their own strength, weakness and character, and caring for them is the true core of the game.
But there have been several tweaks and redesigns here and there. Mauville City is now an underground metropolis, gyms have new puzzles to work through and brand new side missions have been added to help flesh the story out, in order to explain why the brand new Mega Evolution gameplay mechanic is present in a game set before the events of X and Y. That engine is handling the brunt of the gameplay here, but it does still need some tweaking for it to be 100% smooth. I’ve been fielding an Infernape as my primary Fire-Type Pokémon, and going into battle with its fiery head burning away on the screen while rain falls and a Dustox beats its wings, shows a noticeable lag, even with the 3D turned off.
This doesn’t happen too often, but it is something which should have been fixed by now, as turning the 3D on in certain scenarios results in a lag that can only be described as Call Of Duty multiplayer-esque. But beyond that one gripe, I like seeing that the visuals have improved in various other, more subtle, areas. The way grass rustles in the wind, characters being more expressive and a world that feels far more alive, shows that the work thus far has been more ambitious, even if it wasn;t always up to the task of grabbing such lofty ideals.
What Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire does retain from X and Y however, are plenty of the great ideas that were introduced last year. Raising the affection of your pocket monster in Pokémon Amie helps with evolving trickier beasts such as Sylveon and Crobat, while also adding several mini-games to the mix. You can now also easily train the effort values of your team with Pokémon training, a system that had purists up in arms, while one of the new additions this year is the Dex Nav.
This new feature on your touch screen, reinvents hunting for Pokémon. Essentially, you’ll see the grass rustle, and you can home in on that potential Pokemon, uncovering which one it is and discovering that it may know a move or two that its breed is normally incapable of learning. Informing you of which Pokémon are available to capture on any given route, you’ll need to use the new sneak navigation mechanic to close in on the Pokémon. Use the app constantly, and you’ll level up its search function to reveal rarer Pokémon.
I usually focus on acquiring certain Pokémon and leave the rest as fooder, but the Dex Nav gives these forgotten guys a second chance, as its now possible to raise a Zigzagoon which can go toe to toe with a Hydreigon if need be. It has essentially enticed me to catch more Pokémon, and given new life to the arduous task of completing a Pokedex.
As mentioned previously, Mega Evolution is alive and well in OR/AS. I won’t spoil the story details here, but you’ll soon be extra-volving your team in battle, granting them temporary power boosts and new abilities. Cover stars Groudon and Kyogre get a new variant on that gameplay mechanic, undergoing Primal Reversion, which turns those legendary Pokémon into prehistoric powerhouses and revealing the true face of the ancient Pokémon which roamed the land and seas so many eons ago.
It’s an interesting idea, and one that ties nicely into the Mega Evolution mythos.
Depending on your game, you’re still battling either Team Magma or Team Aqua, a nefarious pair of Pokémon trainers who feel that Hoenn has too much water/land and balance needs to be restored. Alongside them, Pokémon contests have also returned, with series mascot Pikachu able to dress up in a wild variety of outfits, as if it were a toddler being forced to live the dreams and aspirations of an overbearing mom on an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. And that’s the kind of game that OR/AS is.
It’s a game that is firmly stuck in the past, but with several generations of ideas added to it. If you didn’t like the original Ruby and Sapphire games, then there’s a good chance that the remakes won’t grab you by the pokeballs either. Yes, the first few hours still feel like a slow slog, and yes, not enough exposition is spilled as the story progresses. But once you get past the old and into the new, the game opens up magnificently.
And that’s thanks to the Delta Episode which adds a whole new layer of story, the search for more mega stones and the general massive exploration for all the legendary Pokémon who have broken through time and space in order to appear in this game, which can be reached with a new Soar move that for the first time gives players the chance to properly fly around the map. Backed up by a sizzling musical score, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire isn’t just one of the best Pokémon remakes, it’s one of the best Pokémon games made thus far.
There’s a ton of content to replay and far, far more to discover for the first time. So what are you waiting for? It’s to catch ‘em all again.
Last Updated: November 28, 2014