More than ten years since the original Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire landed on the Game Boy Advance, long-term series’ fans can revisit the Hoenn region infused by nostalgia on the 3DS. But these aren’t just straight-laced remakes, Game Freak has reinvigorated and honed the games, delivering what may be the most interesting features yet.
For fans whom have been there since the glory days of Pokémon Red and Blue to newcomers from the X and Y generation, Game Freak’s audience is certainly far-reaching on a worldwide scale. With its ever-growing fan base, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire bolster a sweet balance of new and familiar features which endeavour to aid in the fluidity of nostalgia for those who played the originals, as well as keep the franchise fresh.
Yet the games are not without fault and are still plagued with the problematic frame rate drops from X and Y when encountering Horde battles and flying Pokémon – albeit, much less noticeable. The Experience Share item is once again given to you almost immediately after starting your adventure and, while this feature can simply be turned off, it presents players with a startlingly easy approach to the games, fizzing out any challenge from gym leaders or the Elite Four. Alternatively, refraining from using the feature will still grant you a team two to three levels higher than your adversaries, so your avatar will never frantically pass out and become a victim of daylight robbery.
Building upon the features seen in X and Y, it’s never been easier to train a team of Pokémon in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Pokémon Amie and Super Training are back to soften the gruelling Effort Value process and friendship building, along with an abundance of mega stones scattered throughout Hoenn to crank up the heat in battles. But it’s the arrival of the superb DexNav feature that elevates ORAS to the next level.
A fantastic companion app for the in-game breeder, the DexNav will alert players to roaming wild Pokémon in the grass, water or caves. You may see an adorable tail pop up from Zigzagoon or Skitty, a silhouette with ears for Plusle, and its individual cry or greeting. Once you’ve located the Pokémon, players can sneak with a slow tap of the circle pad while the DexNav relays its ability, first move and its IV potential – improving the more you encounter each species. Practically eliminating the arduous hunt for a perfect IV Pokémon, it reintroduces fun to otherwise stale, mundane and largely ignored gameplay.
Though it’s substantially overshadowed by the excellent ability to control your flight over Hoenn with the Eon Flute, the fly HM has had a substantial upgrade. Players need only tap the Area Map on the PokéNav Plus to fly to a selected city or route, so whether you fancy picking up some berries for PokéBlocks to aid in contests or to re-battle a couple of trainers, it’s quite literally on your doorstep. But, as was the case in the originals, ORAS pins much need on HM use and you’ll almost certainly need a HM “slave” to carry out the laborious work for you. And while most water routes are optional, players can alleviate the cumbersome journey by picking up a Sharpedo which boosts surf speed, making the dive exploration and intriguing side stories at Sea Mauville – or many of the other islands dotted around Hoenn – much more enjoyable.
Depending on which version players choose, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire’s storyline will pit players against Team Aqua or Magma, with a goal to revive the legendary Kyogre or Groudon. What it lacks in originality is more than made up for with its intensity from the raging weather and the overwhelming pressure to save the world from utter annihilation. Yet it’s not until players defeat the Elite Four and enter post-game territory where the storyline really springs into action. The tightly packed Delta episode – a mission to save humanity from a meteoroid hurtling towards Hoenn – features enchanting music that cuts you to the core and dialogue to make your heart melt. It’s essentially Armageddon, but better.
With engaging post content, including the Battle Resort, Battle Maison and those fun capture-the-flag secret bases, contests have also had a boost in design. Now players can set their living room as centre stage with the 3DS’s gyro sensor and camera – it’s both delightful for youngsters and an interesting slant. Players will also receive Cosplay Pikachu, so whether you prefer cool or cute, it comes with a switchable fourth move depending on the costume it wears. It’s a neat design that just begs to be utilised more thoroughly throughout the game.
Oozing with an evocative storyline and building upon the features introduced in X and Y, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are immediately accessible, solid remakes. With just a touch more refinement, both titles could easily charm newcomers into returning and whip up an inferno with long-term fans. Either way, Pokémon is an encore that never truly ends.
*Version played – Alpha Sapphire