It’s no wonder Pokemon is one of the most successful video game franchises in history. With an established formula that provides countless hours of addictive gameplay, the series has always been adored by players of all ages. And that love continues with the already multi-million selling remakes Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
Starting with Pokemon X and Y, the series’ visuals have undergone a massive overhaul. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire share the same art style as the 2013 releases and were built using the same technology, which is suitable for Nintendo 3DS but admittedly doesn’t look as sharp on the Nintendo 3DS XL’s larger screens. Animations are particularly great during battles and Mega Evolution sequences, providing a more dynamic experience and helping make Pokemon more believable and exciting.
Despite being straightforward, the games include an entertaining story backed by two villainous entities – Team Magma and Team Aqua. Both teams are rivals and have similar albeit contrasting goals. Team Magma will do everything within its power to expand landmass by awakening Groudon. On the other hand, Team Aqua wants to expand the amount of water by awakening Kyogre – as if Hoenn doesn’t have enough water already.
The region is actually abundant in water. And that’s not necessarily a good thing in games. Surfing isn’t the most exciting way to get around and battles quickly become dull when you have to keep facing Water-type Pokemon, especially the same ones like the pathetic and extremely-common Pelipper. Unless they have gills or something, members of Team Aqua should be the happiest people alive.
Like most main entries in the Pokemon series, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire offer an extensive amount of content. Other than the main quest, there are numerous side quests to undertake and bonus activities to try out, such as engaging in Pokemon Contests or soaring across Hoenn to discover new islands and hidden rare Pokemon. You’re going to be playing for a very, very long time if your aim is to catch all 720 known Pokemon, which is possible in the latest games via capturing in the wild and trading with other players.
While random encounters are still pretty frequent, Pokemon sometimes pop out of the grass and allow you to walk slowly toward them by pushing the Circle Pad slightly. This element of stealth changes up the gameplay for the better as random encounters happen less frequently when you’re approaching a visible Pokemon. You’re encouraged to use the same technique from the beginning of your adventure as it usually results in encountering a Pokemon with a rare move, which makes catching low-level Pokemon more appealing.
The games don’t provide much of a challenge to players, especially to longtime fans of the series. Gym Leaders are a cinch to beat. The first Gym Leader, Roxanne, and her subordinates can be trumped with a mere Lotad and one of the weakest Water-type moves, Bubble. Similarly, the second gym leader, Brawly, and his underlings can easily be defeated with a meager bug like Beautifly and the not-so-strong Flying attack Gust. Later Gyms do feature clever puzzles, which are sometimes more challenging to solve than winning battles.
Furthermore, if you select a diverse set of Pokemon for your party from the get-go, completing the entire game can be a cakewalk. Beginner, standard and expert difficulty levels would’ve been a welcome inclusion. On top of all that, training Pokemon is almost effortless throughout the majority of the game with the improved Exp. Share, which distributes experience points to not just one other of your equipped Pokemon but to everyone in your party. This means that five out of six Pokemon in your party can get stronger by essentially doing nothing.
Another frustration of mine are Hidden Machines, or HMs, which could have been less of a hassle if they were actual items for the Trainer to use or for the Pokemon to hold. Keeping an “HM slave” or two in your party with ineffective moves like Cut, Rock Smash and Waterfall feels like such a waste of space.
Although they introduce several new features and improvements over their original counterparts, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire feel way too familiar. Don’t get me wrong – they can still provide tons of hours of fun, but I’m looking forward to when the series evolves to another level.