Over a decade has past since the original Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire hit the Gameboy Advance, a game that many fans can attest to as a timeless experience. Catching a Ralts within the tall grass, climbing Mt Cinder for the first time and conquering the Pokemon are my fondest memories. Since then many years have passed and now – it seems- Nintendo has decided that it is the perfect time to remake the 3rd generation game. Pokemon fans, new and old, can relive this classic in a modern remake rightfully titled, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire for the Nintendo 3DS. Does this remake capture the magic of the original back in 2002? More importantly does effort improve upon the experience or is it a quick cash grab by Nintendo? Continue to our review to discover all the answers to these questions.
In regards to story, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire continues the tradition that Pokemon games of the past has upheld. By that I mean, an aspiring trainer from a lowly town sets off onto a big journey to become the next Pokemon Champion. During that time, the aspiring trainer foils the plans of an evil corporation aiming to use the power of a Legendary for diabolical purposes. As you can already tell, the story isn’t going to win an Academy Award or have you emotionally invested into the university. I suspect not many fans play the game for the writing. And to be fair, a strong story isn’t pertinent to the Pokemon experience, nor does it add significant value; it is essentially a throw away plot. As a die hard fan of the original games, I appreciated that Game Freak provides a close rendition of the original plot, but with a few modern twist that incorporates the new Mega Evolution mechanic and Primal Reversions.
Fans of the original will be delighted that an additional side story has been added into the Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire story arc. Fans will be treated to an interesting post game story side-story Arc called the Delta episodes. Without giving away too much and spoiling the narrative for you, the Delta episode explores the relationship between Mega Rayqauza and Deoxys. While we are here, on the note of post game content, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is significantly more meatier than Pokemon X & Y. For the first time in the Pokemon series, you can soar into the sky of Hoenn to discover mirage spot. The significance of this feature is that the game allows you to capture almost every legendary Pokemon in existence. The only exceptions are the special event Pokemon like Shaymin, Arceus, Celebi and Ghiratina.
As for Pokedex hunters, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire introduces several new Mega Evolutions on top of the Mega Evolved Pokemon that debut in XY. This list is quite extensive which includes Mega evolutions for Salamence, Metagross, Camerupt, Steelix and Beedrill. There is an impressive amount of content in Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, and this is not counting the online multiplayer, which is still addictive and fun.
Perhaps the biggest change from the original is substantial overhaul in the visuals and presentation. The old pixelated graphics from the GBA has been completely removed and replaced by the XY engine. It is tempting to say that the game looks great and leave at that. But to be honest, the engine doesn’t hold up well by today’s standard. Even by 3DS standards for that matter. There are no pretty visual effects or impressive animation that bring the environment to life. Consequently the world itself feels bland and lifeless.
It is the same Hoenn of the 2002, but with upgraded models and environments. At least on the positive side of things, the in-battle engine holds up better. All 700 Pokemon are rendered in 3D and the attacks have notable visual flare. Considering that most of the game will be played with the in-battle engine, I suppose Game Freak had their priorities straight.
Despite the complete overhaul of the engine from the original, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire retains the same familiarity of Hoenn. Frequently on my journey in Hoenn I told myself “this looks familiar” and “oh I remember this place.” When compared to the original, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is a substantial update and with this perspective I do appreciate the effort made in this front.
At its core, Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire is a traditional turn-based RPG. Your essential goal within the game is to build, train, battle and level up a team of Pokemon strong enough to defeat all 8 Gym leaders and the Pokemon League. This simple description of the games core mechanics and structure does not do the game level of depth justice. There are many factors to consider such as stats, the rock-paper-scissor type effectiveness, effort values, items, evolution’s, mega evolutions and abilities. Pokemon popularity has been able to endear for many years largely thanks to the strong foundation laid by its core mechanics. It is simple to grasp all its complexity and it is addictive because it is so complex. I suppose if you want it in lay man’s terms, people enjoy the trials and tribulations of raising Pokemon.
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire features a revamped and much improved Secret Base. The secret base serves as a customization hub whereby you can add furniture, Pokemon Dolls and even create your own gym. The best aspect of the new secret base is the online functionality. You and other players can invade secret bases to capture flags to rank up or receive daily gifts. It is an interesting distraction from the toils of the main story and online play, but not nearly fun enough to retain the attention of players for long periods… my opinion of course.
My biggest complaint with Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is that it does not push the series into new frontiers. It is a rather safe entry, one does everything well and by the books. It does not push the boundaries or change the conventions set by the series. Pokemon has recently become the antithesis of Nintendo game design philosophy; a game under a company known for pushing the boundaries, it is rather sad Pokemon has become stagnant.
Despite being a safe entry into the Pokemon series, one cannot deny that the Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire still retains the same fun and magic of the original all the years ago. The Lovely updates to the visuals, additional post-game content, more Mega Evolutions and just being a really solid RPG; it is not hard to recommend Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire to new and old fans. If you are looking for something to pop into your 3DS, then look further than Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.