After 2013’s excellent Pokémon X/Y, which took the Pokémon series to all new heights with a new and wonderful 3D engine, players were left satisfied with a whole new world to explore and even more Pokémon to collect. But it seems like Game Freak and Nintendo weren’t pleased enough with the highly successful entries, opting to cause even more excitement amongst the fans by bringing two classic adventures back, enhanced with all the latest features the series has to offer. The result: Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Pokémon Omega Ruby, two excellent adventure RPGs that are just as terribly hard to put down as they were twelve years ago, and ones that fans of the series will absolutely adore.
Pokémon Omega Ruby / Pokémon Alpha Sapphire
Developed by Game Freak / Published by Nintendo
Available on the Nintendo 3DS
*Review code provided by Nintendo
Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby take us back to the good old Hoenn Region, where our heroes has just moved in with their mother, and their father has become a Gym Leader. Striving to be the very best there ever was, the player travels around the region collecting all of the Gym badges, while foiling the dastardly antics of the misguided Team Aqua or Magma.
Right off the bat, the game tugs at your nostalgia-filled heart strings, presenting a fresh take on a game many fans of the franchise know and love. The new 3D engine does a fantastic job at breathing new life into Hoenn and its inhabitants, making it feel like a genuinely brand new experience, despite most of it being modeled on an older games towns and environments.
The gameplay also remains largely familiar, favoring old school mechanics while adding a touch of the newer elements from X and Y. As before, players guide the hero through the Hoenn Region from a top-down perspective, and go about capturing Pokémon in the wild with the aim of conquering all eight Gyms and competing against the Elite Four. Both games feature typical RPG mechanics, as players travel through routes that connect towns and cities to each other either via foot or with a bike for some extra speed, step into tall grass or other high activity areas to engage wild Pokémon in random encounters, and enter buildings and caverns here and there for some classic dungeon crawling. Players can also search the environment for hidden items or berries that’ll help out in battle, restock on supplies at shops and heal bruised Pokémon at the Pokémon Center, and engage NPCs for some light-hearted talk, a bit of backstory, or a quick bout. Its classic gameplay that hasn’t been tweaked much, but it’s still very addictive and entertaining.
Combat is the main focus of the game however, and it pretty much plays out the same way it has since the start of the series, with the player sending out a Pokémon into the field and battle others – be it a wild Pokémon or another trainer – in turn-based matches. While battles play out slower this time around thanks to the new time consuming animations (a problem that came from X and Y), they’re still tons of fun thanks to the classic need for strategy in order to win battles or capture wild Pokémon. The name of the game is still successfully juggling Pokémon of different elements in order to deal critical blows or negate damage, as well as use items to heal the combatants or improve their stats in order to dominate the competition. The original Sapphire and Ruby also introduced Double Battles as well, so players really need to micromanage each element in the fight, as even more strategy is required to win. Combat is somewhat slow and can grow repetitive at times, but it’s still a great time and never gets boring.
Plenty of features from the original releases make a return in the remakes, some of which haven’t been seen since. Pokémon Contests are back, in which Pokémon are ranked in various appearance-based categories such as beauty or smarts. So are Secret Bases (called Super-secret bases here), allowing players to decorate a room with furniture and trinkets.
Being remakes nonetheless, the games also include elements from later generations and new mechanics as well. The Pokenav has been upgraded to the Pokenav Plus, offering more options including online play. Megastones and Mega Evolutions also make another appearance, allowing some Pokémon to become even stronger, and Primal Reversions cause Groudon and Kyogre to unlock their true powers. Players can encounter hordes of enemy Pokémon to battle against. Pokémon-Amie and Super Training return for even more stat boosting. New Pokémon, characters, story elements, and even more minor tweaks. The list can go on and on, but one thing’s for sure, both remakes have the best of both worlds.
If I had to complain about one thing, it would be that I would have loved to see an auto-save function in the games. I know it’s not completely necessary, but I’ve occasionally suffered from batteries running out or the SD card being unrecognized, losing hours of progress. I know it’s my fault and whatnot, but for those of us who might be occasionally absent-minded, an auto-save would have been nice.
At the end of the day, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are both fantastic remakes of classic RPG adventures, successfully bringing them to newer generations while retaining the fun that made them popular in the first place. While the gameplay is somewhat outdated thanks to being based on older games, they are timeless quests that fans will not want to put down.