Bad news, guys: I know you all want to be the very best like no one ever was…but, well, that’s me. I’m the very best. Nobody ever was this good. Maybe not really, but Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire get me into that catchin’, battlin’ mood so it’s easy to convince myself.
Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are remakes of the third generation of Pokemon games using the engine introduced in Pokemon X and Y, the sixth generation. That means the entire world is rendered in 3D, as are the battles, and you’ve got access to a whole host of new features introduced in X/Y to make your experience much more enjoyable. The plot remains much the same: you’re a kid from the Hoenn region of the Pokemon world going on the usual coming-of-age adventure, which will eventually lead you to foil the plans of either Team Magna or Team Aqua depending on your version of the game.
Hoenn’s about the same as it was in the original Ruby and Sapphire. Many of the towns’ layouts are the same, and NPCs often say the same things they did years ago. It’s cute and nostalgic, not to mention it can provide a surprise when you stumble across a revamped map like the enormous Mauville City in the center of the region. Like the original, this is one of the easier games in the series; the distribution of Pokemon is such that you won’t have any issues finding what you need to conquer the various gyms. Unlike X/Y, there’s plenty of postgame content available, including the opportunity to catch iconic Legendary Pokemon from almost every other game in the series.
That said, this is still the Hoenn region. Hoenn is the Pokemon world’s tropical island region, of course, and as other commentators have mentioned, that means you’re going to spend a lot of time doing stuff related to water. That means you’re going to be fighting a lot of Water-type Pokemon and Surfing around the region’s many, many aquatic areas. This may or may not be a downside of the title; it really comes down to opinion, though I didn’t mind it any more than I did in the original.
The Pokemon themselves are, unsurprisingly, largely represented by the third generation of monsters. That means there’s a bit of an island theme throughout along with a focus on Water over Fire-types. Quite a few of these monsters are given new Mega Evolutions, which work much like the system introduced in X/Y: you can equip a single Pokemon with the appropriate Mega Stone and Mega Evolve it in battle to give it a butt-kicking boost. I was never a big fan of Mega Evolutions, feeling like the system pushed me toward using monsters I might not necessarily like, but the greater number of options makes it a little more palatable. Either way, the game’s not difficult enough that you’d need to use monsters you don’t like to progress.
It’s almost ironic that the highlight of this remake is the application of the many, many quality of life improvements introduced in the series’ more recent titles to a classic game. Your Pokemon gain XP even when you capture wild Pokemon, the revamped XP Share allows you to keep your team relatively even without hours of grinding and everything is just faster and more enjoyable. The Pokemon-Amie virtual pet feature from X/Y makes a return as well, as do the fantastic online components that allow you to interact with both friends and strangers. Naturally, the 3D graphics and improved sound are a welcome addition as well. (I can’t really comment on the 3D effects, but I’m told they can cause framerate issues. The game still looks fantastic if you turn them off!)
As for features introduced in this game, the most prominent is the Dexnav. This is basically a radar that shows you which Pokemon are in the area, including informing you if you’ve caught all the available monsters. It also allows you to track monsters that visibly appear in tall grass. These can come with unique moves, abilities and even boosted base stats, so it’s worth your while to mess around with this system.
I’m required as a games journalist to gripe about how Pokemon hasn’t changed much in the newest edition. If I don’t, I’ll get kicked out of the club and lose my access to the secret mailing list, so: oh no, Pokemon’s still Pokemon, how awful, etcetera. For those of you who are fans of the series, though, I hardly need to say that you can’t go wrong with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Newcomers, if newcomers exist, would be better served trying the more story-focused and beginner-friendly X/Y first then moving on to this one.