Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire are the newest releases for the popular Pokémon franchise, remaking their Game Boy Advance predecessors with updated graphics and features for the Nintendo 3DS. The original titles are still hailed by many fans as the best in the series and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are proving to be quite good in their own right. As someone who is a diehard Pokémon fan but never had the chance to play the third generation in its heyday, I was pretty excited to experience these for the first time. I was curious though, would the remakes hold up without nostalgia goggles?
The answer to that question is yes, absolutely.
The Hoenn region has received the 3DS treatment, taking once pixelated graphics to a three dimensional level. Players of X&Y will be quite familiar with these updated looks, but it can be slightly off-putting after returning from a long hiatus. Fortunately, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire still retain the same unique charm and style that is expected of the series while allowing deeper exploration of the region. Cutting edge graphics have never been a priority for the series and you will be disappointed if that’s what you’re expecting.
Now if you’re hoping for a good story? Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire may satisfy you in that regard, although they aren’t literary epics by any means and follow the same general guidelines. Meet rival, capture and train Pokémon, collect badges, defeat the villainous team, continue on to defeat the Elite 4 and become a Pokémon Master. That being said, I enjoyed the story very much as it has new dynamics that kept me entertained. At times, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do or where I needed to go and actually had to explore. This is a very nice change from the linearity of X&Y. As an added bonus, you even get two villainous teams for the price of one! Omega Ruby pits you against Team Magma while Alpha Sapphire has you battling Team Aqua, offering different scenarios for each.
Game Freak has brought back some features that have not been seen since the original versions, including Pokémon Contests and Secret Bases. This was my first experience with either and I was excited to give them a whirl.
Pokémon Contests have now become Pokémon Contest Spectaculars. So far, I have not found them to be very appealing. There are five different types: Coolness, Beauty, Cuteness, Cleverness, and Toughness, as well as multiple ranks. Of course, new ranks only open up after completing the previous one. Each contest includes an introduction round and talent round where you parade your Pokémon on stage. I will probably go back and revisit them later, but my first impressions were not stellar and I found them time consuming and boring. However, higher ranks earns more fans, which can score some pretty sweet items so it’s not a complete waste. You also get a Pikachu handed to you and it likes to cosplay, going so far as to wear costumes in battle. Mine was boxed in the PC almost immediately.
Secret Bases are making their return as Super-Secret Bases and have been greatly improved. You no longer need a link cable as you can add player bases to your game through Wi-Fi and QR codes. You’ll notice Secret Spots pretty early in the game and will soon meet Aarune, who bestows upon you the Secret Power TM. This move allows you to enter these spots and create your own base. There are a great deal of spots within the game and I’ve spent a lot of time opening any I encounter as each one is different. You can decorate however you like, though you won’t have much to choose from initially. Luckily, decorations can be acquired in a number of ways, though the majority are only available to buy after collecting flags from other bases. Bases can now also be turned into a personal gym and you can recruit up to five players to be trainers inside. These reset daily so you’ll have plenty of chances to grab flags and level up. I will say that trying to find some of the more hidden ones has proven tricky and fun.
However, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire offer a never before seen feature in any Pokémon title to date: Soaring. Yes, we’ve always been able to quickly traverse the map to any visited town using Fly. But for the first time in Pokémon history, you are given the ability to soar freely over the region. Once you receive the Eon Flute, you call upon Latias or Latios who then Mega Evolve and whisk you away to the skies. Not only is this an awesome way to view the region and move about quickly, it also gives you access to flying Pokémon encounters, excessive amounts of Legendaries, and hidden areas unavailable by any other means. The only restriction is that you cannot land at any town or route you have not visited yet.
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are solid additions to an already beloved franchise, and can be enjoyed by both longtime fans and newcomers alike. I do wish it had been slightly more challenging, however, as I often found myself over-leveled and smashing through gyms. Though the post-game content makes up for that by offering a wealth of activities to keep you interested. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire has a little bit of something to offer everyone.Note: The Pokemon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby review was written based on Alpha Sapphire on a 3DS.