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Review: Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire


Jonathan Higgins

Developer: Game Freak

Publisher: Nintendo

Platforms: Nintendo 3DS

Release Date: November 21st, 2014

ESRB Rating: E

 

Note: This review is based on the Omega Ruby version of the game. While there are minor differences in each (such as exclusive Pokemon), most of the core game is the same.

 

 

When Pokémon X&Y were released globally last October, over twelve million people experienced the franchise“s next big overhaul. An engine introduced in Pokémon Black & White that merely dabbled in three-dimensional environments was upgraded to give players a full range of motion, offer an entire new world to explore in full 3D, and more. Given the Game Boy Color remakes, HeartGold & SoulSilver, I wasn't entirely surprised when The Pokémon Company announced that fans would be returning to Hoenn after more than ten years.

 

As many know, my roots with the series run deep. That doesn't mean Pokémon is beyond criticism for me, though. I thought Pokémon Black 2 & White 2 were a collective atrocity, and I“ve seen numerous flaws across all the games as I“ve played them...including Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. But reviewing a remake isn“t about resurfacing the flaws of a game released in 2003. Without further ado, here“s everything that makes Pokémon Omega Ruby new and noteworthy.

 

Much like Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver, the new take on Hoenn will give those who played the original games a good sense of how far the series has advanced, in terms of graphics and sound, in the past eleven years. Players returning to the series for the first time with Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire will come to appreciate the nuances that made Pokémon X&Y great (to many), including returning features like Pokémon Aime, Super Training and more that are available almost right from the start. Meanwhile, players fresh off the Kalos experience will note that not a whole lot“s changed in a year, and they“ll probably yearn to customize their trainer like they could in X&Y (but cannot in these new games).

 

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The graphics themselves haven“t changed much. But they do seem more polished, and little touches to in-game animations (whether we“re talking about the fact that Brendan can stand perfectly still if you stop mid-sneaking, the various Wingull or Swablu flying around as you enter various spots in the game) help me to praise the graphics versus calling them “more of the same”. Far more praiseworthy, in my opinion, is the soundtrack. Almost every single re-imagined track in the game is a vast improvement over the original version. But there are brand new tracks as well! And those are simply amazing... and mostly not heard until close to the end of the game, unfortunately.

 

Gameplay is also very much what you remember. Catch Pokémon, trade Pokémon (online!), defeat the gym leaders, and save the world. No glorious leaps are made in terms of story. The original plot is simply embellished to suit the brand new world, not re-imagined in any way. Ah, but there is an original, brand new story that happens after you've completed the main game for the first time. The Delta Episode is certainly worth praising, but unfortunately I can“t talk about it much without spoiling. There“s a Legendary Pokémon, and you jump on its back and go into freaking space. That“s why I“m giving it its own mention.

 

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The Delta Episode isn“t the only thing (beyond presentation) that sets the remake apart from the originals. Numerous (brand new) features exist that are all praise-worthy and will add countless hours onto your Pokémon journey. There are contests (with Mega Evolutions and cosplaying Pikachus), Super Secret Bases (where you can effectively become a gym leader and challenge your friends and strangers to beat your team, seamlessly and effortlessly), and more. But the feature that I“m the most impressed by (and this is by a long shot) is the DexNav, something that epitomizes how Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire centralizes the focus on actually “catching them all” unlike ever before.

 

Longtime fans of Pokémon are all-too-familiar with the concept of wandering around tall-grass for hours, initiating random battles and praying for that 5% encounter rate with the rarest Pokémon of any particular area of the game. What the DexNav does is nixes that process entirely in favor of sneaking up on that super-rare Pokémon when it pokes its head out of the grass. You hear its cry—so series veterans know that“s the one, and newcomers will know it“s a Pokémon they“ve not yet heard before. The obscene encounter-rate of Ruby & Sapphire has been lowered to accommodate sneaking up on Pokémon without being interrupted, whether in water or on land.

 

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The app itself, on the bottom screen, will even start to reveal Level, Ability, moves, and overall potential of these Wild Pokémon before you encounter them, if you've run into a ton of them throughout your journey. And most importantly, after you've caught the Pokémon you“re looking for—if you“re looking for another, you don“t have to wander around forever. Just hit “Search” on the DexNav app, and it prompts another critter just like it to poke its head out of the grass, for prime sneaking and seamless enjoyment.

 

The DexNav isn“t the only way these remakes promote completing the entire Pokédex. Before you've even entered Victory Road to go about finishing the game for the very first time, you“re given the ability to fly freely throughout the entire Hoenn region, like navigating an airship in Final Fantasy games. You can“t land anywhere you want, but there are very few restrictions in place, and it makes for some interesting, brand new areas to explore. And these brand new areas, when certain conditions are met, feature Pokémon not native to the Hoenn region and over twenty-five legendaries from every single game in the series. Will you become the Pokémon League Champion after saving the world, or focus on completing your Pokédex? For the first time in series history, the choice is yours.

 

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That very high praise aside, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire aren't without their flaws. The game itself remains remarkably easy. Even without the aid of various grind-relieving tools like the Experience Share, you“re still bound to be perpetually over-leveled. The game features an unprecedented level of exploration, but I think it comes at the cost of almost negating difficulty entirely. Most who complained about the (lack of) difficulty in the previous games will have the same exact complaints with this game, if not even more. And those returning to the series for the first time will wonder if the games were always this easy.

 

Still, as a whole, the same old Hoenn features an all-new look, an absolutely amazing soundtrack that (mostly) improves upon the tunes of old, and most importantly... what seems to be a brand-new direction for the series. If Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the stepping stones to the next brand new Pokémon experience, I couldn't be more excited for what comes next.

 


Pros:

 

+ The exclusive DexNav app absolutely revolutionizes searching for Pokémon.

+ All your favorite online features from Pokémon X&Y are back, and the game's new features are all praiseworthy, too.

+ For those interested in life after the main story, there is a plethora of post-game content.

+ The game's presentation breathes new life into a world many already know, leaving veterans refreshed and newcomers captivated.

 

Cons:

 

- Still far too easy.

 


Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)

Fantastic

 

If Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the stepping stones to the next brand new Pokémon experience, I couldn't be more excited for what comes next.

 

Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a retail copy purchased by the writer.

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