Back in the early 2000s, Game Freak made a big leap in terms of gameplay and graphics with Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire when they finally transitioned to the Gameboy Advance for the 3rd generation. These games basically laid the foundation for future generations by introducing new mechanics such as abilities, natures, an overhauled IV/EV system and double battles.
While Game Freak hinted a Ruby and Sapphire remake in Pokémon X and Y last year, everyone knew that it was going to happen. Eventually, they revealed Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, which is a remake of the original games. These remakes add new features (including enhancements to Pokémon Contests and Secret Bases) while adding more mega evolutions and an expanded post-game. Does this new remake live up to the original? Let’s find out!
The story is the same like the originals as you set out from your hometown to collect all the badges and become the Pokémon League Champion. During your adventures, depending on what version of the game you are playing, the protagonist will face off against Team Magma or Aqua (マグマ団、アクラ団), each have their goal of expanding the land and sea respectively with the goal of awakening using Legendary Pokémon, Groudon or Kyogre to achieve their goals.
Ruby and Sapphire marks the trend of criminal organizations not only causing trouble, but also potentially destroying the world in the process. To me, while the story is nostalgic and is obviously better than X and Y, the main story felt short just like the originals. While the Delta Episode (which is a post-game story arc) helps alleviates this by giving you another scenario surrounding a mysterious woman who is interested in awakening Rayquaza in order to destroy a meteorite, there are still a lot of things you can do in ORAS.
As for the features, most of the features from Pokémon X and Y makes a return such as Super Training, PSS, Pokémon-Amie (ポケパルレ), hordes, EXP All, ability to play the game in a different language, Battle Mason, Mega Evolutions, etc. However, Character customization did not. This is perhaps the only really disappointing aspect of the game since I liked customizing my character to my liking. It seems that Game Freak think that Kalos is the only country that cares about wearing nice clothes. To me, this removes the personal aspect from the adventure that made Pokémon X and Y enjoyable. Either way, I hope that it will return in the next game since there are many JRPGs out there that allow you to change the outfits or even change the overall appearance of the protagonist. Game Freak, this is not the late 1990s or 2000s anymore and the Nintendo 3DS is capable enough to have multiple outfits and hairstyles.
Despite that, there are still a lot of things I liked about ORAS. First are the new additions to the Pokénav. Besides providing access to PSS/Super Training and Pokémon-Amie, the map application now shows more information besides trainers who are ready to battle such as where the berries and secret bases are located. Now, it’s possible to fly to those locations from the map application. This makes visiting other secret bases and taking care of berries more convenient. Next, is the Pokédex Nav Application, which not only allows you to see what Pokémon you can catch in the while, but also gives some insight on the hidden Pokémon and allows for chaining. Hidden Pokémon are basically Pokémon that is shown in a patch of grass, water or ground that can potentially have an egg move or a hidden ability depending on the search level. Lastly, there is the TV application, which allows you to watch TV and happenings from other trainers you meet through street pass and on the Internet.
Another new useful addition to the game is the Eon Flute (むげんっむmむの笛), which allows you to soar through the sky with Latios/Latias. This feature is similar to the airship seen in most JRPG. This allows you can fly to any city/route including mirage/hidden islands, where you can catch Pokémon, encounter legendaries and find hidden items. The mirage islands are dependent on the Streetpass feature. While this feature takes more time than using fly, it removes the hassle of using an HM slave while being able to explore the whole region and encounter wild flying Pokémon.
The most anticipated features, Pokémon Contests and Secret Bases makes a return. Like the originals, Pokémon Contests is basically a competition that focuses more on the appeal of moves and the Pokémon’s condition. The only difference is that the contests are more spectacular and has a pop idol-like feeling. Like Diamond and Pearl, the protagonist wears a special outfit when he/she participates in a contest and it’s now possible to take pictures during the preliminary and after judging rounds. Otherwise, the gameplay mechanics are the same as the original and you can Mega Evolve as well. Even though you still have to feed Pokéblocks, there is no longer a limit on how many you can feed, meaning you can max out all the stats. Of course, this change makes it easier to evolve Feebas into Milotic.
Another anticipated and useful feature that also made a return are Secret Bases. Like the original game, Secret Bases allow you to convert a secret spot and make it your second home. You can buy new furniture and decorations and use them at your bases. Now, you can have secret pals, which are friends you make at other bases. Depending on the trainer class you choose on PSS will determine how you will appear at your own base. Each trainer class has a special ability and a specific team when you challenge them at other people’s bases. With this, it’s possible to make your own gym of some sort. While your trainer will only use the first three Pokémon on your team, you can choose the battle rules and lift level restrictions (after you beat the Delta Episode), things you couldn’t do in the original. After you decorated your base and decided on a team, your base can be shared over Streetpass or through a QR code for others to scan. (My secret base QR codes can be found on the Pokémon page).
After beating the main story in 32 hours (mainly due to having EV trained Pokémon with 6 IVs), I have to say that Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire is definitely better than Pokémon X and Y since there are more things you can do in the game even though it’s less than the Gold/Silver remakes. While I like some of the new Mega Evolutions like Mega Altaria, it seems that Game Freak broke their own rules by making it possible to have the Primal Reversion and a Mega Evolved Pokémon on the same team. They also made Mega Rayquaza too powerful and broken that Smogon had to ban it from Ubers. While the lack of character customization disappointed me, I still think that most Pokémon fans, especially people who played the originals will enjoy the remakes.
The Bottom Line
Strengths: A lot of useful additions for the Pokénav, better post-game than X and Y, expanded secret base options, more Mega Evolutions, ability to catch all the non-event Pokémon (if you own both versions), move tutors and return of Pokémon Contests.
Weaknesses: Lack of character customization, main story felt somewhat short and the difficulty was so-so.
Recommended Japanese Level (if played in Japanese): Upper Beginner, although Intermediate proficiency is recommended. Also, having the text set to use Kanji is highly recommended.
Also, if you want to do any Wifi Battles and Trades with me, then check out the Pokemon page, which will have my 3DS friend code and other information. ¶