Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire Review

By Blair Nokes on January 15, 2015

Nintendo may have missed the perfect date for the 15th anniversary of the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, but nevertheless they wanted to make sure the Hoenn region got some much needed attention. Utilizing the impressive engine that blew fans away in Pokémon X and Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are fully realized remakes of the classic Gameboy Advance games. It also serves to build on existing innovations that X and Y brought forth, such as Mega Stones and Mega Evolutions, super training, Pokémonamie, and the Player Search System. On top of that, Game Freak have also included a wealth of new features to ensure fans had lots to do and hours to spend in the reimagined Hoenn region.

You start as your created male or female character recently moved to the Hoenn region, as your father Norman has recently been hired as a Gym Leader for the region. You begin your Pokémon journey the moment you save Professor Birch from a wild Pokémon, choosing Treecko, Mudkip, or Torchic as your starting Pokémon. You are also given a new Pokedex to act as your companion for the Hoenn region, collecting data from various Pokémon you encounter and catch. Another very useful tool that builds on this concept is the DexNav. The DexNav is an alternative map that scans each area you are currently in for all the possible wild Pokémon. When you are alerted to one nearby, you're tasked with sneaking up close to it to surprise it off guard. The reward here could potentially be rarer types of Pokémon, such as those with better hidden abilities or better movesets to start out with, or perhaps even a shiny! After you find all the Pokémon in an area, it shows a platinum medal at the top right corner, making it easy to know what places you've fully scoured, and which ones still need more exploration.

Progressing through the 8 gyms comes as naturally as you would come to expect of any Pokémon game. Certain gyms allow access to certain HM moves, and certain HM moves allow you to reach certain gyms. One neat thing about the Hoenn region is that the later gym locales require quite a bit of surfing and diving to reach these spots. Diving can be a puzzle in itself as you're almost guessing where you are going to end up, but exploring all options and routes is immediately beneficial when it can possibly take you to treasures like TMs or even Mega Stones. Hoenn

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire revolve around the ancient Pokémon, Kyogre and Groudon "“ respectively the ancient Pokémon of the Sea and Land. Depending on your version, Team Aqua or Team Magma seek to resurrect either ancient Pokémon to better serve their goals. After this part of the story, which is just before the 8th gym badge, you are given the Eon Flute, and from here on the game brings on a whole new level never before done in a Pokémon game.

For the first time, you can take control of a Pokémon (in this case only Latios and Latias) and take to the skies as you can fully traverse the Hoenn region by air. Of course, simpler Pokémon can just instantly transport you to a specific area you want, but there are certain areas only accessible by flying. Certain portals open up that allow you to catch an absurd amount of Legendary Pokémon that are known from various other instalments, such as the Ho-Oh and Lugia from Gold and Silver, the Muskateers Virizion, Cobalion, Terrakion and Keldeo from Black/White/Black 2/White 2, and many, many more. On top of that, there are also battles in the sky, as you can encounter clusters of birds that turn out to be various Pokémon you may not find on the ground.

One of the larger complaints about Pokémon X and Y was that once you complete the game, there really wasn't much incentive to return to the Kalos region. I can't even begin to describe how much post-game content there is to discover once you beat the Elite Four, but rest assured it happens almost immediately. While I can't exactly state what they are, I can say that Game Freak clearly listened to the criticisms and crammed Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire with enough post-game content to keep fans engaged outside of online battles. I'm about 120 hours in and I'm still just as engaged as I was when I first embarked on my journey.

There are a number of features returning that have previously been discontinued, such as Pokémon Contests, and customizable Secret Bases; the latter hasn't been seen since Pokémon Platinum. The Mach and Acro bikes make a great return offering two types of riding. Mach bikes go much faster and can allow you to move up muddy slopes, while the Acro bike can allow you to do tricks like wheelies and bunny hops. Aside from just performing those tricks, they do serve a purpose for the gameplay. Bunny hopping in tall grass can cause Pokémon to appear, and it can also be used to hop up to previously unreachable areas of the game.

Building on the Pokémonamie mechanic is Cosplay Pikachu. The player is given a special Pikachu to use in Pokémon contests and is given a unique costume to wear; each costume comes with a special move. I'll be honest, I really didn't spend any time with this, Pokémon Contests or Secret Bases in general as they don't appeal to me, but I can't fault Game Freak for wanting to cater to multiple demographics.

As previously mentioned the Player Search System, or PSS returns from X and Y, and works exactly the same. For those who may have missed out on last year's instalment, the PSS is a system that allows you to battle or trade with your friends seamlessly, and it also allows you to extend this around the world with features like Wonder Trade. Wonder Trade lets you trade any one of your Pokémon in exchange for someone else's Pokémon. It is completely random and you won't know what you get until you see the exchange. So the worst case scenario is to expect tons of low level Ralts or Swablu, but I have been fortunate enough to receive many harder to find Pokémon, legendaries, and even shiny Pokémon. It's a great way to encourage trading amongst strangers around the world, and can also be a viable option to fill up missing pieces of your Pokedex.

The visuals remain the same as Pokémon X and Y, but this is quite obviously an enormous remake of the 2002 mega-sellers. The introduction cleverly showcases this by showing you the sprite images of the originals, only to have the camera zoom out and show that we're watching the player watch a screen on his or her handheld device. A lot of attention to detail went into the environments of the Hoenn region, from the weather effects of certain areas, to the gorgeous water reflections at day and night times. Game Freak also managed to maintain a very stable framerate while in the air using the Eon Flute, though the game still stutters the moment you enter 3D mode for any battle. Still when all's said and done Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are easily top showcase material for the 3DS system.

Final Thoughts

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are fantastic remakes of the insanely popular Gameboy Advance titles from 2002. A lot of care went into the handling of these recreations, and the team at Game Freak wanted to be sure that fans were not left wanting for more content once the main campaign is done. On top of offering more, they also sought to improve on existing features, like the DexNav system which completely restructures how Pokémon are caught by not only showing you which are available in certain areas, and how far along you are towards completion, but also by giving you a glimpse at the quality of the Pokémon you're about to encounter. With loads to do post-game, and people to battle and trade with online, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire will devour hours of your time in breeding for perfect IVs, training for perfect EVs, and raising your perfect team.

Beautiful remake of the Hoenn region.
Mirage spots.
The Eon Flute.
Water puzzles can potentially be too confusing for some.
Game Freak still haven't found a way to maintain a solid framerate in 3D mode.
Contains some issues also present in Pokemon X & Y.
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