Since Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire has already shipped 7.7 million units as of the writing of this review, I think you can say it’s a pretty foregone conclusion as to what the outcome of this review is going to be (by comparison, the original Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire sold a total of 14 million units over its entire lifespan). Still, the natural order of things must hold, and I’m going to tell you exactly why you should be Catching Them All once more.
Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire (ORAS from now on) are remakes of the older Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire, released in 2002 for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance. The remake uses the lovely 3D engine that was used in Pokémon X/Y (reviewed by us over here). Ruby/Sapphire was well loved by many Pokémon fans, so it’s a fitting subject for a remake. In fact, to get a good idea of just how faithful and masterful this remake is, you should check out this comparison video. It features the Japanese versions of the game, but nonetheless you can still see that the text is exactly the same.
Pokémon ORAS takes place in the Hoenn region of the Pokémon world, inspired by the Japanese islands. The story starts with your character moving to a new town. In fact, your character starts inside the delivery van en route to the new house! You get your adventure underway and soon encounter either Team Magma or Team Aqua as their main nemesis, hell bent on—what else?—ruining the planet. Again. In addition to completing your Pokedex, catching, raising, and evolving Pokémon, and gaining enough gym badges to take on the Pokémon League, you also have to defeat these jokers. What I want to know is this: why do none of the other Pokémon trainers run into this much trouble?
The changes to Pokémon ORAS from the original are astounding, new 3D engine aside. Many of the upgrades that X/Y received are back for Pokémon ORAS, including Pokémon-Amie (where you can pet, feed, and play with your Pokémon), the Player Search System (better known as the PSS, which enables you to locate nearby players, use O-Powers, and so forth), and Super Training (enabling you to power up your Pokémon outside of battle). In addition to this, there is also the DexNav Plus, an upgraded map and radar tool used to locate Pokémon. This was my favourite new feature, allowing you to see which Pokémon you’ve caught in a particular area, and whether you still need to capture any others. Linked to this is the ability to sneak up on Pokémon that pop up in the long grass. These ones usually have extra powers and abilities that you won’t find in random battles. Another upgrade to your Pokedex is the BuzzNav, which is a news show on the go. It tells you what other players are buying, what they’ve caught, what they’ve found, and what they’ve named their Pokémon. I didn’t stick around here much, because, you know, Pokémon to catch. New, too, is the ability to fly over Hoenn on certain Pokémon, allowing you to catch certain airborne critters. Another carryover from X/Y is Mega Evolutions, and more Pokémon are now able to mega evolve than there were in X/Y. And further to the original game’s story, there is also a post-game storyline called the Delta Episode, which is actually superior to the main story.
While the Pokémon formula remains the same, it’s an absolute treat to see Hoenn rendered in the new engine. The game actually looks better than X/Y in places. I love the new additions to the Pokedex, as I mentioned before. Random battles are still there, though, and still as random. Traipsing about in the long grass will yield the precise same results as doing so in older Pokémon games. It seemed to me, though, that the encounter rate had been toned down a lot. I had to run through a lot more grass to pick a fight with someone. On the down side, the story is ridiculously thin. For once, Twilight is the better story. But only just barely. The story problem in Pokémon is a strange one. The villains get taken down about ¾ of the way through the game, and you’re left pretty much powering up your team enough to go after the Big Four at the end. Not great in terms of story and motivation to continue, but the core mechanic of exploration and capture still provides the same “what’s up next?” momentum that the story lacks.
Multiplayer is still incredibly core to the game series, and the PSS makes it as easy to jump into battles or trade Pokémon as it did in X/Y. Multiplayer battles are going to force you to think because actual people have actual battle strategies. The system took a while to find matches for me, but that could have been my flaky internet connection. Once a match was found, though, the fight went smoothly. (I lost. A lot. I’m a reviewer, not a Pokémon expert.)
The question becomes, if you’re new to Pokémon, whether to purchase Pokémon ORAS or Pokémon X/Y. Strangely enough, you actually have some consideration to do. Kotaku actually has a great feature on this very decision-making process, and it’s worth a read if you’re faced with the choice.
I enjoyed Pokémon ORAS. The changes in gameplay and graphics engine make it so worthwhile to play. You can spend endless hours just catching and training Pokémon, or breeding them if that’s what you want. And once you’ve done that, there’s the entire Internet to defeat in one-on-one battles. In fact, the PSS includes X/Y players, too, but certain Pokémon and items are banned from interpersonal battles to make things fair on the X/Yers. Story issues aside, it’s still Pokémon to the core, and while the core audience is probably in their teens, the game is still a lot of fun to play and experience. If it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be shipping over 7 million copies in its first few weeks of life.
Final Score: 9 Prawnachus out of 10
Developer: Game Freaks
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Age Rating: 3+