Haven’t we caught them all yet?
The ever popular Pokémon franchise has gone through many slightly different incarnations over the years since the first Pokémon game arrived and started appealing to the more obsessive gamers compulsion to catch pocket monsters. The core game has not changed much in that time, but with each new generation of the main games, new features are added, new Pokémon can be caught and the visuals are tweaked to keep up with technology.
Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire first made their appearance on the GameBoy Advance some 12 years ago. As the third generation entry in the series, new ideas were introduced, not all of which were popular with the fans, and the game was populated with some more new creatures for the player to catch and train.
Now, as we bask in the glory of the sixth generation of Pokémon games, Ruby and Sapphire get a remake for the 3DS with Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. While the core game may stay the same, additional ideas and a new coat of paint succeed in making this latest remake into one of the most compelling and enjoyable Pokémon games in recent years.
Despite the ever improving technology, the Pokémon games really have changed very little over the years. For each entry in the series, the main mission remains the same – explore the open world, hunting for and catching Pokémon, then training the Pokémon to battle other Pokémon in order to obtain gym badges and eventually defeat the ultimate Pokémon trainers, thus proving yourself to be the best Pokémon trainer ever. The secondary objective has also remained the same throughout – finding each and every Pokémon available in the game, and in other games through trading as different versions of the same generation will have unique Pokémon, to complete your Pokédex – although this particular mission has become far more difficult as the games play host to an ever increasing roster of creatures to find.
Then there is the somewhat lesser story that runs through each of the games. Whilst never a strong point in the games, these stories will invariably involve evil characters who are up to something evil, and the player will find themselves thwarting their plans through beating their trained Pokémon in matches. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire play host to Team Magma and Team Aqua, with one team playing the primary evil role in each of the games. Along with a few unique Pokémon, the small changes in this story that come from the different teams, are the only real differences between the two versions of the game. For the lighter Pokémon player, one game is as good as the other. The more obsessive Pokémon player will need to find a friend with the other game to get all that they can from the title, whilst the truly hardcore will likely have to pick up both games, and will need two handhelds to “catch ‘em all”.
For Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, the stories have been bolstered a little to provide the player with more to do on that side of things. Another feature that has been improved upon from Ruby and Sapphire are the Pokémon talent contests. Not the most favorite feature amongst the serious Pokémon players, these contests see the player improving their Pokémon’s non-combat attributes using Pokéblocks to win and receive some interesting rewards. Although these contests have been brought much more up to date, they are still likely to be passed on by the majority of gamers.
Mega evolutions, and Primal Reversions, make an appearance in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, giving certain Pokémon an extra form that they can take on during battle to make them even more powerful, providing they are holding a special stone. And the new DexNav will allow players to use a spot of stealth to find and capture Pokémon with more unusual moves for their type. There are secret bases to be found and filled (known as Super Secret Bases), which make use of the 3DS StreetPass ability to further the experience. All in all, there is a huge amount to do in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire that will keep the more obsessive players going for many many hours after the story has been finished.
The most significant change to Ruby and Sapphire for this remake is the use of the X & Y graphics engine to bring the game into 3D realms. The improved visuals over the original versions of the games make a real difference that will give both newcomers and those who have previously explored Hoenn a new experience. The locations look more interesting, and the Pokémon all seem to come to life much more. Even the 3D effect is well done, although not perfect and still will remain turned off for the most part.
Despite the impressive new look and the additional features, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sappire still manages to feel like an older game, which is perhaps no bad thing. It is a brilliant experience and very enjoyable to play, but doesn’t feel as friendly to newcomers as perhaps X & Y did. If you have never caught a Pokémon before, these previous games may well be a better first choice. However, for everyone who has sampled the delights of throwing a Pokéball, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire are an essential purchase, perfectly blending nostalgia for those who remember, with new and more modern features.