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Review: Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

We don't know Hoenn the world we ended up here again, but we're glad we did.

By Jack Taylor – 2 February 2015
Reviewed on Nintendo 3DS (code provided)

It's easy to forget how much Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire brought to the Pokémon series when they launched in Japan way back in 2002. A great deal of what you see in this generation of Pokémon games was very much brought about by Ruby and Sapphire, and while every generation since has introduced new mechanics and gameplay styles along the way, few have stuck around. Ruby and Sapphire introduced 135 brand new Pokémon along with abilities and natures for each, all based in a region filled to the brim with varying terrain and surrounded entirely by water. It was an important step back in 2002, and with a fresh lick of paint in 2014, the experience is even better.

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire are the third pair of remakes in the main series of Pokémon games, following first-generation remakes FireRed and LeafGreen and second-generation remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver. The games have sought to provide the original experience to a new generation of players, with the added bonus of several generations' worth of enhancements as well. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire follow the trend, bringing the third-generation originals into the sixth generation; the games provide a number of brand new features as well as some exceptional changes to the storyline near the end (no spoilers, don't worry), making them feel like the definitive and most complete versions of Ruby and Sapphire.

Fans of the original Ruby and Sapphire will feel very welcome when first starting the game, as the original introduction with Professor Birch starts things off with a touch of nostalgia. It's a fine way of demonstrating how far things have come in the space of 12 years, particularly when you step out of the moving van and into Littleroot Town for the first time. Everything has been accurately replicated at this early point in the game, right down to the way in which you select your starter Pokémon; the choice between Mudkip, Torchic, and Treecko is something you'll make right before going into your first battle and heading into the world of Hoenn, so it's the most important choice you'll make early on.

One of the reasons so many people have been eagerly awaiting Ruby and Sapphire remakes is because the games are memorable in so many ways. Hoenn is one of the most unique regions in the Pokémon world and it brings with it what is arguably some of the best music in the Pokémon series, so it's wonderful to know that the vibrancy of the region and its soundtrack have been given an even greater stage and an even more powerful platform to be showcased upon. Even better, the games seem so fresh that they can easily be enjoyed by anyone, whether you played the originals to death or whether these are your first Pokémon games.

At its core, the story of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is based around a young newcomer to Hoenn who obtains his or her first Pokémon before heading out on an adventure across the exciting new region. Along the way, you'll battle and catch plenty of Pokémon - there are more than 200 in Hoenn - while partaking in battles with friends, fellow Trainers, and even Gym Leaders. You'll also need to take the occasional detour to prevent the evil plans of Team Magma or Team Aqua from coming to fruition. Once you've defeated all eight Gym Leaders, you'll have the opportunity to challenge the Pokémon League itself, though this time around - and we won't go into why - you might want to continue travelling around Hoenn for a little while beforehand.

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire benefit from many of the enhancements the series gained in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, which launched worldwide in October 2013. We've already mentioned the games' vibrant visuals which, despite being the same as in X and Y, seem to have had new life brought to them by the fantastic Hoenn region and its inhabitants. The games are also the first in the main series to not limit your movements to a grid, allowing you to move freely when using the Circle Pad or while riding a bicycle; this was a trend started in X and Y, but now fully realised in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. The games also bring with them an enhanced Exp. Share for easier training, new Mega Evolutions, and much improved flight mechanics to make it that much easier to quickly travel to precise destinations across the Hoenn region.

If there's one thing that's overwhelmingly welcome in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, it's that the games don't fall foul of the same problem that HeartGold and SoulSilver did. Those games followed Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, and although they did an excellent job of updating Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver, they still felt more like the three original games which preceded them than they did the two classics they were meant to replicate. In stark contrast, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire feel more like the true versions of Ruby and Sapphire; they're very clearly in their own skin and are vibrant throughout, with a vastly improved soundtrack, incredible attention to detail, and it feels as though they've happened at the most perfect time because of that.

Whether you're a casual Pokémon Trainer or a competitive one, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire provide a number of tools to help you better train your Pokémon throughout the game. Super Training, a mode in which you could quickly and accurately increase your Pokémon's EV stats, returns after its debut in X and Y, while we've already mentioned the return of the new Exp. Share, making it far easier to evenly share experience points across your party of up to six Pokémon. Secret Bases also return, and while these naturally provide a huge amount of opportunity for personal space customisation - more so than before, with many more options available than in the original games - they also include Trainers to be challenged every day, giving you ample opportunity to level up. Many of the Trainers you meet in Hoenn will also be up for regular rematches as well.

Online, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire offer an impressive number of options, as did X and Y before them. This is because they include the same Player Search System, or PSS, which allows you access to online trading via Wonder Trade or the Global Trade Station, or battling in a number of different modes. The games include the same convenient Battle Box in the storage system, which lets you put six Pokémon in for easy access in online battles and particularly when taking part in online tournaments. As always, you've also got the option of local multiplayer, while StreetPass and SpotPass are on hand to provide news and extras including Secret Bases.

As far as Pokémon remakes are concerned, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are the most impressive for a number of reasons. While many will consider FireRed and LeafGreen to be the best - seems the third generation of games is coming up trumps whichever way you look at it - the difference with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is that they improve upon the originals in the most significant ways out of all the remakes thus far. They include wonderful new music and visuals, a selection of fantastic Pokémon and characters, almost seamless controls and battles - if you can ignore the slightly trippy 3D at times in the thick of battle - and they make the best use out of the complete National Pokédex of any Pokémon game, perhaps bar X and Y.

It's also true that Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have retained many of the excellent features brought to the series in X and Y, including the PSS, Super Training, Pokémon-Amie, Mega Evolution, much improved battle mechanics, and much more besides. Other remakes have snubbed some features in favour of their own new additions, which is fair enough at times, but given how much X and Y improved on the formula, we're incredibly pleased to see much of the new ideas return to these remakes. There's very little to complain about here, and it makes these games very easy to recommend. No matter how incredible future Pokémon games manage to be, it's still somehow quite difficult to think that future instalments will be as refreshing as these.

9

Verdict: Excellent

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire