By Darcy Warms
Nearly 12 years ago, the third installments of the Pokemon series, Ruby and Sapphire were released in the United States. The games were met with much critical success and even greater commercial success. In fact, the two would go on to become the best-selling Game Boy Advance titles. These titles were hailed as revolutionary and would set up the framework for the first set of Pokemon remakes, Fire Red and Leaf Green. Five years later, another set of remakes, Heart Gold and Soul Silver were released for the Nintendo DS. Fans began to wonder, would their beloved Hoenn games get remade?
Years of speculation followed, memes like “Hoenn Confirmed” were created, and with every Nintendo Direct or announcement fans hoped their remakes would be confirmed. Long time contributor to the series, Junichi Masuda acknowledged the interest in remakes with a 2012 tweet, “Thanks! We’ve heard you loud and clear. R/S is very near and dear to me. I want to make good products. Thanks!” However, it was not until 2014 that any official confirmation was given. On May 7, 2014, in a press release, Nintendo announced Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire to be released in most regions on November 21, exactly 12 years after the original games’ Japanese release.
From the moment the games are booted up, it was undeniable: Nintendo was meticulous in recreating the Ruby and Sapphire experience. From the moment the player character steps out of the moving van, up until the Elite Four Champion is defeated, the game is a beautiful and faithful reimagining of the 2003 originals. There are some changes to the formula, namely the Delta Episode. This review will remain relatively spoiler free, but it is worth mentioning that the Delta Episode offers a brand new experience to all fans, new and old.
Some problems found with the originals can still be found in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Critics cited too much of the surfing mechanic. This reviewer found it partially remedied by the feature being downplayed overall and the ability of a certain Pokemon to travel quickly over water. The game still suffers by being too easy, unfortunately compounded, by the inclusion of features like Super Training and an Experience Share that benefits the whole party. Yes, Team Aqua and Magma are still silly, but their major players have been fleshed out. Other characters have been given more personality and story time as well. The more realistic characters and story give the player’s actions a deeper sense of reason and meaning, although it does still leave one wondering, why exactly is the only person who can save the world a 12 year old?
Using the engine of 2013’s X and Y, all technical aspects of the game have undergone a major overhaul. Gone are 2D sprites and chiptunes, now replaced by full 3D graphics and gorgeous synthesized arrangements. Other features back from X and Y are the previously mentioned Super Training for stat training, and Pokemon-Amie, a cutesy but somewhat unnecessary bonding minigame (Pokemon already had a happiness value since the first games, Red and Blue). Wonder trading returns, but unfortunately is flooded with common Hoenn Pokemon like Zigzagoon and Wurmple. A new feature is the DexNav, an extremely useful addition to many aspects of catching Pokemon. It gives the player the ability to see data about a Pokemon in the grass. With the DexNav, the chaining feature returns, giving players an ability to catch rarer, stronger, and even shiny (discolored) Pokemon.
Overall, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire breathe new life into an old favorite with plenty of new features interwoven into a close retelling of the original story while still staying accessible for someone newer to the series. The game has beautiful, almost realistic music, and eye popping 3D visuals (that still manage to look awesome on a 2DS!). Twelve years later, this game keeps the classic formula while being innovative as well. It is this reviewer’s opinion that these games are some of the best for the 3DS/2DS.
Images used from serebii.net with permission.