Pokemon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire

By the sixth generation of Pokemon games it seems that Game Freak had settled on a new customary release tactic: the remake. Perhaps the whole “three game structure” had become trite by the mid ‘teens, or perhaps Nintendo had merely cottoned on to the hideous, awe-inspiring power of re-making old stuff and watching the money reel in; regardless of the why however, what was apparent was that remakes were en vogue in the Game Freak offices. FireRed / LeafGreen and HeartGold / SoulSilver had been massive successes – unsurprising, of course, given they were remaking the oldest and therefore most nostalgically-valuable franchise entries – and the clamouring for a return to Gen III’s wonderful watery land of Hoenn was rising. This was in and of itself almost a bit surprising. Gen III had always enjoyed less substantial love than either of its predecessors, in part thanks to increasingly cartoonish elements in the world and plot, and also (remarkably) in part due to the huge tracts of open water necessitating a very specific HM setup, not to mention introducing us to the horrors of the oceanic Zubats, Wingull and Tentacool, which harried players relentlessly along the otherwise sedate bobbing routes between Mossdeep and Sootopolis. My favourite argument against Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald though were always the grumbles about the prevalence of MIDI-horn sounds in the music; you can’t think of Hoenn without also thinking of fake trumpets.

Anyway, despite this awkward space the generation sat in, the desire for a remake was clearly growing in the fandom. In fact, it was more than a desire; it was an expectation. Discussion online at the time was very much centered around the idea of when, not if Gen III would see a remake. Speaking as a fan of these games, I have to say it felt terribly gratifying when the announcement of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire was met with a heartfelt appreciation. But if the previous remakes showed us anything, it was that Game Freak weren’t content just simply slap a new coat of paint on a game and release the same thing over again; instead Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire promised an all-new look at Hoenn in the post-Gen VI Pokemon franchise.


Pokemon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire (3DS)

Released Nov 2014 | Developed: Game Freak | Published: Nintendo

Genre: JRPG | HLTB: 26 hours

Naturally, we should say the obvious first. This is still a Pokemon game, and therefore there’s certain things that haven’t changed. The franchise comes with certain expectations after all, and Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire don’t break from these. Namely, that means that at the base of everything, we’ve still got a fairly standard Pokemon experience, with all the trappings we’ve come to expect and know from the series. That means we still play as a kid who is newly-gifted a Pokemon, a small elementally-attuned critter that we are charged with raising through battles against other Trainers. We do this in order to get a strong enough team to challenge the local Gym Leaders, who are a set of eight highly-ranked Trainers that each lead their own Gyms and can hand out special Badges to those who defeat them. Once a Trainer has all eight of the regional Badges, they earn the right to travel to and challenge the Elite Four and, eventually, the Champion, the five strongest Trainers in the land.

Each Gym is designed around a specific elemental type, with all the Trainers inside using teams built around it. Therefore, players need to take advantage of Pokemon’s extremely robust elemental type rock-paper-scissors style advantages and disadvantages. In short, certain types do better or worse against others and it’s to Pokemon’s credit that these almost always make sense; fire beats grass, for example, but comes up short against water. Every Pokemon in the game is attuned to one or two of these types, and each can learn up to four moves to use in battle, with each move linked to a type as well. Using moves of the same type as your Pokemon gives them a bonus, but having more types amongst your movepool lets your Pokemon adapt to more situations, so there’s a strong sense of tactics attached to outfitting your team so you can take on any foe.


You also have to contend with a local team of baddies who are running around and trying to mess up the place in accordance with some vast, evil plan. I tend to give Ruby / Sapphire some stick for their villains because they are, to my mind, the beginning of Pokemon utilizing threats on a par with Saturday morning cartoons. You might, fairly, point out that Pokemon is a franchise aimed at kids, but I’d always contend that while that might be the case, children can manage more complex evil characters quite well. In Ruby / Sapphire though our main enemies are Teams Magma and Aqua, depending on which version you’re playing. Both have a similar, and equally stupid, goal; to awaken a legendary Pokemon and use their awesome power to expand Hoenn’s landmass or seas respectively. It doesn’t take a genius intellect to discern why both of these ideas are dumb, and it comes as no surprise when they do in fact turn out to be terrible ideas.

It’s a little disappointing that the remakes choose to follow the story for these two villainous teams as they’re written in Ruby / Sapphire, particularly when the infinitely better story presented in Emerald is right there for the taking. In that game, instead of one team being our main foe, both teams are active and trying to realize their goals simultaneously, and it takes the intervention of a third legendary Pokemon to calm a massive raging conflict that erupts towards the endgame. Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire unfortunately eschews that, and instead takes the tack of trying to expand the characterization of the main players in each team. I think this represents one of the remake’s weakest points; each team has received a visual redesign, and both look awful in comparison to the simpler aesthetics of the original games. This is especially apparent when it comes to Maxie and Archie, the team leaders: Maxie originally looked quietly threatening, almost Giovanni-like, but now sports a swept-back mullet, leather-effect science gear, and hideous oversized moonboots, but Archie has fared far worse. In Gen III Archie just looked like a pirate, but now he looks like a Power Rangers villain in his skintight onesie, giant gold anchor and webbed butt-cape.


This is probably the only area where I think Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire stumbles. As you’d expect, the gameplay has been supported by all the upgrades and enhancements made since Gen III. That means we not only benefit from the physical-special split introduced in Gen IV, but also the hugely expanded roster of moves from across Gens IV, V and VI, and the addition of the Fairy-type from X / Y. Also along for the ride is a returning favourite mechanic of mine, Mega Evolutions, fresh from X / Y as well; just as in that game, partway through your journey you’re gifted with a Mega Stone and therefore the ability to utterly break the game’s combat system wide apart in full and glorious fashion. Mega Evolution works exactly the same; once you’ve unlocked it, once per battle you can Mega Evolve a member of your team that is holding its respective Mega Stone – doing so makes it reach a new form and gives it massively boosted stats so it can essentially steamroll over everything. It’s not great for any sense of challenge, but I personally love it.

This remake also does something very cool that I think couldn’t have been done before now, but thanks to the 3DS’s tech you get to finally mount a Pokemon and freely fly around the entire region in full 3D. There are some limitations to this; you don’t get the ability to do so until around halfway through the game, and it’s another thing that kind of breaks the game’s challenge because the event involves you getting a free legendary Pokemon in your team, but it’s a wonderful way for the developers to experiment with something that fans have been asking about for a long time – removing HMs. Since you don’t need an HM to fly now, having it slapped on one of your team becomes a bit obsolete. While nothing more gets done with it in this game, it paved the way for future games to further play with getting rid of the need for HMs.


While Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire doesn’t quite get us to the huge open-world experience that many fans want the series to explore, I think one feature added into these games does do a ton of work to make the overworld feel even more alive than ever. In typical Pokemon fashion, running through tall grass is still the usual way one encounters wild Pokemon to capture, but now there’s been a bit more nuance added. At random intervals, as you’re wandering around the world, certain patches of grass will start to rustle and you’ll see a shadowed bit of a Pokemon pop up out of it. On the lower screen of your 3DS you can tap the new Poke-Radar feature to bring up a scan of whatever monster is rearing its head. This doesn’t just give you a clue as to what you’re about to encounter, but if you start to chain these together you can increase the chance of finding a special version of a local Pokemon that might know a hidden, more powerful move, or have a rarer passive Ability. You’ve got to use the 3DS’s circle-pad to sneak up on them though because if you run you’ll startle your hunt and it’ll disappear into the grass. This feature is fantastic; it’s frankly a crime that it doesn’t immediately get re-used in the following game (spoilers). I genuinely think it’s one of the best, most invigorating additions to the core gameplay loop in ages; giving the player more control over their encounters in this way is a brilliant expansion of agency, and it’s also entirely optional. You don’t have to engage with it, but the rewards you can reap if you do are well worth it.

On top of everything else, Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire features a very robust post-game. It’s not just being able to explore the whole world or take on the Elite Four again; we actually begin our post-game with a whole additional story called the Delta Episode which is entirely new to these games. Once that’s concluded there’s a bevy of content that opens up, although my personal favourite of these are the huge dimensional rifts that open up across the game world, with each one hiding a powerful legendary Pokemon encounter. The thing I quite like about these though isn’t just the chance to stock up on strong monsters, but the work done to tie it into a wider narrative that promises to expand past the confines of just these games. There’s various off-hand mentions of different dimensions and the like, and I dunno, I just kind of love the notion of these games having a vague awareness of the different versions of each game existing in their own respective timelines. It’s been a while since we had any acknowledgment of continuity between games, but this is a direction I wasn’t entirely expecting Pokemon to think of addressing.


Like many remakes though, Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire do little to escape from the problems of their original selves, and that’s sort of inevitable when you’ve got a remake that prefers additive content to repairing the faults that were already there. Despite the inclusion of our story-relevant free-flying Pokemon, these games remain as HM-heavy as the originals; you’ll still need to weigh your team down with a barrage of HMs in order to progress, from the useful (Surf) to the downright worthless (Dive, Rock Smash). It’s also as grindy as ever, and not just purely in terms of level grinding; Hoenn has a uniquely mis-matched structure, with a lot of the first half of the game spent running in a big circle back-and-forth between landmarks and towns, while the latter portion of the game is spent almost entirely at sea as you Surf between islands. It’s also wordier than ever; the villains monologue constantly, and no-one cares to use one word when an entire text box is there to be filled. While I don’t think it runs any slower than normal, the developers seem to have an addiction to dramatic camera angles, swooping shots, and lengthy cutscenes, and these all add up to an experience that can run the risk of dragging the pace down somewhat.

As I played I found myself returning to my review of Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald, unsurprisingly. Something I recalled from playing those games for review was the role of nostalgia. I freely admit to being extremely nostalgic for the Gen III releases, and with that nostalgia comes a bit of allowing myself to overlook some of those games’ flaws. That doesn’t really exist with these games though; I’m not especially nostalgic for the remakes, but I do just think they’re quite good games. I’d probably go so far as to say that I’d recommend playing them over the originals, although I don’t think I like them more; again, that’s down to my memories of Gen III, and the place it holds in my childhood. Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire however represents an updated and fancier version of those games, one more well-placed for the modern Pokemon audience. You can’t really go wrong with a solidly made Pokemon game, and these ones are definitely that.

5/7 – GREAT.

Damn fine stuff, a game that doesn’t quite make the top echelon of games but sparkles regardless and holds the interest expertly. Make the time to give this a play.


One thought on “Pokemon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire

  1. Loved it.
    This is what I see in your post
    This is a great article that provides an in-depth review of Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. The author discusses the nostalgia behind the series, the gameplay mechanics, and the new Delta Episode story. The addition of the poke-radar feature and the ability to fly on a Pokemon in 3D are notable enhancements that make the overworld feel more alive. The article perfectly balances both the positive aspects of the remakes, as well as potential flaws that still exist. Overall, it is a must-read for any Pokemon fan.
    Thanks, Ely


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s