The Last of Us: Remastered, Grand Theft Auto V for next-gen, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition and now Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire: 2014 truly was the year of the remakes. Sherv Cheung is on hand to decide whether Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is meaningfully new, or just more of the same.
After PokéSoc’s midnight release of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, I was ready. Ready to revisit a game that came out over a decade ag- okay. I was not ready. Really not ready for just how beautiful it was. It was stunning. Loading up the game, and hearing the familiar little tune over the opening animation was just awesome. Within a few minutes, Game Freak reduced me to a 9 year old again.
Everything was the same…. but better (which is what you’d expect from a remake, really). In fact, I get asked very often: ‘Isn’t every Pokémon game the same? You pick a starter (always fire, water or grass), you go on a journey to get eight gym badges, somehow get tangled up in an evil team’s plans of world domination, singlehandedly thwart aforementioned evil team’s organised crime, and become champion of the region?” Well… yes. But you’re missing the point. The great thing about Pokémon is its evolution (if you’ll pardon the expression). With each new instalment, Pokémon combines just the right amount of old, and the right amount of new, and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire did just that.
Eleven years ago, Ruby and Sapphire brought about a beautiful visual overhaul to the series as a whole. And like their predecessors, the remakes achieved the same result. The beauty of the Hoenn region as a whole was particularly flaunted late-game, after receiving the Eon Flute. The new item summons Latias (in Alpha Sapphire) or Latios (in Omega Ruby), then mega-evolves them, allowing you to manually fly around the region on their back.
This great new feature looks amazing, and it’s loads of fun – I can’t tell you how many times I did aerial tricks into the side of Mt. Chimney. It was nice to free up a space normally reserved for a flying-type. It also facilitates the new Mirage Spots, which are little spots in the overworld that hide non-native Legendary Pokémon. The spots change everyday, but it’s possible to get more than your allocated spots through your friends by using the nifty Streetpass feature.
In fact, the Streetpass feature is well-used in this instalment, and you’re able to share your personalised Secret Base with anyone that passes by. Nintendo & Game Freak also trialled a relay of the Eon Ticket in the UK using Streetpass, which proved highly fun and successful. If you’re reading this and you want the ticket, I can confirm it HAS made it to Exeter, so keep your eye on Streetpass as you’re walking around campus!
The return of Pokémon Contests were very welcome, with a new little storyline revolving around Lisia, a Contest Star who mentors you throughout your Contest career. She even gifts you with a cute little Cosplay Pikachu. As and when you like, you can change the outfit of this Pikachu, which gives it a special move that normal Pikachu would not be able to learn, making this Pikachu incredibly versatile in battle as well. I mean, its cool to use a Pikachu dressed as a rockstar in a battle against what is essentially a demi-god of the Pokémon world… Right?
Other standout moments included little aesthetic features like the ability to creep up on Pokémon in the overworld, and Wingull flying overhead when you’re on a seaside route. Don’t even get me started on how cool it looks when you surf using a Sharpedo. Never has ‘too much water’ been such a good thing.
The few complaints I had with the games were not major. I felt severely underwhelmed by the process in which Pokéblocks were made. I was excitedly anticipating fun co-op sessions to make them (like in the originals), but alas, I was sorely disappointed. Instead of being a fun mini-game, it requires no effort on your part, and is now achieved by watching an animation. Snorefest.
Another is the inclusion of some of the new mega-evolutions, (although this criticism doesn’t extend to all of them, I actually thought Mega Sceptile was pretty cool). I initially thought they were an interesting way to add variety to evolution lines that were already maxed out. In other words, a fourth evolutionary stage to Pokémon that had a three-stage evolution chain, but it seemed like in the new remakes, they’re being thrown in, left, right and centre. Some of them also looked a bit ridiculous – Mega Salamence, I’m looking at you.
The only other thing that disappointed me was the lack of the Battle Frontier, first introduced in Emerald (third part to the originals). All of the facilities in the original were interesting, novel, and provided tons of post-game fun. But the Delta episode (I won’t go into much detail on it, spoilers!) was a welcome addition and added a nice little post-game story.
It must be said, however, that all these little niggles were pretty insignificant against the visuals, and also the nostalgic remixes of the original soundtrack. Making a remake that feels fresh is never an easy feat. If you’re stuck for what to play over the next few weeks, you can’t go wrong with the latest reincarnation of Pokémon.
Will you be picking up the Ruby and Sapphire remakes? Or are you tired of re-releases? Let us know in the comments below, or let us know by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For everything else games and tech, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.