Though they’re now looked back on as the oddball, waterlogged entries of the Pokemon series, Ruby & Sapphire are still my favorite Pokemon games. They hold a special, nostalgic place in my heart, so I had high hopes for the remakes, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire for Nintendo 3DS. The new games do the originals justice for the most part—Game Freak has yet to make a bad Pokemon game. However, there are still a few gripes that I have with them, which I will elaborate on later, that mainly have to do with a trend that Pokemon games have been following lately. But overall, they are fantastic games that I highly recommend for fans of the series.
The game starts out exactly like the originals did, complete with the same graphics and music. As the player proceeds through the introduction, the view pans up to reveal that the game is actually in a 3D space, looking at a screen. This is a great fan service for those who played the originals, and an immediate showcase of how far the Pokemon series has come. Unfortunately, unlike in HeartGold & SoulSilver, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire don’t let you change the music to that of the original games, which is a shame because I really loved it. But the newly remade music is good, too.
Story-wise, everything is pretty similar to the originals, aside from the occasional reference to the fact that it’s been eleven years since the originals came out. The beginning of the game does a great job of easing in new players, teaching the things you need to know without being too heavy-handed. The rest is pretty intuitive. Additionally, some little things have been improved to make the gameplay much better. Most mechanics from X & Y are back, including the three touch-screen modes (the PSS, Pokemon-Amie, and Super Training), and several new modes have been added, such as one that tells you which wild Pokemon are in your current area. This feature in particular is extremely helpful for collectors. You can also now creep up on wild Pokemon by lightly pushing the control stick. These Pokemon are usually rarer and more powerful than most other wild Pokemon you will find, which is great for competitive battling. There’s also the Area Nav, which displays a map of the region, making the Town Map item unnecessary. It also shows the locations of trainers who want a rematch, secret bases, and berries you’ve planted. It’s these improvements that make Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire the (mechanically speaking) best games in the series yet.
However, all these elements that were added to streamline the experience mean nothing if the game isn’t fun to play. Thankfully, even after all these years, Pokemon is still fun. But Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire are victims of a trend that Pokemon games have been exhibiting recently—they’re too easy. That was my main complaint with X & Y, and it’s my main complaint here, too. Even though I was swapping out Pokemon and using all six slots, not just my starter, legendaries, and HM slaves, I breezed through the game. I understand it’s for kids, and maybe I just remember the originals being hard because I was much younger back then, but it seems like the designers really toned down the difficulty level. I caught legendaries with one Poke Ball that used to take me up to forty Ultra Balls, and I defeated the Champion in one go. The difficulty did ramp up after beating the Elite Four, since trainers’ Pokemon were raised to levels in the sixties and seventies, but I think the game should have a hard difficulty mode for players who want a challenge. It’s not just me who thinks they’re too easy, either—it’s a common complaint among players. However, newcomers to the series probably won’t think so.
There’s also an overload of legendaries, which is cool, but kind of diminishes the fact that they are supposed to be extremely rare and powerful Pokemon. I suppose that’s what happens when you have so many Pokemon to deal with. (Over 700 and counting!)
But there is one thing that these games do absolutely right, and that is The Delta Episode. It’s a post-game quest that I won’t spoil, but it’s something that wasn’t in the original games and is an incredibly exciting, high-stakes way to top off the experience. I might even venture to say that it’s one of the best parts of any Pokemon game yet.
What I loved about Ruby & Sapphire that is still present in the remakes is the sheer amount of diversions there are to keep the player busy. There are Pokemon Contests, where you show off your Pokemon’s traits and abilities in front of an audience. There are optional routes and areas that you could completely skip over but hide secrets for the intrepid explorer. There’s the Battle Resort, where you can partake in competitive battling that’s more skill-based than the easy story mode. There’s so much to do that will keep you playing for a long time after beating the main story, and not many games can say that.
Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire are two more excellent entries in the consistently great Pokemon series. They do the originals justice and then some, even if they suffer from some recent trends of the series. I highly recommend it as a jumping-off point for people who want to get into the series and longtime fans alike.