Known to Pokémon diehards as “Generation III,” the Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were thought of as sort of an underwhelming release, especially considering how great “Generation II” (or Gold, Silver, and Crystal) was. So when the game’s remakes, OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire, were unveiled, I couldn’t help but feel a certain level of disinterest. That being said, I picked the game up anyway, and it’s surprisingly a lot better than when I first played the game 12 years ago.
What Is It?
Originally released in 2002, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were games that were met with a lot of anticipation and its fair bit of critical acclaim. They were the first flagship Pokémon games released on the Game Boy Advance, and they were followed up with remakes of the first generation of the series with Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen. Aside from the 135+ Pokémon the game originally introduced, the real nuance with the game was the addition of double battles, allowing trainers to fight with up to two Pokémon at one time.
While the addition of double battles was a big feature at the time, it was still an unimpressive addition to those more in tune with more hardcore JRPG entries. Despite that, the game maintained Pokémon‘s signature charm, though it also came out at around the time the Pokémon fad really started to ease off.
As stated, Pokémon OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire (which we’ll call ORAS from here on out) are complete remakes of the original GBA games, using the system set up by Pokémon X and Y to give it a more modern feel.
At that, there’s really nothing new to the core gameplay and narrative. You start out as a child who just moved into the area and are given a choice of three starter Pokémon to begin an epic journey of personal and caring growth to become the Pokémon Champion.
Why Should I Care?
What really made the X and Y games refreshing were the little features included in your PokéNav or Pokédex that really made basic aspects of the game a whole lot more accessible. ORAS crank these features up a little more with the DexNav application. The DexNav allows you to see and know all the kinds of wild Pokémon there are to catch within a given area. While this does completely take away the element of surprise, knowing that you’ve captured all the Pokémon there are to catch is a real time saver.
To go along with this, at times you’ll actually see Pokémon sticking out of the tall grass. These Pokémon can be vastly different than any other Pokémon you’ll see in the wild as you’ll come across a bunch of irregularities in the form of unique statistics, experience level differential, and even unexpected movesets. The first of these kinds of Pokémon I came across was a Poochyena with Thunder Fang. I wouldn’t normally care to have a Poochyena in my party, but the fact that it had Thunder Fang made me hold onto that until it evolved.
Thanks to the manga and anime, fans understand that the beauty of the Pokémon world is that you have the freedom to do whatever you want with your Pokémon. This is a factor that the game constantly falters at, and while Generation III subtly tries to address this with Pokémon contests, it makes it even harder to really do what you want to do in the game.
This is because, in the end, the Pokémon flagship games are really about getting all eight badges, competing in the Pokémon League, and probably obtaining every Pokémon there is to get. There are Pokémon players that only want to get ribbons from contests, there are Pokémon players that are all about building the perfect team through EV training, there are Pokémon players that only want to beat the game — there’s simply a lot to do, and Game Freak and Nintendo haven’t really scratched the surface on really keeping the game as open-ended as it could be.
By adding the concept of “bases” in the original Ruby and Sapphire games, Pokémon fans really had something to call their own aside from just their fighting team of six. In actuality, bases are really just an area you can customize with goods you get in-game, very similar to a home in the Animal Crossing series. In fact, they’re the same. It’s just that there’s nothing to really do in them.
Battles and exploration have really made the series what it is, and this is further developed with the amount of Hidden Machines (HMs), machines that give Pokémon abilities to use outside of battle, there are to uncover. That’s another issue. In order to get through places with trees or rocks blocking your way, or to travel on or underwater, or to get to places quickly, you’ll need Pokémon with the moves Cut, Rock Smash, Surf, Dive, and Fly. That’s already five moves you’ll have to dedicate to more than one Pokémon, and none of these moves can be deleted until you reach a certain point in the game. It’s true that there’s no harm in having “HM Slaves” you can use to simply get around with battling, but it just means you have to spend more time grinding Pokémon levels later rather than at that moment.
Of course, the biggest addition in X and Y was the addition of Mega Evolution, which obviously makes its debut and return in ORAS. Primal Reversion adds to Mega Evolution, giving players the ability to see what Pokémon really looked like in their prehistoric forms. That being said, it’s still the same rather uneventful change X and Y had. It’s definitely cool to see different versions of our favorite Pokémon with souped up abilities, but in the end that’s really all it is.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Again, when I first played through this roughly 25-hour adventure over 12 years ago, it definitely wasn’t my favorite Pokémon experience, and while that hasn’t changed, I have to admit that the new features as well as the features borrowed from Pokémon X and Y really improved the game tenfold. The new visuals and dynamic camera angles alone make it look and feel entirely different from the GBA originals, and that’s really all the game “needed” without totally changing the experience from the ground up. Mauville City is one example, as it’s been turned into a mall that’s just as confusing as Lumiose City in the X and Y games.
These more modern features combined with the fact that there’s more stuff to do post-game really add to the value of this package. In fact, I’d even argue that ORAS, aesthetically, is an even bigger game than X and Y are. If you’ve played Pokémon before and didn’t like it, ORAS won’t change your mind, but for those that didn’t experience the original game or want to give it a second chance — you’ll feel right at home here.