‘Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire’ Review: The Very Best

Going into Pokémon Omega Ruby, I didn’t know if I would like it. Part of the reason I loved Pokémon X and Y was because it was a new generation. The games were set in a unique setting with new features and possibilities, and nothing compares to the magic of experiencing those 3D graphics for the first time. And who can forget Mega Evolutions, roller blades and the touching story involving an ancient giant named AZ and his long-lost Pokémon Floette? Years ago, I’d played through Emerald, one of the games the Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire remakes are based on, and I wasn’t sure there’d be enough content to make the 3D remakes as enticing as their year-old siblings, X and Y.

I was wrong. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are rehashes of familiar games through and through, but they offer so much new content that the experience feels entirely refreshing.

One of these new features is introduced almost immediately and quickly became one of the most addicting parts of Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire for me. The DexNav is an app that allows you to search for specific Pokémon in grass, caves or water. By catching a Pokémon, you’re allowed to locate it in the area. When found, a silhouette pops up, and by sneaking over to it, you can see the Pokémon’s ability, moves, IVs and level before even encountering it. The more you use the DexNav, the more likely it is you’ll run into amazing Pokémon, or even shiny ones. Needless to say, I was addicted to using this feature from the get-go to find the best Pokémon for my team. Post-game, the DexNav is necessary to find Pokémon from the National Dex, which was a smart way to make the feature even more enticing.

Another addition I loved is the Battle Resort, which is a small island basically made for breeding. If you’re a hardcore breeder like I am, you’ll be pleased to know that a Pokémon Center, daycare and stats-checker are all right next to each other on the island. Plus, you no longer have to fly anywhere to hatch an egg; by holding a single directional button, you move in an uninterrupted circle around the island, making breeding easier than it has ever been before. This feature alone makes Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire worth picking up for all the competitive players out there.

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Secret bases are a great distraction if you’re into home decor (or dolls).

But if catching, breeding and battling aren’t your favorite things, both games offer plenty of distractions. Secret bases allow you to turn caves, trees and bushes into a personal hideout. Decorating your own and visiting others’ bases is fun, but the feature doesn’t do much to add to the game. It’s even stressful, considering you have to use the time-consuming feature if you want to acquire every Mega Stone. A feature even less enticing is the return of Pokémon contests. Breeding a Pokémon to be great at contests usually requires sacrificing its strength in battle, making it not only pointless but potentially wasteful. Post-game might be a good time to work on contests (if you’re into watching Pokémon do strange moves for denizens of weird onlookers, that is) but I found better things to spend my time on after I beat the game.

Things like the Delta Episode. The story of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is nothing worth remembering (unless you count the steamy romance that brews between the player and his/her “rival”). Team Magma or Team Alpha (depending on which version of the game you buy) try to take over the world using an ancient Pokémon, you have to stop them, blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard it all before. The Delta Episode, however, is an exclusive story that takes place after the main game ends, and though it’s basically one long fetch quest, it concludes with an awesome encounter with multiple legendary Pokémon. Plus, the main “antagonist” of the episode, Zinnia, is by far the best character in the game. Short but sweet, the epilogue wraps things up nicely, but the game isn’t over yet.

I’ve gotten hours of enjoyment by using an end-game item called the eon flute to hop onto my Latios and literally soar over Hoenn in search of new Pokémon. The experience is breathtaking and encapsulates what the magic of Pokémon is all about. By landing on mirage islands that only appear by passing other players, you’re able to catch exclusive Pokémon you can’t find anywhere else on Hoenn, including tons and tons of legendaries. Seriously, so many legendaries are packed into Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire that they’re kind of losing their value.

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Soaring above Hoenn atop Latios’ back is one of the game’s most thrilling moments.

As great as it is to fly overhead, I wish it hadn’t been an endgame feature, because Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire offer some of the most tedious backtracking and navigating I’ve ever experienced in a Pokémon game. It felt like half of Hoenn was covered by sea, which meant I had to surf across huge bodies of water way more often than I wanted to. Due to my OCD-like tendencies, I couldn’t leave an area until I was sure I’d battled every trainer and scoured every corner for items, but some of these oceanic routes were so big it literally took me hours to navigate them. After getting used to the lack of HMs in Pokémon X and Y, it was hard to go back to the terrible reality of carrying a Zigzagoon and Tentacruel with pointless moves in my party just to navigate the world.

I also didn’t appreciate the lack of other features I’d come to love from X and Y, like character customization. During Pokémon contests, your character switches into a special outfit. I wanted to badly to play through the story wearing it, but the game rudely told me, “No.” I’m not sure why Game Freak took the ability to dress your character away (maybe to stay true to the original games), but I missed stylizing my outfits more than I thought I would have.

Thankfully, this absence is softened by the addition of little features that make playing Pokémon that much more convenient. It’s now possible to fly directly to routes instead of having to navigate from a Pokémon Center. There’s an option to make “organize boxes” the first option instead of the third when opening the PC. And of course, the games still prompt you when a repel wears off, asking if you want to use another. I appreciate the little things Game Freak is doing to make Pokémon that much more user-friendly, and I hope the trend continues into the future.

Bottom Line

Don’t let the ideas of remakes fool you: Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire offer plenty of new stuff to make the classic, winning formula even better. The DexNav is the feature I never knew I wanted, and the ability to soar through the skies on the back of a Pokémon is an enchanting experience that made the bond between me and my pocket monsters even stronger. Whether you play Pokémon for the story, to breed competitively, to train up your favorite Pokémon or because you gotta catch ‘em all, Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire offer dozens of hours of content that make old experiences feel like new.

Score: 9.3/10

Pros:

  • The DexNav is addicting
  • Breeding is easier than ever
  • New Megas are excellent
  • Distractions like secret bases and contests abundant

Cons:

  • Annoying HMs
  • Tedious surfing areas
  • Lackluster story
  • Too easy

Buy Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire here.



Pokémon Omega Ruby was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS with a retail copy provided by the publisher.

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