After years of anticipation, Pokémon fans across the world are finally able to experience the remakes of the highly successful Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire on the Nintendo 3DS. Following on from the success of the first games of the sixth generation, Pokémon X and Y, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire not only keeps Pokémon fans old and new entertained but also reintroduces the allure of the Hoenn region to the newer fans of the franchise.
The story of the remakes is highly faithful to the original games, with a few tweaks and changes that add to the story and give the player a fuller experience. The relationships with the player character and the rivals May or Brendan, Wally, your father Norman and certain other important characters are more detailed and have more of an impact on the greater plot. The leaders Archie and Maxie, of Team Aqua and Team Magma respectively, also have a greater depth to them than what was present in the original games. Their motivations and relationships with one another are also highlighted. There is no major departure from the original portrayal of the story on the Game Boy Advance, which may or may not disappoint some fans.
The most anticipated addition to the story, however, is the Delta Episode. A completely new story arc, the Delta Episode is post-Elite Four content that acts a sequel story to the main central arc of the game, giving the player the opportunity to not only obtain new and rare Pokémon, but we also see what the villainous teams get up to during this time period and get a glimpse at some completely new characters, who add a welcome freshness to the mix. It can certainly be considered as an improvement to the post-game content in X and Y, which left a little to be desired.
The transition to the 3DS is seamless, with the beauty of the Hoenn region being shown in much greater detail and through numerous new aesthetic sequences, including a flock of passing Beautifly and a revamped Cave of Origin to name a few examples. The water is well designed, allowing you to see more detailed reflection in it, not just of the player but of the starry sky at night-time and the clouds during the day. Various landmarks, buildings and mountains are also far more detailed, with a greater amount of scope and perspective. However, apart from a few neat additions, the graphics and art style are not largely different from that of X and Y, and the same minor issues from these games are still there.
This would include that slight lag that sometimes appears during battle, heightened when the 3D is turned on. These are not major issues, just slight annoyances that I feel both myself and other players could more than tolerate. In fact, the fact that Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are so aesthetically similar to X and Y in terms of the gameplay is a positive, particularly for newer gamers as the familiarity in the presentation helps greatly with the translation to this Generation III remake.
The core battle gameplay of the remakes is pretty much exactly the same, with an additional few extra moves, 21 new Mega Evolutions and of course the Primal Reversions of the two mascot legendary Pokémon. I’ll admit I was disappointed that there were less new Mega Evolutions introduced, but overall the ones introduced are very welcome additions. Mega Latios and Mega Latias in particular are fantastic supplements to the gameplay, allowing you to free fly across the Hoenn region on the back of either of these Mega Evolved Pokémon to not only any prior destination but also to the mysterious Mirage Spots. This is made possible thanks to the use of the Eon Flute, meaning you no longer require a Pokémon to know the Hidden Move Fly to get to your desired destination in a hurry.
Speaking of the HMs, the number of these is increased back up to seven in order to stay true to the original formula of the games, meaning that you will often have to switch out a Pokémon or two for ones who know various HMs (colloquially referred to as HM slaves). Again, this is an annoyance but not one that massively debilitates the enjoyment of the game. In terms of the large amount of water routes that have been talked about, GameFreak has been smart about making these easier to navigate by lowering the Pokémon exposure rate, allowing for a somewhat smoother journey to towns and cities initially reachable only by using Surf. And also, Hoenn is an island continent – it makes sense that there would be a lot of water!
The overhaul on the features of the PokéNav is by far one of the best aspects of the game. Not only do you get to use the Player Search System, Pokémon Amie and Super Training, but you also get the chance to use a brand new feature called DexNav, where you can locate Pokémon sticking out of the grass via an ear, head or tail. Often these will either be rare Pokémon or ones that know a rare move. This is highly useful for both competitive battling, trading and breeding purposes.
The Pokédex has also been updated to include certain newer evolutions, and it is now possible to obtain the National Pokédex prior to beating the Elite Four. As far as the mini-games from the original versions, Contests (now known as Contest Spectacular) and Secret Bases (now known as Super Secret Bases) have also been improved upon. I do have a small issues with the Contest Spectaculars, as I feel that apart from allowing Mega Evolutions into the mix for effect, they did not really do much to improve on them or make them more similar to their portrayal in the anime (i.e. no Contest Battles!). However, I am very much looking forward to hosting my very own gym in my Super Secret Base, once I have decked it out more to my liking.