15 December, 2014

Review - Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire: Return of the Trumpets

Hoenn confirmed! Yes the 3rd generation of Pokémon has gotten a re-make after many, many years. Generation 3 is my favourite Generation of Pokémon, I have put over 300 hours into a single play through of Pokémon Sapphire alone and countless playthroughs of Emerald and Ruby. So after a week of waiting since its US release and a week of playtime, it’s time for a review!

Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire

I was originally going to do a Nuzlocke play through of Pokémon Alpha Sapphire; you are limited on how many Pokémon you can catch (1 per area) and if a Pokémon faints it is considered dead and you must release it. It may sound hard, however to me this gives the game some much needed difficulty, but after careful thinking I decided against it. Mainly because I already started a Nuzlocke in another title, in anticipation for this game to come out here in Europe.

The intro sequence in the back of the delivery van is a great throwback to the original games. It shows the original opening complete with its own Gameboy Advanced and old school sprites before cutting back into the new 3D modelled sequence. This feeling of nostalgic happiness was felt a lot during this game especially once hearing the amazing soundtrack. The trumpets may have been toned down but they are still there along with beautiful orchestral remakes of the original soundtrack.

The artwork in the game is beautiful and the 3D models of the Pokémon and the trainers are amazing to look at. I like to role play and get absorbed into the game when I play Pokémon, so after a tough Gym battle where one Pokémon aced the gym for me I would thank it by using the ‘Pokémon Amie’ feature to pet the Pokémon and feed it treats. It’s really cute to see the Pokémon jump with joy and all the Pokémon models have unique movements and actions including areas where you can’t touch the Pokémon, for example; Pikachu’s electric cheeks shock you if you touch them.

The new PokéNav+ has a number of features, such as the DexNav that allows you to sneak and view all the Pokémon on the route. The map is displayed on the PokéNav and is called the AreaNav, this displays your location as well as the Trainers you can re-battle, the berries you have planted - which is really handy if you want to make PokéBlocks for contests and Secret Bases of you and your friends.

The new sneaking mechanic is introduced early on and is super fun! After hearing about this originally I thought it was really dumb and would break up the gameplay, but after playing the game I have to say it is - or was - my favourite feature - before I broke the C-stick on my 3DS and couldn’t use it anymore... As you travel you may spot a Pokémon’s tail sticking up out of the grass, and if you manage to sneak up on it slowly you can battle it; there is a chance the Pokémon will have a rare (Dreamworld) ability or a move it learns later on at higher levels. You can ‘chain’ these encounters to find higher level Pokémon than normal or Pokémon with ‘Potential’. Potential indicates that it will have at least 1-3 perfect IV's. After doing a Nuzlocke run recently in Pokémon Blaze Black, where having Pokémon with good IV’s is important I found myself taking my time to catch Pokémon with good IV’s to help me later in the game.

The game has been severely nerfed compared to the original games in terms of difficulty; you gain the EXP Share in Petalberg woods; an hour or two into the game. EXP Share grants all of the Pokémon a share of the EXP after a battle, even if they didn’t compete, making gaining levels really easy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it cuts down time needed to grind, but it takes out the brutal difficulty that the original games had; you would scream in terror when you saw your rival appear out of nowhere to challenge you to a battle when all your Pokémon were low on HP and under levelled, even the gyms feel weaker, but that may be because I now have years of Pokémon experience and many play throughs of the games these remakes were based off.

Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire have some differences from the originals that go beyond how certain cities and routes look. Mauville City, which was once the centre of the Hoenn region has become a huge mega-mall that is filled with many shops and food areas; the Game Corner is gone and there are now apartments for some late-game content upstairs, above the mall. The evil teams Team Magma and Team Aqua,  found in each game respectively, have new ‘Admin’ characters that add more to the story, flush out the teams goals, and generally add more personality to them. Mega-Evolutions have been added to the games; introduced half-way through the game. You can find the mega-stones throughout out the game, but cannot use them until this point.

The Contests get some love, now with an actual story behind them with a few new characters. I liked the contests in the original games so I was happy to see them return here. You can get the ‘Cosplay Pikachu’ Pokémon which is just a normal Pikachu; however you can dress it up in a number of Cosplay costumes that affect its moves. It’s as dumb, yet cool as it sounds.

You can once again make Secret Bases, however this time it is more in-depth as you can create your very own ‘Pokémon Gyms'. You design the layout and even have NPC’s in your base which act as your trainers. You can share your bases via QR codes and some helpful people have created bases especially for EV training like a base comprised entirely of Chansey’s, for those that want those sweet 2HP EV's. There are a number of new decorations for the bases that are cool, but I’ve not really dug too deep into this feature yet.

Official artwork
Deep down this is another Pokémon game and whether or not it feels like a Pokémon game is the important thing here. Yeah, the Team Aqua/Magma storyline is more flushes out but it’s still kind of dumb how they will spill their plans and spout the same thing repeatedly in conversations like. “We are going to Mt. Pyre. Remember this.”, over and over again like the player is 5 years old and their attention span is that of a house fly. It really makes if feel like the game is talking down to the player.

I love Pokémon; it’s the main reason I bought a 3DS and will be the main reason to buy a new 3DS, to replace my broken one. This game series is special to me, Generation 3 in particular for a number of reasons. The earlier Pokémon games were tough; Generations 1 and 2 were brutal but they were made easier with their remakes, and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby suffers the same fate. The games are fun but they feel too easy and I can't tell if that's because I am better at Pokémon than I was when I was a kid playing the original games. Or because giving you the EXP share early on removes the level grind and ensures you are always over levelled, but you can just disable that if you choose and unless you've played the original games before you may still find it tough as knowing what Pokémon the trainers and gym leaders have give you a real edge over being surprised and let you plan a team for each encounter.

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