One step forward, two steps back.
After the big changes that were implemented in Pokémon X and Y, Nintendo wanted to capitalize on this new format, as well as the game play changes, to make their next iteration just as accessible. Instead of a new game with even more pocket monsters to catch, they opted to go back to the remake board and pull another game from their already expansive library to polish up and throw into the X and Y formula. Enter Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Even with its new coat of paint and new additions, it still feels like a step backwards in the evolution of the Pokémon universe. See what I did there?
Yep, it’s Pokémon.
Just like any other Pokémon game that has ever released, players take control of a new up and coming trainer as they capture Pokémon, train them for battles, take on the gym leaders, fight an evil team that is trying to take over the world in some way and finally defeat the Elite Four. It’s the same formula that is in every single iteration of the series, and it doesn’t really deviate from there.
Price I’d Pay: $39.99
Multiplayer: Online trading and battling.
Instead of me talking about the overall game, because everyone at this point knows that a Pokémon game is a turn-based RPG, I’m going to focus on the new things about Omega and Alpha. Of course, the big change from the 2003 game is the graphical overhaul. Throwing the new style and look of X and Y into the mix adds an extra layer to the entire thing. Small puzzles traversing the environment are here, and new battle animations make their appearance as well. It all really does look great. On top of this, the environment feels a bit more alive in Omega and Alpha. Certain camera angles will show off pretty great areas, and the small things in the background show that GameFreak has put some care into the look of the game.
Sneaking up on a powerful one.
A new addition to the entire series is the DexNav. This tool allows player to scan the environment to find not only the highest level monster in the area, but it may also have special moves it wouldn’t normally have. Players can then sneak up on the monster in the tall grass to fight them, and hopefully capture them. This, along with the new Experience Share that was in X and Y that gives all party members experience rather than just one, is a rather large game changer that really makes the training aspect of the new Pokémon games more streamlined. It’s a welcome addition for me since grinding in Pokémon games is a must, and even here has to be done a few times.
Another new addition is the even newer version of the Mega Evolution called the Primal Reversion. These allow the legendary Pokémon to “mega evolve” in battle back to their “primal form.” It’s really hardly worth mentioning due to the fact it is only reserved for the legendary Pokémon, Kyogre and Groudon.
Small but welcome changes.
All the interconnected things with online capabilities and interactions with other players is back from X and Y. This time however, the bottom screen is not a confusing mess to figure out. Completely overhauling the interface made finding what I wanted to do much easier this time around. The small changes overall are welcome. Things like not having to reposition myself to talk to someone because I’m not directly in front of them, and the walking using the circle pad has been redone to not feel like I’m moving too fast and missing where I want to go.
That’s the biggest thing about Alpha and Omega – these are all small enhancements. Yes, they help out a ton, especially when putting numerous hours into the game, and seeing all the small annoyances fixed or at least streamlined is nice, but in essence, this is all they have done. When looking at the story and character interactions, it is apparent this is from the old school Pokémon games, where story is second or third fiddle to the overall experience. This is a disappointment, because seeing the more robust story in X and Y was a huge breath of fresh air.
Even with a more minimal story, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are still solid Pokémon games, and even very good turn-based RPGs. There’s no denying the fact that these games require thought and strategy to beat, and there’s always a ton of things to see and do in them. For Pokémon fans, of course you should pick this up. For people asking “will this get me into the series?” the answer is maybe. I still think X and Y are a better starting point for players. There are some small improvements to the overall experience, just keep in mind, there’s nothing very revolutionary about Omega and Alpha.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Ruby version of game.