Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Pokémon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire

Post-Launch Review
Pokémon Omega Ruby
Developer: Game Freak
Released: November 2014
Played: complete in 40h


A trainer in the Hoenn region sets out to be the very best, accompanied by their neighbour. Along the way, you'll encounter Team Aqua and Team Magma, who want to improve the world, but bite off more than they can chew when they awaken powerful ancient legendary Pokémon...

At Launch

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire received positive reviews, with scores averaging 83%. Reviewers were impressed with the visual overhaul and the new and upgraded gameplay features. Some critics didn't like the reliance on HMs. Overall the main complaint seems to have been that it's still the same old Pokémon formula.

Post Launch

A patch was released to fix a rare freeze issue during the end credits.
There was a promotion for a shiny Beldum through the in-game Mystery Gift function. Like all previous games, it's expected that there will be many more distributions, either in-game or through real-world events.

I used to think Pokémon Gold and Silver were my favourites, and that opinion was reinforced by the remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver. Now I think I've changed my mind: Ruby and Sapphire are the best. Well, more specifically, the remakes Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (which I will subsequently refer to as ORAS so I don't have to type that out every time).

The Hoenn region has some of the most interesting cities in the series: Fortree built in the treetops, Sootopolis in the crater of a volcano, Pacifidlog floating on the ocean, and Mossdeep with its space centre. Plus for some reason Mauville City has been renovated into a giant single-building complex with a food court and swanky apartments and a rooftop terrace.

I thought the touchscreen features in X and Y were great, but ORAS manages to add three new ones: a map that shows locations of trainer rematches and secret bases, a news channel that updates you on people you streetpass, and the Dexnav, a tool which allows you to search for Pokémon in a similar way to the Poké Radar from previous games, but way better because it allows you to find Pokémon with special moves, abilities, and held items as well as increasing your chance for good stats or shininess. I didn't have much use for it since I imported a full Pokédex and breeders from Y version, but if I hadn't, it would have been amazing, and would definitely be a great help for people who don't want to spend hours breeding.

And since I mentioned streetpass, secret bases are back! With a certain move you can open up hidden lairs that you can decorate and customize. I've got my Pokédex completion awards on display in a base I've set up as a Rock-type gym. When you streetpass another ORAS player, you get their secret base in your game, and you can visit it to battle them and claim their flags in a capture-the-flag challenge that ranks up your own flag and gives you access to more decorations. Streetpass bases are easily the best player interaction in the entire series. In the originals it required you to physically link the systems via IR port or link cable, but this is so much better. You can even scan QR codes you find on the internet - as an example, here's the code for my secret base south of Meteor Falls:
But all that aside, what really makes ORAS my new favourites is the story. In Red and Blue there was very little story - you're a trainer setting out to be the very best (like no one ever was), and at times a criminal organization gets in your way. Gold and Silver were similar. Their story was augmented in Crystal and HeartGold / SoulSilver, but the additions were mainly threads about individual characters rather than an overarching plot. Diamond and Pearl are where I think things started going too far with gods of time and space and creation, Black / White had legendary dragons representing truth and ideals, and X / Y had an ancient laser cannon powered by legendaries that awaken every thousand years and kill thousands of people. 

Ruby and Sapphire, on the other hand, have a cohesive story (more than RB and GS) that ventures into the epic but doesn't reach too far (like DP, BW, and XY). Team Aqua and Team Magma are essentially eco-terrorists who want to improve the world (by expanding the sea or the land, respectively). They aim to awaken the powerful ancient Pokémon Kyogre and Groudon to fulfill their plans. But the teams underestimate the power of the legendary Pokémon and can't control them, so it's up to the player to defeat or capture Kyogre before it sinks the continents, or Groudon before it dries up the seas. Ruby and Sapphire were the last games where legendary Pokémon were just very powerful creatures, as opposed to gods or embodiments of ideals, and I prefer it that way.

There's also a whole new chunk of story in the remakes. A lot of people complained about the weak post-game in X and Y, where you had very little to do after completing the story. Well, in ORAS, aAfter beating the Elite Four, you unlock the Delta Episode. The Mossdeep Space Center discovers an unusual meteorite hurtling towards the region, and their projections indicate that it'll wipe out all of Hoenn. You'll have to awaken Rayquaza, a powerful ancient dragon that has protected the region in the past by subduing Groudon and Kyogre. It's a fun extra bit of story which is a lot more significant than I expected, but what's especially nice is that you get to see more of Team Aqua and Team Magma and how they're dealing with the aftermath of their ruined plans. They're not just the bad guys you beat up - they regret what they've done and are trying to move on.

The main weakness of ORAS, a little worse than it was in X and Y, is the reliance on HM moves which can't be forgotten - especially annoying since you'll need three water-type HM moves on your team at all times late-game. HMs have always had unlimited uses - given that I can re-learn the move at any time, why can't it be forgotten? It's an annoyingly outdated mechanic, the only real weakness in the game.

But overall...

Recommendation: play it.

Now that I've officially shifted my opinion on what Pokémon games are the best, you should play Omega Ruby or Alpha Sapphire. Secret bases are amazing, especially if you've always wanted to be a gym leader. The post-game has improved significantly with a whole new story chapter and a lot of hidden legendaries to discover. In short, ORAS have the best story, the coolest region, the best player interaction, and the best game features in the series.

Oh, and also some of the best music.

No comments:

Post a Comment