Pokémon Omega Ruby

By Cody Orme - December 16th, 2014

All images are 2D representations of 3D.

Oh, Pokémon – Gamefreak’s little franchise that just keeps chugging along. For a while, there were some issues. They didn’t really use the full power of the handheld systems; it was too much of a grind; and the games all felt way too similar. Fortunately, those working on the series have slowly changed the latter. The addition of a few things here and there makes it feel like Pokémon is finally moving forward; that’s Omega Ruby. While it’s a remake of the 2002 title, it holds within the summation of every small addition from the past, and it is accompanied by some good old-fashioned nostalgia.

Players are brought back to the Hoenn Region where our hero or heroine (I chose the male character, so we’ll just use the masculine form) moves to the small town of Littleroot. But, it’s a Pokémon title, so he doesn’t stay at your new place for long. He’s got to start his own Pokémon adventure and be the very best like no one ever was, of course! He’s not quite like any characters from the past though. As the son of one of the most respected gym leaders around, he was destined for this life. So, he talks to a professor and…blah, blah, blah…fill up the Pokédex.

No. The Lonely Island is not in this game.

That’s the main mission here; but while you try to capture wild creatures to send them into a life of constant battle, there is an evil team of bad guys running wild. In this game, they’re known as “Team Magma”, and their intention is to push humanity into a new age of innovation. To do this, though, they want to make the Earth into a giant ball of land (because water gets in the way of civilization)! Since you are the best trainer around, it is up to you to stop these baddies. There is a clear message about how the manipulation of the planet by humanity will haunt us, and how we need to change our ways. It’s actually a pretty cool and poignant underlying theme for a video-game, and it definitely makes you think about the way we treat the planet. That being said, I never felt like my goal was to stop the terrain terrorists. For the first two and a half acts, I felt more like I happened to show up at the scene of the crime.

But it’s Pokémon dammit! It’s about the freedom and adventure! And, in that sense the game succeeds. I was constantly astonished by how big and open the world felt despite how boxed and linear it actually was. On top of that, the sprint feature made a return along with the bike, making everything feel a lot faster. To add to the pace, Exp. Share is back and continues to be the best thing that has ever happened to Pokémon. For those who may not be familiar with Exp. Share, it is an item that allows you share experience points with everyone in your whole party, rather than just a single monster. This means that there is less grinding to do and more progress!

I don’t even want to know what it is…

But while there is less grinding, there is still grinding – this much hasn’t changed in the lifespan of the series. It’s a turn-based RPG where you have a party of six creatures with four moves each. While there are different types of Pokémon with different strengths and weaknesses, but that’s where the depth ends. The combat is so basic it might as well be pumpkin-spiced, and it is incredibly repetitive. In addition, the battle animations feel lazy; the Pokémon never seem like they hit each other. I get that they need to keep the violence down to keep the rating lower for the sake of accessibility, but sometimes it doesn’t even feel believable.

Now, there are some additions that freshen things up like battling with more than one Pokémon and Mega Evolutions (which have made appearances in the past); these add a little bit of variety to the game-play, which is nice. You can also now sneak up on Pokémon, so you don’t feel like you’re the one who is always getting jumped. It sort of gives the player a bit more control over the game, rather than having the game take control of the player. Despite my gripes (which are admittedly few and expected in some cases), I was addicted and the combat somehow kept me hooked. So it wasn’t all bad.

One of the aspects of the game that makes battling bearable for me is the soundtrack. If you’re playing with just the 3DS speakers, you probably won’t be able to properly appreciate my opinion. However, when you pop in some headphones, everything changes. During battles, the music is intense and it gets the blood flowing. During exploration, the soundtrack adds a feeling of wonder; and while riding the bike, the score induces thoughts of freedom and the feeling that you can go anywhere.

A brief moment of not battling anything.

The game is also really pretty. Even though it’s a remake, this is the nicest-looking game of the series. Everything looks like it was pulled straight from the cartoon!. The camera is still fixed behind the character – but it feels like it’s positioned further back than it was in X and Y. This is a good thing because there is more room on the screen to take everything in. There are times where the game goes with the old overhead birds eye view, but it feels like it’s more for effect than nostalgia.

This isn’t the same game that you may have played in 2002, so if you’re a fan of Pokémon this is a must-have. If you’re on the fence, this is probably the best game to start with. There’s just something enduring about Omega Ruby: it’s addicting, fun, and the nostalgia is definitely there. Even if it is slightly repetitive, the additions make it feel fresh and new. Overall, it’s Pokémon, just not exactly how you remember it.

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