Ruby and Sapphire get a Mega Evolution

In 2003, Nintendo released Pokemon Ruby Version and Pokemon Sapphire Version on the Gameboy Advance (GBA). Both games were critically acclaimed and carried on the tradition of capturing, training and battling with pokemon, both new and old, in a world where every kids’ dream is to be the Pokemon League Champion. Fast forward to 2014 and we now have Pokemon Omega Ruby and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire. Released on the Nintendo 3DS, both games have updated graphics and new gameplay mechanics but still features the same core game playthat pokemon fans know and love.

Don’t let the title fool you, this is a brand-new pokemon game, not a remake.  Although it takes place in the same region as the original Ruby and Sapphire and features most of the same pokemon, there are new twists that separate the 3DS titles from their GBA ancestors.  Making a return from Pokemon X and Y, Mega Evolutions are back and play a big role.  Region favorites such as Metagross, Latios, Latias and Rayquaza can all mega-evolve, increasing their power to stupid levels of awesome.  Legendary pokemon Groudon and Kyogre also have new forms thanks to primal reversion, a mechanic that increases their power provided they hold the correct item.  Little new features were included such as sneaking, allowing the player to sneak up on rare pokemon and the eon flute, which allows players to freely fly around on Latios and Latias.

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire do a great job bringing out nostalgia from veterans of the original GBA games.  The opening sequence features the main character playing a copy of Ruby/Sapphire on a Gameboy SP.

The games take place in the land of Hoenn and, like previous Pokemon games, features eight gyms, a main legendary pokemon and a villainous team the player fights against. If you opt to buy Omega Ruby, you’ll try to stop Team Magma from using the power of Primal Groudon to make the landmasses on Earth grow uncontrollably. If you opt to buy Alpha Sapphire, you’ll try to stop Team Aqua from using the power of Primal Kyogre to cover the world in water. Along the way, you’ll battle your rival, meet new friends, capture pokemon both new and old and eventually, head to the pokemon league and become champion.

Gameplay does nothing to stray from the usual pokemon formula, and that’s not a bad thing. Creator Game Freak focused on expanding features rather than change the iconic rubric.  Therefore, players can capture nearly every legendary pokemon ever between Omega Ruby, Alpha Sapphire, Pokemon X and Y.  You’ve never been able to catch as many legendary pokemon as you can in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.

Possibly the greatest addition to Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is the Delta Episode. After you become Pokemon League Champion, your character  gets involved in a brand new story that, without spoiling too much, leads you and your pokemon to outer space in order to stop a threat to the earth. Yes, you read that right, outer space. The Delta Episode contains some of the strongest pokemon in the game and possibly the strongest pokemon in the history of the series, Mega Rayquaza. New characters are introduced and there are twists and turns which will leave the player wanting more which is what games should strive for.

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire also feature the return of Pokemon Contests. Pokemon compete by showing off moves and outfits and are judged on their performance. This provides a way to use pokemon in the game that doesn’t require battling and is very similar to the contests in the GBA games.

There are only a couple small flaws with the games. The experience share makes the game way too easy by leveling up all of your party pokemon quickly.  You can turn it off, but you won’t, because then you have to go back to training each pokemon individually, which is a grind.  The game could have been better balanced with the experience share, as it is far too easy with the item turned on, and a chore with it turned off.

The lack of a battle frontier is another small gripe.  The battle frontier was an endgame area in Ruby and Sapphire’s GBA successor Pokemon Emerald that allowed players to face diverse challenges after they defeated the elite four.  Although Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire feature the Battle Maison, it is somewhat unfortunate the Battle Frontier was not included, as it adds more depth to the game.

These small gripes are not enough to warrant a negative review. These are tiny nitpicks that truly represent how special these games are.

Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are prime examples of how good Pokemon games are. The story is intriguing and the most entertaining in series history, the gameplay mechanics remain solid and the new features compliment the core mechanics in great new ways.  Pokemon is all about evolution, and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire represent this perfectly.  They are an evolution on the classic formula that continues to satisfy fans of all ages.  Like any creature going through evolution, the Pokemon series is always adapting, not to survive, but to succeed.