Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire: May the trumpets be herd, for Hoenn's Out

To say that I was hyped for this game is a understatement. With Pokemon posts taking up a decent chunk of the content here, its safe to say that I'm a Pokemon fan and if you've read my review of Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, then you'll know that I'm a Gen III fan boy. So of course I was excited for Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (which for the rest of the review shall be referred to as ORAS). After playing it for just over a week, how well does it show off the strengths of Hoenn and how faithful is the remake? Do note, spoilers are plentiful here (unlike the IGN review).

Do note, when I post images, I try and make them as high quality as possible, barely any of these images are from my save file as I don't have a 3DS capture device and won't use my phone to take photos of the screen, I hate it when people do that as the image quality is awful.

The plot is similar to the original Ruby and Sapphire, but with enough noticeable differences. The space center part of the main story is completely cut and Mega Evolution (a concept introduced in X/Y) has a strong influence over the plot. While you don't get the ability to use Mega Evolution until around half way through the story (give or take), the moment itself is better executed then in X/Y in my opinion. The addition of Mega Evolution give Hoenn's story a greater impact due to the use of Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre. However the story comes with a small problem that gets worse as the story progresses (for the most part). Hoenn's map was made with backtracking in mind back in R/S, but in ORAS, there are points where you can "fast travel" (term used for warping to another location due to plot) to the next spot you have to go, which is fine for early parts of the game, but redundant when you get HM02 (Fly). If you know Pokemon, then you know to always have a Pokemon with Fly in your party unless you're doing a important battle, so when I have to fast travel from Slateport city to Lilicove City, it becomes redundant as I can Fly to the Safari Zone (side note, Fly has now been buffed so you can now fly to anywhere on the map (towns/ cities, routes, important locations ect) RIGHT BEFORE LILYCOVE CITY!!! There are some that aren't mandatory, but I think I counted two that were, including this one.

While the main story is very faithful to the originals, with extra, updated features, the post game isn't. The Delta Episode, brand new content exclusive to ORAS. This is very Spoilery so skip this paragraph if you don't want spoilers, skip to the next paragraph. A huge meteor (called something else, but its a meteor) has changed course mid flight and is now on a crash course for Hoenn. While Professor Cozmo and the Devon Corperation (along with former champion Steven Stone) have come up with a plan to save Hoenn, a new character called Zinnia is trying to stop the meteor using methods of old while Courtney (I played Omega Ruby) is trying to use the rocket powered by "infinite energy" (I'll save that reveal for you to find out) to destroy Hoenn as it's carrying "Link Cable" warp technology (I see what they did there). Zinnia steels the Keystones from Wally, May (/ Brendan if you play as the female character) Courtney and Archie and uses their power to summon Rayquaza, a Pokemon praised by the Draconids (I hope that's how you spell it) for saving the world from a similar threat in days of old. You eventually travel to Sky Pillar where you capture Rayquaza, give it the power of Mega Evolution and fly into space (FINALLY YOU CAN GO INTO SPACE IN A GEN III GAME (reply if you get the joke)) and using the power of Mega Rayquaza, you destroy the meteor which contained in it Deoxys. After that, its over and you proceed with rest of the post game. While small, I do like this post game as it is brand new content. I had no idea how this would go and while I did know what laid at the end, the journey itself was still fun and gave me a chance to play around with the new soaring mechanic.

Ok, you can come back now (though there are still spoilers). There are several new mechanics and gameplay options brought in for ORAS, the most notable being the soaring mechanic. When you obtain a item called the Eon Flute, you can ride either Mega Latios or Mega Latias (depending on the game) and fly to any location in Hoenn. The difference between this and Flying though is that you have full control, its not instantaneous. Circle pad to move, A to land, B to Boost and Y to angle downward to make more spesific landings (for areas like Meteor Falls and Sky Pillar). When you land, you land the same place as you would if you used Fly but unlike Fly, Latios and Latias don't need to be in your party. They can be in the PC systems, saving you a extra spot in your party. You also need to use Soaring to get to special areas in the map where you can find ALMOST EVERY LEGENDARY IN ALL THE GENERATIONS. You can catch almost every legendary Pokemon in this game with the exceptions being the event exclusives (Mew, Celebi, Diancie ect) and those you could catch in X/Y (Mewtwo, Xerneas, Yvertal, Zygarde, Zapdos, Moltres and Articuno) (and either Groudon or Kyogre depending on what version you have). So far I have found Virizion, Mespret and Heatran in these locations but I know there are many more. This is great for new players who started in X/Y, but if you have a lot of experience like me (and save as many Pokemon as you can as you migrate from generation to generation), then you won't really care unless you want to soft reset for good IV's and natures.

Contests also return and they play out almost exactly the same as they originally did. You don't tailor to judges though and you only have 5 turns to earn points, but its the same apart from that just with more spectacular visuals (and you can use Mega Evolution, but you have to find out how). Secret bases return and by the looks of it, they're updated Generation IV's secret bases but using Generation III's way of placing bases. The secret bases is the one thing in ORAS that I've had the least experience in, all I know is that you can get bases from QR codes and maybe (???) Streetpass but again, barely any experience. There are people who know everything about the base system so if you want to know more, look them up.
I do love the fact that you can use the camera in Pokemon Contests
The Pokenav has been upgraded now, while you can no longer call people or have people call you (PRAISE ARCEUS!!!) except for plot important aspects (for now, I get the feeling this could change), new features have been added including the Habitat locator from Black 2 and White 2 (the app I've used the most...), a map that can show berry plant locations of where you have planted trees, secret bases and trainer rematches (yes, the Vs Seeker is back) and a news app that also shows your Streetpass news (guess which one was used the least). One of the things I love about the Dex Nav (Habitat locator) is that it uses the original sprites from Gen III, its little touches like this that make me love this game as its nostalgic. Probably the best use for this though was the use of the original intro movie from R/S in the opening cinematic of ORAS. They didn't have to do that, but I love that they did do that.

While I'm not a fan of the current Battle Resort (please Game Freak, make the Battle Frontier) or how short Victory Road is in ORAS, they are minor problems. What is an actual problem though is the difficulty and amount of hand holding in this game. The fast travel is one example, but the other is the amount of healing places. ORAS loves to give you a free restoration all the dam time, to the point where it takes away the challenge. The EXP Share system from X and Y return as well, but it was better balanced this game. I don't know the spesifics, but it feels like its the same as if each member of your party was holding the old EXP Share, which I'm fine with, I'd like it kept this way. I was still over leveled at points, but that was moreso due to my playstyle rather then the EXP Share's fault unlike in X/Y. You can tell though that the game is built on the X/Y engine, not just because of the aethetics (which have just enough additions to them to make them feel fresh) but also because of mechanics like the EXP Share. I do believe though there is a small bug where the game does a quick flash like in X/Y when you switch from the Circle Pad to the D-Pad, as if the game still thinks that you have the Roller Skates from X/Y. Each of the characters still have that Gen III vibe to them, all the new anime images before the battle starts are based on the Gen III sprites of the trainers and what ones aren't come from X/Y. When the models are used, they help express the personalities of the key characters perfectly, adding to the charm of the game.
My Beautify, nicknamed Majestic
If you've played the original games, then you'll feel at home here as its almost the same. The cities and towns are almost exactly the same (though there is one that's different) and most of the routes are the same. While there are some locations that are different, most of them are for the better. Each of the gyms use the same kind of puzzle as they did in R/S but in new and interesting ways (for all except the 5th gym, that's still the exact same, though that's due to the gimmick). Each of the maps do feel fresh whether they're remakes of older maps, or brand new ones like Mt Pyre and Victory Road. A personal problem I had with the game, and this is just nostalgia talking, but it does feel weird to see the Hoenn region with so many more "warp point" (in terms of game design, its the entrance and exit of a map). Aside from dungeons, most of the region itself was one big map as far as I can tell back in the originals so its just weird to see all these warp points where there wasn't one before. I know it can't be helped, it had to be done so I'm not hating the game for it, its just a little weird, that's all. If you haven't already, get either one of these two games, especially if you love the original Ruby or Sapphire. You'll find a lot of things to love here, even if it is just the subtle references along the way.

Coming tonight: the first impressions of Avengers: Age of Ultron and next week: The Week of Super Smash Brothers with the Top 20 remixes from the series.

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