Game: Pokemon: ORAS
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: November 21, 2014
Reviewed Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Now here is a rare treat. I never owned the Ruby, Sapphire or Emerald versions of Pokemon, so for me this is almost an entirely new Pokemon game, except for that I am already spoiled on all the new Pokemon games. Well, almost, but we will get to that later. I am combining both games into one review because I own both and I can say that there are really only tiny differences in the plot regarding Team Magma/Aqua and your typical version exclusive Pokemon. Lets just get right into the meat of this review!
Well, first of all, these are Pokemon games. If you like Pokemon games, you will like this; if you don’t, it probably won’t change that fact. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (or ORAS, as I’ll be calling it from now on) follows the standard Pokemon formula but does toss some cool things towards the player, such as new Mega Evolutions and and new forms for the mascot legendary trio. The new Mega Evolutions are generally pretty cool, and most of them are from Generation III. If you read my Pokemon postings, you will probably have already been spoiled for most of them, but using them in battle is pretty fun. I especially like the new designs for Mega Aggron and Mega Sceptile, as they take what made the originals cool and accented those features. The new Mega Evolutions for the Legendary Pokemon like Rayquaza and the Lati@s twins, as well as the Primal Reversions (which is basically like a Mega Evolution) are also well done and appropriately hyped up throughout the game. The are awesomely powerful and crush most things in their way pretty quick. You can get most the the stones you need without having to search too hard. Of course, there are some treasures that take a LONG time to find, such as the ones that require both kinds of bikes and therefore completion of the entire game and postgame. But that’s the charm of Pokemon and exploration is why I keep coming back to the series in the first place.
Exploration is fairly rewarding within the game, especially in the postgame. There are more Legendary Pokemon to catch in this one version than in any other, containing most of the legends from generation II all the way to V. These legendaries tend to rest in their own private “Mirage Spots” or similar zones that can only be accessed by Soaring, which is itself a pretty cool mechanic. Some of the Mirage Spots are hard to access, due to the harsh requirements of unlocking them, such as having a team of level 100 Pokemon; but hardcore players who play competitively will likely log those hard hours in anyway. Other Mirage Spots contain rare Pokemon or items that are difficult to obtain otherwise, and are therefore worth checking out. The environments all look very good as well, just like Pokemon X/Y, so I don’t feel like I am exploring the same dungeon a million times whenever I enter a new cave. While many other reviewers have complained about the water routs in the game, I should point out that they are really not that bad. In fact, water travel has a lowered encounter rate in this game, so you don’t run into a Tentacool every ten steps like you would in other games. As a bonus, using Kyogre or Sharpeedo give you a bonus to your speed while you surf, as well as a unique sprite, which is a nice touch.
Soaring, as a new mechanic that probably won’t be returning in the main series, is pretty fun. Actually, the reason I like it most is because it gets rid of the need for teaching a Pokemon Fly because you can just summon Lati@s (Latios or Latias) from your box with the key item and go anywhere you have already been, albeit not instantly like fly does. It is just really convenient and doing tricks or seeing the whole region rendered in 3D is pretty cool, too.
ORAS also introduces an expanded upon plot based on the original Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald. Since I walked into this without having really experienced Ruby or Sapphire, I probably don’t fully appreciate how much it was expanded upon. But I am sure it was quite significant based on what I have read. The entire postgame, known as Delta Episode, is new to the plot and is teased throughout the game. There are a few big plot twists within Delta Episode, and it is certainly one of the most rewarding postgames to come out of Pokemon in awhile because of the interesting plot and cool effects that happen. You can even catch Deoxys at the climax, which is a first as he has always been an event exclusive Pokemon like Mew. The Battle Resort, which is unlocked after the postgame, is full of fairly well made teams to train against and test your own competitive combinations. Most of these trainers have competitive tactics with their movesets and teams, so they give you a taste of what you can expect when playing online.
Speaking of trainers, the PokeNav, this game’s Pokemon gear, allows you to check if any trainers on any given rout want to have a rematch with you. Trainers will generally have higher level Pokemon the more times you rematch them, and some of them even have a chance to give you rare items as a reward for coming back and facing their buffed up teams.
Finally, there are some little things I appreciate, mostly references to other Pokemon games scattered about the game from NPCs or objects you can interact with. These easter eggs are always fun to find in Pokemon games, and I like to mention them because I am such a fan of continuity in a series. Some of these include model ships from other Pokemon generations in the museum and others reference specific characters, like the scientist at Devon Corp. who is creating a rival Dream World device to Fennel’s from generation V.
I am such a fan of the Pokemon series, that maybe I am not the best at examining the bad parts of a Pokemon game. That said, I can say that like Pokemon X/Y, I found the game to be too easy. I remember many of the older Pokemon games being much more difficult than they are today, partially because the Experience Share item is so powerful that you are often higher level than most of the opponents you encounter; even Gym Leaders. I miss the option of putting the game on “Hard Mode” in Pokemon Black2/White2, which essentially gave a level bump to all the trainers in the game. I think that feature would be a welcome inclusion for veterans of the series, like me, who have enough experience to deal with the higher stats of stronger opponents.
I was also a little upset that, during the Delta Episode’s Climax, I wasn’t able to save between the Rayquaza and Deoxys fight, which is frustrating because I wanted to farm those encounters for IVs and Natures and not being able to save between the two makes that awkward, especially when there is about twenty minutes of unskipable cutscene afterwards.
As all my complaints are really only relevant to seasoned veterans and competitive players of the series, I can’t really take too many points off this title. If you haven’t played through the original Ruby and Sapphire games, this is an excellent way to catch up on the lore of the Pokemon universe you may have missed. It may be a pretty standard formula that Nintendo uses for its Pokemon franchise, but it is a formula that has worked for years, just like their other erstwhile series like Legend of Zelda and Mario, and that is because what Nintendo doesn’t always deliver in plot, they deliver in fun, deep gameplay that I can always recommend.
I give Pokemon ORAS a solid 9.5 out of 10, with no reservations. It is definitely one of my favorite games of 2014, and you won’t regret dropping some of your holiday cash on this title if you haven’t already.
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