Here's the full review I wrote on Nintendo Enthusiast for those interested...
After only fourteen hours playing through Pokémon Alpha Sapphire, I was stunned to see the credits rolling down the screen. After all, the Hoenn region had always been my favorite, and I recalled spending at least thirty hours reaching the end of Emerald the last time I had played it. I figured that since I was tasked to review the newest Pokémon title, I would want to get the review out in a timely manner. As such, I sped through the game trying to get the review up as fast as possible. I was stalled in my mission, however, as after completing the game I began engaging in all the extra content hidden within the Generation III remakes. This is where the Pokémon games have always shined, and continue to shine: Not the content on the surface of the game, although that too is still incredibly addicting, but all the extra content layered underneath.
Pokemon ORAS June 10 screenshot 4
Exploring the World
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire begin as any other Pokémon games do. Your character arrives in a new town, meets the professor living right next door, and embarks on an epic journey with his new level 5 Pokémon. Every Pokémon title has always done an adequate job of instilling a true sense of adventure when playing through the game; however, for me the Hoenn region takes the cake. There are so many different locales in the Hoenn, from deserts to mountains to marshes and more, that every minute in the Hoenn region feels like a new moment ripe with the prospect of new Pokémon. The one issue that the original Ruby and Sapphire had was that exploration across large bodies of water or extensive caves would lead to extensive random encounters, making exploration more like a tedious endeavor. In the new remakes, however, it seems like Game Freak addressed several of these issues.
First and foremost, it seems like enemy encounters are far more infrequent than they were in previous Pokémon games. If I truly wanted to get through an area as fast as possible, I could pass through without any sort of difficulty and a surprisingly small number of enemy encounters. ORAS also diversifies the possible Pokémon that players can hit during random enemy encounters. In fact, by the time I finished the game I had not seen a single Zubat, and had only encountered a select few Tentacool; both Pokémon are generally known for being very insistent on popping up unasked for during random battles.
Exploration opens up even further in the later part of the game, when players begin acquiring a new set of tools to explore the vast reaches of the Hoenn. Although most people are already familiar with the HM surf, the ability to Dive and scale Waterfalls oftentimes is equally, if not even more, exciting. Being able to dive below the water adds a whole new dimension to exploring the region, as many caverns hide new Pokémon to catch and undiscovered items to collect. Additionally, Pokémon ORAS introduce the completely new mechanic known as “Soaring”. This ability allows players to fly throughout the Hoenn region on either a Latios or a Latios. At first glance, it would seem that the Soaring ability is a waste of time, as it is much quicker to simply fly wherever need be. Soaring does add some gameplay and exploration elements, however. Not only are there Pokémon that can only be caught by encountering them while Soaring, but there are whole new sections of the Hoenn region that are exclusively accessible only with the Soaring ability.
Pokemon OR-AS Mirage Spot
With each new Pokémon entry come new refinements and improvements to the interface system. I am happy to announce that not only is Pokémon ORAS’ interface system far superior to anything that has ever come before it, but it will probably stand as one of the best Pokémon interface systems ever created. Sitting right in the middle of the new interface is “Dexnav”, which has several features which makes finding, catching, and battling Pokémon much easier than before.
Dexnav is built on the understanding that it knows everything about Pokémon and the Hoenn region. The application can tell you where all Pokémon are located, and whether all Pokémon in a specific area have yet been caught. If you are looking for another version of a Pokémon that you have already caught, Dexnav can show you exactly where the Pokémon is, revealing its hidden abilities and special moves. No longer do you have to keep track of all the NPCs that you have battled and are looking to re-match, as Dexnav will tell you exactly who is ready for a re-match and where they are. Did you plant berries, who knows where, in the outskirts of the Hoenn? Dexnav will not only tell you where these berries are and how they are growing, but it will offer an option to fly right over to the berries to harvest them.
Never has my life as a Pokémon trainer been so easy; Dexnav tells me everything I need to know about where Pokémon, trainers, and berries are. Pokémon ORAS even lets me simply fly anywhere in the region I like, even directly on routes, without first having to arrive at a city, making traveling even quicker. These interface changes are not only a welcome addition to the franchise, but they seem like common sense after so many years without them.
Pokemon ORAS June 10 screenshot 3
Becoming the Very Best
Completing a Pokémon game and defeating the Elite Four is only the beginning of a much larger adventure in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, as there is so much extra content that will suck hours and hours from your life even after the credits roll by. Immediately after completing the game, ORAS moves into a “Delta Episode”, which is a relatively short, one hour episode that is oddly reminiscent of something akin to DLC. Players go through a short storyline, eventually saving the world once again and encountering several legendary Pokémon. It is nice that this Delta Episode is free; however, the fact that this is just the first episode is rather telling of Nintendo’s future DLC plans.
After the Delta Episode concludes, the Hoenn becomes completely open for exploration. There is a massive number of legendary Pokémon to find and catch. It is unfortunate, though, that there are more than 250 Pokémon that are completely unobtainable in ORAS; however, ORAS is not the only Pokemon game to have a set of Pokémon that must be transferred over from a previous entry.
Pokémon ORAS also sees the return of Pokemon contests. These contests are a great diversion and allow players to excel in a competition other than just battling. There are various ranks and difficulties when competing in Pokémon contests, and oftentimes moves that may not seem that good in battle really shine through in a contest setting. Alternatively, those that do excel in battling can find their way over to the Battle Resort, which is much like other Battle locales in the past. Players play through countless 3v3 matchups, collecting BP points that can be spent on various items. It is unfortunate, though, that Pokémon ORAS does not have a Battle Frontier. The Battle Frontier was one of my favorite parts of Pokémon Emerald, and it would have been excellent to see the area return for Generation III remakes.
pokemon secret base
A Pocket Monster
There is only so much I can say in a review to praise how great Pokémon ORAS truly is. Sure, I could ramble on about collecting ribbons, or about EV training Pokémon, or about breeding IV Pokémon, and much more; but, at the end of the day my rambling does not make ORAS any better of a game. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire got an amazing re-make treatment, improving the music and graphics, while also completely overhauling the interface into a much more modern format. I do wish that the Battle Frontier made a return, and that there were more Pokémon available to catch without having to transfer them from other games, but ultimately Pokémon ORAS stands as an amazing title for the 3DS handheld.