Hands-On Preview: Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire – Finding New Treasure in a Familiar Landscape
Recently I headed out to Nintendo America’s NYC office to get a glimpse of the highly anticipated remake of Pokemon’s generation three: Pokemon Omega Ruby and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.
Hoenn region has always been my favorite region — I spent countless hours sailing across the vast seas and diving into its depths, all in search of new treasure and undiscovered areas.
Practically salivating with excitement, I gleefully reentered the familiar yet beloved region, and what I experienced in the short time I had with the game reaffirmed my belief that this reimagining will be nothing short of amazing (and that I will keep using “re” before every verb to describe it).
You’re immediately asked to choose your gender upon starting a new game but unfortunately you can’t customize your character’s physical appearance. You also won’t be be given the option to customize their outfits as well. The Nintendo official stated that this popular feature could not be implemented due to certain limitations, but they weren’t told what those were.
One the choice is made, you are swept straight into the opening cutscene. I always felt that generation three’s opening was the most unique one and seeing it rendered in 3D was quite the sight to behold.
After it ended, I noticed that the bottom touch screen was given a redesign. The Nintendo official explained that, in addition to Pokemon the map and Pokedex interfaces were given an overhaul. They are both under the PokeNavigator feature and are accessed directly through the touchscreen — no more slogging through a pile of cumbersome menus just to look up a female Pikachu’s tail or to see where the closest Pokemon Center is located.
The main PokeNav feature is a Town Map that displays every city, town, route and place of interest in the region, as well as which trainer in what route is ready for a rematch. It also displays flavor text on places of interest and even features an option that reiterates the plot to you if you need the update.
Under the PokeNav is a sub-section called DexNav, which governs over all the PokeDex features of previous titles. It showcases the same route map image from the original version (a lovely and nostalgic touch) that displays which Pokemon are located in which section of grass or in which part of a cave.
It also records which Pokemon you’ve caught in that area and if you’ve captured every type in the route already. These features existed in previous titles but are now collected into an organized and clean interface that makes actually utilizing these facets a much simpler process.
Another new design feature is the ability to sneak by pressing lightly on the analog stick. This function is used to let you sneak up on wild Pokemon that are visibile in tall grass, which is is indicated by a tail that sticks up in the area. Even cooler is the fact that the model for the tails are unique to the Pokemon and even unique to the gender. For example, a male Pikachu will be shown as a tail with a zigzag motif, while the female is represented as a heart-shaped tail.
Pokemon that appear this way in the wild are unique in one of three ways: a move unique to that particular species, a unique Ability or it’s a rare encounter in that region. The mechanic works very well, and I was able to catch two Pokemon this way (one of them being a Poochyena with Ice Fang).
Pokemon battles follow the same mechanics of previous titles but just as in X and Y, seeing the matches played out in full 3D with unique animations for each Pokemon still carries a near magical quality.
As fans may remember, there will be an extra bonus included in-game called “Cosplay Pikachu.” This is a special female Pikachu that has the unique feature of cosplaying in different outfits, with each one granting her a special move that only she can use in battle.
Each costumes corresponds to a category in the Pokemon Contest. Those moves are as follows:
Cute – Draining Kiss
Tough – Flying Press
Cool – Meteor Mash
Smart – Electric Terrain
Beauty – Icicle Crash
In addition, her tail’s heart shape is fully colored in, so it completely resembles an adorable brown heart.
Graphics show a bit more polish in this title than in X and Y, and the bouts of frame rate drops and general slow down found in that game didn’t rear its ugly head here as far as I could see.
Meanwhile, day and night cycles are somewhat present in the remakes. The clock must be set in your room at the beginning of the game and the cycle itself is aesthetically seen based on the clock’s time; however, unlike in generation two there is no difference in Pokemon encountered between night and day.
I mentioned earlier that the character customization would not be present in game. However, to make up for that they will instead be including two types of bikes: an aero bike and and acro bike. The former travels at high speeds while the latter performs tricks, and both allow you access to areas normally not accessible by walking.
Now here’s the interesting part that some sharp memory readers may have already caught onto: wasn’t this feature already in the original versions? And the answer is yes, it was. Also worth noting is that the name for the aero bike seems to be different from its original name, the mach bike.
There was also a bit reiterated on Team Aqua and Team Magma’s ultimate goals. Depending on which version of the game you have, the villianous team will change but their goal remains the same: use either Kyogue or Groudon legendary Pokemon to alter the geographical make-up of the world by reverting it back to its primal prehistoric form.
This form is unstable but is far more powerful than its normal one; the comparison is akin to the current Great White shark versus the prehistoric Megadolon.
Even before this previewing I was excited for these upcoming remakes involving my favorite region but with all the minor tweaks and added mechanics, updated storyline, revamping of the town map and PokeDex through the PokeNav and all the fun bonus content, the familiar journey into the world of Pokemon is sure to come with plenty of surprises along the way.