March 19th, 2003 the original versions of Game Freak‘s Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were released into stores. At the time, I was in the 7th grade and my mother had bought Ruby for my brother and Sapphire for me; however, it was discovered that I was hiding poor tests scores behind my dresser, I was ground for two weeks without being allowed to play my GBA. Thankfully my mother is a merciful woman and allowed me to at least look at the player’s guide for Ruby and Sapphire. Two weeks passed and I was playing with my brother on the balcony of my great aunt’s house, beating his sorry butt because I read the manual religiously during my punishment. I’d show my grandmother the Pokemon I caught, and silly name I had given them. Twelve years have passed and I had largely fallen off the Pokemon wagon. Don’t get me wrong, I was still a Pokefanatic. I praised Helix and got into arguments of which Red and Blue starter was the best, but I wasn’t buying the latest installments of the franchise. It wasn’t until this remastering that I bought a 3DS and picked up a copy of ORAS for Nostalgia’s sake, and boy was I happier than a Charizard in a Lava Bath.
For those who are not already familiar with the story of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, which Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (ORAS) reuses, you’re a teenager of questionable gender whose life changes after saving the life of Professor Birch when he beset upon by a rabid Poochyena. He lets you keep one of the 3 starter Pokemon that you used to defend him, and your journey toward becoming the Pokemon League Champion begins, with frequent rival battles, thief thwarting, and world saving along the way. It’s the same formula Pokemon has used since Red and Blue, so no points there, but it seems that the twenty year old franchise has made some changes since my last journey.
ORAS unlike other remastered editions that have come out this year (*coughs* Master Chief Collection *coughs*), feeds your nostalgia but also gives you a brand new experience. The game looks amazing, and I admit I spent the first hour fawning over the fully 3D gameplay, individual Pokemon animations, and the ability to sit in chairs. I was a gamer for when it was one color and you were just a sprite, so this was insane to me. All the towns that I was familiar wit were refinished with new graphics, adding touches of character indicative to their areas, and some completely overhauled to give them a new and fresh vibe. Kids, Maulville was not a mall a decade ago, it was just a normal boring town. These visual upgrades are fantastic, and don’t detract from the core of the game and make it more fun and adventuresome. I was looking forward to get to each zone to see what would lie before me. It was a thrilling venture into virtual sight seeing. But plenty of games are flashy, what about the content?
ORAS doesn’t stray from the traditional battles of Pokemon, but it seems like there are innovations being made in interactivity with your little pocket monsters. Intentional or not, I’ve found that I have a great love for my virtual pets because of features like Pokemon-Amie and the Super Trainer. The Super Trainer replaces the grueling grind of EV training that plagued the franchise since Gold and Silver. Crushing five hundred zubats to up you Pokemon’s speed stat was not at all what I’d consider fun. I’d have more fun having someone sandpaper the palms of my hand. This has now been changed into an exercise program made up of mini games. You attach targets set to certain difficulties based on the stat you want to raise, and viola you are EV training. I can’t tell you how welcome this change is, it puts fun back into the game and evens the competitive playing field so that your friend who does nothing but jack off and EV train isn’t always crushing you with his perfect Shuckle.These minigames also let you interact with your Pokemon, growing the bond between player and pocket monster. Pokemon-Amie does the same thing except with the addition of food and petting. This was by far my favorite addition to the franchise. Being able to pet and feed your become makes them feel alive, and makes battling with them more rewarding, because you had these fun moments with them too. They aren’t you captured attack slaves, they’re animals, you teach them and they teach you. Pokemon has needed a way to channel that feeling that the Anime characters have for their Pokemon since the beginning, and I think they’re on the right path to do that.
I think the most powerful embodiment of this new found love of these digital creatures is found at the end credits. Once you’ve defeated the Elite Four and their Champion, you are treated to a credit crawl featuring all the steps on your journey, and the Pokemon responsible for your success. It wasn’t just you being a great trainer, it was the ones who fought along side of you. Having everything summed up before your very eyes was a great way to end the game, but then the game did something unexpected, it didn’t end. Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want ORAS spoilers. After the credits roll you’re treated to one last fight between your rival and you, where you started your journey, a tine puddle outside of Littleroot. This battle was the ultimate denouement. From the climax of the Elite Four and back home to our roots, this game expertly told a story that I already knew, and made it fresh again, and that’s why I was compelled to even write about it.
Honestly, I could write so much more. Thoughts are buzzing in my head about the costume changes, the cutscenes, and the gym designs. There is so much to talk about here, but it would make this article all together too long, so I focused in on my favorite bits. This was a wonderful walk down memory lane, and I encourage anyone who has played the originals to pick up a copy because it is a delight. Am I suffering from a severe case of nostalgia? Possibly, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t either.
P.S. Look out for future video content on the way regarding this game and others in the future.