Before we talk turkey (or talk Pidgey) about Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, I need to chat a little about the games’ best and cruelest addition: The DexNav.
The DexNav is a new app for the PokéNav Plus, an enhanced version of the PokéNav device from the original Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. When you’re in an area that doubles as a home for wild Pokémon, the DexNav helps clue you in to where those wild Pokemon might be located. Moreover, the DexNav lets you know when you’ve caught all the specimens in an area.
Adventuring with the DexNav switched on is torture, even for low-level completionists like myself. “Oh my God,” you say as your trainer avatar swims around in hip-deep grass, “The DexNav tells me I’m missing at least one Pokémon in this neighbourhood, but I’ve just run into, like, my fiftieth Zigzagoon. Citizens of Hoenn, learn to put rocks on your garbage can lids, please.”
You want to break away, but the anticipation of seeing that golden crown icon in the upper left-hand corner of your DexNav – the signal that you’ve cleaned house – is just too strong. Thus you’re left running circles in the weeds while Team Magma talks about why making the sun swell to twice its usual size is a neat idea.
And, like the DexNav, Pokémon ORAS’ very existence is the best and worst thing ever. There’s so much here that makes it worth returning to again and again, but at the same time you run across the occasional archaic Pokémon tradition that makes you realize, “Holy hell, I’ve been putting up with this trope since before Y2K was supposed to end the world. What is even up, Nintendo?”
Pokémon ORAS, when evaluated as a whole experience, are swell games. I’ve been a Pokémon fan since the series’ inception (I have all those cheesy Pokémon strategy guide inserts that came with Nintendo Power through ’98), but the original Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire are by far my least favourites. The graphical upgrade was nice, but something seemed to be lost in the transition – something like sixty million old Pokémon in favour of a new class.
I remember others my age felt similarly about Ruby and Sapphire, and I assumed everyone kind of looked on the games with mild revulsion. Then came the trailer for Pokémon ORAS. The Tumblr youngsters exploded over the prospect of getting remakes of their very first Pokémon experience, and I realized I was wrong, same as I am in fact wrong about a number of things in life.
But Pokémon ORAS is good. There is tons to do, and nearly all that content is available the minute you download the game or plug it into your 3DS – a “perk” that’s becoming more and more relevant in this age of DLC.
Connect Four (or More)
Pokémon has always been a series about connectivity, and it’s something the games have really run with since Wi-Fi became easy and convenient with the DS and 3DS. Like X and Y, challenging other live players in Pokémon ORAS is as easy as tapping on the portrait of a passerby in the Player Search System at the bottom of your screen. Of course, you can take on friends or you can tell everyone to take a hike while you revel in ORAS’s deep well of single-player content. Live Pokémon battles are not my forte. To give you an idea of what I mean, consider I taught “Cut” to Treecko, my starter Pokémon.
That said, Wi-Fi still sees a lot of use in Pokémon ORAS through the downloading and discovering of secret bases. Secret bases function as a kind of Pokémon-themed Animal Crossing lite. You can make your own little niche in a treetop or a cave, and you can stuff it full of dumb Pokémon dolls and accessories. You can even recruit grunts that challenge visitors to Pokémon battles. Then using Wi-Fi, you can download other people’s bases, visit them, and steal their flags to make your mark.
If you happen across Team Bite of ’87’s base, stop in and say hi. It might be mine (It’s officially “B!te of ’87,” since Nintendo doesn’t allow the word “Bite” for some reason. Poochyena! Use that move that involves sinking your mandibles into your opponent!).
“Team Oh God Here We Go Again, blast off at the speed of light!”
Pokémon ORAS does have problems however, and they’re the same problems that have been plaguing the Pokémon series for years now.
Honestly, I don’t envy Game Freak. It takes a lot of criticism for not innovating with the mainstream Pokémon games, but if it ever changed up the formula in significant ways – say, offering elemental starters beyond Grass, Fire, and Water – Pokémon enthusiasts would flip the world upside-down in protest.
Ergo, Pokémon has remained basically the same experience since 1996. That doesn’t bother me a bit, because years of “Hey, here’s a game that’s essentially just Pokémon, but with tons more stuff to do than last time” has given us a tremendous series with boundless content. While it would be interesting to see a major shake-up of the usual eight Gym Leaders followed by an outing with the Elite Four, neither is it something I’m dying for at this point in the series’ life. It’s already interesting to fight gym leaders that also happen to be your father.
(Sidenote: It’s come to my attention that some people believe the Gym Leader battle music for Pokémon X and Y is bad. Seems there are people out there that mix up the words “bad” and “amazing.” Let’s pray for them.)
But Game Freak’s desire to preserve everything cool about Pokémon across the years doesn’t give it an excuse to keep in play mechanics that are downright tedious.
Do I really need to see a Pokémon portrait animation whenever I use “Cut?” Or “Surf?” Hoenn’s a pretty watery region, and it’s pocked with tiny islands that I automatically climb onto if I get too close. Back to the game being all like, “Oh honey, look at that blue, blue water. Do you want to use SURF? …Okay, give me a few seconds to introduce you to the same Pelipper that’s been doing the job for the past ten hours. And … go! …Oh, you hit another island, didn’t you?”
Game Freak, if I approach the water and press “A” without explicitly waving around a fishing pole, I give you permission to assume I want to surf. Just put me on the back of my Poké-pal, please.
Then there’s my issues with Team Whomever / Whatever that appears in every Pokémon game. This is a great time to demonstrate what I mean about preserving tradition without subjecting players to tedium:
The inevitable arrival of Team Whomever / Whatever = Traditional! This is OK!
Team Whomever / Whatever invariably equipping itself with the same stable of Pokémon (e.g. Team Magma’s constant stream of Poochyena and Numel, or Team Rocket’s parade of Koffing, Ratatta, Ekans, and Zubat, Zubat, ZUBAT) = Tedium
These Teams are supposed to be serious threats in a world where ten-year-olds can literally stuff God in a ball. They should employ a greater variety of Pokémon – preferably Pokémon that can’t be found by kicking at the shallow scrub lining the road two steps out of town. Team [X] battles are never interesting or challenging, even close to the endgame. Just boring time-gobblers.
Otherwise, what can be said about Pokémon at this point? Like the series? Then Pokémon ORAS is great – certainly better than the original Ruby and Sapphire in my crusty old opinion. Despite the repetition on-hand, there’s still a great deal of exploration and sidequests to be performed here, and isn’t exploration and wasting time what Pokémon is ultimately all about?
Not into Pokémon? Pokémon ORAS won’t capture your Luvdisc either.
Now let’s all peer at the horizon and await the inevitable Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl remakes.
[Nadia used LEER]