I wasn’t an avid ‘Gen three-er.’ Gold and Silver will always rule my heart as well as their excellent remakes Heart Gold and Soul Silver and I’d gone off the series by the time it had made its way onto the Gameboy Advance. However, not unlike George Michael at Christmas, my heart was stolen by a saucy minx known as Pokèmon Emerald version. As remakes of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire these games have a lot to live up to, to please their nostalgia starved fans. Luckily for Nintendo, the gamble of X and Y and their Digimon style mega evolutions paid off, leading to some interesting mechanical updates that make the already great campaign even more playable.
So the first thing to touch on is the plot. Let’s be fair, you’re never going to get Citizen Kane out of Pokèmon, but its serviceable here. The updated designs allow for a little more expression which is complemented by character development through larger amounts of text. While of course they’re all still two dimensional as the sprites they’re based off of, the updates to the evil team leaders in particular, are strong and give them an inch more weight than the originals. Besides this, the plots remain largely untouched, albeit with a sprinkling of mega evolution hastily latched on. Otherwise, you know the drill: beat the leaders, get the eight badges, complete the Pokédex and become the champion.
The game is, however, exceedingly life consuming and has a good forty or so hours of main story content if you are a nook and cranny explorer. Of course, as always you can storm through with your overpowered Blaziken and eventually, even more over powered Primal Groudon, but where’s the fun in that? Where the game really excels is in gameplay. The much needed special/physical split finally comes to Hoenn and appropriately balances the experience. Of course we also have the specific features of X and Y including an experience share that makes levelling up a doddle, easy trade functionality and Pokèmon Amie which allows you to get up close and personal with your favourite monsters. New mechanics however include the return of Pokémon contests, not seen since generation four and a creep system that allows you to get a good look at a critter before going in for the catch.
Being a remake, this game naturally boasts vastly improved graphics and sound design. Building upon the engine from X and Y, ORAS manage to provide an even more stunning atmosphere, with wide angle shots of the scenery all beautifully rendered and huge cities feeling justifiably large and lived in without the detriment of a poor camera angles. In battle scenes, it’s the same story; amazingly well rendered Pokémon and move animations show show the full power of the graphical capacities of the 3DS.
But what does this game bring to the table that couldn’t be found in the original games? Well, the post game content is a pretty epic. Without spoiling anything, after defeating the champion, a new adventure is unlocked that expands both the lore of the series and the replayability of these titles. It’s a great ride that provides a brain melting plot and some impressively challenging battles, as well as more than a little fan service. The only issue is that it’s length. The fact that it’s named ‘Episode 1’ suggested that DLC was on the way, but as we know now, that was merely a pipe dream…
Music also plays a huge part in creating the games various different tones and atmospheres. Generation three had some of the greatest music in the series, so the remixes has to be strong here. Generally, all is well. Like X and Y there is a heavy focus nostalgic elements of previous games, with some tracks having 16-bit elements directly from the GBA cleverly weaved into them. The battle music for Groudon/Kyogre uses this to its fullest and is a highlight. Some tracks however, are lacklustre. The gym leader theme is upsettingly weak and a little bland. Fortunately, these are few and far between though and the soundtrack is a major highlight.
In review, if you played Ruby and Sapphire back in 2002, you’ll enjoy this. It’s a love letter to fans of all generations and the attention to detail to capture the feeling of the originals is explicit. While it still encounters some of the problems from the original game including a less than stellar story, it has all of the elements that make a Pokèmon game such an enjoyable experience. If you haven’t already tried it and are a fan of the turn-based RPG genre in general, you won’t go far wrong here.