Pok?mon Ruby and Sapphire let you soar the skies & do the creep

What would your Mega Evolution be?

It is challenging to fit “Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire” into a headline. It wasn’t hard fitting these 3D updates of the Game Boy Advance classics on the 3DS, though. It was hard making a clean segue from my meta commentary on headline economy. 

And speaking of economy—god I’m good at thisthe new Ruby and Sapphire return to the humble Hoenn region with your player character bouncing into town in the back of a moving van. This is dangerous, by the way. Always Sunny in Philadelphia showed this. Not that we should expect stellar parenting in a world where pre-teens are globe trotting dog fighters. 

What is stellar is the transition to 3D, despite the departure from X and Y‘s upper-crust hometown and my general preference for the second dimension over the third. It looks as nice as the previous 3DS outing, maybe a bit smoother. The level of detail also let me realize that the rival, Brendan, is actually wearing a goofy white hat. He doesn’t just have spiked white hair. I won’t give him guff for the hat, but “Brendan?” Brandon, Brendon, Brandan, Brando. I thought “Steven Hansen” was a nuisance to spell what with first and last name having common alternate spellings.

As X and Y showed, Pokémon translates pretty neatly to 3D models, so playing the twelve-year-old game in 3D isn’t all that different from the longstanding Pokémon format. Machokes are helping Mom move, but there’s a Wii U in your room now. You still pray for the extinction of Zigzagoon and other early fodder.

I still negged my starter Pokémon, Treecko, by naming it Croagunk. And that doesn’t even make sense this generation. I might have created a time paradox.

There are new things, though. Certain X and Y features like Super Training and Pokémon-Amie remain. My favorite part, though, the custom avatars and Trainer Videos have been left in X and Y where, according to director Shigeru Ohmori and producer Junichi Masuda (Ruby and Sapphire‘s original director) they fit in X and Y‘s theme of “beauty,” what with the “French inspiration and fashion.”

That’s part of why the Secret Bases, one of my favorite Ruby/Sapphire features, ended after the following generation. Game Freak is big on giving “unique characteristics” to its regions. And in Hoenn, it was the “abundance of nature” that bore Secret Bases in the first place. So the feature just didn’t fit with later regions that had their own tertiary things going on, I guess. I’m just excited they’ve been gussied up even further.

The story has been reworked to touch on Mega Evolutions, Primal Reversion. The X/Y connection is important. “I didn’t want to just do an update with graphics. The idea of tying it up with X/Y, that there is full comparability,” is important to the team. And it makes sense with X/Y‘s sales figures. 

There are some neat gameplay additions, too, including some new navigation tools. You can use Fly from the bottom screen map. The DexNav will show you Pokémon in an area with a little icon so you know what you’ve caught and where. There are also added areas that are unreachable except when using Soar on the back of Mega Latios/Latias, which actually lets you fly above the clouds. 

My favorite thing, though, is the creep. To keep you on your toes as you once again wade through loads of tall grass, occasionally a Pokémon tail will, in real-time, be wiggling out of the grass. These wild Pokémon have a chance of having better stats, preferred natures, or different moves. And getting them requires you to push lightly on the circle pad, which leads to your trainer doing an exaggerated cartoon creep like The Pink Panther or Jon Belushi in Animal House. It is adorable.

Now that we’ve gotten remakes up to the DS era, I was curious at what rate we’d continue to see them. According to Masuda, it goes beyond the graphics and ability to render past games in 3D. And it’s not (explicitly) about maintaining a cycle. “In the future…if we can find a lot of cool things to implement and make work with the titles that haven’t been remade, that would be the right time to update them for modern times.”

Hopefully the Diamond and Pearl remakes fit more neatly in headlines.

Steven Hansen