Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 28th November 2014
The treasured series is back again and this time they’re revamping one of the most beloved titles of the series. Finally, we have returned to Hoenn and to not to many people’s surprise. Hints were scattered in Pokémon X & Y, and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have stepped into the revamp as the third generation gets an X & Y makeover.
The original Ruby and Sapphire were quite revolutionary thinking back. The graphical improvements were huge from the second generation and the Hoenn region felt like a extraordinary chapter in the series’ life. The seafaring sections added some depth that had never really been felt before and the additional 133 Pokémon made many nostalgic for their initial adventures in the world. The addition of a multitude of new legendaries and the weird ways to find them (Regirock, Regice, Registeel, we’re looking at you) added an air of mystery to the series that was beyond merely stumbling across them.
Fortunately, the X & Y titles haven’t really affected this aspect. There is still an air of mystery about the whole title, legendaries still provide some of the most stimulating gameplay, and the broad availability of those from later titles add a much more realistic tone to catching more Pokémon than ever before- yes, it’s still probably impossible to most but at least they’re giving us a chance. The graphical improvements have obviously made everything much more streamlined and visually impressive to look at, although at the same time, makes some of the climate changes within the region look a bit questionable.
All the love and nostalgia many felt when this title was announced is still present in bounds within the title, each part of the game evokes fond memories of a simpler era of the franchise. Even with the mega-evolutions, the ridiculous numbers of Pokémon to catch, and a feeling of inferiority compared to X & Y, it’s still an enjoyable experience.
Problems have arisen throughout playing though. The scale of Hoenn is impressive but in an empty, hollow sort of way. In the originals some of the best moments were spent surfing the ocean, finding secrets, and being amazed by the ocean’s sheer scale. Unfortunately, even though the sheer size of the ocean is still impressive, it’s just lacking something; it doesn’t feel as exciting or as wondrous as it once did.
Ever since we got the size improvements in X & Y, especially with Lumiose City, Hoenn now feels like a sort of step down, and that’s fairly disappointing. It’s unfortunate that with this remake, they had a lot of potential for expansion (the Sevii Islands being one of FireRed and LeafGreen’s most impressive features) but they simply haven’t bothered.
The gameplay is still solid however and that’s not really surprising after 18 years of success. The graphical improvements are nothing less than astounding, and battling is just as impressive, if not more so, than X & Y. The additional mega-evolutions have revamped some of the franchises most exciting entries from the third generation. Once again however, the inclusion of the all-powerful ‘Exp. Share’ that has been revamped has worked to make the game only too easy. It’s kind of a game changer, and not in a good way. If players of time past want an actual challenge that this game actually used to pose, you may just want to turn it off.
The plot has had some excellent embellishments though. While still involving taking down ‘Team Aqua’ or ‘Team Magma’, their stories have been improved somewhat, now looking less stupid and more misplaced intentions of saving the world. Like in the previous iteration, however, it still didn’t feel immediately that threatening; the story and climax in Pokémon Emerald felt much more well-rounded and genuinely striking. It has to be mentioned though that the post-game ‘Delta Episode’ adds some interesting content that extends the life of the game while providing an immediate and danger-fraught subplot that wasn’t included in the original title- it also includes Rayquaza and Deoxys so how can anyone complain?
This revamp is certainly commendable, Nintendo have had a good record with rehashing their previous titles- no matter how much stick they get for doing so. This one just seems to lack the lustre and originality of FireRed & LeafGreen and Heart Gold & Soul Silver. A lot of us saw it coming and while the innovations of X & Y have certainly added to the older titles, it just doesn’t have the force and presence that defined the previous remakes.