When Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were first released for the Game Boy Advance, it was a huge leap for the Pokémon series. Fans of the original 8-bit games got the chance to explore a new region fleshed out in all its 32-bit glory; and seeing the newcomers as well as our favorite Pokémon in this updated look was fantastic. It was also the game that introduced many young gamers to Pokémon for the very first time. Either way you slice it, Ruby and Sapphire are games that hold a special place in gamer’s hearts. So now that the highly requested remakes are here, how do they stack up? Let’s dive into the Hoenn region to find out!


Most of us are familiar with the premise of Pokémon. After receiving a Pokémon from the local Pokémon professor, our hero sets out on their own to defeat the eight gyms and the elite four of the region while completing the Pokédex. Along the way, you must also thwart the misdeeds of the notorious team Aqua or Magma gangs, depending on which version you play. For the most part, the story remains the same, but Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire do feature a few new characters and cut scenes that will keep the story fresh for veterans to the Hoenn region.


In fact, much of the scenery will give you the very same feeling of déjà vu while still feeling fresh. Hoenn looks great in 3D, and the region’s characteristic colorfulness is here in full force. Some areas even have added detail to them, and it’s a blast to be able to see how familiar towns, gyms, and routes have become more fleshed out.


For those serious about their Pokémon training, all the helpful power-training tools from Pokémon X and Y are present in this installment, and the new DexNav is a great addition to your arsenal. Equipped with a Pokémon detection device, the DexNav can point out the species of Pokémon that appear in the rustling grass. Furthermore, the more times you encounter a Pokémon, the higher your search level becomes for that species which can net you Pokémon with unusual hold items or egg moves, a special attack normally not learnable by a Pokémon except through specialized breeding. This is just one more step to make competitive online battling more accessible to everyone, and it is a welcomed edition.


Apart from battling, Pokémon contests return and play out the same way they did in the originals. You and the contestants show off your prized Pokémon before taking part in a talent round where you must appeal to the contest judges with your Pokémon’s moves. Preparing for Pokémon contests is far easier this time around, as creating pokéblocks to increase your contest stats is entirely automated. All a trainer has to do is select 2 to 4 berries from their bag, and the pokéblock kit will make up to four blocks for you automatically. For those who don’t want to deal with harvesting berries, Cosplay Pikachu (a special Pikachu given to your trainer after attempting a contest) allows the player to jump into Pokémon contests without any preparations necessary.


Another returning feature to Pokémon ORAS are the secret bases. Thanks to the 3DS’ online and street pass features, secret bases can finally be taken advantage of to the fullest. Players can decorate their own base, and even invite trainers to visit your base via street pass or by sharing a QR code. Your DexNav will even alert you when a secret base is on the route your traveling, and hunting down secret bases and battling the trainers is a great way to continue exploring Hoenn long after the story is done.


From the very beginning of the game, it’s very obvious that the Pokémon Company didn’t want to just remake Ruby and Sapphire, but rather add some new bells and whistles to the game that make it fun to explore all over again while still feeling familiar and nostalgic to those who grew up with the game. For those new to Pokémon, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire feature a fun story and a colorful world to explore, while still allowing beginners to access the finer points of competitive battling and Pokémon contests. Add secret bases into the mix, and Pokémon ORAS should give new and old Pokémon fans hours of enjoyment. If you haven’t picked up the game yet, this reviewer heartily recommends picking up the game this holiday season.