We're only weeks away from the release of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, the updated remakes of the original Game Boy Advance games which were first released in 2003. For those who jumped onto the Pokemon bandwagon with last year's X and Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire represent brand new 3DS adventures. But what exactly is in it for those who played the originals more than a decade ago?
We know the visuals are receiving a major facelift, and some of the innovations introduced in X and Y (such as mega evolutions) will be included in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. But what else is there that's new and interesting for Pokemon veterans? We recently spoke to game director Shigeru Ohmori to find out exactly what seasoned players can expect in these updated games.
The main story will be the same, but some elements have been expanded upon. There will also be a brand new plot regarding mega evolutions.
If you've played Ruby or Sapphire before, then expect the same main story beats, although some scenes and characters have been fleshed out to provide more detail in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. According to Ohmori, most parts of the original narrative have been revisited to provide added depth.
"If we just do a remake and update the graphics and keep everything the same, that wouldn't be very interesting," Ohmori said. "It's still the same general scenario, but we've gone back and given it a lot more context and added certain elements to it. Obviously an element that didn't exist with the originals was the concept of mega evolutions. One of the main parts of the story this time around is exploring the origins and the mystery of mega evolution, and that really takes centre stage."
Finding wild Pokemon will now be easier than ever thanks to the Area Nav, a new addition that shows you all of the available Pokemon on any given route, as well as letting you visually track them.
In the original Ruby and Sapphire, wild Pokemon signaled their presence by emitting strangled squawks and cries (which relied on you knowing exactly what cry was what to identify which Pokemon were hiding). That system has been upgraded significantly for the 3DS versions, and emerges anew as the Area Nav. The Area Nav allows you to see exactly what Pokemon can be caught along each route (they'll pop up as silhouettes on your mini-map after you encounter them the first time), and will tell you if you've managed to catch all of the Pokemon available on the route. You'll also have visual cues on your main screen--you'll sometimes see a Pokemon's tail poking out of tall grass, and if you can sneak up to it (by gently pushing on the 3DS' control stick), you can attempt to battle and catch it. Trying to sneak up on a Pokemon with their tail sticking out won't disable random encounters, however, so you'll still need some repels if you're trying to catch specific Pokemon.
And in an even more interesting twist, Ohmori has hinted that this new system will allow you to catch rare Pokemon. "We've added a visual representation on the top screen where when you're walking around you can see the silhouette of the Pokemon, you can see a tail waving in the tall grass, so you can see what that Pokemon is before you even encounter it," Ohmori said. "At the same time at the bottom screen there's even more information about the Pokemon that are around you. You'll see which Pokemon are appearing nearby, as well as info about those Pokemon. It's actually created in a way that the more you encounter that type of Pokemon in that area, the more detailed info will appear, and you'll actually be able to encounter more rare types of that specific breed of Pokemon." Shinies, anyone?
You can invite players to your secret bases, and customise the base's layout specifically for those players.
Link cables were the only ways to share secret bases in the original Ruby and Sapphire. Thanks to the 3DS' online capabilities, secret bases in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire will be much more share-friendly.
"In addition to StreetPass functionality where you can share with people nearby, you can also connect via Wi-Fi and share with people around the world," Ohmori said. "You can even generate a QR code that you can post on social media and share with anyone. Another cool feature with secret bases is you can invite players to come to your secret base, and if they accept, they'll then appear there, and you can customise where they are on your base, you can customise the layout, you can make something like your own gym, for example."
A special Pikachu joins you for Pokemon contests, and this unique Pokemon can wear different "costumes" that can be used both in contests and battles.
Pokemon contests in Ruby and Sapphire was the series' first real attempt at introducing something different to the regular battling grind. Unsurprisingly, contests are returning in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, complete with a revamped story, moves that can only be used within contests, and the ability to use mega evolutions. Oh, and there's a unique Pikachu that will join you for these contests.
You may have seen this little critter in screenshots and videos previously, but just who is this Pikachu? Ohmori says this special Pokemon (who you'll receive as part of the main story) can change into five different costumes. "Of course these costumes are used in the contests, but it also has an affect on your normal adventure as well," Ohmori said. "Change into these costumes and this Pikachu can learn moves it normally can't learn, and you can change into these costumes at any time. So for example if you go to a gym that's weak to a particular costume's ability you can change into that and use the move, and then change into another one for a different area."
Pokemon Amie and Super Training will be back, but don't expect any changes in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
Two of the biggest additions to the Pokemon formula in X and Y will return, although it doesn't seem like any significant changes have been made to the way they work. Ohmori says this was because developer Game Freak wanted to retain full compatibility between X and Y and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire when it came to battles and trades.
The move Soar, when used with one specific Pokemon, will allow you to fly anywhere in Hoenn. Anywhere.
Sure, the move Fly may have allowed players to quickly fly to any previously visited Pokemon centre in previous games. But Soar goes one better, and will allow you to fly over the 3D map of Hoenn and land anywhere. You'll get this move once you've encountered (and, I'm assuming, catch) Mega Latios in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
"What this does is actually allow you to land wherever you'd like, which opens up certain locations, like small space between the routes, or small islands, and in these locations you'll find lots of Pokemon you didn't find in the previous games," Ohmori said.
For the first time on the 3DS, you'll be able to catch them all.
Sadly, there will be no new Pokemon introduced in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (apart from all the mega evolutions of existing Pokemon, that is). But what you will get is your first opportunity to--in conjunction with X and Y--complete the national Pokedex on the 3DS. That means between Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and X and Y, you can catch every single Pokemon.