Pokemon ORAS Review: A Beautiful Love Letter To The Originals

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Land and Sea

It’s really darn hard to keep people coming back to play the exact same story over and over again for…how many games are we at now? Yet, Pokemon manages to keep doing it. ORAS takes the original storylines from Ruby and Sapphire and fills them with new energy and interest.

I was surprised at how well the megastones and their purpose fit into the Pokemon ORAS storyline. I won’t say much more here, but the concept of primal reversion fits into the already-established storyline almost seamlessly. Admins and Leaders of both Team Aqua and Team Magma are given more dialogue and more characterization, and fortunately more explanation as to why they try to achieve their goals. They even managed to make “covering the whole world in land/water” slightly more convincing than in the previous games, though I must admit at times their motives weren’t entirely clear.

What impressed me most was how the story built. At the beginning, everyone is treating you like a nuisance, just a kid. But by the time you’re facing off with Groudon and Kyogre, the fate of the world is on your shoulders. Somehow the originals never managed to impress upon me exactly how dire the situation was. ORAS effectively transfers the power into the hands of the player by their own deeds. You become capable and strong enough for the adults to trust you with anything. When the low chimes started playing to introduce the battle with Groudon, I felt pretty epic. Moreso than any other Pokemon game, ORAS is a story of three kids (Brendan, May, and Wally) growing up and becoming the people and trainers they have the potential to be.

From the moment the game begins…you can tell that the developers had a lot of love for the original games.

ORAS does a great job of filling out the story and making it fit neatly within the universe established since the originals. Much of the dialogue: NPCs, gym leaders, and main characters, is exactly the same as it was. Some has been tweaked, but ORAS did not make the same mistake that was made with FRLG and HGSS, where lots of the old dialogue was cheesed up and made really hokey and awkward. Hoenn is full of people who love their towns, love their region, love Pokemon, and all seem to fit where they are. Old favorites such as the glass-flute guy, the weird gentleman in the Mauville Pokemon Center, the Winstrates, and Gabby/Ty are back. The towns too, are largely unchanged.

The biggest difference is Mauville, which has become the biggest city in Hoenn and is akin to Lumiose in X and Y. It’s now home to pretty much every necessary location that’s become a staple of the series since 3rd gen came out. I won’t spoil how Mauville has expanded, but it’s a really cool location now!

One other thing I thought was worth mentioning is the Trick House. While they certainly tried to upgrade the Trick House to be cooler and perhaps more difficult…it fell flat. Most of the puzzles were slightly harder versions of what we had to solve before, and the quiz room was identical. Plus, they were over too soon. His dialogue hinted that there might be more puzzles later in the game, but if there are, I haven’t gotten to that point yet (so perhaps I should reserve judgment). With the touch screen and the dual screens, ORAS could have done some amazing things with the Trick House (and, honestly, every other puzzle in the game), but they still haven’t gotten there yet. Oh well. Maybe next generation.

And the winner is…

The battle system is the same as it has always been. We still have horde battles, and double battles with trainers. Sky battles are gone. Double, triple, and rotation are all options in the Secret Base, though I have yet to see them in practice in the field. My biggest issue was that the game was too darn easy. The Exp Share is back, giving experience to your entire party at once, and with that, trainers literally everywhere in Hoenn, and tons of options for rematches, there’s no reason you should struggle. By the time my team was 20 levels higher than most trainers, I started skipping battles.

The advantage to this is that you have plenty of opportunity to shift your team around and train new members at any point, and I found myself mixing things up multiple times during my journey with no consequences. The National Dex isn’t available until later in the game, though, so you’re stuck with the original Hoenn lineups for the majority of the game’s story…which was a bit of a relief, with there being so many Pokemon in existence now. But if you were planning to catch em all, don’t fret. It’s been revealed that between ORAS and X/Y, trainers can finally complete the PokeDex without transferring from previous generations.

Contests make a return and are largely unchanged from the original games. They still consist of the same basic elements–two phases, one based on Pokeblock appeal and the other based on talent. The same mechanics are present, though with the wider array of moves introduced since the original games, there’s more challenge and surprise involved. All levels of contest are now available at every Contest Hall, so you don’t have to wait til Verdanturf to jump into the Contest scene. And though I didn’t get to try any multiplayer functions, it looks like you can compete in Contests with your friends, too!

My only disappointment with Contests was the Pokeblock system. No longer can you team up with your friends to make Pokeblocks…or even play the button-rhythm game that enabled you to create better Pokeblocks. Instead, you just select berries, throw em in a blender, and see what comes out. There’s less creativity and skill involved, and it’s all about mixing and matching different types of berries now to get what you want. As silly as it is, I missed the Pokeblock game. It actually made contests a little too easy, especially on the earlier levels, since you have access to better Pokeblocks right from the get-go.

Next: Our verdict and score for Pokemon ORAS