I’ll never forget the way my old “Pokémon Ruby” cartridge glinted in the sunlight as I accidentally dropped it on a Medford, Mass. sidewalk. The spring of 2003 was the last one I would spend taking day-trips to Boston with my parents, and to me, eight-year-old Jacob, that translucent “Pokémon Ruby” cartridge may as well have been worth as much as the precious jewel in its namesake. I remember hurriedly sticking the cartridge back in my purple Game Boy Advance and scurrying into my mom’s Mercury Tracer — eager as ever to lose myself in the world of Pokémon.

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

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Game Freak
Nintendo and The Pokémon Company


11 years later, we’re graced with remakes of these classic “Ruby” and “Sapphire” games: Game Freak’s “Pokémon Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire.” It’s been quite the treat to step back into the world of Hoenn and relive these masterful role-playing experiences.

For the most part, “Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire”are excellent remakes that update the visuals and peripheral features of their predecessors while faithfully maintaining their core gameplay. “OR/AS” uses the same game engine as 2013’s “Pokémon X and Y,” and has many of the same positive and negative visual and gameplay features that those games did. Like in “X and Y,” the game’s overworld, as well as each Pokémon battle, are now rendered with 3D visuals as opposed to 2D sprites. However, the framerate still chugs noticeably during battle sequences. “X and Y” ’s bottom screen mini-games “Pokémon-Amie” and “Super Training” are also carried over, and they’re just as forgettable here.

Player movement, though, has improved from “X and Y,” replacing the slippery roller skates found in the updated installments with an updated version of the much more manageable running shoes from “Ruby and Sapphire.”

I had forgotten how clever some of the writing is in these games. “OR/AS” allowed me to relive some of my favorite dialogue moments in Nintendo history, like speaking to the overly philosophical little kid staring into his reflection in the water in Petalburg City, and the opportunity you’re given to convince a house full of trend-followers in Dewford Town that a random item from your inventory is the “hot new thing.” (I convinced them that “Zinc Parties” were what all the cool kids were doing).

The entirely rearranged soundtrack is decidedly the best of the three “Pokémon” remakes so far. Each new arrangement is faithful to the the original game’s classic soundtrack while providing more complex and interesting instrumentation than the original’s simplistic retro sound and over-reliance on trumpet MIDI.

Like the original “Ruby and Sapphire” games, there are minor differences between the two versions. As with every set of Pokémon releases, you’ll need to collaborate with someone who has the other version to be able to capture each variety of Pokémon. The central villain is also different in each version, but the story remains largely unchanged between the two.

Without giving spoilers, the late-game and post-game have received some brand-new features, including a very cool new method of travel and a couple-hour long post-game quest that’s one of the most interesting storylines “Pokémon” has come up with in a long time. These are both rather tangential to the core experience, but were fun, inoffensive diversions to the already excellent core game.

These new endgame additions may not be enough to justify the purchase for those already overly familiar with “Ruby and Sapphire,” but for those looking to relive excellent childhood memories with a fresh coat of paint, picking up “Omega Ruby” or “Alpha Sapphire” is a no-brainer.

“Pokémon Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire” were reviewed using post-launch digital download copies provided by Nintendo.

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