Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
Hoenn was and still is the most divisive Pokémon region to date, though perhaps not for much longer. Peculiar and distinctive – well, as peculiar and distinctive as individual Pokémon games get – it’s surely the most environmentally diverse world of them all, with a nonlinear critical path and a menagerie as unusual and wide-ranging as its profusion of activities.
Whichever version you choose, you’ll be kept similarly busy. You’ll collect volcanic ash to make glass flutes, choose whether to dress a cosplaying Pikachu as a scientist, rock star or Mexican wrestler, and explore vast stretches of water from above and beneath the surface. And though the story deals with a familiar ecoterrorist threat, it takes some unexpected turns, such as the moment when two fathers discuss their mixed emotions as their offspring head out into the world.
You’ll also find some of the series’ most adventurous and outlandish creature designs to date. Hoenn is home to the Pokémon universe’s misfits and oddballs, from the bizarre Loudred to the comical Ludicolo. Improved animation makes them more characterful still, and the same applies to the wider range of Mega Evolved monsters. It’s a pity, then, that X and Y’s technical foibles persist. Again, stereoscopy is restricted, and the game suffers from dropped frames when you are able to use it. Nonetheless, the thrill of battle is amplified by the dramatic presentation, with gyms, contests and other events capturing a sense of pageantry.
Meanwhile, should investors question Nintendo’s reluctance to consider mobile gaming, Iwata might be advised to wryly point them in the direction of the DexNav, a device that heartily embraces the smartphone ethos. As in X and Y, you’ve got apps with which to train, pet and feed your team at any time, while the returning Player Search System offers easy connections to local or online players for battles or trades. A new feature allows you to track hidden Pokémon, however, and these beasts are often blessed with superior stats or with moves usually only available via breeding.
Offering easier access to better monsters isn’t the only sop to seasoned players. The story has been streamlined to hurry veterans through to its conclusion, a process eased by the early arrival of the Experience Share and faster levelling overall. Collectors are alerted when each Pokémon in a given route has been snared, with silhouettes of any missing monsters on view otherwise. And with a more substantial endgame that sees other regions’ inhabitants join the fun, these are the most generous entries since HeartGold and SoulSilver – trips down memory lane that double as excellent entry points for budding trainers.
The soundtrack is another highlight. Those who played the original Ruby and Sapphire will marvel at some of the remixed melodies on offer here, and the battle music might just be the best of any Pokémon game yet