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Hands-on with Pokémon Omega Ruby, the remake that's shaping up to be a bit of a gem

All the trash cans were empty

Product: Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire | Developer: Nintendo | Genre: Adventure, RPG | Networking: wireless (adhoc), wireless (network)
For: 3DS
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire 3DS, thumbnail 1
Last Friday Pocket Gamer was invited to Nintendo HQ for a three-hour session with the reboot to Game Boy Advance classic, Pokémon Ruby.

After hanging around the building for a while trying to StreetPass Nintendo employees, I found a comfy seat and returned to the familiar setting of Hoenn.

The game picks up just as I remember 12 years ago. I arrive home, talk to mother dearest, and set my clock before the big adventure. I look around the bedroom... seems my GameCube's been upgraded to a Wii U now.

If you've played any of the mainline Pokémon titles you know the drill by now - meet your rival, talk to the latest dendrologically-named Professor, and, of course, choose your starter Pokémon.

Generation III was probably the weakest in terms of starters for me - none of the designs ever really blew me away. I ended up choosing Mudkip, mainly because "I herd you liek mudkipz."

Professor Birch bestows be with the PokéNav+, a gizmo ready to be upgraded with all manner of apps. My first is the world map, but mere minutes later the DexNav feature is added.

DexNav is the addition that stood out most in the entire demo. It displays your current area - in Game Boy Advance 2D stylings I might add - along with silhouettes of Pokémon that can be caught in the area.

Catch 'em all, and the map will be full of all the critters you've nabbed, along with a crown icon as icing on the cake. The real fun though, begins when a magnifying glass overlay appears on the DexNav.

This lens icon means that a special Pokémon is rustling around in the nearby bushes. Using the Circle Pad's analogue controls, you can slowly sneak towards the area the sound is coming from, and tap the screen to identify what's out there.

Often, the beastie in question will be a rarer Pokémon from the area, with a rare Ability and perhaps even a move or two you'd only be able to get via breeding. This is a pretty neat way to encourage players to take their time in each area.

The DexNav also fixes a problem I've always had with Pokémon games - you can finally add NPC Pokémon you see in towns, that belong to other Trainers, to your Pokédex.

I press on, and make my way to the PokéMart, a separate building from the Pokémon Center, just as it used to be. I sell every item I've found and buy Poké Balls in batches of 10 for the ever-elusive Premier Ball.

A short while later, my team is ready: one Marshtomp and five Zigzagoons with the Pickup Ability (an old trick I learnt - they'll find all manner of expensive and useful items as you play).

I spot a couple of Secret Base spots outside a cave wall but, alas, I haven't found the Secret Power TM to teach my Pokémon how to carve out a little grotto for me.

One Nugget and two Ultra Balls later and I find myself saving a scientist from the nefarious Team Magma, rescuing Peeko for Mr Briney, and upgrading the PokéNav+ with the PlayNav app, featuring the familiar Player Search System, Pokémon-Amie, and Super Training menus from Pokémon X and Y.

The Dewford Town catchphrase system is replaced by a rather peculiar "What's In" trendy system, where you suggest an item and a word or suffix to spread word of around Hoenn. The Premier Ball Dance is all the rage now, or so I hear.

After taking on and besting two Gym Leaders, I made my Contest Hall to find out just how beautiful my fourth Zigzagoon was. Turns out... not so much.

Yes, the Contest Halls are back. You can dress your character up, then pit your favourite Pokémon against three others to see which is coolest, most beautiful, cutest, most clever, and toughest.

You'll be able to raise each stat using PokéBlocks, a treat made from Berries you find and grow out in the wilderness. Each move in the game also has a relevant Contest type associated with it, meaning you'll often have to plan ahead if you're aiming to be the champ.

Shortly before my time was up, I received my Cosplay Pikachu. This is a very special version of everyone's favourite electric rodent that can change into five different outfits, each of which grants Pikachu with an exclusive move it can also use in battles.

The first few hours of Pokémon Omega Ruby feel very much like the Game Boy Advance remakes of Red and Blue, and the DS remakes of Gold and Silver.

I did hope I'd be instantly whisked away into an almost entirely new world full of Mega Evolutions and new features, but it would appear that everything I'm expecting is at least a few more hours ahead in the storyline.

With the full title out in just under a month, I'm champing at the bit to try out all the latest features rumoured for Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.

Reviewer photo
Danny Russell 22 October 2014
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