Feb 06, 2015

    Classic Pokemon games soar in 3D

    MORE than 10 years ago, I fell in love with the Pokemon video games. And I am still playing them. The reason? The role-playing games' fascinating and mostly cute creatures, called Pokemon, and the addictive goal to "catch'em all".

    So, when the latest games in the series for the Nintendo 3DS handheld game console - Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire - were launched in November, it was a no-brainer to pick up one of them. The games are identical, except for different hard-to-find "legendary" creatures that players can catch, as well as different villains to contend with.

    While they are remakes of the original 2002 Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire games for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, gamers old and new will find a lot to like.

    As with past games, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire involve players setting out to catch Pokemon, train and help them evolve into more powerful forms, and summon the creatures to battle with other Pokemon. Pokemon are often stylised versions of real-world creatures, like the popular Pikachu, which resembles a chinchilla.

    The remakes largely maintain the storyline of the original Ruby and Sapphire games - something fans like myself really appreciate - but have added a number of aesthetic and gameplay changes, which mostly enhance the gaming experience. The most obvious update is the games' graphics.

    The original Ruby and Sapphire games were rendered in 2D with limited colours. But Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have redone the graphics in glorious 3D. Thanks to the 3DS, the new graphics can be enjoyed as stereoscopic 3D images that leap out of the screen, without the need for special glasses.

    The results are stunning. Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire look much more vibrant with their vivid colours than the originals, with extra graphical details to boot.

    This makes Pokemon battles more thrilling, as the attacks by Pokemon now look more realistic, flashy and impactful than those in the original games, which, in hindsight, look a bit flat and dull now.

    In a first for a Pokemon game, players can ride two legendary flying Pokemon - the bird-like Latios and Latias - and fly around the game world to enjoy some truly beautiful 3D sights.

    While not absolutely necessary for travelling between locations in the game (there's an instant travel option), the new flying feature is a more exciting way to travel and explore the game world in a way I never could before.

    Pokemon veterans will be glad to know that the remakes have a new mission, called the Delta Episode, after they complete either game. The new chapter allows players to capture two legendary Pokemon called Rayquaza and Deoxys.

    But on a more negative note, the remakes redesigned a location in the game called Mauville City for the worse.

    In the original games, navigating through the city was a very straightforward and simple affair. But in the remakes, the city has been redone with an all-new, confusing layout.

    Another downer in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire is that a feature in past games, called the Battle Frontier, is missing. This feature allowed players to challenge tougher opponents after completing the game. It's still not known if players will ever get the feature for the remakes.

    Even so, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are still terrific games that offer far too many hours of fun and enjoyment, with new ways to enjoy a familiar experience.

    Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are available in game stores now at a recommended retail price of $54.90.