We're just under a week away from the Nov. 21 launch of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and, unless the gaming landscape has changed drastically in the past 12 months, it's likely to be one of the biggest titles to hit store shelves this year. From a look at the game's demo to boning up on the game's new features, now's the perfect time to get that final hype train rolling.
Here's the thing: Last year's Pokemon X/Y was my first time ever playing a Pokemon game. I grew up in the age of collectable pocket monsters, but it was a series that never sunk its hooks in for me. Fast forward to 2013, and a 31-year-old man finds himself surrounded by friends who lived very different childhoods; childhoods filled with every single iteration of the popular series. Everyone I knew was excited for the new game, so I finally decided to throw my reservations aside and give it a go.
And you know what? I had a great time. Maybe it was that day-one 12-hour play session with a house full of people playing the new games or maybe it was because Pokemon offers a more light and colorful counterbalance to the types of games I typically play. For whatever reason, I was made a believer, and I've been looking for to Omega Ruby/Alpha Saphire--or ORAS, as the hip kids like to say—since it was first announced.
Nintendo has been doing its part to drum up excitement, too. A special promotion is ongoing at GameStop, for instance, that gives players of X/Y a code for the rare Diancie Pokemon to add to their game. The catch is that Diancie can later be transferred to your copy of ORAS with the ability to Mega Evolve.
One of the reasons I'm most excited to play ORAS is because, like I said, I completely missed out on the original versions of Ruby and Saphire. My understanding is that those are the high water marks for many series fans and, now that I've begun playing Pokemon in the third dimension, I'm not so sure I'd enjoy working backward and diving into the 2D versions of the games.
This new release not only gives me the opportunity to experience the Hoenn region for the first time, but series vets will be able to see one of their favorite titles in a whole new light. To help keep things interesting, they've also introduced all sorts of new features for players new and old to enjoy.
While X/Y had player customization, ORAS will be doing away with making your character look unique in order to offer a more robust set of options for secret bases. You'll be able to equip these small rooms with items and objects you find throughout the game proper, tailoring your own secret base to your personal tastes. The object of these bases is to force players to work through a series of challenges and fights in order to reach a flag and claim their reward. Players will be able to make them as easy or complicated as they like—within the editor's limitations, of course—and then offer them up to friends and via StreetPass for challengers to take on.
One of the new features from X/Y that will be making it into the new game is the much-loved Pokemon-Amie feature. In this mode, you get to feed your individual 'Mon, play mini-games with them, receive rewards from visitors and more. It was a cute little distraction that's carried out on the lower 3DS screen that gave a more personal connection with the game's digital creatures. That feature will be returning, along with the ability to dress your own Pikachu up in cosplay. Mega Evolutions will also make a return for select Pokemon, as well as a new transformation, Primal Reversions.
With ORAS launching in just one week, my friends and I are gearing up for Poke'day 2.0. Just like with X/Y, we're all going to pile into my living room once again, plug our consoles into any outlet we can find, and dive into the newest adventure as a group. If you can swing something like that with a few friends, I highly recommend it, especially if you're new to the series. My pals were able to give me pointers along the way, and we all really enjoyed the shared experience and constant chatter as we tried to catch em all.
If you haven't gotten your hands on the brief ORAS demo yet, there's still time to snag a copy off of the 3DS eShop. Unless one of your local theaters or game stores happens to be giving out codes, your options are pretty limited at this point. You can buy Pokemon Art Academy or the Pokemon Trading Card Game and find a code at the bottom of your virtual receipt. Otherwise, you might just have to wait until next week to experience the new version of Hoenn for the first time.
Playing the demo for the first time (which should only take you about 15 minutes) will give you the ability to see each of the new (or old, I guess) starters in action, as well as claim your prize of a Glalie that can Mega Evolve. Subsequent plays of the demo will let you occasionally meet new characters on the Mossdeep island and potentially unlock a couple of special missions (neither of which I've happened to spawn yet). Otherwise, playing the demo five times will give you a bunch of healing Pokeballs, and playing another five times will give you a bunch of Heart Scales. Those items, as well as your new Mega Evolving 'Mon, can be transferred into the game proper. Not a bad haul for minimal effort in a demo.
Rumors are circulating that the demo holds other secrets but, seeing as how nobody can pin down what, exactly, those secrets might be, I'm going to chalk it up to simple speculation at this point.
So, there you have it. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Saphire are on the way. Let us know what new feature you're most excited about in the comments section and, if you happen to uncover something worth mentioning in that demo, please feel free to drop us some details below.