From RSE to ORAS – what has improved?

Before the Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald (RSE) remakes in the Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (ORAS) games were released, I wrote an article on what I would have liked to have seen improved upon in these new 3DS games. Today, we look back on that list and see how impressed or disappointed I am by each change, from the number of bikes we can use and (Super) Secret Bases, to how the rivals fare now! We’ll also review a few other aspects of ORAS here and there, such as brand new additions it received, what has remained or gone missing from X&Y, and discuss why.

Needless to say, there are spoilers within this article.

10 – Give us both bikes!
It happened!

Yes indeed, you can use two bikes at the same time!

…Just not straight away. That would be too easy, of course. In order to get two bikes, you need to advertise them by talking to the right NPCs with those bikes. One in the desert needs to see your Mach Bike, another you can only reach with the Acro Bike wants to see that, and someone in the postgame area the Battle Resort is happy to see either one. As a reward for advertising, you get rewarded with both bikes.

What, you thought you’d get both bikes for free? Mr. Rydel only gives you a bike in the first place to advertise his business!

He’s actually counting the number of advertisements on your bike.

So you can only get both bikes after you beat the game… but it’s still a nice improvement, especially if you leave exploration until after you beat up the champion. And it’s necessary too if you want to access all areas of the Safari Zone, or grab all the items – including TMs – that can be found in Mirage Spots. That’s right – these areas require both bikes at once.

9 – Update that PokeNav
A new function for finding Pokémon and more? Yes please!

This wish of mine was also fulfilled, and thank goodness for that as well. The PokéNav has given myself a wonderful problem called the DexNav, which really integrates ‘catching them all’, hidden abilities and rare moves, and shaking spots into one. Playing Omega Ruby and want a Seedot, but don’t want to train it until level ten before it can learn an attacking move? Try encountering a few with DexNav and you can find one with a damaging attack! Want that Skrelp or Bagon with its hidden ability? Now you can!

Gotta sneak-on them all.

The map is also far more useful now. It’ll tell you if any trainers in the route want to battle you, if there’s any berries you can grab, and even if there’s a Secret Base to check out. And yes, it has touchscreen support as well. BuzzNav can be amusing at times but is basically just the television shows from RSE ported over telling you about people you’ve encountered via Streetpass or online play, but another addition is always welcome. It also serves as the way to update your Streetpass hits and update your secret bases, and provides pieces of commentary on your adventure. And the XY functions all got ported over too, just squished down.

So here’s a hurrah for an improved bottom screen.

8 – Wifi with Contests
Only the local kind, and no Pokeblock minigame.

We only got local wifi, but I’m not terribly surprised by that decision. It’s neat that at least I can take on my friends in contests, but all the same, it would have been good to be able to take on anyone.

Happily, Contests work as they did in the 3rd gen games, just with extra bells and whistles that come with 3D models. Seeing your Shroomish bring a desert to life into a field of green, or your Pokémon Mega Evolve when you get the crowd cheering wildly is great. While the appearance of four Contest Halls remains, it is somewhat unnecessary of them given you only ever need to go to one of them to complete all ranks. That’d all be worth green text in itself, but this doesn’t change the lack of Wifi support. But hey, they did add in a character just to show off Contests!

Well, uh… she’s certainly trying, I guess.

She’s a bit too enthusiastic at times, but given she works as a promoter of the whole thing, that’s understandable.

Sadly, there is one other thing that is missing, and that is the Pokéblock minigame. Now you just pick a few berries and the game mixes them for you. An NPC even mentions this with a ‘back in my day’-esque bit of dialogue on how they used to make Pokéblocks. The system is simplified too with only two levels of Pokéblocks, and (perhaps for the better) the removal of the limit for how many Pokéblocks you can feed your Pokémon. It’s a pity given they put so much into remaking the Contests that they went and left the minigame part out.

I miss you. The game, that is.

7 – More involvement from the Gym Leaders
Not for the main story.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t any increased appearances, but they were still lacking main story anyway. I had wished that they would have some more involvement and characterisation, like the 5th gen Pokemon games. Steven certainly still shows up, and in fact he appears more than before, and now comes with the ability to monologue in the rain and at the same time avoid getting wet, while you as the protagonist stand there clearly getting drenched. He’s just that perfect.

Notice me, Sensei!

But the Gym Leaders? They don’t do anything new while all hell is being unleashed. Only Wallace seems to care, and that’s probably because legendary Pokémon showed up at his Gym’s front door and wouldn’t let him sleep.

That said, we do get to see more of the Gym Leaders postgame. Wallace does a bit in the postgame ‘Delta Episode’ story, and you can see some Gym Leaders wandering about, such as Tate and Liza seen shopping. And Wattson has interesting hints scattered around with his involvement with the various Mauville projects if you look around. In fact, the expansion on his backstory in Sea Mauville – formerly known as the Abandoned Ship – is one of the more interesting side parts of ORAS.

But for the main story, there’s barely a step up from the likes of RSE, and overall still below the bonuses HGSS offered with all their Gym Leaders. After all, Gym Leader rematches are missing…

6 – Add to all that ocean
About that…

There’s still a large number of Dive Spots, the Abandoned Ship got renamed and a beautiful makeover complete with backstory for multiple characters, and the likes of Shoal Cave and the Regi puzzles remain.

But we can’t ignore the fact that there’s not much terribly new to visit in all the water routes from RSE. DexNav makes Pokémon encounters more interesting, but it’s still the same old Tentacool and Wingull lines to encounter most of the time. And the Mirage Island got moved to floating island status, but to be fair hardly anyone found Mirage Island in the original games anyway.

There have been some improvements. The Surfing speed is still pretty quick and you can go even faster with a Sharpedo or Kyogre. The encounter rate is also clearly diminished, making Repels nowhere near as much as a necessity. And the trainers don’t all have Water types, as Surfing Ace Trainers now populate the routes and use Pokemon such as Rhydon, providing some variety there. It’s certainly less of a chore to get around, and makes complaints of ‘too much water’ seem silly. It just would have been nicer to see something more done with it, is all.

Sorry, IGN, but that’s still funny to us.

5 – Improve the Team Magma/Aqua plots
Some changes were made!

The leaders of Magma and Aqua are still crazy and misled in trying to improve the world. But there’s been a couple of changes. For starters, they don’t quite tell you that they’re going to erupt a volcano with a meteorite, and their goals have more to do with awakening the ‘Mega’ (or Primal) forms of their relevant legendary from the get go.

The leaders of the crews in Maxie and Archie are certainly expanded upon as well. The 3D models give them far more expression and character, and from those and their official artwork the two teams are clearly distinct, particularly the two admins. This means that the differences in playing OR or AS is larger than with the original Ruby or Sapphire games. Small details about them found within their hideout in the games are intriguing too, such as in AS where a room – Shelly’s room – contains a picture of… Archie and Jirachi. Whatever is the story behind that? And their involvement continues in the postgame story with either Matt or Courtney appearing some more, and Archie or Maxie also making a cameo depending on what version you’re playing.

And their models do also help to show that they are a bit crazy.


Furthermore, something that is neat about the lead-up to the awakening of Groudon or Kyogre is that the secondary Admin of the team will outright defect! It’s nice to see other people besides you and Steven recognising their madness. So I for one am glad to see some improvements happen here.

4 – Proper trumpet samples
Louis Armstrong would be pleased.

This was an easy one. Of course ORAS would use the instrument samples XY had, and hence it would be easy to ‘trump’ the trumpets RSE offered. So a tick to music that’s just plain easier on the ear!

They didn’t abuse the trumpets; in fact, some songs seemed to notably be using it less than before. Overall I felt the soundtrack was fairly solid; I enjoyed for instance the Trick House and Rival Battle theme, while Wally’s 80s-esque theme was while short rather catchy – and amusing.

Notable examples of the music include the Admin battle theme, which introduces some ska influences and further helps portray them as somewhat deranged (along with that battlefield background in your second battle with them). It has a nice buildup to the melody.

Meanwhile, the battle theme for the cover legendaries (Groudon and Kyogre) really matched the mega evolution cutscene rather well, I felt. It was a great lead-in to the ultimate battle itself.

And I’ve always loved the Sootopolis theme, and am extremely happy with how that turned out. It works especially well after the whole Groudon/Kyogre taming part of the game – everything’s fine and dandy after you save the day, and the music reflects that.

I do feel sometimes there were a bit too ‘loyal’ to mimicking the tunes however, while naturally there’s always going to be some tunes that you’d prefer over the originals. Fortree’s theme for instance was too slow for my liking, while I’ve seen many complaints about the removal of the clapping from the Elite Four battle theme which I agree with. Why take out that? While the credits was cool too, I would have probably preferred the full version of the RSE credits remaining without the additional town themes thrown in and replacing the middle section.

But overall it’s another good series of tunes to enjoy. A GBA Sounds would have been nice all the same though.

3 – Where’s Wally?
He’s… only slightly more there, pre-E4.

Or is he? He does appear an extra time than before in RSE, at least pre-E4. In ORAS he’ll teleport you without question to Mauville after you beat the 5th Gym. This I personally find annoying, because I wanted to use Surf to grab those items in Petalburg and then make my way to Mauville! One thing that can be said for Brendan and May is that they asked if you’d like to be teleported elsewhere first. Ah well.

But you do also have the chance to meet him in his uncle’s house in Verdanturf Town in RSE, which isn’t the case in ORAS, while the only other pre-E4 apperance he gets are a few seconds of him in a cutscene right after you take on Primal Groudon or Kyogre, possibly standing in Ever Grande City. He does get a couple more lines after you first battle him in Mauville and likewise postgame, but it’s not much more than the original games.

And him blushing at me when he fails to ask if we could be rivals following the first battle with him was… weird. In the original games, his story was mostly confined to the premise that he was sickly and going to visit his uncle’s family in another town which may help him get better, and you help (watch) him get his first Pokemon before said trip. Training with that Ralts is what makes him become healthier, and he acknowledges that he’s still got some training to go when you beat him at Victory Road. What changes about him in ORAS now is a sense of him looking up to you specifically far more. This was shown when he makes a far bigger deal about losing to you at the end – compare what he says at Victory Road in the original games, compared to ORAS. Add to that his blushing when he wonders if you could be rivals with him. Other players may prefer this side of him, but it’s not something that sat too well with me, as it got to be too cutesy, and for others disheartening to crush his dreams by beating him up, particularly when he only has his under-levelled Ralts in the first battle.

It may have been better if they had set him up to be a rival throughout the story consistently, showing his growth better and hence better establishing his personal growth and improvement. This is why it was disappointing for myself when he failed to be just that – a rival that challenged me during the main story rather than just twice. (And only one of those battles can be possibly considered to be challenging).

At least there’s evidence that he’s beating those other Gyms before you including a mention of him in BuzzNav, but that can be attributed to his lack of presence in the actual plot. There’s no getting around the fact that despite appearing in the postgame, he’s not terribly memorable if he appears twice between the third Gym city and Victory Road, only one of those times actually interacting with your character.

Who are you!?

Thankfully, he does get more airtime in the postgame. He appears early in the Delta Episode, and provides a few postgame battles as well, including a radically revamped team if you try out the Battle Maison (if not a rather Smogon-esque one). But he’d still be a better and more memorable rival if they had shown more of his growth as a sick child into a capable trainer during the main story itself. There’s an improvement in that area, just not much.

What a pity, really, because he’s still better than the other rival we have on offer…

2 – More Interesting rivals
I wish.

Alas, May or Brendan are no better than before – if anything, I’d say that for myself they were worse. At least their 3D models helped them look better, coupled with amusing facial expressions, and they do help out in a sole battle against Magma/Aqua and appear in Sootopolis.

Not that they do terribly much besides tell you you are their best friend…

But otherwise they acted the same way. Just as overly friendly, just as generous with the present giving, and they still give up after Lilycove in battling you. If anything, I would describe their actions and mannerisms as awkward. Think of the scene after you beat the Champion; they pout when told they can’t go into the Hall of Fame, and then say something along the lines of ‘Kidding! It’s OK!’ That, along with the fact they felt you needed advice from them on how to beat the Champion is just off and somewhat socially awkward.

You can battle them postgame including right after the credits, but they don’t have a strong team, nor do you overall battle them more times than in Emerald. At least their starter Pokémon is fully evolved. They also served as a method of teleporting you across the region at times, and this wasn’t something I liked to accept, just because I enjoy backtracking and making my own way. Where’s the adventure if the game does it for you?

How they turned out was just a pity. I never felt particular glad about beating them up, like with Blue and Silver. Those rivals were ones you loved to hate, and in Silver’s case he got character development as well. In fact, there’s no real character development at all of May if you choose Brendan – she’s fairly friendly to begin with and remains just as awkward throughout. Meanwhile, if you choose May, Brendan as a rival tells you he expected you to be a boy when he heard you were the child of a Gym Leader (a weird assumption to make considering half of the Gym Leaders are female in Hoenn!) and does acknowledge you are pretty strong after you beat him a number of times. This general lack of unique and interesting character development is unlike 5th gen’s offerings in Cheren and Bianca, or Wally. Likewise, there was no real endearing or noticeable trait about these rivals, like DPPt’s hyperactive in-a-rush Barry. They’re just more or less… there. They battle you a few times, they go home to continue helping their dad in his studies (yet are never there to help out when he’s chased by a Pokémon, funnily enough), and not much about them changes.

As for the Delta Episode, your mileage may vary but I didn’t personally appreciate my parents seemingly try to ship me with my rival who I didn’t particularly like. This would have also been a good opportunity for them to help out and contribute to the dilemma, but all they ended up doing was tell you they were robbed, and then go with you to the Space Centre at the end to remind you what good friends you are. This is arguably a missed opportunity by the developers.

You are the worst astronaut.

The only consolation is that they’re still arguably better than what XY offered up with rivals.

1 – Streetpass for Secret Bases
Bar one thing, it’s what I wanted and more.

Secret Bases were brought back, and by gum they did a good job with them in my opinion.

Aw yeah, all the dolls. All of them.

Let’s just go through what has been improved. More decorations from dolls to jukeboxes, more areas for them, throwing in the ability to recruit grunts to battle for you – or battle yourself – and on top of that give you items, rewards for visiting other secret bases through flag collecting and talking to owners to get a bonus item per day, the ability to share your base with others through QR codes and Streetpass support and going online via the PSS, the ability to save bases as favourites, and battles along with a ‘create-your-gym’ function with your own grunts. They also added in a character to introduce them to you who is mildly interesting and has an under-levelled Flygon.

The only complaint I could make is the limit on how many Pokémon you can have in battles. Only three? But I wanted to set up my base to have a full party of Ludicolo! This was one restriction not present in RSE which I can’t agree with, and something that persists even in double battles. Ah well. I guess not everything can be perfect.

So all up, it’s not a bad outcome in five of those being fairly well done in my opinion, and at least some others having some improvements, if mild.

Naturally, this only covers so much of the game, so while I’m at it I’ll mention some of my favourite – and one least-favourite – aspects of ORAS.

The Good – Sea Mauville

Already mentioned in passing above, Sea Mauville is the renamed and redone version of the Abandoned Ship. And what a fun sidequest this was. Originally I only went back to grab that Ice Beam TM once I got Dive (of course this is the right thing to do rather than go chase after Team Aqua, right?). But I didn’t expect poking around in every corner to learn backstory to Devon, Wattson, Stern and Dock, and Professor Cozmo. Nor did I expect the themes that came up, ranging from overworking, to family disputes, to same sex couples. Hurrah for mature topics! And, for that matter, hurrah for the level of storytelling Game Freak suddenly acquired. Please do more of this, Game Freak, and dare I say it do that for the next main story plot to boot. It’s like the Looker Missions in XY for myself – a sidestory that ended up being far more entertaining and interesting than the main plot.

And let’s also acknowledge how nice it looked as well, along with that music theme.

Better than any of those 5th gen ‘bridges of multiple camera angles.’

A couple quick-fire positive shout-outs must go to the following as well. Soaring for instance was a great postgame addition, I feel. Catching legendaries is quite fun to do, and flying around the whole region is certainly fun. And the ability to Fly to the middle of routes was great too. (Now, let Cut Trees and Rock Smash rocks remain gone, please).

And the Delta Episode was another nice addition, and opened up some intriguing theories. It gave some more story with a new intriguing character. She isn’t liked by all given her somewhat understandable yet rushed actions and some of her lecturing dialogue at characters who couldn’t possibly have known what she did, but she certainly makes for a good series of events and provides background to a multiverse setup in the Pokemon world which makes both the originals and the remakes canon! This allowed the game to throw in references to the GBA games (from the 100 launches rumor for the Mossdeep Space Centre, to referencing the Link Cable). And getting two legendaries, one an event Legendary, was a nice way to round things out as well. It’s hard to go wrong with that!

But it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t complain about something, right? Certainly not if we forgot about this.

The Bad – Battle… Resort?

To be fair, the Battle Resort – or rather, a reskinned Battle Maison – isn’t bad either. But it’s the same thing we got in XY, while people who played the original games – a large number of players these days – would have known about the Battle Frontier. That’s right, ORAS has no Battle Frontier. This was a place which was like the Battle Maison, but with five different challenges. This made for a lot more variety than what the Maison offers, and the annoying thing is Game Freak even references the Battle Frontier.


Why did they leave it out? DLC plans? Unlikely, given their previously statements expressing dislike about the idea of it, and all extra things have been free downloads of event Pokémon too thus far. Emerald remake? It’s always possible, but odds are more in favour of a third version or sequel set in Kalos, in my opinion. Did they run out of time in pushing out yet another yearly release?

Well, according to this interview in Italian, Junichi Masuda, a long time developer of the Pokemon games, stated the following (translated):

Q: Why wasn’t the Battle Frontier in the remakes?
A: This question is connected with my previous answer. We didn’t put the BF in ORAS for this very reason.
Interviewer’s note: In short he means that they didn’t include the BF because only a very small part of the players would have fully appreciated and made use of this feature; nowadays players get bored and frustrated more easily and they aren’t interested in things that are so demanding/challenging.

Which just sounds all kinds of silly. Just because some people won’t appreciate it doesn’t mean that a lot won’t, and again, there’s a larger number of older players now. As for it being too challenging – well the Maison is pretty darn challenging too! It just doesn’t offer the same variety Battle Frontier did with mazes or rental Pokémon battles, it’s simply vanilla battles with the option of teaming up with someone else. Meanwhile, they made the likes of Secret Bases more ‘demanding’ in a way – you never had to collect hundreds of flags for rewards before, after all, let alone a thousand for a Mega Stone.

Granted, a valid way to view this response is to take it as a business-minded lie. They may have simply run out of time to throw in yet another feature into a pretty jam-packed remake. We’ve also had three games in three years (B2W2, XY and now ORAS), and five in six years (add in BW and HGSS). That’s a lot of games being pushed out! Meanwhile, saying that they didn’t have time to fully finish the game isn’t the best PR to give. You don’t want to risk a decrease to future game sales from things like this, even if your franchise is Pokemon. And if they were so inclined, that DLC option is always there, even as a free update. But it’s still a missed part of the games. Throwing in a copy-paste job isn’t as meaningful when you know the original games had the same thing, just better than what we actually got. It also couples with the absence of trainer customisation, a much loved feature from XY.

But that’s enough ranting. Because overall I still feel ORAS did a good job in being a remake, and it offered more to do postgame than XY as well beyond simply catching and training them all – and in that regards it made it much more fun as well in DexNav and the Soaring mechanic. And some things on this list were rather hopeful, and even then the story felt better done than the original, which surprised me.

What were your pros and cons about the new games? Did you disagree with any of the above assessments? Share them in the comments!

Written by bobandbill
Edited by An-chan, Bay Alexison and Dramatic Melody

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2 Responses to “From RSE to ORAS – what has improved?”

  1. Eureka Says:

    I’m just going to say that while I agree with the cut trees, smashed rocks should still regenerate, on account that items can be randomly gained from smashing rocks. I very much enjoy smashing every rock in sight to get more items.

  2. bobandbill Says:

    Yeah, I can agree with that, Eureka. I’m fine with Rock Smash mechanics working as they have thus far – I’d just rather than in the case of ORAS that rock smash rocks didn’t block the routes north of New Mauville. That’s just annoying game design. Thank goodness for Soaring at least?

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