Pokémon might look the same to outsiders, but there are numerous changes, whether big or small, that affect the gameplay in some way. Generation 6 of the Pokémon games made one of the biggest changes to the series - with the transition to 3D models instead of sprites, as well as introducing the fairy type - and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, the next set of games in Generation 6, offer even more to change up the game.
Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are remakes of the Generation 3 main games - Ruby and Sapphire - a generation that gave us many new additions to the formula. And since these are remakes, there are numerous retro nods to the games they are remade from. When you first start the game, you'll think you've gone back to 2003, as the introduction starts with the exact same sprites and words from those previous games.
It then shows that this is 2014, that this is a new game, by showing you the inside of the lorry you are in from a first-person point of view. The game itself is still played in third person, so it is cool that they gave us that view to begin the game. Other retro nods include the map display being the exact same graphic as it was in the previous game, and all the graphics for the DexNav being in sprite form - exactly looking like the previous games.
Gameplay, then. We start the same way as any other game - starting at a small town before setting out to meet the professor and choosing your first Pokémon. Movement in the overworld is unlocked, and we don't have uber fast skates to fight for control with. Using the D-Pad reverts control back to a standard 8-way mode, and in buildings is locked at that - no matter whether using the circle pad or D-pad. Battles play out in much the same way as before, with choosing a move to whittle down the opponent's HP, and fighting until it reaches zero. Nothing seems to have changed.
But the battling and the moving aren't changed. Yeah, there's the new sneak move, which allows slow movement to creep up on Pokémon that reveal themselves, but apart from that, the features are more in how you move with Pokémon and how you capture them.
First off, as mentioned earlier, is the DexNav. At its most basic form, it shows you what Pokémon you have caught in an area. As you learn though (pretty early on) it can also scan for Pokémon, and when you get close enough, tell you certain facts about them. The more you encounter of one particular Pokémon, the higher the scan level and the more you'll be able to find out about one of that species you scan.
Level, first move, ability and more, and an exclamation mark appears above any that is above average. This is a good system for telling if a Pokémon has any Egg Moves (moves it can only gain by breeding) or hidden abilities.
Next in line is flight. The ability to fly has always been in Pokémon, but you could only visit towns that you had previously visited. That has now been extended to all routes and places on the map. Also a part of flight is the Eon Flute. At a certain point in the story, you'll get a Latios or Latias with its Mega Stone, and with the Eon Flute you can summon one of them and fly on their back.
Yes, just like surfing, you can now control a Pokémon in flight - even if it is just limited to two. While in the air, you'll be able to fight wild flying types [though thankfully the battles are only triggered by flying into a flock of generic flying shadows], and hunt down mystery islands. These islands have Pokémon rare for Hoenn found on them, as well as the chance to capture Legendries. On some islands, there'll be a hoop with a portal. This is the gateway to challenging Legendries, and they can be rematched if you defeat them.
I find the new features add to the gameplay, and feel much more content using the new flying method, even if it is slower than the normal method. Not needing a flying type with you all the time really helps to build a better team, though some flying types do have a second typing and will help in gameplay - so it really depends on if you really want a flying type on your team.
Battles haven't had anything new added to them, but after the flashier show of battles introduced this generation with X and Y, the only thing they could really have improved is the frame drops during battles. These haven't been improved, but as before, don't really affect the presentation that much.
The music has been much improved from the GBA, and the tunes are still intact. They are recognisable to long-time fans, and for the newer crowd are a treat for the ears. As well as being on top form, the tunes feel in the right places.
There isn't much more for me to say, other than online functionality is still present. Battling trainers or trading with them, even using the Global Trade Station to try and snag something good, or Wonder Trade in the hope of getting something good, the online works as needed. It's smooth. Local multiplayer is included for both battles and trades. Streetpassing people will get you their Secret Base, which you'll be able to visit and explore, as well as battle the owner.
Post game is good, and nets you two extra Legendries (well, if you catch them), and explores the origin of Mega Evolution. Mega Evolution was introduced in X and Y with the feeling that it was recently discovered, but that ancients had been researching it. With Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, the story of how Mega Evolution came to be is told, as well as connects XY with ORAS, more so than any other generation of Pokémon game has been connected.
The game is definitely worth a purchase, even if you're just a general fan of JRPGs. All of what makes a JRPG are present here, and everything (apart from the occasional frame dip in battles) is smooth and polished. The development team have kept a bit too closely to the original map design, meaning with the new 3D paint, the world looks a bit odd. Not dysfunctional, but it has the feeling that everything is still on a 2D plane.
In other words, they are layers that you traverse; not the feeling of walking up or down a slope. Again, it's not too affecting on gameplay. And so, with battles being the main part of the game, as well as the exploration, and both of those parts working great, this game is worth a recommendation.