Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha are huge games. In my review I touted them as excellent entry points for beginners, but they can still be overwhelming if you've never picked up the series before. Use this guide to help you get started as you explore the Hoenn region.
Should you play Pokémon Omega Ruby or Pokémon Alpha Sapphire?
The version you choose has a fairly substantial impact on your playing experience this time around; more even than in most Pokémon games. While the story is consistent in both, the enemies are different, with Omega Ruby featuring the fire-focused Team Magma and Alpha Sapphire featuring the water-focused Team Aqua. Team Magma and Team Aqua are seeking Groudon and Kygogre respectively; and depending on which version you choose, you will have a chance to catch one of these legendary monsters.
Keep in mind that no matter which version you choose, you should have a relatively easy time collecting the monsters from the other version, even legendaries like Kyogre. The best way to find version-exclusive monsters is to go on the Global Trade System via the PSS menu feature and start searching. One really good way to get good monsters if to offer up starter Pokémon, with monsters like Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur always being hot commodities..
Here is a list of version exclusives to help you out.
Pokémon Omega Ruby exclusives
- Seedot, Nuzleaf, and Shiftry
Pokémon Alpha Sapphire exclusives
- Lotad, Lombre, Ludicolo
Choosing a starter
Regardless of which version you choose, you will have access to one of three starters from the Hoenn region: Torchic, Mudkip, and Treecko.
Torchic evolves into the powerful Fire/Fighting-type Blaziken. It's a tad slow without its Speed Boost hidden ability, but it packs a real punch against gym leaders. Picking Torchic will make the first gym leader, who uses Rock-type monsters, somewhat more difficult, but will allow you to blitz the Elite 4 and the Champion with relative ease much later.
Mudkip evolves into the tank-like Water/Ground-type Swampert. Swampert's survivability is excellent, and it gains some very nice offensive abilities with its Mega Evolution. It is the most balanced of the three.
Treecko evolves into Sceptile, which is very powerful against the game's numerous Water-type monsters. If you choose Treecko, make sure to teach it Rock Tomb after the first gym, as it will come in very handy later.
Learning the basics
Now that you've squared away all the important decisions, it's time to actually play Pokémon X and Y. If you're new to the franchise, I'd recommend taking a long, hard look at the type effectiveness chart below:
Some of this stuff makes enough sense that you won't likely need to reference the chart too often. It seems pretty obvious that an Ice attack would be half as effective against a Fire target as it would be on a Normal type, after all. But the logic behind other matchups - Dark types being weak to Bug, for instance - isn't always so transparent. For that reason, I'd suggest keeping a copy of the chart handy until you've internalized the ups and downs of every type.
As of Pokémon X and Y, a few previous type matchups have also changed. Steel types no longer shrug off Ghost and Dark moves, which means formerly dominant Steel/Psychic Pokémon like Metagross and Bronzong now have all sorts of new threats to worry about.
Furthermore, X and Y's addition of Fairy types finally gives players a more reliable way to shut down powerful Dragon Pokémon. And while they're also great for dealing with Dark and Fighting types, Fairy's outright immunity to Dragon attacks provides a tremendous advantage against stuff like Outrage-spamming Haxorus and Garchomp. In that light, you would be well-served to seek out a Ralts on Route 102, which eventually evolves into the powerful Psychic/Fairy-type Gardevoir.
Speaking of which, training a dedicated capture Pokémon will make your life in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire a lot easier. As soon as you get the chance, teach one of your monsters the move False Swipe. This attack will always leave the opposing Pokémon with at least one point of health, thereby increasing your chances of trapping them in a Pokeball. Pokémon who can spread status ailments like Sleep or Paralysis help boost capture rates, as well.
General advice and tips
Make sure to keep yourself stocked on Pokeballs at all times. You'll need lots of them, they're cheap, and the shops will even give you a free Premier Ball for every ten Pokeballs you purchase. You'll never know when you need an Ultra Ball for a hard-to-find shiny.
Speaking of which, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire's new DexNav feature is extremely handy for finding the Pokémon you want. If you're looking for a specific monster, use the Pokedex entry to find its habitat, then head to that location. Once you've captured the monster, you can set the DexNav to home in on it so you can catch it as many times as you want. This is very useful for getting a monster with the right personality.
Take your time exploring every nook and cranny on the routes between towns. Not only will you find a lot of hidden items that way, but you'll also have more luck encountering some of the rarer Pokémon in each area. While you're at it, be sure to note any optional paths that require field moves you don't yet possess -- attacks like Surf, Strength, Cut, and Waterfall double as puzzle solutions in the overworld, and, similar to a Metroid or Zelda game, you'll want to backtrack as you gain new abilities to uncover secrets.
If you're interested in min/maxing your favorite Pokémon's stats, Super Training feature provides a streamlined option over the confounding systems from prior generations. Rather than fighting specific Pokémon hundreds of times over in order to accumulate invisible stats called Effort Values, Super Training allows you to custom tailor a Pokémon's capabilities by playing simple minigames. Just be sure to finish Super Training your Pokémon before engaging in many battles, otherwise they might gain unwanted stats in the process.
Generally speaking, you're going to want to focus on boosting two or three stat categories for any given Pokémon. Physical attackers obviously have little use for the Special Attack stat, and a Pokémon designed solely to tank hits probably won't need any investment into its Attack or Speed. Of course, part of the beauty of this system is your Pokémon are only as specialized as you want them to be, so feel free to try out the goofiest stat spreads you can think of.
Succeeding in Contests
Contests are a returning feature from the original Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. They offer a unique twist on the traditional battle mechanics, with various moves having alternate effects in a Contest environment. Contests are divided into two parts, with the goal being to have the most points by the end. You can participate in Contests emphasizing Beauty, Coolness, Toughness, Cleverness, and Cuteness, all of which emphasize different moves.
The first part of a contest is the Appeal Round. Your Pokémon will appear before the audience and earn points based on its looks. You can enhance your monster's appeal by feeding it Pokeblocks, which are mixed from berries found throughout the world. Don't ignore this element, because it is often the difference between victory and defeat.
The second part is the Talent Round. Over the course of five rounds, you will use moves to appeal to the audience. Using a move that matches the Contest's theme will build audience excitement, which is tracked via a star meter. If you reach five stars, you will be rewarded with a large number of points and a special animation. If you use a move that doesn't match the Contest's theme, you risk lowering audience excitement. This can be useful if you're afraid of your opponent getting a powerful boost.
Here are some especially strong Contest moves:
- Overheat (Beauty): Earns lots of points, but makes your monster more susceptible to being startled and losing them all. Great if you're in last place and need a boost.
- Destiny Bond (Cleverness): Earns you lots of points, but you can't move after it is used. Great for the final turn of the Talent Round.
- Mach Punch (Coolness): Lets you move earlier in the next round, which is very useful if you want to get the audience excitement bonus.
- Aerial Ace (Coolness): Great if you go first. For best results, combo it with a move that puts you at the front of the round.
- Strength (Toughness): Good, solid appealing move that will get you five points.
- Sand Attack (Cuteness): Disables the audience meter for a round.
- Charizard (two exclusive versions)
- When the main quest and Episode Delta are complete, the Battle Resort becomes available, which contains a handful of Move Tutors as well as a replica of the Battle Maison from Pokemon X and Y. In addition, you can find a variety of powerful trainers here specializing in each type. The Battle Resort is where you'll want to go to earn items useful for breeding monsters and battling.
- You can find items to buy for your Secret Base in Lilycove City and Fortree City.
- The Name Rater resides in Slateport City. He will rename your monster for you.
- There is a large shopping mall in Lilycove City where you can find a lot of essential goods like TMs. Talk to the lady at the front desk on the first floor to get a lotto number. If it matches any of your Pokémon IDs, you will win a fabulous prize.
- By the same token, most of the services from Pokémon X and Y can be found in Mauville City. That includes a Battle Cafe as well as the Battle Institute, both of which are useful for leveling up your monsters.
- Contest Halls can be found in Slateport City, Lilycove City, and Fallarbor Town. You can access all of the Contests from them without having to leave.
Winning a Contest will earn your monster a special ribbon. Win all five contests for a special piece of content that is unique to the remakes of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
Currently known Mega Evolutions include the following Pokémon:
Make the most of mega evolutions
Besides Fairy types and Super Training, Pokémon X and Y brings with it one other big addition that also impacts Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire: Mega Evolution. Upon reaching a certain point in the story, you'll unlock the ability to Mega Evolve any Pokémon in your party equipped with their corresponding Mega Stone. These secondary forms are only active during battle, but they drastically alter a Pokémon's stats, abilities, and even typing in some cases.
The games limit you to one Mega Evolved monster per six Pokémon party, so it's another tough choice on top of the hundreds of other decisions in the game. On the plus side, though, I haven't found many reasons not to Mega Evolve a Pokémon that's capable of doing so. The stat gains and strategic opportunities are just too great to ignore.
In addition to introducing a host of monsters capable of Mega Evolution, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire also introduce "Primal Evolution" for Groudon and Kygore, granting them more powerful forms if they are holding the Red Orb and Blue Orb respectively.
Here are the other Mega Evolutions introduced in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. You can find a further breakdown of the strategic implications here.
And these are the monsters capable of evolving in Pokémon X and Y, who can do the same in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire:
Places to go, people to see
I'll go ahead and wrap this thing up with a quick rundown of the important NPCs and limited-time events that dot the world of Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. Be on the lookout for this stuff as you explore Hoenn: