The Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire demo may be light on content, but it does demonstrate how simple and satisfying the series is and has been for years.
The Pokemon routine–talk, explore, battle–is almost rhythmically paced. It’s a loop, not unlike say, Diablo’s endless click and loot cycle. It’s like a song in your head. And for people like me, who have grown up playing each newly titled game, it’s muscle memory. Someone can hand you a Pokemon game hours deep into their journey, and you can still pick it up and know what to do. I don’t think this is appreciated enough. Good games, like Tetris and Mario, have this quality to them. There’s no fluff, no needlessly complex additions, no game-changing tweaks. It’s always just Pokemon, and that’s all right with me.
The demo is Pokemon, but, through its constraints, it reveals another layer to the series’ brilliance. It can be condensed to its finest elements, that core routine, and still be effective.
The new demo is about 15 minutes long. But it’s meant to be replayed at least nine more times to earn all the goodies for the full game. It’s still a demo, a pseudo piece of marketing for the real game, but it’s that simplicity that makes it unique.
You talk to a professor; he gives you a quest; you say no thanks and explore the little city of people who can’t hear you; then you tell the professor yes; you fly, on a Pokemon of course, to the location; you fight other trainers in the grass; and you save the day. Then you do it again, all while earning two Pokemon, two Pokeballs, and two items for your efforts.
There is no grinding levels for your Pokemon. They’re automatically where you need them, which is just high enough to almost insta-kill most of your foes, most. It also throws in the ability to mega evolve, although without much challenge it feels more like hype than a helpful mechanic.
Best of all, it lets you play in bursts. So, if you’re busy playing the buckets of new releases this holiday, you can try to get your hands on the demo and play it like a side dish to your big blockbuster main course. I found that it’s really interesting to play something so light-hearted and self-serious with a wild, not-serious game like Sunset Overdrive. Whatever works for you.
But you should try to play it and discover how even refined to its most basic mechanics, Pokemon is still Pokemon.
Both games are out tomorrow, Nov. 21.