The Best and Worst of Pokemon Remakes: Part One

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The Best and Worst of Pokemon Remakes: Part One

Good morning everybody! I would like to thank all those who gave me great feedback on my reviews of the mainline Pokemon games. It was satisfying replaying the original titles — from the embryonic Red and Blue, all the way up to Sword and Shield.

My playthrough of Pokemon Scarlet is still unfinished. I expected to complete it by now, but I’ve spent a lot of time procrastinating and exploring the region. For all its faults, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are addictive! I’ll wait until I complete the main story as well as the post-game events before I start writing my review on that one. I’ve got a lot to say about it, both the good and the bad. I won’t be surprised if it ends up as long as my Cyberpunk article from 2021. I still need to complete my retrospective of that. Oops.

Since I wrote that series, several people asked me: “What do you think about the remakes? Will you write a series about that?” Why not? I also had a couple of people think I was mad for liking Sword and Shield. How dare I enjoy a game they hate! My Scarlet review is going to be entertaining, at least.

So — let us begin! It allowed me to replay some of the remakes I’m less versed in, as well as return to my favourites. There are five generations of Pokemon remakes. Well, six, if we include New Pokemon Snap. While I enjoyed that remake, it’s not something I’ll cover in this series. These are for the mainline games only.

Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green

The first remakes were fairly obvious. By the time of the Gameboy Advance, fans were salivating at the prospect of playing a revamped version of Kanto. By this time, I did not own a Game Boy Advance, so I was unable to play Generation III on release.

The remakes of Pokemon Red and Blue made excellent first impressions. While the original Kanto games are dated experiences, Game Freak made an impressive job with these remakes. Even now, I’m still surprised by how solid they are to play. Along with Pokemon X and Y, I’d recommend Fire Red and Leaf Green among the first games in the series for newcomers. They aren’t too complex, with the same strengths as the original Kanto games while fixing most of their issues.

Despite the gorgeous tile palette of the Hohnn games, Game Freak decided upon a different tile set for the Kanto remakes. While this wasn’t a bad choice, I do sometimes wish they stuck to Emerald’s graphics. Regardless, playing Fire Red for the first time was a gigantic leap from the originals. This is a faithful remake from the ground up — every main event from Red and Blue has been transferred to the new Kanto. With the additions to the franchise — like held items, abilities, breeding, and the expanded Pokedex — the Kanto remakes just feel like a little bit of everything.

They aren’t entirely a 1:1 remake, of course. One problem with the original games was a lack of additional content. Being the Game Boy mascot and the start of the video game franchise, this isn’t something I can hold against them, but Game Freak made some attempts to add more content. The Sevii islands provide a chunky piece of additional content to devour, with an opportunity to explore part of it after Cinnabar Island. In a generation where the story was always lacking, the extra plotlines in the Sevii islands are a welcome addition. With a few little sidequests, the revival of Team Rocket, and the arrival of Johto Pokemon once you gain the National Pokedex, there’s a lot to enjoy. They even added the Battle Tower. While I’m still disappointed they didn’t include Emerald’s Battle Frontier in these remakes, it’s still a nice touch.

Fire Red and Leaf Green are, overall, great remakes of their time. In terms of flaws, I cannot think of any glaring issues. I guess Giovanni’s gym battle has two Rhyhorns, instead of a Rhyhorn and a Rhydon from the originals? I never understood why he was nerfed. He’s easy enough as it is!

I also wish they added some different boss battle lineups, I guess? They had opportunities to change things up a little. After completing the Loreli/Moltres questline, the Elite Four increases in difficulty, including Johto Pokemon, but there is no way to rematch the gym leaders, which is a missed opportunity.

These are minor nitpicks. While they aren’t my favourite remakes, Fire Red and Leaf Green are great games.

Faithful remakes to the Game Boy generationSome trainer choices are weird (GIOVANNI WITH TWO RHYHORNS)
The modern improvements are applied well in the remakesSome missed opportunity
Some solid new content, with the Sevii Islands and additional storylines
Inclusion of Johto Pokemon
Elite Four rematches

Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver

Oh, man. I felt so much excitement for these remakes when they were first announced. While I have been fairly critical of the original Johto games, they were still groundbreaking for their time. Seeing them reborn on the Nintendo DS was a wonderful thing.

I’ve played through these remakes more than any other, either as a vanilla experience, or playing through one of the several romhacks. Drayano’s Sacred Gold and Storm Silver are the definitive versions in my eyes, and he’s been working on a sequel. I have hundreds of hours in the Gold/Silver remakes, and they go a long way towards improving the problems I had with the originals. They aren’t perfect — and I will go into detail later —, but they are solid upgrades.

First, the remakes look incredible. Generation Four was a major advancement in visual design for the Pokemon franchise, and Johto was remade in beautiful clarity. While I wish the region itself was more diverse, Heart Gold and Soul Silver are a delight to experience. The graphics are vibrant, and they look better even than the Sinnoh generation.

They also fixed the problems with Kanto. In the originals, the Kanto postgame was gutted due to lack of space, but every part of Kanto was redesigned for the remake. Everything from the originals is replicated properly inside Heart Gold and Soul Silver — from Viridian Forest and Mount Moon, all the way to the Unknown Dungeon and Seafoam Islands. They even revived the Safari Zone, bringing it into the Johto region with a solid lore explanation of why (The warden moved) and brought a customization update. After the miserable experience of playing the original Johto games within Kanto, seeing everything brought to life was a lovely reunion. With all the Kanto legendaries returning, it was everything I wished for in the first games. Never too late, I suppose.

These remakes added the following Pokemon mechanic — an awesome move that has rarely been attempted since. We had it in Yellow (only Pikachu, of course), but this was the first time that every known Pokemon could follow you on your journey. It made things more personal, and it’s a beautiful added touch. It annoys me when Game Freak doesn’t continue things. Scarlet and Violet do the following mechanic reasonably well, but Heart Gold and Soul Silver were when it all began.

Just like with the Red and Blue remakes, another generation of Pokemon brought several major changes to the franchise, and the Johto remakes benefited from every improvement. Most significant was the physical/special split, which certainly helped Totodile. Now my little water crocodile is no longer useless! This change solved several problems with the older games — Sneasel was a fast, powerful Pokemon, but in the old games it was virtually useless because stats were based on the typing allocated. With both Ice and Dark typing being special, its main attacks ran off its appalling special attack stat.

What amazes me about this remake is how much they packed into it. Without taking into account two full regions to explore, DS Johto brought so much more to the table. They gave players the Platinum Battle Frontier, a much-improved facility to Emerald’s version in my eyes, as well as a cool minigame front in the Pokeathlon. Even though some of the games were frustrating, it’s a great piece of content that has some cool rewards. With Kanto revived in its full glory, all the legendaries you can catch, Gym Leader rematches, and even some awesome, unique events. I wish those events were made available as part of the base game, though. The Arceus and Celebi events were my favourites. Even Team Rocket saw positive changes, with the admins finally receiving names! Yay.

While these remakes are deeply enjoyable, they weren’t perfect. For all the improvements Heart Gold and Soul Silver made to Johto, they didn’t fix everything. The level curve/difficulty balance is still a mess due to the non-linear design of the region. The remakes made some adjustments to boss lineups, but the games are still too easy for me. They also got rid of the slot machines in Goldenrod, replacing them with a dull Voltorb Flip minigame.

While Pokemon distribution was slightly improved in these remakes, they are still a weak point. Evolution methods are still locked to the post-game for some, and Johto did not fix the problems they had in the originals – give me Houndour and Murkrow in Johto, damn it! Finally, while Kanto was leaps and bounds above the disappointing, butchered slice of meat we had in the Game Boy Color days, things could have been done better — and the Kanto postgame is still a slog for me to push through to this day.

In conclusion, while the remakes still carry some scars from the good old days, Heart Gold and Soul Silver are great ways to replay the past. While I wish Game Freak did more with them, they are still probably my favourite Pokemon remakes up until now — and great games in their own right. There’s a reason why HGSS are many people’s favourite Pokemon games of all time, after all.

Improves upon many parts of the original gamesVoltorb Flip
Following PokemonA missed opportunity to fix the poor boss battles from the originals
Extended postgame and contentThe level curve is still unbalanced
Gym Leader Rematches
Kanto’s redesign

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

The 3DS era of Pokemon games was a strange bunch. X and Y brought some great additions to the franchise. The excellent online functionality, easy EV training, and the arrival of the Fairy Type and Mega Evolution were all bright spots for Gen 6, but the uninspired characters, easy difficulty, and unfinished feel dragged these games down. They might be deeply flawed, but they have grown on me in recent years.

Despite these shortcomings, I was hyped for a 3DS-era remake of the Ruby and Sapphire games. Gen 3 — particularly Emerald — was one of my favourite Pokemon games of all time, so I was intrigued by how they would go about a remake. With the previous two Pokemon remakes holding up well, they had a lot to live up to! Released in 2014, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire took the world by storm, and I remember buying Omega Ruby on launch day. It was a cool event — so many people queued up to buy it. I rarely got into that charade, but it was pretty memorable! I remember hanging out with friends afterward, all of us playing on our 3DSs while eating Nandos.

And now I want chicken. Back on the script, Michael.

I’ll shove the elephant out of the room first. ORAS omitted the incredible Battle Frontier from Emerald. That was a big disappointment and a missed opportunity for the remake. Choosing to stick to the Ruby/Sapphire story meant losing some of Emerald’s major improvements. I don’t get what the design decisions involved with that. The Battle Frontier is one of the coolest parts of the whole franchise. Why voluntarily remove it? It’s not just that, however. As much as I’ve enjoyed my time with these games, they feel slightly hollow compared to the first two remakes, especially Heart Gold and Soul Silver.

I’ll be honest — my first playthrough of Omega Ruby did not end well. While I deeply enjoyed my early impressions, back in 2014 I lost interest over time. I remember reaching the Cave of Origin and…I stopped playing it. In fact, it wasn’t until 2021 before I played them again, this time emulating it on my Moqi i7s. I’ve completed ORAS multiple times since, but I can’t explain what prevented me from enjoying it the first time around.

The 3DS era was kind on Hoenn. Taking a leaf from X/Y, every inch of ORAS was rebuilt from the ground up. Some places received an overhaul, like Mauville City transforming into the main hub of the region, while the overall visuals are improved. One of my favourite parts of Gen 3 was the music, which has been brought into the remakes with stunning clarity. Listening to the soundtrack while exploring new Hoenn is always a delight.

While ORAS included all the great functionality X/Y received, they also had a new feature — the Dexnav. Being able to search for rare Pokemon on any route, some with unique moves not commonly seen unless during breeding, was a great feature. On my first route, I caught a Poochyena with elemental fangs, and it proved to be a powerful force in the early game. It’s little things like this that bring joy. While the new additions aren’t groundbreaking, they are a nice touch. They also added the Eon Flute — an awesome feature to soar around Hoenn while riding a Latios or Latias. While receiving a free, superpowered legendary Pokemon halfway through the story makes the game even easier, the ability to fly around the region is great, and it opens up some extra content for the player.

One of my issues with Gen 3 as a whole was the same issue I had with X/Y — uninspired characters and story. The remakes inject some much-needed life into Hoenn’s cast. Everyone receives an overhaul to their personality, and it’s refreshing. Team Aqua and Magma saw the greatest improvements — the admins have new personalities, and I found Maxie/Archie more likable. Steven Stone is badass as always, and the Champion battle against him feels more personal, especially when he brings that deadly Mega Metagross!

While the loss of the Battle Frontier hurts the postgame, ORAS included a well-written Delta Episode, introducing the overpowered Mega Rayquaza in a strong storyline that kept me invested throughout. While it’s a nice inclusion, the missing features from Emerald stick out, especially the loss of Gym Leader rematches. It’s unfortunate.

Mega Evolution made a fancy return to the Hoenn remakes, including over twenty new additions. They were able to weave the lore into Hoenn’s backstory fairly well, and you unlock the power after defeating your father Norman at Petalburg. While ORAS makes a few adjustments to the boss battles, the casual vibe from X/Y makes itself painfully clear. These are easy games — your Mega Starter, not to mention the free Mega Latios/Latios shortly after Norman makes the rest of the game a joke. During my most recent playthrough of Omega Ruby, I completed the main story and Delta Episode within 15 hours while barely breaking a sweat, without grinding, and catching very few Pokemon along the way.

In conclusion, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are enjoyable remakes, but the decision not to incorporate improvements from Emerald means that they aren’t the remakes they could have been. For all the improved visuals, beautiful music, and new features, they weren’t on the same level as the first two generations of remakes. Despite this, I play them to this day. There’s something about them.

A modern remake of an old generationThe lack of Emerald features was a misstep
Improved characters and a more emotional storyToo easy
The DexnavWhile improved, the narrative of Hoenn is still a weak point
New Mega Evolutions are greatNot as groundbreaking as a remake could be
Soaring atop a Latios/Latias never gets old
Delta Episode

Conclusion and Updates

It’s been a while since my last article, so I want to keep people updated on my plans for the coming weeks. I prefer being as transparent as possible when I write about these things, and it’s better to keep people involved!

First, is a major change to my current life routine. I’ve recently started a new job, so my activity on the website is likely to decrease while I get used to my new schedule. I have many reviews in the works, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you all.

It’s been a busy start for gaming this year, with several big releases already. I had a great 33rd birthday a couple of weeks ago, receiving a slew of great games from friends and family. That means I’m not going to be dry on content for you all!

Join me next time, when I’ll review Let’s Go! Pikachu/Eevee as well as… sighs the recent Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

About the Author

TheThousandScarAuthor/Blogger/Cartographer/Streamer/Narrative Game Writer/I play far too many games. |

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