One of my favourite trends in modern gaming is the act of releasing a demo that stands completely apart from the retail game, offering a taste of the gameplay and a chance to acquire in-game items that can be transferred over when you purchase the full title later on, without making you replay the half-hour intro all over again. Multiple games such as Bravely Default did it, and now Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire has followed suit.
Contrary to the name, however, aside from the first (and perhaps second) playthrough, this “Special Demo” is anything but.
When you first boot up it’s pretty neat – you are visiting Mossdeep City and meet up with the local Professor Oak-like mentor of the game (I can’t remember his name), who needs your help in finding a Pokemon capable of Mega Evolution on a nearby island. Predictably, he lets you choose one of three creatures to take with you on this quest – a level 35 Grovyle, Combusken, or Marshtomp.
Throughout the course of the this playthrough your chosen partner WILL evolve into Sceptile, Blaziken, or Swampert respectively, equipped with their appropriate Mega Stone so you can check out one of the new Mega Evolutions in all its glory.
So you and your mentor travel atop his Latias or Latios (he’s got both – which one you ride on for any given trip is random) to one of the surrounding islands in search of this special Pokemon, and herein lies my first complaint.
Taking place in a maintained radius of islands, I feel like this Special Demo would have been a primo opportunity to allow players a taste of the free-flying Soar ability that was revealed last month, only allowing you to explore a finite area and land at the specific destination. Instead, you simply Fly straight there, in a boring and unskippable 5-second cutscene that happens each and every time you travel to or from an island on another quest.
Regardless, you arrive and set off to find the Pokemon. You’ve battle some trainers, your partner Pokemon will evolve, and inside of 10 or 15 minutes you’ll find yourself battling and capturing a Glalie, conveniently equipped with a Glalite Mega Stone. You then use your newfound friend in battle against an opposing force, and utilize this new Mega Evolution.
Afterward you return to the Mossdeep, your dude friend says his thanks and offers you to come back again, and a 20 to 30-second gameplay footage reel plays before you get the “Thanks for playing!” screen. You are then notified that the Glalie (plus its Glalite) can be transferred to the full Omega Ruby or Alpha Sapphire game when you buy it, and that’s a pretty sweet deal, honestly.
Then, as I mentioned before, you are able to start a second playthrough of the demo. Only, things are slightly different. For one thing, your fighting team has doubled; instead of just having a Glalie and whichever one of the three you chose, you’ll find yourself with ALL THREE final starters, with ALL of their Mega Stones.
Those three cannot be transferred to the full game, but it’s still fun to play around with them in the demo.
But that fun fades away incredibly rapidly, with the new quest being ridiculously simple fetch quest, requiring no more than 5 minutes of your time. You’ll fly to another nearby island, search for a lost child or a particular Pokemon in the long grass, or a trainer who wants to challenge you, and call it a day as soon as your objective is complete. Mr. Man will thank you again, and the same sizzle reel plays again, bringing you back again to the title screen.
This can happen as many times as you want, though the game stops tracking it after 10 playthroughs. The only incentive to play it so many times, repeating the same simple, monotonous, incredibly quick quests, is to rack up a few more items to transfer to the full game later, such as some Pokeballs and Heart Scales. But after 10 visits and 10 quests, you’ll obtain no more freebies, and you’re really just wasting your time.
I should probably mention that you’re also able to wander around Mossdeep and speak with the locals, and if you play more times the populous may change slightly, but literally nothing happens on the island, and nobody has anything of note to say. You cannot enter the buildings, there are no wandering trainers looking for a battle, and you can’t go swimming or fishing.
So really, it’s worth playing through just once to nab the free Mega Glalie, but when you’re able to complete that single quest in 15 minutes, it feels less like a demo (“special” or otherwise) and more a free gift that they could have just given a code out for instead. The only new feature you can try out in this demo is creeping in the long grass to lure/find Pokemon for certain quests, but that’s it. Other than that and the free Glalie, there’s absolutely nothing worth noting that happens, and it’s all over before you know it.
I know the full game is going to be much more engaging, much more interesting, and much more fun than this demo, but touting it as “Special” and making people jump through hoops to get a code for it is just absurd considering the content, or lack thereof.
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire release November 21 in North America exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.