Review: Pokemon Alpha Sapphire & Omega Ruby
Pokemon, the enchanted story of ineffable kinship between human beings and virtual creatures That has been perpetually nourishing for almost two decades strong and counting. As one of millions of gamers dwelling God’s green earth and more importantly as a gamer a couple of months shy from his 25th year, I can wholeheartedly say that the emotional ties that have been bounding me with Pokemons since day one, since there were only a hundred and fifty Pokemons, are getting tighter vehemently and intimately because the charm of Pokemon persists and persists, shows no rust and wonderfully whethers the turbulent storm of time.
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire marks the third remake of the beloved RPG series after Fire Red and Leaf Green, Heart Gold and Soul Silver, in contrary to the previous remakes which had minor graphical improvements here and there, ORAS (the acronym for Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire) is a humongous leap forward in many terms all thanks to the graphical and technical prowess of the 3DS as it uses the same engine used in Pokemon’s 3DS’s inaugural iteration; Pokemon X and Y. Taking the advantage of the aforementioned boons of the 3DS to the fullest the semi-archipelago region of Hoenn have been breathed life anew, as a result; the decade old game is hit by winds of rejuvenation which in turn have transformed the bewildering world of Hoenn into much more beautiful 3D look with all of it’s joviality and euphoria.
That being said revisiting the cities and places so familiar with after all these years will instill a delicious pangs of nostalgia to your pores that you will revel in its exquisite feel throughout your gameplay.The game, as the series’ aficionados are so well acquainted with; first name basis, puts you in the shoes of a greenhorn, novice Pokemon trainer who is newly relocated and whose next of kin is a key character in the region WHOSE in turn by some way or another happens to be a friend of the region’s reverend professor.
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire marks the third remake of the beloved RPG series
There is nothing interesting whatsoever in the plot here, nothing in the slightest; your goal here is to choose your first Pokemon; initially, from a trio of starters and set sail for your maiden voyage in Pokemon mastery that necessitates outshining a group of extremely skilled trainers called: gym leaders.
Emboldened by your team of trusty Pokemons you will thwart the heinous schemes of perilous group of goons associated with your version (Team Aqua for Alpha Sapphire and Team Magma for Omega Ruby) claim your prized legendary Pokemon, and dethrone the returning champion, the dreamboat himself: Steven Stone by going through a tooth and nails battles with the super skilled trainers; The Elite Four.
Sadly; there is not even one iota of originality in the story. The same antiquated two decades old structure remains intact by the winds of rejuvenation. Granted granted granted, touche my friend, clinging on the old story structure might be plausible and reasonable enough giving the fact that this is a remake of an old game which in turn coerce us to give the developers some slack, but; the fact that GameFreak is, to their infinite wisdom, so tightly clinging to a story structure inches away from being defunct without throwing in game narratives here and there (with the exception of helping Latios/Latias quest with Steven, which felt fresh despite being short.) drives me up the wall, froth in the mouth, and gives my faculties a run of a lifetime for it’s money trying so desperately to absorb the reason why of sticking to ailing and aging story structure…is there a sort of sterility in their creativity? Or perhaps they are plagued with a chronic notion bankruptcy?
Quite frankly I don’t think so, but after going through the story I could not mask the look of distaste in my face as I seriously think that this is the time for GameFreak to finally relent by chopping the perennial thorn that is the story structure and hit brand new grounds in story telling approach as they did in the amazing post game story: The Delta Episode which kept the forlorn hopes at bay and swelled my heart with optimism for a different approach in the future iterations.
The gameplay in the other hand; had also remained intact by the winds of rejuvenation. However, contrary to the story, this is not a bad thing…as it is as brilliant as ever. That being said; the trio of: catching, training, and battling, collectively form the raison d’être of every RPG Pokemon game. Basically, you catch a Pokemon by sicking your own Pokemon on it untill you drop its HP to the critical point and follow up by throwing a special ball called the Poke balls toward the teetering Pokemon, take your captured Pokes to either wild pokemon or trainer battles ubiquitous all around the world in order to amass experience points and level your Pokemon up.
The battle system, although very simple on the surface it is in its essence extremely deep, addictive, and stuffed to the brim with pure unadulterated joy that make your gamer appetite dance with mirth. The inclusion of abilities, types, natures, weaknesse, immunity, among a plethora of other elements make the battle system such a deep and strategic feat which means that every move taken and every item held by a Pokemon counts.
The gameplay in the other hand; had also remained intact by the winds of rejuvenation
It is literally and figuratively a deep system that necessitates spending hours on end adoring your Pokes by leveling them up, amending to them, taking them to super trainings and assigning each and every one of them with a proper repertoire of moves in order to give yourself an edge over your opponents in fierce battles waged either online with real players around the world or with AI controlled ones.
Speaking of the fierce battles, the online battles are the real deal here, the moment that my Pinsir started locking horns with a Japanese gamers’ Rhyhorn, I had an adrenaline rush, my pulse quickened, and breath held in anxiety and anticipation of what move the Japanese lad will hit me with and as both of you go on sicking your Pokemons on each other, tides and tabels turning with each stroke of genius act or a minor misstep of fumble maladroit, you will realize how challenging and fun the battles with human players are because it requires you to pit your wit and strategic expertise in order to not keel over in the scorching heat of battles.
Unfortunately, as me and my squad of trusty Pokemons profusely sweated in the online battles…we did not even drop a single droplet of sweat in the computer controlled AI battles that is because the vast majority of the battles I went through over the course of the story was an outright, yes I underscore it; outright one-sided battles that felt like a small time skirmishes in comparison to the big time war like atmosphere of the online battles.
That have made the AI battles excruciatingly boring and to kick your dissatisfied gamer’s appetite while it is down, the boredom reflects negatively on the overall experience of the story mode as if the dead weight of the aging structure of it is not enough. There is no challenge whatsoever as I won’t be exaggerating when I say that even after the supposedly challenging gym leader battles; your Pokemons will emerge unscathed. Moreover; you can bulldoze your way through the game with a single overpowered Pokemon, save for the more challenging Elite Four and the champion battles in which having an eclectic team of Pokemons will stand you in good stead…or better yet, here is a tidbit that you can thank me for later, ditch the latter method of forming an eclectic team of Pokes and embrace the former one, just finish the story mode in a breakneck speed.
Pokemon ORAS comes stuffed with a myriad of features, both old and new. The features associated with the original Ruby and Sapphire make their return here, from the berry harvesting, all the way through berry crush mini game and the secret base, to the Pokemon contests are here. Although the first two remain intact the last two in the other hand are given improvements here and there. For starters; you can now decorate your base in 3D to your heart’s content, share it with your friends and even turn it as a battle venue, bluntly; although fun and enjoyable in some way or another, I was not very enamored neither with it nor with the Pokemon contests that your Pokemons can participate in it in a showoff mini game where you dress your cuties with a plethora of clothes and accessories with the goal of impressing the judges and spectators simultaneously. The problem here is the vagueness of how the mechanics of impressing work, it is downright ambiguous that makes each session a random picking of a move and waiting for a random verdict from the judges.
Pokemon ORAS comes stuffed with a myriad of features, both old and new
Consequently; I can definitely say that both of the aforementioned mini games feel superfluous and rather big time boondoggle after I tried so many times to indulge myself in them by the off chance I might churn out an ounce or two of fun and enjoyment but to no avail as the conclusion was crystal clear after each session: my boat stood still and did not float.
However; what am I literally enamored with is the all new feature: the Pokemon search app. Now as you traverse patches of grass, body of waters, and murky caves you oftentimes hear a disembodied cry of a Pokemon nearby and you as well see a tail or a head of a Pokemon protruding from said terrains, herein; the application, which is on the lower screen of the 3DS, will show you a shaded image of the hiding Pokemon alongside other juicy information like it’s nature, ability, and rare egg moves obtainable only by a series of breeding. Anyways, you have to approach the Pokemon silently and slowly, tiptoe your way to it by gently tilting the analog stick, otherwise they will run away from your grasp.
Pokemon ORAS utilizes and incorporates the features that made their debuts in X and Y versions, the Player Search System widely known by it’s acronym: PSS, the popular Wonder Trade, where you deposit a Pokemon without choosing which Pokemon you want in return are all here, not to mention the revamped feature that I believe that the vast majority of Poke manicas are fallen head over heels to: the GTS (too much acronyms, I know I know.) the Global Trading Station which is am immaculate method of trading and completing your Pokedex.
When we talk about features that debuted in X and Y we cannot neglect one of the coolest features this series have ever witnessed: the mega evolutions. This new method of evolution boosts the stats of the evolved Pokemon beyond the limits and transforms them into a super cool looking badass (Mega Lucario, anyone ?) and it is unique as it occurs when a mega stone held by a mega evolution-able Pokemon, and a Mega bracelet strapped around the players wrist are exposed to each other. Unlike the the normal evolution this one right here occurs only in battles and your Pokemon will return to it’s form after the battles wrap up and dust settles.
What is really neat here is the fact that ORAS expands open the Mega Evolutions and presents a wide variety of all new mega evolutions, a particular Pokemon that evolves without a mega stone, and the honest to God awesomeness: the primal reversion that devolves the mythical Pokemons Groudun and Kyogre to their devastating primal forms. The notion of Mega Evolutions are extremely neat because it holds infinite possibilities that will easily prolong the amazing life of the two decades old Pokemon to excessive amount of years. I am already feeling a pang of jealousy for the future posterity as I can picture them bragging about their giga evolutions.
Graphic wise, the game is simply beautiful and mesmerizing and breathtaking, all thanks to the prowess of the 3DS, as a result of taking advantage of the 3DS’s power; naturally, the captivating world of Hoenn is much much more exuberant and vivacious than ever (Although it shows it’s simplicity when it is compared with the much modren Kalos region.).
More importantly, the massive 719 Pokemons have been breathed a new life as well, as in X and Y, every single Pokemon are now animating with sheer exuberant life contrary to the inanimate sprites of the older iterations of the series. Each and every single creature now are so beautifully and tenderly designed that you will spend hours on end feasting your eyes on them, seeing them move and blink their eyes is the materialization of a much yearned for childhood dream for the series veterans like myself. From innocuous cuties like Jygllypuff to the mean looking ones like Tyranitar the number of Pokemons are thick and massive on the ground but no worries here Jack, it is easy to thin the numbers as you find yourself subconsciously doting on certain Pokemons and eventually forming your favorite squad.
Breeding and raising Pokemons are much easier now, thanks to the inclusion of the O-Powers’ EXP multiplier effect and the well known EXP share item’s new mechanic in dividing the experience points you earn after each battle. By utilizing these your time spent leveling up your Pokemons are now way more productive and prolific.
And what prompt us to kneel, hats in our hands in a gesture of gratitude for the lads at GameFreak is for their great decency by making the ambiguous AV training much less ambiguous by introducing the super training mini games that your Pokemons can participate in and earn points. First introduced in X and Y, there is now a visible meter and a diagram that clearly shows the stats (Attack, Defense, speed, and etc.) and the points allocated to each of them.
After all these years; Pokemon is Pokemon, the uplifting and upbeat nature of the series persists, sadly…so does some of it’s antiquated and ailing structure (Story mode…I’m pointing my finger at you.) but not everything is all despondent and gloom, the ability to hover on the top of Hoenn later in the game in a JRPG-esque, the compelling narrative structure introduced with the Delta Episode infuse us with a perpetual influx of positive waves for the future of the series. The battles, especially the online battles, are as addictive and as challenging as ever, the 3D effects are brilliant and the game runs seamlessly and smoothly save for a minor hiccups when there are more than two Pokemons on the screen and finally the real deal, the main game, and the true nature of ORAS unlocks after the 20 something hours of excruciatingly boring story mode as there are an endless array of contents that await you, so it is strenuously recommended to gird up the loins and go through the game as fast as possible.
Now cue the million dollar question; ”Should I invest my time and money for the game?” Hell frigging yes Jack you must! Whether if you are a newcomer overwhelmed and hindered by reluctance on the threshold of the enchanted world of Pokemon or a die-hard aficionado like myself. For the former: flush and ditch your inexplicable reluctance away and step over to a world of one of the greatest video game series of all times, a series that will without a shroud of doubt mark it’s indelible mark in your memory, and for the latter: the game is rife with new additions and tweaks that help make this feel like a fresh new experience, there is nothing to dissuade you here, no no no, in fact there is so much to persuade you, the beautiful recreation of Hoenn in 3D, the all new mega evolutions which practically means there are a dozen of new Pokemons here, to name a few will guaran-damn-tee you that this is a helluva bang for your buck.
Pokemon Alpha Sapphire was reviewed using a Nintendo 3DS copy of the game purchased by the reviewer. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
Editor’s note: This review is based on the Alpha Sapphire version. The comparison with Omega Ruby has been made based on colleague’s experience and came to a conclusion that there is a neat and welcome break from the well known tradition of the two distinctive version. Excluding the main legendary and some Pokemon, in addition to a subtle difference in the plot between the two versions there are ample lot of common grounds between them, case in point: every single mega stones are available and a lot of other stuffs that I like to feel the joy and satisfaction of discovering it yourselves.
• The post game contents.
• The Delta Episode.
• Battles are still as addictive as ever.
• All new mega evolutions.
• Primal Reversions.
• Hoenn looks outstanding in 3D.
• A whole lot of legendary Pokemon to capture
• Ailing and outdated story mode.
• The super training proves to be arduous and time consuming.
• The Pokemon contests and super base elements are rather superfluous and may not appeal to everyone.