Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

It has only been a few months since I played the first three entries of the Uncharted series for the first time, and whilst I was slightly underwhelmed by what is heralded as one of Sony’s flagship IP’s, I thought it would only be right to give the series a chance in Nathan Drake’s final outing. I strongly believe that playing Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection in such a close proximity to The Last of Us impacted the way I viewed the Uncharted series, as TLoU provided some of the most incredible experiences in my time spent playing games. Yet, as Uncharted 4 was developed after The Last of Us, I had high hopes that what Naughty Dog achieved in TLoU would reflect onto the latest entry in the Uncharted series. With enough time to reflect on Nathan Drake’s final adventure (I’ve written this post way later than I anticipated), I can safely say that Uncharted 4 took some of the most brilliant aspects from The Last of Us, and breathed life back into a series that could quite easily have become stagnant.

Mild spoilers follow.

The biggest problem I had with the Uncharted series prior to playing the latest entry, was that I found the characters to be pretty tiresome, characters that have been sorely overdone in not only video games but other cultural mediums. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times where main characters Nathan Drake, Elena Fisher, and Victor Sullivan, had great character moments, but overall there was something missing in their characterisation that meant I could never click with them. Playing The Last of Us, whose characters are both interesting and relatable, before playing Uncharted may have impacted the way I looked at these characters, however I’m sure someone out there would agree with me that the potential for these characters to fully shine was never realised. As Uncharted 4 was developed after TLoU, my hopes for richer characterisation of Drake & co. after the praise of TLoU‘s characters have definitely been satiated. I was initially apprehensive that introducing Samuel Drake, Nathan Drake’s long lost brother, would work well since there has never been mention of him before. Yet, his introduction was not only entirely believable, but it added layers of much needed characterisation to the long standing protagonists of the series. Through the flashback chapters to Nate’s childhood (one of my favourite parts of Drake’s Deception that I’m glad they continued) helps us understand Nate’s constant use of adventuring to run away from his problems. Nate’s abandonment by his father, and later Sam, obviously led to feelings of loneliness, and this could be the reason why in later life he partakes in life threatening adventures, so that he can dismiss these feelings. This is why Uncharted 4, in my eyes, is the defining game in the series. We can finally delve deeper into Nate’s character, with the other games only scratching the surface. The best character moments in the game are seen between Nate and Sam, and this is massively helped with the introduction of optional conversations, a feature that also added layers of great characterisation in The Last of Us. Granted, some optional conversations could be easily missed, but conversations such as one that takes place between Sam and Nate in a pub in the abandoned Libertalia, seamlessly blends comedic banter and thought provoking insights into these two characters. Enough about our male protagonists though, Uncharted 4 is noteworthy for carrying on the splendid characterisation Elena received in Drake’s Deception, realising her potential of strength and independence (and a penchant for classic video games!). Elena’s presence throughout the game proved her potential to match the strength and skill of the machismo Nate, and the agency she took in her relationship with Nate was commendable. We were also graced with the introduction of another badass female character, with new antagonist Nadine Ross. Although Rafe Adler was undoubtedly the best villain of the Uncharted series, Nadine was arguably more interesting as she was running the show, and when it came down to it she refused to be just a boring sidekick to Rafe.

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Nate and Sam’s relationship is brought to life by Nolan North and Troy Baker’s excellent acting.

What also posed a problem for me playing through the Uncharted series was its issues of pacing. Whilst Drake’s Fortune was the biggest culprit in this, the pacing seemed a little off in the rest of the series. Uncharted 4 massively improves on this, giving adequate spacing to shootouts, puzzles, and story moments that require some time to breathe and reflect on the events that occur. Although shootouts occur about as frequently as the other games, the addition of stealth sequences helps to digest the shooting mechanics which are often criticised. The partner system which takes direct cue from The Last of Us, also adds another entertaining dynamic to shootouts, with physical combat also massively improved in this game. With this in mind, it would be a crime not to mention the improvement Naughty Dog have achieved in their final boss fight. In the first three games, the final boss fights were largely underwhelming, but with the help of an interesting villain, and an exciting action sequence, Naughty Dog should be commended for finally pulling off a finale that the series deserved.

Naughty Dog should also be commended for quite possibly setting a bench mark for the PS4 in graphics terms. Uncharted 4‘s plethora of locations to explore are visually stunning, and although some of the character models have changed quite drastically in the jump to the next generation (I’m looking at you Elena) it is hard to deny that these are some of the most hyperrealistic looking video game characters, and this only adds to the cinematic qualities that the Uncharted series strives to attain. The stunning graphics become apparent as cutscenes seamlessly flow back into gameplay with no massive change in graphics quality, and action scenes that are brimming with explosions could easily be mistaken for a Hollywood action flick. These hyperrealistic graphics also add to the emotion of character driven scenes as facial expressions are translated impeccably through the characters.

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There’s no denying that Uncharted 4 is one of the most visually beautiful PS4 games.

It was a risk convincing myself that Uncharted‘s final chapter would be the Uncharted I believed it had the potential to be, due to the experience Naughty Dog had with The Last of Us. However, I firmly believe that A Thief’s End is the best game in the Uncharted series, and this would not have been possible without the lessons learned from the success of The Last of Us. With our well known protagonists finally receiving the characterisation they deserved, and a plot line that didn’t border on the extremely ridiculous with no inclusion of supernatural elements this time around, Uncharted 4 is a well rounded adventure that is arguably a perfect finish to this series. It’s a bitter shame that the whole series wasn’t as brilliant as Nate’s final adventure.

Thanks for reading as always! What were your thoughts on the finale to this notable series? I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments.

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Undertale Review

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If you weren’t living under a rock during the latter part of 2015 then you are likely to have heard about Undertale. Whether you heard the endless praise from critics and fans alike, or you encountered one of the many memes that have erupted from the game and its community, Undertale was, and still is, one of the most talked about games in recent months. Heck, you can’t even walk a few steps through the Plaza in Splatoon without being greeted by Miiverse posts depicting characters and scenes from Undertale, oddly enough. It is fair to say that Undertale has gained cult status, and the amount of passion that has been shown for the game by critics and fans definitely had me intrigued to play myself.

I’ll start by how I mean to end this piece. Go play this game! I truly believe that there is something for everyone in this game. From the gameplay itself with its intuitive combat system and entertaining puzzles, to one of the most genuine, heartfelt stories, filled with excellently written characters. I honestly haven’t experienced a game so evocative in a good while, and to top it all off it has the most fantastic soundtrack that I can say with certainty is the video game soundtrack of 2015, maybe even the last five years, in my eyes. Seriously, even if you feel you aren’t interested in playing Undertale, listen to some of the pieces of music on YouTube, it may just change your mind.

The story of Undertale takes place in a world where monsters and humans, who had once lived together on the surface, has been torn apart by war, leading the monsters to be banished underground and the entry to the surface sealed by magic. You take on the role of a child who has fallen underground whilst traversing the fabled Mt. Ebott. It is your goal to find your way out of the underground and back to the surface. However, as it is filled with monsters you are going to have to fight your way through. Or, are you? Met by the kind monster Toriel at the beginning, you learn that as well as the option to Fight the monsters you encounter, you also have the option to Act, which can lead to some of the most hilarious interactions.

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If you enjoy dark humour, there is plenty to be found in Undertale.

The reason you have the option to Act is that picking the right options will allow you to spare the monsters. Unlike some games, where morality can feel tacked on, the decisions you make in Undertale will drastically alter the story. You can take three routes, the neutral route, the pacifist route, or the genocide route. These routes are self-explanatory, however the vast difference in the story depending on which route you decide to take is quite hard to convey without spoiling. All I can say is that I was astonished at how much depth had been added to the story playing through the pacifist route after initially completing the neutral route. It took me around 7 hours to complete my first playthrough and I was immediately compelled to start all over again to initiate the true ending which can only be seen by completing a true pacifist run.

Like your typical RPG, Undertale features an experience points system to level up the protagonist. However, if playing as a pacifist you won’t receive any experience points from battling, only gold. This adds a huge degree of challenge as having a low health pool of 20 can prove quite troublesome in some of the later boss fights. Speaking of, the degree of variation in fighting bosses is interesting as each have unique battle systems implemented. The fighting system in Undertale features a box that hovers above your menu where you must tap Z when a moving line lands in the center of this box to initiate your attack. After this the monster will retaliate with their own attack which sees you control a heart icon and play a minigame of sorts, ranging vastly from every monster you meet, and particularly amongst the bosses. For example, fighting the sassy skeleton Papyrus will have you using the arrow buttons to make your heart jump over obstacles made from bones. Later on you will meet the brash knight Undyne, whose battle feels like playing a music rhythm game. This variation will keep you on your toes in every battle.

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I can’t decide whether it looks like an eye or a canoe.

The majority of the bosses you will get to know quite well, through interacting both inside and outside of battle, which can create difficult decisions in how you want to end the fight. The characters have been written extremely well, and getting to know them throughout the game will make you feel a range of emotions. What really shines through each character though is their comedic aspect. There are some brilliant pieces of dialogue from the characters and its easy to see how they have become such huge memes.

What also sets Undertale apart from many RPG’s is its self awareness. Many fans have lauded instances in the game where it breaks the fourth wall, and it manages to come across as very meta with its self awareness of typical RPG tropes, and even topics of the wider gaming community. This is a hard thing to achieve without it falling flat, or being overdone, but Undertale has just the right amount and without it, many of its characters would lose a lot of their charm.

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Reading signs is not a monotonous chore in Undertale.

Undertale is a fantastic RPG that is captivating from the get go. The soundtrack is absolutely brilliant and the characters are lovable, both of which I will fondly remember for years to come. I’m sure this will be one of the games I will always come back to for some good old classic fun in the future. I really can’t stress enough how great this game is, and to do so anymore would inevitably lead me to spoiling it. You really don’t have any excuse if you haven’t played this yet, as it quite low spec so can be run on most average laptops and desktops, and a single playthrough can be done in a day if you don’t have much time on your hands.

Have you played Undertale? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading!

 

Battlefront critics: Why so Sidious?

DICE’s take on the Battlefront series has been out for almost a month now, and in that time I’ve managed to clock a fair 31 hours into; an amount of time I can faithfully say I’ve enjoyed every second of. How could I not enjoy it? Battlefront effectively captures the magic of the Star Wars universe, dropping you into the heat of the battle in some of the Galaxy’s most iconic locations. Whether you’re a Rebel soldier, rustling through the foliage on the forest moon of Endor, or a Stormtrooper ploughing through the snow on the icy planet Hoth, playground fantasies of taking on these roles and blasting apart your enemies in a galaxy far far away are certainly satisfied. Yet, since its release Battlefront has received a fair amount of criticism, some of which I can agree with, but for the most part I think is unfair.

I’ll start by mentioning the criticisms that I do agree with. Battlefront has a progression system where points earned through combat, completed objectives, and awards accumulate into experience points and credits (Battlefront’s currency). Battlefront has been criticised as many of the weapons that have come to be considered OP (overpowered) are unlocked at higher ranks, therefore when starting at Rank 1 it can be rather irritating to go up against people who have had the opportunity to rank up and gain these weapons. Granted, I didn’t have much of a problem with this as I played on launch, however those who may have bought the game recently will likely have a hard time coming up against higher ranked players. The spreading of weapons and other unlockables such as grenades and power-ups throughout the ranks has also been criticised as players may feel burned out trying to grind through the ranks to be on an equal level to higher ranked players. I must admit trying to rank up to 13 to unlock the jump pack was pretty irritating as for me I feel that the jump pack really opens up the game and makes it more fun.

Battlefront has also been criticised due to its game modes. There are a total of 9 multiplayer game modes (10 if you have recently downloaded the free Battle of Jakku DLC) which in principle sounds like a good amount. However, some of these modes feel uninspired and a few just worth avoiding. You have your typical Team Deathmatch mode called Blast which is what it is. You also have Cargo, DICE’s take on Capture the Flag, again pretty similar but just swap the flag for a cargo backpack. These modes are your typical features of most modern shooters, but when you have modes like Walker Assault and Drop Zone, these typical modes seem mundane and more like filler. The mode I have the biggest problem with is Heroes vs Villains. A great concept, two teams of 6 fight each other but with 3 in each team taking the role of either a hero or villain from the Star Wars universe. Don’t get me wrong, I think the inclusion of these characters are great (despite some dodgy voice acting), and they can really turn the tide in battle in modes like Supremacy. However, the combat between the heroes and villains is extremely clunky, particularly between lightsaber aficionados, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. There are also balance issues with these characters, as Emperor Palpatine feels completely underpowered, whereas Boba Fett is often seen as overpowered.

There are other minor issues such as dodgy spawn points and balance issues in weaponry, but hopefully patches will be issued to solve these; some weaponry issues have been solved in the latest patch. Despite its issues though, I still maintain that Battlefront is a good game and my main disagreement with some critics is their argument that the game is not hardcore enough for fans of the shooter genre. The main reason I have enjoyed Battlefront, played it for so many hours, and will be likely to continue playing for a while is that its not as serious as your typical shooter game. You can see your Kill/Death ratio and the percentage of games won and lost, but there isn’t as much pressure like typical shooter games to be as concerned about these things. When I’m playing a round of Walker Assault I’m not too bothered about the outcome of the match because it doesn’t have much detriment tied to it, I still gain experience points and credits, and I’ve had the experience of being immersed into a battle that has iconic status in the Star Wars films. Many have criticised Battlefront because of this, stating that it has a lack of depth, however EA have stated that it was aimed to appeal to a wider audience than the hardcore shooter niche audience. Personally, I don’t find games like Call of Duty appealing for their multiplayer, as I am certainly not a hardcore player. Playing Battlefront for me is great because it doesn’t matter that much how skilled you are in shooting as you can still have fun, and still gain that immersion into the Star Wars universe that many Star Wars inspired games have failed to achieve. Plus you can always blame your awful shooting skills on some serious role playing as a Stormtrooper (I can admit to doing this!)

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Thanks for reading! Have you played Battlefront? Let me know in the comments what you think about Battlefront’s criticisms!

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture Review

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was arguably one of the most anticipated independent releases on PS4 this summer. We have been drip fed information and praise throughout the year from the developers themselves, and gaming outlets, which amassed a lot of excitement in the gaming community for its release. Yet since its release almost a month ago, there has been much contention over this deserved praise. The latest addition to independent studio The Chinese Room’s repertoire has gained huge critical comment from both ends of the spectrum, making it somewhat difficult for a potential buyer to determine whether they will enjoy playing the game or not. On the whole I enjoyed the game, yet by identifying what I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about the game I wonder whether I enjoyed the concept of the game rather than the game itself.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is set in a rural English town where (you guessed it) everyone has mysteriously disappeared. Yet, left behind are strange orbs of light, and impressions of the inhabitants made up of specks of light, playing out their lives and how they all disappeared. You play the role of an anonymous observer, who traverses the many areas of this town to find clues as to how this happened, being guided by the orbs of light that represent the major characters of the story. There are five main areas in the town and your aim is to uncover as much information in each to fully understand the situation that has unfolded.

The game’s story is compelling, and the way it is told through piecing it together by interacting with the world does provide an immersive experience. However, the game deals with many themes and some of these are explored quite deeply. This does aid the plot to an extent, but often times it feels like The Chinese Room are juggling both plot and theme which leads to it feeling unbalanced. This becomes evident by the end of the game when the two main characters, Kate and Stephen’s, stories seem to be rushed, and the main plot is only explained quite basically. Perhaps this is done intentionally, as the game features many hidden codes and messages that the developers included for its audience to decipher, and so perhaps they intended the plot to be analysed deeper by the player. Yet, by creating a plot that revolves around themes of religion, philosophy, and physics, and these being represented by some quite complex ideas, it becomes a task to try and piece together the meaning of the plot. The concept for the plot is definitely interesting, however in practice it isn’t accessible to all players, and can end up looking like a confusing mess.

These balls of light can be opened up to reveal character interactions using the Dualshock 4's motion controls.
These balls of light can be opened up to reveal character interactions using the Dualshock 4’s motion controls.

In terms of gameplay, this is where the game faces division amongst those who played it, as it is quite simplistic. Controlling your character through first person perspective, you traverse through each area discovering information by interacting with radios, telephones, and other electrical equipment by pressing X, and unlocking scenes of character interaction by using the motion controls on the Dualshock 4 to open up balls of light. After the novelty of using the motion controls wears off you realise this was probably implemented to detract from the mundane nature of only pressing X. However, the most irksome mechanic, in my opinion, was the speed in which you walked around the town. Only through a chance read of the Playstation blog did I find out that you could hold the R2 button to increase the speed of walking, something that is not made apparent unless you read the instructions manual webpage. Even so, the increase in speed is really not that massive, which can become tiring as the game encourages you to explore every nook and cranny of the world (which was a lot larger than I expected) and to use footpaths that can help you backtrack through each area, with the reward of a trophy for finding each of these sometimes hidden pathways. By the end of the game I was so tired of backtracking to try and find every piece of information that I just played through the main story knowing I had missed a few pieces of information which could have impacted some of the storylines. One small thing that could have been included that would have also helped avoid this annoyance would be the inclusion of a map in the pause menu. There are many maps around the different areas with ‘You are here’ markers, but it is easy to lose track after walking away from these and can become a task to try and remember where the maps are.

The graffiti you come across sadly represents Britain too well.
The graffiti you come across sadly represents Britain too well.

Despite some annoying mechanics Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture redeems itself through its beautiful environment and sound design. Using the rural British setting may create a little bias in my opinion as a Brit, but I think there is an undeniable charm to the town that has been achieved through the design, and the range of different areas to explore, including a typical British seaside caravan park, encompasses British culture down to a T. In each area, the weather and the colour of the sky differs which works well in combination with the different themes and stories that are presented in each area. There has also been a lot of attention to detail in both the sound and environment design, with simple things like graffiti in bus stops that you could swear you’ve seen in your own town, or the changing sound of the rain when walking into a caravan from outside and hearing that tinny pittering that brings back memories of seaside holidays as a child. The soundtrack to the game is excellent, being able to evoke sadness and drama in combination with certain storylines, and swiftly changing to eerie and mysterious music to bring you back to your main goal of solving the game’s mystery.

The game's environments are stunning, with different weather representing a range of themes.
The game’s environments are stunning, with different weather representing a range of themes.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is not a bad game. It has some annoying gameplay mechanics and at times the story can seem a bit messy and thin. However, the concept for the game is interesting and it does manage to evoke the sense of mystery that it aims to achieve. The beautiful landscapes and music do immerse you into the game’s setting. But for those who don’t have the patience to walk around a rural British town for 5-6 hours at a slow pace with little action, and are not too fussed on delving deep into the story’s sometimes-complex themes, then this game probably isn’t for you.

Thanks for reading! Have you played Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture? Leave a comment on your thoughts, I would love to hear them.

Batman Arkham Knight Review

Batman Arkham Knight marks the end of Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy, concluding with some of the most exciting storylines and gameplay that leaves you a little sad when finishing the game. However, with a plethora of sidequests alongside the main questline, not to mention a guarantee of six months worth of dlc to come, Arkham Knight will keep you captivated for a long time. In this review I won’t be focusing in depth on the details of the story and so will be spoiler free.

When Arkham Knight was first announced as an 18 rating, I was intrigued to see how much the series had progressed in terms of mature themes. It is obvious once played why this decision was made, with one of the most dark entries in the series. Rocksteady have exceptionally adapted the darker themes of certain Batman comics, but have added their own flair to make a unique experience. As it is a video game, it is arguable that some of the more disturbing themes that have been portrayed through the comics are potentially more disturbing through the immersion of the gaming medium. However, this takes the characterisation of Batman and characters from this world to another level, and this emotional involvement makes the gameplay even more entertaining. What is also great about the use of darker themes in Arkham Knight is that horror elements tie in through the use of typical horror tropes (jump scares), but also uses a kind of psychological horror. Without being a stark horror game, Arkham Knight is able to weave horror elements to assist crucial game moments, showing Rocksteady’s mastery of the Batman universe that they have acquired by the end of the Arkham trilogy.

In terms of gameplay, there are only a few minor issues to an otherwise flawless game. The combat system has been reinvigorated with Batman being able to be more interactive with the environment, using walls, rails etc. to add interesting dynamics to knocking out enemies. Predator scenarios have also improved, with the introduction of multi-fear takedowns to quickly sort out an area, yet this is balanced with new types of thugs that appear in each scenario, making you think more tactically than previous games. There has been a lot of gripe with the introduction of the Batmobile in this game, but I believe that it was important to have this in the game as it is a significant part of the Batman universe, and for me completes taking on the role of Batman. There was a nice balance between the driving elements and the tank elements, with tank combat making fun but sometimes challenging gameplay. However, I can agree that at times it did feel a little overused, and perhaps lessened the excitement of being able to control the Batmobile later in the game. The new mission radial menu is a simple yet effective way of keeping track of all your missions and being able to swiftly switch between any mission whenever you choose to. It will also become your best friend when you realise that to unlock the full ending to the game, you must complete every side mission 100%. I really liked this as it felt like you were getting your money’s worth by wanting to complete the game 100%, but also you could truly understand every aspect of the story, giving you a somewhat better understanding of the ambiguous ending. I was slightly disappointed with the final ending, feeling a little bit rushed to me, but with later dlc to come it may enhance the meaning of the ending; at least I’m hoping it will.

Arkham Knight’s graphics are incredible, with undoubtedly some of the most realistic character models I have seen on a next gen game. There was something so satisfying about the clarity of rain drops sliding down Batman’s cape as you soared across Gotham, and the falling raindrops surrounding you as you dived back down into the streets. The detail of the wear and tear of Batman’s outfit, as well as the Batmobile, truly made the most out of the PS4’s graphics capabilities. Although, at times the graphics would lessen and it would take a few seconds to kick in, however this was a very minor issue.

Overall, Arkham Knight is the perfect ending to Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy, using the intricate story and game mechanics that it had built in previous games, but weaving in darker themes and captivating story dynamics that encapsulates the Batman universe perfectly in video game form. I believe Rocksteady have made such an impact on the video game industry that it will be hard for any other superhero games to live up to the Arkham series, however by the end of Arkham Knight it has made me want to revisit the rest of the Arkham series once again.

Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode Four: Sons of Winter Review

In typical Game of Thrones style á la TV, episode 4 of Telltale Games’ take on the Game of Thrones world picks up in both speed and excitement as we pass the halfway mark in its season. In this episode characters get a chance of revenge and redemption from previous adversity they have faced throughout previous episodes, leading to interesting and thought provoking choices to be made. What I enjoyed about this episode was that it refocused on the theme of family, something that is a crucial element in Game of Thrones, allowing you to take back control of the story to help the Forrester family who appeared to be in a lot of trouble in previous episodes. However, done equally as well as the TV series, sometimes the choices you make with good intention can lead to dire consequence, and this episode laid the groundwork for this to take place with a shocking cliffhanger ending. Building on my thoughts from the previous episode, I still stand by my statement of Mira being the most interesting character to take control of. Her story seems to have taken on a more political role, an element of the TV series that leads to gripping storylines that take place in King’s Landing. Mira also had a lot more options for interacting with the world around her, making it a more immersive story. Without spoiling too much Gared’s story has thankfully strayed far off a copy of Jon Snow’s story, however his part in the episode felt the slowest, more like filler. Asher’s story definitely stood out from last episode, having interactions with the mother of dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen, and a stealthy interaction scene which was tense but enjoyable. Overall, the pace of this episode in comparison with the rest of the season has definitely picked up for the better, and maintains a healthy balance between storytelling, player interaction in the game, and the effects of your choices on the story.

Hoenn is where the heart is: Pokémon Alpha Sapphire Review

So after writing a post about the demo of the game almost 8 months ago, I have finally gotten around to playing the full version of Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. Playing all three iterations of the third generation Pokémon series religiously a decade ago (obviously I still haven’t yet accepted that I am an adult!), it was great to play through one of my favourite entries in the Pokémon series that has been stunningly rendered into 3D.

If you have played the original Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald games and are looking for a nostalgia hit in the remakes then you will not be disappointed. When beginning the game a nifty take on the usual Professor introduction takes place where the original introduction is used, but then zooms out showing your character playing the original game on a Game Boy, something I found to be quite inventive. The infamous trumpet-centric original soundtrack transitions into the remastered soundtrack, equalising the feeling of nostalgia and awe at the new take on it. Game Freak have masterfully utilised 3D to provide a deeper connection with the world you are entering, using different camera angles and a lot more 3D integrated cutscenes than had been previously used in Pokémon X and Y.

The game takes you through mostly the same storyline, but with a few new characters, some updated dialogue, and new story aspects to incorporate Mega Evolutions which was introduced in the last series. This did not overtake the original story however which I had initially feared, but flowed through it quite well. Once you have finished the main story crux by defeating 8 gym leaders around the Hoenn region and then the Elite 4 and Champion, you are able to continue your adventures in the Delta Episode, a newly written story arc for the series which incorporates old and new Pokémon lore, and was a joy to play.

What was great about the third generation Pokémon games was that it introduced, in my opinion, some of the most fun mechanics in the Pokémon series, and the remakes have wonderfully adapted these to the new generation. In the original games I would spend a lot of my time searching for the perfect spot to make my secret base, exactly as it sounds a base you could make in trees, bushes, or caves which you could design with a variety of decorations. This has been greatly adapted in Alpha Sapphire, with the beautiful redesign of the original decorations you could find. And now with easier access to the internet through the Nintendo 3DS, visiting friend or strangers secret bases to exchange flags and battle has become extremely easy, and greatly increases its replay value as it is fun to seek out new bases and see what other players Pokémon teams are like. The third generation games also introduced two types of bikes, the Acro and Mach bike, which could be used in different ways to overcome certain obstacles. This mechanic has maintained its usefulness in the remake, and looks great, especially the rails that can be accessed by the Acro bike, which had minimal definition to visualize what they were in the original series.

What I loved about the 3D remaster aspect of the game is that it is the first time in the Nintendo 3DS world that we have been able to see the Japanese aspects of the game rendered so beautifully, as Pokémon X and Y was inspired by France. Going into the houses and seeing the rooms decorated in a Japanese style in 3D almost makes you feel like you are vicariously walking into a Japanese home. Using 3D has also meant that a certain flair that can be seen in the Pokémon anime can be translated to the video games, with gym leaders striking a pose before battling, characters showing a range of emotions through facial expressions, and the updated Pokémon contests which now feature a cosplay Pikachu.

The introduction of the Pokénav plus which allows you to search for a certain pokémon in your current area has increased the chances of finding elusive shiny pokémon, but also allows you to find a pokémon you want that may have a move it wouldn’t usually learn, making it a lot more fun creating a diverse pokémon party. The Buzznav app which I had originally thought would be quite interesting, turned out to be quite dull with mostly the same things repeating in its feed, and becoming even more clogged once you had connected with others through the internet. The integration of the PSS system on the bottom screen which had featured in Pokémon X and Y remains the same, but for the better as it is one of the most handy and fun additions to the latest games.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Alpha Sapphire, as it was a testament to the original games, blending the nostalgia of the original story and environment with updated graphics, music, and exciting new additions to the story. It felt more like it was made for the 3DS with the integration of more 3D cutscenes and interact-able areas than had been done in Pokémon X and Y. With its updated secret base system and the integration of the popular PSS from the previous games, the game has plenty of replay value and I’m sure I will continue to play with it over the summer. My only qualm with it is that it has made me wish that a 3D remake of the first two generations of the Pokémon series will happen, a very unlikely possibility in the near future.