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.

First Impressions: Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire 3DS Demo

Having played Pokémon Ruby religiously as a kid, I was very excited to see that I had been lucky enough to receive a code for the reboot of the series on the 3DS. I was unaware that there was even a demo being released until I received the code and so I dove into it, channeling excitement from my 8 year old self (Wow I feel so old saying that!)

After the nifty introductory scene with your character flying on Latios with Steven, I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia when I heard the town music of Mossdeep City. This is one of the great things I gather from the demo, that there are so many things packed in from the original (things I had even forgotten) that you can be hit with nostalgia unexpectedly. An example of this is later on in the demo, the Lavaridge Gym Leader, Flannery, appears on the beach being interviewed by a TV Anchor and Cameraman, a duo that you would often come across in the original series.

Despite having tried to stay true to the originals, you can see that the Pokémon team have worked hard to make the reboot fresh and modern. There has been an overhaul of the story and dialogue which leads to many different and funny situations. When Steven takes your character to meet with a scientist, you are met by two Team Aqua grunts. Their new dialogue makes them seem more true to their characters, and also more witty, with the female grunts’ comment to Steven “even though you happen to totally be my ideal type of guy!” when she suggests a battle.

Going into battle with the Team Aqua grunt shows the extent to which the Pokémon team have catered to the reboot being on the 3DS to bring out its full potential. Watching the battle intro in 3D was stunning with a plume of bubbles floating through the water, while the grunt’s figure stood out from the background. It is equally stunning with the plume of lava spouting up when battling a Team Magma grunt later on in the demo. Their battle theme has also been remastered impeccably.

One of the new remastered themes that I found most interesting was the wild Pokémon battle theme as you can hear elements of the X/Y battle theme mixed in, blending nostalgic and modernistic elements in a balanced, yet striking way. An important element that was introduced in Pokémon X and Y was mega evolution, and this has been improved with a large new roster of Pokémon, and a revised cinematic of your character activating the mega ring that looks like it is straight out of a Pokémon anime. What has also been improved is the evolution screen which incorporates swirling colours rather than just a plain black or white background.

A new feature that is introduced in the demo which I believe has great potential is the Buzznav which appears on the bottom screen. The ability to have the news rolling at the bottom of the screen while you are going about your way could be largely helpful in terms of useful tips being displayed and possibly the locations of Pokémon that you may have been wishing to catch. Another useful feature is the sneak ability whereby pushing lightly on the toggle will make your character sneak which can be used in the grass to sneak upon a Pokémon which can be identified by its cry and a shadowed body part sticking out of the grass.

Overall, for an unexpected demo, there is plenty of content to keep you occupied for a few hours, with a few bonus items and a Pokémon to transfer to the full game, and get you pumped for the release of the full game which I now know I am!

First Impressions: Super Smash Bros. 3DS Demo

I was rather excited Friday evening when I saw that a Super Smash Bros. demo for the 3DS was available on the Eshop and so promptly downloaded it. I’ve played it a few times over the course of the weekend but as much of a fan I am of the Smash series, I still have mixed feelings towards this new installment on the 3DS.

One of the first problems I had while playing the demo were the controls. The way the buttons were configured just didn’t seem natural to me, but I imagine that on the full version of the game you will be able to change the configuration. Although a minor setback, I did get use to these controls after a while but what did not feel right was the toggle. As the toggle is so close to the pad, it felt a strain to keep pushing it back and forth, and as the nature of Smash is quite hectic, it was hard to keep moving the toggle in different directions in such a small space of time, added to the fact when you have to double shift the toggle to perform a smash attack it just didn’t have the right feel as it would on a toggle on a gamepad. This will be the advantage of the Wii U version of the game.

Another problem, which is one that most people who have played the game are experiencing, is the size of the game. I played the demo on my 3DS XL and I still found that the majority of the time the visuals were too small. Obviously it wasn’t as detrimental to the experience as it would be on a regular 3DS system, however, getting immersed into the game was harder when you were making much more of a mental effort to keep track of your character in the hectic nature of play.

Despite these problems, it was hard not to enjoy the game. When the camera angle zooms in closer you can really appreciate the detail of the game. There was a nostalgic feel when playing the original characters, Link, Mario, Pikachu etc. but the ability to play new characters such as Mega Man and Villager was highly enjoyable. The fact that their smash ball abilities are the same as seen in the trailers for the Wii U version shows that the developers really didn’t cop out on the 3DS version. As well as that, there was access to a fair range of items on the demo which made gameplay enjoyable (and comedic with the nintendog assist trophy).

Although the controls and size of the game are slightly annoying, it is hard to deny that even with a small look at the game through the demo, the game is very exciting, especially when looking at the whole roster and the other game modes that will be available with the full game. Also, as I don’t own a Wii U and don’t plan to presently, I don’t know if I can resist not buying the 3DS version as I’m such a big fan of the series. Either way, I think the best bet is to buy this game if you own a 3DS XL as I imagine it would be highly disappointing on a regular sized 3DS and rather detrimental to the whole feel of the game.