I’m a big Pokemon fan. I’ve still got my original Red cartridge (long live Blastoise!). I was such a big fan of Pokemon Y that I wrote three separate articles about it. So you can be damn sure I was excited to play the Gen 3 remakes, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, especially since I never played this generation back when they came out.
The short of it — Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire is awesome. The long of it — well, let’s get down to it.
- TL;DR: Another great entry in the Pokemon series. Not the quantum leap that X/Y was, but still great.
- Platform: 3DS
- Score: 8.7
- Hours Played: 36
- What I Played: Became Pokemon League champion, completed Delta Episode, and caught a handful of legendaries
- Recommended?: To any Pokemon fan, without question.
All main entries in the Pokemon series start the same way, and Alpha Sapphire is no different. You are 10 years old in a small town and about to take on the lively world of Pokemon. After about five minutes, the local professor gives you a freebie starter (I chose Torchic) and the adventure to become Pokemon League champion, and save to save the world while you’re at it, is underway!
Surprisingly, the story in OR/AS is one of the most intriguing in a Pokemon game to date. The main story of Groudon/Kyogre remains intact, but is enhanced with the addition of Mega Evolution introduced back in X/Y. IGN infamously gave OR/AS a 7.8 due to “too much water”, but I found the early-game movement from town to town via boat a cool aside. There is a fair amount of backtracking and cut scenes as well, rather than a linear progression from town to town and gym to gym.
One of the biggest changes in OR/AS is the use of the 3DS’s bottom screen, which can perform one of four functions — AreaNav (world map), DexNav (catching Pokemon), PlayNav (PSS/Pokemon Amie), and BuzzNav (social). I used the DexNav primarily, as I’m sure most people do. The DexNav is a great step forward in keeping players in-game while trying to catch ’em all. Up until now, you’d need a separate internet search to know what Pokemon are in an area and if you’d found them all. DexNav doesn’t exactly spell it out that easily, but it does let you know if you’ve found all the Pokemon in an area that you can up until your story progression, all of the ones on land/water, or if you’ve got 100% of an area complete.
Not all Pokemon will be displayed in silhouettes on the map like above, though. Some Pokemon can only be found in shaking grass, whirlpools, and dust clouds. When one of those Pokemon pops up, a giant search logo will pop up on the DexNav, prompting you to search the area for that Pokemon.
As you get closer, the DexNav will give you more information about the Pokemon, such as it’s level, nature, ability, and more. If you’re looking for a specific nature/ability and don’t want to go through the pain of breeding, DexNav searching might be a viable option. I haven’t progressed to competitive battling and EV training in OR/AS yet, so I’m not 100% certain.
You need to be careful when coming up on these rare Pokemon, though. Running in will force the Pokemon to scurry away. You need to only nudge the thumbstick and tiptoe towards the Pokemon in question. Just another little feature that I wouldn’t have thought I wanted until I knew it was there.
AreaNav, the OR/AS version of the world map, also has some welcome improvements. You can now fly directly to caves and routes instead of just to Pokemon centers. The PlayNav app integrates many features from X/Y, such as the PSS and Pokemon Amie. Honestly, I didn’t so much as tap the Amie logo, but I am all about Wonder Trading. Being able to trade and battle no matter where you are in the world just makes sense. An NPC in a Pokemon center even mentions it, talking about how Pokemon centers used to be multi-story buildings with separate rooms for trading and battling. How barbaric! The final *Nav feature, BuzzNav, centers around social interaction and StreetPassing. I don’t think I’ve ever had StreetPass turned on, so I didn’t really dive into this.
Secret Bases are yet another new feature of OR/AS. While exploring Hoenn, you’ll find caves, trees, and bushes that can be opened via Secret Power. Quick aside — how many moves are going to be usable outside of battle? This has got to be like 15 now, right? Sheesh. Anyway, there are plenty of Secret Bases to find, but you can only have one of your own at a time. After decorating your base with dolls, rugs, posters, and more, you can generate a QR code to share and visit other players bases. I haven’t visited other bases, but making one is pretty cool.
Mega Evolution isn’t a new feature, as it was introduced in X/Y, but it plays a large part in the story as a whole in OR/AS. You gain the ability to Mega Evolve your Pokemon partway through the game, rather than during the postgame, and there is a much larger list of megas to choose from. Unfortunately, only one Pokemon can Mega Evolve per battle, which puts a stop to the full blown, six-on-six Mega Battle my roommate and I were planning on having. Damn.
Pokemon has run the gauntlet of graphics over the years, culminating in the full 3D we saw in X/Y and have again now in OR/AS. It’s unfortunate, though, that any use of the 3D slider on the 3DS brings huge frame rate drops and stuttering. I flipped it on a few times just to see, but the game becomes all but unplayable with the 3D turned on. Combat moves and environmental scale is as pretty as ever, but up-close textures could use a little work, as well.
You’ll be seeing those pixellated textures for many, many hours as OR/AS has plenty to do. Along with the main story and becoming champion, there is the additional few hours of content packed into the Delta Episode, which I highly recommend playing through. After that, you could always try to fill out the National Pokedex, catch one of about 30 different legendaries, or EV train for competitive battling. I may be 36 hours in, but I’m far from done.
So, in the height of holiday video game release season, should you buy Pokemon: Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire? If you’ve enjoyed Pokemon in the past, you’d be crazy not to. OR/AS isn’t the giant paradigm shift that X/Y was, but it’s another fantastic entry in the Pokemon series.