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Pokemon Alpha Sapphire – 3DS

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire – 3DS

Pokemon Alpha SapphirePlatform:  Nintendo 3DS

Release Date (NA):  November 21st, 2014

Developer:  Game Freak

Publisher:  The Pokémon Company

Genre: RPG

Nerd Rating:  8 out of 10

In order to be fair to Pokémon enthusiasts of all ages out there, I feel like I need to preface this review by saying that I know comparatively little about the Pokémon universe.  I’ve bounced around several of the core games, but I’ve never dug into the mythology or the intricacies of the mechanics like some fans.  I can’t spout volumes of knowledge about one critter or another, or carry on deep, analytical conversations about the features of one generation versus another.  I can, however, look at it as just another game, augmented by my familiarity with Pokémon Emerald and X.

Pokemon Alpha SapphireOverall Pokémon Alpha Sapphire is still Pokémon as you know it: move to the region, talk to a professor, run around and collect/battle Pokémon, challenge the gym leaders, and so on.  Rather than a brand new game though, Alpha Sapphire is a remake of Pokémon Sapphire from over a decade ago.  Consensus in the fandom of Pokémon seems to ebb and flow somewhat arbitrarily, though many would go on to regard the 3rd generation (Sapphire, Ruby, and Emerald) as one of the best.  Although I’ve played through a significant bit of Emerald, it’s been a bit too long for me to attempt to compare it to Alpha Sapphire.

For those unfamiliar, the core Pokémon games follow a similar formula.  The player assumes the role of a pre-pubescent kid who wanders a large map (unsupervised), in search of wild monsters that hide in the grass and in caves with the aim of catching and then training them through turn-based combat with other monsters.  The overarching “point” of the game is to build up a strong enough team of Pokémon to defeat 8 gym leaders and finally the Elite Four.  Concurrent with this quest is a plotline involving “Team Aqua” and their radical “animal activism,” where they seek to cover the region with water by way of a great, primal Pokémon in order that the Pokémon of the sea should have more room to flourish and prosper without the impact of humans.

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

Ok, so the plot is a little thin and there’s a certain removal from reality in how the characters talk and interact with each other, but there is a weird sort of fantasy world that’s slowly constructed through much of the casual conversation and other side quests.  It’s a perfect story for younger plays to latch onto, though this same age group may have problems digging into the game’s more rewarding aspects.

I wish I could discuss the combat systems, puzzles, and AI in regards to other titles, but I just don’t have that sort of extensive knowledge.  With all the types and status conditions and medicines and items available there is the potential for lots of complex and specialized encounters, though if your Pokémon(s) are strong enough, you won’t need to worry about these things too much.  If you really want to get the most mileage out of the game, there are all kinds of Pokémon to track down that you won’t just stumble across in the wild.  Depending on the tools at your disposal, this can be a lot of fun or really frustrating.  Fans of the original Gen III games will find some of these puzzles still intact, such as those leading to Regirock, Regice, Registeel, and Regigigas.  Lots of other surprises are also thrown in, like Lugia from Silver and Zekrom from White / Black 2.

The big introduction this time around is the Primal Reversion, whereby ancient Pokemon revert to a big, angry, powerful state.  Although thematically distinct, Primal Reversion acts much like a less restrictive version of the Mega Evolution feature introduced in and Y.  However, only the 2 “boss Pokemon” (Kyogre and Groudon) have so far been granted this ability.  Mega Evolution makes a return, and it’s much easier to obtain the necessary items this time around.

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

Visually, Alpha Sapphire looks pretty much like Pokémon X and Y.  There’s nothing too flashy or fancy going on, though I do enjoy the simple feel of the overworld graphics.  Pokémon battles are the only aspect rendered in 3D, but I would consider the effect somewhat minor.  I’ve never been one to use the 3D effect of the 3DS/New 3DS much anyway, and here’s a case where it really need not be implemented at all.

Speaking as a somewhat novice Pokémon player, Alpha Sapphire is a fitting starting point for newcomers.  I didn’t feel like this was a game resting on the events of previous installments.  I wasn’t bogged down with a lot of difficult to follow mythology.  Best of all, I didn’t get overwhelmed or confused at any point by the myriad of choices, features, and functions when it came to using the Pokemon or interacting with the environment.  I remember feeling stuck and confused a couple of times during Pokémon X, as well as becoming a little disenchanted with the tediousness of moving through the environment and leveling up characters.  The evolution of the Pokémon and the game itself felt much more natural and evenly paced in Alpha Sapphire, and I was quite pleased that I wasn’t forced to do an exorbitant amount of grinding to keep pace with the events of the game.

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

Secret Bases make their return in Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby.

The only thing that really got on my nerves throughout the course of the game was the incredible amount of HMs required to pass through certain areas, and the fact that any changes brought about by the use of these HMs are essentially reset when one leaves the screen.  This becomes more of an issue during the second half of the game where one’s team of Pokémon is better established; you’ll be walking along only to find a boulder in your way.  Nobody on your team trained with Rock Smash?  Already satisfied with everyone’s moves?  Well tough, you’ve got to trek back to a Poke Center, do the tedious Deposit/Withdraw process, and bring the guy over to smash the rock.  What’s worse is that you can’t just run back to the Poke Center and switch him back out, because once you leave the screen, the boulder comes back.

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

The updated Hoenn region requires a few too many HMs to traverse for my tastes.

This becomes an even greater annoyance during the last third to last quarter of the game spent in the eastern reaches of Hoenn (lots of water and islands) where one is constantly forced to use Surf and, to a lesser extent, Dive.  Of course there’s always the option of making this member a valuable part of the team, but for me, I found myself essentially down to a 5-man team plus my “utility Pokemon” for traversing the environment.  Having to use the HMs constantly is frustrating enough in its own right, but being forced into bringing this member into battle with you outright diminishes the quality of the game.  Other situations are a real pain in the ass as well, such as winding one’s way down into a cave only to find that you need a Poke with Strength to move any further.  I know it’s been done this way in Pokémon games since long before Alpha Sapphire, but it’s still a tedious system that could be replaced by something much more efficient – either by not treating these special moves as normal moves (thus occupying valuable move slots) or by simply bestowing these abilities on the character itself.  What it boils down to is that I adamantly dislike being forced to put a specific Pokemon on my team and/or being forced to give a certain move to a Pokemon for the sake of being able to move around on the map.  It gets even worse if you’ve spread these HMs out across multiple Pokemons; you’ll spend a lot of valuable time wandering around with and leveling up Pokemon that may not be your top priority.

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

Flying is cool and all, but it’s hard to fathom the exact mentality between the 2 different flying mechanics…

And then there’s one final issue that, depending on your personal preferences, is either a huge strength or a debilitating weakness: nothing about Alpha Sapphire is fundamentally different than any other core, main-series Pokémon game.  Is Game Freak just sticking to a formula that works, or are they stubbornly refusing to innovate?  I’m not sure if I’ve made up my mind yet, but after playing significant chunks of Yellow and Crystal, and even larger swaths of Emerald and XI don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say that I feel like I’m playing the same game over and over.  At the very least, the continued updates do keep the formula from growing outright stale, but it’s still pretty much the same game.

Pokemon Alpha SapphireDespite some of the more obvious shortcomings, I still had a lot of fun with Alpha Sapphire, even when going above and beyond the main plot to seek out the game’s many Legendary Pokémon.  I enjoy the lighthearted, “adventure-y” feel of the game, and though I might not participate, I can certainly appreciate the magnificent scope of completing the Pokédex.  It takes a special kind of devotion to put that much effort into a video game.  Playing through Alpha Sapphire has definitely made me want to see the other side of the story in Omega Ruby as well as go back and revisit the Gen III titles in more depth.  If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a look at the series or you want to relive fond memories of Sapphire, why not give Alpha Sapphire a go?  From what I’ve read, the folks at Game Freak have done an excellent job of both updating a familiar experience and throwing in ample new material.  I know most folks will be reviewing Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby in the same breath, but I intend to give ’em a shot separately.  Stay tuned as I make my way through Omega Ruby….

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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2 Comments

  1. Hehehe, “self-proclaimed non-expert.”

     

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