Man do I have a lot of little things to say for this pre-review thingie. Pokemon X was evil and consumed 300 hours in the game itself, and about 25 more because spreadsheets. I originally was not going to play this remake until the New 3DS came out, but I did not have anything that pressing to play. Ruby and Sapphire were the first Pokemon games I really got into, and they terrified the hell out of me, because I did not understand how to video game. Pokemon being annualized is something I dislike conceptually as the base needs a lot of refinement that I could write out if requested, and will mention in this review.
Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire Review
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS(Reviewed), New Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Game Freak
As with all of the main series titles, the basic premise is in tact, go around a world, catch the Pocket Monsters, and so forth to the point where an entire generation knows how it goes beat by beat and anybody who doesn’t is just an old fart. That said, based on my foggy memories of titles I obsessed over, going through playthroughs in my head with the help of strategy guides as I did not wish to ever delete save files, there does appear to be a lot of affection placed into the game’s cast of characters, as they are redesigned, and have a bit more memorable personalities. Still, the majority of them are tropes who come and go rather quickly, and it is a story wherein a child is sent to more or less tame and capture a god who could bring forth the end of days.
It actually gets a bit bizarre in the Delta Episode epilogue the title boasts, which is probably the best storyline this series has ever bolstered. As the main character literally saves the world from a giant meteorite as they are better than both the champion of the region, a criminal organization, and an ancient society that exists to save the world. Only for them to then go through what is probably the most conceptually amazing thing I have ever seen in this series, to the point where the inclusion of a post-game battle arena being an award comes across as piecemeal, especially when you realize it is not even close to the Battle Frontier.
That said, in comparison to the original there are a plethora of little additions that are littered out the game as part of an attempt to both modernize the GBA game this title was based on, and just ultimately make it more fun. The map system, ability to share secret bases, Mega evolutions, and incredibly useful Dex Nav feature all do add to the experience, though when I step back and view the 45 hours I spent on the title, I cannot help but feel as if whatever additions have been made to the series over nearly my entire life are just piecemeal.
Don’t get me wrong, I had trouble going back to Firered earlier this year, and the series has evolved with the times, but certain things about it still feel as if they should have been fixed a while ago. About a month before the title came out, I spent hours going through the list of Pokemon that would be obtainable in the game in an attempt to devise the best team. One that utilizes the six party member slots well, and makes sure that the 24 moves available feature offensive versions of all eighteen damage types. Combine that with making sure that the Pokemon were even good, which I went out of my way to make a spreadsheet for, because I have Asperger’s.
Even with the Pokemon in place, I need to make sure they are available in the 210 present for the 90% of the game before the credits, get good moves as quickly as I can manage, and have a good nature. If they don’t, then just go out and catch another, only to then go through several minigames in order to make them better. I honestly think I spent over twenty hours in Pokemon-amie and Super Training X and Y, two modes that exist to make raising a Pokemon easier, when really they come across as busywork. It is simply not fun to pet a Pokemon ad nauseum, feed it cupcakes, or assemble a puzzle until it has the maximum possible affection towards you. It is also not fun to go through a shooting minigame in order to raise the specific stats of a Pokemon, especially when there is so much downtime in the process, where you are either waiting for animation to finish, or mindlessly tapping a punching bag.
On the subject of waiting, the process of entering a battle only to run away from it takes too long, and pretty much always has. I understand not wanting to intimidate children, but there is nothing fun about needing to see a Pokemon twenty levels beneath you and then promptly run away from it. Yes, one can use repels if they enjoy wasting their in-game money, but the amount of time it takes to defeat a single Pokemon in a single turn still takes far too long due to the lengthy bookend it is squished in between.
Then there are HMs, which I am genuinely surprised GameFreak did not rethink after they saw how common HM “slaves” were becoming. In short, needing to teach a Pokemon a move like Rock Smash in order to access an item does not feel good, even if it is a replaceable TM move, you still need to go to the Move Deleter, remove the HM move, and then teach it the TM move again. Alternatively, go to the Move Reminder and give them a Heart Scale that can best be obtained through grinding on otherwise worthless Pokemon in order to regain the ability to use X move. All of this could be so much more easily managed from the ability to freely customize your Pokemon’s moves at, say, a Pokemon Center, but instead there is a barrier that is not difficult in the slightest, but annoys me in sheer concept alone.
Another thing that does annoy me is how I was able to call Luvdisc a Pokemon only useful for Heart Scales. This is the general consensus, but does raise a question I’ve been asking myself ever since this second wave of Mega Evolutions began rolling in. Why are some Pokemon not even close to being as good as others? Why exactly doesn’t every Pokemon have the potential to become something with base stats over 500 and have a useful movepool? You could even take Mega Evolutions, find a way to make them permanent, and rebalance the stats to put every non-Legendary Pokemon on a level playing field. Instead, so many Pokemon are not even worth looking at the way I see it, and I do not feel as if I need to explain the problem with that.
There are also a lot of things that I can simply just lay out and wonder just what exactly the developers were thinking. For example, why is the act of berry harvesting, which was shown in Pokemon X and Y in a very convenient little area that allowed for easy maintenance and harvesting, but still felt cumbersome when you need to go through the same repetitive dialog prompts. In Alpha Sapphire, it is made even more of a chore, flying across the region of Hoenn in order to plant and pick berries, with the one area that serves as an exception being made far less convenient than it was in the original titles.
I also found myself confused as to why exactly the decision to include post-game Pokemon in either a temporary area, or through being lucky enough to find a shaking spot that just so happened to contain a Zorua. I personally maxed out my Pokedex before the first gym, thanks to Pokemon bank, so this was not too much of an issue for me, as I knew which Pokemon were where, but I can only question how GameFreak assumed that players would have the patience to wait for the thing they are looking for to appear before them. Oh, but if I were to bring up things I would not assume for players to figure out, I would point at all of the Legendaries beyond… including the ones native to Hoenn.
The Regi trio was almost infamous back in the day for being head scratching through its use of Braille, but in order to get Regigigas, you need to nickname Regice, give it a cold hold item, have it and the rest of the Regi trio in your party, go to where you found Reice during the day, and be greeted by an unprompted battle with Regigigas. All of which the game tells you through an NPC who you need to regularly talk to in order to get the information one must decipher in order to understand how to get one Pokemon. Maybe I just missed something, but asking somebody to figure this out without the internet is just baffling to me. Which leads to the Secret Bases, which I really am not much of a fan of, simply because the customization allowed is really underwhelming unless you spend in-game money on certain items, which involves travel, something that really became unenjoyable for me as the time went on. Perhaps due to how I more or less memorized the region’s map… ten years ago, but I think needing to go into a Pokemart in one town to buy Dusk Balls, and remembering to use an O-Power to cheapen their price is the bigger factor in this.
Though, the user interface, namely of the bottom menu really does get on my case, as you have the Pokemon radar, the map system, the online feature which contain a plethora of things I never even touched, Poke-cakes, and Super Training. All on top of having to manage the Pokemon, and the hundreds of times you cannot sort as carefully as you should be able to. It, the boxes of Pokemon that I gathered, and planned to do things with, the ability to rebattle trainers, the quest for money, as it is not as plentiful as in X and Y, all make the title far more cluttered than I feel it should be.
There are few ideas that stir up as much unfiltered bliss in my being than the idea of being allowed to remove many of the negligence issues I have with the often iterated upon Pokemon franchise. It really does have, at its core, one of the best games of all time, but there are just so many issues I have when I try to dive into the Pokepit once more than I am left baffled as to why so many things have still not been improved upon since I last nearly drowned in it. Alpha Sapphire is no different, just another installment that does do a few things better than others, with some improvements likely being exclusive to this title alone, as some people have become accepting of. It is simply a continuous trend of a cycle I grow sick inside of, but adamantly refuse to ever leave, even if I vomit out an organ doing so.
An applaudable effort that does get hung up on a few branches, but very much deserving of a recommendation, as the title in question is pretty great.