|Dev: Game Freak|
|Pub: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company|
|Release: November 21, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Sean Engemann
In Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby you are whisked back to the island region on Hoenn, a land familiar to those who endeavored there on the original adventures in Pokémon Sapphire and Ruby over a decade ago. It's a faithful recreation for fans of old, and a stunning new adventure for a budding generation. The 3D remake attempts to incorporate many of the features of the original while adding some modern elements. Overall it presents a robust campaign with even more to do outside the linear plot, even if all the pieces don't fit together perfectly.
Traversing the varied environments of the Hoenn region, your Trainer will be caught up in a struggle between Team Magma and Team Aqua, each with a motive that has severe ramifications on the world. Team Magma wishes to dry up the vast ocean, while Team Aqua hopes to flood the land. Your task is to prevent each side from succeeding, while averting a separate catastrophe new to the storyline. As expected, the dialogue is light and simple, revealing tips and plot advances in easy to understand morsels.
The updated hardware of the 3DS displays a land rich with content, and the 3D effect adds even more depth to the overhead view and cinematic cutscenes, but the overall gameplay remains unchanged from the series. You'll spend the majority of your time sifting through patches of tall grass and braving dungeons looking for wild Pokémon to catch and add to your ranks. And there are plenty of them. Though the roster of Pokémon to collect is vast, Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby provide a tool that aids in your search enormously–the PokeNav Plus. The most useful app on this handy tool is the DexNav, which locates wild Pokémon in a given area before you dive into the tall grass, providing information on the Pokémon's statistics and any Hidden Abilities they may possess.
You can stick close to the plot and fare pretty easily through the campaign, but will find the most challenge and rewards by straying from the beaten path, searching for rare Pokémon and battling optional trainers that hold a significantly greater challenge. As expected, the more dedication you put into strengthening your Pokémon, the more confidently you can stride into tougher duels, which you will need when taking on the real world pros via an online network of battle matches. There is also a robust trading system that allows for friendly exchanges and random Wonder Trades that could yield some powerful new Pokémon to fill your Pokedex.
The game provides a variety of ways to train your Pokémon, in the form of minigames. You can improve the friendship with your Pokémon through the Pokémon-Amie minigame, petting them and feeding them, which in turn improves their ability to avoid attacks and land critical hits in combat, among other things. Super Training puts your pets through a physical grind minigame that strengthens individual base stats. Outside of training and the story, the Pokémon Contest Spectaculars are events that cannot be overlooked, pitting your Pokémon against others based on their personalities. There are tangible rewards to obtain, and who can resist Pikachu dressed in his Luche Libre wrestling duds?
Moving your trainer through the Hoenn region is an odd mix of confusion. While exploring through the overworld, the Thumb Pad moves you fluidly along, letting you sneak up quietly on unsuspecting wild Pokémon with a delicate touch. Step into a building, however, and the controls become rigid and clunky, moving in a grid-like pattern that almost demands you to switch your thumb to the control pad. The minigames and the menu screens make solid use of the system's touch screen, which is a blessing considering how many information, statistic, and inventory screens you'll be flipping through during your expedition.