Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire Review

Pokemon Title

 Title: Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
Developer: Nintendo, Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail

Pokemon games have been getting remade for the past three handheld generations.  Back in the Game Boy Advance era, Nintendo thought it fitting to remake the original Pokemon games with new engines.  That is how Fire Red and Leaf Green were born.  That took a lot of the elements used in current games and implemented them in the settings of the original games.  In the Nintendo DS era, the same was done to Silver and Gold, and it’s become a habit and pattern with Nintendo.

This generation with the Nintendo 3DS showed Pokemon its first fully 3D games in the form of X and Y.  Taking everything that made X and Y interesting and more in-depth with the 3D visuals, the developers applied it to the next games up for being remade, Ruby and Sapphire.  With the X and Y engine at the helm, here is my review of Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire!

Story

Pokemon Story

The story of Alpha Sapphire is nearly identical to that of the original Sapphire, but it does have a few differences thrown into the mix.  Since Mega Evolutions were introduced in X and Y, and are still present in this game, the story has been modified to accommodate with the existence of Mega Stones.  Outside of this is a story that mirrors the story of Ruby and Sapphire, following the main character and their childhood rival in their journey through the Hoenn Region and struggling against the plots of Team Aqua and Team Magma that each want to cause catastrophic world events by awakening ancient legendary Pokemon.

The story, itself, isn’t a bad story.  It’s a lot more involved than the games prior, and has some rather amazing scenes remade in 3D to showcase the true scape of the conflict that the Ruby and Sapphire generation unfolded.  While Pokemon X and Y had a fairly weak overall plot, Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby bring all of X and Y’s enhancements to really showcase a new depth for the world of Ruby and Sapphire.

Gameplay

Pokemon Game 2

Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire is a turn-based monster-taming RPG that mirrors the gameplay of all previous main series Pokemon games.  You will be traveling across a large map as you catch and train Pokemon and challenge Gym Leaders to earn badges to enter the Elite Four Championship.  This main premise has been the same since the original Red and Blue released back in the 90’s.

Let’s talk about what’s new in this game.  This is a remake of Pokemon: Sapphire Version.  Aside from the graphical engine from X and Y, the game adds a few things that the original version of Sapphire did not have.  Some parts of X and Y return, like Super Training and Pokemon Amie to interact with your Pokemon and increase their stats outside of battle.

The main additions to it are network features with the Secret Base feature, online multiplayer for battling and trading, and the Soar feature.  Secret Base’s can be shared with other players and you can design them specifically for specific other players.  The Soar feature only works with a single Pokemon, but it allows you to fly to any part of the map and not only towns and major landmarks.  Much more expansive than the normal Fly move you get from an HM item.  Another addition is sneaking and a detector to make it easier to find rare encounters in certain areas for random Pokemon.

When you start the game, the story will push you forward with meeting the main characters of the game and urging you towards your main goals of filling up the Pokedex with the information on every captured Pokemon and challenging all of the Gym Leaders.  Where you need to go next is always hinted at by NPCs, normally in forced story scenes.  You can then go at it with exploring the world, capturing Pokemon, challenging Trainers and Gym Leaders, and the list goes on.

As you travel from town to town, you will have other story events interrupting your quest for the Gyms, which really helped the original Ruby and Sapphire become unique from the previous entries.  The fact that there was more story than just “Go catch Pokemon and fight Gym Leaders”.  This adds a bit more tension when you’re going through with a weakened party and a Team Aqua event triggers, forcing you to go and fight them to defend someone or rescue someone they’ve kidnapped.

Pokemon Game 1

Another nice thing to note is that you can catch a lot more Pokemon than you could by yourself in the original games.  There aren’t any new Pokemon introduced in Alpha Sapphire or Omega Ruby, but there are a lot of wild encounters that are unlockable that were not in the original games, including some Legendaries that required very specific events back in the GBA era in order to obtain without using cheats.  Throw X and Y transfers in and you can catch every Pokemon ever created up to this point in Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby.

One thing I will note about the game is that it is an incredibly easy game to play and beat.  I remember playing Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald and they weren’t the easiest Pokemon games to play.  You could do them, but not without a fair amount of challenge thrown into the mix.  Alpha Sapphire had almost no point where I had to stop and level grind or capture something new.  Almost every battle of the game was a cake-walk and left me feeling a little odd at how much the difficulty had been lowered.  If you’re looking for a challenge, you won’t find it here.

If you’re going for story completion, expect Alpha Sapphire to last you about 25 hours, give or take.  There isn’t a lot of extra content exclusive to these remakes, so you can just add some time for the more advanced combat system due to the 3D visuals.

Controls

Control-wise, there’s not a whole lot you need to worry about.  First of all, the extra buttons on the New 3DS cannot be used in Alpha Sapphire.  It rarely uses the L and R buttons, so there’d be little to no use for the ZL and ZR buttons even if they could be used.  The touch screen is used and it is the only way to use the Poke Nav, Super Training, and a few other features.  Most features, though, have button alternatives.

Moving around can be done with either the D-Pad or the Circle Pad.  Honestly, I prefer the D-Pad in Pokemon games, despite the 3D environments you’re going through.  The A and B buttons are used for confirming or cancelling options in menus.  The X button can open up the customization menu where you can check your Pokedex, Pokemon, Items, etc.  The Y button is used to access one of four registered items, like fishing poles or bikes.  All in all, it’s pretty easy to get a handle on and feels very comfortable for retro Pokemon veterans.

Presentation

Pokemon Pres

Visually, the game looks the same as X and Y.  There is a lot of cell-shading in the graphics.  When I look at the visuals, I see jagged edges everywhere on the 3D models in battle.  The cell-shading is there to help remedy this as well as the higher camera angles.  I’m not saying it looks bad, because it certainly does look impressive for a 3DS title.

Performance does have a hiccup in its own field.  Much like X and Y, Alpha Sapphire doesn’t handle the 3D features of the system very well.  It only uses 3D in some scenes and in battle, and when you have the 3D turned on, it lags pretty badly in battle animations.  Even if you’re using the more-powerful New Nintendo 3DS, the lag is still there, but not nearly as apparent.  I’ve also seen it happen with the 3D turned off, depending on what Pokemon are currently in battle.  It happened often for me whenever I was using Gyarados.

Outside of this, performance is nice.  Load times are nice and short and the music compositions show a very orchestral rendition of the music first featured in the original games.

Summary

Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire has something in it for newcomers to the series and for veterans.  On the downside, it retains the lag from Pokemon X and Y when the 3D is used and the difficulty has been dropped considerably since the original games.  Looking past these issues is a very faithful remake of Sapphire with the enhancements made in X and Y.  Perfect for a fan of Pokemon Generation 3. 

8/10