'Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby' deliver

(Photo courtesy of Nintendo) (Photo courtesy of Nintendo)

I feel like we've been here before.

The new kid in town receives a new monster friend from the town Professor and goes on a long, dangerous journey involving gym leaders, new creatures and an overarching plot involving no-gooders wanting to abuse the power of a legendary 'mon.

Well, this is a remake of an older title, so my cynicism is unfair. After all, "Pokémon Alpha Sapphire" and "Pokémon Omega Ruby" are a step in the right direction for the series.

The game is built using the same infrastructure as the past X and Y titles, so there is quite a lot of similarity. Same graphics, same animations and even the same sounds and music in some of the cities. Older features such as Pokémon-Amie and Super Training make a return as well.

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However, there's a lot from the previous games that OR and AS builds upon and enhances to set them apart.

For example, the ability to re-battle defeated Trainers in the field is finally back in full. It's a better feeling to "restart" the adventure with a new team and be able to properly level them.

On top of that, the presentation and set pieces are amazing. Graphically, the game carries the same gorgeous 3-D style introduced in XY, with only certain spots set for the 3DS's 3-D option. Environments match believable seasonal themes. Battling in a treetop-themed Gym gave me a familiar sense of delight from the original titles.

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Certain creatures can Mega Evolve from original forms only in battle.There are more creatures to catch in ORAS, and a greater ability to wield the Super Saiyan-esque Pokémon.It's not as game-breaking as it sounds, because these souped-up monsters can still get knocked out by a non-Mega.

The battle system remains unchanged from other titles in the series —teams of up to six Pokémonthrow down against other teams, with a rock-paper-scissors balancing act of types and moves.

ORAS has done a little better at increasing the difficulty, and I actually found myself challenged a few times in the field and gyms. Newcomers will enjoy the balance, but veterans will likely breeze through.

Interestingly, I found a couple tweaks that might surprise veterans. Critical hits, the holy grail of extra attackdamage, landed more easily than previous iterations, with some creatures landing two in a row. Additionally, 'mons shook off confusion quicker, with most instances lasting no more than two turns.

In the field, PokéNav scans and picks up certain 'mons hiding in tall grass, letting you sneak up to them for battle. These 'mons may have rare attributes not found in more common creatures, such as hidden abilities and egg moves.

The PokéNav learns progressively, finding rarer Pokémon as you advance. However, you'll have to keep catching ones you may not want.The device also contains the apps from XY, with the PPS letting you trade and battle worldwide, Pokemon-Amie letting you play with your partners and Super Training letting you power up the 'mons outside of battle with mini games.

Distractions are plentiful, but lack incentives to do them. Contests are back, but having your Pokémon graded on performing moves in front of a live crowd stillisn't fun and gets monotonous quickly.

The story entertains, even if much of the script was rewritten to fit in Mega Evolutions. The tale deals with the ancient power the two Legendary Pokémon, Kyogre and Groudon, wielded and how the they want to use it to shape the world in their image. It's typical "hero saves the day" fare, but it manages to serve a few decent moments of peril and desperation.

"Pokémon Alpha Sapphire" and "PokémonOmega Ruby" are a lot of fun. With considerable improvements over predecessors and awesome visuals, it's a great game for newcomers and veterans alike.

 

Are you a Pikachu or a Charizard? Tell the reporter about your favorite 'mon at Damion.Julien-Rohman@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @legendpenguin

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