On Playing Through Alpha Sapphire: Ep I

I’m not really planning to do a full-length journal on Alpha Sapphire like I did with White 2 or X, partly because I’m just kinda ‘over’ that particular type of writing at the moment, partly because I want to focus more on this thing I’m doing with the rivals, partly because I’m just not sure how I would work something like that when I already know the basic outline of the story of these games, although I’m sure there will be plenty of new details.  So I’m just going to wing it and talk about stuff that’s interesting as I move.  I’m going to go pretty slowly – I may actually make a real effort, for the first time in years, to complete my Pokédex on Alpha Sapphire, so I’m catching everything I come across and training most of it at least a little bit.  So I’ll just give you brief updates on my progress and talk about anything I come across that I like, or don’t like, or is just interesting.  Whatevs.

Currently hanging out in Rustboro City.  Haven’t entered the Gym yet.  Primary team is as follows:

And some observations:

  • The first thing about this game that catches your eye, as a veteran of the original Ruby and Sapphire, is that the first screen you see when you start it is identical to the first screen of those games – a third-generation sprite of Professor Birch on a graduated black and yellow background.  For just a moment, it looks like you’re back to playing the old games on your Gameboy Advance, and then the screen tilts, and you realise that this is a message your character is seeing the on screen of his/her PokéNav.  The PokéNav, which lives in your DS’s touchscreen, continues to take cues from the sprite graphics of the original Ruby and Sapphire throughout the game, from the looks of it.  You can practically taste the nostalgia.

  • This game has STEALTH MODE.  By pushing very lightly on the circular direction pad, you can make your character sneak.  This seems to make you less likely to encounter wild Pokémon, but more importantly, it allows you to sneak up on specific wild Pokémon that your PokéNav has detected in the area around you, which you can see as rustling patches in the grass (and, for some species, a wagging tail).  The PokéNav will passively detect Pokémon from time to time on its own, and it seems to be much better than your character at finding rare Pokémon like Skitty and Slakoth.  You can also order it to search specifically for any Pokémon whose full data is already in your Pokédex.  This is just cool.  It’s immersive, and it emphasises the skill and knowledge of the trainer in finding and catching Pokémon.  I like it.

  • Now, why would you want to do that anyway?  Well, as you quickly learn when May/Brendan shows you how to use Stealth Mode for the first time, these Pokémon often know egg moves – like the Thunder Fang Poochyena who has joined my party, or the Night Slash Nincada I caught as I was writing this.  They also seem to be at higher levels than other wild Pokémon in the area, and sometimes they even have their hidden abilities.  What’s more, the PokéNav’s competence in finding good ones seems to increase as you become more familiar with any given species.  The applications of this technology to endgame stuff like preparing an elite competitive team should be obvious, but I actually think the biggest benefit is that it brings egg moves and hidden abilities into the realms of stuff you can exploit in a normal playthrough, where maybe you don’t have the resources, time or inclination to pursue them by the traditional methods.  It mixes things up a little.

  • Pokémon Amie and Super Training, features of X and Y with which I was rather enamoured, make their welcome return, but are also joined by another function that keeps track of all the Pokémon from an area that you’ve acquired for your Pokédex in a graphical display, and pops up a little crown icon once you’ve got all of them.  Black 2 and White 2 had something similar, the Habitat List, and I was a great fan of that for the same reason as I like this – it makes an effort to put the Pokédex quest front and centre, where it should be.  Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby’s version, I think, is even better – first because it’s ever-present on the touch screen (which is one of the things I liked so much about Amie), second because the visual display is just more engaging than the list that Black 2 and White 2 presents us with.

  • The rival character (May in my case, Brendan if you’re playing as the female character) seems to have more screen time, more dialogue and greater all-around competence, and just generally seems to be easier to take seriously.  This is a promising start.

  • Wally’s house has a bedroom upstairs, like yours or your rival’s.  On his desk is a notebook, and examining it yields the message “it looks like someone has written and erased in it over and over again.”  This is a tiny detail of very minor significance, many players probably didn’t even notice it, and it makes me indescribably happy that someone decided to put it in anyway, because it makes perfect sense with what we know about Wally that he’d be the kind of person who would never be happy with anything he had written, and would go back again and again to erase and rewrite things.  Someone at Game Freak thought it would add more texture to the game world and to this character to leave that insignificant little detail there for people like me to find and obsess over, and that person was absolutely right.

  • The Experience Share seems to function just as it does in X and Y.  I shall continue to regard it as Easy Mode, and will leave it switched off unless and until the game is able to change my mind.

  • In a house in Rustboro City, there is an Ace Trainer who, when you talk to him, gives you a Float Stone, an item that decreases the weight of a Pokémon holding it by half (only useful, as far as I know, for reducing its vulnerability to Low Kick and Grass Knot).  If you come back to the house again after receiving the stone, the slim Ace Trainer has been replaced by a chubby Hiker.  When you talk to him, he notes that “for some reason, I’ve put on a lot of weight recently.”  This makes me happy.

  • Holy $#!t I just got my butt kicked by a level 18 wild Nincada with Silver Wind.  Olive has 2 hit points left and my other Pokémon are unconscious.  I only survived at all because I managed to catch the damn thing in a Premier Ball.  I have no idea what is happening but it’s AWESOME.

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