The Hoenn remakes are the first remakes where I had no nostalgic connection to the original games. The Advance era, or Gen 3, went by completely under my radar, where I played very few Nintendo games at all. So as much as I was seeing all the hype around Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, I was almost entirely uninterested.
Keep in mind, I had been playing the Pokemon games again from Diamond onward, almost non-stop. I was burning out, especially after Pokemon X and Y ended up being comparatively short. I ended up buying Alpha Sapphire, playing an hour, then never touching it again.
Then I decided I wanted to give it another shot, back around week 42 of my Game-a-Week project. I jumped back in and… I was in the middle of something, but I couldn’t remember what… so I left it again. And then Pokemon had it’s 20th anniversary, and I just couldn’t leave a game in my collection unfinished.
So I dove back in. I guessed what I was doing, ended up figuring it out, and bulldozed my way through to the end of the game with my elite team. And by elite team, I mean Dragonite. The Dragonite I’ve trained since Gen 4, even.
It got me thinking, now that all of the games are connected since Gen 3, the feeling of having a personalised journey in Pokemon is now a little muddied. Instead of catching my favourites in the game, training them up and having some struggles when I’m under-leveled, I have the option to trade in (or transfer from Pokemon Bank) my A-team. Sure, I can still play the old fashioned way, but it definitely feels like modern Pokemon games are geared towards the end game of catching them all.
And because there are just so many to collect, it’s becoming harder and harder to have Pokemon stories in these games that aren’t centred around specific people, evil teams, or Legendaries. The originals were all about your bond with your Pokemon, and the journey you go through. The newer games are about these larger-than-life creatures, where the whole world depends on you stopping the generic evil team from abusing their powers.
I’m painting with a wide brush here, because Alpha Sapphire didn’t feel like my journey anymore. It felt like I was just there while everything happened. The Primal Kyogre stuff was cool, but why did I have to go, instead of some adult with a bit more experience? The big arc around Kyogre felt so extraordinary, I wondered what the point of going to the Pokemon League and beating the Elite Four would even mean. It felt like the story simmered down at that point, where in earlier games I remember, it was the culmination of your efforts.
And then there’s the Delta Episode. A lot of people were urging me to play through Alpha Sapphire to the end, so I could experience this all new chapter of the game. I was excited at first. It did a good job of setting up the story to be this big, exciting adventure after the Elite Four. I was dissappointed that it ended up being a back-and-forth, almost fetch questy experience. I was sent back and forth across Hoenn, most of the time just to exchange a few words… But then I got to meet Rayquaza and Deoxys. It was surreal. During the actual space flight with Rayquaza, there’s no dialogue. You’re not given a briefing on Deoxys before you battle it. It felt just like surfing through Cerulean Cave and bumping into Mewtwo.
I guess this is less of a review of Alpha Sapphire, and more of a musing on what I feel Pokemon has become. It’s evolved into something that doesn’t resemble the original games anymore. It’s grown, and I’m not entirely sure I like it. I love the 3D worlds, the feeling of catching a favourite Pokemon, and beating the Elite Four. The story, however… it just doesn’t work for me. It’s got to be challenging to try and write a story that’s going to work with the near infinite combinations of Pokemon you can have in your team, but having the Legendaries have more relevance to the plot than you can be a little disconnecting.