Poké­mon Omega Ruby/Al­pha Sap­phire

3DS

EDGE - - GAMES -

Hoenn was and still is the most di­vi­sive Poké­mon re­gion to date, though per­haps not for much longer. Pe­cu­liar and dis­tinc­tive – well, as pe­cu­liar and dis­tinc­tive as in­di­vid­ual Poké­mon games get – it’s surely the most en­vi­ron­men­tally di­verse world of them all, with a non­lin­ear crit­i­cal path and a menagerie as un­usual and wide-rang­ing as its pro­fu­sion of ac­tiv­i­ties.

Which­ever ver­sion you choose, you’ll be kept sim­i­larly busy. You’ll col­lect vol­canic ash to make glass flutes, choose whether to dress a cos­play­ing Pikachu as a sci­en­tist, rock star or Mex­i­can wrestler, and ex­plore vast stretches of wa­ter from above and be­neath the sur­face. And though the story deals with a fa­mil­iar ecoter­ror­ist threat, it takes some un­ex­pected turns, such as the mo­ment when two fa­thers dis­cuss their mixed emo­tions as their off­spring head out into the world.

You’ll also find some of the se­ries’ most ad­ven­tur­ous and out­landish creature de­signs to date. Hoenn is home to the Poké­mon uni­verse’s mis­fits and odd­balls, from the bizarre Loudred to the com­i­cal Lu­di­colo. Im­proved an­i­ma­tion makes them more char­ac­ter­ful still, and the same ap­plies to the wider range of Mega Evolved monsters. It’s a pity, then, that X and Y’s tech­ni­cal foibles per­sist. Again, stere­oscopy is re­stricted, and the game suf­fers from dropped frames when you are able to use it. Nonethe­less, the thrill of bat­tle is am­pli­fied by the dra­matic pre­sen­ta­tion, with gyms, con­tests and other events cap­tur­ing a sense of pageantry.

Mean­while, should in­vestors ques­tion Nin­tendo’s re­luc­tance to con­sider mo­bile gaming, Iwata might be ad­vised to wryly point them in the di­rec­tion of the DexNav, a de­vice that heartily em­braces the smart­phone ethos. As in X and Y, you’ve got apps with which to train, pet and feed your team at any time, while the re­turn­ing Player Search Sys­tem of­fers easy con­nec­tions to lo­cal or on­line play­ers for bat­tles or trades. A new fea­ture al­lows you to track hid­den Poké­mon, how­ever, and th­ese beasts are of­ten blessed with su­pe­rior stats or with moves usu­ally only avail­able via breed­ing.

Of­fer­ing eas­ier ac­cess to bet­ter monsters isn’t the only sop to sea­soned play­ers. The story has been stream­lined to hurry vet­er­ans through to its con­clu­sion, a process eased by the early ar­rival of the Ex­pe­ri­ence Share and faster lev­el­ling over­all. Col­lec­tors are alerted when each Poké­mon in a given route has been snared, with sil­hou­ettes of any miss­ing monsters on view oth­er­wise. And with a more sub­stan­tial endgame that sees other re­gions’ in­hab­i­tants join the fun, th­ese are the most gen­er­ous en­tries since HeartGold and SoulSil­ver – trips down mem­ory lane that dou­ble as ex­cel­lent en­try points for bud­ding train­ers.

The sound­track is another high­light. Those who played the orig­i­nal Ruby and Sap­phire will mar­vel at some of the remixed melodies on of­fer here, and the bat­tle mu­sic might just be the best of any Poké­mon game yet

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