Ah, Pokemon. For many, Pokemon was their childhood. People lived, and in at least one case, died for this series. A franchise we all know, if maybe not love. Who doesn't know who Pikachu is at this point? If they don't, how? Back in the 90s, everything was Pokemon. I keep finding new Pokemon crap and I'm like, "Man, how'd they sell this shit?" The answer? It was Pokemon.
By the time I got my GBA, the first game I got was Pokemon Sapphire. At this point, Pokemon wasn't the enormous marketing thunderstorm it used to be, but Sapphire was still pretty damn hype. I still remember (most) of the songs, with those godawful trumpets blaring out of the tiny speakers. Aw, man. Those were the days.
Of course, I don't have my original cart anymore. I'm way too clumsy and/or danger-prone that most of my Gameboy Advance games have not survived into the late 2000s. Except WarioWare: Twisted, but that thing's built like a fucking truck. I am a bit envious of those people who've been carting their same Swampert around for over ten years, but hey. I barely had any attachment to my actual Pokemon back then. All I remembered was one move.
It was with this mindset that I started Alpha Sapphire. Not the "no attachment to Pokemon" part, but the "Leaf Blade destroyed a lot of things" part. After Diamond and Pearl, I had dropped off the Pokemon scene. I came back for X, but if my younger self had any grasp of the intricacies of Pokemon, they were long gone. Along with my copy of Pokemon Pearl. Again, I'm clumsy.
I've beaten X, I've got the Pokemon I like and a team I respect. So during my run of Alpha Sapphire for the first time, it might've been the thought of my X team, waiting to be unleashed in this pristine, new-ish world, or the fact that Leaf Blade destroys a lot of things that kept me from catching a ton of Pokemon. By the time of this writing, having already beaten the Delta Episode, my Pokemon count doesn't exceed more than a single PC box.
It's not very effective...
The problem with Alpha Sapphire is that there isn't the depth I felt with X. I can't put my character into a cool suit. I can't make Trainer Videos. It feels emptier. While I suppose Super Secret Bases and the return of Contests are nice, I feel like the elegant simplicity of, say, visiting a clothing store and updating your look with souvenirs of the towns you visited. I have an entire album of the photos I took from X over the course of my journey, (a feature missing in this game), and it's fascinating to see how my character developed. I understand that May and Brendan are somewhat sacred in their design, but it'd have been nice to have SOMETHING.
It also feels like they tried to remake Mauville into the new Lumiose City, with mixed results. While more condensed, the layout still manages to be a bit confusing (It took me several tries to find the bike shop.) The Battle Restaurants seem to make their return, along with a cafe and some of the other services from Lumiose. It never manages to reach the same sort of spectacle of Lumiose, which truly felt like a bustling city you could just explore. Mauville just feels like they put all the services in a rectangle and threw in a useless mirror shop.
The shops like their Secret Base items, too. Secret Bases have potential with StreetPass making it easier to find the hidden spots of others, but it wasn't the "Build your own gym" I thought it would be. I haven't experimented much, but it seems like there isn't much to set it apart from the original game, besides the trainers you can throw in there. Disappointingly, I could not find a way to get any Hoenn Rangers memorabilia for my base. Hoenn Rangers, your region may have ignored you, but you live on in my heart.
Some of the problems from the original game are still here, mostly, I needed to lug a Pokemon knowing all HM moves around and still waste a move slot for some other poor sucker. Switching bikes is still a pain in the ass, and yes, I know it's so bases are harder to get to, but it's still annoying. Bothered me as a kid and bothers me now. Contests are back, and there's no real difference to them now other than I'm winning them, so hey I guess it's not all bad. And, once again, the limited Hoenn roster means that some Pokemon can just breeze right through, say, Team Aqua's water type Pokemon. With a move that involves leaves and blades.
A critical hit!
And this may seem like I'm dissing the game, but really I'm not. It's a solid Pokemon game. I would say, that if you have not purchased a Gen VI game yet, and you played Gen III, get this game. They made improvements in other places, mostly in catching legendaries is no longer an exercise in camping out in the Nintendo World. Near the end of the game you can fly anywhere, even to routes and landmarks, without needing a Pokemon that knows Fly. The music is even better than I remember, with some tracks that I missed as a kid coming back and whacking me over the head with a sax solo. Delta Episode, without spoiling, is some of the most interesting Pokemon lore I've seen, and the fact there's more continuity than simple shoutout to Red or Professor Oak is something very welcome. I just wish it were longer.
In the long run, Alpha Sapphire is not a new game. It is two previous games. It is the story and gimmicks of Ruby and Sapphire with the polish, graphics and mechanics of X and Y. If you are willing to drop 40 dollars to experience either of those again, go right ahead. But if you own X or Y and are on the fence, wait. See if X and Y gets patched. The online between the two is compatible, and you don't have to deal with Mega Rayquaza.
On a side note, I transferred over my team from X before beating the Elite Four. Not only did they wreck their shit, my shiny Gardevoir also won every Cleverness contest there is. Good work, team.