Hit by the Hype Train – Game Critique: Pokemon Ruby Omega & Sapphire Alpha demo

Was meant to have written this a while back but back have been busy with more than a few things of late. Oh, well. Such is life.

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Because Nintendo view me as a hyper-consumer of their products, they selected me (& a few thousand others) to test & brag about their demo for their forcoming (re)releases Pokemon Ruby Omega & Sapphire Alpha.

Since there isn’t honestly much to the demos, I’ll take a moment to about the Big N‘s strategy with releasing unlimited demos & special promotions (such as Halloween themes) to their heavily invested consumers before releasing limited versions to the general public through their eShop system.

The main idea in doing this is so those individuals who are already rapid fans of Nintendo & their various products are both kept engaged & are ready to be zealots for the Big N’s cause. Nintendo lose nothing from sending out demos & free bonuses to Nintendo Club members or randomly selected consumers. In fact, they have everything to gain because it is these individuals who are most like to have ways & means (such as I with this blog) to promote these special promos & get other consumers who aren’t as devoted to become jealous &/or intrigued by they aren’t afforded the same deals. That is when, after much internet metaphorical (unless you have a Nintendo logo tattooed on it) dick-waving, Nintendo release a limited use demo for everyone else -such as they did with the recent Super Smash Bros. 3DS demo.

This sort of trickle release in the Age of the Hyper-Engaged consumer means people are always aware of what they are potentially missing out on, so are more able (& eager) to demand their share too (deserved or not).

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What people have been neglecting to notice is that Nintendo has been the quiet achiever of the current Console War of sales of the 3DS in Asia & the increase of Wii U sales due to a steady flow of new release games over the past year. Whilst people focus on the current home console battle between Sony (PS4) & Microsoft (XBone) (in which the XBone is being smashed by the PS4) & how rapid the fans get there, almost everyone has a Nintendo platform of some variety (usually a DS or 3DS). Nintendo are the constant of the video game industry, having beaten Atari, Sega & a myriad of other companies (apart from PC game makers), so no matter your current allegiances, the majority of gamers have played or owned a Nintendo console at some point.

Further to this, as previous written about in my Pokemon article, the biggest driven force for Nintendo still remains as the Pokemon franchise. With consumers demanding both new & reimagined games. Which brings us to the crux (it’s pronounced, crue, the X is silent because it is French) of this rambling article: the demo for the forthcoming remakes of Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire.

The demo is extremely limited. Your character is pre-named as Orlando (you can’t customise appearance even in full game, unlike X/Y) & you can only explore Mossdeep Town as well as a few enclosed dungeons (forests, caves & islands), a few battle areas & one semi-proper quest. You interaction with only a few characters, mainly the Pokemon League Champion Steven but cameos from other major characters (gym leaders) appear too. This is all to get you a taste of the new game, showing off the improved graphics (improved even from X/Y in some cases).

The best example of the improvement in graphics is fly mode with Steven on the back of Latios or Latias. From the back of those Pokemon, you can see the entire Hoenn region in 3D (the 3D effect automatically turns off when out of battle & cut scenes). There are heaps of other little graphical details added, such as grass rustling in the breeze & the way the long grass moves as well.

The other much hyped new feature in the demo is the ability to sneak up on Pokemon who are poking up out of the long grass (in the full game these are meant to be harder to catch monsters or ones with different move sets from the normal ones). It’s done like sneaking in pretty much any game: slightly moving the circle pad in a direct so you move slowly. I thought that this would also lessen encounters in the long grass but didn’t find that to be the case.

Unfortunately, you can’t catch any of these long grass Pokemon. In fact, the only one that you can catch is in the only proper mission, where you have to save a Mega Evolving Pokemon from both Team Magma & Team Aqua lieutenants. I was given a Glali but some people were meant to have been able to have captured a Steelix. You can Mega Evolve the Glali into a neckbearded bit of weirdness but isn’t all that great. You also fight with the top evolutions of the 3 Starters, each with the ability to be Mega Evolved as well. You can also transfer Glali into the full game, once you purchase, along with some other bonuses that you can unlock through repetitive plays (though haven’t found any other Pokemon that you can capture & transfer).

I’ve played the demo through about a dozen times now, playing missions that only take a few minutes each (mainly missions to flush a Shroomish out of some long grass without battling it). There isn’t anything special to do or great challenge, mainly just battle several basic trainers or one more special one.

In the end, the OS/RA is just to whet the appetites of eager fans & silence nay-sayers that it’s just X/Y set back in Hoenn. Which does make it kind of pointless because people have been waiting for it for so long now, they’ll already have it pre-ordered or pick it up the moment that it’s out (it won’t break street date though, the Big N is very very strict on that these days). It’s something that I already plan to get but having stuff to transfer into it upon purchase is just a nice bit of spice to an already decent meal.

With not much left to say about it, I await any flaming on providing incorrect info on the Console Wars as well as the general haters having a go (before they are deleted) as I try to conquer my Pile of Shame.

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The Hype Is Strong With This One – Game Critique: Super Smash Bros. 3DS demo

For months now, people have watched the Nintendo Hype Train pulling into the station whilst the PS4 and XBone still lumber down the tracks (especially the poor poor XBone) but the Big N has put a heavy Hype Boot in with the release of demo codes of the 3DS version of the latest game in the Super Smash Bros. franchise.

Choo-Choo, Motherfucker!
Choo-Choo, Motherfucker!

Basically, it was release to limited numbers of Nintendo Club members (4 codes per Golden Ticket), causing people to lose their mother fucking minds of it. Selling & demanding them for hefty prices but is it worth the hysterics?

I got my codes (all gone now, so don’t demand) whilst I was away, so couldn’t download until this past Sunday.

Unlike the free demos that you used to get with old PC magazines (which were basically the entire games), Super Smash Bros. 3DS is an exceptionally stripped affair. you only get 2 game modes -vs CPU & verses 3 other plays via wireless mode- 5 characters (Mario, Adult Link, Villager [Animal Crossing], Pikachu & Mega Man) and a single stage with 2 modes (one with platforms, one without). You also don’t get any configure options, so you can’t change the tricky controls (more on that later). You can get different character appearances by pressing X over the character icon (including getting a Female Villager) but that’s it for customisation in the demo.

As for proving the greatest of the game, I don’t think the demo really does that.

Not from the demo
Not from the demo

As mentioned before: the default controls are pretty painful to use.

The Y & X buttons are set to jump, which makes it clumsy after decades of having B or A used as jump buttons. To add to complications, UP on the Circle Pad also makes you jump but is needed to do certain types of attacks.

The attack buttons are also confusing, because it’s hard to tell at a glance if you are doing a normal or special attack & if you hit the wrong direction whilst pressing either button, you get an entirely different attack.

Supposedly, according to import hands on, you can completely customise the controls in the full game. I hope so, because the default is very confusing & SSM3DS is such a fucking frenetic game.

Which leads into the other issue: playing on the tiny 3DS screen.

When you have 2 other player who all look very similar you can easily make a mistake. More than once I was looking at the wrong character trapped in a blast of flashing light effects thinking that it was mine, only to have my character fall off the ledge because couldn’t see where he was.

That was also a general problem when playing Super Smash Bros. Wii on an old analogue TV but the compact nature of the 3DS screen does mean that you have to really pay attention.

I haven’t tried it in 3D mode yet. I don’t often use it, so tend to forget that it’s even there. According to others whom I’v3 spoken with, the 3D helps you see things a little better, especially dodging moves & background but the game can still easily be played in 2D mode (for those who got the 2DS wedge).

I have no idea how the work on the New 3DS with its Wii U GamePad like button set up but don’t think it will impact much.

So, what is good about the game?

Well, despite the control & screen issues, it’s still very very fun.

the Smash Bros. has always been a Beat’em Up light style of game. You can casually play without hassle or get hardcore into it, learning all the little tricks. The game caters for both style of plays & so does the demo.

All the move sets for the characters are unlocked, including their Final Smashes (super moves trigged by acquiring the right item). As are all the items that pop into the battle. There are so new interesting ones so far, especially Pokeball related assists. There are also a ton of Assist Trophies too. I found that the best one was Isabelle from Animal Crossing: New Leaf because she cheers for you & drops healing items (food). You can also get near one hit smash items (knocks opponents out of the arena) but they take a while to wind up, so it balances out. The towards screen smash do look awesome on the 3DS, even if they block gameplay for a moment.

The demo also allows you unlock Smash Coins, which are the in game currency. These coins carry over to the full game once you buy it (similar to the Bravely Default items in that game’s demo), allowing for you to purchase unlockables (not to be confuse with DLC micro-transaction, they only use in game stuff).

All matches are limited 3 minutes. Any more than that & you’d probably have a heart attack trying from all the Hype.

In the end: the demo is but the tiniest, inciest taste to get you hooked on the full thing. Making the Big N your typical high end drugdealer. The lack of control customisation is vexing but can be dealt with. I’m not sure that you truly get enough to get you salivating over the full experience but it’s enough t make your mouth moist.

Supposedly the full game will be able to be hooked up to the Wii U version, so you can play it with your customised characters & use your 3DS as a controller on the big screen. That’s a function I’ve been waiting for in Nintendo consoles since the Wii was meant to hook up to the DS for certain games.

With only a few weeks until the full game is available, Nintendo have done a lot to get the Hype Train up to full steam before the pre-Xmas glut of games. They themselves have at least a dozen things coming out in a short space of time, so they need to get people prioritising their purchases (doesn’t help that they are doing sales in their console stores that offer download discounts on related game franchises).

So, whose ready to claim aboard the Hype Train already?

Get the Hype!
Get the Hype!