Aside from going on your journey to become Pokémon Champion and saving the world a few times, what is there for you to do in Hoenn? Well, there are several options. In Slateport, you meet Lisia and Altaria, top Contest idols in the region of Hoenn. She picks you out of a crowd and proclaims you as a potential future idol. Now, you can achieve all of your dreams of stardom by entering Contests and trying to achieve Master Rank in all five categories.
I never tried Contests in the past. They were always a black box to me, and I never had any idea what the effects of any of the attacks were. I tried bluffing my way through one, and it ended horribly and this traumatized me, so I never tried again.
Okay, Okay… so it wasn’t that bad, but the Contests in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are extremely easy to get into, in comparison to the original games. You can easily see the effects of any attacks, and the rules are easy to follow. There are also fancy effects that happen when an audience is completely hyped up, and you can see the hilarity of a Tough Magikarp … well, looking extremely “Tough,” complete with punching noises. I also love how your character changes into a Contest Costume to match the spirit. (I’m still holding out on unlockable costumes, but I haven’t found any yet…)
Even more interestingly, the Contests have their own separate storyline that slowly unlocks as you complete more of them. You get to learn more about Lisia, and… well, I’d like to tell you more about it, but I’m still just getting my feet wet. As long as it’s done well, any world-building is good world-building in my opinion, though, and Lisia’s story looks promising.
If Contests aren’t your cup of tea, another reason to return to old areas is to build your very own Secret Base. The general concept is the same—use Secret Power on a bush, tree, or hole in the wall, and voila! A room of your very own. This time, it’s a Secret Base Expert Aarune who shows you the ropes. He is also the leader of the Secret Base Guild located in Fortree City, where you can gain hints on how the newer features of Secret Bases work. There seems to be multiplayer functionality, and you can trade QR codes to share your Bases.
One of the biggest problems with setting up a Secret Base for me in Pokémon Emerald was using the PC. There was too much menu usage, but now, both “Put Decoration” and “Remove Decoration” has been condensed into one “Decorate your Base” option, and adding and removing items is easier than ever before. My favorite change, though, is how you can interact with items you put in your Base. For example, if you put a lamp in your Secret Base, you can turn the lights off to simulate a Flash cave. For fun, I tried out an item called the Boppoyama, which is apparently a punching bag. Inspecting it took me to a mini-game to try to press A as much as possible in a limited period of time, and this score is kept for when others explore my Secret Base.
Also, Secret Bases are as expensive as ever to furnish. Get ready to be broke.
If you’d rather take on a more Pokémon-focused challenge, you could always try to catch some National Dex Pokémon. The National Dex is actually unlocked before you defeat the Elite Four, and so you can buff your team up with a whole range of Pokémon before you take on the ultimate challenge. Since Hoenn doesn’t have any new areas unlocked to explore, all of these new Pokémon appear in old routes—every single one of them. With new Pokémon spread through so wide an area, it can take many an hour to find them all. I feel it keeps the areas fresh, and it gives me another excuse to return to areas that I’d loved traveling through.
With the addition of Soar, you can also hunt down Legendaries and Mirage spots, both of which change daily. These new “uncharted” islands are marked by a red light, and I can only wonder how many different variations of Mirage Islands there are. There are also symbol encounters with birds (read: Flying Pokemon) when you’re airborne.
Once you’ve found your ideal team, you can also take up Norman’s (the main character’s father) offer to head to Battle Resort, home of the Battle Maison. The moment you land on the Resort, though, you are confronted by one of the Teams. Apparently both leaders will be taking part, and later you find out that Steven is also moonlighting here. There are also some powerful trainers here, as well as small story tidbits here that fascinated me, but these are better discovered yourself. The Maison itself runs like it did in Kalos. While it’s a shame that the Battle Frontier wasn’t kept, the game sets the Maison up story-wise as a sort of prototype for the Frontier. I also wonder if there is some sort of story to be had here, since Wally had traveled here with you as well.
I really liked how these optional routes were given more attention. Contests gained a storyline, while the Battle Maison actually has story significance and history on top of adding competitive battling to a remake of Ruby and Sapphire, where it didn’t exist. Even Secret Bases got their own character to give them some context in Hoenn, even if most of their functionality seems to be multiplayer. As you can probably tell, there is still a lot I have to do before I can count the game fully complete, and I’m already very happy that there is more to do than I expected after I’d finally defeated the Elite Four.
That said, while we’re on the subject of late-game content, don’t forget about Episode Delta. We’ll cover that next time for those that want to read about it.
Food for Thought:
1. That Magikarp in the Tough Contest has actually bested me twice… I’ve only been so humiliated in a Pokémon game once before.
2. There is also an added activity here reminiscent of the restaurants in Kalos in the form of the Food Court. Essentially, you pay for a meal, and as you wait for it to be finished, you try to finish battles in a set number of turns. Finishing battles fast, though, won’t help you since it’ll just cause another trainer to challenge you. I always enjoyed the restaurant battles (good for money), and I enjoyed my short foray trying to eat a sub in the Food Court, too. (It ended up being a little soggy.)