Nintendo of Europe has updated the theme menu today and added a free Cat Mario Show background. It arrives before the seven new themes – including Tomodachi Life and the Sonic theme bundle – which are due this Friday, December 19. 3DS users have from now until January 15, 2015, to download the free theme, which sees Mario and Peach puppets parting tips to young gamers. The stylish puppet background can be located in the theme shop from the 3DS menu screen. To check out the latest Cat Mario Show, head on over to the UK Kids Club website, here.
Square Enix has added two new gameplay trailers and a TV commercial for its upcoming 3DS game, Final Fantasy Explorers. As it was revealed today and developed by the makers behind such games as Bomberman Land and SaGa 2, Japanese studio Racjin has been keeping busy with the latest Final Fantasy handheld game. Though the action RPG is yet to be announced for western audiences, Japanese 3DS owners have been able to download the demo since it launched on the eShop last month.
If you’re itching to watch the trailers, you can find the Alchemist trailer embedded above, and the thief trailer, here. Aside from adding the new trailers, Square Enix has also uploaded new screenshots and some lovely art to the official website. Final Fantasy Explorers will release December 18 in Japan.
Bandai Namco has uploaded a new trailer for upcoming Japanese release Ace Combat 3D: Cross Rumble Plus. Announced last month in Famitsu, the remastered edition – which is known as Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy for western audiences – will include a number of new features, as well as amiibo support for certain characters. Check out the trailer embedded above to see support for Mario, Luigi, Peach, Samus and Link amiibo – which can be tapped directly into the New Nintendo 3DS to unlock new fighter jets. Ace Combat 3D: Cross Rumble Plus will be released in Japan on January 29, 2015.
Nintendo of Europe has added a number of new 3DS home menu themes this week. Arriving on Friday, December 19, seven new themes can be purchased from the European eShop. The new backgrounds include a rather fetching yellow and turquoise spotted Tomodachi Life theme, along with Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D bundle, and Mario and Luigi moustaches – despite the Movember event concluding last month. Excluding the Metal Gear Solid theme which is priced at €1.49 / £1.39, the other three are priced at the usual €1.99 / £1.79.
Also available on Friday are standard striped backgrounds, arriving in a dashing red or blue, and are priced at the lower €0.99 / £0.89. 3DS users can grab the Sonic theme bundle, which is already available in North America – featuring all four characters with Amy, Shadow, Chao and Sonic – for €5.99 / £5.39. You can take a look at four of the seven themes in the gallery below.
Pikmin creator Shigeru Miyamoto has announced the winners of the “Pikmin Spotted” drawing contest held on Miiverse last month. The talented director and producer had encouraged Art Academy: SketchPad users to draw Pikmin in or around natural environments in order to celebrate the arrival of the Pikmin short movies coming to Nintendo Wii U and 3DS. With the November 30 deadline for submissions, artists needed to get cracking on their entries quickly.
Over the weekend, Miyamoto named the various winners for the gold, silver and bronze awards, alongside a number of other very worthy drawings chosen by the director himself and MariChan – producer of the Miiting for the Pikmin short movies. You can check out all the winning entries on the official website, here. Let us know if you entered in the comment section below.
This week’s individual UK charts are now in courtesy of GFK Chart-Track and UKIE. Grand Theft Auto V continues its reign at the top of the charts, while Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and FIFA 15 refuse to budge from the top 5. Formerly seen in the top 20 last week, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire fall into the latter half of the charts at 21 and 24, respectively. Super Smash Bros takes a slight bow and hangs further back at 29, while Tomodachi Life is a non-mover at 35 and Mario Kart 8 shifts into a higher gear and moves up two places to 36.
Due to its heavy advertising campaign in the UK, Just Dance 2015 for the Nintendo Wii manages to boogie on up into the top 10 this week, climbing a massive ten places. It’s Wii U counterpart is nowhere to be seen, however. You can view the UK’s top 40 individual game charts in full below.
1. (01) [PS4] Grand Theft Auto V
2. (04) [XBO] Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
3. (08) [PS4] FIFA 15
4. (05) [XBO] Grand Theft Auto V
5. (03)  FIFA 15
6. (12) [PS4] Far Cry 4
7. (06) [PS4] Driveclub
8. (11) [PS4] Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
9. (15) [XBO] Halo: The Master Chief Collection
10. (20) [WII] Just Dance 2015
11. (07) [XBO] FIFA 15
12. (02)  Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
13. (16)  Minecraft: Xbox Edition
14. (09) [XBO] Assassin’s Creed: Unity
15. (10) [PS4] The Crew
16. (17) [PS3] FIFA 15
17. (28) [PS4] Minecraft: PlayStation Edition
18. (21) [XBO] Minecraft: Xbox Edition
19. (19)  LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
20. (18) [XBO] Far Cry 4
21. (13) [3DS] Pokemon Omega Ruby
22. (RE) [PS4] The Last of Us: Remastered
23. (22) [PS4] Assassin’s Creed: Unity
24. (14) [3DS] Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
25. (RE) [XBO] Forza Motorsport 5
26. (25) [PS3] Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
27. (RE) [PS4] Destiny
28. (29) [PS3] Minecraft: PlayStation Edition
29. (26) [WIIU] Super Smash Bros
30. (23) [PS4] LittleBigPlanet 3
31. (27) [XBO] The Crew
32. (30) [PC] Football Manager 2015
33. (40) [PS3] Far Cry 4
34. (RE) [XBO] Forza Horizon 2
35. (35) [3DS] Tomodachi Life
36. (38) [WIIU] Mario Kart 8
37. (RE)  WWE 2K15
38. (37)  Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
39. (RE) [PC] The Sims 4
40. (RE)  Destiny
More than ten years since the original Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire landed on the Game Boy Advance, long-term series’ fans can revisit the Hoenn region infused by nostalgia on the 3DS. But these aren’t just straight-laced remakes, Game Freak has reinvigorated and honed the games, delivering what may be the most interesting features yet.
For fans whom have been there since the glory days of Pokémon Red and Blue to newcomers from the X and Y generation, Game Freak’s audience is certainly far-reaching on a worldwide scale. With its ever-growing fan base, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire bolster a sweet balance of new and familiar features which endeavour to aid in the fluidity of nostalgia for those who played the originals, as well as keep the franchise fresh.
Yet the games are not without fault and are still plagued with the problematic frame rate drops from X and Y when encountering Horde battles and flying Pokémon – albeit, much less noticeable. The Experience Share item is once again given to you almost immediately after starting your adventure and, while this feature can simply be turned off, it presents players with a startlingly easy approach to the games, fizzing out any challenge from gym leaders or the Elite Four. Alternatively, refraining from using the feature will still grant you a team two to three levels higher than your adversaries, so your avatar will never frantically pass out and become a victim of daylight robbery.
Building upon the features seen in X and Y, it’s never been easier to train a team of Pokémon in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Pokémon Amie and Super Training are back to soften the gruelling Effort Value process and friendship building, along with an abundance of mega stones scattered throughout Hoenn to crank up the heat in battles. But it’s the arrival of the superb DexNav feature that elevates ORAS to the next level.
A fantastic companion app for the in-game breeder, the DexNav will alert players to roaming wild Pokémon in the grass, water or caves. You may see an adorable tail pop up from Zigzagoon or Skitty, a silhouette with ears for Plusle, and its individual cry or greeting. Once you’ve located the Pokémon, players can sneak with a slow tap of the circle pad while the DexNav relays its ability, first move and its IV potential – improving the more you encounter each species. Practically eliminating the arduous hunt for a perfect IV Pokémon, it reintroduces fun to otherwise stale, mundane and largely ignored gameplay.
Though it’s substantially overshadowed by the excellent ability to control your flight over Hoenn with the Eon Flute, the fly HM has had a substantial upgrade. Players need only tap the Area Map on the PokéNav Plus to fly to a selected city or route, so whether you fancy picking up some berries for PokéBlocks to aid in contests or to re-battle a couple of trainers, it’s quite literally on your doorstep. But, as was the case in the originals, ORAS pins much need on HM use and you’ll almost certainly need a HM “slave” to carry out the laborious work for you. And while most water routes are optional, players can alleviate the cumbersome journey by picking up a Sharpedo which boosts surf speed, making the dive exploration and intriguing side stories at Sea Mauville – or many of the other islands dotted around Hoenn – much more enjoyable.
Depending on which version players choose, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire’s storyline will pit players against Team Aqua or Magma, with a goal to revive the legendary Kyogre or Groudon. What it lacks in originality is more than made up for with its intensity from the raging weather and the overwhelming pressure to save the world from utter annihilation. Yet it’s not until players defeat the Elite Four and enter post-game territory where the storyline really springs into action. The tightly packed Delta episode – a mission to save humanity from a meteoroid hurtling towards Hoenn – features enchanting music that cuts you to the core and dialogue to make your heart melt. It’s essentially Armageddon, but better.
With engaging post content, including the Battle Resort, Battle Maison and those fun capture-the-flag secret bases, contests have also had a boost in design. Now players can set their living room as centre stage with the 3DS’s gyro sensor and camera – it’s both delightful for youngsters and an interesting slant. Players will also receive Cosplay Pikachu, so whether you prefer cool or cute, it comes with a switchable fourth move depending on the costume it wears. It’s a neat design that just begs to be utilised more thoroughly throughout the game.
Oozing with an evocative storyline and building upon the features introduced in X and Y, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are immediately accessible, solid remakes. With just a touch more refinement, both titles could easily charm newcomers into returning and whip up an inferno with long-term fans. Either way, Pokémon is an encore that never truly ends.
*Version played – Alpha Sapphire