I'd also recommend a Tales game (except Legendia, that's a stinker). Not much weight on exploration and more weight on ass kicking. The ass kicking is considered the best part of the series (Symphonia and Abyss are the best), placing much more weight on skill than on level.
For those who have never played a Mega Man game, I'd recommend Mega Man Anniversery Collection (stay away from the game cube version and MM5, MM6, and the fighting games) or Mega Man X Collection (either version's fine, but avoid X6 like the plague).
Its my turn to confess again. I used to like the pokemon series, but now, I've been starting to dislike it. The G/S generation was excellent, but the R/S generation has really killed my buzz regarding the series. I have three reasons for my alienation from the series.
The first is excessive trade. Having to buy 5 games and an E-Reader to catch them all is simply bullshit. The trade system has never been anything more than a cheap gimmick at best, but only being able to catch less than half the species with one game is beyond pushing it, especially with trade evolutions and having to trade to get one of a kind species. Has Nintendo ever heard of a side quest. If it were up to me, I'd only have two versions, with each version having a different story line (your character of the two is set in stone based on the version), every species is availible with the version you have determining what species you need to get via side quests, and trade evolutions being gone and replaced with either level or in the case of item trade evolutions, equipping the item.
The second is Nintendo's refusal to fix the annoyances of the older games. Chief among them is being forced to use HM slaves to get around. The best way to change that would have been through the use of a move bank. With this move bank, you equip moves to be used in battle and the rest are stored in the bank, never permanately gone. TMs do NOT get stored in the move bank, but HMs can. HMs can be used outside of battle without having to equip them. Another problem that has never been fixed is the ratio of skill and luck. In fact, this has actually become worse with the addition of natures (the game does not tell you how they work) that you can not change (preferably with an item) and reasons mentioned later. The AI is still every bit as cheaterific as before and in fact starts cheating earlier (in the second gym battle of D/P to be exact). In addition to blatent RNG stacking, I've also caught the AI red handed resorting to command reading in Collesium's story mode (reading your inputs, then doing itss actions based on it, commonly seen in SNK boss characters) when I used full heals and the AI responded with Confuse Ray every time I use them and ONLY when I used them. I used the command reading to my advantage to win though. Hidden power is still too random to be of any use. It should always be 70 but the type you get being random (but the game tells you which one you got after you purchased it).
The third and worst beef I have with the series is the new effort value system. For those who are unaware (which is at least the majority of players since the whole system is a secret that was only discovered by hacking into the game), an EV cap that reduces your total maximum stats (not including nature) by 122 points was instituted in the R/S generation. I have many complaints with this system from a game design perspective. I guess this is one of those few times in which ignorance is bliss.
1. Since the whole system is highly secretive, you have no way of tracking the exact values from each species and your total EVs without an out of game method (yes this includes pen and paper). This punishes players merely for not knowing the system exists with inferior pokemon.
2. If you do know about the system, it forces to grind for hours in the same location, fighting the same species to get a proper build. Talk about having to do more work to get less.
3. Encourages min-maxing (power gaming), a tactic that is frowned upon in most RPG and table top strategy circles.
4. Reduces the amount of viable move sets, making pokemon more predictable.
5. Since reduced EVs causes a general tendancy for more fragile pokemon, critical hits become considerably more deadly, increasing the weight of luck
6. In a battle between two offensive pokemon, increased fragility causes the balance of power to swing in favor of speed (in G/S, being slow was not as much of a disadvantage as the slower one was tougher to compensate)
7. In a more fragile environment, missing a turn because of random effects becomes comparatively more fatal, once again, swinging the balance of power in favor of luck.
8. The combination of more fragile pokemon and increased weight of luck creates a state of slippery slope that is both unpredictable and steeper in comparison to the older games. Slippery slope is something that is to be lessened if not avoided in multiplayer games.
9. While pokemon has never been balanced between characters, the new EV system actually makes things a lot WORSE. Since there is a flat 122 point reduction, species with a smaller stat block lose a much higher percentage of their stats compared to more powerful species.
10. This system is the PRIMARY reason you can't trade old pokemon from G/S.