Game: Pokemon X / Y Developer: Game Freak Publisher: Nintendo Release Date: Out Now Available On: 3DS Version Played: 3DS
Pokemon has never been a series known for it’s narrative; The previous titles Black and White add an emphasis on story, and for the most part I enjoyed the change. Pokemon X and Y seems to focus more on your journey as a Pokemon trainer. This is accentuated by the fact that, instead of one or two rivals introduced at the start of the game. You have a group of friends. Each of them love Pokemon for a different reason. Whether it be you just like battling, catching, exploring or having an emotional connection with your Pokemon. All of these different archetypes are expressed through these characters. The moments you experience with the group is not integral to the story, but they were more interesting in terms of making the world feel more alive.
The narrative the game pushes you through uses the typical Evil Team/Organisation formula, and it doesn’t do it very well. It just feels it like was shoehorned in just for the sake of following a formula and it’s awfully predictable. Team Flare’s goals are definitely the most sinister of all the teams yet, however they don’t really seem like a threat. They just pop up every now and then, and the only point it gets interesting is at the climax. Even then, the big finale to the arc is not really all that satisfying at all. If anything there is a character with a really engrossing backstory that feels wasted. It deals with the Pokemon War that is referenced over and over again in previous titles. I just wished they explored that story more, rather then lumping it in with Team Flare.
I my first Pokemon game was Pokemon Yellow, which I got with the special Pikachu Gameboy Colour. I have grown up with Pokemon and it has grown up with me. From the 8bit era, to them merging sprites with polygonal environments in Black and White. It was only a matter of time until Game Freak decided to make that final leap into a full polygonal world.
Pokemon X and Y showcase some of the best visuals on the system to date, what better way to showcase this then base the new region on France. The Kalos reigon is stunning and diverse; From the bustling Luminose city, to the constantly snowing area of Snowbelle. Pokemon has always been a been a vivid series, that doesn’t change here. The new hardware has given the visuals the breath of fresh air the series needed. The creativity is alive in each of the eight gyms you enter, and the raw technical power they show off in the Elite Four is astonishing. Seriously, each of those Elite Four entrances are there to impress.
The overworld is as you should expect, filled with trainers and lots of different environments. Each different area has it’s own detail put into it, snow crunching underneath your feet, the grass blowing the the wind. These are only small things done to the presentation of these areas, but they go a mile in making the areas feel alive and exciting to explore. When it comes to the overworld exploration, the camera can be really frustrating in some areas. An example is Luminose City, the camera can hug so tightly behind your character at points that it makes it difficult to orientate yourself, let alone try to find something specific. The areas where the camera acts like this is few and far between. So it doesn’t hinder the overall experience too much.
This is a Pokemon game, so you will be raising and battling a lot of Pokemon. Those aspects, have benefited the most in the decision to scrap sprites. To really appreciate how much work they put into this, there are now 718 Pokemon total. Pokemon X and Y includes 69 new Pokemon, which is pretty low compared to previous iterations. Since there is such a low new Pokemon count, I feel like they focus more on reintroducing old Pokemon in this new Polygonal style. Which was a fantastic idea to get old and new Pokemon fans alike.
Each Pokemon has been given special treatment. Animation is extremely smooth and their models are highly detailed, bringing all their unique features to life. It’s crazy how much love and effort were put into bringing these creatures into a 3D space. Of course, not only the Pokemon got the special treatment. All of the attacks have been redone as well, it should be needless to say that they all look fantastic.
My only gripe with these new visuals is that frame rate drops are a problem. For the most part the game is fine in 2D, but as soon as you enable the 3D on the 3DS the frame rate drops across the board. I prefer to play games on the 3DS in 2D anyway, but it was quite an eye opener to see such a frame rate drop as soon as I tried otherwise. I’ll put it this way, there was a reason why the 2DS was launched alongside Pokemon. I have a feeling this is why.
This is a Pokemon game, and Game Freak sticks to it’s guns. Rather then overhauling the combat system like many critics have thought is best for the series. They have sticked to the trademark turn-based RPG formula. The Pokemon series has been doing this since 1996, and it’s still as fun as ever. With X and Y bringing some much needed refinements and additions to the overall gameplay experience. The end result gives a something for everyone.
The biggest and best, new feature to the series is the Player Search System AKA the PSS. Player interaction has always been part of Pokemon in one way or another, from the old days using Link cables, to the infrared on the DS. The PSS is by far the best system for online play, not just for the Pokemon series but for Nintendo games in general. Unlike the games of the past, there is no contrived centre to connect or interact with other players. As soon as you connect to the internet, the PSS actives. You can finally do all the online play that should be experienced in a Pokemon game, without jumping through hoops. It is incredibly seamless. Whether you want to battle, all formats are supported, and trading is easier then ever.
Outside on the usual trading and battling all Pokemon games have seen prior, the game has a few features in the PSS to encourage good behaviour, form shouting people out for good behaviour, favourite them, and my favourite addition. O-Powers.
O-powers are periodic passive stat bonuses that you acquire throughout the game, you can give them to yourself, or other people you see online. Whether that be your friends, acquaintances or just random people in the passerby section. Sure, you could just use these stat bonuses on yourself to make your life easier, but there is a catch. O-powers have use resources that you get automatically over time. Since using O-Powers on yourself cost substantially more than using it on other trainers, you are highly encourage to be a good sport and help the community. Most the time you will receive O-Powers from others in return, the Pokemon community is fairly good about not abusing the system. The only problem I have with the PSS is that, outside of the primary functions of trading, battling and giving O-Powers; Changing a setting can lead you digging through menus, since the layout isn’t all that intuitive. But it’s only a small complaint.
With the PSS covering all the online wants people have been asking, the rest of the new additions address things people have been wanting for quite a while.
For those who just want to play with their Pokemon, you have Pokemon-Amie. This mode is all about making your Pokemon happy, through interacting with them. You pet, feed and play with your Pokemon in various ways. It does provide some in battle benefits though, critical hit rates are increased, Pokemon that are happy have a chance of curing status effects and much more. While this mode isn’t as robust as a dedicated pet simulator like Nintendogs, it’s still a nice little distraction.
For the newcomers to Pokemon, you may not be aware how deep the battle system is. Getting up to speed to play competitively online, could consist of you to spending many hours online, reading guides on how to make the Pokemon the best you can be. It can become overwhelming real quick. Veterans know what I’m talking about when it comes to EV and IV training. Finally, after many years. Pokemon X and Y is taking steps to making competitive Pokemon battling more accessible with the new Super Training feature. Training Pokemon the way you want has never been easier, you simply play the mini-game corresponding to your stat of choice to raise it. When you clear all the mini-games they will advance to the next level, allowing you to earn stat points quicker. The mini-games all consist of shooting balls into moving goals, after an extended period of time this can get really repetitive. It’s worth keeping in mind that this is all optional. So it’s up to you whether or not you decide to raise your Pokemon like this. Overall, it’s a better solution then finding out which rare item slowly raises certain stats, like you have had to do in previous games.
To top it all off, Pokemon finally has player customisation. The game starts off with some basic Hair and Ethnicity customisation, but the majority of it comes from the plethora of clothes stores you will find around the Kalos region. It’s not the best or deepest use of character customisation, but it’s a step in the right direction.
That’s it for brand new additions to gameplay however, the rest is mostly refinement to an already polished series. Rollerskates speeds up the game to a considerable pace, making it easy and enjoyable to explore the vast region of Kalos. Capturing Pokemon finally gives experience, New Sky-battles are interesting, hoard encounters force you to keep the type of moves you have in minds, the new Fairy type Pokemon introduced to the series throws a wrench into type match-ups, keeping things interesting for old and new players alike and Mega Evolutions are cool, but the real effectiveness of them is in competitive battle. Chances are you will be so overpowered in single player that Mega-evolutions are just a cool gimmick.
That leads me to the refinement in the game that I don’t really like, that’s the change to the EXP share item. In the past, the EXP share item only gave half of the experience earned to a single Pokemon. Now the EXP share is a key item that you can toggle on and off for your entire party. Instead of taking experience away from the Pokemon that earned it and splitting it to the others, it still gains full experience, and all the other Pokemon get half of what it earned. Now, this sounds great for raising lower level Pokemon up quicker; but what ends up happening is that the game becomes incredibly easy. The Pokemon I kept with me most of the time where at least 5 – 10 levels higher then the enemies they were fighting at all times, doesn’t matter if they were Gym leaders or the elite four.