Pokémon is a series that I grew up with. I remember watching the cartoon as a kid, and loving every thing about it. I have fond memories of myself and my best friend at the time, she and I would take it in turns and pretend to be gym leaders and battle each other with make-believe Pokemon. I always thought I would grow out of the series, move on and and become a boring adult who cares about cardigans, or spend my days reading the Financial Times. Much to my delight, and thanks to Nintendo, I’m really not one of those adults.
Over the years, Pokemon hasn’t really changed a lot, but Pokemon X and Y have broken the mold, and transcended the top down view to become some thing new, some thing better, but at the same time, still retain what we all adore about the Pokemon series. The game starts as a few of them have before, you are the new kid in town, and what better way to make new friends? Why, go on an adventure of course! You and what appears to be the complete sum of youths from your town meet together, and choose which Pokemon you want to take on your journey. You’re given a letter to give to your Mother (which I can only assume excuses you from school as well) and are informed that the revered Pokemon Professor, Prof. Sycamore wishes to meet with you. And so your journey begins.
What I like about the opening of X and Y, is that you’re not instantly rivals with the other youngsters, and that you all set out on your adventure together, and for the most part, you stick with them. The characters get to know one another through the game, and from this, you get a sense that not every one aspires to be a Pokemon master. One of the group is looking for the best Pokemon for his Pokemon Dance Group, another, is trying his (or her, I couldn’t work it out) hardest to fill the Pokedex, and another is purely there just for the ride. For me, this gives the games story more sense of credibility, it backs up the idea that it is the norm for kids to go on a journey, and not just the actions of one irresponsible parent letting their child run amuck.
Many have stated that X and Y are the defining games of the series, and honestly, I would have to agree. They have managed to become some thing entirely fresh but at the same time retaining the charm of the originals that we all love so much. This isn’t to say there have not been a few changes under the hood so to speak.
Some thing which was previous in some of the previous games is also the ability to take snapshots of your character in certain locations. You call over Phil the Camera guy, and he takes your picture. Well, when I say he does it, you do (he even has the cheek to ask for a tip!), using the motion sensors in the 3DS you move the camera around, and also use the touch screen to zoom in or out and adjust the whiteness levels. once you’re happy with the result, just press the Right shoulder button and SNAP! You’re photo is saved to your memory card, which can be accessed later on, out of the game. A little random function which adds to the enjoyment, but I also feel it adds to the adventure aspect, and you’re making it you’re own story.
Returning fans will notice, a first for the series, that not only are you able to pick weather you are a boy or a girl, which has been present since Pokemon Crystal, but you also are able to pick your skin tone, from three presets. A nice added touch for players who like to make their characters in their image. Gamefreak have also expanded on this by allowing you to by clothing and change your hair style whilst playing the game.
From the get go, no longer do you need a special pair of shoes to run, it would seem your character dons the required foot ware needed to move swiftly from the start, which is a great change. I don’t want to be forced to slow down, I want to run and get into the game, and Pokemon X and Y let you do just this. A little later you get given some roller skates, which allow you to move even faster, and even do tricks. Whilst I liked this, I was a bit annoyed that I was unable to disable these, as they’re activated by using the circle pad, some times they can be a little cumbersome, it can be a little frustrating trying to go through a gap and you keep hitting an invisible boundary as you’re not quite aligned. You can of course opt to just run by holding down the B button and navigating with the D pad, but let’s face it, this is the first time in 15 years that a Pokemon character can move diagonally, I’m going to take advantage of this!
Some thing I first noticed when battling, was that when you capture a Pokemon, your own monster still receives some experience points. This is a great tweak to the game, helping out those who are more fans of “catching them all” than just fighting. Another tweak to assist with training and experience gaining is how the EXP Share item works. No longer is it an item that a Pokemon holds to gain exp from a battle, but rather it is now a key item which can be activated and deactivated (Which can be assigned to one of four registered slots). When on, it gives all Pokemon in your party half of the experience that they would have got had they participated in battle. Using this, trainers can easily focus on raising a well balanced team, and not having to worry about leaving other Pokemon at a low level.
TM’s and HM’s have also had a slight overhaul. You can now complete the game without having to use all HM’s, which is a god send to those who like to focus on hard hitting moves, especially when one of those precious attack slots might have been taken up by an under powered HM. There are now only 6 HM’s: Cut, Fly, Surf, Rock Smash, Strength and Waterfall. The only ones you actually need however are Strength and Surf, Fly is normally just used for convenience. TM’s on the other hand, although still numerous in collection, they are no longer single use only. That’s right, you no longer have to debate which Pokemon gets to learn Ice Beam, you can use it over and over until your hearts content.
The online infrastructure has also had a massive makeover. Gone are the multiple assistants within the Pokemon centers offering you their services to connect to other players, and gone is the building housing the Global Trade Station (Although this was done within the Pokemon Center in Black and White). Every thing online related is dealt with on the bottom screen of the 3DS which is known PSS, or Player Search System. When connected to the internet, you get a constant update of players who are around you, which is divided into three groups: Friends, Acquaintances and Passersby.
Any users registered on your 3DS friends list will naturally appear in the Friends section. Passersby is pretty much any one else in the world who is in the same area as you are. Now, you can choose to battle or trade with any one in the Passersby list if they agree to it, once you have interacted with some one, they will be moved to the Acquaintances list. If you interact with an acquaintance enough, you will be given the option to register them as a friend, if both parties accept, you will be added to one another’s 3DS friends list. It’s nice to see Nintendo finally branch out into the wider territory that is online gaming.
An interesting feature that has been added into addition of trades with people directly and over the GTS is a function called Wonder Trade. A fantastic idea which works on the premise that you put a Pokemon up for trade, and some one else some where in the world does the same, resulting in a completely blind trade. Great in theory. Unfortunately, the system is flooded with low level Pokemon, such as Scatterbug and Zigzagoon. My first interaction with this service was probably the same as many others, I naively offered a fair leveled Pokemon only to receive a level 2 Scatterbug. Thanks PokeRayder, you’re a shining example to us all of the goodness of humanity. Though don’t despair, there are some nice trainers out there, breeding and offering their generation one starters, we appreciate this!
However, possibly the biggest change to the game is the addition of Mega Evolution. Explained away in the story simply as “It only happens in the Kalos region”, this new feature allows your Pokemon to surpass their final evolutionary form whilst in battle, giving them a massive boost to their stats. After the battle has concluded, they return to their normal form. Now, their are several ‘mon that can utilise this new battle strategy, the gen 1 starters, Blazekin, Gengar, and many others, however, it can only be used once during a battle, so you need to pick and choose your moments carefully. You also need to find the stones scattered throughout the region to be able to activate the Mega forms (Although some Pokemon come with them pre-loaded so to speak).
Apart from Mega Evolutions, battling hasn’t changed much at all. Gamefreaks have added a little verity by introducing sky and swarm battles, which is pretty self explanatory, the former is battle in the sky, so only Pokemon who are physically able to fly can take part, and the latter is where you are jumped at once by five or so lower level Pokemon at one go, which is a real pain if you need to capture that Pokemon type, as you need to KO them one by one before you can attempt to capture one.
Lastly for battles, a new Pokemon type has been added to the mix, as many of you have heard this is the fabled Fairy type, with many Pokemon, like Clafairy and Mr Mime being reclassified as this type as well as Eevee getting an eighth evolution in the form of Sylveon. It was added to combat the Dragon type, but has, from my experience seemed to have broken the game a little it’s self, seeing as it is only week against Poison and Steel type moves, but strong against Fighting, Dark and Dragon moves.
Now, I’ve been talking a lot about game mechanics for a while now, things that have been added, tweaked etc, but now, it’s time to talk about the graphics. And wow. What a massive step up for the series. I know I’ve said this a lot already, but it really is the biggest improvement for the franchise on the handheld devices. It seems that Gamefreak have taken a leaf out of Camelot’s book, and styled it a little after Golden Sun Dark Dawn, which was released on the DS back in 2010. That game was stunning, and had a charming graphical feel to it, which seems to have been translated to Pokemon flawlessly. Characters and Pokemon are rendered in 3D, gone are the pixel representations. They all have their own animations in battle, which seemed to have been tailored for each specific move, or if not, they match up very well. Example, both the use of Aura Sphere by Mewtwo and Lucario seem as if the move was specifically animated for the individual character, it fits so well, and really, it looks amazing.
This attention to detail also expands to the battle backdrops. If you’re challenged out on a route, the back drop reflects the area around it. I noticed when challenged on a bridge, the Pokemon were really battling on a bridge, and, as there would be limited space on a rickety rope and wood bridge, they were closer together as well.
Now I guess this is the right place to mention the 3D part of the game. Although it has been released on the 3DS, it’s not really a function that is overly needed. In actual fact, in a lot of the areas the 3D effect is not even applied, mainly for it being saved for battles and cut scenes. I did noticed however, that the console seemed to drop the frame rate quite noticeably when the 3D is activated. It goes to show just how much this game pushes the 3DS to it’s limits, squeezing every drop of processing power it can from it, and sure, if I have to sacrifice the 3D aspect for this, so be it. It’s a fair trade! (Not like the Pokemon you sent me, PokeRayder!)
The one thing that is a little annoying however, is that the Pokedex has been split into four sections,: the Central Kalos Pokedex, Coastal Kalos Pokedex, Mountain Kalos Pokedex and the National Pokedex, which can make looking up Pokemon a little tricky if you’re not sure which Pokedex they belong to. But I can over look this, as I honestly don’t use it that often.
Over all, Pokemon X and Y are fantastic games, and Gamefreak have worked incredibly hard to bring the series into the modern age, but at the same time keeping the defining traits of the series in tact. It is a must buy game for any Pokemon fan, or really, to any one who hasn’t played a game from the series in their lives. Inevitably, Nintendo will no doubt release a Pokemon Z, which doesn’t bother me so much, but let’s hope they continue on this upward trend.