GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL – Pokémon X & Y Review
Another Year, Another Pokémon game. We all know the story. New trainer, new rival, new monsters to catch and train, new gyms to battle, new badges to earn and a new region to explore and conquer.
It’s a formula that sells and that is far from broken. But while this Pokémon game follows the same formula, it differs in a few key aspects that not only make this experience better but set a new benchmark for all future games to follow.
As with most Pokémon games, there isn’t much of a story to follow aside from the one you chose to make. You lead a budding young trainer alongside their friends and rivals through a series of gyms to challenge the elite four and become the Pokémon Champion of the Kalos Region. Along the way you will make both friends and enemies, thwarting the evil plan of an organisation that threatens the peace of the entire region or world.
This time around we face off against Team Flare…and let’s not get these guys confused with Team Magma from Pokémon Ruby. While they don the red colour scheme, Team Flare are not a team centered around Fire. Flare is for beauty and style. That’s right, this team wants to destroy the world and build a new, beautiful world of their own design. On paper, this is Saturday morning cartoon stupid and for the first two thirds of the game I completely thought that I would yawn through this story line. But the tone of the story shifts towards the story’s climax and without spoiling anything, this very much brought me back into the story and motivated me to keep playing to find out what happened.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This philosophy is so pivotal in Nintendo’s master plan that it should be their company’s slogan. After almost two decades and six generations, the core Pokémon games have the same gameplay. Catch, Train, Battle, Repeat. But it’s the tweaks to this core gameplay that make this game more inviting for new players and make the X and Y titles in this series something special.
At the outset of your adventure, this game will hold your hand a lot longer than previous games. This caretaking extends beyond the mere “Hey! Here’s how you catch a Pokémon” motif we see at the start of every title, but going so far as to having a friend accompany you through your first forest journey, offering to heal your critters after every encounter. Beyond this, the grind of training is less daunting, with experience being gained at a much faster rate thanks to old favourites like “EXP Share” making a return and the ability to earn experience when catching new monsters instead of just defeating them.
While many veteran players may find these changes annoying, I think it’s nice to see Gamefreak making an effort to make this game less daunting for new players. And for those Veterans there are plenty of other tweaks. Starting with the new Fairy type, which not only throws a spanner into previous strategies with old favourite monsters receiving this new type classification but is also scarily immune to the fan-favoured Dragon type. There is Super Training and Pokémon-Amie, which make friendship building and EV training something that isn’t just for the pro players. Gone are the days of travelling to a Pokémon Centre to Battle or Trade with friends, all of which can now be easily performed on the go from the Player Search System along with Wonder Trades (Trading with no inclination as to what you are trading for) and O-Powers (Powers that grant temporary abilities and level up the more you use them). Oh, there’s also rollerblades…because why the hell not.
And then, there’s Mega-Evolutions…
Mega-Evolutions, arguably the greatest addition to this game, takes the Pokémon of our childhood and takes them to a new level. These transformations are only temporary but go beyond just aesthetic appeal. When the Mega Ring and Mega Stone resonate as one, your team mate becomes a beastlier and more formidable opponent, chaning base stats and in some instances, base types. The balancing comes with not every Pokémon having a mega form, and only being able to perform it with one Pokémon per battle.
Pokémon X and Y mark the biggest leap in design in the series’ long history. Each generation saw a modest leap forward in design, approaching the game with a “thinking outside, but pushed right up against the box” mentality. No matter how much the games tried to use sprite movement, everything felt flat and 2D. But those days are behind us.
Gone are the flat to “2.5D” cities, gone are the little sprite people and Pokémon running around. Enter, giant, fully realised cityscapes with more detail than any game in the franchise to date. Enter, anime style players (customisable) and non-player characters. Goodbye sprites with just enough movement to give life. Hello completely 3D rendered Pokédex of 700+ monsters.
While this is by far the most alive Pokémon game to date, it is not without its flaws. But these are personal flaws that got to me, they may not bother you. As a collector of many things from Blurays to Playing Cards, there is something more important to me above everything else. Consistency and Uniformity. And this is where Pokémon misses the mark, albeit in small ways when compared to its scope. But I can’t help but question why some NPC were given emotionless character portraits and others given 3d rendered models. Some would argue that it stands out as key battles, but after you fight a whole bunch of team flare members that look the same, I’d happily argue back. Or I would question why pikachu has been voice acted, while all other Pokémon battle cries remain the same or similar to previous renditions. It stands out like a sore thumb, especially when Pichu and Raichu, the pre-evolution and evolution respectively, do not get the same treatment.
While these may not bother some people, it flared up the OCD in me. But as stated previously, in the grand scheme of things, these complaints are ant sized.
Verdict – 9 Pokéballs out of 10
Pokémon X and Y set a new benchmark for the future of Pokémon, and golly does that future look bright. While it fueled a very unhealthy gaming weekend for myself, given the opportunity, I’d probably do the same all over again. I highly recommend you stop reading this review and go buy a copy immediately; it’s going to be a big seller this Christmas.
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