Developer: Game Freak | Publisher: Nintendo | Played On: 3DS | Price: $39.99 | ESRB: Everyone [Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence]
By now you know what you’re getting with each new Pokemon game: more adorable creatures to catch, train, and battle, new regions to explore, and a lighthearted story that ties everything together. For more than fifteen years Nintendo has been releasing games that follow this very formula time and time again, and each new version sells millions. In no way a departure from the series form, Pokemon X and Y take small steps towards making an already great franchise even better.
Of course the game is still about catching Pokemon, forming bonds with your friends and newfound monsters, and becoming one of the elite Pokemon trainers in the land. There are still gym leaders to battle; and trading and battling Pokemon with your friends is just as entertaining as playing through the actual story. While I’ve felt that the series had started to grow stagnant with more recent entries, most all of those grievances were addressed and improved upon with X and Y.
Perhaps the biggest change players will notice is within the central plot point for X and Y—mega evolutions. A select few Pokemon under certain conditions can transform into a more powerful version for the duration of battle. With this change come bonuses like higher battle stats, new innate abilities, and in some cases a change in Pokemon type. Mega evolutions are more like additional moves for a Pokemon as opposed to a new game changing mechanic, but they’re still interesting features that make X and Y stand out from the rest of the Pokemon games.
Pokemon X and Y employ a lot of small changes to gameplay that makes the game better, a few of which you might not notice unless you’re a seasoned Pokemon fan. Changes like your Pokemon still gaining experience in battle after you catch a wild Pokemon. Or receiving the Experience Share item, a device that lets all of the Pokemon in your party share some of the experiences from battle, very early on in the game. You also start the game with roller skates, which allow you to move about the world much faster than by walking; it might make older Pokemon players a bit jealous. A brand new Pokemon type, Fairy, makes its debut in the games as well..
Two new features are included to interact with your Pokemon beyond just battling. Pokemon-Amie lets you pet and feed your Pokemon. By doing so, you can raise their friendship, fullness, and affection levels, which in turn affect how they perform in battle. A Pokemon that has high affection for example might shrug off status ailments like paralysis or sleep. The other extra feature is Super Training. By playing games with your creatures you can increase their stats permanently. Both of these features are entirely optional but they have great benefits to gameplay should you chose to participate.
A noticeable enhancement from the moment you turn on your 3DS is the visuals. No longer are your Pokemon confined to 2D sprites: Pokemon X and Y are completed rendered in 3D; it’s incredible to think it took this long for the series to make the transition but it was well worth the wait. Battles are so much more engaging now that the Pokemon actually move: Instead of watching Bulbasaur fidget a bit when using Vine Whip like in previous games, now you can watch as Bulbasaur’s vines emerge from his back to viciously lash your foe. It makes battles much more satisfying; it’s no longer just a numbers game. The visual update extends to the whole region of Kalos: towns are varied and beautiful, gyms are extravagant and exciting to navigate, and the large city of Lumiose is bustling with people, taxis, and shops to visit. Truly X and Y are the best looking games in the series to date.
A highlight of the previous generation on the Nintendo DS was online connectivity and its ease of use, but that looks downright archaic next to X and Y’s vastly superior interface. By utilizing the 3DS’ wireless communications you can hop online and literally see every person playing the game worldwide using the Player Search System (PSS). Battling and trading are as simple as tapping their picture and selecting what you want to do.
You can also send O-Powers to other players—which are special boosts that last for a short time, like an increase to prize money won from battles or improving a Pokemon’s special defense stat. The Wonder Trade is a new feature that acts almost like a lottery of sorts, where you put up a Pokemon for trade only to receive a random Pokemon that someone else from around the world has also decided to trade. You can StreetPass with other players as well and earn special points that can be used to purchase unique items like Rare Candy and PP Up, which are usually incredibly rare to find otherwise. I’ve played every version of Pokemon to date and never have I felt more connected to other players around the world than in X and Y: it actually feels like I’m a Pokemon trainer interacting with other trainers.
When Pokemon was created, there were only 150 Pokemon. Now there are over 700 little creatures to collect. If you’re one that needs to catch every single Pokemon in the game, you can expect to wander through the tall grass awhile, because each new route, cave, and zone houses dozens of new, potential companions to capture. I spent hours wandering through the same areas trying to catch that Drifloon I couldn’t capture earlier only to run into half a dozen new types I hadn’t previously seen. If you’ve played a previous game in the series it’s hard not to get nostalgic when you see your favorite Pokemon hanging out with the newer generation . With so many Pokemon to discover it’s exciting to see what you can come across next.
Players looking for a complete change in the series will be disappointed. This is still a Pokemon game: the gameplay is straightforward and easy to grasp, making it a perfect entry point for younger gamers into the RPG genre. The overall difficulty is on the easy side, with no real challenge during any part of the game. While the story does focus on the newly implemented mega evolutions, there is still a nefarious group of delinquents trying to take over the land that for some reason everyone is incapable of seeing except for you.
Another overall complaint is the controls. You are free to move about the 3D landscape by using both the 3DS circle pad and the d-pad. Using the circle pad gives you free movement around the world like in a 3D Mario game, but using the d-pad limits you to moving in eight directions (including diagonals) only. Objects you can interact with, like doors to enter buildings, other trainers, and items lying on the ground, can only be interacted with if you are standing right in front of them, meaning if you’re moving around with the circle pad you’re forced to line up your character perfectly. It can be jarring at the beginning of the game, but you can get the hang of it eventually.
Pokemon X and Pokemon Y are the best, most refined versions of the games to date. Small improvements make the game better in ways I didn’t even know I wanted. The ease of online connectivity and interacting with players from around the world makes these games even more immersive and entertaining. Finally bringing the franchise into the third dimension makes the game look and feel like nothing we’ve experienced yet. Pokemon X and Y are a perfect place for both veteran Pokemon trainers to get back into the series and newcomers to start their journey alike.
+ The best looking Pokemon game to date
+ Wonderful use of 3DS’ online capabilities
+ Small enhancements and tweaks make these the best games in the series
9 / 10