Growing up, I never fit in. I was that eccentric kid who sat on the ground playing with the grass in his own little world. I never really had friends and I never really bothered with the rest of the world. One world I did bother with however was the world of Pokémon. It was the Christmas of some year and I got my very first game console that I could call ‘mine’. I was excited beyond belief and to date it is one of the best presents I have ever received. It still works too! The console in question of course was a Game Boy, but not a normal one. I got a special Pikachu edition Game Boy Color that had a strange bronze tint to it and it made it all the more special to me. And along with that, I ventured into the world of Pokémon with Pokémon Blue and Pokémon Crystal. And wow was it an adventure I never expected.
But why am I informing you of my childhood? What relevance does this have on the review? Well, it has all the relevance. Pokémon is a franchise very close to my heart because of the memories and feelings it evokes in me. So of course, when Pokémon X and Y were announced I was equal parts excited and terrified.
X and Y are the next major installments in the Pokémon franchise and because of this are expected to move the series forward in new and exciting ways. However, historically the Pokémon series has not changed much throughout its lifetime. Now, as a lifelong Pokémon fan the lack of change has never really bothered me. Mainly because I enjoyed the gameplay as it was, but also because it always made a consistent product that I always knew I would have fun with no matter what. But I have to say that after playing X and Y I am genuinely excited for further change.
Visually, it looks completely different to the old games. The wonderful sprite work is gone and has been replaced with full polygonal models pushing it into the modern era. This isn’t the only change however, as several tiny tweaks have been done to improve not only a solo playthrough, but also to expand and improve the game for the very popular competitive side of Pokémon. Features such as Super Training which allows you to train specific stats of your Pokémon easier has been introduced to make online more accessible for a wider range of individuals, as well as horde battles which has been introduced for an even quicker way to EV train your ‘mons. They also introduced a lot of small changes that make the world seem more alive. By connecting to the internet you can instantly see who else is online around the world and with a few button presses you can trade or battle them ANYWHERE. This tiny convenience changes how you feel wandering around and means you always feel like a part of the community. Many a time while playing the game I got a random trade or battle request from a complete stranger living in Japan who then sent me an O-Power to enhance my battle capabilities. And speaking of O-Powers they are a thing aren’t they. Using O-Powers you can send a small boost in the form of slightly higher attack or faster egg hatching to anyone else online as well as yourself. While a cool feature, it was one I didn’t hate, but never found too much use for. When it comes to new features though, I was really impressed with the character customisation. Scattered around Kalos are different shops which specialise in different clothing types, allowing you to create a rather unique looking character. Items range from hats all the way down to socks and you can even change your hairstyle!
You can also customise your Furfrou. Look at that little guy.
Combat is one of the least changed aspects of the game on a surface level, but when it comes down to the deeper mechanics of the game several things have changed to make the game more accessible to a wider audience. The most noticeable change to combat is the aforementioned ‘Super Training’ mode in which you can raise the EV points of your team in order to increase stats and allow you to create specialised Pokémon in specific areas. 4 EV points are equal to +1 in that stat and you normally gain these EV points through battles in which each Pokémon gives off a certain type and number of EV points. Super Training completely removes this and allows you to partake in minigames to raise these points. By competing in these minigames you in turn also gain punching bags which you can tap using the touchscreen interface to get EV points or bonuses which range from a simple x2 to your points in the next minigame to a bag which resets your EV points to 0 allowing you to train a Pokémon from scratch. Super Training as a whole is an extremely repetitive activity but I still enjoyed doing it because I was helping my friends and allies to become stronger and in turn I built a stronger bond. However, if these minigames are not for you, you can always use the traditional method of EV training which also has received some buffing through one of the new battle modes.
Added with X and Y are Flying battles and Horde battles. Flying battles are battles in which only Flying Pokémon or Pokémon with the ability of Levitate can partake in. While a nice idea, there are very few instances in the game where this is used which causes it to be a bit of a letdown. Horde battles however let you battle several Pokémon at once, often of the same kind. Because of this, you can use it to max out your EV points in less than 20 battles with the right items. None of this is explicitly taught in-game however, which is something that causes the leap from casual play to online play massive and daunting and is something I hope they fix in further installments.
The main Super Training screen showing how many EV points are in your stats on the right.
When it comes to one of the other major changes to the series, the Fairy type results are middling. Fairy Pokémon are few and far between and the moves they have been given are not the best causing them to have very few STAB (same type attack bonus) moves relative to the more established types. What they don’t have in moves however, they make up for in type weaknesses. As I do not wish to spoil what they are good and bad against, let it be known that because of the typing, it can make matchups unique and interesting where they once were plain and boring. A feature that was greatly hyped up prior to launch was the inclusion of Mega Evolutions, a fourth stage in the evolutionary line of certain Pokémon that not only changes their appearance, but also typing, stats and ability at the cost of a hold item in battle. The change is not permanent however and the Pokémon switches back at the end of battle. Another restriction imposed is one Mega per team. While a great idea in theory, it isn’t utilised very well in game and some of the evolutions range from overpowered to underpowered and just plain weaker than the previous form. The selection of Pokémon chosen to Mega Evolve is also rather strange, with them mostly given to popular Pokémon who may or may not be powerful already. Mega Evolutions were a great opportunity for Game Freak to buff several of the weaker Pokémon released throughout the year, but the end result was fan service.
Pokémon games have never really been known for their story. While Black and White made steps towards a more complex and meaningful story, X and Y are very much a step back. They adopt the traditional formula and story progression used in almost all of the other games and while it creates a familiar flow it is a bit disappointing up against the rest of the changes and what the did in the previous generation. The graphics, while a bold leap in a new direction, were not as vibrant and eye-popping as they could have been and do not accurately show off the power of the console. And aside from a few songs, the soundtrack was nowhere near as notable compared to previous entries and to a series that has almost always had phenomenal music this is a massive let down.
As a long term Pokémon fan, I was worried going into X and Y. Coming out of it though, I am optimistic but at the same time concerned. The base mechanics of the game were the prime focus of X and Y and because of this focus I felt the overall appearance of the game and the sound were not worked on enough. I had a few problems with lag and the few moments of 3D during the game increased this lag. But at the end of it all, I had fun. More fun than I have had in a long time with Pokémon and it reignited a spark that I had felt was fading. The Pokémon designs were some of the best of the series and the new type added in is surely going to change up the metagame.
Officially one of my favorite Pokémon since October.
Pokémon X and Y are worthy entries in the Pokémon franchise and with new features like Fairy type, Mega Evolutions and an improved EV system Game Freak has shown they are capable of moving a repetitive franchise forward in new directions with new features. And while the visual and audio areas of the game are lacking compared to what they could have been, this doesn't get in the way of a fantastic 3DS game that everyone should have in their library.
Got it today and loving it so far. Some things here and there that I'm disappointed by (no 360 degree movement outside roller skates? Choppy frame rate at times? Still kind of clunky box system? No pokemon voices outside of Pikachu? The most abrupt Intro segments in any Pokemon game? Lumiose City's camera?). Still, it's the most streamlined and fast paced Pokemon ever. I almost feel guilty for being able to level up all of my Pokemon so quickly!
I mean, I'm used to it, but I have to wonder if there's a better way of doing things. I suppose there isn't though.
Got my Charmander! Sucks cuz I love my Litleo.
One thing I just wish is that more stuff I look for online (what moves my Pokemon learn and when, how they evolve and when, etc) was built into the game. I feel like I'm cheating sometimes because I want to know if I should evolve something, and have to look up their moves on Bulbapedia or something. I wish the game had some sort of built in wiki.
How do you feel about the status of "Pokemon" in the gaming world today? By that, and maybe it wasn't the best choice of words, but I mean "compared to Blue/Red or whatever, how do you feel about how -complicated- the games are becoming, at least to the untrained eye?" I've heard of these Shiny characters, and I just read/learned about these EV points via your review..but that stuff wasn't around way back when. Which model do you prefer?
Did you like it better when there was a set number of characters to get ("151"), or do you like this much larger database to pull from? Do you like the randomness and customization options, or do you prefer a more rigid structure? Besides the obvious answer of "Wii U," where do you want to see the Pokemon franchise go from here? More of the same, a little wilder with their strokes, or a step in reverse / back to basics?
@Mr_Mustache While Gen 1 is still my favorite, that's mostly because of nostalgia. But when it comes to EV's and IV's and all those things, I do like them existing in the game, but the implementation is shoddy at best. IV's make no sense unless you look on the internet and EV's can still be confusing without the internet to help you. The whole reason EV's and IV's exist is to allow each Pokemon to vary and be different to each other, but the current system sacrifices accessibility for realism and uniqueness. I enjoy that they add new Pokemon each generation. It keeps it fresh and interesting and allows them to come up with new unique Pokemon which Pokemon X and Y certainly proved can still be done. There are many dual types that have yet to be done so there is plenty of room for expansion in that area. I think the best way to move on in the future however is to add only 70 or so Pokemon each generation (Like Pokemon X/Y did) instead of the hundreds we have been getting.
Customisation is something the franchise needs way more of. X/Y were massive steps in this direction and I genuinly enjoyed being able to change my look to whatever I wanted and make my character be what I wanted him to be. And the customisation for your Pokemon is getting better and better the wider the movepools get for each Pokemon, which in turn is better for not only solo play but also for the competitive side of the game as if a Pokemon has a wide movepool it is often hard to predict what moves it uses. When it comes to the future though, i'm not sure a home console is the best place for a mainline adventure without major restructuring but I know that is an unpopular opinion. For the next mainline game, the main thing I want to see is a really good post-game. Gen 4 and 2 had amazing end game content that added several hours to the game and is something that all the other generations have not had. 3 and 5 had some content, but there wasn't enough for it to be worthwhile and Gen 6 had almost none. And the social mechanics need some tweaking, but overall they have reached a point where I think they are near perfect. People nag on Pokemon for being the same thing over and over again, but the improvements made each generation are making the games so much better with each installment,