Pokémon has finally entered the realm of the 3D handheld experience. Read on to discover Y these X-clusive games are worth your time.
With each iteration of Pokémon, I regain the excitement of catching and training a team of Pokémon. Though I admittedly tamper with creating competitive teams of Pokémon, I also tend to hit Poké-dry spells where my gaming focus shifts towards other games. Still, I’ve got to hand it to Game Freak because they always seem to outdo themselves with each new iteration of Pokémon and pull me in for the next adventure. And, though Pokémon still hasn’t changed its formula from day one, its core gameplay style still holds up to this day.
Pokémon Has Become More than a Monster Fighting Simulator; It’s Now Art.
Over the years, each Pokémon title has refreshed the series with the addition of new Pokémon, moves, items, and gameplay additions. However, it wasn’t until Pokémon Black & White that the games really took a major shift in the aesthetic category. It’s as if Game Freak realized they would be continuing the series with the same tried and true gameplay and wanted us to be in awe of the art they could create along the way. Thus, Black & White and their sequels had a major focus on streamlining the gameplay and on an overall appreciation of art and beauty. From its camera angles to its larger than life metropolis, bridges, and scenery, I would argue that Black & White are the first true ”reboots” of a series that has successfully marched along at the same beat throughout its existence.
Pokémon X & Y continue this trend towards beauty by touting the latest Nintendo handheld hardware and turning Pokémon into a 3D experience. With beautiful areas and landscapes similar to those in Black & White, X & Y provide a fresh environment to explore as you tread onward through your journey, and use the same technique of camera perspective change to bring the world to life.
Seeing as Pokémon is a game that revolves around its battling system, it’s no surprise that battles in X & Y further the leap towards 3D gameplay by creating fully 3D renditions of Pokémon that are on par with console Pokémon titles and utilize the system’s 3D capabilities to make the experience more enjoyable. In fact, most of the game does not use the system’s 3D “gimmick” (probably due to the release of the 2DS and its inability to utilize this feature) but in all honesty, it’s not really missed from the rest of the experience. What I will say, however, is that the significant drop in frames per second while the 3D slider is turned up makes using the 3D feature almost an afterthought (you can’t even use 3D in battles with more than 2 Pokémon, probably due to the lack of processing power).
Focusing on Pokémon Type & Variation
After numbers about the amount of added Pokémon were leaked, there was a bit of a backlash due to this game featuring the lowest number of additions yet. At only 69 new Pokémon, it does seem like Game Freak has dropped the ball a bit when viewed from the surface. However, the addition of the new Mega Evolution has created a large new crop of Pokémon with stronger stats, type changes, and move variations that spell enough of a change to satisfy me immensely.
I would argue that the games with the best Pokémon additions had the least number of brand new Pokémon and instead a mix of new monsters along with new and improved evolutions of older Pokémon. Both Gold/Silver/Crystal, and Diamond/Pearl/Platinum had a wonderful crop of new Pokémon to go along with new evolutions of older ones. This made the games feel like they were adding new content while still pulling in the appeal of previous generations’ monsters. X & Y does a great job of building upon previous Pokémon by creating a new crop of 26 mega evolutions to bolster your team and breathe new life into these Pokémon in the competitive scene. My only complaint is that there are currently only two of these Pokémon that have version exclusive Mega Evolutions (Charizard & Mewtwo) though I’m certain more will come in the future.
Along with its improvement upon earlier Pokémon, X & Y shares another unique feature with Gold/Silver/Crystal: A new type has been added into the mix and it makes for some needed strategic improvements. The new fairy type was added to balance out some of the weaker/stronger types. For instance, it is immensely effective against dragon types by being super effective against and invulnerable to dragon type attacks. Also, its weakness to steel and poison improves the effectiveness of steel and poison type Pokémon. Finally, the fairy type has also been applied to a number of previous Pokémon, further improving the effectiveness of previously overlooked and underused Pokémon such as Wigglytuff, Azumarill, and Mr. Mime.
Another great aspect of X & Y is that there is much more variety of Pokémon crawling around in tall grass. Before I even had my second badge, my Pokédex had already approached 100. And, the variety of Pokémon types available at all stages of the game is improved compared to all other experience; early Pokémon such as Bunnelby or Fletchling evolve into Normal/Ground and Flying/Fire (as opposed to the usual lot of normal and normal/flying types). Thus, you’ll not only be running into all sorts of Pokémon throughout the series but you’ll also have an array of Pokémon types at your command from the beginning of the game.
New Gameplay Features, Item Modifications, and Mechanics
X & Y also continue to persuade you to keep playing through their constant courting of new items, features, or rewards along the way. From the beginning, you’ll receive your starter almost immediately and soon after will be given a pair of roller skates to further improve the flow of movement. Just after the first gym, players are rewarded with a second choice of starters from the original Red, Blue, Green, and the courting continues from there.
Modifications to older items and streamlining further push you along the journey and reduce the need for stagnant grinding. For instance, the experience share, which is received very early on, is now a switchable item that shares experience with all Pokémon in your team (as you can imagine this makes training much quicker and also makes Pokédex completion easier through constant rotating of your last 1 or 2 Pokémon on your team). Other changes such as rewarding experience for catching Pokémon or making effort values more accessible through Super Training (which we’ll talk about later in the review) further reduce the need for mindless grinding.
The aforementioned Super Training is one of many new features added to the game. This mini-game features a round of target practice and gives the gamer a new more focused option of effort training to improve individual stats of their Pokémon. The conventional methods are still intact but this makes effort training more approachable to those not willing to invest countless hours in creating competitive teams.
Pokémon-Amie is another gameplay addition that gives gamers more interaction with their Pokémon. While the Pokéwalker and Pokémon Pikachu were two Tamagotchi-esque virtual pet simulators, Pokémon X & Y combine many of the features from Nintendogs into a Pokémon experience that turns your teammates into virtual pets. Thus, you can improve their affection through petting, feeding, and playing games with your Pokémon. This allows you to evolve some of the new Pokémon as well as any older Pokémon that evolves through happiness, and gives other random benefits in battle such as status curing in battles, or stat improvements.
The other extremely exciting feature about Pokémon X & Y is the seamless online functionality. Ever since they added online functionality into Pokémon, it’s improved over the years but has always been a little cumbersome due to the limitations of friend codes and availability in the game. In Black & White, online functionality was improved through the C Gear by allowing you to have always-on WiFi functionality and instant local battles through IR connectivity.
X & Y finally unleashes the potential of WiFi connectivity and does it flawlessly. Not only can you battle or trade at any time during the game (without having to trek to the Pokécenter) but everything has been revamped to make the experience seamless. Friends can be found through random battles, trades, and interaction, and can become permanent friends after enough recurring actions have been taken. Wonder Trade is a feature that allows you to offer up a Pokémon and trade it for a random Pokémon with someone else (a wonderful way to further the game’s slot machine appeal of finding Pokémon).
Though it’s a bummer the new Pokémon Bank and Poké Transfer App will not be available until December 27th, it is nice to know that there is finally a future-proof digital database of Pokémon storage preventing the need to transfer Pokémon individually as was the case in previous generation-to-generation trade. A $5 a year premium will be the cost of the new Bank app but this small price is a drop in the pan compared to the amount of pain involved with transferring previous generation Pokémon into the newer generations.