Ah, Pokémon. Every game player has heard of the series. It was and still is a giant franchise full of toys, trading cards, animes, books, you name it. Of course, what started it all was the video game series that made Pikachu and company a household name. Over the years, Pokémon games have released to much praise even if they kept the formula mostly the same. Now, the 3DS finally gets its first full Pokémon adventure in the form of X and Y. Like the others in the series, the formula is very familiar, but the subtle changes and improvements really do make this the best Pokémon game to date.
As usual, players take control of a young Pokémon trainer tasked with completing the universal Pokédex. This time out, they have numerous friends that will accompany them on their journey. The player, along with their band of friends will travel the world in search for all the Pokémon, defeat the gym leaders in numerous towns and eventually take on the Elite Four.
As anyone can see, the formula remains the same. This includes most of the combat aspects as well. Pokémon, for those that don’t know, is a turn-based RPG where the player can have up to six party members (Pokémon) and can switch them out on the fly during battles. Each individual Pokémon can have up to four moves to use in battle. These moves all come in the form of types. This is where the strengths and weaknesses come into play. If I use a water move against a fire-type Pokémon, it will do double damage. If my water-type Pokémon gets hit by an electric attack, it will do more damage. After a battle, my Pokémon will gain experience points that go towards leveling up. At certain levels, they will learn new moves but if it already knows four moves, one must be forgotten.
This is all standard fare with any Pokémon experience. What makes X and Y stand out from the previous iterations is how it handles progression. As many may know, Pokémon has always been known to be quite the grinding game. I would always run into a gym leader that I could never defeat so I would have to spend half an hour grinding for levels against wild Pokémon in the tall grass outside of town. Luckily, that is no more. Players of other games in the series may be familiar with the Experience Share item. This item was given to a certain Pokémon in the party and would gain experience points even if it wasn’t used in the battle. Well, in X and Y, the EXP Share is now an activated item that allows EVERY party member to gain experience points, not just one other Pokémon. This is a major game changer that saved me a ton of time having to switch my Pokémon in battle, just to switch them back so I could finish the fight while still using that single party member so it could get experience points.
Another example of how X and Y improved progression is the sheer number of Pokémon players will encounter early in the game. In early Pokémon games and even some of the later ones, I would always find either the same monsters in the wild, or not a good enough variety. In X and Y, after only around two hours into the story, I had a full team with enough diverse types to take on any kind of battle that awaited me.
Now in 3D!
Another upgrade to the experience is the visuals. Finally, Pokémon has entered the 3D realm and it looks great. The way the camera will pan out during walking to show off the environment gives it a more cinematic feel and during battles, the camera will split or show off different angles of the battle taking place. The 3D effects are nice and look fantastic, but unfortunately, the game does suffer from some slow down especially while in 3D. As nice as it looked, I kept the 3D off for most of my play.
With the new graphics in place, the movement and traversal of the world has to be changed. Unfortunately, using the analog stick to navigate can become bothersome due the player receiving roller skates so early in the game, and it was difficult to actually pinpoint where I wanted to go at times. Luckily, the player can use the D-Pad to navigate without skating, but even then the eight-direction walking will still take some getting used to.
The upgrades to the game don’t stop at the single player. The online has been streamlined and upgraded to finally make trading and battling globally not such a chore. While connected to the internet, I could choose to view not only my friends that were online, but a list of players all around the world. With a few simple menu selections, I could challenge other players online to battles or to trade Pokémon that I could then use in the main game. It gives off a more connected feel, almost like I was playing an MMO or a community driven world. There were a few connectivity problems, but for the most part, it worked well when initiated.
Small features like playing with my Pokémon and training them outside of combat with small mini-games add even more to the package. Players can now choose different clothes and items to put on their actual trainer, and taking photographs and making trainer videos makes this experience chock full of small features that make it unique. Let’s not forget new battle types as well. Sky battles and Hoard battles can be initiated, with Sky battles taking place high in the air using flying-type Pokémon and Hoard battles having a single Pokémon battle numerous enemies at the same time.
It’s all here. Fans of Pokémon will be in familiar territory while newcomers will have a great time learning the ropes. It never deviates from the norm too much, but what X and Y does and does brilliantly, is the improvements to connectivity and game progression. Sure, it may feel the same, but it is so refined, that hardcore players will see past it. With more monsters than I can count, and an improved online and overall experience, Nintendo has proven that Pokémon is still alive and well, and with X and Y, anyone with a 3DS should play it. It really is the best Pokémon game I have ever played.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.