Looking back, it’s staggering to think the Pokémon craze started 15 years ago. At the time, Pokémon Red and Blue were more than a pair of videogames from Japan – they were an elite group of games that gripped an entire generation. For many children of the 90′s, memories of choosing Charmander or finding Pikachu in Viridian Forest are right up there with riding their first bike.
It’s because of this pedigree of childhood-onset Pokemania that makes reviewing this latest iteration of Pokémon both a daunting and exciting task. Touting a bevy of new features under the hood, it’s easy to wonder if this new school Pokémon stacks up to the old guard.
Spoilers: It’s still amazing.
I’ve played every game since the dawn of Red and Blue, and I can honestly say X and Y blows everything else away.
The first improvement that’s immediately noticeable are the graphics. For years, the Pokémon series has chosen to keep with its retro style, eschewing visual flair for a tried and true formula. With this new generation, Game Freak finally decided to give the game a well overdue makeover.
The new France-inspired Kalos region is presented in beautiful, full 3D graphics. In this new, fleshed out environment, players are free to run, bike or skate in any direction – yes, even diagonally this time around.
Of course, the battle animations are superb. Every single Pokémon is fully animated and has their own unique combat movements. The animations make battling much more immersive and lively. Occasionally, there is a bit of lag during the battles, but it’s nothing detrimental to the gameplay.
Speaking of battling, there’s a lot of new stuff to talk about here. First and foremost, is Super Training. At any time during the game, players can train their individual Pokémon through a series of mini-games on the 3DS’ touch screen, where different training games will boost different stats.
The mini-games themselves are nothing too special, but any veteran competitive player will realize that Super Training essentially replaces the tedious EV training.
Gone are the days of needless grinding. You can now boost your Jolteon’s speed stat by playing soccer with balloons. Here’s to the future.
Also, online play is now better than ever. In addition to registered friends, anyone with a 3DS and a wi-fi connection can battle anyone in the world with a click of their stylus. And of course, trading is also equally possible.
My personal favorite feature is “Wonder Trade.” It’s a bit like a pokémon recycling bin; players offer a pokémon and the game randomly sets them up with another player. You have no control over what you receive, but it’s a nice simple way to add variety to your pokédex.
All online features are available on the bottom screen through the Player Search System.
For the less competitive, there’s another bottom screen feature called “Pokémon-Amie.” Here, players can take a break from fighting and play with their pokémon in a utopian field of flowers. You can pet them, feed them desserts and play a few mini-games too. I’m sure this is more adorable with pokémon like Pikachu and Growlithe, but all my pokémon are large and hideous. I suppose they need love too. And it is funny to see giant pandas and evil squids frolicking in the fields.
Exploring the grasslands of Kalos, you’ll encounter pokémon from literally every generation. And thankfully, you’ll never be bombarded by the same faces over and over. Occasionally, your pokémon will encounter large hordes of four or more wild pokémon. I didn’t really see a point in this addition. It is kind of neat to imagine running away from a swarm of wildlife, but it was very embarrassing having my Charizard KO’d by the slaps of Mime Jr’s.
Ah yes, and Mega Evolutions. This addition got a lot of attention during pre-release and it seemed reception was mixed. As of now, I only have a handful of Pokémon who can mega evolve, and so far it doesn’t seem as game-breaking as one would imagine. The best thing is that transforming doesn’t take up a turn, but you can only mega-evolve once per battle. Since the game was released worldwide at the same time, we still don’t know how many Pokémon can mega evolve. It’ll be an exciting group discovery.
Unfortunately, the single-player campaign is where X and Y shines the least. Story was never a strongpoint for the series, but for a game that has evolved so much (no pun intended) the plot has stayed glued to the same formula. You say goodbye to your mom, you meet your rival(s), you start battling the gyms, get side-tracked by the evil Team (x), beat them and then become Pokémon champion.
I have a theory that since the first two games, the evil Team is required to get exponentially ridiculous. We’ve had rat-wielding mobsters, ground-hating pirates, medieval-PETA, and now we have Team Flare. Their goal? Kill everyone who doesn’t have a good sense of fashion. Team Rocket, I never thought I’d miss you.
The story isn’t helped by the game’s insultingly easy difficulty. With one or two properly leveled Pokémon, you can destroy everyone and everything. I actually felt bad for my rival. After beating her again and again, she starts to have an identity crisis. Am I playing as the bad guy?
In all seriousness, despite the game’s story and difficulty, this is the best Pokémon yet. Pokémon X and Y is a love letter to all Pokémon fans.
Back in the 90′s, I use to think, “wouldn’t it be cool if they did this?” Well, they did. They did everything. Game Freak finally made the sequel that the original Pokémon games deserved.