If you’ve never heard of Pokemon or anything dealing with Pokemon, I’d be surprised. Pokemon has been around since 1996 and there’s no doubt it’s one of the biggest franchises in Nintendo’s history. From video games to the collectible card game to clothing and other merchandise, no matter where you go Pokemon is all around you. As such, Nintendo recently released Pokemon X and Pokemon Y for the 3DS, marking the 6th set of games for the series and the first for the 3DS. If you’re in the dark about how Pokemon works, let’s take a look at a brief summary of the games in the core series. As a quick side note, there might be a few spoilers in this review when talking about the new features and mechanics, so consider this a warning before you read on.
The core games in the series (Red/Blue, Black/White, X/Y, etc.) all work the same way. You begin the game in your home town in the game’s set region, receive your first Pokemon in one way of another, and set out on your Pokemon journey. Your ultimate goal is to become a Pokemon Master by catching as many Pokemon as possible to fill your Pokedex and training your Pokemon by challenging other trainers to Pokemon battles. As you train your Pokemon they’ll gain experience over time. After gaining a lot of experience, your Pokemon will eventually learn new moves, and some might even evolve into stronger and more powerful Pokemon.
During your journey you’ll come across several towns, each with a Pokemon Center so you can heal your Pokemon and buy supplies. Most towns will also have a Pokemon Gym that you can visit where you can challenge the Gym Leader to a battle. Winning this battle will earn you a gym badge, eight of which will allow you to enter the Pokemon League. Here you can challenge the Elite Four, and then proceed to the Pokemon League Champion. There are other things that can happen during your journey to kind of sidetrack your plans to become a Pokemon Master, most of which involve a criminal organization such as Team Rocket or Team Flare either stealing things or just making the world a better place…for themselves anyway. These vary from game to game, but the main goal is the same: catch and train as many Pokemon as you can, collect eight badges, and defeat the Elite Four and Pokemon League Champion.
New Features to X and Y:
As we’re in the sixth set of games in the main series, things have definitely changed over the years as every game introduces something new. While some changes are subtle, such as choosing your gender or the day/night mechanics, the first change in Pokemon X and Y you’ll notice right off. For the first time in a core Pokemon game, you are no longer a 2D sprite walking on a grid. Towns, NPCs, and even the Pokemon themselves are now designed in a 3D perspective. Not only can characters now move in eight directions making movement much more fluid than in past games, the Pokemon battles themselves are done in a more 3D perspective. The moves that the Pokemon can perform have various unique animations to them that look really good as opposed to multiple moves using the same “move forward and collide with the opponent” animation. In terms of how the game looks, the battles are easily my favorite new feature, but that’s just graphical differences. How about new mechanics? Yeah, those are all over the place.
Most of the new mechanics are found on the 3DS’s touch screen. In past games you could view a map, a clock, the HP of your current party, to more advance things such as online functionality. Pokemon X and Y go even further with a multitude of new features for the touch screen, such as the Player Search System (or PSS for short) that’s your main hub for online activity, Pokemon-Amie, where you can improve your friendship with your Pokemon by feeding and playing mini-games with them, and Super Training, where you can improve your Pokemon’s base stats via punching bags and a soccer mini-game.
Finally, we have a brand new type of Pokemon: Fairy. Fairy-type Pokemon are strong against Fighting, Bug, and Dark type attacks, and Dragon-type attacks can’t even hurt them at all, but they’re weak to Poison and Steel-type attacks. Much like when Steel and Dark types were introduced, some Pokemon have been reclassed to be at least partially Fairy-type, such as Clefairy and Togepi. However, some of the reclassing kind of makes me scratch my head, such as Mr. Mime now being part Fairy and Snubbull and Granbull being pure Fairy types. I wouldn’t necessarily say they look like Fairy-types, but then again I’m not the one making these decisions.
What I Liked:
Whether you’re a veteran of the series or if this is your first outing, there’s a lot to like with X and Y. I already talked about the graphical differences with both moving around the Kalos region as well as in the battles themselves. Something I began to get into once the main game ended (when I started focusing on the non-story parts of the game) is the aforementioned Player Search System. There are a couple things you can do by yourself, such as O-Powers which can help out in battle with things such as giving the lead Pokemon more attack power or making it easier to catch a Pokemon. O-Powers can be leveled up the more you use them, but you can only use so many before they have to “cool down” so to speak. The majority of the remaining PSS functionality is online-based.
One of the greatest things about the Pokemon games is taking your team of Pokemon against your friend’s team, but what if you don’t have a friend nearby, or even online at the same time as you? No worries, as you can use the PSS to battle a random person anywhere in the world in a Single, Double, Triple, or Rotation battle. Another fun aspect of the Pokemon games is trading Pokemon between trainers, especially version-exclusive Pokemon. Pokemon X and Y has a feature called Wonder Trade where you can take any of your Pokemon and perform a trade with a random person somewhere in the world…without knowing what you get until you get it. For instance, I sent off a level 30 Sableye and got a level 5 Pokemon in return. I sent that off on a Wonder Trade and got a level 40 in return. While you can be a complete jerk and send off some very common low-level Pokemon, it’s still fun to see what you’ll get in return.
When it comes to leveling up your Pokemon, the way experience is distributed has changed. In past games, the total amount of experience you’d get for defeating a Pokemon in battle would be split amongst all Pokemon participating in that battle. If you have the Experience Share or Experience All items, half of the total experience would be split among the Pokemon participating in battle while the other half would be split among those who were affected by the Experience Share/All. That’s changed in X and Y. Now any Pokemon participating in battle will get the full amount of experience as if they participated by themselves, and once you obtain the Experience Share item the rest of your team will each get half of the total experience. In other words, the experience is no longer split per-se.
This makes leveling up your team a lot less grindy. At first I thought this would make the game a lot easier, and it does, but not quite as I thought it would. One of the reasons I stopped playing Pokemon on a regular basis was that it was starting to get a bit boring with leveling a Pokemon for a few levels, then swapping out to level another one. I had done it so many times over the years that I just got tired of it. With the way experience is dealt out in X and Y you can level a team of six a lot quicker, yet it still seems like it takes the same amount of time to go through the game. That is to say I still spent the same amount of time going between gyms in X and Y as I did back in Pokemon Red, but now my team was more evenly leveled as opposed to my starter being twenty levels above my next highest Pokemon. It’s also worth noting that for the first time in the core games, you actually gain experience for catching a Pokemon, which helps even more for leveling your team since one of the game’s primary goals is to “catch ‘em all”. The experience gained for catching a Pokemon is the same as if you defeated it.
The final thing to touch upon here are the Friend Safaris. Remember the old Safari Zones where you had thirty Safari Balls and some bait to take into a remote area and catch some Pokemon? The Friend Safari works a lot differently and definitely for the better. Anyone on your 3DS friend list, regardless of whether they even own X or Y, will have a Friend Safari with up to three Pokemon to go in and catch, some not even normally found in the main game. Each Safari has a set type and at first you can catch the first two Pokemon in their Safari. Once they clear the Elite Four AND connect with you via PSS (basically, just be online at the same time they are), the third Pokemon will be unlocked. You can catch them over and over with any Pokeballs you have, and you can defeat them for experience. This is definitely one of my favorite features in the game.
What Bothered Me:
Honestly, there really isn’t anything that really bothered me about Pokemon X and Y, but there are a couple things to bring up that I’m kind of on the fence about. The first of these are the new Mega Evolutions. There are twenty-six Pokemon from past generations that have a Mega Evolution, a temporary evolution that you can trigger during battles that last for only that battle. After progressing through the game for a while you’ll soon receive a Mega Ring that can be used in battle to activate a Pokemon’s Mega Evolution provided the Pokemon is holding the proper stone. This will increase their stats and possibly alter their abilities and even their types for the remainder of the battle. It is worth noting that you can only mega evolve one Pokemon per battle, even if that Pokemon faints, so if you have multiple Pokemon on your team that can mega evolve, choose wisely as you can’t de-evolve a Mega Pokemon until the battle ends.
That sounds pretty cool, huh? So why am I on the fence about it then? Well that ties into my next point. This generation of games only introduces sixty-nine new Pokemon, and that’s including basic Pokemon and their evolutions (but not counting Mega Evolutions). It also doesn’t help that a lot of the Pokemon you’ll encounter early on are from previous generations, a lot of them from the first games in the series, Pokemon Red and Blue. To compare this with Pokemon Black and White, you encountered nothing but brand new Pokemon until you completed the main game, and THEN you would encounter Pokemon from prior games. You had to learn about these new Pokemon and the moves they could learn, then strategize off of that. With X and Y, my initial team, which means my starter (Chespin) and the first five Pokemon I caught in the first several minutes of the game, consisted of five Pokemon from Red, Blue, Gold, and Silver. Don’t get me wrong, I loved leveling a Beedrill again, but there just didn’t seem to be much of an emphasis on the new Pokemon early on. It just seems like they put a lot more emphasis on the Mega Evolutions than the new Pokemon that the games introduce, especially since none of the new Pokemon have Mega Evolutions at all.
Finally we have horde encounters. You’ll know when these happen because instead of fighting just one Pokemon you have to fight a group of five. Most of the time they’ll all be the same thing, but you’ll occasionally get a stray in the group that normally wouldn’t belong. In these scenarios it’s basically one-on-five, but the five opposing Pokemon will be many levels below you to compensate for the fact that you’re getting hit with five attacks per round until you start knocking them off. If you don’t have any moves that can hit all opponents, you’re probably better off just running from the battle to save time. While you can catch a Pokemon in a horde battle, you have to knock out the other four first, so unless you really want one of whatever horde you encounter, you might be better off just running and trying to get that Pokemon by itself. Remember, it’s all fun and games until you hit a horde of Zubats.
In all honesty, Pokemon X and Y are two of the best games in the series. While there are a couple of things I’m on the fence about, there are a lot of new features to check out and enjoy both during and after the main game. As mentioned earlier, the Friend Safari is a definite improvement over the old Safari Zones and is useful for catching Pokemon not found in the normal course of the game, including the Stage 2 versions of the Kanto starters (Ivysaur, Wartortle, and Charmeleon). While I don’t use the Pokemon-Amie and Super Training on the touch screen, I’ve began to get into the random battles and trading on the PSS. You can also use the GTS to see where various Pokemon are to catch in case you don’t want to wander around forever looking for your favorite Pokemon. Whether you’re a new trainer setting out on their very first Pokemon journey or a seasoned Pokemon Master, Pokemon X and Y are definitely worth picking up and playing.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.