in Video Games

“Pokemon X and Y” Review

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Before I begin, as a disclaimer, I am writing this review based off of my experience having played Pokemon X. There are a few differences between X and Y, but from what I’ve heard, and based on my vast knowledge of all things Pokemon, I can safely say that the two are more or less interchangeable.

Last Saturday marked the release of Pokemon X and Y, the two latest installments in the Pokemon franchise. Since that time Pokefans the world over have been walking around with their heads glued to their Nintendo 3DS’, trying to absorb every element the new game has to offer as quickly as possible, myself included – and I go to work in a shirt and tie every day. I get some weird looks to say the least.

So, where to begin? Let’s start with the new look of Pokemon. X and Y are the first ever entries in the series to have been rendered in full 3D, and dear lord do they look spectacular. Pokemon games have been slowly branching away from the generic 2D bird’s eye view perspective, and in Pokemon Black and White we even got some 2.5D action. But X and Y are on an entirely different level. Everything has been completely revamped from top to bottom. Towns, maps, movement, battles. The level of detail that X and Y has had bestowed upon it is awe inspiring.

If you think back to Pokemon Red and Blue, the first entries in the Pokemon series where you played as an 8-bit sprite moving in 4 directions, and getting into battles with relatively no animation – just text and some sprite wiggling, how far Pokemon has come is unreal. You now play as a fully detailed and animated figure, you can move in 8 directions, on rollerblades, running, or on a bike, your character can sit, it bends over when talking to children or shorter characters.

Every single Pokemon is fully rendered and has it’s own unique animations in battle, as does every move they can utilize. The perspective is constantly changing – although never jarringly, it’s quite smooth in fact – from an overhead angle, swooping in low and tight for close ups on action, or panning out to a side view to give a scope of perspective of whatever city you’re in or bridge you’re crossing. Every visual aspect has been hammered out to near perfection.

As far as game play goes, there are a whole host of new features that deftly interact with the age old core battling and leveling systems, making for a fun and explorative gaming experience that is still jam-packed with nostalgia. Pokemon can be trained outside of battle, utilizing the touch screen capabilities of the 3DS to partake in fun mini games that boost their base stats without increasing their levels. Additionally, now any Pokemon who participates in a battle, however brief their stay, gets full experience for that battle, as opposed to the old system where experienced was divided among participants.

Further still, catching a Pokemon using a Pokeball does not mean you forfeit the experience of fighting and KO’ing that Pokemon. And finally, the EXP Share is no longer an item held by one Pokemon, granting that Pokemon a small amount of experience even if they weren’t in the battle at all. No, now the EXP Share is a key item which, when turned on, gives ever Pokemon in your party a percentage of the EXP gained from battle. Think about that, Pokemon fans…

As a result of the above, the pacing of Pokemon X and Y is hugely different than that of any other game. My Pokemon were fast approaching level 40 by the time I had reached the third gym leader. The focus seems to be more on making it easier to mold your party to the player’s own exact specifications while still presenting the game’s inherent challenges – making sure that you can play Pokemon in the specific way you want to play it. This philosophy is reflected in the huge Pokemon variance you’ll see in terms of random encounters as you progress through the region of Kalos. Each new area is populated by unprecedented amounts of Pokemon species, ranging from generations 1-6.

At one point I realized I had assembled a team that consisted entirely of generation 1 Pokemon (with the exception of my starter) without even realizing. It was essentially the exact party I would have picked for Red and Blue – which have the best selection of Pokemon in my opinion. The allure of seeing my favorite Pokemon re-rendered with such loving detail was too much for me to resist, I suppose. However, as soon as I realized this it was quitter easy for me to select a team which better represented Pokemon that i loved mixed with some Pokemon I had yet to learn about, and still progress forward with the same level of ease/difficulty.

As far as story goes, what you can expect is more of the same. Don’t expect to have your socks blown off by how cool or unique or fresh the story is, because it isn’t. It follows the same formula as does any other Pokemon game – with the exception of the story-driven addition of Mega Evolutions, which are all kinds of badass – which really isn’t a bad thing at all.

The story in X and Y seamlessly carries you through Kalos, giving you enough freedom to branch out and explore without it being overwhelming, while still moving along with the game’s plot. Although not particularly innovative in any noticeable way, the story is as tight as one could expect for a Pokemon game. Full marks as far as I’m concerned.

The gist of it is this: Pokemon X and Y is a huge achievement. Game Freak has managed to revamp and repackage an adored concept in such a way that, not only has made for two excellent games, but has also set the standard for future Pokemon games to come. Pokemon X and Y represent the first steps onto an entirely different planet of Pokemon gaming. And this planet looks damn good.

Written by: Richard Reitzfeld
Photo Credit: Game Freak