GAME NAME: Pokémon X and Y
DEVELOPER(S): Game Freak
PLATFORM(S): Nintendo 3DS
RELEASE DATE(S): 12 October 2013
Make no mistake, when it comes to the Pokémon franchise, there is no denying that both Shane and myself are massive fans. Ever since the series’ humble beginnings in Red and Blue almost fifteen years ago, we’ve enjoyed capturing, training, evolving, and battling Pokémon from Kanto to Sinnoh. Now with the release of Pokémon X and Y last week, we venture into the Kalos region, with the series taking its first step into the world of 3D on a handheld console. But after six generations, is the franchise still as fun and engaging as it was in the beginning?
In-short, the answer is “yes”, but a one-word answer just does go far enough to describe how truly amazing Pokémon X and Y is. No, Pokémon X and Y is nothing short of epic.
While we’ve been on a 3D adventure in the past with Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD on the Nintendo GameCube, X and Y marks Game Freak’s first attempt at a 3D game for the franchise, and they’ve pulled no stops in making the world of Kalos simply beautiful. Absolutely no detail has been spared in making X and Y look every bit as gorgeous to look at, as it is to play. Pokémon Black & White (and 2) began to introduce us to more grander cities and buildings, but that is all taken one giant leap further in the latest instalment. I’m only fourteen hours into the game and I’ve only beaten the first two gym leaders, but already have I been blown away by some of the sights I’ve seen so far.
While you’ll still see the traditional patches of grass that we’ve seen be used in the series so far, Game Freak has incorporated that with flowerbeds that you can also meet Pokémon in too. X and Y makes the most of the new 3D world with camera angles too, where recently I had to make my way through a cave with the camera positioned not above my character, but from behind. In-addition, the cities themselves are varied, the locations and sights are breath-taking, and it’s just awesome to finally be able to experience a true Pokémon journey on such a grand scale. It’s these features which, while they might not be new to gaming, are new to the Pokémon franchise, that make X and Y truly amazing, and which we’ll continue to discuss throughout the review.
Now, while the world of Kalos itself looks fantastic, we’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the visual overhaul to the Pokémon battles themselves, and it is here that XY really puts itself in a league well above anything we’ve seen from the franchise so far. Gone are flat battles that we’ve been used to seeing for fifteen years now, where we get to see the back of our Pokémon only, where the only movement is the arms or body moving up and down. No, now the battles are completely 3D and they look glorious! To describe it simply, the battling system of X and Y now looks like the style we’ve seen from Pokémon games on home consoles – where the camera pivots both your Pokémon and that of your opponent, and where your Pokémon actually does something to show the moves you have selected it to use.
The battleground also changes depending on the area you’re in, whether on a beach, at sea, or in a cave or building, and this also makes battling itself that much more engaging. Gone away are the plain white backgrounds or different coloured pads for your Pokémon to stand on depending on the terrain.
The battle system of X and Y remains true to the style we’ve seen from the franchise to date, where you’ll participate in turn-based 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 fights, but there’s now the inclusion of horde battles too, where one of your Pokémon will need to take on five other wild Pokémon at the same time. To make things fair, each of the enemy Pokémon will be at a level significantly lower than those you encounter alone in the area, but you’ll still need to think about which moves to use to deal the most amount of damage to as many of your opponents as possible each turn.
Another great feature of Pokémon X and Y is the starter Pokémon that you’re able to choose from when you begin your journey. We’ve wanted the starters to be dual type (other than the standard fire/fighting type) for so long now. Fire, water, and grass are good, but bringing in the dark, psychic, and fighting secondary types helps to keep your starter Pokémon more relevant for later in the game. In addition, X and Y pays homage to the previous generations too. It’s always good to see some familiar Pokémon early on in a new game, but one of our favourite things about Pokémon Black & White was that every Pokémon was new until the post-game. It helped recreate the atmosphere of the original games where you didn’t know every Pokémon’s type and how to best defeat it. The introduction of the new fairy type also turns everything you knew about type-matching on its head too, where you’ll know come across Pokémon you thought were weak to certain types, only to realise it isn’t the case in X and Y .
Online features also play a significant part in the new games too. In true Nintendo style they are long overdue, but they definitely help to bring something new to the series. Sure, there were online features like the global trade and C-Gear in past generations, but trading and battling fellow trainers is now easier than ever with the player search system (PSS). Once you’re online, you simply tap anyone in your friends list to access battle, trade, or chat options. If you’re lacking in the friend department you will see countless passer-by’s pop-up on your lower screen. If you trade or battle with them a number of times they move from passer-by to acquaintance, and then finally to friend status, allow you to use the chat function.
Pokémon Black & White introduced pass powers that you could use to increase the odds of a variety of things like hatch and encounter rates, which you could use on yourself or friends through C-Gear. With the online functions in X and Y, these newly named O-Powers have become one of our favourite features. While online, you will constantly be given random O-Powers by people because they cost less when spent on others, making it more cost effective to level your powers up.
Moving onto the Safari Zone, this traditionally used to just be something you had to plug away at if you wanted to ‘catch-them-all’. Although this is still true in a way with X and Y, it is much more involved and promotes making friends online. For each friend you have in your 3DS friends list, you gain another safari. What’s in each safari depends on the digits in the code though. Each friend is assigned a Pokémon type and two Pokémon (three if the player has beaten the Elite Four), and there are over 180 Pokémon confirmed to be in the safari so far by serebii.net, so I’m sure you can imagine the thriving friend code swapping forums!
Keeping with the online theme, we know some people aren’t super-excited by the prospect of the Pokémon Bank because of the yearly subscription fee, but we just can’t wait. With every new generation we attempt to make a living Pokédex on the in-game PC, however since the fourth generation, there just hasn’t been enough room (including different forms) to do so. Now having space for 3000 Pokémon is something we’re really looking forward to. Being a paid service is a necessary evil really, and this is the only real way to expect quality, constant maintenance and updates. Let’s face it, at this point it sounds like Nintendo need every dollar they can get, and we’re happy to pay for a service we’ve been early awaiting and expecting for several years now. It’s just a shame we need to wait until December to access it!
Pokémon training has also had a major overhaul in X and Y, which has completely eliminates grinding and makes it possible to train a well-balanced team. Gaining access to EXP. Share early in the game, the item has been changed from something you give to a party Pokémon to hold, and instead has now been made a key item, which you can either turn off or on. When on, all party Pokémon receive a portion of EXP whenever you defeat a Pokémon, and what’s great is the Pokémon who does the battling doesn’t receive any less EXP either. What’s even better, you now receive experience for capturing Pokémon too! This has undoubtedly made capturing Pokémon that much more enjoyable.
Super training in X and Y is also much easier. While preparing for Pokémon tournaments usually involved our least favourite task in the series – grinding — this too has been made essentially null and void. The new super-training feature now makes it not much easier to EV train, but it’s a soccer mini-game so it’s actually quite fun, or at least more entertaining than battling countless Frillish for special defence stats. Come tournament time next year, this new feature will allow more people to have tournament-grade Pokémon, which should make the competitions themselves tougher overall.
Neither of us have really been able to put this down. In the first week, we’ve clocked over 100 hours between us both. Visually, X and Y is the game that we would have loved to pay back in the Red and Blue days, and it honestly makes everything we’ve seen from the franchise before now seem almost primitive. We might be a little undecided on whether we like the new mega evolutions or not, where we’re excited each time we come across a new one, but we do wish they were permanent standard evolutions. We do understand the series needs to keep making changes to make things interesting for us veterans, as well as enticing new players. We mentioned the new fairy type earlier and initially we were sceptical at first, but playing through the game we’ve really come to love it. It certainly isn’t a gimmick that Game Freak have just thrown together to spice things up. There’s clearly a lot of time which has gone into the new type to make all of the type match-ups more balanced. In addition, some of the new evolutionary methods are absolutely crazy – where one in particular makes use of the gyro-censors, forcing you to turn your 3DS upside down to evolve a certain Pokémon.
Every time we play this game and notice a new feature, we just think that Game Freak have really thought of everything. It will be a long time until either of us stop playing the game, and it really feels like the developers have finally made that next step in the franchise that we’ve all been waiting keenly for.