Gaming Nomad vs. Pokémon X and Y
Pokémon is one of the most phenomenally successful Nintendo franchises with legions of fans around the globe and it has entered its new evolution with Pokémon X and Y. In case you don’t know, Pokémon is set in a world filled with creatures known as Pokémon (short for Pocket Monsters) that are trained people who battle their creatures professionally to rise to glory and become known as the greatest Pokémon champion.
Battling is one aspect of these games while capturing them is the other. There are now over 700 Pokémon in the franchise now and one of the goals it to try to capture them all. Since hitting the US in 1999, the franchise has spawned a long running anime series, several movies, toys, spin-off games, and lots of other merchandise.
Now to make things clear, I’ve been out of the Pokémon game for awhile. I had not played any of the games since gen 1 back in 2000, so I couldn’t imagine just how much it has advanced and has improved since playing the original on the Gameboy back in the day. X and Y are not just sequels; they are a redefinition of what these games are. Pokémon X and Y are the games that fans have been wanting since the beginning of the franchise and has rekindled my love for franchise for as well. (Please note that the only differences between the X and Y versions of the game are that certain Pokémon will only appear in each version. There is no difference in the over gameplay or what happens in the story.)
The game takes place in the Kalos Region, which is heavily based on real-world France. You play as a young trainer setting out on his/her Pokémon journey with neighborhood friends. They receive word to meet with Professor Sycamore, the region’s head of Pokémon research, as he wishes to meet with them at his lab in the capital city to discuss the mystery of mega evolutions that have just been discovered in Pokémon. While story has never really been the focus of Pokémon games, as it’s always been about the journey itself, X and Y do have some good plot elements that come to be much later in the game.
I’ll avoid spoilers but there is one side story that will pull at your heart strings and also has some dramatic and dark moments. However, the overall focus still on the gameplay. It still has the same format as pervious titles: travelling from town to town, battling all 8 gym leaders till you have 8 badges, go to the Pokémon League, battle the Elite Four, and then the region’s champion. There isn’t much beyond that but it doesn’t need to have an overly complex story line like so many other J-RPGs think they need to have.
The story never gets in the way of the gameplay and it sticks to its old school RPG roots.
There is a pretty obvious villain but he’s also pretty badass, unlike the main group of bad guys in the game; Team Flare, who are just rather silly despite their flashy suits. Team Rocket was way cooler than these guys. I do really like that the friends you are travelling with. While you all are technically rivals, it never gets in the way of your friendship. In past games, your rival quickly becomes your enemy and is a jerk to you because you’ll ultimately beat them in each battle. Here, even though you’ll beat them over and over again throughout your journey, they still see you as a friend and want your friendship more than something as petty as beating you in a battle. It was actually a nice twist to NOT have one of them turn all evil for the lust for power or greed like so many other games do.
The core gameplay of previous Pokémon titles remains the same in X and Y: turn based battles based on the rock, paper, and scissors formula of elements that make up each Pokémon. Example: Fire type is weak against water type but water type is weak against grass type. Some strengths and weaknesses are obvious, others not so much. Another basic aspect to Pokémon games is catching wild Pokémon for training/trading/collecting ect. This is done by weakening a wild Pokémon in battle, then capturing it with a Pokeball (which now comes in even more varieties).
Depending on the level and health status of the Pokémon, this can be fairly easy or really hard. All this is still very much intact with X and Y, with some improvements and additions. Battles can be affected by the weather now giving a more immersive feel and a new dynamic to battles. You can encounter horde battles where you’ll come across groups of 5 wild Pokémon. If you have an attack that can effectively take out the whole group, it can make for a quick battle and a ton exp. If not, you’re going to find yourself in an annoyingly long battle as each Pokémon must take their turn.
I usually just ran from these battles. There now doubles matches which is a 2v2 match where you or you and a partner square off against two other trainers at the same time. Level grinding is still a big part of X and Y and that may turn some people off, especially those more familiar with modern RPGs.
Thankfully, the new exp share item makes leveling up your Pokémon team so much easier and faster but level grinding is still required, especially if you want to have the edge against the challenges ahead. Random battles are still in it as well if you’re in tall grass or where ever wild Pokémon live. Yes, there are items you can use to keep off wild ones away but it’s still random battles, though a common convention of old school RPGs, are still annoying especially when you are trying to get somewhere quickly and keep getting stopped by really weak enemies.
Training is no longer simply about just gaining experience points for your team. You now have individual training and care for your Pokémon in the form of Super Training mini games and Pokémon-Amie which can be accessed on the bottom screen of the 3DS. With the Super Training screen, you can exercise each of your Pokémon with a punching bag and a target practice mini-game to help up boost their stats. This is important if you want your team to be the very best. Pokémon-Amie gives you the chance to bond and play with your creatures. Using the touch screen you can pet and feed your Pokémon. For some fans, this is a dream come true to get to pet a Pikachu or an Eevee. You can also play some fun little mini-games to earn some more treats for your critters. While some more variation in the training games would have been nice, it is a great new system to improve your Pokémon’s stats and relationship with you.
Of course, you have a big, lush world to explore with lots of cities to visit, trails and caves to explore, and other mysteries to investigate along your journey. I believe this is one of the biggest Pokémon games to date, if not the biggest.
While side missions are around, you will have to look for them which gives you more incentive to explore and talk to everyone you come across as they may offer you a useful item or offer you a fun little job to make some quick cash. I feel there is some missed opportunity here to give your Pokémon more ways to earn exp, aside from battling. Maybe getting them to help you with a side mission to help move or build something, I don’t know but something more could have been done to earn exp besides just battles. But maybe I’m trying to force it to be too much like modern RPGs by saying that. Still, there is a lot to do and explore. Your character is customizable in appearance for the first time. You can buy clothes and accessories for them as well as change their hair and hair color throughout the game. Doesn’t affect the gameplay but it’s a neat option to have. There is also a lot of post-game material once you have beaten the game. New areas open up to you and give you a chance to go after legendary Pokémon and an entire town with its open battle league opens up to you as well. And, of course, there are those 700+ Pokémon out there to catch. There are hours and hours of gameplay you will get from this game.
This is the first Pokémon game to be fully online as well. While I’m not usually a big fan of online multiplayer stuff, I gotta say, I really like the online elements in X and Y. Gather those friend codes, because you can interact with your friends online at anytime during the game. You can battle with them, trade with them, give them power ups, and even voice chat with them which I didn’t know the 3DS could do.
Pokémon has always meant to be a social game and the internet has made it so much easier for you to play Pokémon with your friends as it was meant to be.
You can have promotional videos of your trainer made that anyone can view. You have a complete trainer profile with a questionnaire and customizable icon. In addition to your friends list, it also shows you the Passerby list which shows everyone in the world who is online and playing so you can trade and battle with someone in Japan or England ect.
GRAPHICS & SOUNDS:
The transition from 2D to 3D has been seamless and the visuals are absolutely gorgeous.
All the Pokémon look and act as they were meant to be, with beautiful colors and animations making them feel more alive than ever before and the animations of their attacks during battles are the highlight of the game. The environments are stunning with little details like wind blowing through grass, leaves falling from trees, or even rain running down on your touch screen during a battle in the rain. There is also a real time day to night transition which can affect how some items and Pokémon react and to what Pokémon you may encounter. The towns are beautifully designed based heavily on French architecture and each one feels different with their own attractions and charms. The gyms are well designed and just really cool to look at as they all are unique for each type of Pokémon being trained at the gym and are designed to be mazes/puzzles for you to figure out. The Fairy and Psychic gyms were my favorites.
The character designs and artwork are fantastic. A lot of detail is given to the anime style human characters that generally appear in both 3D and 2D slide art during battles. There is a large variety in the NPC designs so, while the character models do repeat, there is a large enough variety to keep them from getting tiresome to see. The only negative thing that can be said about the visuals is that there can be some slow down during battles, especially if you have the 3D feature of your 3DS on. I think this game is kind of pushing the 3DS to its limits at times. The frame rate drop is very noticeable but doesn’t really affect the game too badly and the 3D feature can easily be turned off. I hardly ever use it anyway.
The music in X and Y is absolutely delightful. Beautifully orchestrated pieces of music fill the game from beginning to end. The theme during the opening animation will get you totally pumped. I can’t find who composed the music but I have a feeling it was the same people behind the soundtrack to the Super Smash Bros. games as they sound very similar. Thankfully, there is no voice acting in the game so all dialogue is in text and its best this way. I have a feeling it would have been mired with cheesy voice acting otherwise. The text itself is well translated and even has some witty dialogue here and there. The sounds the Pokémon make are still the same from the previous game titles and it works. Pikachu, on the other hand, is the only Pokémon (or character for that matter) with an actual voice since it is the most well known Pokémon. Isn’t that adorable…
Overall, Pokémon X and Y are the reason to get into or get back into Pokémon and the reason to get a 3DS.
This is one of the best games to come out of Nintendo that I have played in awhile. It is extremely charming, beautiful to look at, very addictive gameplay, and has excellent online features. It does have a few old school RPG tropes that might be considered outdated by modern RPG standards but I’m sure fans wouldn’t want it any other way. If you’re a Pokémon fan and you have not played these games yet, get on it. NOW! If you’ve never played Pokémon, this is a great starting point. X and Y are the Pokémon games fans have been wanting since beginning of the franchise and are true Nintendo masterpieces. Thanks for reading! Be on the lookout for my ‘for the record’ review of one of my favorite games Batman: Arkham City and its highly anticipated prequel Batman: Arkham Origins.
- Fun/addictive gameplay, deepest Pokémon experience yet
- Great use of online features
- Gorgeous visuals and soundtrack
- Occasional slow down during battles, especially with 3D on
- Some missed opportunity with more varied side missions
- Can be level grind and random battle happy