Title: Pokemon X and Y
Release Date: October 12, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Nintendo (Game Freak)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Comic Mischief and Mild Cartoon Violence
Pokemon has become a not only a Nintendo staple, but a respected JRPG tradition. The “Gotta Catch’em All” mantra has permiated into general society, with Pikachu becoming a a cultural icon. Simply put, the series is solid and so long as Game Freak follows the general formula, they can be guaranteed success and sales.
Except, they didn’t just do that with Pokémon Xand Pokémon Y. They could have just done a slight update for the first 3DS installment and gotten away with it. But they didn’t. They made a number of changes with this iteration that not only resulted in the most well rounded and welcoming installment in the series, but one that could easily be considered the best Pokemon ever.
Welcome to Kalos
With Pokemon X and Y come an introduction to a whole new region. Naturally, it’s inspired by a real world area. While Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh were based on regions of Japan, and Unova was inspired by New York, Game Freak looked to Japan for Kalos, and it shows. It’s a very artistic region, with a focus on architecture.
As usual, players are a young man or woman about to embark on his or her own journey. For the first time, people can choose their gender, hair color, and skin tone. The players then awake in their room in the small town of Vaniville. Their mother is a famous Rhyhorn racer who has moved to the region, but it’s time to come into their own. The neighborhood teens, Calem or Serena and Shauna, are getting their first Pokemon from Professor Sycamore, before setting out to help him research Pokemon.
Which means going to the next town over, Aquacorde, to meet up with Tierno and Trevor, two boys who already met with Sycamore. After getting their new friends, (Froakie, Fennekin, or Chespin), exploring a forest, and beating a gym leader, it’s time to get their mission.
This time, it isn’t just about filling a Pokedex and catching them all. Pokemon X and Y introduces a new concept called Mega Evolution. Professor Sycamore is facinated by it and wants to learn more, so he’s sending a group of intelligent and inquisitive teens around the region to learn more.
Of course, that isn’t the only thing that will come up. There’s a new team of villains who plan to abuse Pokemon called Team Flare, and the Elite Four is looking for a challenge.
Charmingly familiar, with marked improvements
At its core, Pokemon X and Y is comfortingly familiar. Even though it’s now in 3D for the first time, and looks gorgeous, the basic gameplay remains the same. Players will use Pokemon to fight other Pokemon, catching more to increase their roster and Pokedex. Battles are turn-based, each Pokemon can only know four moves at a time, all Pokemon and their moves have types, and success only comes if you know yourself and your opponent. Especially since six Pokemon can be held at a time, which encourages strategic thinking. Also, only some can be taught necessary moves, like Cut, Surf, or Strength, that allow access to areas blocked by trees, water, or boulders. Most towns have a gym, with a leader and trainers to challenge. Routes between towns may have secret areas, trainers, new pokemon, and hidden items to acquire. Not to mention, there’s the occasional dungeon where Team Flare must be fought.
What makes it better is the variety. Pokemon X and Y have more Pokemon in the wild than any other game, with both old and new Pokemon appearing. Not to mention the Fairy type, while integrates perfectly into the other types and proves a sense of balance that was lacking in previous entries. There’s a staggering number of characters, to the point where every favorite could easily appear within the game. While this may seem daunting, it’s made easier to deal with thanks to a vastly improved Exp. Share item, which practically eliminates the need to level grind. With the new Exp. Share turned on in the Item Bag, all 6 Pokemon in the party receive experience from every battle, even if the Pokemon is caught during the fight, meaning you don’t need to spend hours in an area, leveling up each party member.
Of course, that’s not the only way to improve Pokemon. Pokemon X and Y introduce Pokemon-Aime and Super Training systems to the game. Pokemon-Aime basically turns Pokemon X and Y into Nintendogs. You can feed Pokemon, pet them, and play mini-games to boost their happiness. While it’s not essential (unless you want Sylveon), getting a Pokemon to five hearts of affection boosts its experience from battles, helps it land more critical hits, and lets it sometimes dodge attacks in battles. Super Training, on the other hand, lets you play mini-games with your Pokemon to boost their base stats, making them stronger than other players’ characters. Think of it as giving yourself an extra competitive edge.
The same can be said for Mega Evolutions, a new ability for certain Pokemon. After a certain point in Pokemon X and Y, players receive a bracelet that interacts with Mega Stones, allowing select Pokemon to temporarily evolve to a more powerful state in battles if they’re holding the appropriate stone. Doing so doesn’t take up a turn, and the payoff is worth it. In some cases, it even changes the Pokemon’s type or adds an extra ability.
Of course, another thing to note are the extra customization options for the trainers. Clothing boutiques are scattered around Kalos, and buying clothes allows players to look a little more fashionable. Trainer PR videos can even be shot, so you can show off your look to your friends and build some hype around yourself and your abilities. I would have appreciated some extra clothing options, and perhaps a Pangoro hat for female trainers, but it is a nice little extra feature to make players feel more unique. Especially since it’s easier than ever for Pokemon players to connect.
Inching closer to a multiplayer Pokemon.
What’s even more exciting about Pokemon X and Y are the ways in which Game Freak has worked multiplayer into the system. It’s always been a single player series, despite people’s outcries for a Pokemon MMO, but this installment comes closer to getting people working together.
There isn’t any direct multiplayer. None of your friends will be in your game with you. Yet, with the Player Search System, it’s almost like they are. Not only that, but strangers around the world are all online with you, and you can see and interact with them. It’s an effortless endeavor. You just look at the PSS on the bottom screen and, if you’re in the mood, tap to get involved with friends. You can trade pokemon, battle, watch each other’s trainer videos, or root one another on by sending out O-Power boosts that do things like temporarily restore a friend’s Pokemon’s HP or PP, makes catching Pokemon easier, lowers shop prices, or more. There’s even a Game Chat function, which allows you to talk to people who are actually on your 3DS friend list.
These systems work perfectly, with practically no lag. Plus, you can interact with anyone. All you have to do is just tap an icon of someone who’s online. Passersby become acquaintances after one interaction, and can even be added to your friends list if you enjoy spending time with them enough.
The only downside is, sometimes it seems like the PSS system doesn’t take into account that a player may be busy. You only get a few moments before it says someone can’t be reached, and given how long it can take to close out a Pokemon battle or event, it’d be nice if there was a means to offer some kind of status update so people would know you’d like to trade, battle,
A Pokemon for everyone.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a Pokemon game at any point in your life, you need to own Pokemon X and Y. It’s the series’ pinacle and not only shows how far it has come, but gives hints at what we can look forward to in the future. The adventure is more accomodating to players, while still offering the challenge we’ve come to expect. I managed to get my favorite Pokemon, Sylveon, to level 80 since I started playing at about 11:30pm, October 11, 2013, with barely any effort involved. Everything comes together perfectly in Pokemon X and Y, and fans of the series will appreciate Game Freak’s efforts. More important, if these installments can be this good, the future looks bright for the franchise.