Review

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My experience with Pokemon has been rather tumultuous  I played the first two generations to completion, and absolutely loved them and memorised every single Pokemon. I then went on and skipped almost every single generation until Black and White came out. Touted as something new, I was intrigued. But despite its attempts, I wasn’t wooed back to Pokemon at all. In fact, I was rather disappointed. Enter Pokemon X and Y – a new Pokemon game that not only claimed it was new, but it looked brand new too. With some hesitation and excitement, I dived straight into the Kalos region and began my adventure once more. And I absolutely loved every second, minute and hour of it.

For those who’ve never played a Pokemon game – the structure remains largely unchanged throughout the years. You step into the shoes of a novice Pokemon trainer, select your first Pokemon and then embark on a journey to defeat all eight gym leaders and eventually the reigning Elite 4 – champions of Pokemon battles who each specialise in certain types. The formula is slightly changed up for X and Y – though it still remains largely similar in terms of overall structure and progression. X and Y also introduce a new team of villains – Team Flare, and they provide more conflict to the player as they embark on their journey. As an aside, Team Flare are fantastically written and quite possibly the most memorable enemy troupe since Team Rocket.

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Pokemon, as you know it, has been turned entirely upside down. No longer is your character confined to only four directions of movement nor do they only inhabit two dimensions. Your character can now move in all directions and movement has been streamlined to be much easier. In fact, most of Pokemon X and Y has been streamlined to make the game a great degree more accessible and playable. It’s possible for your Pokemon to earn experience all at once, it’s possible to trade without having to shuffle through boxes and you even earn experience just for catching a Pokemon rather than defeating it. Everything that was cumbersome in previous Pokemon games has probably been fixed in X and Y. And it’s fantastic.

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The crux of the Pokemon experience involves battling – and there have been several improvements in this area. Probably the two most talked about additions are the newest type, Fairy; as well as the discovery of mega evolutions. Game Freak have managed to completely turn the meta game of Pokemon upside down by just introducing one new type and reclassifying old Pokemon to this new type – giving the battle system what feels like a fresh lick of paint. Mega evolutions also have the potential to change up how players, both casual and hardcore, approach their battles. With the ability to change up moves, as well as reduce weaknesses to certain types – the effect that mega evolutions have on battles should not be underestimated.

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The battle speed feels like a perfect balance between scrolling text, animations and player input – something other RPGs get wrong and thus make battling feel like a chore. One situation where this isn’t quite as well thought out is the horde battles – where several Pokemon attack the trainer at once. This can be easily handled with a move that attacks all Pokemon at once – but take more than one turn to defeat these enemies and you’ll have to be prepared to sit through long and arduous attack animations of four to five Pokemon without the option to skip. It’s hard to figure out a way to remedy this problem, but it’s something that’s worth mentioning and possibly the only detriment to the game’s pacing. Sky Battles are also introduced although their implications on the overall way the game plays are minimal.

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Those who play with considerably more intent than the average player can also bolster their Pokemon’s statistics and relationships with the two mini-games, Pokemon-Amie and Super Training. While on face value, Pokemon-Amie is just a glorified tamagotchi, it’s actually much more and your usage of it directly affects how your game plays. All Pokemon who are close to you through Pokemon-Amie will earn more experience, shake off status effects from time to time as well as gain a second wind when near death. It’s a great way to emphasise the importance on the relationship between Pokemon through both narrative and gameplay approaches and it works really well.

 

fenWhile this reviewer doesn’t delve too deep into the “effort value”  (or EV) training, it’s understood that Super Training dramatically changes the way players can train their Pokemon – providing a much more streamlined way to train your Pokemon to be the very best. It can be tedious – but the prowess you exhibit in battle is definitely worth it. This is where the crux of most of Pokemon’s depth lies, and to write it off as being shallow when there are so many facets that contribute to a Pokemon’s proficiency would be just downright ignorant. Those wanting to find some of the rarer items in the game should also get themselves acquainted with Super Training as its spoils are commonly well sought after items.

 

Those who have followed the franchise through its years will have fond memories of organising meetings, taking your Game Boy and link cable and trading Pokemon. Those days are long and gone. Pokemon X and Y features some of the most intuitive and well implemented online functionality of any Pokemon game – heck probably more than any game on a Nintendo system. At any point in the game – players can trade, battle or empower their friends with O-Powers with a tap of the touchscreen. O-Powers are small buffs that can be sent to your friends or even strangers to help them along in their game – these include increasing experience gain, capture rates, critical hit rates as well as stat increases for your Pokemon. They’re a cool and yet subtle way to keep you connected with your friends. Speaking of which – friends, people you’ve dealt with previously (“Acquaintances”) and simply people who are nearby can all be interacted with, it just requires a tap of the touchscreen. You can even play a group battle with four people online – each of you plays half a team of three Pokemon each.

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It’s incredibly easy; it’s incredibly fast and nearly seamless. There are a few small problems with the system – first off both players must agree to the same voice chat options to interact (Ie. both must say no or yes) however the game itself doesn’t provide any indication of what your partner has chosen and doesn’t tell you why a trade or battle just randomly stops happening. On top of this, if you want to just chat with a friend while playing – that’s not possible, as the game will move to “game chat” mode which allows you to … just game chat and nothing else. Another minor issue is that the game won’t automatically connect to the internet and requires player input every time you wish to do so. All of these problems are very slight, however, and don’t have major nor lasting detriment to the experience.

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Trading is great too, but the new Global Trade System and Wonder Trade component take things to the next level. The Global Trade System basically is a buy and sell system for Pokemon – you can put your own Pokemon on the system and ask for a specific Pokemon even with a specific gender too. Leave it there for a while and you’re bound to have a brand new Pokemon fresh and traded in your PC from another user. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all. The Wonder Trade system is a little bit more exciting – it’s essentially a blind trade. You choose which Pokemon to trade, wait for someone else to do the same, and then either celebrate or commiserate at whatever Pokemon you receive. It’s fun and it’s very prone to abuse but that’s half the charm of it – you’ll never know what you get.

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For those who just want to buy the game, play it, and then be done with it – Pokemon X and Y totally completion time will fall anywhere between the range of twenty to twenty five hours. For those (and I suspect, most of you) who wish to complete absolutely everything – you’ll be easily playing into the hundred hour mark. Add a robust multiplayer system with a very functional online mode and you’ve got a very complete package that could last you for months, if not years.

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froThe most obvious change to Pokemon X and Y is the visual presentation. Everything looks absolutely stunning and it brings a new layer of life to the game’s world. Pokemon move and react to every move (more so in Pokemon-Amie) to give them more life than ever. The cities, especially the Parisian inspired Lumiose City inspire a keen sense of wonder with their sense of grandiosity and scale. In particular, the gyms look absolutely fantastic, each being designed to fit in perfectly with the theme of their reigning leader. The visuals are generally quite good – though character design is quite a letdown overall.

 

The 3D is bizarre to talk about in Pokemon X and Y because it’s not even present for a good half of the game. 3D is utilised in battles and certain setlists only – most segments played out in the field are not in 3D at all. It’s not a huge issue as 3D is only a cosmetic addition, but some players may be disappointed. When it is used, however, the game also comes to quite a crawl especially during some scenes mid battle. This drop in performance probably highlights the fact that a game of this scale is quite possibly pushing the 3DS, and is a good reason why most players should consider playing without it.

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It’s nearly impossible to write a review that manages to accurately encompass and critique absolutely everything that Pokemon X and Y has to cover. But there are many things that the game does well regardless – it’s been streamlined quite a bit to bring in fresh players while also appealing to series veterans of varying degrees of competence, even if it sacrifices some difficulty along the way. The online is fantastic – some of the best we’ve seen on both the system and within the series so far, and adds a lot of value to the package as a whole. Sure, there’s some minor nitpicks here and there, but Pokemon X and Y is just such an enjoyable package that it’s incredibly hard to fault them for such superficial things. A must own for every 3DS owner, no questions asked. Pokemon is back and better than ever.



About the Author

James Mitchell
Avid gamer since I was as young as three years old when I received my first NES. Currently studying full time and consider myself a balanced gamer. Enjoy games on all systems, from all genres, on all platforms. Sometimes feels like he's too optimistic for this industry.