- Format: 3DS
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Game Freak
- Players: 1
- Site: www.pokemon.com
Pokemon is a known quantity for most; For over ten years children have grown up with it in one way or another, the general themes of the game carrying over to the animé and card game. Pokemon X and Y continue most of the series’ traditions, this time with a big leap in most areas and a mere step back in a few.
The core mechanics of the game have remained largely untouched: You are tasked with training Pokemon and battling for glory, honour and money of a fictional currency on the path to becoming the very best like no one ever was. Several things have been tweaked to varying degrees, the most notable being that the whole thing now takes place in a three dimensional, fully polygonal world.
Overall this transition has occurred wonderfully. To borrow an old cliché, the graphical upgrade has breathed new life into the franchise. The aging sprites of previous generations – while fantastic pieces of art – have been made entirely redundant thanks to the gorgeous art style that has been applied to X and Y. Playing Pokemon now resembles something like a Studio Ghibli or Pixar movie. Monsters who suffered from less than impressive or uninteresting designs in previous games have found their saving grace in the third dimension, transforming into some of the most visually interesting entries to the Pokedex.
While it’s been an overall great addition, there are a few areas that don’t quite reach your average standards. The fields of Kalos suffer from a rather flat grass texture; the only attempt at making it appear alive being the occasional white line sweeping over it to denote wind. Unfortunately it’s a weak attempt that breaks the illusion of being a real world. Frame rate also suffers big hits in a few areas, mainly when a battle is occurring and the camera is split between close-ups of both Pokemon.
The changes aren’t just visual though; large overhauls have occurred in several key areas. The online capabilities of Pokemon have seen incredible improvements since Black and White 2. The bottom screen now features the PSS: Your hub for interacting with the world beyond your 3DS. Upon logging in you gain access to all your friends, acquaintances you have encountered in trades or battles, and passersby who have been within ten steps of you in Kalos. If you want to battle any of them, you simply click their face. While this sounds fairly standard the removed clutter is a great improvement on the previous game.
There is also a competitive multiplayer option called the Battle Spot. Here you can test your skills as a Pokemon trainer against anyone around the world, hopefully working your way up the ranks in rating battles. We encountered no lag at all during twenty or so battles and only had connections drop when the result became a foregone conclusion in our favour – we’ll chalk that up to ragequitters. Nintendo have also limited the voice chat functions to friends, leaving your ears untainted by the more unsavoury denizens of the internet.
The core of Pokemon is in the battles and they remain largely unchanged. The formula that has been used for over ten years persists. It’s up to you to utilise the many attacks and abilities available to each of your allies and attain victory, and the possibilities for how you do so are nearly endless. Pokemon has long been one of the most easily accessible yet deepest titles of the role playing game genre, a trend which X and Y continue.
Battles have also been effected by additional and more refined types. Fairy acts as a long-needed counter to the strong Dragon Pokemon while also providing the oft-forgotten Poison type with an opponent on which to unleash super-effective attacks, giving the type match-up a more balanced and thus interesting dynamic. Steel has also lost a few resistances but remains an incredibly strong defensive type, just no longer an incredibly over-powered one.
Two new encounter modes have been added: Horde and Sky Battles. Horde Battles happen in the wild and involve one Pokemon against five, while Sky Battles are traditional one-on-one trainer fights that take place high in the air. While it’s good to see new additions, neither of them are really appealing. There are also added frustrations to the battles: Hordes take too long without a Pokemon that has learned a multi-target attack while Sky Battles require a flying-type Pokemon or one with a floating ability, often leaving you in a one-on-three situation.
The new Mega evolutions are another fantastic addition to the game; granting a select few Pokemon with a huge boost in power as well as a new look. This is particularly fun for older players who now get to see some of their favourite Pokemon in a new way. It’s also balanced quite well for competitive play; Pokemon must be holding a particular item to Mega Evolve, thus removing any benefits they might have gained from stat-boosting and utility items while their opponents still have access to them.
The only aspect of the game in which the negatives outweigh the positives is the story. Team Flare’s goal is to destroy the world to hoard the resources which doesn’t do a good job of following on from Team Plasma – who spent most of Black and White questioning the morality of a fundamental aspect of the world as well as the core mechanics of the game.
In spite of some of the negative aspects of the game, it is overall a journey that brings overwhelming joy to the player while they discover the intricacies of an old world given a beautiful update. It’s not just older Pokemon fans that should play this game though; X and Y is a great place for new players to begin their journeys without being saddled with dated technology.