Pokemon X & Y Review

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Pokemon X and Y marks 15 years that Pokemon games have been around and after so many years you start to fall into routine. Things start to feel the same. The Pokemon franchise as a whole has long been criticized as a series that doesn’t change. The newest entries into the franchise, Pokemon X and Y aren’t necessarily going to change that because the game is still very much “a Pokemon game.” You still battle eight gym leaders and the Elite Four. You still thwart the plans of an evil team. You still catch a few legendary Pokemon. However, despite all which is the same, Pokemon X and Y may very well be the biggest change in Pokemon history.

Gameplay

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In X and Y, it feels as if GameFreak spent large amounts of time working out kinks in the Pokemon franchise’s basic mechanics. Little things like changes to the way Exp. Share works, EV training/Super Training, even basic movement around the world have changed dramatically in this version of Pokemon. Movement works via both the analog nub and d-pad. If you use the analog nub you get a much faster and slipperier movement using the roller skates. This allows you to glide effortlessly over large maps and although precision is definitely hampered. The d-pad offers the “classic” version of movement, basically grid-based movement that Pokemon games have been known for. Eventually you will want to use both. Both have their benefits – if you need to quickly transverse an area you use the roller skates and if you just want to face someone or talk to an NPC than you can use the d-pad.

The design of this game feels different from other Pokemon games. It feels “free” in a sense. Where before the Pokemon Company always seemed to show restraint with how many Pokemon were available, this game literally throws them at you. Alongside the original starter, you will be able to pick another starter from the first Generation of Pokemon! Various Pokemon from different generations appear in-game and you’ll be given plenty of Pokemon within the game from NPCs as well. With about 718 official Pokemon in existence now, it is to be expected that these games are going to have to get bigger and bigger to accommodate them all and X and Y does so glamorously.

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Speaking of the number of Pokemon in X and Y the game only hosts 69 brand new Pokemon for the sixth generation. And while that is disappointing, X and Y also boasts the highest number of catchable Pokemon in any Pokemon game. Believe me when I say that you won’t feel the small number of new Pokemon when you have hundreds upon hundreds of your favorites at your disposal. However, the 69 that are here are quite enjoyable. Some of them having some really interesting types or gameplay gimmicks and some of them look truly awesome.

Of course Mega Evolutions also have something to do with this low number as they are “new Pokemon” but are not considered brand new Pokemon within the Pokedex. They are more like transformations. They act as sort of temporary evolutions that last till the end of battle giving stat boosts, new abilities, and new typings, along with a tweaked design to Pokemon from the past like Charizard or Garchomp. The Mega Pokemon are fun and incredibly powerful but are limited to only one Mega Evolution per team per battle, to help keep the game balanced. You’ll also have to either buy or find the respective Mega Stone for each of the Pokemon you want to evolve.

Graphics and Sound

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Graphically, Pokemon X and Y is at the top of its game. Pokemon truly come to life with incredible detail and the level of animation here is a pure joy to see. Battle animations have also improved with powerful attacks such as Brave Bird showing off some really cool effects. You will even notice details on Pokemon you didn’t see before because of the new visuals. The 3D is really only available during battles but it is quite impressive even if it does cause a lot of frame drops. In fact, you can sort of tell that Game Freak is pushing the 3DS quite hard when you see even without 3D on, a bit of frame dropping during battles. It’s not too distracting and often only appears when the camera is swooping about so it is less noticeable but it is a slight blemish to an otherwise great graphical showcase.

The soundtrack to Pokemon is iconic. Everything from the level up sound, to the main theme is ingrained into the minds of many gamers. So you’d be hard pressed to find a better soundtrack in a Pokemon game but X and Y really improve in this area with a much richer sound than in previous games. Many of the Pokemon battle cries have been redone along with some of the sound effects. Even Pikachu, the mascot of the series, gets to say his name as he enters battle! The overworld tunes and the bike riding song are just as infectious as ever. I dare you to not hum along while playing it.

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One of the neatest new features to X and Y is Pokemon Aime. It allows you to interact and play with any Pokemon in the game. You can pet them, feed them, and they will even mimic your movements. It’s surprisingly addicting to play with your favorite Pokemon but there are also nice benefits to using Aime. The Pokemon will slowly become closer to you and this reflects in battle. Sometimes the Pokemon will shake off a status ailment like paralysis, sometimes it will survive an attack trying to show you strong it is. It reminds me of some of the Pokemon anime’s impossible feats. In the anime, a Pokemon could just dodge or shake off problems because of its closeness with its trainer. This is similar. It really is an amazing feat when that Pokemon you’ve been taking care of surprises you in battle and overcomes what seemed impossible.

In the past, Pokemon games had a competitive layer to them and the way to make a competitive Pokemon was through “EV training”. Essentially, your Pokemon gains stat points in certain stats depending upon what Pokemon it fights in battle. This of course was always hidden to the player until now. Super Training is an option on the touchscreen that lets you see the EV spread of a particular Pokemon. It also lets you spread the points however you want via mini-games. There are also training bags that your Pokemon will idly hit as you explore the world which also increase stats. In a way, Super Training helps the player who doesn’t understand EVs but wants to have a competitively viable Pokemon. It is a wonderful improvement.

Multiplayer

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But by far, the best improvement is the PSS or the Player Search System. It is an incredible upgrade over the previous iterations of Pokemon Online features. Basically, the PSS takes over your bottom screen and shows you to see your friends list and random players who are also playing the game. Random players will even send out messages on the bottom screen which can be rather fun to look at. From there you can quickly tap anyone’s avatar (which reflects their customizations) and initiate battle, trade, or any other feature that you can do over online. It is quick, fluid and effortless. Doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can start a trade or battle with anyone on the planet.

Overview

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With all of this, I haven’t even covered half of the new features in the game. There are ride-able Pokemon. A brand new fairy type to balance out dragons. A new safari zone that lets you catch very rare Pokemon depending on how many friends you have on your 3DS or PSS. Crossbreeding berries, Photo Spots that let you take pictures of the world and your trainer, O-Powers that have effects like increased EXP yield, higher money, and a higher capture rate when trying to catch Pokemon in the wild. Wonder trading that allows you to quickly put up any Pokemon and get a random instant trade. Customizable trainers with some pretty nice options for clothing, hats, shoes and accessories. You can even change your hair and eye color!

I could talk about this game all day. There is so much to it. Sure, I have my complaints. Such as the frame drops in battle, the lacking story, the awkward camera in Lumiose City, and the few brand new Pokemon but X and Y overcomes all of these faults. Some would argue that the Pokemon series has not changed all that much since its inception and if you’ve never liked Pokemon this one isn’t going to change that. However, what X and Y do so effectively is refine what was already there and in some cases improving the formula so well that you swear it was new. The upgraded visuals, gameplay enhancements, big new features, better online, tons of Pokemon – it all amounts to an incredible experience and one of the most impressive Pokemon games to date.