Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo/ Pokemon Company
A long awaited step forward for Pokémon kind.
Change is inevitable, it is always bound to happen and while many don’t want it, it sometimes creeps up on you unexpectedly. Pokémon has always had a pitch perfect formula which has worked well for many years. The problem that exists though is that many have been asking for change for so long, waiting to see the games make use of proper three-dimensional gameplay. It seems that although it has taken a while, Game Freak has listened and brings Pokémon into a new era ushering in a permanent change for the better.
Game Freak promised this change when they announced X and Y wanting us to see a difference. This may be immediately notable for the most part but there are still things that have not been touched, such as the battles which still act in a rock, paper, scissors manner using elemental advantages to beat other Pokémon, Water beats fire and fire beats grass and so on, also we still catch and train our Pokémon. The base game is still about setting out from your home town to collect the eight gym badges to go and challenge the Pokémon league. As well as trying to stop the plans of the evil team Flare while uncovering the secrets behinds the mysteries of the Kalos region. It doesn’t derive much from past Pokémon games but it does follow a winning formula which has carried the Pokémon games for years.
However, outside of battling and the story is where the change is definitely noticeable. The key thing I really must mention is the game’s presentation. The game looks beautiful and within battles they look better than they ever did before and being reminiscent of the Nintendo 64’s Pokémon Stadium. All battles are in full 3D and even include a far better set of battle animations than we have ever seen with them all being in 3D and having some pretty awesome looks. There is definitely nothing available on the 3DS that looks better than this right now.
Outside of battle when travelling across the overworld the game is almost entirely in 2D, with the 3D features on the 3DS only being usable in a couple of selected places. This isn’t really a problem and is actually more of a relief as even without the 3D the over world still looks amazing. With people looking like people and a well-designed overworld filled with well-designed towns and routes, the world is a nice treat for the eyes and is brilliant even without the 3D features.
On a more practical level, Pokémon X and Y introduces two new battle types, a new evolution and a new Pokémon type. The new battle types are called sky battles and horde encounters and if I am being honest neither is that exciting and makes rotation battles from Black and white seem better. Sky Battles are random battles you will come across with trainers who use only flying type Pokémon. These are 100% optional challenges which have you face down their flying type Pokémon with whatever certain flying types you have on hand, you can also use certain Pokémon that have the levitate ability. Horde encounters are completely random encounters with wild Pokémon that has you facing down five low level Pokémon with one of your own at one time. Luckily neither of these are very common and do not get in the way of the experience, though they don’t really add anything either.
On the other side of the scale, mega evolutions and the new fairy types are brilliant new additions which brought a lot of excitement. mega evolutions are new forms that Pokémon take on to add power to themselves and allow them at times to balance themselves out or on occasion add an extra type than what they usually have. However these evolutions are only temporary, which means they are only for a small amount of time and don’t mess with the balance that Game Freak has spent years trying to perfect.
The new fairy type also adds a lot to the classic formula. This new type has shifted the balance to give dragons something to fear while also giving poison types something they are strong against and is quite a nice inclusion. Again, this just adds to the strategy and helps further balance it all out without messing with the finely tuned strategic value that has been crafted. Also I really liked the new fairy types as it actually forced me to learn a new advantage and disadvantage and make mistakes in the process which has forced me to think about my advantages and relearn parts of this long-standing rulebook.
Outside of battles, further changes are also present, more tuned to how you travel around the world. Pokémon X and Y has done away with the four way grid that has plagued the series for years and has instead offered us an eight way grid which has made the world feel even more open and easier to get around. Also items like your bike and roller skates are both available early in the game helping you get around quicker. The bike is still decent but I wish I could say the same for the roller skates, which I will admit took me many hours to get used to due to their unbalanced speed. Thankfully by the time I approached the half way point I had given up trying to figure out how to take them off and went with them even if I still don’t particularly like them.
If you are looking for further activities to do outside of battle then there are also a few additions that make for a nice distraction from what is going on in the main story and game. The first of these new features is the new customization option that lets you change your character’s clothing and hairstyle, to match your own preferences which is a nice little inclusion to make you different to everyone else. The second of these fun new additions is the new Pokémon-Amie feature which acts as a sort of Nintendogs style minigame where you can pet and feed your Pokémon, as well as play around with them to give effects such as a higher critical hit ratio which will help out in battles. The last of these new additions is the super training, which acts as a training regime to help your Pokémon build up on their statistical abilities, such as defence and speed, by raising up their EV points in a way that challenges you and removes the need to battle Pokémon over and over again. Whether Super Training takes over the old fashioned EV training still remains to be seen but I personally found this to be far more fun and enjoyable and each is well-made and carries benefits over to the main game.
Another noticable change is how Pokémon are used and distributed throughout the region. I will admit that the number of new Pokémon that exist in this game are very underwhelming and I did find this strange. But within the region there were a good variety of Pokémon that existed from all five regions we have previously visited. In fact it was nice that in the first hour, as well as coming across one or two new Pokémon, I also came across old favourites such as Pidgey, Caterpie and many others. Across the region I came across many different Pokémon which I found nice even though it did become annoying that there were so many Pokémon I wanted to work with but I could only train up eight at best. However, it was nice to have the options and choices.
But to at least allow the options one of the best changes I found was how experience points have been distributed. Pokémon now easily get experience points regardless of whether they just appeared in the battle or fought vigorously. In past Pokémon games the use of two Pokémon would result in experience points being divided up equally, however that has been modified so that all participating Pokémon receive the full extent of experience points. I know this makes it seem like things are getting easier and training is not so difficult but this has opened the door for the game to be far more challenging than Black and White ever were, and have led to me facing a few serious losses towards the end of the game because I underestimated things later on in my adventure.
Pokémon X and Y are not without their flaws and some of the new additions and changes are a bit pointless. However, for what the game offers and the fact this is the first attempt at a proper step forward for the series I do give some lenience with that thought. But what is satisfying is that for the entire 37 hours I had with this game I was having fun, and was quite engrossed with just about everything I came across, and that promised change was definitely delivered and just made the game all the more better.