When I played Pokemon Red and Blue in 1998, I never thought that 15 years later, I’d still be playing a title in the series, but it’s 2013, and here I am. Pokemon X and Y is the first installment in the series to be on the Nintendo 3DS, and it’s one of the best Pokemon games made – ever.
If you’ve played a previous installment in the Pokemon series, the formula hasn’t changed much. You’re still a youngster who gets his or her first Pokemon, leaving your home and family behind to begin a journey toward becoming a Pokemon master. While this formula may seem tiresome after being repeated through multiple titles over 15 years, it’s the slightest changes with how that beginning pans out that still leave it somewhat fresh. Gone is the rivalry of Red and Blue, and now in their stead is your character with a group of new friends.
These friends all bring their own personalities that try and add some humor and camaraderie to the game, but it ends up being more of a nuisance than an actual benefit. I found I was repeatedly interrupted in my exploration by this rotating wheel of friends that kept telling irrelevant or simple information that I already knew. While this may be helpful for the younger players, it often was cumbersome and really slowed the journey to a crawl. It’s commendable that developer Game Freak tried to change the pattern with introducing these friends, but its actual purpose and benefit is questionable.
With X and Y being the first appearance of the main Pokemon series on the 3DS, it brings with it a much needed and welcomed upgrade visually. Every Pokemon has been modeled in full 3D, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Battles are more vibrant and exciting, and it makes the discovery of new and old Pokemon much more exciting by seeing them fully animated in 3D form. Cities, routes, and caves have all had a visual upgrade, too. The stagnant birds eye view camera now tilts, moves, and follows behind and in front of the player’s trainer, giving a much more cinematic experience.
While previous Pokemon games have tinkered with adding new visual elements to enrich their respective worlds, the upgraded graphics in X and Y create beautiful set pieces that were once unthinkable on previous Nintendo handhelds. At one moment, you’ll find yourself navigating through a massive city which towers over your character. Later on, you and your Pokemon will be climbing a giant mountain, while seeing a beautiful beach down hundreds of feet below. It’s the first time I’ve really felt like a Pokemon game has differentiating locations and habitats. While this was originally achieved by changing colors of environments, the full 3D really helps sell the new region, Kalos, as a living, breathing locale.
With the increase in graphics brings with it some problems, however. Sometimes when a lot is going on during battles, the game suffers from small, but noticeable, drops in frames per second. This is especially true when taking advantage of the 3D option during battles. While it isn’t often, it can take the intensity of battles away and really diminish the experience.
One exciting new addition is the ability to customize the look of your trainer. Now, you can finally make your trainer your own and really forge your own lore in the realm of Pokemon. You can buy a multitude of accessories, shirts, hats, and much more. It really personalizes the game and makes this RPG tale more of your own than ever before. It’s a simple addition, but its impact is considerable.
The gameplay of Pokemon X and Y is primarily the same as every other Pokemon title. You’ll need to catch various types of Pokemon and train them to become powerful enough to defeat whatever opponents the game puts in your way. You’ll still have to choose from four attacks for each Pokemon, study weaknesses corresponding to each Pokemon type, and build a diverse team that can cater to each opponent’s weakness. It would have been nice for Game Freak to try and break the mold of its gameplay, but they seem to stick to the mantra “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which is understandable, since the gameplay itself has always been addicting and rewarding. It can be hard to put down Pokemon X and Y. I found myself getting lost in the environments and battling as many Pokemon as I could, because seeing each Pokemon level up is a satisfying experience that few RPGs can emulate.
One of the most advertised additions to X and Y are mega-evolutions, which take what are normally fully evolved Pokemon, and evolve them to an even further level. This evolution makes the Pokemon much stronger, and allows them to take more of a beating. At any time during a battle, you can enable the mega-evolution to occur, but it can only be used once per battle, so its effectiveness is up to your judgement.
While only a select few Pokemon can mega-evolve, it adds an interesting strategy when facing off against other trainers. I often found when losing in battle, I could instantly turn the tides by mega-evolving my Pokemon and really turning the tides of battles. It’s somewhat of a last-ditch effort, and really raises the intensity of battles – especially when your opponent mega-Evolves, too. It’s reminiscent of powering up levels in DragonBall Z, and I love it.
Mega-Evolutions, themselves, are a large part of the storyline. The player is tasked with finding out how Pokemon can mega-evolve, and then train to utilize it. While the premise for the story is interesting, the actual delivery leaves much to be desired. Often character dialogue can be so painful and obvious that I found myself repeatedly stating “I got it!” when travelling across Kalos to solve this mystery. Like your trainer’s friends, the characters littered throughout the plot are quite boring. The members of the evil Team Flare can be entertaining, but they lack any originality or major difference from Team Rocket or the various evil corporations of past Pokemon titles.
Perhaps one of X and Y’s greatest additions is its online capabilities. You can now easily battle your friends – and strangers – online with ease. You can also trade online with friends and unknowns. One of my favorite online additions to Pokemon X and Y is a new trade mode called “Wonder Trade.” Think of wonder trading as a Pokemon-trade-chat-roulette. Simply enter wonder trade, pick a Pokemon you’d like to trade, and you’ll be matched up with a random player across the world. Both players then receive the randomized Pokemon the other has sent. It’s a neat addition that is great for those Pokemon you catch that are unwanted. Sometimes, you may even get lucky and land a Pokemon that is far superior to one you sent away. I once received a Charmander – for a Pidgey. Like I said, sometimes you get lucky.
Pokemon X and Y takes the biggest leap in quality the series has seen in a long time. The power of the 3DS really helps bring the colorful world of Pokemon to life. While X and Y’s story still hasn’t grown to something worthwhile, the world and Pokemon that inhabit it are as captivating as ever, and it shows how much the series needed a new, more powerful platform. Those who haven’t paid attention to the series as of late should not let this generation pass, as they’d miss arguably the best Pokemon games since the original Red and Blue versions.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Nintendo 3DS game Pokemon Y by Game Freak, distributed by Nintendo and The Pokemon Company.
- Great 3D makeover
- Online Functionality
- Bland story
- A Few FPS Dropped