With the release of Pokemon X and Y, players are going wild to debunk the game’s secrets and Pokemon themselves. Every internet outlet has been exploding with information and now that we have the game in our hands (officially) what can we see from the first few moments of gameplay? Here are five first impressions that stood out to me in the first few moments of gameplay.
1. Is this Red/Green all over again?
There is a very nostalgic vibe to the game. The first forest you encounter is has a layout that is very much like Viridian Forest down to the layout and Pokemon available, but updated for a modern generation. The first city you go to has virtually all of its NPCs nearly imported from Kanto, right down to the trainers’ school with a blackboard that teaches you the status conditions. It’s these little things that longtime players that have paid attention to every iteration of the game will notice. On the more noticeable hand, many older Pokemon are spliced in with newer ones. The aforementioned typical “first forest” has both Scatterbug and Caterpie and Weedle. The Pokemon selection is top notch and you’re bound to find a favorite somewhere. You even get not one but TWO starter Pokemon. Arguably one of the best parts though is that since the 3DS has yet to be successfully hacked, many players are starting from point zero again, making discoveries for themselves or hammering away with the mighty internet forces to find every secret to the game. Granted, these secrets will be leaked in a matter of days, if not, already have been, but if for a moment, that magic is there.
2. Did things get easier?
On the other hand XY feels a bit easier than your garden-variety Pokemon game. The trainer AI which is usually a little bit brighter than the wild Pokemon AI makes a few decisions that are not as aggressive as that of previous games, even after recognizing that I’ve only passed the first gym. Perhaps I got used to the “Challenge Mode” in Black and White 2? It would be great if “hard mode” could return to Pokemon or perhaps we’ll just have to wait for the inevitable “Pokemon Z” for that.
3. Complete Customization
Barring the missed opportunity to have your character in his underwear or crossdress, the level of detail in these games is amazing. You can customize your trainer’s looks down to their eye color or whether or not they have freckles. And if you thought it would be pointless for just a few polygons, then you haven’t seen the photo spots or trainer PR videos yet. Photo spots have an in-game camera that let you take screenshots and play photographer with an “in-game DSLR” right down to aperture and shutter speed. Trainer PR videos let you make videos with you and your Pokemon to show to the world. Become your inner video editor and control sound effects, backgrounds, lighting, poses, facial expressions and more. I literally spent a whole hour in the editor for my ten second clip of my Pikachu and me.
4. More Streamlining
If you’ve ever heard of EV-training, then you have at least a peek into the real meat of Pokemon battling as well as “that hidden secret Game Freak didn’t think players would find out”. Now in generation 6, effort values are public knowledge in Super Training. You can actively see about how many of your Pokemon’s 512 EVs it has spent as well as a chart showing its proficiencies. If you thought hunting down the umpteenth Geodude to bolster your Chespin’s Defense stat was a pain, then play the Super Training minigames to get more Defense and training gear for your Pokemon to use in the touchscreen while you adventure. That’s right, you can even train your Pokemon by doing absolutely nothing but leave the game on if you so please. Other instances of speeding up the game include EXP Share now doling out experience to your whole team instead of dividing up the spoils, especially now that capturing Pokemon gives exp too. No longer do you have to grind your team as evenly. The Player Search System doesn’t have you backtracking to Pokemon Centers to conduct trades, you can communicate with friends and strangers in the global arena right from your bottom touchscreen. On the technical side the game saves much quicker now on the 3DS, even faster than in generation 1.
5. Better Presentation
Generation 6 has taken Pokemon beyond the days of sprites and into 3D on the handheld platform. With dynamic camera angles, higher quality music, and dynamic Pokemon animations, battles feel like you’re playing Pokemon Stadium or watching an episode of the anime. The Pokemon Amie minigame is reminicent of Nintendogs… If Nintendogs had you petting the heads of and feeding macarons to giant world eating god beasts. The towns have diverse locales with a European flair and the world just has an overall polish to it that shows the effort Game Freak put into the game.
Only an hour or two into the game, and Pokemon X and Y have me captivated just from seeing all the advancements put into the game. While battle outside of Mega Evolutions may not have changed so much on the surface, the Pokemon experience does not feel like a means to an end. Instead the games provide an enjoyable fresh adventure that still remembers the install base of devoted fans that have been playing for nearly 20 years. This really does feel like the next evolution of Pokemon, in many ways. Join me next time when I put on a fedora.
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