Here lies the grave of a million sprite artists
Finally generation six of Pokemon is upon us. As the first title on Nintendo’s 3DS and the first forray into 3D, how ambitious was Game Freak in the sixth iteration of the magnum opus? Let’s find out!
The first thing you notice when you pop in Pokemon X and Y is the full 3D of the game. All of the Pokemon have brand new 3D models and display a diverse array of emotions and animations. And it’s not just the Pokemon, the entire game is visually stunning from the towns to the water and the attacks. The whole game reminds me of a nice N64 or early GCN game but in the palm of your hands. The sound is great too, going past the usual caliber and making use of the higher sound fidelity of the 3DS. On the other hand I’m not all for 3D but sometimes I wished the overworld was in 3D and non-single battles turn off the 3D. When the 3D is on the game experiences a few framerate issues too, especially if large Pokemon are on the field. All-in-all, you can see that Game Freak has been pushing their system and it’s fantastic.
As stated in my first impressions, there are a million nostalgic throwbacks in the game, far too many to list really. (Longtime fans will note the old GB Psybeam sound effect is back) The entire game is just this fusion of Pokemon’s nearly 20 year history. Plenty of times in my journey, I was hotly debating between a plethora of Pokemon for one of my team slots. Do I use an old favorite that can now Mega Evolve like Absol or Mawile? Or perhaps I should use the titanic power of Aegislash? Every step of the way, you’ll find a new Pokemon or an old buddy, so you can spend ages wandering in every grass patch and comfortably get a great sampling of Pokemon all over.
Speaking of the Pokemon themselves, they’re fantastic this generation. While it is true there are only 72 new Pokemon, we have all our bases covered. You have weaker beginning Pokemon Litleo for new Trainers, your requisite cute Pokemon like Espurr for cutemon enthusiasts, your competitive base 600 Pokemon like Goodra, and the downright odd Barbacle for people that like weird Pokemon. Every Pokemon serves a purpose because Pokemon as a game is different things to different players, there are no throwaway Pokemon that cater to no one (Seaking, Kingler, Lumineon)
Then there are the Mega Evolutions, which take classic Pokemon and give them a massive power-up. Ever thought Mawile would be a competitive force to be reckoned with or if Gengar could get even more awesome? Mega Evolution celebrates older Pokemon and gives many less powerful Pokemon a day in the sun. Those 30 or so extra Pokemon slots went to the Megas and it never gets old seeing your precious Charizard FINALLY become part Dragon type. Though I must say Game Freak has a bad case of favoritism giving the aforementioned ‘Zard two Megas and not sharing the love with his fellow Kanto starters or the other region starters for that matter. Let’s hope through the power of DLC, which Game Freak always wants to be free, we can see Mega Sceptile or Mega Typhlosion but only time will tell.
The journey itself is a bit longer than your average Pokemon game but it’s also much easier. The culprit is the new experience system which gives your Pokemon EVs and experience just for catching Pokemon and the reworked Exp. Share which distributes 100% of all experience to all participants and half of it to the rest of the team rather than divide it up amongst the relevant team members. On one hand, this makes raising an evenly leveled team a breeze and makes catching a worthwhile endeavor any day of the week, but you will quickly become ten to twenty levels higher than the opposition in no time. Coupled with easier teams for bosses, the in-game is steamrolled in days. I long for the return of Challenge Mode with all due haste.
The new story once again has very many scintillating facets that, because it’s Pokemon, never really get explored. Without spoiling the fun, the villain is actually not your textbook “lol I’m evil, I wanna become God, lol more land/sea”, and a certain character will quickly remind you of Fullmetal Alchemist. There are great tidbits, but for Pokemon standards, they’re better than before. It’s too bad the post-game content is very sparse, leaving a single sidequest set and three legendary Pokemon to hunt.
Examining the game outside the game, there’s Pokemon’s robust and thriving multiplayer community. Without needing to interrupt your game, you can have live access to your friends, that guy you just GTS’d with, and everyone else in the world all in the bottom screen. Trading, battling, and chatting has never been easier. Then there’s the full-blown trainer customization, the biggest feature everyone has been begging for since Red and Green. Just the ability to customize down to the eye-color shows the detail Game Freak put into the custom system. I am jealous of female players for getting more options and the lack of wilder offerings like maid outfits or super sentai suits. On the whole, it’s a godsend that actually makes your in-game money relevant and dumps numerous hours into getting your avatar down perfect.
If you thought just multiplayer communications were grand, then you haven’t even checked out all the revisions to competitive battling. At the forefront is the new Fairy type, which dethrones the major players of the Pokemon scene that have dominated for years: Dragons, Fighters, and Darks. If you thought EV training was an arcane mess, Game Freak openly acknowledges its existence with Super Training, a fantastic system that lets you see your Effort Values and distribute them by playing minigames. If EV training was a cinch but getting moves or Hidden Abilities was a chore, then it’s great to know that passing down those much coveted abilities and moves can be from both parents.
Finally, if IVs make you rip your hair out, then rejoice because there are many opportunities for players to catch and breed perfect Pokemon, even legendary Pokemon. You might even find easier to get shiny Pokemon in the process. Game Freak is more and more aware of players from casual to competitive that want an lower barrier of entry to the finer workings of the game and they certainly have delivered.
I have to say, in spite of a few flaws, Pokemon X and Y are definitive Pokemon games for players. With all the improvements in graphics, nostalgic tugs, and system refinements players have been clamoring for, there literally is something for everyone. Pokemon X and Y get a super solid 4.5 of 5 stars. If Pokemon is even relevant to you, I highly recommend picking the sixth generation games up. Join me next time when I sell illegal Magikarps.
– Callbacks to older games and longtime fans
– Visually impressive graphics and sound with features that utilize them
– Easy communication with other players
– More accessible competitive battling
– Long awaited balancing to multiplayer scene
– Little post-game content
– Few new Pokemon
– Occasional frame-rate drops
Developer: Game Freak
Available on: 3DS
Release date: October 12, 2013
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