Pokemon X and Pokemon Y Review

Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 23rd of October 2013Official Xerneas Illustration

Pokémon is a rare franchise; few titles have had the steady, impossibly colossal impact on the role-playing, pop culture and entertainment industry that Game Freak’s flagship title has boasted for nearly ten years. The latest additions to the series, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y keep up the tradition, showcasing a completely engaging, engrossing and wonderfully charming experience. With a host of new features and some welcome changes in one of handheld gaming’s longest-running adventure series, the latest title builds on some of the most endearing adventure RPG’s to create something truly astonishing. Whether you are a super nerd when it comes to Pokémon or a complete newcomer to the games, this is an essential title for 3DS owners, and a reason for any Slowpokes without Nintendo’s handheld to buy one.

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The adventure begins once again for our ambitious would-be trainer in the Kalos region, a stylish and beautifully crafted 3D world that is overflowing with activities for aspiring trainers, breeders, collectors and even fashionistas as you set out on an adventure that will completely absorb players. Our budding trainer begins their tale in true Pokémon style; starting in a new town the ambitious young Pokéfan sets off on an adventure, makes some new friends, challenges the warped leader of baddies Team Flare and goes on to make history in the Pokémon League. The story is a familiar one, but as usual this does little harm to the experience, instead you are catapulted into a journey of discovery through a vibrant world with strange and wonderful creatures, and Pokémon X and Pokémon Y certainly is that. In saying this, however, there are some moments of real intrigue in this story; the tall old man is a beautiful and eerie addition to the plot, and X and Y is certainly one of the more action-packed Pokémon tales. That being said, the real merits still lie with building up and getting to know your team, catching new Pokémon and interacting with your friends.

As the first RPG Pokémon game for the next generation of handheld consoles it’s visually all fans ever hoped for. In Pokémon battles the sprites are animated and your Poképartner’s moves look incredible, whether it’s a Blastoise leaning in to shower an opponent with a hydro pump, or a Pikachu darting across the battlefield with its agility, each Pokémon’s attacks feel like they are coming from the creatures themselves as opposed to the forced movements of stiff sprites. For such a long running series with so much history, there really is something special about playing with your all-time favourite Pokémon as a three dimensional character. The towns are so impressive you might think twice before jetting off to the equally gorgeous mountains, caves and landscapes set out in between, the world creation is nothing short of marvellous.

Whilst the plot may stick to a tried and tested formula, there are many features that breathe new life into a previously rigid structure, the most obvious of these is Mega Evolution. In Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, certain Pokémon have the ability to mega-evolve into more powerful versions of themselves for a short time, changing form and turning the tide in a battle. The ability to mega-evolve gives both new and classic Pokémon the chance to become some of the strongest fighters in the game, as well as giving fans an interesting look at mega versions of favourites such as Charizard and Lucario. Charizard even has two mega-evolutions depending on the game version purchased. You can also customise your own clothes, add accessories and change your hair from a wide range of options, allowing gamers to express themselves through their character. On top of this, Sky and Horde battles have been introduced. Sky battles take place in mid-air and can only be carried out by Pokémon that can keep off the ground, and Horde battles take place when five weaker Pokémon attack the player all at once. Both are fun additions to the game that creatively vary the different ways for a trainer to battle. Another huge addition is Fairy Type, which provides an edge against Dragon types and challenges even the most experienced players to rethink type advantages.

A major difference in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y from previous titles is the larger number of characters you interact with throughout the game. Now your group of friends have their own interests in the world of Pokémon, and encourage you to explore different ways of playing. The characters seem more present in the story, and although most are not complicated people, it is no bad thing to have more than one companion on the journey ahead. One thing that the characters contribute to is the overall difficulty of the game. Many long time fans may be surprised at this, as it feels considerably easier at the start. There is no drawn out quest for Poké Balls, the first gym is quicker to beat, a friend offers healing in the forest and the story is regularly given direction through the supporting characters. The game itself feels more linear. For the old school fan, it needs getting used to, but after taking a step back these changes don’t always make the game less enjoyable, but gently remind you of the story whilst the player explores this new world. There are less new Pokémon too, with only 69 originals the game pays more attention to revisiting both classic and often under-appreciated Pokémon of previous generations. The result is an incredible balance, encountering both new and old favourites really highlights both the discovery of new friends and remembers old companions kindly.

One of the biggest draws that Pokémon has always possessed is the relationship between a gamer and their team, and Pokémon X and Pokémon Y are perhaps the best games in the entire series to show this. On top of the wonderfully created moving sprites and the perfectly balanced variety of old and new monsters, new featurePokémon Amie allows players to play with their Pokémon in a way they have never been able to before. The mode not only allows for a closer look at the stunning graphics, but is the perfect platform for strengthening a bond with a Pokémon in the game, as well as for the gamer themselves. The new feature also includes some mini-games that help to increase the happiness of your squad. The bond you have or how happy your Pokémon are has certain effects that make this a welcome addition for both serious trainers and affectionate adventurers.

Pokémon X and Pokémon Y has one other feature that really makes things easier for hardcore trainers and evens the playing field for newer or casual players, and that is Super Training. Like Pokémon Amie, Super Training takes the once difficult task of training specific stats for Pokémon, makes it more accessible and frankly, eliminates hours of fighting the same Pokémon over and over. Super Training introduces both active and passive features, where a player can increase a Pokémon’s particular stat by giving it the matching punching bag in the game, or play another mini-game in order to instantly boost a certain value. Though it may seem trivial, this is a real game changer, especially for online battles, allowing every player the chance to get the best out of their favourite Pokémon.

Another impressive development here is the significance of online play. With in-game access to the online features the process feels more fluid and with the improved wireless capabilities of the 3DS console the game can reach its full potential as both a global and local experience. For players who have missed a few generations, the online mode will be staggeringly impressive, as Pokémon X and Pokémon Y build on the improvements of each version making a vibrant community full of life and shared enthusiasm. Online exclusive Pokémon events such as the recent Torchic giveaway are also much easier to access, and players can battle and trade in dozens of ways almost instantly with few restrictions and against both friends and other players from across the world.

As the first central Pokémon games in their generation and dimension, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y had a lot to live up to, and largely they soar past expectations. Whilst keeping many of the greatest features in the previous games, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y take some important steps for the development of Pokémon games as a whole, and demonstrate incredible promise for the future. With a vibrant world to explore, memorable new Pokémon and positive enhancements in almost every aspect of the Pokémon title, the games’ greatest achievement has to be pushing new features whilst keeping the feeling of friendship, nostalgia and discovery, earning its rightful place in Pokémon’s own Hall of Fame.

Pokémon X and Pokémon Y are available now worldwide for Nintendo 3DS.

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About RobAFretwell

Occasionally interesting writer on gaming, literature, film and various fanatical obsessions for MCM Buzz.

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