Pokémon has been Nintendo’s marquee handheld franchise since its debut on the Game Boy. Though it’s no longer the global phenomenon it once was, it still holds a dear place in many gamers’ hearts. And like the greater amount of Nintendo’s other franchises, it’s not just the nostalgia that makes these games so loved. It’s the fact that the games have adapted well to modern tastes, and the latest games in this beloved franchise are no exception to this notion.
What Is It?
To the bunches of folks who never got into it, Pokémon is a role-playing game featuring a deep rock-paper-scissors-style, turn-based, battle system. Similar to games like Dragon Quest Monsters, the Shin Megami Tensei series, or the more recent Ni no Kuni, the bulk of Pokémon is about obtaining wild monsters and training them to be killing machines… Or at least that’s the way PETA likes to put it.
Pokémon’s primary audience is children, and that’s quite evident from the get-go. While most non-playable characters in other RPGs enjoy spewing utter nonsense, in Pokémon they run their mouths about only one thing, Pokémon. Every once in a while you’ll come across people not talking about Pokémon, but it’ll be something stupid like, “I love shorts. They’re comfy and easy to wear!”
Be that as it may, there’s always been a bevy of things to do in Pokémon, and X and Y are certainly no exception.
Why Should I Care?
Pokémon X and Y are different yet familiar, and it’s easy to tell right away due to the complete visual overhaul thanks to the 3DS’ capabilities. Then again, the games don’t make extensive use of the hardware’s 3D functionality. In fact, there really isn’t much 3D in the game at all. This is probably due to its simultaneous release with the oh-so-confusing 2DS, but from from the looks of it, the game still could’ve really benefitted from 3D effects.
While the updated graphics are a welcome addition, they’re sort of a double-edged sword too. Because of the desire to highlight certain environments, the camera will pan out to distant fixed viewpoints. Because of this, movement controls are slightly altered, and becomes annoying to simply travel. There’s also a metropolis-type city in the game called Lumiose City, which is essentially a spherical city mapped out like a Poké Ball, where players will spend most of their travel time in. It’s a nice concept, but it’s a bit dizzying and most of the game’s “challenge” comes from navigating that particular city since its buildings look so similar. In addition to the graphics, there’s also a lot more customization this time around.
The second generation of Pokémon games ( specifically Pokémon Crystal) was the first to feature the option of using a female Pokémon trainer, but since then there was really no way to express or differentiate oneself from your friends or any other trainers. Now, players have the option of buying different clothes and accessories, and they can also take their style to the next level by recording “PR Videos” in Lumiose City. It’s another welcome addition to the game, but I recall a time where I walked into a shop and got immediately kicked out for “not being stylish enough.” If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Pokémon really embraces the hipster lifestyle.
Those were the slight differences, but it’s these new features that really change the series. The first change is the addition of a new Pokémon type, the fairy type. Fairy-type Pokémon have offensive and defensive advantages against fighting, bug, and dark-types, while also being fully resistant to dragon-types. On the other hand they’re weak to poison and steal-type Pokémon. That’s only two types of Pokémon, making fairy-types one of the strongest in the game. To make things even more interesting, Xerneas, the game’s marquee legendary Pokémon is a pure fairy-type.
Like the debut of the dark and steel-types in the second generation, a lot of Pokémon also had some conversions into the fairy type. Due to slight spoilers and the fact that you’ll definitely want to experience that challenge, we won’t reveal the exact Pokémon that were affected. It’s worth noting, though, that most of the Pokémon that were affected were those of primarily the normal type, like Clefairy and Snubbull. In the many cases were I didn’t know what the opposing “normal” type was, if it’s cute, I just slapped it with steel.
The other big change in the game is the debut of “Mega Evolution,” which is what the main story of the game is pretty much all about. Mega Evolution is available when you have a Pokémon in your party that can Mega Evolve, but it can only be done if the eligible Pokémon is holding on to a special stone that allows Mega Evolution to happen. For example, my Venusaur is equipped with a Venusaurite, and he can mega evolve once per battle. Mega Evolution increases base stats, and some cases, like with Charizard, it’ll also change the Pokémon’s type. While it’s great use for battle, in all honesty, it isn’t particularly useful in the game’s main single player quest.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
There’s the game’s visual overhaul, the game’s overhaul of the battle system, and the new Pokémon, so what else could make the game worth it? Well, while the X and Y didn’t make extensive use of the 3D features, it still shines in terms of what it does as a 3DS title. Pokémon X and Y was the first game in the series to be released in the North America, Europe, and Japan simultaneously, so with that the online features are definitely more robust.
Thanks to the Player Search System (PSS), players can see just about everybody playing on the bottom screen. After one battle, players are “acquaintances” and after about three, they’re automatically added to a Friends List. On top of that, there are other apps in the game that allow you to trade for random Pokémon, play minigames to raise base stats, or even raise them the way you would a virtual pet. It’s essentially like that handheld device that came with Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, but now it’s built into the 3DS game itself.
There’s also this social bit called the Friend Safari. The Friend Safari is a feature that tags everybody in your 3DS Friends List a certain type (of Pokémon). After choosing a friend, you can go on their safari catch three Pokémon that match that type. At least one of those Pokémon isn’t obtainable through the wild, so it’s interesting seeing which types your friends represent. Eventually, Pokémon trainers around the world will have access to a premium app called Pokémon Box, which allows users to hold thousands of Pokémon in the cloud at an annual fee.
This definitely makes it easier to completionist types who want to “catch ’em all,” and while it isn’t necessarily the MMO we are all hoping will eventually come out, this is about as good as it gets. Again, while it’s not the phenomenon it was a decade ago, the Pokémon flagship games are still system sellers. These games are the reason why kids buy their handhelds. It’s the reason why Nintendo came out with the curious release of the 2DS. It’s not because of the hype that these games sell systems. It’s because they’re actually good, and Pokémon X and Y are the best Pokémon games to come out in a long time.