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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Gotta Catch 'Em All! Or, let's talk about Pokemon X and Y!

Here they are. Some things have changed. Some have not.
My first memory of Pokemon:

I was sitting on the sidewalk as recess and a friend of mine came over to me. "Evan, I need help with this game, I don't know how to play."

I took her Game Boy and, with my stupid six-year-old mentality, pretended I was a genius. She was playing Pokemon and had just taken her first steps into the tall grass. The battle screen was up. At this point, all I knew of Pokemon was the whole catching mechanic, so, seeing that I had no Pokeballs, I tried going to PKMN, the option which is normally used to switch out other monsters. The message kept saying, "(Pokemon's name) is already out!"

So, like an idiot, I kept pressing that and not pressing other options, until I became too frustrated with it and gave the game back, stating I had no idea how to play. At least I was honest.

Ladies and gentlemen, my first Pokemon experience.

It's a bit shocking to think that I've been alive as long as Pokemon has- that I've watched the series evolve and change from handheld to handheld. But here we are, on January 8th, 2013, with a new Pokemon title revealed to us, in the form of Pokemon X and Pokemon Y.

I didn't own the original games, my brother owned Pokemon Red version, which I received when he obtained Pokemon Yellow version. Playing that game for the first time was one of the most fun and interesting experiences I've ever had on a handheld. Of course, I got Pokemon Silver after that, which kind of blew my mind. The ability to return to the original game's setting and play through all of those gym leaders again... that was pretty awesome.

And then, I fell out of video games. I think it was the Gamecube, actually. Once I had a home console, I just didn't think it was necessary to get another handheld, especially since I played the heck out of my original Game Boy still. I had Dragon Warrior Monsters 1 and 2, which were both very lengthy experiences (at least, they were to my young mind). So I missed out on Ruby and Sapphire. Even trying to play those games now, I'm not really impressed. They added some more color, some trumpets, and a couple new HMs. Dive was really kind of pointless. The region had a bit more variety to it but the locale wasn't very engaging. There was a lot of water.

So imagine my surprise upon purchasing Pokemon Pearl for the DS. That game has a massive overworld. It loops upon itself in a number of different ways with a lot of interlinked routes. The locales are varied, from sandy beaches to murky swamps, dank, foggy caves and tumultuous snowstorms. Sure, Defog is probably the worst HM ever and Bidoofs are everywhere, but it's a really pretty game with more earthy tones than Ruby and Sapphire and contains some of my favorite Pokemon. And of course, picking up SoulSilver and reliving my youth with brighter tones and pretty environment redesign, not to mention some new additions.

And who could forget Generation V? Arguably one of the stranger additions to the franchise because it didn't really do that much. Some nicer graphics, a more dynamic battle system, and environments that were a bit more three dimensional... but Unova felt like such a placeholder. The region was bare, with very little nooks and crannies. The Pokemon were a nice update of Generation I, but that's really all they were to me. Very few were lovable, though I had some favorites. Of course, the inclusion of a plot was very striking to me, especially how the game portrayed gym leaders and the Pokemon League Champion. The narrative was interesting and the sequel truly surprised me, but overall, the fifth generation felt a bit stale, to me. Maybe it was because the games were once again DS exclusives and that hardware was just weak in comparison. We've had quite a number of installments on the DS. NINE. And four of those were just slightly updated, graphically.

But now: Pokemon X and Y! While Black and White promised monochromatic, diverse gameplay, this new version sounds more like a departure. A truly new direction. We don't need colors anymore! Besides, we already went through precious metals and stones, let's take a bigger leap. Oddly enough, the Legendary Pokemon appear to represent the version titles. Dibs on the bird!

That's not all, though. This is the first time we're seeing Pokemon fully 3D. And you know what? Great. That's perfect. Keep it coming, this is what the series needed for a long time. The battle animations look fabulous, the Pokemon do too (taking a few cues from the Pokedex 3D, I see... very smart choice), but the out-of-battle environments also look delicious. These are atmospheric, utilizing light sources and geography but still being block-by-block grids- though Black and White attempted to stray from this, so I'm sure we'll see some more neat tricks.

It's just so wonderful to see this new pair because the 3DS NEEDED a Pokemon game. It would have been the perfect system seller for the console and while Black and White (and Black 2 and White 2) had some 3DS functionality, it's time to take the truly incredible step that the 3DS offers. Streetpassing! How can we use this wonderful feature for Pokemon? What about the more streamlined internet options and friend list? Battling and trading with friends will be easier than ever. Will we see a new Dream World appear? How about a deeper Entralink? The additions that are possible with the 3DS could seriously streamline the Pokemon experience and it's honestly one of the best titles to fully utilize them- it's one of those games that everyone is going to get.

EVERYONE.

And if you're going to show of AR games, or Streetpassing, or Spotpassing, or even DLC (Pokemon DLC!), this is the best opportunity to do so. There's a lot more I could talk about, but we have so few details it seems kind of silly. Will the increased emphasis on the story be prevalent here? These 3D environments, are they going to be slightly different based on versions, and how so? What is this wonderful new region like, since it seems to have its fair share of European influence? All is not certain, and that's a good thing- we've still got ten months. But we're talking a simultaneous release here, which means we're all going to experience it together, at the same time- the new Pokemon, which boggles my mind (we'll be in the 700s now, maybe even more), the new features and additions, the new region, the new story... if you don't join me for a new era of Pokemon, well... shame on you. Because it already looks pretty damn neat.

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