|Oh Yveltal! You're so edgy!|
It's been a week since Pokemon X and Pokemon Y were released to the public, and it's been one hell of a week for Pokefans. So if you're reading this right now, my job- what I strive to do with the website, is to convince you of why Pokemon X and Y deserve your attention. Either as an old fan interested in the shift from colors to letters, a potential new fan wanting to give the series a try, or anything else in between, I want to prove to you that the latest installment of Pokemon is the greatest. So, let me preface this review with a story. Or rather, the story or a terrible story, and a disappointing game, that almost stopped me from returning to Pokemon.
When Pokemon Black and White were released, I was running non-stop on my own personal hype train. Having skipped the third generation of Pokemon games and jumped into Diamond and Pearl, I was astounded at how the overworld looked- the music, the experience, the Pokemon- everything felt fresh and new, bigger and better than the genre-defining experience that had been Pokemon Silver Version, at least, in my opinion. And then Heartgold and Soulsilver had come along and revamped the old game I had loved as a kid, streamlining the experience and giving me the chance to travel with my favorite Pokemon right behind me. It was awesome.
So when I heard about starting anew in Unova, a region that would have no old Pokemon until the post-game, a greater emphasis on story, and a greater emphasis on giving the world a three-dimensional feel, I couldn't have been more excited. Poke-mania was running through my veins, and I bought that game right at launch, eager to jump into it.
And what did I get? A mediocre experience. Gone was the twisting, turning, weather-affected routes of Sinnoh, replaced by straightforward paths with little deviation, few caves and exploration options, and a boring story that was more about some other weird green-haired guy more than it was about me. Unova was a railroad- you traveled in one direction, pushed by the plot that did nothing but assure you that you were always one step behind your foe. The new Pokemon were exciting a fresh, but nothing about the rest of the experience was- it felt like a child's game, with stock characters that were hardly endearing.
And then it sort of dawned on me- I was playing a child's game. Sure, the mechanics were easy and accessible, but perhaps my nostalgic feelings towards the previous games were just that- remembrance of a simpler time. But to me, Black and White seemed a bit TOO simple, simple to the point that, when their sequels were released a year later, I felt robbed of an experience, as the second installment promised essentially everything I had hoped for in the first version, and more. And with so little content added in terms of mechanics and revolutionizing the gameplay, I thought that it would be years before a 3DS version came around to change the game once more, and thought that it would fail to meet my expectations as Black and White had.
But, I was wrong.
-The first ever iteration of Pokemon on the 3DS may not be a graphical powerhouse, but it is by far the most gorgeous installment yet. Flowery, cinematic, and multidimensional routes pepper Kalos, each with unique themes and obstacles to overcome. The shift to three-dimensional battles make Pokemon in X and Y a sight for sore eyes, and give the series the graphical update it deserved.
-Though the idea of making a game that appeals to all ages may seem like a daunting task, Game Freak has excelled in crafting an experience that is simplistic and approachable on the outside but possesses layer upon layer of depth at second look. This is true of all the new elements, such as worldwide communication, super training, and more. Even in it's complex moments, the game is designed as accessible and friendly.
-While Pokemon games have always been relatively light in regards to story, X and Y use a number of elements to tell a gripping tale that puts the player in the spotlight. Touching, terrifying, and a bit more mature than the average Pokemon title, the story this time is definitely worth playing.
-While many of Pokemon X any Y's mechanics are quite transparent, a few remain elusive and strange, such as the odd mechanics of Lumoise City.
-Technical jitters, general silliness. Why not allow players to see what others are doing within their games, thereby avoiding the issue of a trade or battle that is dropped because the player is too busy for them? Why is there framrate slowdown on the 3D Pokemon battles?
Why wasn't Pokemon X and Y the game the 3DS launched with? A mere taste of the possibilities of 3D gameplay, the title makes use of the system in ways no other game has done before, and probably won't ever do, though I'm sure there will be an attempt or two. With these titles, Game Freak asserts an understanding of their fanbase and an acute knowledge of the 3DS' capabilities. Sure, this may be the first Pokemon title that doesn't shove its new additions down your throat, but it's far more approachable that way- old familiars return and ease you into the experience before you're jolted by a new appearance, or a new transformation.
The beauty of X and Y is evident- it looks and feels more like a fully-fleshed out world more than ever before, and a dynamic camera that shifts to give the player their best view is a great help. The characters look and feel like individuals yet the cutesy art style assuredly reminds your that this is the Pokemon you know and love. Music is another positive- with a soundtrack bound to impress if only because of its wide variety of themes, just as catchy as the originals yet distinct and wonderful in its own way. And guess what? You actually MATTER in the story. You are the ultimate Pokemon trainer, and the game never stops reminding you of that, but its the work you put into becoming the champ that solidifies that reputation- a level curve higher than any other game before exists, meaning you'll have to grind harder than normal.
Yet, Game Freak outdoes themselves yet again by making experience points shared throughout the party, cutting down the grind time and giving more focus to the story. But fear not- there is a reason for this, as in all things. With the new online features of the game, matchmaking is a breeze, as is exchanging Pokemon. But that means facing down opponents, making friends, and continuously trumping one another is crucial, and that requires fast modification of your teams. Super training also allows a very transparent look at the mechanics of Pokemon growth and allows you to craft Pokemon that are ready to decimate the competition. And those that fear a Pokemon without a post game should stay calm- there's plenty to be done, and much of it works best when communicating with others, such as the extensive and curious Friend Safari and Battle Maison.
It's as if every possible form of play was addressed with Pokemon X and Y, transforming it into an experience that is streamlined, yet ridiculously fun to play. It's competitive aspects are as solid as ever and the addition of Mega Forms and some new Pokemon will evolve the game in ways we can never expect- but its single player experience is the most enjoyable one yet, which takes you on a winding journey filled with side-paths and a very heartwarming story. Who minds the few minor technical issues? Each possible problem has its own specific fix- the Battle Spot and GTS are always available for a anonymous battle or trade, the 3D doesn't have to be on... and I guess you can always use the bike if you hate how odd the roller blade mechanics are. The flaws are so minor in comparison with the amount of truly great features, it's unfair to list them.
Final Verdict: Pokemon X and Y are the definitive version of the game. They bring the series to new levels of polish and fun. Boasting the best single player and multiplayer modes and modifications to streamline the experience, it is assisted by gorgeous 3D graphics that will change the way you look at Pokemon. This is how it was always meant to be.