Pokémon X & Y
The original Pokémon Red and Blue were qualified killer apps – people bought Gameboys just to play this must have experience. I know – I was in primary school at the time and I can think of literally nothing more I wanted than a Gameboy with Pokémon Red. The newest generation of games, X and Y, have given me a level of excitement and love for Pokémon I haven’t had since its inception. Pokémon is the best it has ever been with X and Y with more Pokémon, the first fully 3D graphics for the series, a gorgeous new region to explore and an amazing array of online and offline activities to occupy your time.
To those of you unfamiliar with the Pokémon games, the premise is simple. You are young boy or girl who is invited by the local Pokémon professor to go a journey of discovery and adventure and to find and capture as many Pokémon as you can (Pokémon, short for pocket monsters, are the creatures that inhabit the world at large). At the start of the game you’re given a choice of 3 Pokémon to choose from – fire type, water type, or grass type. From there you go forward on to your Pokémon journey, catching and training new Pokémon along the way. As you progress through the game you’ll earn gym badges and eventually become the champion of the Pokémon league – should you be good enough. An extra incentive for veterans to pick up this game is the inclusion of, on top of your first starter, the offer to pick up one of the original starters as well at a later point in the game. Add to this the even spread of Pokémon from varying previous generations available in the world and the game feels both fresh and nostalgic at the same time, allowing veterans to enjoy their old favourites and for newbies to discover some of the more classic Pokémon.
Pokémon has never really had narrative touted as its strong point, but X and Y really does raise the bar in this regard. Instead of having the traditional single rival you have 4 companions all of whom have different goals and aims, reinforcing that there really is no wrong goal to have in Pokémon. Even the villains this go round, Team Flare, aren’t criminals so much as misguided people who want to help the world but are going about it in very much the wrong way. Pokémon has always been big on themes of friendship, companionship, trust, and community and X and Y very much reinforces these themes. Though some may find the mentions of friendship so frequent as to be grating, I found it charming and it was a genuine pleasure to play a game that so openly wore on its sleeve themes of love, friendship, and trust.
The gameplay of X and Y remains fundamentally the same from all previous Pokémon games – you train your Pokémon, teach them moves, and battle other trainers to gain experience to level up your team. Where the genius lies in Pokémon’s gameplay is that it is, in the best Nintendo tradition, both simple and deep. If you wish to simply train Pokémon you think look the coolest and have cool moves the game will let you do that, and you can beat the game. If you want to get into the competitive battling scene you can pour hours and hours trying to find and breed Pokémon with the right natures, training them to get the best EV stats, and unlocking the most powerful moves. The competitive meta-game has also been shaken up by the introduction of new Pokémon but also the introduction of a new Fairy typing, designed to kill Dragon types. However, the boldest and most exciting innovation in gameplay comes through the new online features. Players can now challenge any other trainer online to a battle, or offer a trade. A new feature called Wonder Trade allows you to trade Pokémon and receive, at random, another Pokémon that someone else has offered up to trade. I even made a few online friends through generous Wonder Trades and random battles. These features really help X and Y feel like you are part of a world of that is alive and real. As an aside, parents should not worry as Nintendo has set up as very safe and highly regulated system so players are not vulnerable online. However, should you opt out of the online experience you’ll still find a very complete game. That is the true genius of Pokémon’s gameplay – it is exactly as deep as the player decides it to be.
Perhaps the most obvious new feature of X and Y is the fully 3D graphics, courtesy of the more powerful hardware of the 3DS. The sprites of yore are now completely done away with in battle, and to see fully animated character models battling each other is childhood fantasy of mine come true. Having played Pokémon when you could easily count the number of pixels on the models to see Pokémon in this way feels like the way it was always meant to be, and add extra appeal to Pokémon veterans. The player character moving about the game world is still stylised in the form of the previous Pokémon games, resulting a nice combination of nostalgic and style. The new region of Kalos also looks great and is very clearly modelled of France, so much so that the capital city of Lumiose has its own Eiffel tower. A personal love of mine was how each Gym has a totally unique stricture and striking visual style that really lends and epic feel to each badge obtained. X and Y’s visual style, like so much of the game, manages a perfect combination of the nostalgic and the fresh.
Pokémon X and Y aren’t likely going to convince anyone who doesn’t like Pokémon that these games are among the best out there. However, they are the best Pokémon games the series has seen so far. X and Y feature an unparalleled level of Pokémon to catch, the best executed story so far, gorgeous graphics, gameplay finely tuned, and online and post-endgame features that will keep the game fresh for years to come. I’ve put 50 hours into the game so far, and I’m just scratching the surface. If you want to be a master and catch them all there’s no better place to do so: this is a killer app for the 3DS, the Pokémon game veterans have been waiting for since 1996 and a fantastic entry point for games new to the series young and old. Buy this game.
- Simple but deep gameplay
- Pokémon has never looked better
- Fantastic online features
- Great for veterans and newbies alike
- More Pokémon than ever before
- Best story so far
- Hours of gameplay even past the end game
- Just so much fun
Written by Alex Holmes