OXCGN’s Pokemon Y Review
York’s going to catch them all!
by York Robilliard
Grand in scope and design, Pokémon Y is the Pokémon game we’ve been waiting for, an excellent entry for newcomers, an incentive to return for old fans and something refreshing for the devotees.
I have a confession to make, my last Pokémon adventure took place in generation IV, wherein I took my Infernape to glory from his humble roots as Chimchar in Twinleaf town all the way to capturing Dialga and beyond. I wouldn’t say that the experience was unenjoyable per se’, but it certainly wasn’t the magic I was looking for. It wasn’t that it wasn’t compelling, the three year wait between Sapphire and Diamond certainly built my anticipation for the title, but that it felt very much the same, with semantic features added that failed to change the game in any distinct way.
Fast forward to the announcement of Pokémon X & Y: Cool subtitle, most intriguing feature added since breeding in Gold & Silver: Full 3D graphics.
I know that comes off as rather shallow, as previous Pokémon titles have added many features that both cater to the droves of younger fans and increased the complexity of the meta-game for the older fans, but hear me out.
My Pokémon dream starts with the original Pokémon stadium
Where the (even for the time) fairly static battles of Red & Blue were brought to life in glorious turn-based visceral encounters where every individual defeat during these battles would induce strong but enjoyable anxiety within my 10-year old self.
Again we skip in time, it is now the aftermath of Pokémon Stadium 2 in Australia and only the poke-faithful remain playing the various software titles floating around at the time. Anticipation is low and the fad had all but faded, at least concerning my age bracket during this period.
I wasn’t waiting for the next game, no, I was waiting for the Pokémon game that would set the world alight, a fully realised 3D 40+ hour Pokémon RPG, released on the GameCube to much fanfare and powerful critical praise circa 2004.
This did not happen.
Instead we found ourselves subject to a series of stadium-esque battlers that began with experimental storylines that discard the traditional conventions of the Pokémon adventure in favour of “snagging” shadow Pokémon from criminal syndicates. The first Wii game in this vein would altogether ditch the single player storyline in favour of becoming a glorified 3D Pokémon battler that even when enhanced with a DS and the requisite Pokémon game, was incredibly underwhelming.
What does any of this have to do with Pokémon Y? Well, that game I speak of has finally arrived, for the most part.
Not only has the transition to 3D completely reinvigorated the feel of the adventure that is Pokémon, but a slew of masterfully designed and implemented features makes this instalment the spiritual rejuvenation the series has needed for some time.
This is apparent from the moment you begin playing, presented with a visually appealing world, your character begins his/her journey, although this one is about self-discovery over any sort of trite goal of becoming Pokémon master.
Taking place in the region of Kalos, an appropriation of France, you find yourself thrust into your meteoric rise over all others. Gone are the overly long and tedious initial hours of listening to unnecessary diatribe from NPCS who presume that this is your first rodeo.
X & Y has you your first badge, a second stage starter and a generation I starter by the second hour. All the while battling in the now fully rendered world, battles are fluid and engrossing, tough the frame rate drops occasionally during complex animations and busy camera angles.
Of great importance this time is the 3DS’ touchscreen, which houses three distinct yet central features that archetype the innovation seen in this instalment.
The Player Search System houses the most effective and seamless way to battle trainers around the world seen yet in a Pokémon title. Allowing you to interact with players both met and chosen from random in an intuitive and diverse series of options that essentially blend the offline and the online experience together, no need for cumbersome menus or prolonged loading to launch a subsystem-trading with friends or testing your meticulously trained team against equally meticulous trainers is simple and easy to use.
Super Training functions as an incredible new way to dictate how EV’s (base stats) develop on the chosen Pokémon. Previously requiring the Pokémon to defeat certain Pokémon during level-up for specific EV’s (beating fast Pokémon increased your speed etc.). Super Training now enables complete control over the process. This makes levelling and raising Pokémon a much more involved process, and gives more control to the player-base when concerning the high-end competition involving Pokémon carefully nurtured to their peak conditions.
Pokemon Amie allows the trainer to interact directly with their captured beasts in a manner seen in the anime and various media. Offering social interaction via the stylus in addition to a series of mini-games, this increases affection which in turn increases the likelihood of avoiding attacks and landing critical hits in addition to other benefits. Rest assured there are secrets to be found!
But it doesn’t stop here, everything about Pokémon X & Y has been designed to keep the game flowing quickly and allow the player to either speed through their journey or soak everything in.
Items have become less expendable on the whole, unless specifically designed to do so, many items in previous games that were one use only such as TM’s or stones now remain in your inventory, making the seemingly impossible task of collecting them all much less calculated and more reliant on tenacity (though at the time of writing, Pokémon Bank/Transfer is yet to be released making this unachievable presently).
Mega-Evolution rounds off, what I consider the last of the huge changes. Certain Pokémon now possess an in-battle (one M-Evo per battle) evolution that either furthers their motif and corresponding strengths or changes them in different ways ( Charizard X or Y for example).
Though I’ve highlighted some of the more involved new features, X & Y hold many more surprises, from the new fairy type to riding Pokémon, trainer avatar customisation, sky battles, horde battles, 3V3, 6V6, refined quick travel and more familiar *legendary* faces.
Phew! Too much to talk about!
But what about the single player?
The core journey is not too dissimilar from previous games, in that your journey is loosely broken into defeating gym leaders that function as pseudo chapters. The plot soon begins to unfold and is more akin to a protracted theatrical special akin to the movies that we’ve seen released in cinemas since 2000 than the retelling of previous games you’d expect. Again you are that one-in-a-million child whose incredible talent as a trainer enables him to topple Team *insert name here*, catch Pokémon beyond anyone’s comprehension and ascending post-story to breed genetically perfect Pokémon to take on different versions of your character around the world. So far, so incredible.
Now “for the most part” is be addressed: this is still fundamentally a product that despite its complexity at the high-end, is still targeting children as its core audience. The story is still somewhat expository at times and features preachy and overt dialogue that can sometimes become jarring for the older crowd.
It’s also easier than previous instalments, playing through twice to ensure I’m not speaking falsely here: The first play-through I dub “The legend of God Blaziken and the EXP Share” and the second I dub “Measured Greninja Strikes!”
The first play-through took me about 10 hours, blazing through with a rapidly evolving Torchic that led and nurtured scores of Pokémon along the way, he would go on to one-hit-knock-out most of the NPCS present in game, only fainting due to his trainer stubbornly attempting to “Blaze Kick” everything into searing mush without rest. Whilst fun, this play-through left me ultimately hollow, as it dawned on me during the credit roll I had soured something wonderful.
The second play through I made sure not to download that Torchic, and ease off the EXP Share. About 25 hours later, I had soaked in all the game had to offer, and found myself grinding and switching Pokémon appropriately to stay levelled. I now find myself enjoying end-game content sated at last.
It’s easy then, Pokémon X & Y is, all things accounted for, the best instalment to date. I highly recommended this well-thought out gem to all those interested, whether by proxy as a product for their children or like myself, someone whose Poke-fire has long since gone out.
To 3DS owners everywhere: don’t delude yourself, this is a must own.
+ Best instalment to date
+ Must own for your 3DS
+ 3D graphics has reinvigorated the franchise
– Perhaps a tad too easy