From its humble beginnings on the small screen, in true monochromatic style, the journey of the Pokemon series of games could be a mirror image of the journey of a Pokemon Trainer itself. It moved to a bigger stage with cartoons and merchandising and even feature length animated films, captured the focus of amateur shutterbugs with offshoot gaming experiences like Pokemon Snap, delighted arcade enthusiasts with Pokemon Pinball and even gave us a glimpse of three dimensional battles with Pokemon Colosseum. Ever since the earliest days of Pokemon, gamers from around the world have dreamed of experiencing their Pokemon adventures in a fully realized three dimensional world. While it may not be perfect, it delivers a Pokemon experience quite unlike any that has been released before. More evolutionary than revolutionary, Pokemon X/Y takes a bold first step into a new frontier of Pokemon gaming.
For the uninitiated, you start the game in a small village and are quickly presented with your first Pokemon, of one of three basic types, fire, grass, or water. The key is that water is super effective vs fire, but weak against grass, the other two types featuring a strength and a weakness as well. This rock, paper, scissors gameplay represents the core of Pokemon at its most basic level and is still as solid as ever. Series veterans will have no trouble jumping right in and newcomers to the series will find this entry more accessible than ever before.
Your pokemon are easier to level than ever before, thanks to the repurposed Exp. Share item. In previous versions of the game, Exp. Share was a held item you could give to one of your pokes, allowing them to gain experience even when not in battle, a process way more efficient than constantly switching pokemon in and out when battling. The new Exp. Share takes this to another level as you acquire it very early on in the game, it sits in your bag, and allows your full team of pokemon to collect experience, no matter which one is taking part in the battle. It makes leveling up an entire team incredibly quick and efficient, yet also creates a unique disparity in levels during the single player game.
Consummate poke levelers, or even casual ones, will find their most used pokemon leveling far and beyond anything that would present a challenge in the single player game. You can turn the Exp. Share item off at will, but then leveling becomes more of a chore than anything else. It would just be nice if there was a happy medium in there somewhere.
While you’re busy journeying through the Kalos region, capturing and battling pokemon on the top screen, the bottom screen of your 3DS will be just as busy. Connecting to the internet brings up your friend list, acquaintances (people who you’ve traded or battled with, that aren’t friends), and passersby, people who are playing at the same time as you, around the same area in the game.
There’s also a strength training app that you can use to increase the stats of your pokemon, as well as an app that lets you play mini games with and give and receive gifts to various pokemon and friends’ pokemon. Trading and battling couldn’t be easier, thanks to the user friendly UI that lets you connect to friends with just a couple taps of the screen. The new Wonder Trade feature is nearly as addictive as the game itself, letting you choose a random pokemon to trade and receiving one in return.
There are quite a few new features in Pokemon X/Y, one of them being the new O Powers. As you progress through the game, you’ll “earn” different powers, such as the ability to boost a pokemon’s stats, increase your capture rate, increase experience, etc. You have a finite meter that refills over time, each power costing a different amount. What’s interesting is that these powers level up the more you use them, increasing their effectiveness. You can also “gift” these powers by using them on friends that are currently playing the game, which uses up far less of your meter than using them on yourself.
It’s been thirteen years since they have introduced a new type to Pokemon, and this game marks the debut of the Fairy type. Fairy types are super effective versus the Dragon type, which is interesting, as previously, Dragon types only had a couple weaknesses, one of them being other Dragon types (as well as Ice). Fairy types are also completely immune to Dragon type attacks. Being super effective against Fighting and Dark types doesn’t hurt either. Fairy types also take massive damage from Poison and Steel types. If you consider Fairy types as “light” and “magical”, then it makes sense that they would be more vulnerable to Steel types, as historically, in many cultures, it was thought that magical creatures had a weakness to iron.
Another much talked about feature of the game is the new Mega Evolutions. At a certain point in the game, these become unlocked, and as long as you find the requisite item needed for the pokemon you want to evolve. It doesn’t work on every pokemon and only works in battle, Mega Evolution evolves your pokemon to a whole new level. It changes a pokemon’s appearance, stats, abilities and even its type. Some pokemon even have more than one Mega Evolution. It’s an interesting addition to battling and while it may not be game changing, at the very least, its another option to choose from instead of the standard four move set.
Another feature new to the game, while minor, is the ability to visit boutiques and customize your characters’ appearance, through the use of different kinds of outfits. More cosmetic than anything else, it nonetheless provides a refreshing change and adds some individuality to the battling scene.
Visually, everything is lush and colorful. From the forests and caves to the icy trails, everything looks quite nice. During battles, Pokemon and their moves are appropriately flashy. The 3D effect comes on during battles and certain areas of the game, most notably interior areas like caves or other dungeon type areas and the 3D effect is nowhere near as glaring or harsh as some other 3DS titles.
The soundtrack features appropriately catchy music for many of the areas in the game, especially the towns. The dramatic battle music fits the often tense atmosphere perfectly and the sound effects are quite nice, from shocking moves like Electro Bolt to the piercing Ice Beam, everything sounds as you’d expect.
With around 450 pokemon to collect, a lengthy single player adventure to experience, and post game activities featuring the Battle Chateau, pokemon breeding via the day care center and competitive battling online, Pokemon X/Y successfully marks a return to form for the much loved series. Series purists may balk at the removal of in game seasons, lack of legendaries, and constantly evolving soundtrack, but these features weren’t added overnight. Just as every long journey begins with a first step, this entry in the series feels more like a first step into a new frontier of pokemon games, rather than a culmination of all the entries up to this point. It’s a journey worth undertaking for series fans, and fans of adventure in general.