First of all, it really irritates me when I read a review of the latest instalment in a long running game series and it’s blatantly obvious that the reviewer isn’t a fan of the franchise and has done only the minimum amount of research they could get away with. So I just want to open up with this, for all my fellow fanboys – I love Pokemon. I have loved it since Pokemon Red, I love the series despite all of its terrible flaws. I’ve played every generation, often both versions of each one, and I frequent Pokemon forums. This is a review from a Pokemon nut, so bear that in mind.
Now let’s talk Pokemon X/Y. X and Y are the latest instalments in this beloved Japanese franchise and the first Pokemon games to be exclusive to the 3DS, and it’s not hard to see why. The graphics are absolutely stunning. As you roller blade from town to town transitions are generally seamless, one area naturally flowing into the next with wonderful cell shaded artwork. It brings the Pokemon world to life-like never before, adding charm and a unique feel to each location. The battle animations left my slack-jawed at first – no more do we watch flat sprites jiggle and shake at each other with simplistic animations. Is Charizard using Flamethrower? Well now we get to see a 3D image of the pseudo dragon open their mouth and spew out flames, while their opponent is visibly affected. The leap up in graphics from the last games, Black 2 and White 2, is astronomically huge.
And the music! Oh, the music! The sound in this game is another massive improvement over previous titles, working in perfect unity with the graphics to give you a sense of wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Normally I turn the sound off on Pokemon games after a few hours and play my own music to help make my journey feel more epic, but I don’t need to anymore. Even staples like the jingle that plays when you use the Pokemon Centre have been updated showing that Game Freak have taken every aspect of this entry very seriously.
The Pokedex is insane. Sorry, let me correct that. The… Pokedexes? Pokedexi? You get more than one, okay? When I was given my second Pokedex because the first one was too full I was a little surprised. When I got the third one I had to take a break from playing to understand what was going on. The Kalos region is so full of Pokemon from ALL generations that you’ll be filling up those PC Boxes like never before – one for each Gym Badge I obtained was about my speed. Naturally some Pokemon are easier to find than others, but with previous rarities like Eevee catchable in the wild it’s worth taking your time and making sure you’ve caught everything an area has to offer.
New features such as O-Powers, Super Training and Pokemon Amie are nice additions and distractions from the main game, but part of one of my only real problems with the game. It’s the easiest Pokemon game I’ve ever played. You get a Key Item early on that gives your whole party experience from battle, even if they didn’t participate (yes, we remember you from Gen I). There’s a “Battle Chateau” that functions somewhat like the sports arenas in Gen V, full of a constantly replenishing supply of Trainers you can milk for Exp. Super Training makes it possible – and easy – to raise a Pokemons base stats however and whenever you like. At times I had to deliberately challenge myself by ignoring these features, or raising several new Pokemon from low levels. These challenges were fun in their own way, but it would be nice if the game offered a little more difficulty.
Mega-Evolution is one of the most talked about new features, the ability to evolve a Pokemon past their previous limits, but only temporarily during battle. It’s an interesting addition, and one I think we’ll accept for the norm by the next Generation of games, but it feels out-of-place at first to an old hat like me. I’m just going to come out and say it, and hate me if you like. It feels like Digimon. I like Digimon, I’m not saying that as a bad thing, that’s just what it feels like. You could, of course, choose to use Mega Evolution as little as possible if you want to be a traditionalist, but it’s worth experimenting with rather than dismissing out of hand. Besides, have you seen Mega Mawlile? There’s no arguing with that.
Pokemon has long been a series criticized for not innovating. It sticks to that same formula, which works, and most of the new features in each Generation only stick around for that Generation. But with updated graphics, sound, a huge Pokedexlapedia, Pokemon Amie, Super Training, O Powers, Sky Battles, Mega Evolution, Roller Skates(!!!) and a few other surprises I can’t bring myself to spoil, X and Y bring more to the table than any previous Pokemon game. Whether you’re a grizzled veteran picking up your Pokeballs and Town Map for the one thousandth time or a fair-weather friend to Pokemon this game will enchant you all over again. And if you’re new to Pokemon, picking your starter for the first time then you couldn’t pick a better time to join us in Kalos.
I know that I’ve been a little vague throughout this review, so allow me to summarise my thoughts for you. That way there’s no confusion. (Avoiding Pokemon puns through this review has been my greatest test.)
Best. Pokemon. Games. Ever.