Pokémon X/Y

I always felt that while Black/White and their sequels were good games, they were just stopgaps until a proper next-gen installment came along. Thankfully, X/Y is that special something. The graphics have taken a big step in the right direction, the game flows as beautifully as a Pokémon adventure should, and we have a whole new batch of pokémon to discover, battle, and catch.

If you don’t know Pokémon then you must have been really comfortable under that rock for the last 14 years (oh dear god has it been 14 years?). X/Y brings plenty of polish to what was always a near-perfect RPG adventure. Little additions are pleasing – ‘customise’ your character beyond just male/female, change your clothes and skate around. The game is also now 3D and looks amazing. Battle move animations are a lot less generic and special moves look very impressive in action: Pikachu leaps up and gathers a ball of electricity before hurtling it at the opponent, all while the background scenery is in constant motion. The whole game is beautiful with charming 3D sprites, smooth animations, and gorgeous landscapes and scenery that build upon the work done playing with perspective in Black/White. It’s all so much better on the 3DS – when the camera switches you appreciate the view as you skate a path laid between a sunlight-dappled lake and rustling flowers.

X/Y brings plenty of polish to what was always a near-perfect RPG adventure.

With the 3DS wireless and Streetpass capabilities, there is a natural progression towards greater connectivity. The bottom screen is a constantly busy hub of activity thanks to several new modes: Player Search System, Pokémon-Amie, and Super Training. Pokémon-Amie is a virtual-pet setup to make your pokémon friendlier towards you, Super Training lets you work on their stats through mini-games, but Player Search System is your social hub, way levelled up from its debut in Black/White. You can see when your 3DS friends are playing, whether there are any local Pokémon players or if you connect to the internet, you’ll see a constantly rotating stream of fellow trainers.

Through PSS you can complement fellow players, gift temporary stat boosts, organise battles and trades, or take your chances and do things randomly with a Wonder Trade. Shout out to the person who traded me a Pansear nicknamed ‘Poophead’, apologies if you were the one who received Poophead from me in another Wonder Trade. The PSS is somewhat overwhelming at first with so much connectivity and so many options but it works and pretty instantly too once you’re connected to the internet, which is incredible if you really take the time to think about it.

I have a few quibbles with the game that undoubtedly come from years of training. The first is that the concept of a rival has definitely been erased and with it, something special. You’re now part of a cheerful collective of kids who have been entrusted with Pokédexes and on the rare occasion you battle your fellow travellers, it’s not a challenge nor does it feel that anything is ever really at stake. The second is that the game is very heavy in its hand-holding which can get annoying. While the series always guided players to a degree, never so frequently has your way been blocked by something that feels really artificial – your neighbour actually preventing you from going anywhere else until a certain quest has been completed. Thirdly, the story feels weak. I know the game has never been known for its depth of storytelling but Team Flare’s ultimate goal is… well, frankly, silly. Fourthly, why in the hell doesn’t this game have an image capture feature? Animal Crossing had the wonderful mechanism of being able to snap pictures which you could then share via Facebook and Twitter so why not Pokémon? Encouraging connectivity in the game but missing out the social media aspect seems like an oversight. A quick search on Twitter reveals masses of ‘screenshots’ taken using smartphones so it seems a real shame such a feature wasn’t included.

You’re also pretty spoiled when it comes to pokémon. I appreciate that it makes the pace of the game faster but it feels a little like being given the keys to the candy store when you would have been fine waiting until opening hours. True, in Black/White there were awesome pokémon at the start but having so many good candidates right from the get go plus one of the original starters with Mega Evolution? I would have preferred a little more balance in the early stages of the game – before I even got the second badge I had Psyduck, Pikachu, Snorlax, Bulbasaur and Eevee, solid generation 1 pokémon that can easily take you through to the Elite Four.

But it’s minor and maybe it’s just me getting older and wanting to have freedom that Pokémon never really quite offered in the first place. Also, while the game starts off easy the challenge steps up as you hit the fourth badge, a relief for those who (like me) may have felt at an unfair advantage to start with. The game also offers challenge in other aspects – random battles with other players, your typical battle-tower scenarios, a massive region to explore and of course working out how to use Mega Evolution to my advantage. Happy adventuring everyone, and I’ll see you in the PSS.


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