“Pokemon Y” review

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The hype surrounding this game was intense from the moment it was announced. I myself had never been this excited for a Pokemon game. Black and White, the previous generation, had come and gone quickly and I didn’t care enough to jump on board until Black 2 and White 2 came out. It seemed strange to me that I was excited at all. I mean, the fifth generation began in 2011, only two years prior to these new ones, (unless you lived in Japan in which it was three);  and the core gameplay of Pokemon is the same thing over and over.

I guess what makes it different this time is the human element. Pokemon X and Y are the first Pokemon games (the first Nintendo games in fact) to have a worldwide launch on the same day (as opposed to days or a week apart). All previous Pokemon games have been released in Japan months before making it to English speaking countries, and thus had information spread all over the internet. The entire world was excited for the new Pokemon games – and while we knew we were going to get yet another RPG style game and collect eight badges again to challenge the Elite Four again, we were looking forward to doing it in a new region with new Pokemon to discover. Our friends would be along for the ride, and why wouldn’t they with the deepest multiplayer and online features of any Nintendo game to date? Pokemon X and Y arrived to be enjoyed by the world, with the world.

The moment I saw the trailer I knew which version I was picking up. Pokemon Y features Yvetal, easily the coolest Pokemon to ever grace a boxart, and a nice departure from the Dragon types of the last couple of gens. Nintendo had enjoyed drip feeding us new information about the game – a new Eeveelution was exciting enough, but not telling us which type it was only fuelled speculation that it had to be a new type. Once Fairy type was revealed, it became clear that Game Freak wasn’t afraid of shaking up the Pokemon formula. They indicated this once again with the Mega Evolution, a concept quite similar to Super Saiyan and Digivolution. Competitive play will never be the same, and I didn’t even mention the new moves, abilities and items.

The joy of seeing our Pokemon battle it out in full 3D was fully realised when Pokemon Stadium came out on the Nintendo 64, and after many years of staring at those outdated two-dimensional sprites, the main series on handhelds is finally presented in full 3D. It truly felt refreshing to finally see things from an over the shoulder perspective rather than a top down one. The region of Kalos was inspired by France, and thus beauty was a theme of the game, and you can just tell by all the little touches throughout the game such as the stunning Glittering Cave. The game also attempts to keep up with modern gaming by making everything generally more convenient. From very early on in the game you acquire rollerblades (and soon after, a bike) to move quickly around Kalos.

Like the previous generations, the main quest is a fairly meaty adventure. 30 or 40 hours is roughly how long it’ll take you to become the Pokemon champion. That time consists of battling, capturing and training Pokemon, collecting the eight badges and stopping the new bad guys, Team Flame. Each game in the series has essentially two plots: the personal development story of catching ‘em all,  collecting the badges and becoming the champion; and the thing that’s much bigger than you, whether it’s Team Rocket trying to profit off Pokemon or Team Magma and Aqua trying to expand the land and sea mass, respectively. The personal story is the same like always, but the plot involving Team Flame I felt was a bit of a letdown. The leader of Team Flame and what motivates him and his grunts was never believable or interesting from the start. It’s all sooooo predictable too. Also disappointing was the lack of a back story for the legendaries. I was in love with Yvetal, yet all we learnt is that it destroys stuff and probably doesn’t like Xerneas.

Also, something that’s bugged me for a long time is that almost all NPCs just talk about Pokemon. I know it’s a Pokemon game, but it’s still an RPG too. Don’t any of these people have real life problems unrelated to Pokemon or just don’t care for the pocket monsters at all? Game Freak created NPCs to only serve your curiosity of Pokemon, which weakens the game world somewhat.

As for the Pokemon themselves, I believe that the new creatures, as well as the Mega Evolutions, aesthetically look as good as the designs of the last few generations. Of course there are duds, such as Quilladin, which is literally an overweight Chespin, but it’s final evolution more than makes up for it. I loved my fire starter Fennekin – which looks like a cross between Vulpix and Eevee (my favourite Pokemon!). Fennekin eventually evolved into a Fire/Psychic mage. Awesome!

There’s Klefki, a keychain Pokemon that’s way too absurd for me to consider it a lame Pokemon (unlike Garbador from 5th gen… what utter, utter garbage…). Honedge, the Steel/Ghost sword Pokemon, which has even cooler evolutions, is another highlight. My personal favourite would have to be Hawlucha, the first and only Fighting/Flying type. It’s literally known as the ‘Wrestling Pokemon’, and I nicknamed mine WWE.

Must admit I was disappointed with the smaller amount of new Pokemon. Less than 70 new Kalos pokemon, and if Mega Evolutions count, it’s under 100. Most of the new ‘Mon were revealed before the games came out too, so that element of surprise diminished. Pokemon Black and White featured 150 brand new Pokemon with no oldies to make it feel like a new game, so in a way, X and Y can be considered a step back. On the other hand, the old along with the new in X and Y means there’s over 450 Pokemon to catch in the Kalos Pokedex (they even split the ‘Dex in three!). This means you won’t see GOD DAMN Zubats every single freakin’ cave.

Two new battle types are Sky Battles and Horde Encounters, both of which I could do without, but neither of them really add anything to the game. In the case of Horde Encounters, they just make me very angry, because most of the moves in Pokemon are designed to attack one opponent. So unless you’re lucky enough to have Razor Leaf or Surf in your arsenal, you attack one of the five Pokemon at a time. Horde Encounters always have lower level Pokemon, but because you can only catch wild Pokemon where there’s only one out in the field, catching these low level Pokemon without fainting them makes me angry.

Something I did like was the changing to sharing experience points. Experience can now be shared to all Pokemon in the party after battle. You also gain experience after you capture Pokemon, not just if you defeat it. These changes have reduced the need for grinding considerably, and thank God for that.

You can take time out of the main story quest and just check the touch screen to unveil a whole heap of pleasant distractions. You can raise your Pokemon’s stats with minigames, pet them like virtual pet simulators or try out one of the communication features; the ease of the latter is one of the biggest drawcards of X and Y. It’s so easy to trade and battle with other trainers. Most Nintendo games have had lacklustre online offerings, but X and Y’s is a triumph.

It’s both a shame and a little strange that this game doesn’t take full advantage of the 3DS’s stereoscopic 3D function. Only some locations in the overworld give the 3D option, and when you have it on during battles, the framerate drops considerably, which seems stupid as it’s a turn based game! Even though the 3D does look nice when it works, you might as well leave it off except for cutscenes to save battery life. The 2DS came out the same time as this game, so maybe the developers dropped the ball once they realised Nintendo wasn’t pushing the 3D effect anymore.

Despite some drawbacks, these are easily the best Pokemon games to date. Not only is there quite a bit to do after finishing the story, alongside the huge range of multiplayer options is a high number of functions I haven’t even tried out yet, such as the Global Link and the soon to be launched Pokemon Bank service. The core game is the same, but there’s enough new stuff to make it feel fresh and modernised. Obviously if you’re sick to death of Pokemon you’ll skip this, but if you’ve never played Pokemon before, there is no better time to start. I admittedly got bored of Pokemon at one point a number of years ago, but X and Y have revived the passion, and that’s quite an achievement.

I’m giving Pokemon Y a score of 4.5 out of 5. 

 

 

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