Wednesday, December 13

Pokémon X/Y Review

I played on: 3DS
I paid: £26.95
Available on: 3DS
Notes: I played Pokémon Y for this review.

Pokémon X and Y are the first games to be rendered in full 3D. They are also the first Pokémon games I’ve not played before reviewing them. That’s right, I dropped out of the series after the DS games. I then got back into the games on the Switch with generation 8. After the masterful tour-de-force that was Black and White I was worried that X and Y would fail to achieve the same quality. I’m glad to say that my time spent in the Kalos region was awesome!

The gameplay here is very similar to every other game in the series before and after. You begin your adventures in your mother’s house and quickly set out on your very own Pokémon adventure. After picking your starter Pokémon you learn how to battle. Each Pokémon can learn up to 4 moves each. They can learn new moves but to do so they will have to forget an old move in order to make room for the new one. Each Pokémon has a type or two and certain types are strong or weak against other types. For example, ground is strong against electricity. This means that the combat works similar to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. I’ve been over this in my reviews for the previous games, so I’ll reframe from going into too much depth here. The advantages of this system are that it’s easy to learn and difficult to master. Certain moves will buff your own Pokémon or debuff your opponents while dealing no damage. These will prove to have an advantage in the future at the risk of taking damage in the present. Higher level play requires more of these moves and less direct damage dealers. This means that the potential for skilled players to have interesting matches is huge. But more casual players, or younger ones, can also have a great time playing the main story mode of the game as well. The story from the beginning to the end of the Elite 4 and the champion battle is balanced really well. In fact, I’d say this is the first generation that doesn’t require any real grinding. This is due to the EXP share that sees any experience shared between all members of your team. What this means is that your team will also be gaining experience even when they’re not the active member. The best thing about this feature in X and Y compared to the implementation in the newer games is that it can be turned off in the item menu. This means that if any member of your team is lagging behind then you can turn off the EXP share and then level them up before quickly turning it back on.

New moves can be taught to your Pokémon via TMs or HMs. HMs are moves required for progressing to new areas and parts of the story. The problem with these is that they lower your already limited moves even further. You can have a maximum of 6 Pokémon on your team with 4 moves each. That’s a maximum of 24 moves you can have learnt. There are 5 HMs in X and Y which further limits your moves from 24 to 19. It is nice to see the HMs dropped from the previous 6 in Black and White to 5 here but it’s still a problem. Certain other TMs can also be taught to your pocket monsters to access areas unnecessary for the main story. For example, you will find cracked rocks that can be broken with the TM move Rock Smash. This is cool as it’s entirely optional and so only limits your moves if you choose to explore these areas.

The story in X and Y is most likely the area that it falls off the most when compared to Black and White. I loved watching the rise and fall of N and Team Plasma. The text and subtext gelled perfectly together. The story of a wild child, N, being raised by Pokémon and then embarking on a quest to free all Pokémon from their trainers as an adult. N did this because he truly believed that humans were taking advantage of Pokémon for their own selfish ends. In the end it turns out that N’s adoptive father, Ghetsis, was taking advantage of N due to his selfish need to hoard power. N was raised by Pokémon and in the end, it turned out that he was being taken advantage of in the same way he feared humans were doing to Pokémon. That cohesion of text and subtext is lacking from the rather simple story in X and Y. 

You are a young trainer from the Kalos region, and you embark on an adventure with your 4 close friends. Along the way you stop the villainous Team Flare from using the ultimate weapon from destroying the region, rescue the local legendary Pokémon, and become the champion of Kalos. There is also a plot line around the region’s history. 3000 years ago, the ultimate weapon was built and then used to end a long and bloody war between two regions. What’s most interesting about this to me now is that this other region that remains unnamed in X and Y is most likely Paldea from generation 9’s Scarlet and Violet. Kalos is based on France and Paldea is based on Spain which means they would boarder each other. That’s our first piece of evidence. But then the ultimate weapon was fired 3000 years ago but there is no crater anywhere in Kalos. Area Zero, at the centre of Paldea is a massive crater, however. It makes sense that this is the impact spot of the ultimate weapon’s blast. I think that this creates a really interesting connection between the 6th and 9th generations of Pokémon. As if to add to this fan theory, Kalos and the ultimate weapon have a lot of crystal imagery that ties in with the crystal aesthetic of Area Zero.

The graphics look fantastic on the 3DS screen. Seeing the entire world including your character and all the Pokémon in 3D for the first time in the mainline series is a real treat. The animations are a little lacking. This has always been the case but it’s less noticeable during the 2D and 2.5D eras of the series. The use of sprites for the trainers and Pokémon went a long way towards hiding the disappointing animations. Of course, it’s not all negatives with the new models. You’re able to dress up your avatar for the first time in the series. While it’s limited, I still loved the chance to go shopping. You’re also able to get haircuts. The player character feels so much more like an extension of yourself because of these changes. Sadly, the music isn’t as impressive as Black and White. What I’ve found while reviewing games is that you will only ever notice fantastic or abysmal music when playing a game. A mediocre soundtrack will get lost behind the rest of the action. This is the case during X and Y. It’s not bad, but it’s far from good enough to really stand out.

Ultimately, I went into X and Y excited to play a Pokémon game I’ve never experienced before but nervous that it would feel disappointing after Black and White. While it never reached the same masterful quality of Black and White, I found myself far from disappointed. The story and characters may lack quality and depth but the charm and beauty of the Kalos region make up for it. I also really enjoyed learning about the history and lore around this part of the Pokémon world. Especially how it connects to the wider world including the Paldea region. Overall while this may not be the best Pokémon game in the mainline series it’s far from being a low spot. A confident first step into the 3D era. Fans should give this game a go. They’re bound to have an incredible time just as I did!

Recommendation Rating: 7 out of 10.

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