Review by SorceressTharja

"X & Y are a step forwards, but leave plenty of room for improvement"

Introduction
Pokemon X version and Pokemon Y versions are the first fully 3D main-title Pokemon games for a handheld console. With a new region, new Pokemon, and the almighty new Fairy type, it sets itself up to be a solid entry in the Pokemon franchise. The question is though... does it hold up?

Overall
Gameplay does not stray far from the usual style of Pokemon. Players can capture Pokemon and battle against other trainers found in the game - or their friends in real life - who have built their own teams of Pokemon to fight with. The type system - which is essentially a glorified rock-paper-scissors style array, with the ability to pick rock-paper to go against your opponent's lizard. Individual stats of each Pokemon, as well as movepools (of which they can only carry 4 at a time) and abilities mean that the battle system has enough depth to keep things interesting, whilst being simple enough that it is not horrendous for new players to comprehend. The 18-way type chart can take a while to learn, but the game is forgiving enough that you should be able to still win, even if you haven't gotten your head around it at the time. The typings are largely intuitive, although a few match ups do not immediately make sense, such as Fairies being immune to Dragon type attacks.

Story
True to Pokemon form; the story is not particularly strong. There are some interesting characters littered about, but predictable plot twists, obvious give-aways and a lack of change in the story formula (which has remained unchanged since the original Red and Blue, Black and White notwithstanding). Whilst in this generation the story is slightly better than a couple of the others, it certainly leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Difficulty
It is sad to say that the latest installment of Pokemon games is incredibly easy if you abuse all of the tricks available to you. A new item means that there is plenty of EXP to go around (although, you can turn this off) and with a huge 450 Pokemon in the regional pokedex alone (around 70 of which are new), your Pokemon are likely to level up much more quickly than in past games, resulting in the ability to destroy your opponents, even with little regard to type match ups and abilities. Thankfully, options exist to make the game more difficult for yourself, and the AI does appear to have improved somewhat in comparison to previous games, although – like most AI – it is still generally incompetent.

Graphics
With the jump to the 3DS, we get to enjoy a lush overworld, filled with details and mind-blowing battles – all complete in full stereoscopic 3D… if you're not playing Pokemon X or Y. There is a complete lack of stereoscopic 3D on the overworld, and also battles containing more than 2 Pokemon also miss out on the 3DS's gimmick. Using the 3D in 1-on-1 battles can induce frame rate drops, which are noticeable but aren't so bad as to detract badly from the quality of the game.

The overworld models are actually fairly polished though, and are generally quite pleasant to look at. The battles are equally nice to look at, although it often appears as though the developers were too lazy to make animations for some of the attacks – such as Pin Missile - resulting in the Pokemon just jumping up slightly as a thoroughly underwhelming animation plays. These attacks are of a minority, but when they're around it can really kill some of the atmosphere of the battle, particularly as they are often attacks which will hit up to 5 times, one by one.

Audio
I'm not going to pretend to be a virtuoso, but there is some really cool music in X and Y. The 3DS's superior audio handling means that it is a step-up on the previous games in terms of quality, and the compositions themselves are nice to listen to. Some of the overworld themes remind me of other games, notably Dragon Quest, which does not suffer in the music department either.

The Pokemon cries are a step-up too, with many old ones having been updated to fit the modern standard. A few still sound bad, with one in particular that I actually turn the sound off when I encounter the Pokemon if I spot it quickly enough (and is thankfully not found in the wild), but that is by far the minority.

Multiplayer
This generation, the developers have really been pushing the multiplayer scene, and they have actually taken steps to make life easier for the more serious players, as well as making it more accessible to new players. Changes to the breeding system has made getting high-potential Pokemon far easier, and the addition of Super Training has made specialising them where you want them to excel also much easier. My main gripes with X and Y's online features are how much they are pushed in game. Pop-ups appear on the bottom screen all the time if you leave it on the PSS (Player Search System), saying things like “Go check out the Global Trade System!” whilst you're trying to get to a gym leader. Not the time, game. Equally, the Friend Safari (found post-game) forces you to make friends in order to obtain Pokemon with special abilities and guaranteed good potential.

Connection issues are somewhat prevalent in this game, although that is partially just due to the fact that the online connectivity of the 3DS is somewhat inferior to other systems. Ignoring those, however, battles are reasonably smooth (as far as turn-based RPGs get).Trading, whilst slow, works well.

Play Time
The end-game content of this game is severely lacking. There are, admittedly, 2 new dungeons to explore and the Battle Maison – a place where you try to get as long of a win streak as possible – to play around with, but other than that, post-story content is decidedly weak. What you do have, however, is 450 Pokemon to catch and trade for, 100 TMs to gather, the 30 or so Mega Evolution stones to find, as well as preparing for and playing online battles. Those factors combined help alleviate the issues with a lack of post-game content, and it is easy to spend many, many hours playing the game.

Distractions
Pokemon Amie and Super Training are your 2 main distractions.

Pokemon Amie is a Nintendogs-style sim that lets you pet your Pokemon. This manages to be both surprisingly lacking and yet detailed simultaneously, since – whilst you have the Pokemon's biology taken into account, resulting in hilarious results when trying to stroke the fire-slug Slugma, there is very little for you to actually “do”. It offers some nice boosts to your Pokemon, such as the ability to purge itself of status afflictions, that you can win easily enough without but they make the game slightly easier.

Super Training can be addictive and offers a great way to specialise your Pokemon into specific stats. It involves throwing footballs (soccer balls) at targets to earn points. More points = a bigger boost. It gets repetitive though, and is unfriendly to lefties.

Final Verdict
Through a mess of frame rate drops, lack of full 3D, weak story and uninteresting characters emerges an incredibly fun game. It focuses purely on the gameplay, and refuses to sacrifice any of it to improve anything else. Multiplayer is fun, and so is in-game – if a little easy.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/21/13

Game Release: Pokemon X (EU, 10/12/13)


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