Review by MithrilMonarch

"The pretty graphics cover up the flaws"

Introduction

Pokemon Black Version and Pokemon White Version are a pair of outstanding role-playing games, and two of the greatest games released for the Nintendo DS. Without these games, I may not even be a fan of the Pokemon series anymore, as these two games helped rejuvenate my love and passion for my favorite series of all time that I had lost before.

Pokemon Black Version 2 and Pokemon White Version 2 are excellent complements to their predecessor games, and did a great job of bringing the Unova saga to a close.

After playing through these games, I had high expectations for the next games in the series. After nine months of waiting after a worldwide announcement, they finally arrived to the Nintendo 3DS: Pokemon X & Pokemon Y. After playing through my copy of Pokemon X twice, I have come to the conclusion that Pokemon X & Pokemon Y are good games, and solid entries to the Pokemon series. However, these games contain glaring flaws in many key areas of the game that simply cannot go unnoticed.

Gameplay

Pokemon X & Pokemon Y have similar gameplay to their predecessors. The player controls a teenager who catches and trains creatures named Pokemon. There are many types of Pokemon in the world, each with different moves, abilities, and special powers. To train Pokemon, the player must pit them against other Pokemon in turn-based battles. By winning battles, Pokemon gain experience and power, which allows them to evolve, or transform, into even stronger forms. Battles are based on an exaggerated rock-paper-scissors system, where one variable, in this case, types, beats another in a continuous loop. There are eighteen different types in this game, such as Fire, Water, and Grass, that all make up every Pokemon and their movesets.

The player can also catch Pokemon, found during random encounters, by weakening them and capturing them in Poke Balls. The player can use any Pokemon they catch and train them as they wish.

Pokemon games are built with children in mind. They are designed as simple gateway games into the role-playing genre. However, these games appeal to many crowds due to the fact that people can play the game as an easy-to-swallow role-playing adventure, or take into account the various game mechanics and statistics of their Pokemon to make them the strongest. Because Pokemon X & Pokemon Y play very similarly to previous games in the series, anybody who has played a game in the series before can easily jump in and play this one.

Despite the fact that many previous titles in the game play similarly, Pokemon X & Pokemon Y introduce many new features into the series that keep the gameplay fresh.

Players are able to customize their trainer's appearance, by choosing their skin tone and hair color at the beginning of the game. Later in the game, the player is able to visit various clothing outlets in the game to buy clothing and accessories to change their character's look further.

I approve of the addition of customization. It allows players to relate to their own in-game character. However, I did find it a tad disappointing that the male trainers don't have very many customization options compared to the female trainers.

Similarly to previous games in the series, players are able to choose between three different Pokemon: Chespin, Fennekin, and Froakie, which are Grass, Fire, and Water-types, respectively. In addition to these, over 60 new Pokemon are introduced in this game.

Like previous Pokemon games, these new Pokemon introduced have their share of hits and misses. One of my favorites being Hawlucha, a Fighting and Flying-type luchador bird of prey. Just take that one in for a moment. A luchador bird of prey. Awesome. Aside from sounding cool, it also performs great in battle. Then there's new additions like Dedenne. While cute, it doesn't do much to set itself apart from Raichu in design.

Many Pokemon from previous games in the series make an appearance in this game. Early on in the game, the player even gets to choose from a Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle, the original starter Pokemon from Pokemon Red Version & Pokemon Blue Version.

Come to think of it, many throwbacks to those games are made in Pokemon X & Pokemon Y, which I find disappointing. I know it's an attempt to appeal to the players who played the original games, but if I wanted to go back and play the original games in the series, I would do that, not play Pokemon X & Pokemon Y. I dislike when games attempt to win players over with fan service.

A new type is introduced to this game, the Fairy-type, being the first new type introduced to the series in a long time. With the addition of the Fairy-type, many older Pokemon, such as Jigglypuff and Marill, were reclassified into Fairy-types. The Steel-type also saw a nerf in this game, now taking neutral damage from Ghost and Dark-type attacks.

While it doesn't make much sense that, for example, Fighting-type moves work well on Granbull in every other game except this one, I do welcome the addition of the Fairy-type because it helped balance the overpowered Dragon-type. Since the Steel-type is good against Fairy-types, it was also a good idea to nerf the Steel-type, so that the Steel-type didn't get into a situation like the Dragon-type where it was overpowered.

A new addition to this game is Mega Evolution, in which fully evolved Pokemon can temporarily evolve into even stronger Mega forms.

While I don't mind the addition of Mega Evolution, I don't like how the story of the game is based around this one mechanic. Half of the game is spent hyping up about Mega Evolution. The same thing happened in New Super Mario Bros. 2, where the gameplay and plot is centered around one gimmick, coins.

Two new battle types known as Sky Battles and Horde Encounters were introduced. Sky Battles are mid-air trainer battles that flying Pokemon can participate in. Horde Encounters are battles where the player must face five wild Pokemon at once, albeit at lower levels.

I hate Sky Battles, I really do. I think they were by far the biggest mistake Game Freak made in developing this game. First of all, not every Flying-type can take place in these battles. Only Pokemon that appear to be flying can take place in these. So, while Gastly is eligible to participate in these battles, Hawlucha, a FLYING-TYPE POKEMON, cannot. My second issue with these battles is based on the fact that they restrict players to flying Pokemon. While talking to various NPCs in this game, players might notice a lot of them trying to encourage type diversity for teams. This is so the player doesn't get into a situation where, say, they have all Fire-type Pokemon against a trainer with Water-type Pokemon, which Fire-types are weak to. What do Sky Battles do? They force the player to use a specific kind of Pokemon, 71 percent of which are Flying-types. My third and final problem with these battles is that they're usually five to ten levels higher than my current Pokemon. If players are unprepared for these fights like I was, expect to lose them. Fortunately, there aren't very many of these battles, and they're all optional. If you run into a Sky Trainer, players are allowed to back out of the fight.

As for Horde Encounters, I could take them or leave them. It's nice if players are looking for a Pokemon of a specific gender, but otherwise they can be annoying, having to wait for each Pokemon to cycle through their attacks and whatnot.

Pokemon X & Pokemon Y also introduced a few features that take place primarily on the touch screen of the Nintendo 3DS system. First is Pokemon-Amie. Pokemon-Amie is a Nintendogs-esque feature where players can pet, feed, and play games with their Pokemon. While this may seem pointless, it does have many good benefits in battle. By doing Pokemon-Amie, the player's Pokemon gains affection. If a Pokemon has a good amount of affection towards the trainer, it allows them to do various things in battle, such as survive with a single hit point, shake off status conditions, and avoid enemy attacks.

Pokemon-Amie is a good feature added to the game. The petting is responsive, the minigames are fun, and children will find it appealing. The in-battle benefits might just save the player in a pinch.

Super Training is another feature introduced in Pokemon X & Pokemon Y. In this feature, the player takes control of their Pokemon in a game where they pop giant Pokemon-shaped balloons with balls. The player aims using the Nintendo 3DS touch screen and shoots by tapping the touch screen. It plays somewhat similar to Kid Icarus: Uprising, also found on the Nintendo 3DS. By doing this, the player's Pokemon get stronger, not by gaining levels, but by gaining effort values. Effort values are a mechanic that were previously hidden from players and had to be calculated and trained in a different way.

I like the addition of Super Training because it brings a previously mind-numbing mechanic to the mass audience and makes it much easier to train. However, the balloons can get somewhat challenging to pop in later stages, which I find to be an odd contrast to a game that's very easy.

As for the landscape and gameplay, I noticed that the map and the events in the game are very linear, even more linear than Unova. For those expecting to be able to crawl all over the place and have multiple options and routes to take, it's sadly absent from Pokemon X & Pokemon Y.

In terms of difficulty, I think it's safe to say that Pokemon X & Pokemon Y are the easiest games in the series. I find it to be a strange contrast that most of the game is easy, while some parts, such as Sky Battles and Super Training, are fairly difficult.

The game is rendered even easier by the Exp. Share. In Pokemon X & Pokemon Y, the Exp. Share is now a Key Item that can be turned on or off. While the Exp. Share is turned on, Pokemon that do not participate in battle will earn 50 percent of the experience from the battle. This could be seen as a good thing as well, due to the reduced amount of grinding needed to beat the game.

Next, I want to talk about the controls. I know that controls are the last thing one would expect to see in a review of a Pokemon game, but I have some issues with them.

When players first start the game, they can move in eight directions on a grid by using the circle pad or the directional pad. Early in the game, players obtain a Key Item known as Roller Skates. These allow the player's character to move faster, and also do away with the grid-based movement, allowing free movement. After obtaining the Roller Skates, the circle pad is used for Roller Skates movement, and the directional pad is used to walk. I don't like using the Roller Skates, as they are slippery, and I find myself banging into things. But, there's no way to remove the Roller Skates. They're permanent. For people who don't like them, they'll have to get used to using the directional pad to move.

I'm not done. In a building where Roller Skates cannot be used, the game reverts back to allowing players to walk with the circle pad. It's inconsistent and annoying. I wish there was some way to disable the Roller Skates. The L and R triggers don't do hardly anything, why not put them there?

I also wish they would've stuck to the movement being grid-based or free, instead of having a strange and inconsistent hybrid of the two.

Overall, aside from the major “screw you” addition of Sky Battles, as well as the annoying and inconsistent movement controls, I'd say the gameplay in Pokemon X & Pokemon Y is pretty great. While the games are pretty easy to play, any role-playing game fan will enjoy what the game has to offer in terms of base gameplay.

Story

Pokemon X & Pokemon Y take place in the Kalos region, a region based on the beautiful landscapes of real-world France. The game opens with the trainer, a young teenager from Vaniville Town, who sets off with their friends to explore the Kalos region and become Pokemon masters. The player's goal is to obtain the eight Gym Badges of Kalos and challenge the Pokemon League's Elite Four and Champion. Along the way, the player will encounter Team Flare, a villainous group of red-suited goons who are attempting to “make the world beautiful.”

The story will feel familiar to those who have played a previous game in the series, as the story tends to be about as formulaic as the gameplay. However, I do feel that the story of this game is very weak and shallow compared to the story of Pokemon Black Version & Pokemon White Version.

The characters are so one-dimensional and uninteresting. In Pokemon Black Version & Pokemon White Version, the Gym Leaders of the game each had personalities. In addition to this, they each had roles in the story. But in Pokemon X & Pokemon Y, the Gym Leaders all feel like bland obstacles. There's even one Gym Leader in the game who speaks no more than four or five total lines of dialogue. I'm not joking.

The friends of the player character feel uninspired, the villains are incompetent morons without focus, and even the Pokemon League Champion of the game is some person who players meet once or twice throughout the story with zero personality.

If I have to praise anything about the story, it would be the ending. I'd go as far to say that the ending of Pokemon X & Pokemon Y is more than worth playing through the entire game for.

Graphics

Pokemon X & Pokemon Y are often cited as the first 3D Pokemon role-playing games. This is incorrect. The forgotten gem of Pokemon Colosseum is actually the first 3D Pokemon role-playing game. However, this game does an excellent job of transitioning the series to the third dimension. The graphics are very colorful and pretty, and do a fantastic job of making use of the Nintendo 3DS's hardware and naturally low resolution.

While the core graphics are pretty, anybody looking for a good-looking stereoscopic 3D game won't find one here. First of all, only parts of the game are in stereoscopic 3D, such as various cutscenes and battles. The rest of the game is only 2D. This is really disappointing for a Nintendo 3DS game, considering the selling point of the thing is the fact that it can do glasses-free stereoscopic 3D. Second, when the game is in stereoscopic 3D, it isn't very good. There's no depth, it's very unattractive to the eye. Because of this, I'd recommend playing this game primarily in 2D. Players will be disappointed otherwise.

As for the frame rate, this game chugs. On the overworld, the game operates at a smooth frame rate, but in battles, players will quickly notice how choppy the animation is from missing frames. Players may notice it even quicker if stereoscopic 3D is turned on, or if the player is in a double or triple battle. I've even had a few issues with frame drops in clothing boutiques, where nothing is happening. It's very unattractive to the eye. Fortunately, it won't make much of a difference in gameplay since the game is turn-based.

Sound

I was quite unsatisfied by the soundtrack in Pokemon X & Pokemon Y. The Unova games had excellent soundtracks, and I can't think of a song from those games I didn't love. In Pokemon X & Pokemon Y, everything is either a hit or a miss for me. Some songs are catchy and fit the area doing quite nicely, while others feel dull and lifeless. The cities and towns have music that really complements them and their atmosphere, as well as sounding great, while a lot of routes in the game have very generic sounding triumphant themes, making the routes even more forgettable than they already are.

Most of the sound effects in Pokemon X & Pokemon Y fit the game nicely. Nothing much feels out of place. The only thing that feels out of place to me is Pikachu's cry. While most Pokemon have some kind of static noise for their cry, Pikachu calls its name when it cries, like in the Pokemon anime. Hearing a bunch of static noises for cries from various Pokemon, then hearing Pikachu actually call its name feels quite odd and out of place.

Play Time

If the player is simply aiming to beat the game without doing much of anything else, they can expect a 30-40 hour playthrough. For those wanting to beat the game and do everything aside from Pokedex completion, expect about 40-50 hours, as there isn't very much content to do after beating the game initially. For those wanting to complete the entire game, Pokedex and everything, it can really vary. It can be anywhere between 200 and 800. It depends on the efficiency of the player.

Replayability

With more team options than ever, I wouldn't doubt if most people would get two playthroughs out of this game, or more. Not to mention there's two versions of the game, for those wanting to complete both.

Final Recommendation

Pokemon X & Pokemon Y are solid entries to the Pokemon series, and are a good start to the new “generation” of Pokemon. If players can look past the low difficulty and numerous flaws, I think any role-playing game fan will like this title.

My Score: 75/100
GameFAQs Score: 7/10 - Good - a few problems, but worth the time to play


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 01/23/14, Updated 04/11/14

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


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