Review by Super Slash
Another great Pokemon game from Game Freak, with a somewhat disappointing execution
Pokemon, the series we all know and love, has made its debut on the 3DS with the release of X and Y. This review is going to assume you're at least somewhat familiar with the series, since it would take too long to explain everything in detail, and bore other readers. Let's face it, it's Pokemon; no matter what you might think of certain generations, all of the games are fun to play through. It accomplishes the main goal of a game, being fun. But that doesn't mean that certain aspects couldn't be better, and/or weren't a little disappointing. Gen 6 is like that; it does certain things right, it does certain things better, and it does certain things wrong, but it's still fun to play. What do I mean exactly? I'll explain, but let's start off with the good first.
At its core, it's still the same Pokemon we've all grown to love. You start out by choosing either a boy or a girl (Calem or Serena, respectively), and the opposite gender will always be your main rival in the game. You set off on a journey with your friends; in addition to whichever gender you didn't pick, you're also accompanied by a little girl named Shauna, a little boy named Trevor, and a chubby kid named Tierno. All of you are Pokemon trainers trying your best to be the best trainers you can be, while having friendly competitions with each other. Throughout your journey you must defeat the eight Gym Leaders of Kalos, then participate in the Pokemon League and become the region's new champion. Of course, in typical Pokemon fare, you will have to take side trips in between gyms. Team Flare, the new "evil team" of the series, plans to collect as many Pokemon as possible for certain reasons, their overall goal being to create a more beatiful world. You and your friends must unravel the mystery of this team to find out their true purpose. And that's basically the gist of the story, like most Pokemon games.
Being that this is the first main series game in 3D, naturally the graphics are clear and appealing. The chibi character models look good enough, the fully 3D character models look even better, and the Pokemon models all look excellent. Some of the animations look sort of lazy, but it's not too much of a problem and is forgiveable considering most of everything else looks nice enough. There are a total of about 70 new Pokemon in the Kalos region for you to capture, as well as several old ones from every generation making a return this time, meaning you don't have to wait until you beat the Elite Four to encounter familiar faces (which was the case in Black/White). The three starters are known as Chespin (Grass), Froakie (Water), and Fennekin (Fire). Chespin is a "Spiky Nut" Pokemon, Froakie is a frog, and Fennekin is a fox. In addition, after you beat the first gym leader, you're able to pick one of the original Kanto starters (that is, Bulbasaur/Squirtle/Charmander), and they also carry their respective Mega Evolution stones, allowing you to use their Mega forms later in the game, once you have a certain key item and they're at their final evolved form.
Mega Evolution is a new mechanic introduced in XY. The way it works is, you need a Mega Ring and a Pokemon's Mega Evolution stone equipped on them, and then in battle you can select the "Mega Evolution" option and attack in the same turn. Your Pokemon will evolve beyond its final stage temporarily, altering its stats and sometimes even its type. Not all Pokemon can Mega Evolve, and in fact a good majority of them can't, but most of them look pretty cool with a few exceptions. Game Freak did a good job here, and it's not as overpowered as you might think, so bonus points for that as well. In addition, managing Wi-Fi stuff is much easier now; it's all done on the touch screen through the PSS (Player Search System). Now you can simply select an option to battle, trade, etc with a partner or with random people no matter where you are; no more Poke Center visits! On the bottom screen you can see a list of your friends currently online and offline, and below that are your acquaintances, which are random people you have performed some sort of Wi-Fi action with in the past. And finally, below your acquaintances are your passerbys, which from what I understand are random people playing in the same place you're currently at in the game.
In addition to batlting and trading, you can also send all of these people O-Powers, another newly introduced mechanic to the series. Throughout the game you'll find a man known as Mr. Bonding in Poke Centers and sometimes other buildings; talk to him and he'll give you a new O-Power to use. These powers range from increasing a person's EXP gain rate, to the catch rate, and even stats. However, they require energy to use, and once you use up all your energy, you cannot use any more O-Powers until it recharges over time. The GTS (Global Trade System)'s interface is also a lot simpler and easier to use this time around, and you can even manually search for a Pokemon you haven't seen yet, unlike in the other games.
The touch screen is also home to other features such as Pokemon-Amie, which is where you go when you want to interact with your Pokemon and increase their friendship/happiness rating through mini-games and feeding them Poke Puffs (food for your Pokemon). There's also Super Training, which is an easier way to increase a Pokemon's EVs, which pretty much renders the Pokerus virus moot this time around. This is also a good way to get even stronger for the main story, should you want to do that for any reason. Super Training can also net you some items you can't get until later otherwise, such as the Dusk Stone (useful for evolving a certain new Pokemon that'll probably end up on your team). Also, this time around you can get into battle with several of the same Pokemon at once in the wild. The upside is that they'll always be a really low level, and sometimes it might be the only way to find certain Pokemon in a given area. If you want to catch them, you'll have to wipe all of them out except one.
Another new feature I really enjoyed was the ability to customize your trainer. Unfortunately, you can't customize your character at the start of the game; instead you have to buy clothes at various boutiques, and then go into a dressing room (at any boutique or Pokemon Center) to equip your new clothes. In the game's central city, you can also get your hair stylized and can unlock more by getting many haircuts. There are also a few colors you can choose from, but unfortunately not enough. Still, for its series debut, the customization isn't bad at all. You can also change your eye color by selecting from a few contact lenses.
Finally, this gen introduces a new type for Pokemon, the Fairy type. Several Pokemon have been retyped as Fairy, or have become a dual type with it (Mr. Mime is now Psychic/Fairy), and there are also a few original Pokemon with the type as well (including Xerneas, the mascot legendary of the X version). No complaints here, as it gives dragon-type Pokemon more weaknesses, and I find it to be a fun type overall.
But of course, with the good comes the bad, unfortunately. Pokemon XY is lacking in a few areas that make it feel unpolished and rushed at times. Allow me to explain.
First of all, the 3D. It's lackluster, and if you want to show someone new to the 3DS the 3D, this is not the game you should show them. It doesn't set a good example. Right on the back of the game's box, it tells you that the 3D is limited to certain areas of the game. This already raises some flags, since as far as I know this is the only 3DS game to do this so far (though I could very well be mistaken). The 3D works in very few places, such as a few dungeons, and in single battles. Double/triple/etc battles have no 3D, nor do horde battles. But at least we get 3D in one-on-one battles, which most people consider to be the most important! That's something, right? Unfortunately, it wasn't implemented very well even here. Battles will more often than not lag like crazy with the 3D activated, and it's very noticeable, especially in battles with a grassy field (I'm guessing it's because of the leaves blowing). It's not quite as bad in certain backgrounds, especially caves, where I find it quite useable most of the time.
Even worse is that even with the 3D off, the game will still lag with certain camera angles. This is unforgiveable and is a sign of laziness on Game Freak's part, because this doesn't just apply to single battles; in fact, double battles and horde battles and the like are even worse. It's no wonder the 3D is disabled for them, because if you could use it, the game would most likely freeze from all the lag (those kind of battles sometimes get as laggy as a one-on-one battle would be with the 3D on max. As I said, unforgiveable). There's also the fact that the 3D is off on the overworld, with the exception of a few areas like I mentioned earlier. In other words, 80% of the game doesn't even make use of the 3D function, and what little of it does isn't very great due to poor framerate and/or no depth. I understand this is GF's first attempt at a fully 3D Pokemon game but come on, they surely could've done a better job with it than this. It was clearly not tested very well, and largely ignored. The framerate is inexcusable.
And now I'll explain the game's other issues. After the first gym, you're given an Exp Share from an NPC. It's now a key item, and it gives half the EXP from a battle to all of your other Pokemon (the Pokemon you won with still gets the full amount). Sounds awesome, I know, but it's horribly unbalanced. If you want any kind of challenge, I recommend turning it off for the entire game, because you'll likely end up several levels ahead of most trainers otherwise, including gym leaders. This makes most of the game a complete cakewalk; this is probably the easiest Pokemon game I've played since Gen 1 and 2. To add insult to the injury, trainers have also been downgraded for the most part. There are only two trainers I can think of throughout the entire game that had a full team of six Pokemon, and one was the typical Magikarp trainer (the other being the champion). That's it. Gym leaders never have more than three Pokemon, and the Elite Four has no more than four. Disappointing, to say the least.
The game loves to hold your hand, moreso than any other Pokemon game before it. In addition to the Exp Share and the low amount of Pokemon for gym leaders and the Elite Four, you can also get the Amulet Coin super early (as early as like, shortly after the first gym). The Amulet Coin doubles the amount of cash you receive from trainers, which I actually don't really see as a bad thing, since I use most of it on clothes anyway. However, it's still clearly meant to be another form of hand-holding, which is not a good thing (in most games you can't get it until much later). There are also several good-tier Pokemon you can find pre-2nd gym, such as Bagon, Seviper, Abra (not really unusual for a Pokemon game though), and even Axew. I was genuinely surprised to see Bagon and Axew especially, so early on. Come on Game Freak, we're not wimps; we don't need all these super strong Pokemon before we even get to the second gym. Admittedly, this complaint is kind of minor, but it still bothered me.
The story is a downgrade, too. I know it's Pokemon and all, but it has been decent before, with characters you actually care about (Ghetsis, N). This time? None of the characters are particularly memorable, the story is fairly generic for a Pokemon game, and it's in general forgettable, as it's just an excuse for you to catch the mascot legendary and have roadblocks in between gyms.
Finally, there really isn't much postgame content to speak of. You can catch Mewtwo and the "Z" legendary Zygarde, and there's also a new town for you to visit, as well as the Friend Safari (where each person has specific Pokemon in their safari, which you can catch if they're on your friends list; some of these Pokemon cannot be gotten in any other way until the Pokemon Bank app launches in December). That's about it, though. It really feels like Game Freak was focusing more on the graphics and Mega Evolutions than actually creating a game with a lot of substance.
So is Pokemon XY still worth buying?
Despite my complaints, it's still Pokemon at heart. It may be hand-holdy, it may be easy, but it's a good game nonetheless. It doesn't match up to the greatness of Gen 5 (including B2W2), but you shouldn't really expect it to, since all Pokemon games are basically their own thing. It's the series' first jump into full 3D, and Game Freak didn't do as much as they could have with it, but I have faith that they will with the next entry, be it Pokemon Z or XY2 or whatever it is they decide to do.
Pros and Cons:
+ Still a Pokemon game at heart, and battling/collecting is as fun and addicting as ever
+ Despite some framerate issues, the leap into 3D was pretty good, especially for their first try
+ The Player Search System is great, and they even brought level-scaling back for Wi-Fi battles
+ While there wasn't a lot of new Pokemon, they grew on me fairly quickly, and some of them are awesome-looking
- Not a whole lot to do in Kalos after beating the game
- The 3D feature itself was clearly tacked on and not tested very well, if at all
- The poor framerate in battles is a shame, it also happens too often
- Too hand-holdy and easy
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Pokemon X (US, 10/12/13)
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