Welcome once more to the wonderful world of Pokemon!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock-type for sixteen years, you’ve heard of Pokemon. It’s been quite the journey since Gengar and Nidorino first brought the Poke-smackdown and it just seems to be getting better an better. In one of the biggest releases in quite a while, Pokemon X and Y are bringing new life to a series that…well, was already running strong. With 718 Pokemon to entice your adventurous side, it’s time to get on the road from Vaniville city and start our journey. Oh yeah, one last question…are you a boy or a girl?
You know how the story goes. Mother and child move towns. Mother creates a new home for her family. Child turns ten. Child receives letter from world renowned professor. 10 year old leaves on cross country journey to capture and battle creatures of varying power…Mother stays home. You know, that old Chesnaught. The classic Pokemon tale is once again used in Y because, you know, a simple story is sometimes best. Like player characters who have come before, you are thrown into a world of wonder and mystery with a partner Pokemon at your side. It’s quite sweet, if you really want to look in to it. Regardless, the game begins when your mother, a former champion of the Rhyhorn races, officially making her the most badass Poke-mum thus far, sends you off on your journey. Joining you on your quest are your four friends, diverging from the classic rival/pseudo-rival formula of prior games, each who seek to fulfil their own dreams. Like Tierno and his passion for dance. This group dynamic also serves to provide your character with a more rounded life, beginning with more than just a kind-of-enemy.
From early on in the game, Mega Evolution is established as a topic relevant to a number of characters throughout the Kalos region. With the revelation that Pokemon thought to be the final form of their families can gain more power, a number of people decided to study this mysterious phenomenon. Though they are hard to obtain via gameplay, the story is kind enough to present you with the tools necessary to Mega Evolve a few Pokemon. Whilst being incredible handy, it also helps connect this new gameplay element to the story.
As you make your way across the Kalos region, you’ll run into some totally legitimate looking characters known as Team Flare who wish no ill will onto anyone and simply wish for love and happiness. *cough* not at all *cough* As to be expected from a Pokemon game, you are pitted against a new legion of generally Shiftry characters who dislike you. Naturally, you must combat said characters in order to protect the region and all those who dwell within. This time around the bad guys have a simpler goal: beauty. Team Flare wants to make the world beautiful and bask in the happiness that it will create. In order to do this however, they will step on whoever they need to. They don’t care how miserable society is as long as they’re happy. This much more personal goal relates Flare back to the days of Team Rocket more than anything else. Rather than the grandiose plots of other gangs who sought to reshape the world itself, Flare and Rocket are honestly just a bunch of bad guys who want their unfair share.
There’s just something about the story in this games that seems…fresh. The introduction of a new type and method of evolution shows even seasoned players that they don’t know everything about the Pokemon world. That being said, there are also enough similarities to the earlier games that it seems nostalgic. Deoxymoronic it may be, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The game also hints at a deeper story, set far before the era in which you play, one of a King and his various deeds, some of which still permeate to the present day. Similar to the tale of Mewtwo, brief glimpses into a different time provide a sense of depth to the story, showing that your journey isn’t the only thing going on in this world.
What do you want me to say? It’s a Pokemon game. Just as those that have come before it, you catch, you battle, you win, you evolve. But now you can also (drumroll please) Mega Evolve! In one of the biggest additions to the franchise ever, final form Pokemon can now temporarily evolve once more in the midst of combat. After acquiring the Mega Ring through natural story progression, you gain access to this mysterious power. By having a compatible Pokemon hold their unique Mega Stone, found across the region, you battle screen gains a new button: Mega Evolve. By tapping this button and then attacking, your Pokemon will shift into a new, stronger form. Mega forms vary from Pokemon to Pokemon, with some providing simple stat boosts and others changing your Pokemon’s ability, or even it’s type. This adds a new level of strategy to battles, granting you new powers when you need them. Mega Evolution also does not consume a turn, making your upgrade immediate. Which is awesome. The other most obvious change to the Pokemon battle formula is the addition of the 18th type: Fairy. This cute new type serves to balance the type chart by giving the almighty Dragon-type something new to fear.
For those competitive battlers amongst us, EV training is a core element of creating that prefect team. Unfortunately, you had to know a fair bit in order to successfully EV train your Pokemon. But fear not, Y brings you a tool to help, it brings you: Super Training! By choosing the Pokemon you wish to train, you are treated to a touch-screen game in which you have to burst a large Poke-balloon. By tapping said balloon, you will launch a stream of soccer balls, preferably at the appearing goals. Each shot you make nets you points and it is your goal to reach the specified score in as fast a time as possible. But we all know that balloons don’t go down without a fight, so they naturally fire soccer balls right back at you, subtracting from your score and therefore worsening you completion time. Each stat also possesses its own unique balloon course, allowing you to train as you like for each Pokemon. Completing these courses may also grant you a punching bag item which will provide EV boosts without needing to complete the mini-game. My only complaint about Super Training is something that only applies to approximately 10% of the world: it isn’t exactly designed for left-handed people. In Super Training, you are given the option to move with the analog stick and block oncoming attacks with the L-Button. This becomes somewhat difficult when using the stylus with your left hand, requiring you to either hold the stylus in your right hand or hold the 3DS awkwardly.
The bottom screen also grants you access to the new Pokemon-Amie function. This allows you to get closer to your Poke-pals via an experience akin to pet simulator games. Feed, pat and even talk to your partners and strengthen your friendship, much more immersive than letting a stranger massage them. Becoming true friends with you Pokemon actually does have an effect on gameplay as it allows them to recover from staus afflictions faster, dodge more frequently and land more critical hits. The power of trust.
On the other end of the spectrum, the new Wondertrade system allow you to blindly trade your Pokemon across the world. Though you may come out on top, chances are you’ll end up with a Japanese Bidoof. Which quite frankly is awesome, full of pep that little guy. You can also engage in regular trades via the internet with the new Friends/Acquaintances/Passerby system. As you play whilst connected to the world wide web, you may simply tap on a random face that appears on the bottom screen and engage in trades, battles or whatever you want. Connecting to a Passerby bumps them up to an Acquaintance so you can easily find them again, should you want to. This entire system definitely speeds up the process of connecting with friends, removing a lot of the hassle from previous generations. Remember the Pokemon Centre’s second floor?
One thing you’ll definitely notice if you’ve played Pokemon before is that the beginning of Y is far less tedious than previous titles. You gain your starter fairly quickly and are off to the first gym before you can say Running Shoes. The overall pacing of the game is also far different than it has been before. The Gyms are spaced out more uniquely this time around, allowing for a more varied experience. The gyms themselves also take note from those before them, increasing in their diversity and altering their layouts more radically. Unlike Generation IV, where you could beat the Elite Four at Lvl. 46, I had just beaten the third Gym in Y and my Pokemon were Lvl. 39. This may have something to do with the amazing upgrade to the cornerstone item Exp. Share. Seasoned trainers will understand the pain of constantly shifting the item between Pokemon, trying to level up faster. Well fret no more, as of Gen VI Exp. Share is now a Key Item. Simply reach into your bag, activate the item and relax. Exp. Share now grants 100% experience to the Pokemon in top spot and 50% to everyone else. Everyone. Else. This upgrade to something that was nothing more than a small nitpick of players shows just how much effort Game Freak put into Y.
Oh yeah, you can also customise your character for the first time ever, I guess that’s cool…no wait, that’s awesome! You can finally make the protagonist your own through the new clothing systems. Change your hat, shirt, pants, there’s even an option to change your eye colour…nice. Apart from being fun in the single player story, presenting your character to the world is oodles of fun, allowing you to see just what other people think is fashionable.
3D Pokemon. That’s really all I need to say, but allow me to elucidate. Every single Pokemon, all 718 of them, have received a new 3D model that brings new life to the handheld Pokemon experience. Old school looks new again and newcomers look awesome right from the get go. It’s win-win. Each model features unique animations that correspond to the attacks they use, creating a far more visually interesting battle experience. These movements are all incredibly smooth and shift from their idle animations brilliantly. Each Pokemon also possesses their own fainting animation should they fall in battle. These small details complete the experience and prevent it from feeling gimmicky or repetitive.
the new graphic also have an excellent effect on the overworld. Characters now have full bodies, an improvement from the previous generations. Utilising the new Roller Skates, you can see your character sway as they propel themselves through the beautiful scenery. Based upon France, the Kalos region provides some very picturesque environments for you to enjoy. Calm lakes, eerie forest, gorgeous castles that have stood for 3000 years. Even the little things, like the addition of a headlight on the bicycle, feel like a major step in the right direction. Not that Pokemon hasn’t been doing that for sixteen years.
Just as it always has, Pokemon features a surprisingly varied soundtrack. The background music relates directly to the visuals, enhancing whatever you may be experiencing, be it exploring a mysterious forest or jogging along the coastline. Once again the bicylce receives its own tune, to represent the youthful exuberance of racing through the countryside on the journey of a lifetime…it also sounds nice.
Poekmon once again retain their trademark cries, to be expected as they haven’t changed since their inception. That being said, cries do have variations between generations, representing the times in which they were made. Defying this trend however is that most recognisable of Pokemon, everybody’s favourite electric mouse: Pikachu. Rather than use its cry from the games Pikachu is fully voiced, exclaiming its trademark “Pika!” as it enters battle. This harks back to Yellow version wherein Pikachu’s seiyuu Ikue Otani also provided her voice. Once again, this is a nice little touch that helps to enhance the overall experience of Y.
This game is fantastic. Plain and simple. Apart from the obviously awesome graphics and epic new Mega Evolution system, the game also improves on a number of little things that only those who played Pokemon for a long time would even notice. The Exp. Share upgrade, the ability to search your PC on the spot when in-game trading, being able to send a Pokemon to the PC when receivng a gift, rather than having to leave and come back. Small thing that wen combined help the game to flow brilliantly. However, in all honesty I think that one of the defining features of Y does not actually lie in the game itself, but rather here in our world. For the first time ever, Pokemon X and Pokemon Y hit the shelves across the globe at the same time, allowing everyone to experience the journey together. Players outside of Japan didn’t have the luxury of mapping out teams, or determining where each Gym was located. For the first time ever, we went in blind. We went in together. It’s new, it’s old, it’s everything you could want in a Pokemon game. What more can I say…but you still gotta catch ’em all and be the best that you can be.
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