The newest installment of the Pokémon series is here, and, yes, it’s the same game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the series’ success and faithful fan base. While it has all of the tweaks from previous titles, new ones of its own, and an overhauled 3D visual, it is essentially the same formula from good ole Red/Blue. If you’ve been riding the Magnet Train this long, you will enjoy your journey as the world’s next champion. With the good comes the bad, however, and this game has a few letdowns that prevented it from knocking Soul Silver/Heart Gold off the lead spot of my personal favorites.
Unfortunately, no real strides have been made in this area of the game. If anything, this one may have taken a step back in terms of story. It does have a rather clever start, though. Instead of the typical dash to the professor from your childhood home, you start off as the new kid who has just moved into town. The game establishes a team of friends who greet you with “gifts” and pointers. This was a refreshing start, and, though most of us far from need a tutorial, this provided a backdrop that made the constant advice seem natural. The characters are interesting enough and are placed throughout the game in a manner that actually feels as though you are on the same journey.
Where this mechanic and storytelling device shined, the role of antagonist should go hide in the hole from which it was written. Our newest comical band of wrong doers, Team Flare, and their leader are lacking in purpose and originality. I am well aware that past generations have fell into the same pitfalls, but with new character models and camera shots, I guess I hoped for too much. Once I put a kink in their plans, I rejoiced in the fact that I wouldn’t have to suffer through any more dialogue from King Flare.
The day to day citizens didn’t offer much solace either. I talk to everyone, who doesn’t? You never know who is going to toss you a bone and provide you with a handy TM or item, but it comes with a price. You have to read some of the blandest tidbits to date. Sure, I found a few that made me chuckle along with some heartfelt throwbacks to other games. At the end of the day though, I found myself spamming “B” to see if this chump had something to toss me. While Victory Road and the Elite Four were grandiose and quite epic, I was underwhelmed by the personalities of the world’s best trainers. It didn’t help that this was by far the most painless battle for the title yet, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Overall, while the story has never been the essence of these games and most of the excitement comes from our own imagination, I was really banking on at least a minor improvement in this department. While this may be some trainers’ first go round, they need to keep in mind there are plenty of us that have worn the title of League Champion many times in the past.
Story? Whatever, let’s get to the nitty gritty: raising our Pokepals. Right off the bat, we get a huge plus with X/Y in the form of selection and customization. In addition to this generation’s water, grass, and fire starter, we receive a 2nd (familiar and nostalgic) one as well. So instead of having a narrow window of strengths and weaknesses, you get to jump into the fray with a more diverse party who is doing more than just growling and biting for the beginning of the game. The first routes and forest also have a HUGE array of Pokémon for even more diversity at the launch of your adventure. While past games have had their fair share of rat and pigeon infestations, X/Y has rich, varied environments that make you actually want to roam the grass just to see what else could be hiding
Ever heard of EV training? Well, in short, it is a tedious, time consuming, and all around bore of a process to make those little animals a bit tougher. This was formerly done by killing loads of certain specific Pokémon with the aid of end game held items. Without an online guide of sorts, there was no way you would have been able to properly tweak your companion. X/Y has revamped the system by having it as a minigame option. This works on so many levels. First, it makes this specialization accessible to everyday players. Additionally, you can do it from the get go, instead of near the end of your quest which allows for you to actually form a bond with the damn overpowered things. To top it all off, the games are not too shabby. I trained a few and found myself eager to nab the rest of my team, so they could be given the same treatment. Kudos to fixing that hassle Gamefreak!
With all of this team oriented specialization, I was looking forward to some epic gym battles and, ultimately, taking on the Elite Four. Now, let’s be honest with each other. These games are not too challenging. However, the more recent generations have actually given the end game bosses a little kick with a few tricks and some battle smarts. So while you may have been smooth sailing through old games up to the end, you may have needed to focus and train a little more for those guys at the other end of Victory Road. X/Y decided to go a different route.
That route is Cake Walk. I strolled into the Pokémon League, no revives, and rarely even switched my party to receive the most meaningless title of Kalos League Champion (Red would even have a bit more than “…” to say about the matter). Perhaps the addition of the Exp. Share that levels your party at a gamebreaking pace is part of the blame (the Exp. Share now gives the EVERY Pokémon in the party half of the earned experience). I understand people don’t have time to level a party and progress quickly, but couldn’t they just play and enjoy a slower pace? Even if we turn our heads away that interesting choice of item adjustment, I couldn’t believe the Elite Four party make-ups. THEY ONLY HAD FOUR POKEMON EACH! Without spoilers, the lack of meaningful dual-types and properly scaled battles really made for the least epic showdown for the conclusion of your trainer’s rise to fame.
I did enjoy playing X. I had my final team that I was happy with around the 5th gym, so I actually got to experience some of the game without training and searching for a 5th or 6th member. Before I played, I was indifferent towards the new 3D avatars. I’ll admit that it is an amazing improvement now having played through the game. Some Pokémon simply don’t translate 2D. I was seeing Pokémon that I had deemed dumb or silly looking and was blown away at how improved they were with the new models.
I’ll keep playing the same game, I love Pokémon. One day, however, I really hope that I can do the whole journey with another person: a co op Pokécampaign that you share with your friend or friends.
As far as improvements go, this is where X/Y hit the jackpot. Finally, you can easily access friends and randoms for battles and trading galore.
With the GTS, you can find almost any Pokémon you want. There are plenty of trainers simply filling their pokedexs, so, if you breed your starter for extras, you can get many trades by just offering up one of the many Squirtles in your box. If you are bored, you can randomly switch Pokémon with the Wonder Trade. I spent a good thirty minutes in here alone getting anywhere from a Budew to a Fossil Pokémon.
The battles are pretty intense. Some people live for training that perfect IV, EV, Nature, Moveset, Held Item, etc. team and you can get mopped up if you aren’t ready to throw down. If you know casual friends with the game though, it is no hassle connecting and battling it out. Hopefully, this will open up other possibilities for future generations of Pokémon.
If you love Pokémon or RPGs, this is a buy. With over 700 party options, you can have a unique adventure with hours of fun. The story isn’t elaborate or even that good. Luckily, it isn’t too hard to ignore, and the mechanics are solid as always. The journey (albeit an easy one) is a blast. Online brings a new era of Pokémon gaming, and let’s hope it is a harbinger of what to come.