Pokemon X & Y: The game you dreamed of as a kid arrives after you’re no longer one
Mary-Anne Lee | On October 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm
Fifteen years is a long time for a videogame series, but Pokemon seems to have withstood the test of time nicely. The latest version of the games – Pokemon X and Pokemon Y – made their international debut over the weekend. We’ve ground our way through a good twelve hours of the game, and thought it was about time we gave you our verdict on it.
As the first iteration of the games to be built for the 3DS, Pokemon X & Y (Pokemon X/Y) are also the first game to boast a fully 3D world. As you can imagine, this feature alone brings in loads of possibilities for the games.
Traversing the wide Kalos region is more realistic than ever as you rollerskate past a mirror-like lake or walk through a dark cave. One could be forgiven for starting to believe he was actually on a Pokemon journey. Pokemon battles take on the same backgrounds as the surroundings they are started in, and your Pokemon – fully 3D, fully animated – also come with animations unique to each and every critter. It’s a far cry from days where they were simply flat sprites on your Game Boy screen.
The 3D graphics and animation aren’t the only improvements to the series. As with each generation of Pokemon, GameFreak has introduced or reinvented several game features.
More social, more realistic, more fun
As if keeping up with the hyperconnected world, the social features of Pokemon X/Y have been restructured to be ultra convenient. Interacting with a friend is made much easier with the addition of the Player Search System (PSS). The PSS lists friends, acquaintances, and passerby 3DS owners in one convenient screen, greying them out when they’re offline and lighting them up when they’re on. Better than this ease of accessibility is how trading, battling, and even chatting have become one-step features. Players no longer have to trek to a Pokemon centre to trade or do battle. They can do it anywhere as long as they have a connection to the opposing trainer, and they can access their stored Pokemon without having to visit a computer.
The PSS is accessible by the lower screen of the 3DS. Once exclusive domain of the game’s menu, it now hosts the PSS, the Super Training Screen, and Pokemon Amie.
Super Training is a ‘dumbing down’ of the Effort Value (EV) system. Effort Values are integral to competitive battling but were hidden values in previous generations of the Pokemon games. You couldn’t actually see them being added up. In Pokemon X/Y, they’re distributed via the mini games available in Super Training mode, making preparation of a competitive team much easier for the layman.
Pokemon Amie is a different mode of play. Think of it as a Digimon or Tamagotchi mode for interacting with your Pokemon. It’s disgustingly cute, and I’ve heard of folks spending hours at a time petting their Eevees on the face, but I digress. Like Super Training and Effort Values, Pokemon Amie also successfully brings to light the Happiness stat, which is required for evolving certain Pokemon.
The game has been vastly improved, especially in terms of realism. Pokemon faint with heart wrenching realism, and their new animations give even the most unwanted (hi, Bidoof!) a new lease of cute. I have a newfound desire to build a team made entirely of cute Pokemon, testament to the longevity of the series. Adding to that is how huge the Kalos region is, though the enormity of the game can’t quite be contained in just one 3DS cartridge. Pokemon X/Y has a tendency to lag during certain parts of battles, where the animation becomes too demanding for the console to handle.
Yup, you got that right. No game is without its flaws. Graphics aside, what truly tanks for me is Pokemon X/Y’s story. As a millenial, I’ve grown up with the Pokemon games. And now, as an adult, I’ve come to realize that however wonderful Pokemon Y looks on my 3DS XL, it’s still a game that, at its core, caters to children simply because of how its story is written.
Pokemon and me
In Pokemon X/Y, you’ve moved to a new neighbourhood with your ex-Rhyhorn racer of a mom, Grace. You immediately make friends with four other kids, and these kids follow you on your Pokemon journey, sometimes battling you, sometimes fighting alongside you, sometimes giving advice, and sometimes, creepily enough, telling you they really hope they can be your friend as you two watch fireworks together.
Once upon a time, your only human friend in the world of Pokemon was your rival. In Gen I it was Gary Oak, telling you he’d smell ya later as he left you in the dust. You had to struggle to catch up, or fail in your quest to be the best. In Gen II it was Silver, rumoured son of Giovanni, thief who stole the other Johto starter, and who would be rude to you for the rest of your journey. In Gen III, things got a little tamer. Brandon was your neighbour and he wasn’t rude or mean; he was polite and helpful and you didn’t even feel like he was a rival. In Gen IV you had Barry, who was so annoying yet so non combative you weren’t sure if he was meant to be a rival or not. And in Gen V you had Cheren and Bianca, who were rivals, sure, but were also your friends. They helped you more than they beat your ass in Pokemon.
When I was still in school, punishment included getting slapped on the hands or legs with a huge wooden ruler. Kids in school nowadays call in their parents the minute a teacher goes near them with intention to punish them. This change in society has also been reflected in the Pokemon games. The kids of the late 90s related to wanting to beat Gary Oak up and making him repent for his wise-assery. The kids of today need their hands held to get past the front door, and their in-game friends Trevor, Tierno, Calem, and Serena are doing just that.
As an adult, it’s hard for me to overlook this needless handholding, and it mars my experience with Pokemon X/Y tremendously. Everyone’s so nice, sometimes too nice, and what struggle do you have to experience that will prepare you for the wild world out there? I miss the days where having a rival meant something, and spurred you on to do better. What was one more Pokemon battle to grind out when your eternal prize – Pokemon League immortality – was dangling just above your head?
I’ll be playing Pokemon X/Y to the end, and then I’ll be playing some more, but there’s no denying that I’d probably have loved the game this much more if I were a child today.