Pokemon X/Y is the first of the series to break the 2D mould, a small touch that completely changes the way an old fan like me experiences the game. But is it a little too easy at times?
Shocking confession #1: The last Pokemon game I played was Silver. This was because I couldn’t figure out the Ice path puzzle and rage quit my way out of the entire franchise. Which leads nicely into shocking confession #2: I haven’t owned a DS since 2008 so I bought one specifically for Pokemon X/Y.
Maybe I should elaborate on that second point; something about the new version really grabbed me and I think it’s the addition of two features. First was the shift from flat 2D worlds to a 3D environment which makes the game and the Kalos region feel considerably more modern than earlier games. The next was the introduction of rollerskates; no the bicycle hasn’t been retired but when in town the small boost from the skates really enhances the game. Here’s an example; early in the game I was grinding for XP by battling helpless Pokemon near a town. Rather than wasting money on potions and ether so I could continue I’d zip back to the Pokemon center to heal up and head straight back.
While this seems a small thing, knowing it would take me no longer than 10 seconds to get between my there and my chosen farm spot completely changed the way I played. So much so that I’ve found myself 50%-100% overlevelled for each boss fight / gym. Naturally I tacked on Exp. share and the Lucky Egg (which boosts XP gain) to power level my party leaving me with a feeling of invincibility. Which is great in a way, being powerful and unbeatable in any fight appeals to the 10 year old in me. But I couldn’t help but wish for a more challenging experience; Game Freak haven’t done anything wrong here, they haven’t technically made the game too easy I just happened to have stumbled onto the right way to build up my Pokepals.
There is one thing I’m still on the fence about; you now gain XP by capturing Pokemon. I’m not sure how I feel about that; I miss that agonising decision to sacrifice points for capturing a Rattata (which incidentally I’ve never seen in Pokemon X/Y). Now whether you favour collecting over battling you can still build a party equally as strong as someone who focusses on developing high level companions.
I could write for days about the story, because there actually is one, but I think you should experience it as it unfolds. It’s not The Last of Us by any stretch of the imagination and it certainly is aimed to be accessible to children but it’s genuinely interesting with a surprisingly dark undercurrent.
I haven’t mentioned Mega-evolutions; it’s difficult for me to say much about them at all really. I have the ability to hit the mega power up with three of my Pokemon, but I rarely feel the need to do so. I’m already overpowered, increasing to a newer, mightier form just seems like a dick move more often than not. If you played as I did you’ll find Mega-evolutions are neither here nor there, you’ll be mighty enough when you finally unlock them that they aren’t really necessary. My favourite time to throw one out is during online battles with friends, purely because the squeak of terror across the tinny 3DS speakers never fails to make me smile. In that moment I’m 10 years old again, filled with power and a streak of malevolence but enough beneficence to share my strategies. If I’ve sufficiently crushed a friend in battle I’ll even trade them a Pokemon that might enhance their team.
We don’t tend to give scores here, but Pokemon X/Y gets my strongest possible recommendation; Game Freak have shed a lot of the 90’s thinking and tried to bring the game into the modern era without losing what made it so special. The addition of additional training to bolster your strengths and weaknesses is a great touch even though it can get a little samey at times, but if you put the work in you’ll produce devastating results.
I’ll close with my lineup:
(Honourable mention goes to Lapras who is currently sitting on the bench.)