Whenever a new Pokémon game hits the shelves, there’s a palpable excitement. But in the past few years, the games seemed too much like one another. They were decent but sorely needed a makeover.
Pros: Smartly re-imagined; fun online play; 3D battles.
Cons: Dialogue can be dull; graphics should be better; not everything is in 3D.
Pokémon X and Y, the two latest games in the series, feel new and familiar at the same time. While the game makers didn’t reinvent the wheel, they’ve managed to make Pokémon an easier experience that’s still a lot of fun to play because there are tons of things to do.
As you begin your journey to catch ’em all, there’s some stirring orchestral music, like from a Star Wars or Batman movie. You briefly meet Professor Augustine Sycamore, who helps you choose your avatar and shows you a beautiful mural of various Pokémon.
The tutorial here is simpler and smarter than in any of the other games. You’ll be capturing your Pokémon in no time. And you’ll probably level up to 10 within the first hour of play.
I played Pokémon Y and not X because I liked the frog-ish starter character, Froakie. Unless you’re a hardcore fan who wants to catch a few more Pokémon by paying an extra $40 for another game, one purchase should be enough for you. It was for me.
WHAT ABOUT THE 3D?
I did have one disappointment early on: I believed all of this latest Pokémon would be in 3D. It’s mainly the battles, the trading and capturing of the beasts that appear in 3D. And while the 3D comes alive during these moments, it’s still not of the highest quality. The graphics in Animal Crossing, for instance, were better.
pokemon1To be fair, comparing Pokémon Y to Animal Crossing is like comparing a small town to a giant region. Nonetheless, I would’ve loved to have seen it all in 3D, even if it took two game cards to do it.
But there really is so much to do. As just one example, you’ll get roller skates. So you’ll not only go faster, you’ll also get to ride in skate parks and jump on railings. You can also check out TV shows, and while there’s no audio and video, you can learn Pokémon tricks and even Japanese words from reading the text.
Of course, you’ll fight many Pokémon, offline and online. Online, you’ll meet people from around the world and get little gifts from them, like desserts to feed your Froakie. With Wonder Trade, you can exchange your Pokémon online with players worldwide. Online, I saw people from Japan, Thailand, the U.K., Canada and more.
pokemon-300There’s a Tamagotchi aspect to your Pokémon. Not only can you feed him, not only can you pet him via the touchscreen, you can play minigames with him. It’s a breeze to win at the beginning, but then they get harder and harder.
ON YOUR WAY
While the ins and outs of Pokémon are complex, the main ways to play are really simpler than ever. The tutorials are clear. And the game design is precise.
You’ll be taught how to use the touch screen to battle by turns, and how to check out the many potions and powerups in your pocket. You’ll either find these items during your travels, maybe in the tall grass, or be given them as rewards and gifts.
pokemon2-300As you move further on, you’ll check out Lumiose, the big city inspired by Paris (without the crazy traffic jams). The residents talk about more complicated strategies without explaining them. That’s a little annoying.
But it’s also an amazing city with lots of buildings and stores to check out.
Your goal is to collect all eight badges after battling in various gyms throughout the land of Kalos. The first battle for the badge takes place on a massive, dewy spider web. To find residents to battle, you have to navigate a cool maze on the web.
BATTLES AND REPLAY VALUE
Everyone knows Pokémon evolve into other forms fairly quickly. But now you’ll be introduced to Mega Evolution and the ability to battle hordes of, say, Caterpie, at once. As a fight, it’s kind of scary.
pokemon3-300It’s not as huge as, say, a Lego Lord of the Rings battle, but there can be five or six Pokémon against one. (Make sure to take a turn to increase your health to avoid the dreaded fainting.)
You’ll battle high in the sky, too, like a superhero. And you’ll encounter the new fairy Pokémon, which adds a mystical aspect to the game.
The replay value in Pokémon X and Y is very, very high: You can battle others online endlessly if you want to. (Do your homework first, of course.)
Yes, it’s sometimes annoying to get stuck in a battle in the tall grass when you want to move on to the next gym. But think of it as a way to catch all the Pokémon you can.
Pokémon X and Y offer some of deepest play you can get in a game today. If you want value and excitement, this intelligent re-imagining of Pokémon is the way to go this fall.
By the Games Guru