From the very first steps into the new region of Kalos, the nostalgia begins to seep in. Having played the entirety of the main Pokémon series, I immediately felt at home. The routes looked familiar and the new monsters to find were better than before. If a game were ever made for me, then this would be it. Sure the game follows the same formula as previous Pokémon games, but it doesn’t stray from what made the series so great – addicting gameplay! X and Y hold true to that formula and improves upon it, with some welcomed additions.
You begin your journey in Vaniville Town, found in the region of Kalos. Vastly bordered by mountain ranges and a sparkling blue ocean, the new region varies in different directions. Blending rivers, infested forests, labyrinth-like caves, and other remarkable landmarks together to create a seamlessly connected world for you to explore in. Heavily inspired by the countryside of France, it’s easy to see where Game Freak got their inspiration, as Kalos feels very parallel in comparison. Kalos manages to recreate familiar memories with stimulated locations from past games. Like Santalune Forest feeling awfully nostalgic, old school players will immediately correlate with Viridian Forest from the Kanto region. A great nod to Pokémon Red and Blue. One annoyance I came across in Kalos is that it’s confusing and awkward to navigate Lumiose City, which acts like a hub for the major routes in the region; although the tremendous metropolitan of Lumiose City certainly does look nice, navigating through it is troublesome and could have been arranged better for players.
Like in so many Pokémon titles before it, X and Y follows a linear storyline. You’ve recently moved into the town of Vaniville and almost immediately go on your way to exploring the region of Kalos and battling trainers. Players are introduced to a few companions, each with their own motivations and personalities. These acquaintances of yours keep you company on your travels throughout the course of the game; you even get your own rival. After you contemplate on picking your new starter to help you along the way, you then embark on filling your Pokédex and defeating the elite four; of course with some challenges to face.
Mega Evolutions play a significant role in X and Y’s story, which is the big new mechanic to be introduced to the series that adds a new element for gameplay. This mysterious evolution takes in the form of Mega Stones that can be found scattered throughout the region. After you first talk to Professor Sycamore, it’s your job to find out what exactly these Mega Stones do. As you progress through the story you receive a special Mega Ring that let’s you unlock mega evolutions, and that’s when the Mega Stones come into play. Only a handful of Pokémon get this distinctive evolution and finding Mega Stones let’s you unlock more Pokémon to mega evolve. The most substantial aspect of Mega Evolution is that capable Pokémon get a boost in stats; their abilities, form, and even types can be different. For example, in X version Charizard gets the Tough Claws ability and finally the awaited Dragon type. Mega evolving your Pokémon only lasts until the end of a battle and isn’t a permanent evolution, but it’s still fun to use nonetheless, especially when undergoing threatening situations.
With new hardware comes more room to play with, so the biggest upgrade fans will notice in X and Y are the game’s visuals. 3D is the name and it has a pretty smile. For the first time in the franchise you are able to freely walk around the world, and players are no longer locked to a grid with only four directions to go. This feels liberating and refreshing to see in a Pokémon title, and it’s all thanks to the hardware of the 3DS. Game Freak is able to go beyond previous games in the series and bring us the most complete and capable Pokémon game yet.
The 3D capabilities of the games are one drawback I noticed while playing. Simply turning on the 3D will slow the game’s frame-rate to a slow crawl, especially in tense battles. 3D seems to be absent for the most part, only appearing in certain areas of the game and in battles, evidently. While the 3D can look good at times, it feels tacked on and more of an after thought than a focused attribute. Luckily, we can avoid it for the majority of the game and turn it off whenever it becomes tedious.
Stepping into combat for the very first time, you’ll instantly notice that framed sprites are now replaced with fully rendered three dimensional Pokémon models; feeling more alive than before, gameplay animation has been immensely enhanced. Each battle you engage in doesn’t feel mundane, but instead feels exhilarating and enjoyable. Different move types have been completely reworked with brand new animations, downright overshadowing previous Pokémon titles. If you were ever bored with the battle system before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see all of your favorite moves entirely remade with the new engine. You won’t be dreading battles; instead you’ll want to see all of the different move types in action.
Of course, what’s a new Pokémon game without some exciting new features to talk about; X and Y have plenty worth mentioning. If you wanted to bond with your Pokémon in a charming way, Pokémon-Amie let’s you exactly do that. Using the touch screen on the 3DS, you’ll be able to interact with your Pokémon, even getting to play with them through various mini-games. You’ll even be able to pet and feed your Pokémon, too. Certain Pokémon like Sylveon require affection gained through Pokémon-Amie in order to evolve properly. All of this makes for a more pleasing way to further bond with your Pokémon. Players can even customize their characters with different clothing options and hairstyles, a first in the series. Separate yourself from other trainers and customize your character to be unique . This is definitely a much appreciated new feature.
X and Y introduces’ players 69 new Pokémon to capture, train, and evolve. There are plenty of notable newcomers to the Kalos region. The adorable Eevee line has added a new evolution to the family: the fairy type, Sylveon, which is one of my favorite newly added Pokémon in the series. The charming Sylveon looks cute but can do some serious damage to dragon types, so watch out Dragonite. One noteworthy addition to Pokémon types is the welcomed fairy-type, which a variety of both new and old Pokémon now have. Some obvious choices to include the fairy-type are Clefairy, Jigglypuff, Togepi, and other adorable monsters. Of course fairy-types aren’t all powerful, boasting weaknesses and strengths. Game Freak seemed to find a fair balance between the other 17 types, while adding in the newly and appreciable fairy-type.
Some new methods to battle and train in X and Y have been added. Sky Battles and horde encounters are some of the new ways you’ll get to test your skills as a trainer; taking players to the sky to face opponents and a multitude of wild Pokémon to fight. Super Training allows you to easily train your Pokémon’s EVs in a fun way, even rewarding you with valuable items you can later utilize. Players will find the many diverging ways to train and battle your Pokémon to be a lot more enjoyable than in prior installments, allowing new players to feel more welcomed and at ease with X and Y.
Veteran Pokémon players will instantly get the hang of X and Y, from the game’s initial introduction by the new Pokémon Professor, Sycamore, or to the very first battle. Everything is streamlined and easy to learn. In fact, Pokémon X and Y are the most accessible games in the series; anyone can pick up and start playing. Hardcore players may be disappointed to find the game a bit too easy at times – I know I did. With EXP-Share now available to your entire party, leveling up is easier than before; sometimes feeling too easy. In fact, by the time I faced the Elite Four, most of my Pokémon were preemptively over-leveled, making for an easy victory. However you can disable EXP-Share if you want to give yourself a bit of a challenge while going old school. Unfortunately, challengers and rivals don’t level up, and the VS. Seeker is absent from the game – reducing the game’s difficulty even further. Nevertheless, there are still some methods to continue leveling up your Pokémon, even if it might take some grinding to do.
If you don’t feel like training your Pokémon in the game, there are other ways to keep you entertained. One of the most addicting distractions to keep you preoccupied in X and Y is Wonder Trade, which allows players from around the world to trade Pokémon with each other. You never know what kind of Pokémon you just might get; perhaps even a shiny or legendary. I found myself trading away for countless of hours in hope of receiving something interesting. You even accumulate Poké Miles for your efforts, in turn you can use to redeem a variety of different items like Rare Candy. Breeding can be another good pastime, with the Day Care located conveniently on route 7 along with the Battle Chateau. If everything else gets boring there is always GTS and Battle Spot. You can challenge and trade with your friends and random people you encounter through the Player Search System, which acts like a HUD for social features. You are never short on things to do in Pokémon X and Y, if you want a game to keep you occupied for months on end then X and Y is for you.
As a long time fan of Pokémon, whether it was the various games I poured thousands of hours into over the years, or the anime I watched every Saturday morning. Pokémon X and Y is everything I love about the series. It’s simple for newcomers, yet complex for long time fans like myself. X and Y is both a tribute to previous titles and a step forward to some new and exciting things for the franchise. Pokémon may not be for everyone, but for people who enjoy playing the series and want to invest a good amount of time into, Pokémon X and Y seem like the obvious choice.