Lace up your roller skates and turn your hat backwards; it’s time to go out on another Pokemon adventure. Pokemon X and Y for the Nintendo 3DS continues the wildly popular tradition of striking out into a wide world populated by strange creatures and “catch[ing] ‘em all.” You’ll travel to weird new places, challenge elite Pokemon trainers, make new pals out of people and Pokemon alike, and you may even stop an evil syndicate from demolishing the world.
Yes, Pokemon X and Y offer many of the same experiences you’ve probably run through several times since Pokemon Red and Blue first hit the Game Boy in 1998. But this first fully 3D take on the series is so polished, connected, and streamlined, it’s impossible not to recommend it to PokeFans. And if you haven’t played with Pikachu since the aforementioned Red and Blue, it’s definitely worth attempting to rediscover your friendship through Pokemon X and Y.
- Developer: GameFreak
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Genre: Role-Playing
- ESRB Rating: E
- Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 2DS
GOOD: Great graphics and sound. Good writing. Tons to do, and lots of content. Connecting with other players is easy.
BAD: The games’ adventure follows the same template laid out in previous games. Some of the Pokemons’ animations are lackluster.
Necessary Reading Comprehension: Medium. There’s lots of non-vital dialogue to read and a basic story to follow, but the games’ base mechanics are very easy to learn
Pokemon X and Pokemon Y are both available at retail, and as Nintendo 3DS eShop downloads.
THE STORY: Adventure Time
Pokemon X and Y is based on a familiar premise (one we probably fantasized about living when we were kids—and heck, most of us probably still fantasize about living it): A young boy or girl (your choice) receives a Pokemon from a Professor. Said Professor, Augustine Sycamore, also files a request for you and your neighborhood pals to travel the world and fill out a PokeDex, since he’s stuck in a lab doing important Professor stuff.
Pokemon X and Y is light on story, though that’s something you ought to expect if you’ve been any degree of Pokemon fan over the years. Unlike most role-playing games, Pokemon has never been about story: The bit of plot that does exist is simply there to propel you from town to town.
There is some shenanigans involving a flashy group that calls itself Team Flare, but even though the team’s motivations are quite serious, its garishly-dressed ranks are the usual bumbling idiots who can’t seem to balance a Pokemon team to save their lives. Still, Team Flare’s banter is amusing, and the chatter belonging to the games’ non-player characters (NPCs) is generally entertaining. Old-time Pokemon fans should appreciate the references to Pokemon Red and Blue. See if you can find the kid who explains why he likes shorts (Spoiler: They’re comfortable and easy to wear).
It’s also worth mentioning that your mother in Pokemon X and Y is a retired Rhyhorn racer, which is pretty cool.
GAMEPLAY: Catch ‘Em All, Fight ‘Em All
Like its Pokemon kin before it, Pokemon X and Y is a role-playing game (RPG) based around collecting “pocket monsters” and training them to fight for you. Professor Sycamore sends you your initial Pokemon, which you use to flush out other Pokemon from the tall grass. When you engage in battle with a wild critter, you can either fight ‘til the end, or you can whittle down its hit points before lobbing a Pokeball at it and (hopefully) catching it.
When a Pokemon is on your team, you can use its elemental “type” to your advantage by taking down foes weak to that specific element. For instance, rock Pokemon are highly effective against electrical Pokemon, and water Pokemon can extinguish fire-types. Pokemon X and Y even adds a new class, “fairy,” which puts a huge hurt on dragon-types.
The new fairy classification adds depth to Pokemon X and Y, but you can pretty much count on your single-player X and Y adventure to be the usual gauntlet against wild Pokemon, other trainers, Gym leaders, and the occasional rumble with Team Flare. While it would admittedly be something else to see Nintendo turn this formula on its head, it’s still supremely relaxing to travel from town to town and see what manner of Pokemon are lurking in each area’s grass. Pokemon X and Y offers a degree of freedom you don’t normally see with Japanese role-playing games, though there are still definitely moments when you’re blocked from progressing too far before you complete a certain task. Some of these roadblocks are so painful, it’s hard not to wonder if they’re parody. Early in the game, you’re restricted to a small area of the grand Lumiose city because of a “blackout,” even though the lights are obviously blazing in these restricted areas.
Despite being brickwalled from time to time, Pokemon X and Y moves at a brisk pace. In fact, there’s little necessity for level grinding if that sort of thing isn’t your bag. You can catch a wide variety of different elemental Pokemon early in the game, thus making your early battles against the first few gym leaders a breeze. The “Experience Share” item doles out experience to all your Pokemon regardless of whether or not they participate in battle. You’re also granted access to running shoes (use the 3DS’s d-pad) and roller skates (use the 3DS’s analogue pad), both of which let you zip around the landscape in record time.
All this streamlining indicates Nintendo seems to understand that Pokemon’s fanbase isn’t exclusively made up of kids. It’s true; there are a lot of long-time fans who still enjoy the journey, but don’t have a ton of free hours to put towards building up their stable of Pokemon. Thankfully, X and Y provides a fun and filling journey without wasting your time.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: The Best and Worst Animation
Pokemon X and Y is the first fully 3D Pokemon adventure. And while Pokemon Black and White for the Nintendo DS looked good, but Pokemon X and Y’s visuals make the Kalos region and its Pokemon come to life in ways that never get tiring to watch. Pokemon punch, kick, throw, and hurl elemental attacks at you with convincing energy.
That said, there are moments when the animation quality drops like a stone Pokeball. Take the familiar “Tail Whip” move, for instance; when your Pokemon performs the move, it turns around but never actually moves its tail. Similarly, the animation for common moves like “Bone Attack” show your Pokemon leaping up and down instead of actually swinging a bone club. These moments give the animation a flat, half-finished feeling that clashes with the awesome pyrotechnics pulled out by the likes of Charizard and Delphox.
While the animation in Pokemon X and Y may feel half-baked at times, there’s little wrong with the games’ scenery, particularly when you climb high peaks and see the landscape spread out below you. Lumiose city is impressive, and the smaller towns are packed with individuality. There are also tons of little details strewn throughout Pokemon X and Y’s visuals, like how your trainer wades through tall grass, or kneels down to talk to very young trainers.
Pokemon X and Y’s soundtrack is rich, and features lots of remixes of old favorite ditties. There are still plenty of surprises, though. Crank up your 3DS’s sound for the techno that accompanies Gym leader battles.
CONNECTIVITY: At Your Fingertips
Want to battle or trade with friends? No more hoofing it to the nearest PokeCenter. Pokemon X and Y’s connectivity options are laid out from you nearly from the beginning of your adventure. The bottom screen on your Nintendo 3DS keeps track of your friends who are currently playing the game, as well as passersby. You can trade, fight, send shout-outs (keep ‘em clean), or simply view one another’s profiles. Needless to say, you need to set up your Nintendo 3DS’s Wi-Fi before engaging in any online shenanigans.
If the online options in Pokemon X and Y have a major drawback, it’s the fact the games list your online friends by their trainer names, not their profile names. If you want to trade or battle with a specific pal, first you get to play a little game of Guess Who.
Beyond that hiccup, the new online options in X and Y work well. Connectivity is decent, though online battles can be a little slow during peak hours.
CONCLUSION: The Very Best
Pokemon X and Pokemon Y don’t turn the Pokemon franchise on its head, but instead the games polish the formula close to a mirror shine. If you’re utterly disinterested in Pokemon because you don’t care for the games’ basic mechanics and formula, a walk through Kalos might not win you over. However, if you’re looking to re-discover your old passion for Pokemon – or if you’re looking for a good jump-in point – Pokemon X and Y’s quick pace, compelling graphics, and humorous writing will fit into your life as snugly as an Oran berry fits into a Pikachu’s paws.