Review: “Pokémon X & Y” bring new dimension to franchise
With nine sets of core games, six generations of characters, and eighteen years of history, one would think that Pokemon might be approaching the end of the tall grass. But with Pokemon X & Y selling over four million copies worldwide on its premiere weekend, the series show no weakness at all. The new game, the first to run exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS (and the new low-budget option for new gamers, the 2DS) adds a lot of new characters, new battle formats and a beautiful 3-D design to make it easily the most beautiful game in the series, as well as the busiest.
The basic gameplay remains unchanged – select one of three Pokemon to start your journey around the world, this time the lovely Kalos Region, a land based on the architecture and design of France. Use that Pokemon to catch other wild Pokemon, raise and train them to more powerful levels, allowing you to catch even more powerful creatures, lather, rinse, repeat. But as with each game, there’s a whole new set of interesting critters to catch and collect, and almost unlimited strategy potential as you choose the most powerful moves for your characters, as well as choosing the most versatile fighting types to meet the challenge of both wild monsters, but other trainers, both in the game and in the real world. The game is fully rendered in 3-D, taking advantage of the power of the 3Ds to deliver a new view of the characters, no longer the sinple top-down look of past games. Battles feature sweeping camera angles as the characters battle, much in the style of the Pokemon Coliseum games for the various console systems. There’s endless little details in the animation – your character drops to one knee when chatting to children, you see them actually pick up found items, and errant breezes make the trees sway and the grass rustle. For the first time, the circle pad lest you move in diagonals, not the simple four directions of the games with only a D-pad. Indeed, it’s so easy to move around, it takes some getting used to – you need to take an extra moment to make sure you’re actually lined up with items and characters you want to interact with.
Over and above the basic battle of the game, X & Y give you new ways to train and interact with your Pokemon. Minigames allow you increase your friendship with your little friends and raise their battle stats. Pokemon-Amie is a feature to the Nintendogs games, where you can pet your Pokemon, feed him treats and more, via the 3Ds touchpad. The system’s camera is used for basic facial recognition, allowing you to play “monkey-see monkey-do” with them. Super Training is a series of minigames designed to increase their battle stats like strength and speed.
About the only hardware feature of the 3DS that isn’t used to its fullest potential is Street and Spot Pass. The game will receive messages of game updates and promotions from Nintendo in the game via Spotpass through an in-game device called the Holo-Caster, but interaction with other players only happens while the game is in play. The Player Search Service allows you to interact with friends that you’ve met using friend codes, and if you connect to the Internet, any random players from around the world that are playing at the a moment. Trading is much faster now, and more flexible. An upcoming app release, Pokemon Bank, will allow you to store up to 3,000 characters on the Cloud, for a small monthly fee.
Each new Pokemon adventure brings new players and cartoon viewers to the series, and for long time players like me (seriously – the only thing I’ve done uninterrupted in my life that play Pokemon is be married), sparks the excitement of the series anew. X and Y are easily the best new addition to the franchise in years, and if you were looking for an excuse to pick up or upgrade to a 3DS, you’ve got your reason.