Must. Catch. Them. All.
Pokemon X and Y mark the newest generation of Pokemon, capping the current total at 718, and while the series’ age old trademark of “gotta catch ‘em all” is as daunting as ever, the series remains no less addicting than it did with its original 151.
The game takes place in the Kalos region, a gorgeous landscape heavily influenced by French architecture and culture, making these games the first to take place in a European inspired environment.
The story follows the typical formula at first: a young trainer is sent off from his or her mom’s house, equipped with his or her first Pokemon, to find and capture Pokemon to complete his or her Pokedex.
It isn’t until the player catches word of an ancient war that took place thousands of years ago between Pokemon that things start to take a turn from the expected.
While simultaneously trying to uncover the implications of this war in present day, the player is tasked with discovering the secrets of Megaevolution, which allows Pokemon to evolve into a new form for the duration of a battle. Charizard and Mewtwo have the added bonus of having separate forms depending on if the player purchased Pokemon X or Y.
There’s no shortage of throwbacks to earlier games as well. Veteran fans will fondly recognize many of the references Game Freak sneaks in. A sleeping Snorlax blocks the road at one point in the story, preventing the player from moving onward. Allusions are also made to Professor Oak’s grandson, Gary, and legends from previous Pokemon games.
Not to mention that for the first time there are two sets of starter Pokemon the player is allowed to pick from, and the second set will look all too familiar to fans of the series.
Everything from the people to the Pokemon to the environments has been converted to 3D design models to take advantage of the Nintendo 3DS graphics engine. Battles are no longer static showdowns between two sprites, but instead fully 3D animated sequences complete with environment-sensitive backgrounds and a rotating camera to catch all the action.
It’s extremely evident the amount of work Game Freak put into making the environments memorable. Every town and gym has a clearly defined theme that blends together seamlessly with the overarching European motif.
From rooms that open up to reveal a rotating sphere of constellations, a forest town overrun with mushrooms that might as well have been ripped straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale, a modern metropolis complete with its own homage to the Eiffel tower, the region is filled to the seams with stunning visuals.
For the first time in the series, character customization is possible. The outfits available are themed to the towns in which they are sold and the inventory changes daily, inciting players to check back each day. Non-playable characters will respond to your choices, and certain locations will not unlock until you are deemed “fashionable” enough.
While the overhaul in graphics makes battling a much more engaging experience, what perhaps is most fun about Pokemon X and Y is what happens outside of battle.
A new feature called Pokemon-amie allows players to interact with their Pokemon via the touch screen and 3DS camera, and each Pokemon has its own unique animation for the different ways players can interact with it.
If you dangle food in front of its face only to have it drop to the floor, most Pokemon will stamp their feet or pout dejectedly. Petting it with the touch stylus yields hearts and gratified mewls, whereas incessant tapping or petting it wrongly might earn the player a sour look, and that’s only from the mildest of Pokemon.
Pokemon with fiery tails or manes burn the player’s hand when touched, Trubbish, a Pokemon composed entirely of trash, makes the player’s hand gooey and move slower, and certain ones will dole out high fives if prompted.
While all this playing around does yield a variety of in-battle bonuses, Pokemon-amie, with its adorable variety of animations and level of interactivity, hardly needs much incentive to begin with.
Hard-core players will appreciate the new Super Training system, a series of point and shoot mini-games that allow players to finely hone their Pokemon’s individual stats. Considering the previous way to do this involved tediously training for hours without nearly as precise results, this new method comes as a much appreciated improvement.
However, for all its bells and whistles the actual battles in Pokemon X and Y are not nearly as difficult as in previous games.
A tweak to the existing item known as experience share could be to blame, as now it has become incredibly easy to level up an entire team in a fraction of the previous time, reducing the long hours of grinding players have become accustomed to while also making the games more accessible to casual gamers.
Though it takes relatively little effort to beat the game, Game Freak accommodates for that by providing post-Elite Four quests, daily trainer challenges, a Battle Tower reminiscent of the Battle Subway in Pokemon Black and White, and, of course, the ever present challenge of collecting over seven hundred Pokemon.
Even with their imperfections, Pokemon X and Y mark an incredible improvement in the series. The Pokemon that gamers know and love has received a gorgeous makeover in these 3DS titles, and it’s not much of a stretch to say that Game Freak might have perfected the formula of addicting gameplay.
A fair bit of warning, though: students with heavy schedules, purchase with caution. It’s incredibly likely that no homework will get done the day you buy the new Pokemon.