Pokemon X & Y Review
First up, a disclaimer: you don’t actually have to catch ’em all.
That was just kind of a thing that Nintendo said once, mainly to get you to buy anything that has Pikachu’s beaming little derpface on it.
Obviously in a game with hundreds of monsters to capture, train, trade and battle, grabbing the lot is going to rate pretty high on the checklist for many players.
But given that the last few games have offered Pokedex credit for simply seeing a Pokémon rather than catching it, it’s been pretty clear that even Nintendo had forgotten about that once-unavoidable mantra.
But it’s back. And we do. We really do. We’ve GOT to catch ’em all. Sigh. Bye, 2013.
Pokemon X & Y – Gotta Catch ‘Em All?
But you can’t. You never can. Well, on a single game cart, at least.
Ever since the original pair of games, the emphasis has been on having to trade in order to fill up the Pokedex and while link cables might be a thing of the past, the emphasis on trading has never been more obvious.
Local Poke-swapping is as simple as ever, but there are even more ways to mix it up now – the Global Trade System has been cleaned up (you can now filter out legendaries, meaning less wading through dumb requests for Pokémon that simply cannot exist) and there’s even more trading potential thanks to the double whammy of trading with randoms and the lucky dip that is Wonder Trade.
Outside of the obvious visual overhaul, this newfound connectivity is by far the greatest leap for Nintendo’s pocket monster.
By connecting to the internet while playing, trainers can instantly choose to interact with others however they like – on the PSS menu on the second screen, other players start out as passersby, later getting promoted to acquaintances after you trade or battle with them and with the option to promote them further to full blown friends should you want to enable voice chat with them.
It basically means that there’s always someone on hand to trade with or battle as long as you’re online, and that can only be a good thing.
Pokemon X & Y’s New Graphical Overhaul
That 3D makeover can’t be allowed to pass by with just a single comment though, especially when it’s such a leap from games whose visual style hasn’t really changed all that much since the series’ monochrome origins.
We’ve gone from simple two-tone pixel art to colour monsters and even seen a few fairly crude animations along the way, but this full 3D battle system has the same kind of magic that the Pokemon Stadium games did back in the day.
The 3D effect is cool enough but comes at the expense of fluidity, a pretty noticeable frame rate hit the price to pay if you really must see everything with a splash of extra depth.
Between mutli-angle shots and the lower screen and overworld areas not using the 3D at all, though, it’s far easier on the eyes just to leave it off altogether.
Still, the fully rendered world and characters do at least add a sense of scale, immersion and adventure to the confusing caves and warren-like city streets, making the simple act of exploring a delight.
How Has Combat Changed With Pokemon X & Y?
And then we come to mechanics, an event in which the Pokémon franchise has rarely been known to stumble.
Once again, it’s a near flawless showing and the expert-level paper-scissors-stone elemental system at the heart of the battle system doesn’t falter even with the introduction of the first new type since the second generation.
Fairy serves to redress the balance a little, giving ever-popular Dragon types a reason to worry while offering a welcome buff to Poison and Fire type Pokémon.
As with a decent fighting game, it’ll be months before the full impact of this and the myriad other balance changes can really be proven to be successful but at a glance – albeit a glance which has already lasted almost 100 hours at the time of writing – it seems to be a pretty positive step.
As, we’re sure, newly reclassified monsters like Granbull and Clefable (both among the retroactive Fairy additions, just as Magnemite’s evo line became part Steel in Gen 2) will agree.
In fact, it’s great just to see battling brought back to being the main focus of the game.
As amusing as distractions like Pokéwood and the musicals might have been in the short term, we can’t think of a single non-violent additional activity that has offered any real lasting substance to the series.
EV, IV And Pokemon X & Y
The revised Exp. Share makes it easier than ever to train an entire party at once (although doing so will usually result in a fairly broad EV spread – hit Super Training first or be ready to reset EVs and start training over if you want your squad tournament-ready) and makes leveling a breeze, perhaps even slightly too easy if anything.
Not that we’re about to start complaining that our Pokémon are getting too powerful or anything, but hey – it’s at least worth pointing out.
There are even a few welcome steps taken towards transparency in terms of the game’s more complex mechanics – if you do your homework, you’ll find that this supposed kids’ series is actually one of the deepest and most complicated RPGs on the market.
An in-game NPC can advise as to whether or not a new ally is worth training based on its raw stats, while EV training (the process of improving certain stats over others through selective battling) is also a little easier.
The old methods still work just fine, though newcomers to the competitive side of things will likely find the new Super Training system easier to understand.
Pokemon X & Y’s Super Training
Here, individual stats can be boosted with mini-games and punching bags with the results plain to see on the graph on the lower screen – growth can even be quite easily erased if you mess up or realise that a fully trained monster has far greater potential.
It’s still not quite as clear or obvious as it could really do with being in order to get the masses on board, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
In fact, it’s only the lack of strategy involved in the new Mega Evolution mechanic – which pretty much boils down to equipping the right stone and choosing to level up when the Pokémon first enters battle, because why wouldn’t you? – and a comparatively lacklustre endgame for the series that even starts to let it down.
And even then, that’s almost just clutching at straws and looking for problems.
Finding and experimenting with Mega Evolutions is exciting research for any aspiring Pokémon professor, while the relative lack of substantial solo post-game content (beyond tracking down and training your army of monsters) will almost undoubtedly be overshadowed by the newly emphasised social and competitive aspects once the game is properly out in the wild.
Pokemon X & Y Review
Pokémon X and Y look the part on 3DS, take more fundamental risks than any core game in the series to date and attempt to open the competitive field to more entrants than ever before – that’s three huge pluses (Plusles?) right there.
It pretty much ticks (Joltiks?) every box for existing fans and creates a great entry point for newcomers and returning trainers alike, making it an easy recommendation and one of the best games on 3DS.
Version Tested: 3DS