Reviews: Pokemon X and Y
Before we start doing a Pokémon X and Y guide for this week I think it would be best for me to knock out a Pokémon review. This review will be for the Pokémon Y version. Both are effectively the same so you pretty much know what you are getting by hearing about one or the other.
I suppose the first thing to mention is that this is the first Pokémon handheld game to be completely in 3D. I was initially worried a few years back at just how the monsters would translate into 3D from 2D. This was actually put to rest before this particular game ever saw the light of day because of the Pokedex application that was released a year or so prior. Seeing many of my favorites looking amazing in 3D was enough to calm my worries and get me genuinely excited for the prospect.
Then came the advertisements and leaks. With each new piece of information I was getting more and more excited. Equally I was getting more and more paranoid, could it really be this good? Could this game really accomplish all these things? Could it become the next great experience for me?
It is tough to say given the love-hate relationship I seem to have with Nintendo, they give me wonderful games like Super Mario Galaxy or Super Smash Brothers Melee and then they turn around and give me New Super Mario Bros and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. I feel like we’ve entered into this strange abusive relationship where they beat me hard so that each day without a beating feels like a victory.
Certainly in the case of Pokémon Y I am seeing the sunlight at the end of the abusive Nintendo tunnel. From the very first second that I started the game up I heard an astounding score, saw a fantastic introduction, and even got a bit drooly at the press start screen. I was hooked.
You begin the game with the Professor reminding you that you really haven’t got any distinguishing sexual characteristics. “Are you a boy or a girl?” Fair enough, you are kind of an asshole, but I’ll humor the question. Once the prompts were all finished I saw the picture of my avatar standing at full size in the middle of the screen. It reminded me of that first moment when I loaded up Pokémon Blue as a child. I saw this little boy and I wanted to be him, I was so excited, and then he shrank into a fantastically small sprite.
I was momentarily heartbroken as a kid. I didn’t understand just what was in store for me in that game. How they would fit the largest game I had ever experienced into a cartridge the size of a fig newton. You might not be impressed these days but the size and scope of Pokémon Red and Blue (and even more perversely Gold and Silver) was beyond anything kids of my era could handle. If anything blew minds, it was those games.
I watched as my character stood and then…he didn’t shrink. He stood proudly in the center of his room and told me that this was a new age. It took some 20 years but my Pokémon Trainer was finally going to stand tall. From that moment on I kept feeling nothing but joy from this game. Every ten minutes some change they made became apparent to me and I was floored.
The dynamic of the series has completely shifted and for the better. The meta game changes (like poison not effecting poison Pokémon, or plants being immune to spore attacks) help give combat a more reasoned and intuitive feel. The experience all becoming a key item instead of a hold item is extremely huge. The Pokémon-aime and the perks from being affectionate towards your Pokémon. The change to EVs making them more concrete and easy to comprehend (something I’ll touch on more this week with a guide). The change to IVs making them less of a pain in the ass. The list genuinely goes on and on and on.
This is the best improved version of the game and likely the best Pokémon game ever made. Some people might argue against that point but I don’t believe objectively any other title comes close. As much as I adore red, blue, gold, and silver, they each had dramatic flaws that people tend to overlook (like the extreme issue with nearly everything paralyzing you in red and blue for about 80% of the game, it caused game progression to crawl).
As I mentioned earlier the music is astoundingly good. I get the jingles stuck in my head and occasionally they literally haunt my dreams. While many are far too short the little bits that do exist are excellent and some of the best in the series. While in this case I prefer some songs from RBGS (and to a lesser extent the other games) I can find little to complain about on this front. The shop music in particular when you are buying clothing is really catchy. Darn shame I own all the clothes and have no reason to go hear it anymore :/.
The art style is excellent. They captured the look and feel of hundreds of Pokémon with excruciating detail. The passion in this project is apparent and it bleeds through every inch of the game. Ever animated attack, ever faint, every screech, it all captures you and proudly shows off its quality. You never (or nearly never) find yourself seeing a Pokémon appear and being disappointed. I’ve adored every one I’ve seen and even some that looked terrible in Black and White look fantastic in Pokémon X and Y.
The villains are actually pretty good. A lot of reviewers have scolded the enemies in Pokémon X and Y but I feel like they didn’t quite grasp the humor behind them. Team Flare is the embodiment of vapid consumerism and jaded narcissism, that is the entirety of their culture. They are about blind fashion, mindless servitude, and class snobbishness. They aren’t supposed to have a good backstory, they aren’t supposed to be relatable, and they aren’t supposed to be interesting. Every last member and every last rationale is supposed to cause your eyes to roll and for an uncontrollable groan to escape your lips.
And it does, it really really does. Where in Black and White the enemy was militaristic and steadfast, the enemy in X and Y is aimless and moronic. This is by design and I think that they met their goal. Think of Jennifer Anniston from Office Space, those pieces of flare, how vapid that rule was and how petty the reasoning behind it. This is the essence of the double entendre that is Team Flare. If nothing else, if you read this before playing the game you’ll at least know what the intent was (or certainly seems to be) and you won’t be disappointed by them.
The challenge level of this game is down from previous entries but I think that is because of the changes to EXP in the game. The developers made a dramatic change and I think that when you shift your design focus after two decades of doing a particular thing there are going to be some hiccups. That said the entire game is delightful to roll through and I never once found myself trying to skip a trainer battle. Plus once you beat the game you can visit the Battle Maison and have your head punched through your ass if that’s your thing.
The gyms are imaginative and the elite four is visually delightful. This is easily the most gorgeous Elite 4 Hall of any title.
Though I didn’t mention them in this review, I will discuss training and Pokémon-aime more later this week. They are great and though each has their shortcomings they are a positive experience on the game. Additionally the online systems are obscenely improved over all previous titles. Trading is easier than ever with you just clicking on someone’s face on the bottom screen and trading from basically anywhere at any time that you want. The addition of O-Powers adds another friend aspect where buddies can help make eggs hatch faster, Pokémon become more or less frequent in the wild, make you stronger, get you more exp, or even more money. Wonder trading is awesome too and I’ll discuss it more later this week. Basically it’s a blind trading system that just gets better over time.
If I had to complain about the game I’d hit on a few fronts. The first is that evolutionary stones are a pain in the ass to collect. It is not fun in the slightest. You have to play certain versions of the training games to get them and these were designed by that one guy in the Pokémon Office that nobody liked. I don’t know what his Japanese name is but if he had an American one it would be “Chad”. Fuck Chad, seriously.
The next complaint would be the addition of name censoring. If I want to name my Weedle “Weedie” That should by my prerogative. If you don’t want that little kids seeing my innocently named Weedle then you can have it default to its original name during trade or just lock it from trading. Do not stop me from using the names I want. I tried to name a Drifloon “Booberry” because it’s a ghost that looks like a blueberry. Well fuck me, I couldn’t do that. Of course you can name something “D!ckbutt” if you like, because word filters don’t work and they just piss everyone off. This particular problem is so irritating for me that I nearly want to take the entire review of the game down a peg. But its difficult to do so considering how good most of it is.
They’ve also removed the casino completely which I find to be incredibly unfortunate. I would have loved a game shop where I can go play a simple Pokémon card game, or pachinko, or pinball and earn points to buy things like evolutionary stones and hold items. The loss of this is one of the hardest things for me. I know it sounds petty but I loved Celadon city and every incarnation of that city since. For me Pokémon casino was a part of the franchise and to watch it vanish because of fear of parental backlash is disappointing.
Also the loss of things that I’ve mentioned in this post all disappoint me but I’ve gotten used to Gamefreaks taunting me with a new awesome idea and then never using it again.
But don’t let this fool you. I’ve completed the entire Pokedex at this point, started breeding for perfect IV Pokémon, and mystery trade like its going to win me money. This game is one of the best I’ve played all year and is easily one of my favorite games of all time. I highly recommend Pokémon X and Y. They are not perfect but they will remind you of a simpler time when games wanted you to be happy and they presented you with a nearly nonstop feel good experience.
And not a once did it punch me in the dick and ask me to buy DLC. I appreciate that.
Heh Heh…I got the joke in your header…