Let me start this out on the right note. I have been playing Pokémon for a long time, ever since the days of Red and Blue, link cables and sprite-based graphics. Hell, there’s even a good chance I have been playing since some of you were in diapers. Crystal Baltimore, however, is completely new to the series, so give her great Pokémon X review a read for a very different perspective. That said, the one thing I never did was play the game competitively. I felt that EV and IV grinding took away from the charm and fun of the series, and made it little more than rote, cookie-cutter team building. I always felt that the whole point of the Pokémon series first and foremost was to entertain. If you take the competitive aspect too seriously, I feel it cheapens the whole experience. That isn’t to say I played to lose, however. Just that I approached the series differently than some. Granted, the series has had some ups and downs, and has innovated at a glacial pace sometimes, but X and Y looked to change all that with completely rehauled graphics and new gameplay mechanics. So the real question is, did any of these changes make this release the definitive Pokémon experience? Or was it just a prettier Pokémon Black and White?
I was personally tasked with reviewing Pokémon Y, and I couldn’t have been happier, since I was not enthusiastic of the design of Xerneas, or as I took to calling him, Bambi. Yveltal looked far more promising as far as I was concerned, so I accepted the duty with relish. Pokémon Y certainly improved the graphics, but I have mixed feelings about that.
On the one hand, the graphics are irrefutably better-looking than previous entries, and the Pokémon show much more personality as a result. Attacks are more dynamic and look absolutely stunning. Even the most boring animation from previous generations looks amazing in 3D.
Yet, part of me feels Pokémon could have had these graphics a couple of generations ago. After all, there is a little known game series called Spectrobes, which was something of a Pokémon clone released back in 2007. While it had its share of strengths and faults, graphics were not one of them. They had fully rendered 3D critters three years before Pokémon Black or White came out with mildly enhanced graphics. Call me nitpicky, but I find Game Freak’s pacing to oft times be far too slow when it comes to upgrades. But that is a minor nitpick, and the graphics truly are amazing, and bring a lot more charm to the series as a whole. I especially appreciated the little touches, like flying Pokémon flapping their wings slower when paralyzed, or weather effects showing up on the touch screen. Ignoring a bit of slowdown here and there, they were very enjoyable.
Graphics are not all that Pokémon is known for, however. Pokémon X and Y also boasted several new battle features, such as Horde Battles, Sky Battles and Mega Evolution. If you read my impressions earlier this week, you can see what I initially thought of those features. My impressions are mostly unchanged after beating the game. I was underwhelmed by Horde Battles, which served as little more than annoyances (especially when Hordes are Sturdy), and found Sky Battles to be fun and challenging (though I will say Game Freak dropped the ball by not including a Flying Gym with only Sky Battles). Mega Evolutions were not as overpowered as some were afraid of, and managed to add more tactical aspects to the game. I was disappointed by Poké Mounts, but only because they served little purpose other than to show off what new things the game can do graphically. All the regular aspects of battle were mostly unchanged, and the interface works well for touch controls or button-based gameplay. I found Inverse Battles to be the most exciting new feature, but unfortunately they were only implemented a sparse handful of times.
One other new aspect of battling needs to be discussed, and it is the new Fairy type. Game Freak trumpeted the new breed, saying how strong it was against Dragons, which is true. Unfortunately, I found Fairy types to be somewhat of a one trick pony. Yes, they decimate Dragon, Fighting and Dark, but against anything else they are pretty mundane. I was further irritated by how they were only weak to Steel and Poison, two of the more irregular Pokémon types. Though they were cool, much like the other new features, they weren’t implemented consistently well or often enough.
One thing I can say I loved about Pokémon Y was how streamlined everything was. From the Boxes to the menus, everything in Pokémon Y is easy to navigate and just makes sense. Using TM and HM’s is far less annoying, since you have a display of your party Pokémon right next to the selected item, and it displays which Pokémon can learn, or have already learned, that move. I appreciated how easily you could switch from the item menu to PSS, Pokémon-Amie and Super Training. Hell, even the wait time for saving and getting your Pokémon healed at a Pokémon Center were greatly reduced, making the process much smoother. Even simple things like trading or battling online couldn’t be easier, just so long as you have some friend codes. Even moving around was streamlined with the roller blades, which allow a much broader range of movement. I didn’t even use the bicycle anymore, and I love not having to constantly hold down a button to run. The more Game Freak does this sort of thing, the more willing I am to invest in their future games.
Another aspect of the game that I enjoyed far more than I expected was Super Training and Pokémon-Amie. As I said earlier, I never play Pokémon games with competitive training in mind. I hate the idea of only battling specific wild Pokémon to train one stat in order to make overpowered teams. Yet, I found Super Training to be not only fun, but satisfying. The simple evasion and attack games made training a breeze, and I found myself making the most out of obscure Pokémon with it. I especially enjoyed using the process to make my Hawlucha an absolute beast.
Pokémon-Amie, meanwhile, also surprised me. I normally hated the sub games in previous Pokémon games, finding them little more than wastes of time, but because of the enhanced graphics, I enjoyed Pokémon-Amie. The various games were not only simple to learn and fun, but they were graphically reminiscent of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which made them very easy on the eyes. There is also something to be said of bonding with your Pokémon by feeding and playing with them. Eevee was especially adorable, and this made the process of evolving it to Sylveon much more fun.
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