The Pokémon series is one of those franchises that can remain largely unchanged in its formula and still remain loved by its fans. Every new generation adds not only new Pokémon to its roster, but provides major game enhancements, both to introduce new mechanics and to improve on old ones.
Pokémon X and Y are the first games in the main series to use an entirely new engine, with a new graphic style and new controls. However, beneath all that shiny coat of paint is the same Pokémon game you’re probably all too familiar with.
In Pokémon X and Y, you play as a young Pokémon trainer who is about to receive his or her first Pokémon. Throughout your journey, it is your task to explore new locations, catch and train Pokémon, battle trainers, challenge all eight gym leaders across the region, and ultimately challenge the Elite Four to become the Pokémon Champion. For those who are unfamiliar with the series; this has been the same structure since the original Pokémon games; it works very well for a game that emphasizes exploration and collection.
Regardless of your play style, your progression through the game will remain largely the same: You move from one town or city to another, and these towns are connected by routes that contain tall grass and trainers. Wild Pokémon can be found in tall grass, and trainers will challenge you to battles… There are dungeons scattered here and there which are rather diverse (you will find yourself exploring forests, caves, tunnels and mountains, each with their specific flavour of Wild Pokémon for you to catch).
It goes without saying that the art style of X and Y is gorgeous; character and Pokémon models look more crisp and alive than they have ever been, battle animations and sound effects are similarly top notch and only add to the experience. Seeing the combination of colours and fancy graphics when you pull off different moves is a very unique experience indeed. However, I must mention the occasional drops of frame rate during some animations in battle… Mercifully, though, they are very infrequent to such an extent that it doesn’t take anything away from the game itself.
Controls remain largely the same as always ; the d-pad moves your character, the A button lets you interact with characters and objects, the B button allows you to dash. A new additional method of travel are roller-skates, which your character automatically dons when you use the circle pad to move (provided that you are in an area that allows roller-skates). This cuts travel time a fair amount and mostly eliminates having to rely on the bicycle. That said ; the use of the roller-skates can be bit of a hit and miss when you’re travelling in Lumiose City, which is an area where the camera switches to behind the player character. You will find yourself entering buildings completely by accident because of the awkward camera angles combined with the controls in a 3D environment.
One new addition to the game itself is the new Fairy type (types are basically the “elements” of the Pokémon series). Some older Pokémon have been given a Fairy subtype, while there are new Pokémon that are purely of the Fairy type itself. Of course, some moves have been updated to contain the Fairy type, as well. Not far into the story, your character will acquire the Mega Ring, allowing certain Pokémon that are in their final evolutionary forms, and holding their own unique item, to enter a temporary evolution known as a “Mega Evolution” during battle, another big addition to the franchise. Mega Evolutions provides a small change to the Pokémon’s appearance, as well as providing stat boosts to give you the upper hand in battle.
While the top screen is used entirely for exploration outside of battle, the touch screen allows you to access brand new features such as the Poké-Amie and Super Training. Poké-Amie is a method that allows you to bond with your Pokémon by petting them, feeding them treats, and playing mini-games with them, an experience that players of Nintendogs will be all too familiar with. For those who are looking to sneak in some extra training for their team, Super Training allows the player to play a mini-game that involves shooting footballs at a large balloon while avoiding other footballs being shot at them. These are split into six categories of stats ; depending on the stat you wish to train, and as you play more, you will unlock higher, more difficult levels which will reward you with more stats and eventually, rare items. Both Poké-Amie and Super Training are completely optional, but Poké-Amie does reward you with affection from your Pokémon, while Super Training rewards you additional stat growth points, should you choose to spend time with these features.
An improvement that I must mention is the item known as the EXP Share. While this item is present in the past Pokémon Games, it’s feature has been vastly improved in X and Y. By turning the EXP Share on, all Pokémon in your party will acquire a share of experience points from battles, even if they do not participate. Even catching Pokémon now provides you with EXP, as well. This speeds up training immensely and is a fantastic time-saver, not to mention that it makes the game more accessible.
All in all, Pokémon X and Y does everything it needs to do, and does it fantastically. It is a huge adventure that will keep you busy for a very long time. There are tons of things to do, even after completing the game (Pokémon is a series that provides excellent replayability, and that’s certainly a good thing). The beautiful world and the staggering amount of content will make you come back time and time again for more. Pokémon X and Y is worth your £35.
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