Game Review: 'Pokémon X & Y'

Platform: 3DS

Style: 1-Player Role-Playing (4-Player Online)

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Game Freak

Release: October 12

Rating: E

The Bottom Line: 8.75/10

Concept: Build a more-attractive version of the standard Pokémon game, with a number of changes both big and small

Graphics: Seeing the world and creatures in rich new detail makes the universe all that much easier to get lost in. Character and Pokémon animation are excellent, especially during battle

Sound: Remixed and new music offers some hum-worthy tunes, but you won’t be missing out on an important part of the game by playing with the sound off

Playability: The ability to finally move diagonally makes moving your trainer far more comfortable to control. It finally feels like you are moving a person instead of chess piece. Menu navigation and battling remains largely unchanged

Entertainment: I haven’t had this much fun with a Pokémon game since I explored the Johto region in Pokémon Gold and Silver

Replay Value: High

HEADLINE: Seeing Pokémon from a new angle

Pokémon hasn’t made a concerted effort to step outside of its comfort zone ever since it first released in Japan in 1996 – and for good reason. It found its hook nearly 20 years ago and has held on firm for better and worse. In this way, changing things in Pokémon presents a certain degree of uncomfortable risk. X & Y offer no significant changes in direction to the Pokémon series, but this is the most drastic step the series has ever taken.

Pokémon X & Y looks far different from previous Pokémon games. Pokémon are no longer restricted to 2D sprites, and participate in combat as fully modeled creatures. Instead of making a couple of two-dimensional images butt heads, you now see creatures with their own idle animations and combat moves come to life on screen. It may be a cliché to say they, “come to life,” but the new models make a difference. The Pokémon now feel more real than they ever have. The polygonal models also allow the camera to move around the combat arena making every battle more engrossing.

The world itself also benefits from the new dimension. This isn’t the first time we’ve walked around in a modeled, non-flat Pokémon world, but this is the first time that the full game has been presented this way. As a result, the world feels more fluid, consistent, and explorable.

The path through the game and its interconnected cities and towns is more rigid in X & Y, with fewer branches and opportunities to get lost. Pokémon fans who love exploring dense maze-like regions are going to be disappointed by the lack of opportunities to veer off the beaten path, but it helps the pacing tremendously. It also makes the world more inviting to new players and those who have stepped away for a few years and are interested in returning.

Despite the smartly implemented world constrictions, walking around and tracking down wild Pokémon in the tall grass is still exciting. That exciting feeling of coming across a brand-new Pokémon you’ve never seen before, or finally catching that one that has been eluding you still comes through, and is aided by the game’s new look. And watching them evolve into new forms continues to be the ultimate reward for leveling your team.

Many familiar pocket monsters return in X & Y, which is exciting as you get to see them in their new 3D models. Some of the new Pokémon are laughably bad, like Kefki, who is literally a ring of keys. However, the new Pokémon who are meant to be cute (like Bunnelby) are exactly that, and the cool and ferocious Pokémon like (Tyrantrum) are worth adding to your team. Even the bad ones are fun to discover and show off.

Mega Evolutions are one of Pokémon X & Y’s most publicized new features and while they are cool, they don’t drastically change combat. Once you find the appropriate item and attach it to the appropriate Pokémon, mega evolving can be performed during battle, and does not eliminate a turn. It’s a free move to make your fighter stronger, and seeing the additional evolutions are exciting. The one downside to the Mega Evolutions is the necessity of sitting through their animations each time you use them – which is often.

Pokémon X & Y does not break the mold of what we expect when we play a Pokémon game. It goes down the check list of important Pokémon features, neatly ticking them off one by one. It still feels like a Pokémon game, but the ease of player control, the updated art direction, 3D graphics, and the scaling of the world make everything more inviting, attractive, and fun. It’s a great stepping-on point for new trainers, and a worthwhile continuing adventure for those who know what to expect.

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