PN Review: Pokemon X
1998 is a year in gaming I will never forget. I was 10 years old, and like many others my age, I had been smitten with Pokémon fever. After begging my dad for my very own copy of Blue version, Squirtle and I started out on our very first Pokémon adventure. Fifteen years later, with the release of Pokémon X and Y, I set off again to help the professor complete the Pokédex while striving to fight my way to the top as the best Pokémon trainer in the region. The story may be the same, but in such a short time we’ve come a long way.
The most exciting change to the series has to be the introduction of the 3D graphics. Gone are the days of two-dimensional towns filled with flat Pokémon sprites. The 3D models of the Pokémon add a lot of charm to the game, and I found myself excited to see how some of my favorite Pokémon looked in this new style. Thanks to the clever use of the in-game camera, I felt more grounded in the Pokémon universe as I explored the new three-dimensional towns around the Kalos region. Despite some camera annoyances in the game’s largest town, Lumiose city, I found the camera’s zoom features to be intuitive, and it helped me appreciate the details put into the world around me. It is clear Game Freak learned how to better use the camera from their experiences with Pokémon Black and White version. My only gripe is that unless you are on your roller skates, movement is still locked onto a fixed grid, and that “restricted” feeling took away some of my excitement at being able to move freely while exploring.
Music is just as important in making a game a success as the graphics are. The music in the Pokémon games has always been upbeat and catchy, but Pokémon X takes it to a whole new level. The battle music is fast paced and energizing, and each town has its own unique song to fit the mood of the city. The quality of the music went beyond what I expected, and is best enjoyed with headphones to get immersed in the experience.
Pokémon has been a series that has always innovated the way we interact together on our hand-held gaming consoles. Pokémon X is no exception. The introduction of the Player Search System, aka PSS, makes finding players to trade and battle with a breeze. This adds tons of replay value to the game, as you will always have someone to interact with. The Global Trade Station is available right of the bat, so you won’t have to wait in order to start making trades with people around the world. Wonder Trades let you randomly connect and trade Pokémon with another player. While it is a gamble, it’s a lot of fun to see what kind of Pokémon you might get.
One of the most enjoyable parts of Pokémon is being able to challenge players to online battles with your favorite Pokémon teams. Unfortunately, because the mechanics of Individual and Effort values (abbreviated as IV’s and EV’s respectively) of Pokémon were difficult for some to grasp, trainers who knew how to EV train their Pokémon had a clear advantage over those who didn’t. Pokémon X levels the playing field by making EV training more accessible to players by turning it into a mini-game. The mini-game is similar to soccer (or football, if you prefer) where you launch balls into goals in order to train your Pokémon in a desired stat. This new method is fun and far more efficient to EV train, and it makes it accessible to all trainers.
Another interesting new feature is Pokémon-Amie. Besides being an amazing pun, it’s a cute feature that lets you interact with your Pokémon by feeding, petting, and playing games with them. The mini-games are surprisingly addictive: They include a sliding puzzle, a berry feeding game, and a breakout-esque game minus the breakable blocks. While spending time with your Pokémon may be a fun distraction, caring for your Pokémon will help increase their happiness stat which can help with evolutions of certain Pokémon, and may even give them experience boosts or other positive effects in battles. You also have a room within the Pokémon-Amie app that you can decorate with furniture that is given to you by Pokémon from other trainers. It’s a fun way to use the online connectivity of the 3DS to see what Pokémon other trainers are raising. Pokémon-Amie is a great feature for fans that have always wanted to be able to interact with their Poke’Partners.
For the most part, the battle mechanics of the Pokémon games have received little tweaks here and there with each new generation. For the first time since Gold and Silver version, a new type, Fairy, has been added to the mix. Meant to balance out the over powerful dragon types, I felt the selection of Fairy type Pokémon to be lacking in both their numbers and their design. Luckily, this is something that can easily be remedied in future games.
Also new to the series is the introduction of Mega-Evolution. When a compatible Pokémon is paired with a matching stone, the trainer is able to push the Pokémon past its previous limits into an all-new evolution. This feature will definitely lead to some exciting online Pokémon battles, but I was disappointed that only a handful of Pokémon can harness this power. I feel Game Freak missed an opportunity to give some Pokémon who have no evolution or who have poor stats a shot at the competitive battling scene. Mega-Evolution gives a fun twist to battles, and we can only hope more Pokémon unlock this power in future generations.
Pokémon is a game series that is universally loved by young and old alike. Whether you are a veteran player marveling at how far the series has come over the years, or a brand new trainer learning the ins and outs of battling; there is something for everyone. It’s clear that when creating this game, Game Freak was attempting to “Mega-Evolve” the series into something new and surprising for all their fans. For the most part, I believe they succeeded. The upgrade to the visuals and music are beyond what I was expecting, and the improved interactivity with other players make this a game worth coming back to over and over again. While Mega-Evolution and the Fairy type add a new twist to the formula, more Mega-Evolution compatible Pokémon and more of the Fairy type will help elevate these mechanics to the places they need to be. If you love Pokémon, or are a fan of the original, then I highly recommend experiencing these games. The future of Pokémon is bright, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. If you need me, I’ll be busy training up my team for online battles. Perhaps we will battle someday, young trainer. In the famous words of Gary Oak, I leave you with three simple words: smell ya later!