Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pokémon X/Y Early Impressions

Early Impressions: Pokémon X/Y for Nintendo 3DS

Just over 4 hours into Pokémon X and with 36 Pokémon entered into my Pokédex, I feel like now is a great time to provide some impressions from a long time series fan for anyone curious as to how things have changed.  If I can summarize everything I am about to type in one word it would be "streamlined."

Look and Feel

Pokémon X and Y look to add some cool new features to the formula, and alongside new features comes a graphical overhaul that has been long awaited by series fans.  I have played every generation of the main Pokémon series, and I can honestly say the new coat of paint was one of the things I wanted most.  While playing it on my 3DS XL, I cannot help but feel like the handheld version has finally simulated the one thing the home console Stadium and Coliseum games have done well, which is make the battles more exciting.  The home consoles have the announcer to add to the drama, but that is one thing the handheld version is still missing.

Not to be outdone, the audio for this game is also much better than in years past.  That is entirely due to the technical limitations of previous hardware, but nonetheless it is nice to sit and play Pokémon with a good pair of headphones and really enjoy the experience.

Aside from the graphics and sound, the player also gets a bit of an upgrade.  Limited customization options are available for the first time ever.  Aside from picking your character's gender, which you have been able to do in a few of the previous games, you can also pick skin tone and hair color from a few preset options.  As you travel the game world you can also buy custom clothing, another new feature.  It is not full player character customization like you would find in a Mass Effect or Elder Scrolls game, but it is a start that allows for some differentiation.

Pokémon Availability

This is where streamlining comes into play.  In generations past, the player would pick a starter Pokémon from a selection of 3, each having a starting element of Fire, Water, or Grass.  This game is no different, but Nintendo and Game Freak have provided way more options this generation than ever before.

Initially the player gets to choose from Fennekin, Froakie, and Chespin (Fire, Water, and Grass respectively).  Nintendo is also running a Mystery Gift promo right now that allows players to download a Torchic with some pretty cool stats via any Internet connection.  Torchic is the Fire starter from the Game Boy Advance generation of games, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald.  Torchic is not only a solid Fire Pokémon, but it also comes with Boost, an ability that increases its speed after each turn, and an item that will allow it to Mega Evolve later in the game.  More on Mega Evolutions momentarily.

In addition to this generation's starters as well as Torchic, the first ever generation of starters is available for the player to choose from very early in the game.  Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle (Grass, Fire, and Water) allow you a lot of flexibility in your early party, covering all weaknesses that you were stuck with in previous games (anyone remember having just a Charmander to go against Brock's Rock Pokémon in the original game?).  Needless to say half of your party of six can be fleshed out with legitimate starter Pokémon from the outset.

One other huge change that fits into the theme of streamlining is NPC trades.  In previous games you would come across non-playable characters offering you a Pokémon trade.  If your party was full or you did not have the right Pokémon with you, you would have to visit a Pokémon center to access a PC and swap your party out.  Now the PC simply pops up and allows you to access your storage boxes when a trade is prompted, another long overdue feature.  On a sidenote from that, Pokémon Marts are now inside of the Pokémon Centers, so even that is streamlined.  I have not found this generation's Day Care yet, but I hope the interface is improved there as well, though I want to say the Day Cares in previous generations at least had a PC available to swap Pokémon out without having to leave to find a Pokémon Center.

Level Grinding (or lack thereof)

Level grinding is easy to cover here because it is practically non-existent again due to streamlining.  In previous games if you caught a Pokémon later in the game, swapping it into an established party was at times difficult.  You had to either leave the Pokémon at a Day Care to level as you progressed without it or swap the Pokémon in and out of battle to allow it to earn EXP.  Additionally you could use an EXP Share item, which in the past was a Hold item, meaning you had to assign it to a specific Pokémon who would then siphon off EXP from active participants in a battle, leaving only those active participants to receive a percentage of the EXP for the fight they won.  Now the EXP Share, received after the first gym battle is completed, is a Key Item that you register.  It provides EXP to the entire party, where any active participants receive full EXP for their involvement, and all other Pokémon receive a percentage of EXP after that.  Some purists may choose not to use this feature, but the vast majority of players will set it to on and never touch it again.  It is huge for leveling parties.

Another new feature is one that should have been included ages ago.  In previous games if you were battling a wild Pokémon and opted to catch it instead of defeat it, then once the Pokémon was caught no EXP was gained.  Now Pokémon will receive EXP for battles that end with a successful capture.  It is a feature that allows players to truly pursue catching every Pokémon they come across.

Some Pokémon also benefit from friendship ratings that used to only be improved by walking around the in game world while the Pokémon was in your party.  Now the game features a new mini-game mode called Pokémon Amie where you can pet, feed, or play games with party Pokémon.  I originally thought I would ignore this feature after trying it once, but my kids adore it.  This is a great way to get younger children involved in the series, especially since Pikachu, found early in the game if you have some perseverance in the first forest segment, has had its voice altered to match the cartoon version of the character.  A lot of in game characters will compliment you if you catch a Pikachu, and kids will love playing the mini games with it.

Still to Come

I have not been able to fully test all of the features of the new game yet.  Nintendo has been detailing Mega Evolutions in a lot of the press for the games.  These are basically in-battle transformations that allow a Pokémon to gain different abilities or types depending on the Pokémon and the version of the item they are holding.  Mega Evolutions require a specific item to be held by specific Pokémon, and the items change slightly based on the version you play (X or Y).  I hear you can trade Pokémon from one version to the other with the item from that particular game, but have not tested it.

This is also supposedly the most robust online/network capable Nintendo game ever according to some media outlets.  Features include the usual trading, battling, and tournaments from previous versions as well as the ability to cast party buffs on passers-by via Street Pass.  I look forward to test driving these features in the future.

One final and massive change involves what were previously known as Effort Values or Stat Exp.  In previous generations, simply leveling a Pokémon without paying attention to its Effort Values, or EV, would get you crushed in live tournament play.  The formula and understanding of EV training was always complex even for me, so much so that I never bothered with it (and lost plenty of online battles as a result).  I will not bother trying to explain the system, but here is a Bulbapedia page on it for those interested.  This is another streamlined feature in X and Y.  This generation has functionality called Super Training.  I have not gotten into this yet either, but again here is an article, this time on, explaining the new system and how mini games allow better control of EV training to all levels of users.


I may have left a few things out, but those are the major items that caught my attention in the first four hours of gameplay.  Maybe most importantly for fans is that this game still feels like Pokémon even with the new features and presentation.  Any fan of the series will feel right at home, and newcomers will enjoy a modernized trip to the world of Pokémon.

Enjoy playing.
- Scott

No comments:

Post a Comment