I was originally going to publish a post about how much I adore Pokemon, along with my history with it, but I did not feel like editing that wall of text, as I can summarize my thoughts on the series with this: I bought six Pokemon plushies, have a box of old toys, seven volumes of the manga, and once walked about a mile as a four-year-old to get Pokemon toys. I freaking adore the franchise, and it is probably the most influential piece of media I’ve ever been exposed to, as without Pokemon I would not be remotely the same person. So of course I bought Pokemon X, and played it for a good 130 hours, with a couple dozen left to go. However, I want to be somewhat timely.
Pokemon X Review
Release Date: 12/10/2013
Developer: Game Freak
As is as expected as calling the formula expected, Pokemon X keeps the basic framework of the 1996 titles in tact. You are the new boy or girl in a bizarrely small town, are given a starter Pokemon from a professor, and have a group of travelling peers who follow your journey to the top, which happens so fast it’s a wonder why beating the Elite Four is considered a massive achievement. With a uniform group of PG terrorists who use a lot of Poison and Dark type Pokemon and are ultimately defeated around the seventh gym.
It may sound like I am in some way mocking the formula, and I am to a certain extent, as a base for a title, it ultimately works to this day, and is still a very enjoyable climb through a now polygonal world filled with super powered animals. With the specific highs and lows in terms of gameplay being a checklist of things either changed, reverted, or should probably be changed. I went on a similar tangent back when I listed my thoughts on Pokemon Black 2, and I still stand by many of the things I said back then. Yet even with a coat of paint that is new aside from some item and icon sprites, I still saw these spots pretty early on in my neverending quest to try and fill that Pokedex and build about seven teams of six Pokemon. Which happens to still be a work in progress as I’m publishing this.
Let’s start with the random encounter system. A classic formula for enemy encounters, and one that I very much believe to still be perfectly valid with RPGs, as good ones will adjust the encounter rate, EXP, and overall power to keep them at a level that is not repetitive. The problem that comes with Pokemon applying this, is that you are essentially trying to hunt for specific species and possibly their shiny varraint. And when any given area can have up to nine exclusive monsters, with several of them being “rare” on top of that, the system doesn’t hold up as well as it used to be. Especially considering how time consuming it can be to avoid an encounter that is in no way worth the time it would take to have an attack animate.
That’s the problem with attempting to accommodate for 454 Pokemon in the main game alone, as there are more than one species who are never seen outside of the random encounters. While others are only seen in their second form of evolution, with the first one being something only obtainable through breeding them, in what I can only view as padding applied to the game for a reason I cannot hope to pinpoint. As it is now very easy to manipulate one new and one old trait held by each individual monster, but at the same time displays just how much work needs to be done in order to properly raise these magical energy animals.
With the bottom screen of the overworld acting as a gateway to Pokemon-Amie, a minigame where you pet a Pokemon and feed it cupcakes that you earn by playing other minigames. A cute idea, if a little repetitive if you desire for the Pokemon to be pet after every time they faint a foe. Or Super Training, which allows the player to control the mysterious and quite frankly rage inducing Effort Values that anger me about as much as uttering Pokemon and competitive in a sentence without friendly. Although, you manipulate them by playing what I’d describe as a watered down set of flying segments from Kid Icarus Uprising or tapping the bottom screen for about forty seconds. Which is about as fun as it sounds, and it sounds like hearing most of the Pokemon’s horribly compressed cries for half an hour after doing it for the same amount of time.
So it takes away a lot of the grind, to the point I had a level 91 starter by the time I one-hitted most of the Elite Four. But at the same time makes a large part of it more present, and arguably easier to understand, but it just makes me wonder why I need to even bother going through unrelated minigames to get the benefits. Super Training could just be a distribution of points without any of the minigames, while Pokemon-Amie could be an expanded version of the almost ancient idea of an individual Pokemon’s happiness. Sure, that would leave Slyveon needing a new means of evolution, but the manner to evolve so many Pokemon is already head boggling enough without introducing a Dark/Psychic squid who only evolves if you hold your 3DS upside down.
Yet, I do highly approve of one new means of evolution, Mega Evolution. Which essentially allows one of thirty-ish Pokemon to achieve an evolved pseudo-legendary form during battle, with the transformation limited to one Pokemon per battle, and very much temporary. Which only holds some very less than stellar aspects when you consider how not every stone can be found in both versions of the game, often relying on trading through the new online system that only falters in how the 3DS’ online stops when it is closed. With the ability to post a Pokemon for auction being very simple, as is the hunt for obtaining next to every starter and version exclusive. With the ability to bestow other players with enhanced stats or a series of unlockable buffs and later reap the rewards of filling up your friends list very much give the impression that the series has certainly taken its technology into consideration.
Which it also undoubtedly did from a visual aspect, as the game is very much the largest leap for the series when comparing it to any prior generation. Leaving sprites off in the distance aside from minor environmental and menu bits, the overworld is still the same overhead view with the exception of a few areas. Namely a sprawling city that shows the series first stab at camera control, which works about as well as most first stabs into 3D do. However, battling is where the graphical fidelity of the system shines as 718 Pokemon all have fully fleshed out 3D models and their own set of animations for a variety of attacks and being hit by them. With their shockingly smooth and spherical models only seeming more impressive when you rub their bodies in order to cement your “friendship” with the Pokemon.
And while the overworld does certainly look comparable, with nothing being difficult to distinguish and variety only failing when you go through the quota of bullcrap caverns the series is hell bent on including. I am still confused as to why there are no proper battle models for most of the trainers. As only the fully customizable trainer, their friends, and the team of PG terrorists are given such a luxury, as everyone else including the gym leaders only get a close up of a 2D image. A move about as questionable as to why they decided to include rather mundane five versus one horde battles, as having more than four Pokemon models on screen tends to make the animations slow down and are certainly enough for the 3D to be disabled more than it was before. Which amounts to over half of the areas in the overworld, as the feature is oddly dominated by the Pokemon battles themselves.
Oh, but I’ve been beating around the bush long enough, and feel as if I’ve pointed out enough without even mentioning the Fairy type and how little sense Fire being resistant to it made in my mind. Or how poor the design of the berry garden and Battle Chateau are, assuming they’re intended for grinding. Or the user interface that still has it’s head up the butthole that is 199X. Pokemon X and Y continues the trends, and very much progresses the game by cutting as much fat as it can, but not quite enough for my tastes. It is among my favorite games that I’ve played this year, but it is still just a very nice evolution of the series, rather than any form of revolution. To a certain extent, that is perfectly fine, and Pokemon X and Y is very much on the side of introducing plenty for the experience to feel fresh and new, but it also had some of the most obsessive grinding I’ve seen since the games form a decade ago. In other words, it’s like doing a long jump and then falling on your bum. You certainly covered some ground, but everybody expected you to cover a whee bit more.
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.
Also, I originally wanted to do a post where I gushed about Pokemon and showed off most of my collectables. Here’s the picture I would’ve used. Hell, It’s not even all my stuff. Oh, and this is post #300… damn son.