Saturday, November 2, 2013

Review: Pokemon Y

Review by EggBeatr8 

Title: Pokemon Y
Developer: GameFreak
Platform: 3DS
Bottom Line: A Mega, Mega Evolution for Pokemon.

I scoff at the naysayers that claim that the mainstream Pokemon games never change. Replace Call of Duty's enemies with robots and it's automatically a new game, yet you could reboot the entire Pokemon series with 700 new Pokemon as an Action-space-shooter-racer-RPG and critics would still call it "the same game". That's the world we live in: the same world where that said "same" game (or games) would go to sell over 5 million copies in a week, on a system people still believe is just another DSi upgrade. Now that's something you can't argue. Is it all just a fluke though? Do people have bad taste for gaming and are just buying it because everyone else is? As a long time Pokemon fan since Pokemon Red, I can safely say that if Pokemon was the exact same game over and over I would've quit playing it years ago. The only peer pressure associated with a new Pokemon game is the thought of yourself missing out on a new installment....a brand new adventure. And quite frankly, Pokemon X/Y is an adventure that you wouldn't want to miss.

The most obvious change in this Pokemon outing is the full graphics overhaul. For the first time on a portable console, the trainers, scenery, and of course Pokemon have all been fully 3D-rendered. Pokemon have never looked more alive since the release of Pokemon Stadium graced the N64 and it's about time too. Kalos looks absolutely amazing, and the scenery more-or-less tries to mimic that of France, from which the region hints to be inspired from. The scenery even looks better in 3-D...when you're allowed to use it. If there's any indication that Nintendo is slowly extinguishing the use of 3-D, Pokemon X/Y is a good hint. The only time 3-D is really applicable or readily used is in battle or in a few cut-scenes, etc, whilst the rest of the time the 3-D light is off, leading me to assume that if anyone plays the game in 3-D the entire time, they'd find it absolutely jarring and eye-numbing when the game is constantly switching from 2-D to 3-D. But it might just as well be so, considering that the 3-D-less 2DS was released at the same time. Regardless, the game looks just as great if not better in 2D anyway.

Now that we got graphics out of the way let's talk about what we actually care about in a Pokemon: the Pokemon. While there's not a lot this time around (barely 70 counted thus far), the game(s) makes up for the lack of new Pokemon in exchange for an exciting new gameplay twist: Mega Pokemon. About half-way through the game you're awarded the Mega Ring, which let's you Mega Evolve a Pokemon if they're holding their respective Mega Stone(s). While this may seem Pokemon is going into ironic Digivole territory, the Mega Pokemon look fantastic, and it should balance on-line battles out whenever you battle a troll who's team consists solely of Metagross and Dragonite. Unfortunately, Kalos Pokemon can't 'Megavolve', and some Pokemon that desperately need stat buffs (Far'Fetched, Quilfish, Cacturus) are out shadowed by Pokemon who really don't need Mega Evolutions (Garchomp, Tyranitar, Mewtwo). At least it's a smart idea on the right track, but hopefully it balances out in the long run instead of encouraging everyone to spam Mega Mewtwo along with their Metagross.

This won't end well. 

Gameplay wise, Pokemon X/Y is hasn't changed much since Gen V, which isn't a bad thing at all, but luckily, for those who want something different, a very notable addition to the metagame rock-paper-scissors gameplay will forever change the way people play Pokemon: Fairy-types. These Dragon-resistant monsters are only weak to Steel and Poison types, making them formidable foes. Pokemon like Azumarill, Granbul and Gardevoir have received this new type, making otherwise useless/useful Pokemon full-on Dragon slayers, and you can bet the Metagame will be full of them once Pokemon Bank rolls around, and you can transfer you're team(s) from Black and White. Concerning the battle style when battling trainers on the other hand, Pokemon X/Y only features one new battle style called Sky Battles, in which only flying-Pokemon and/or Pokemon with Levitate can partake in. while it's an interesting new form of battle style, it's absolutely infuriating in-game, since your options for flying-types are lackluster this Gen, and you can be sure your opponent will use a Pokemon like Flygon or Aerodactyl, Rock Edge spamming machines, which is bad news for everyone who happened to raise Talonflame (read: 4x the damage or more). A more interesting battle that happens only in wild encounters is horde battles. It pits your Pokemon against five (yes, five) wild Pokemon, may they be a horde of Scraggy, Geodude, or *shudder* Zubat. They're cleverly challenging, (at least until you get a multi-hit move like Surf or Earthquake), and can be easily escaped if you choose to run from them. Horde battles are few and far between, and you probably will encounter a few at most in your adventure, but they're a welcome addition I'd love to see again in future titles nonetheless. 

No Pokemon game lacks a good 300+ hours of gameplay, and Pokemon Y is no slacker. I already accumulated over 90 hours in the main adventure alone, and most of those hours were spent surprisingly on the bottom screen in what has to be the most addictive simulator ever: Pokemon Amie. Amie allows you to pet your Pokemon, give them Poke Puffs, and play mini-games in order to develop a better bond with your Pokemon, and it's unlocked as soon as you get your first Pokemon. While this might seem like it has no real point other than to be a cute little gimmick, it actually aids you in-game by giving your Pokemon an extra boost in EXP points, and your Pokemon might just dodge a foe's attack or sometimes even sustain a blow with 1 HP if you bond with it enough. Another game you'll play on the bottom screen is Super Training, which makes level grinding to get EV's (effort values for potential stat boosts) a thing of the past. Breaking the score record for every Super Training mini-game allows you to play more challenging mini-games that reward you with more EV's (or Kalos points, whatever they're calling them now) which in turn fills up a bar, ending the need to tally up all your points in umpteen notebooks and then finding out you counted them wrong. And last, but not least, we have the PSS, or Player Search System, which shows all you everyone who's playing the game and you interact with them at any time: maybe offering or receiving help in the form of O-Powers, (sort of like Gen V's Pass Powers), or maybe challenging them to a battle or offering a trade. This is all done in one place, and it all comes together perfectly thanks to the game's amazing server, which rarely encounters any serious lagging issues. All-in-all, the bottom screen feels like a whole separate game in itself, and don't be surprised if it eats up half of your weekend.

Concerning Post-game content, it's a little mixed. I've only got as far as the Battle Maison (This Gen's Battle Subway equivalent), so I can't tap on how much more post-game material this, but from what I did experience it was pretty good. Most notable is the Friend Safari, which associates one Pokemon type per each friend registered on your 3DS. The more friends you have increase the amount of Pokemon you can find (limit:3) and if they're on at the same time the chances of catching a rare Pokemon with a hidden ability increases by 50%. This is unpredictably encouraging gamers of all ages to share Friend Codes, which makes the PSS shine even greater. Whether it's post-game or not, the boutique(s) is/are a fun new feature that lets you customize your trainer head-to-toe for the first time. You can customize everything from the shoes you wear to even the hair length and color. Clothes selection and prices change everyday, so prepare for some major re-playability is you're what they call a 'fashion-esta' (which is Nintendo's evil plan to get you from playing animal crossing: New Leaf ever again). Rumors aside that there is DLC content on the way, Pokemon Y offers a good amount of content as is, and should satisfy any trainer for a long time.

In conclusion, I might sound like a broken record for saying "Pokemon (insert sub-title) exceeds in everything that makes the series great and fixes all the problems of the previous blah, blah, blah" every time a new Pokemon game that's released, but it's hard to fight the truth. To say Pokemon Y is the same thing as Pokemon Gold, Ruby, Green, yada yada would be an injustice. Pokemon Y is yet another grand jewel in the series, with only a few rough edges here and there. Perfect for newbies, and fun for returning vets, this is an adventure that's worth ignoring all the haters.

The Good:
+Fantasic presentation.
+Extensive amount of content and exciting new features
+Superb On-line mode.

The Bad:
-Sky Battles are infuriating.

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