Review: 'Pokémon X' and 'Y' for the Nintendo 3DS
So, here we are again, with the second new batch of Pokémon introduced via semi-anthropomorphic fox; while Zorua and Zoroark got that honor last time, this time the new starter Pokémon, including Fire starter Fennekin, were the first glimpse at the new Pokémon. And, okay, Fennekin doesn’t exactly start out even semi-anthropomorphic, middle evolution Braixen evolves a mini-skirt (regardless of gender, of course) while final evolution Delphox goes for something a bit more modest (and slightly less gender specific).
If for some odd reason you’re a furry who doesn’t like foxes in mini-skirts (I guess it’s possible, but please explain yourself in the comments), well, you’ve also got the Water starter Froakie who turns into a frog ninja Greninja. That’s just the starters, and with those two, we’ve already got the furriest set of starters pretty much ever (though the Grass starter manages to be fairly non-anthropomorphic despite becoming more-likely-to-drop-the-animal-than-anthropomorphic Fighting type, as well as pretty lame, actually). So, that should make furries excited.
But does the game add anything to the formula? Well, this is one of the most radical overhauling of the basic framework of the Pokémon games since at least the second generation. Most of this new stuff works, but there are some issues as well.
One of the big selling points of this pair of games is that it is the first time the series has been in 3D, and not just via the 3DS’s titular gimmick (a gimmick, that, by the way, is already on its way out). The player’s character, the various NPCs and the in battle Pokémon are now 3D models instead of 2D sprites; seeing how moving sprites were only introduced last generation, this is a fairly big step up for the series.
However, this change is purely aesthetic; the basic game-play is unchanged, with your character walking around a set path while you control him from a bird’s eye view, and battles are still played the same as they ever were. And, truth be told, the graphics are impressive when compared to previous Pokémon games only; really they are very simplistic and not that eye popping.
The game adds 69 new Pokémon, which is the smallest amount of new Pokémon added yet; some of them are nice, others not so much. It’s largely a matter of taste which ones you end up caring about, if any, but I will reiterate that the starters are, with the exception of the Grass types, some of the best in a while.
They also add a second twist to the paper-rock-scissors in that each of the three starters gain a second type in the final evolution which … actually doesn’t change much by keeping them weak and strong against the other starter they were already weak or strong against, this time with Fighting/Psychic/Dark replacing rock/paper/scissors. Fire type Braixen evolves into Fire/Psychic type Delphox, which makes it doubly weak against Water/Dark Greninja but doubly strong against Grass/Fighting Chesnaught, for instance.
All the Pokémon added are completely new; no pre-evolutions or new evolutions, with the exception of one new Eeveelution; Sylveon, a Fairy type, which is the new 18th type added this generation. It was apparently added to give Dragon Pokémon another weakness, which were rare and hard to find in early games but have steadily become just as common as any other type in later games. A few older Pokémon have been retconned into becoming Fairy; Jigglypuff and its evolutions are probably the most high profile, though none of them are the really animal based type that would normally appeal to furries.
Sylveon also makes use of a new feature for this generation, the Pokémon-Amé; this is a feature that allows you to treat your Pokémon more like digital pets. You can pet them using the 3DS’s touch screen, feed them and play mini-games with them (thankfully, the digital pet aspect is limited, and you don’t have to, for instance, clean up any Poképoops). Using this feature on an Eevee allows you to evolve a Sylveon.
If you’d prefer to treat your Pokémon more like the tiny bits of digital information needed to play a game they really are, the Pokémon-Amé still provides a use; in addition to the traditional hidden “happiness” stat that has been around since the second generation, Pokémon gain a second happiness bar that, when maxed, will allow Pokémon to gain experience faster, as well as increase the likelihood of critical hits in battle, survive hits that should knock them out, dodge attacks and even shrug off status ailments such as Poison or Paralysis. It’s incredibly useful, and I hope it sticks around.
I’m not so sold on the other major new feature introduced, the idea of Mega-Evolution; basically, it feels like the creators of Pokémon have ripped off old rival in the Mons game Digimon’s style. At a certain point in the game, you gain the ability to make certain final form Pokémon temporarily evolve into even bigger versions of themselves, with new stat increases, abilities and even occasionally type changes.
They revert back to their old form once the battle is over, which is the point; it allows older Pokémon like Kangaskhan to keep competitive with the new kids on the block without creating a new final form that may not go over as well, a frequent complaint with the fourth generation of Pokémon (Lickilicky, I’m looking at you). I get the thought process, but the actual procedure is a bit annoying.
In a neat little trick involving the 3DS’s ability to save your geographic location, the new Pokémon Vivillon has different appearances depending on where in the real world you find it (I’m just guessing, but I’d hazard most of my readers will end up with a “Modern” variant). This is pretty much just another gimmick to keep obsessive collectors collecting, but it’s still pretty cool.
The game does allow you to transfer older generation Pokémon from last generation, but unlike previous generations, this feature isn’t built into the game; you have to download it from the Nintendo eShop, along with the Pokémon Bank which is not free. There was a free trial period, but it singlehandedly managed to break the Nintendo eShop for a while, so hopefully next generation Nintendo learns from this mistake and just builds the darn transfer system into the game like it used to.
Now we come to the real weakness of the game, and that is the story. It’s just terrible, and is actively in poor taste.
First of all, the bad guy’s plan is both way too evil, and way too stupid, for even a Pokémon game. The bad guy decides that people in this world are rotten to the core, so he’s going to blow the world up, using machine another character used to gain immortality and bring dead Pokémon back to life.
Also, there’s a legendary Pokémon involved, somehow. I’m not sure, what, exactly Xerneas and/or Yveltal have to do with the plot. I almost think they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Hey, guys, just popping up here to see what’s going on … Oh, my Arceus! Is that a doomsday weapon/immorality granting device over there?” And then some kid throws a Master Ball at them.
Anyway, the immortal guy who originally built the machine did so because his favorite Pokémon died in a war. Look, any time the line “Get me and this here sniper’s rifle up to and including one mile of the Pokémon, with a good line of sight, and pack your bags, boys. War’s over.” has a chance of being uttered seriously, you’ve messed up (and, no, that line doesn’t actually exist in the game, but it could have).
Yes, I know Lt. Surge was a soldier in the first games, but that was a one off deal that was awkward but not the actual story of those games, so we could ignore it and move on. Yes, I know, there was that entire game about Pokémon going to war, but it sucked anyway. My point is, war and Pokémon should be kept at arm’s length. It’s disrespectful, on one hand, and also really not fun, on the other. Just don’t do it.
So, the whole thing is really awkward, and there’s a twist you’ll see coming a mile away about who the main bad guy is based solely on his lack of fashion sense. And this is a nitpick, but Team Flare is even more of a fashion disaster than normal for Pokémon villains. Also, the grunts are recruited based on who can afford the entry fee to the gang, which is a great way to make sure you pick out the few worthy of salvation when you’re trying to destroy the world because people are terrible.
God, this game’s story sucked.
After the main game, just to point how awful the main story was, the player can start up a new story which is basically a Pokémon noir, involving a private detective and a homeless orphan that is actually quite touching, if still pretty nonsensical (hey, it’s Pokémon). It should have been the real story the first time.
So, in conclusion, the gameplay is as good as it ever was, even improved upon in many ways, with enough new, fresh additions to keep even old hands entertained. The story is an incomprehensible, reprehensible mess, but who plays these game for the story, anyway?