Wednesday, 23 October 2013

'Pokemon X & Y' 3DS Games Review

Seventeen years since the franchise first began and across four generations of handheld consoles, the latest offering from Nintendo are appropriately titled 'Pokemon X' and 'Pokemon Y', revolving around the origins of Pokemon, reshaping the game play and revamping the series both in terms of visuals and substance.

Whilst veterans of the franchise will know, first time players can just as easily follow the story line: you start the game as an aspiring Pokemon trainer who is given their first Pokemon and then goes on a quest to complete the Pokedex, beat gym leaders and ultimately the Elite Four to become Pokemon Champion. In X and Y, the antagonists are a group called Team Flare, who seek out the power of mega stones to fuel a weapon for selfish gain.

The first thing to notice as you power up the game is the stunning visual graphics. Completely revamped for the 3DS engine, the world is in full 3D graphics for the towns and urban locations, whilst the grassy routes still possess the square grid pattern which we have grown to love.

Inspired by France, the Kalos region is star shaped and feature dramatic bridges, a tower inspired by the Eiffel tower and beautifully rendered water scapes. The wind in the grass is even modeled and these fine details make the visual experience that much more enjoyable.

The battle visuals have also been drastically improved. No longer are the movements static and dull. Each Pokemon have subtle movements and the attacks each have improved graphics which are exciting and dramatic, with a moving camera which changes shot angles for a even more intense experience!

Apart from visuals, a new sky battle mode is included which is for flying Pokemon only as well as a horde battle mode where you can encounter a horde of Pokemon (up to 5) which work together or against (eg. Zangoose and Seviper) each other to fight your team.

Another key feature of detail is the ability to customise your character. Upon choosing your gender, you can designate hair colour, hair style, skin tone and more. Once in game, clothing and accessories can also be purchased to further individualise your character, a first in the franchise.

Whilst the graphics are superior to past games, the controls are also perhaps the most difficult to use. With the 3D world, I found that my navigation was inaccurate and speaking to an NPC (had to be face on) was a struggle at times, needing to perfectly orientate my sprite in order to initiate the conversation. However, an improvement in which some NPC dialogue is automatically displayed around the screen as you near them is a vast upgrade and a time saver.

Perhaps the new Pokemon are the most highly anticipated aspect of this new generation of games. X & Y starters Fennekin (fire), Chespin (grass) and Froakie (water) may not be the most aesthetic in the franchise, but they do offer something new. What's more, you are able to pick a generation one starter (Bulbasaur, Squirtle or Charmander) very early on in the game! 

Another huge addition is a brand new Pokemon type: fairy type- the first new type since Gold and Silver, arguably the best games in the series before X&Y. This will shift the balance of Pokemon types and dramatically change the climate of Pokemon teams and strategy as we know it! New Fairy type Pokemon include Sylveon (a brand new Eevee evolution) and Flabebe, with Clefairy finally able to be a fairy type!

The changes don't stop there though! One huge move is the introduction of Mega-Evolutions. Select Pokemon are able to 'Mega-evolve' with the help of mega-stones which not only increase stats, but give them a new appearance too! Whilst this effect is only temporary and only in battle, it too will alter game play and strategy, ultimately shifting predictability of battle outcomes.

For younger players of the game, mini-games are included- Pokemon-amie lets you interact with your Pokemon by feeding, petting and playing, which improves your relationship and Super training is a mini game where you can increase your Pokemon's base stats. 

With connectivity and multi-player capability at the core of Pokemon, X & Y enhances the existing system with the new PPS (Player Search System), which lets you connect with nearby people in real life as well as people all over the world, allowing free trading, battling and the gifting of O-Powers (temporary beneficial effects). 

This is an inquisitive feature which is fully integrated in the game and does not feel segregated like previous games having to enter a whole separate space to carry out those functions. In this way, the ease of connecting up with friends and strangers encourages social interaction and multi-player.

With a total of 718 Pokemon (68 new), Collecting 'em all has never been more of a challenge, but the fact that the team didn't shove another 100+ Pokemon into this game (like they usually do each new generation) shows greater thought in the creative process.

A new add-on called Pokemon bank is compatible with X & Y which is essentially cloud storage for your Pokemon boxes and makes it easier to transfer Pokemon between games. However, it is a paid service and require an annual subscription.

The music and jingles are consistent with previous Pokemon games, with familiar sounds making a welcome return- such as the Pokemon centre jingle etc.

From the opening sequence to the first few seconds of the game, Pokemon X & Y are visually captivating with its new 3D graphics, enriching the architecture, battle sequences and overall dynamism. In its 6th generation, many risks have been taken with the inclusion of new features such as the fairy type and mega evolutions, but the game still feels very much like the Pokemon we loved 17 years ago.

Both fans of the series and newcomers, young and old, will be able to be engrossed in the story line and complex game play, with improvements to the game creating ever-evolving strategies. The improved multi-player capabilities and cross platform compatibility as well as additional software truly give this generation of games greater longevity.

No doubt, Pokemon X & Y redefine the series with a refreshing offering that is truly 'next generation'. The visual style and risk taking sets a new standard for upcoming Pokemon games, making X & Y a milestone for the franchise. Now, Bring on Pokemon Z (we know it will happen)!

VERDICT: 9.5/10. The best game since Gold/Silver.

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