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The new generation of Pokemon finally addresses the majority of fans complaints and brings with it an impressive graphical update, good online features and a few shake-ups in the form of new mechanics. The Pokemon series initially started on the humble original Gameboy in 1996 and sparked a worldwide sensation at the time with comics, books, toys, cards and a TV series adding to the popularity of the franchise. At it's peak it seemed as though every kid in the playground had a pocket full of monsters (Pokemon being the mushed up abbreviation of Pocket Monsters) and I fondly remember using old fashioned link cables to battle my digital 'mons at every break time we were given.
A lot of time has passed since then and although no longer the cultural phenomena it once was, the series still has a healthy supply of fans always looking to 'catch them all'. The basic idea of the games remains unchanged since its inception. You begin in a small town and have just reached the age to be given your first Pokemon. In this world pocket monsters are small creatures who inhabit all regions of the land, usually found in tall grass but also in caves and through fishing and various other means. Pokemon are used by you as the trainer to fight battles with wild pokemon, other trainers and perform basic field moves - such as cutting down a tree or riding a water Pokemon over the sea. Your first 'mon is given to you as a gift and any others must be won. You can attempt to catch any wild Pokemon in a ball, thus making them yours. With better and tougher 'mons requiring significantly more effort to coerce into your party. Luckily it's a nice world here and you are forbidden from stealing (and being robbed!) from other trainers.
On top of the basic world mechanics set out above all games have a set of three goals that give you more freedom as you progress. The freedom to move forward as you want I think is one of the games greatest successes. Your first be tasked with collecting 8 badges from the various gym leaders across the globe. Although the people you fight and the rewards varies from game to game, the general premise remains the same. The leaders act as benchmarks to make sure you've raised your monsters well enough to handle the next section, and systematically unlock the world around you. They become harder as you progress but the difficulty curve has always been on the low side. When you've finished with them your second goal becomes available to beat the Elite Four. This is a selection of hardened trainers who are much stronger and must be faced in sequence, without a break to heal. Again mix ups to the fighters change depending on title played, but this is a nice challenge and fitting end to the scripted part of the game.
Your third and final goal is to collect them all - and there sure is a lot of them now! 718 in total, with 68 new faces exclusive to this generation. Some can only be found in a certain version of the game, encouraging trading and team building. Your Pokemon can evolve in to stronger forms, and have many specific paths they can take. I have always been impressed with the variety in this field of the game - some monsters need a item (say a stone) to evolve others only transform when traded, at a certain time or when they are particularly fond of you. Add to the sheer number the fact they can be bred (and produce an egg off-spawn) and each 'mon has a unique personality and strength and you have a surprising depth to such a cartoonish looking game.
So far I have set out what happens in every version of the game on handhelds, so now lets focus on the changes. Although all the games start the same they do tend to have a unique small story interlaced throughout and this time we are treated to a group dynamic (a first for the series) and the tale of mega evolution. For the first time the story focuses on a group of new trainers, yourself and four others. The five of you are on the same journey, to find out about the new mega evolution, and it's nice to bump into them every time you reach a new haunt to catch up. The main plot hook feeds into probably the most noticeable of the new features too. Mega evolution is advancing a Pokemon past their final form for just the duration of the battle. The featured is limited to specific strong pokemon and the animation and work put into the new forms are superb. Although not the most original idea (has everyone forgot about Digimon yet?) it is well handled and provides a nice boost to the otherwise limited list of new Pokemon this time around.
Graphically the game is stunning. I may perhaps be a little biased here, but the game has needed a good lick of paint for a long time now. The generation before we were still given recycled animation and sounds from the earliest of games, which now look very tired and shabby. Everything is in 3D and looks crisp and fresh. The camera revolves round dynamically as you fight, as it would if filming a real fight. This fixes one of my largest pet peeves about the series (as usually we are only treated to a picture of the back of our monster) and instantly makes fights more enjoyable. If you look back to Blank & White 2 on the DS, although this was only released a year a go, it is so inferior now - it's almost unplayable in comparison.
The other changes include an update to the online features. Nintendo has never been a good company for embracing the new, but gives it an admirable go this time around. You can battle friends and strangers online with ease. Good load times, a good connection and a some firm controls make all of this enjoyable. Another new feature the Wonder Trade, is a cute idea and a good way to help fill your Pokedex. Trading one random 'mon for another instantly - expect a lot of filler before you find that hidden gem.
Other features are mostly minor and it is clear to see that the majority of time was spent of the graphical update and there is no shame in that. There are mini games that are a bare bones affair but tied into making your 'mons stronger they provided a few minutes of fun here and there. Otherwise the changes are largely under the hood. A new type Fairy changes very little as a casual player and the mix ups to move sets and stats are there to make sure the super fans and competitive battlers have a meaty game to play around with. Super training is a good idea as a visual way of training some of the more minor aspects of your 'mons. It would cover far more than then breadth of this review, but EV's are an interesting nod to the games simple on the outside, wickedly deep on the inside methodology.
Overall Pokemon X & Y are a solid set of games, that are welcome on most any gamers shelf. I can recommend the games for long time fans, with many nods and winks to us including being given a Generation 1 starter (Squirtle, Bulbasaur and Charmander) early in the game, sure to make most smile with nostalgia. On the other side I can also recommend to a gamer who might have skipped a generation or two. The updates breath new life into what was beginning to feel like a tired idea, and mixes things up just enough as to retain that familiar feeling. Honestly the updates to the graphics should be enough for the ticket price alone this time around.
It's not going to convince someone who has written off the idea of tiny Pocket Monsters but for everyone else this is a hugely enjoyable romp, filled with nice surprises and solid gameplay. It's good looking, good sounding and most importantly fun to play.
Pokemon has always been a great video game series for children and adults alike, it's child-like gameplay aspects mixed with it's more adult-themed plots always made it a game for all the family to enjoy. I've been a huge fan of Pokemon ever since the original Red and Blue Versions, and I have played every generation since. What can I say about Pokemon Y? It's better than any other Pokemon game to date.
The graphics alone make it feel like a completely different game. Complete 3D visuals with huge cities, caves, mountains, forests and roads more detailed than ever before. The story delivers a repeated yet somehow original plot, that is only made better by the new features such as Mega Evolution, Super Training and Wonder Trade. At this point, there isn't very much you can't do in a Pokemon game.
The new customisaton for the characters is something that is way overdue and honestly couldn't be a more welcome addition to the game. It now feels like every character I trade, battle or play with is different, whereas before it was like seeing a thousand clones of myself. I really can't think of a way they've put a foot wrong. My only criticism would be a lack of new Pokemon, with less new Pokemon introduced in this generation than any before it. But the inclusion of Mega Evolutions somewhat makes up for that, as well as the fact that each Pokemon looks more refined than it ever has before with the beautiful new visuals. If you love Pokemon, you'll love this. If you've never played Pokemon, what are you waiting for?!