The “Pokemon” franchise has seemingly been stuck in a state of flux, being unable to move past the many tropes and conventions that made it popular in the first place. While the games themselves have generally been stellar, they’ve hardly made any major improvements over one another, aside from adding a new batch of creatures every installment. With “X” and “Y,” though, the series makes several sweeping changes that make the latest entries great for both newcomers and seasoned trainers alike.
The only letdown is the premise, which remains relatively unchanged when compared to the other massive improvements presented. You are a Pokemon trainer who journeys across the land in search of Pokemon, creatures with special powers that are used for studies, battling, companionship and other things. Your goal is to battle and participate in the Pokemon League and become the best trainer in the land.
It’s practically the same story as previous games in the series, and this comes as a massive letdown. The previous entries, “Pokemon Black” and “White,” deconstructed the many cliches in the series and added more mature and complex themes regarding good, evil, and the inevitable question about the ethics concerning Pokemon battles. “X” and “Y” go back to basics, and the story at times feels childish as a result.
However, the changes to the formula more than make up for the simple story, the first and most noticeable of which is the art style. The series’ trademark sprites have been all but removed, with all trainer and Pokemon models being in full 3-D, “Pokemon Stadium” style. The game looks absolutely beautiful as a result, and battles and worlds can be breathtaking compared to the simple visuals of older entries.
Other changes affect things like competitive balance. A new Pokemon type has been added to help keep other overpowered Pokemon in check, for example.
In addition, there’s the online community. Players will never be alone as long as there’s a Wi-Fi hotspot nearby, allowing them to access the trademark battle and trade features online and through Nintendo’s Streetpass system, which allows players to communicate with passerby 3DS owners. Combining this with the ability to now customize your in-game avatar makes communicating with other trainers a snap.
It’s a shame the story had to stay so rooted in the cliches of the series, because the rest of the games made great strides to rank them among the most unique games in the series. This feels like the definitive “Pokemon,” and in a sea of angsty, fantasy RPG dramas, wanting to be the very best that no one ever was has a nice appeal to it. For 3DS owners, this should be a no-brainer.
Games: “Pokemon X” and “Y”
Developer: Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo 3DS