3DS / Pokemon

Pokemon X and Y: The Very, Very Best

poke1Pokemon games were a huge part of my younger days, but sometime around the release of Diamond and Pearl I was onto other things. For whatever reason, I missed out on that generation, along with Pokemon Black and White. I played through both of those generations earlier this year, and was amazed at how much I still enjoyed Pokemon, even with the core staying very familiar for these nearly two dozen years.

After spending over 60 hours with Pokemon Y, it has quickly become one of my favorite entries in the series. The 3D models of the Pokemon are the biggest change to the game, and they’re such a wonderful introduction that it can be hard to see past them onto the other improvements.

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First off, though, the Pokemon look incredible. The newly cel-shaded monsters feel more alive than they ever have before. The stars of the show can now hold front and center stage, no longer delegated to being two-dimensional bouncing images.

There are plenty of towns, many of which are filled with hidden items to collect (the new item-finder is really fun to use!), new moves to learn, and NPCs who’ll tell you more about the world. Every area is filled with things to see, and nothing I’ve gone through so far felt like filler. There’s so much substantial content that I’ve dropped over 60 hours into the game, and I haven’t even gotten the eighth badge yet. While this length probably won’t be the case for most players that decide to stick with a team and run straight through, my enjoyment comes from soaking in every small detail while catching  and training every Pokemon I can.

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The number of Pokemon available to mix and match is huge now, and the game spreads the first few hundreds very smartly over the course of the game. I’m still constantly changing my team and my strategies, choosing from my massive collection every time I’m ready to jump into a battle with a friend. The online connection is by far the best in the series as well, easily allowing you to connect with up to four friends at once to throw down, or simply trading random Pokemon with strangers. I’ve had some great interactions with people I’ll never know outside of my 3DS screen, all because of how well the infrastructure has (finally) been put together.

Even now, the games aren’t without their faults. Having to switch out Pokemon to use HMs still feels unnecessary, but at least nearly all of the spots where you have to use an HM are optional. And I’ll never care enough to worry with Natures or IVs or EVs or whatever any of that is, but thankfully you really don’t have to unless to plan on playing with people who do.

And what was up with that ghost house reveal? I thought I was gonna be able to catch a bunch of Ghastly, Shuppets, and a whole crew of ghosts in one place. I’m a huge fan of the creepier areas in the Pokemon games, and in X and Y they build up a spooky house in the story for about 30 minutes, and it turns out you can’t even catch Pokemon there.

Also, turning on the 3D on the 3DS makes the battles run super slowly. It’s one of the sticking points that I keep being reminded of throughout the game. Sometimes I’ll feel like seeing the awesome art in 3D, and I’m reminded that I have to play the game at essentially 2/3 speed to do so.

One last thing, Lumiose CIty is an abomination, and if you can navigate it without three maps and satellite imagery, you’re an animal.

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Other than a handful of complaints, the majority is better here than ever before. The Pokemon look great, the menus function better than ever, items are easy to select when you need them, there’s basically infinite Pokemon to find (700+?!?), and the online works so well you constantly feel like you’re part of a community. We may not see a Pokemon MMO anytime soon, but the fleshed out online here is as close as we’ve ever been. It isn’t uncommon, at least in the month of release, to have strangers want to trade or battle you, or to be sent stat boosts from people all over the world. It’s fun to see what Pokemon people are using, how long they’ve played, and a little bit of their personality from the PR videos. In X and Y it’s incredibly simple to do any of it at any time, and it recaptures some of the essence of all the kids on the playground talking about Charmander and Squirtle.

Pokemon X and Y is the best this series has seen yet, with the possible exception of Gold/Silver because of that amazing entire new region reveal after beating the Elite Four. Other than that, this is the best playing, best looking, and best thing to come out of this series, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves in the future.

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