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Pokemon X and Y review

AT A GLANCE
  • Having a reason to care about your Pokemon
  • Exploring the immersive, 3D world
  • A slew of small changes to the Pokemon formula
  • That some elements of the franchise are in dire need of update
  • Strange technical and consistency problems
  • Mega Evolutions aren't as interesting as they are cool

Every Pokémon game you've ever played has lied to you. They've assembled a web of deceit wrapped around the idea that the series is, in some way, about being friends with your Pokémon. The best trainers, they've said over and over and over again, are the ones who are the kindest to their monsters. The ones who trust their monsters. The ones who care about their monsters' feelings. You know that's never been true; you've known all along. But with Pokémon X and Y, the developer has finally lived up to the 15-years of lip service. It has finally addressed the thesis of the franchise, making a game where your bond with your Pokémon actually, truly matters.

It matters in combat, when you're battling 3D Pokémon against other 3D Pokémon. Pocket monsters that have high affection for you (as gained by minigames and the newly added ability to pet your Pokémon) will simply perform better--they'll dodge attacks and land critical hits and shrug off status effects more often. Having your Sylveon survive not one, but two attacks after being at one hitpoint just because it loves you so damn much makes a compelling case for being friends with the little guys. It feels random at times, which is sure to enrage the kind of fan that takes the statistical side of Pokémon hyper seriously, but it's entrancing for those willing to allow themselves to be immersed in the charming world.

Thankfully, Pokémon X and Y works hard to make you feel like a part of its universe. The jump to 3D makes for beautiful, lifelike environments in a franchise that has never been all that aesthetically ambitious. From the protagonists--both of whom can be customized with different outfits and hairstyles--to the caves and dungeons, X and Y shows off some of the best visuals on the handheld, where previous games have mostly looked subdued.

 If anything, it feels as though the vast environments and detailed Pokémon are simply too much for the handheld. There are occasional framerate drops, and much of the game disables the 3D slider, which is a shame considering how many areas look as though they were designed specifically to take advantage of the added depth stereoscopic 3D delivers.

But while the more detailed world does wonders to make the franchise look more advanced, it also has the downside of making some other elements of the game feel a bit dated. Most notably is asking players to remember the differences between the many types of colorful creatures, which are starting to become trickier to manage now that there are over 700 to choose from. Expecting players to learn which types are strong or weak against others is fine, and worked well for the first few generations when most of the Pokémon looked like the type they were. Part of the fun of the game is in the discovery, but it's impractical to expect players to remember every type of every Pokémon they've ever encountered--something that could be resolved by just giving you access to the Pokédex during battles.

That's not to say no adjustments have been made, and many fix problems you might not have even known you had. Game saves are now near-instant, and the interface has been streamlined to make just about every action from checking the map to trading Pokémon with friends as painless as possible. EXP Share has also received, allowing you to share experience among all of your Pokémon to keep them around the same level. Even more impressive is the change to EV (Effort Value) Training--the previously hidden mechanic has been surfaced and made more manageable.

While none of the changes feel like they take away from the game, there are some that simply don't live up to their potential. Horde battles pit you against a slew of low-level Pokémon at once, which just ends up feeling annoying rather than compelling, and Sky Battles happen so infrequently that you might forget they even exist. More dissapointing are Mega Evolutions. Certain Pokémon can temporarily evolve mid-battle, and will have different stats than they would in their regular form, but there's rarely a compelling reason not to use the ability since there's no real negative to it. The only restriction in place is that you can only Mega Evolve one fighter per battle, but that's hardly enough to make a huge strategic difference. You're still going to want to do it, because the Mega Evolutions are way too visually impressive to ignore, but don't expect much bite with the bark.

While the franchise has always had an emphasis on playing with friends, no Pokemon game has truly embraced connectivity like X and Y have. The bottom screen displays the P.S.S. (Player Search System), which includes a list of your active friends and nearby players, all of whom can be interacted with in a matter of taps. When a friend is in need, you can even provide them with temporary buffs to help them out. It's compelling and social without being obtrusive.

Setting up trading and battling were time-consuming and clunky in previous games, but X and Y have integrated it all into experience. Now, you're able to trade or battle from anywhere, with audio chat letting you chastise your friends or ask them to swap specific 'mons with you. You'll still be in your own game off on your own, personal adventure, but you'll definitely feel like you're playing alongside your friends as you play through X and Y.

Even with all of these renovations, innovations, and--yes, we're going to just go ahead and say it--evolutions, Pokémon X and Y still feel like a Pokémon game in the end. Sure, you're going to spend some of the time petting your Pikachu and you get to choose multiple starters, but X and Y eventually land in the comfort zone fans have found themselves in for six generations. Though they don't reinvent the core concept of the franchise, they do a fantastic job of cleaning up the aging mechanics and creating a Pokémon world you'd be crazy not to explore.

More Info

Release date: Oct 12 2013 - 3DS (US)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Nintendo
Franchise: Pokemon
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence

If you get hooked--and you'll likely get hooked--you're going to find a few hundred hours of Pokemon battles to look forward to, even if the game falls back on some old tropes a bit too much.

49 comments

  • midnaazusa - July 4, 2014 12:19 p.m.

    This game was hyped up way too much, in my opinion, because it wasn't that great. I hated having Shauna dragging me all over the place, and I feel like they were so focused on the Mega Evolutions that the Pokemon Company just didn't make many new Pokemon this time. I mean, we got around 70, along with all those Mega Evolutions. To top it all off, I'm not sure if this has been a problem in earlier games with the GTS, but there are some Pokemon I can't trade in the GTS, specifically ones my sister sent me that she got out of her XD and Colosseum games. I can understand that you wouldn't be able to trade event Pokemon (which is still stupid, but I'll ignore that one), but these things were obtained legitimately in a game that allowed trade with other games. Why can't I trade that stupid Zapdos from Pokemon XD? Besides that, I was hoping that I would be able to ride on Gogoat in more than just that one city, and I wasn't expecting it to be a paid service, however cheap. There was also very little in way of post-game.
  • Killerwolf - December 30, 2013 12:59 p.m.

    Personally...this game was a disappointment.... The starts were as ugly as can be and as they evolved they just got worse. Not that looks are everything but still, the game is aimed for young children and yet the starters creeped out my young cousin... I mean I had such low expectations for this game and I still disliked it. The main reason I even bought it was because you could ride on pokemon, then I find out only specific pokemon can be ridden. Not to mention the Mega-evolutions... They pretty much ruined just about all ones they mega-evolved. I would never recommend this game, it was a waste of money...
  • artexplosion - April 25, 2014 4:36 p.m.

    Ah, I see. You're one of those many people who stopped playing after gen II. If it's true, your opinion doesn't really count. As a competitive player, I and many others found this game amazing. I know you probably don't know how the competitive aspect of the game is, but trust me, the mega evolutions didn't ruin anything at all. They and the new fairy type changed everything, and it's always cool to see big changes (the reviewer probably doesn't know anything about the metagame, though). But anyway, you seriously didn't enjoy the game because the starters were ugly and you could only ride specific pokémon? What about the gameplay, the story? The other little things that make you enjoy the game more? If you're going to criticize something, at least do it correctly.properly. Still, I'm enjoying this game as much as I enjoyed the first games, millions of other players are, too.
  • lizbeth-vivi-lara - April 26, 2014 4:35 p.m.

    I have to dessegree, pokemon is not freaky at at it. And when they evolve that makes them stronger but if you think they are ugly just click b and they won't evolve, it's no waste of money they actually rated it 4/5 stars which is a lot better then regular games. It also has really good graphics, but if your talking about the first generation it was a little rusty. Anyway there are a lot of fans that love it like me. I am sorry but in my POV I think it's great
  • donna-wright - October 22, 2013 4:55 p.m.

    question - I have the roller skates and can't use them. Why?
  • erikah-s-walton - November 23, 2013 10:23 a.m.

    you have to equip them first. then you can use your rollerskates by using the D-pad. once you equip them (if you often use your d-pad more than the other buttons below to walk/move around), they'll be stuck on your feet. But you can use the lower pad to get off of your roller-skates and walk/run around. So technically, once you equip them you use them with the D-pad. and if you don't want to use them and you want to walk, use the pad below it.
  • tjd120 - January 20, 2014 5:07 a.m.

    Did you try using the circle pad.
  • shawksta - October 6, 2013 6:42 p.m.

    I just realized you can have various teams with 1 Pokemon from each gen Aw yes
  • codystovall - October 4, 2013 1:29 p.m.

    So spoiler, how many megas are there, not counting duplicates for both x/y versions
  • GR HollanderCooper - October 4, 2013 2:27 p.m.

    There are at le--*dart flies out of nowhere, hits Coop in the neck*
  • BladedFalcon - October 4, 2013 10:41 p.m.

    Man, dem Nintendo hitmen must be paid really well...
  • Cyberninja - October 4, 2013 11:14 p.m.

    or Sophia is just good at what she does.
  • GR_SophiaTong - October 17, 2013 1:18 p.m.

    :D
  • shawksta - October 6, 2013 6:49 p.m.

    It's really hard for them to keep Pokemon on 1 release worldwide Heck, one of the leakers had a Nintendo representative sent to his area's gamestop and he had to give his copy away so his friend who works there doesn't get fired.
  • Frieza - October 6, 2013 12:35 p.m.

    It you look around the Internet, there have been a lot of leaks of the Mega Evolutions. Mild spoiler alert, but I found the mega evolutions leaked to be... Disappointing.
  • shawksta - October 6, 2013 6:44 p.m.

    Eh, no matter what your expectation is, it's never going to happen. So you cant really be disappointed. My only grudge that I really don't mind is that the idea can apply to underrated Pokemon yet we have Garchomp and Lucario getting them instead of Pokemon that use the boost, like delibird, Dunsparce, farfetch etc.
  • JarkayColt - October 4, 2013 11:50 a.m.

    Slightly disappointed by this, but great review nonetheless. I mean, it's a good score and I was going to buy this anyway, but I was expecting this to be the best Pokémon released yet. If there are still aspects that haven't been improved sufficiently then it sounds like a missed opportunity. Also I don't like the sound of the framerate drops. Pokémon games, minor glitches aside, have generally ran flawlessly. I wanted to see a game as smooth as Gen III but it would seem to have gone in the opposite direction. And I'm kind of upset that Mega Evolutions only seem to be available for a handful of Pokémon and that they sound slightly broken. It might put me off competitive play a bit. But maybe once I play it myself I'll probably change my mind. Still, I can't believe they didn't release a demo!
  • Cyberninja - October 4, 2013 12:17 p.m.

    I don't know I don't think any pokemon game has gotten more then a four/8 out of 5/10
  • JarkayColt - October 4, 2013 12:39 p.m.

    Yeah, Pokémon games do tend to score in the 8 or 9 region; I didn't really have a problem with the score this one received, rather the things Coop and other reviewers have been saying about it in regards to slightly wasted potential. In other words, this should have been the game to bring the series closer to that final star, but whatever, it doesn't really matter at the end of the day.
  • Cyberninja - October 4, 2013 1:36 p.m.

    Honestly the score doesn't matter to me pokemon is the series I always have the most fun with so score doesn't matter to me at all since I would probably give it a perfect 10 everytime

Showing 1-20 of 49 comments

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