The Pokémon franchise keeps evolving: New Pokémon versions take over the Nintendo DS console

By William Carleton

Photo Courtesy of Randante/Flickr CC

Photo Courtesy of Randante/Flickr CC

“Pikachu used thunderbolt! It’s super effective!” Chances are that these two sentences bring back some fond memories for anyone who grew up in the 90s.

Game Freak’s creature capturing, battling and trading series has returned yet again for its sixth generation on the Nintendo 3DS. These two new versions, titled Pokémon X and Y, hold up well against the formula that fans have come to enjoy and advance the series in a new direction.

On a more superficial scale, X and Y have made a huge jump in graphic quality compared to past entries. This is to be expected considering its release on a newer platform. Previously pixelated buildings and people are now much more detailed and pleasing to the eye. Pokémon are also more detailed in battle and more animated as they fight.

Players have more freedom in customizing their character, allowing for differences in hair and eye color, skin tone and the ability to change their character’s clothing along the journey. Though many of the clothing changes are small and other traits are simply differences in color, this shows noticeably more effort on visuals than the standard male and female models.

There is also more attention given to the fictional world the characters inhabit. Though much of the game still retains the bird’s-eye view used in the past, some areas, such as Lumiose City, allow the camera to settle down to a more horizontal plane. This viewpoint was experimented with in Pokémon Black and White, released in 2011 on the Nintendo DS, and has become more prevalent in X and Y. From this perspective, the player explores the city at a more natural view and feels more immersed in the world.

Improvements to the game’s graphics definitely add to the tone of the new Kalos region, based on parts of Europe, mainly France. Players will explore many areas, from big cities to ancient stone ruins, as well as take a rest at cafés and shop for more fashionable clothing.

Some of the areas, contain pieces of art and furniture that look impressive given the game’s fairly cartoony style. The architecture of the fancier buildings, quaint towns and geographical features gives this region a distinctly fresh feeling.

Not only are the visual aspects of the Pokémon world altered, but the mechanics of Pokémon battles have changed significantly. The biggest addition to this generation of Pokémon is the introduction of a new “fairy” type. The fairy type includes new monsters and even older creatures like Clefairy and Jigglypuff. Since this new type is strong against certain Pokémon and weak against others, figuring out when to use them and how to defeat them becomes an important adjustment. A new “mega evolution” mechanic can also be used for certain Pokémon. This allows them to temporarily evolve beyond normal capacity during battle, both increasing their stats and changing their abilities to make them much more threatening.

While the new mechanics and sheer amount of creatures – 718 currently available – may seem intimidating to some without much experience, the game is extremely manageable and user-friendly. Pokémon-Amie allows players to play with and feed their Pokémon to increase their battle capabilities, experience gains and to occasionally avoid attacks altogether as they become more affectionate toward the player. Players can use the stylus to hold food to their Pokémon’s mouth, pet it and play mini-games to win more food and keep their creatures amused.

Super Training allows players to adjust their Pokémon’s stats by playing mini-games. This marks the first time in the Pokémon series game history that raising Pokémon stats is transparent. Now gamers can raise their Pokémon to specialize specifically in stats of their choosing.

To make things even more streamlined, an item called the EXP Share can distribute points to level up all Pokémon in your team during battles, even if they remain safely in their Poké Balls for the whole fight.

This game is great in many ways, but it has downsides as well. Using Pokémon-Amie, Super Training and having the EXP share turned on make it incredibly easy to defeat most NPCs. These enhancements could detract from the gaming experience in the process. Luckily, all of these features can be ignored, or turned off in the case of the EXP Share, making the game accessible for beginners and veterans.

The game itself also ignores the 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS system quite frequently. The entire overworld and double battles do not make use of the effect, leaving only one-on-one battles and some areas like caves with the special effects.

While not using an optical illusion doesn’t detract from gameplay, the fact that this “all-new 3D Pokémon adventure” is not always as advertised is a bit confusing.

Despite minor annoyances the game is just as fun, if not more fun, as it was before. Pokémon X and Y versions are truly must-buys for anyone with a Nintendo 3DS and some money to spare.