Well, here it is, the sixth generation of Pokémon. Nintendo have continued their long-running franchise with the releases of Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, the latter being used for this review. Game Freak have kept fans waiting for three years to explore a new region and discover new species of Pokémon, though thankfully this has been slightly shorter than the four year gap between the last couple of generations. This generation finds the series on a new piece of hardware, and with that comes all sorts of new upgrades to the game and its mechanics. Before we dive into what has changed though, let us first look at what has not.
This is still a Pokémon game, and that means there a certain staples of the series that are guaranteed to be carried over. The player begins as child who has been awarded their first Pokémon by the regions Pokémon expert, Professor Sycamore. With nothing but their new friend and a handy Pokédex, the player begins a journey that sees them travel across the land while searching far and wide for new Pokémon to catch. During their journey, the player will encounter eight gym leaders that must be challenged to win their respective badges, all the while thwarting the evil machinations of a mysterious team of enemies. At the end of the journey, the player must face off against the four elite trainers of the region, as well as their champion.
For the first time in the series, the professor is not present to offer the choice of starter to the player himself. Instead, one of the player’s traveling companions offers the three new trainers what is perhaps the toughest choice in the game; grass, fire, or water? In previous games this would have major impact on the final team the player uses when deciding on the best mix of skills for type matchups, but as the player will quickly discover, each route and cave in the game is bursting full of different Pokémon. This is because, rather than having a standard Pokédex of 150 for the region, the region has been split into three areas with 150 Pokémon available in each. Yes, that means over half the Pokémon created can be found while playing through the story.
Raising Pokémon has never been easier. The experience share has been changed from a held item to a key item that can be switched on and off. While turned on, any Pokémon that did not participate in battle receives half the experience points of those that did. This generation also introduces Super Training, a mini-game where a Pokémon in the player’s party must be controlled in order to deflect Balloon Bot balls from going into their goal, while they send various balls into the opponent’s goal. This mini-game awards training bags to increase a Pokémon’s Effort Values. Typically, a Pokémon can increase their EVs while being in a Core Training session, but they can increase their stats using training bags.
A new type of Pokémon, fairy, has been added this generation to shake-up the battle system. Some types have been granted immunities from some status effects, such as electric being immune to paralysation. The new type has been applied to some existing Pokémon, either replacing their old type (such as Clefairy) or become a second type (in the case of Gardevoir). Although Pokemon X and Yhave a new type and triple the number of Pokémon the regional Pokédex, the games have introduced the fewest new species to the series. PLayers wishing to move their collection over from older generations will be disappointed to hear they have to wait until December to use the PokéBank, the new storage method for large collections. This coupled with the PokéTransporter will move collections into the new generation.
A first for the series, Pokémon X and Y are fully 3D, though only Pokémon battles take advantage of the hardware 3D. It can be slightly jarring to have the camera change perspective quickly when the player approaches some buildings, but overall the game does a good job of using the extra dimension. This is highlighted in not only the new puzzles used in the gyms, but also the models used in battle. Each Pokémon has a cel-shaded model that looks like it was taken straight from the anime. The only downside to this is that during battle, a little choppiness can occur when the camera does a split screen to show the faces of both combatants while the player chooses their next move.
While the graphics have gathered a lot of attention from fans, the music deserves some recognition as well. The standard Pokémon theme has been re-recorded in higher quality and with new instruments, making it more technically and aurally accomplished than ever. Pokémon cries have been updated, or in some cases, lifted straight out of the anime. A soundtrack will be available separately for anyone wishing to listen to the music outside of the game.
Despite a few niggling flaws, Pokémon X and Y made the transition to 3D quite successfully, if maybe a little early. Having a method of transfering collections at launch could have extended its life by many hours over the twenty-five it takes to complete the game. Fans of the series will be pleasantly surprised at the new training mechanics, while newcomers may find the game a little easy with the experience share. Nintendo just needs to hope people will pick up the 3DS apps in December.