The Ups and Downs of Pokémon X & Y
// October 26th, 2013 // General
Pokémon X and Y have been out worldwide for two weeks now and prove that the franchise is still going strong! I and many others have waited in anticipation for these games (I even pre-ordered mine back in June!) and have been enjoying them every day for the last 14 days. If you’re a fan of the franchise but haven’t gotten them yet, what on earth are you waiting for?? Are you concerned it’s not as good as people say it is? I felt now was a good time for me to voice my opinions on the game, now that I’ve defeated the Elite Four, the Champion, and caught all the legendaries on both X and Y. Please note: this isn’t a review! I just wanted to say what I feel are the pros and cons of GameFreak’s latest generation of Pokémon!
Things I like
The polygonal graphics
Pokémon X/Y is the first generation of Pokémon games on a portable device that has been drawn entirely using polygons. Aside from home console spin-offs of the game, all the previous iterations used 2D sprites to depict the characters and monsters. Polygonal terrain was used in Black/White, but overall it was still a very two dimensional game. However, characters… monsters… terrain… pretty much everything in Pokémon X and Y is drawn in 3D! On top of this, lots of custom animations were made for different Pokémon. This makes the game, and especially the battles, so much more immersive! Instead of seeing little sprites jumping up and down, with little yellow/orange stars depicting hits, you’re seeing actual three dimensional beasts taking swings at each other and actually battling it out! This was something I thoroughly enjoyed with Pokémon XD on GameCube, and I’m glad to see the mainstream games starting to adopt this approach.
Level of detail on new Pokémon
All the new monsters in Pokémon X and Y have a terrific level of detail, and I don’t believe it’s because they’ve been drawn with polygons. I was recently having a battle between my Chesnaught (#652, Gen VI) and a wild Hariyama (#297, Gen III). The difference between these two beasts was staggering. Hariyama’s simple bulky form was outshone by Chesnaught’s massive spiky shell with its green and red striped edge, spiky arms, and large black claws. Other fantastic examples of detail in Pokémon X and Y come in the forms of Barbaracle (#689), Tyrantrum (#697), and the two main legendaries Xerneas and Yveltal (#716 and #717). Nintendo and GameFreak have clearly gone back to the drawing board with the sixth generation and put a lot of time and effort into each one. It pays off, but sadly at a price (which I’ll mention later).
This is one of the key selling points of Pokémon X and Y. Certain Pokémon can evolve even further into their “Mega” forms using certain stones as hold items. If you give a certain Pokémon a specific mega stone as a hold item, you can then evolve them mid-battle so they become stronger! The downside is that only a handful of Pokémon support Mega Evolutions, plus it only works for the lifetime of the current battle, but the upside for anyone like me who wants one of every Pokémon is that mega evolved Pokémon aren’t included in the Pokédex. Some may think that’s a bad thing, but it means you don’t need to get every Mega Evolution stone in order to fill your Pokédex. I suspect there are several reasons why only a handful of Pokémon can achieve this: lack of time to design Mega Evolutionary forms for every one, lack of space on the 3DS cartridge, and trying this out as a principle of the game (either continuing to use this or drop it in future games, depending on how well it’s received by the public).
Faster healing in the Pokémon Centre
Anyone who’s played Pokémon will have, at some point on their journey, visited a Pokémon Centre and been bored to tears with the faff you go through getting your party fully healed. The process doesn’t appear to have changed ever since Pokémon first came out in the 90’s: Nurse Joy slowly places the Pokéballs on the machine, your party is healed in three seconds, and you have to stand around waiting for her to finish telling you that she, in essence, wants your Pokémon to get hurt so they’ll see you there again. You even have to wait for her to nod between her sentences. This is not so much of an issue in Pokémon X and Y. Some of what Nurse Joy says on two ‘screens’ is condensed into one screen, she places your Pokéballs in the machine faster, your party is healed a little quicker and, although she does still nod at you, she still talks while doing so. To double-check this, I timed the process on both Pokémon White (v1) and on Pokémon X, both with the fast text option on and with a party of six Pokémon. From start to finish, Pokémon White took 14.67 seconds to heal my whole party, whereas Pokémon X took 11.75 seconds. That’s about 20% faster and nearly a whole three seconds quicker each time you heal your Pokémon. Impatient trainers will notice, and welcome, the difference.
Better PC menus
Using the PC in the Pokémon Centre and various other places seemed suitable on the GameBoy and GameBoy Advance, and when the Pokémon franchise moved onto the DS, some effort was made to utilise the touchscreen to make things a bit easier. However, some of the PC options were still fixed to using the D-pad and A/B buttons. To top it all off, the touchscreen interface was often clumsy and slow. I’d have given it a C minus; good but could do better. This is precisely what Nintendo and GameFreak have done in Pokémon X and Y. The entire PC interface can be operated using the touchscreen, and transitions between menus and boxes are so much more responsive, faster and slicker. It makes using the system all that much easier to use; definitely an improvement!
This is really more a useful point for anyone starting the game, rather than anyone who’s already collected all the gym badges and defeated the Elite Four, but making your way through the game isn’t as cumbersome and slow as it used to be. You have running shoes right from the start, you get rollerskates very early on in the game (which has never featured in any other Pokémon title) and the bike earlier than you usually would in previous generations. This means you can speed through routes and towns faster than before. You even get given not one, but two starter Pokémon (One from the 6th generation, and one from the 1st generation), Lucario and Lapras for no effort, and you can get hold of a rather powerful Bisharp later on with next to no effort whatsoever. Furthermore, until January 2014, you can download a Torchic as a Mystery Gift which has the ability Speed Boost and is holding Blazikenite (which will let it evolve into Mega Blaziken!). If your aim was to get to the Pokémon Tournament as quickly as possible, you won’t be disappointed with the general pace in Pokémon X and Y.
Faster breeding and hatching
This is more a good point for those of you who breed your Pokémon, and one which I’ve not encountered since Pokémon Diamond two generations ago. Most people who breed Pokémon get their eggs and then cycle up and down the same straight piece of land over and over until the egg hatches. I don’t know about the earlier generations, but on Diamond you could cycle in a straight line from the middle of Route 210, through Solaceon City, all the way to the end of Route 209, and back. Not only did this make hatching quicker, but Solaceon City was where the Day Care Centre was, which proved convenient when trying to breed your perfect battling party. In Black/White the best straight cycling path was Skyarrow Bridge, but sadly the quickest way to breed and take advantage of this was to fly between there and the Day Care Centre on Route 3. Although it wasn’t a deal-breaker, it was an unwelcome change for me. Thankfully, Pokémon X and Y have returned to Diamond’s way of thinking. The Day Care Centre is located on Route 7 between Cyllage City and Camphrier Town. Route 7 is so straight and devoid of obstacles that you could cycle from the Connecting Cave entrance, along Route 7, through Camphier Town, and to the beginning of Route 5. I’ve only just started taking advantage of this to help breed my Pokémon, and I suggest you do the same.
One thing I really like in Pokémon X and Y is the way it works online. Previously, you had to go the first floor in a Pokémon Centre in order to do anything online (battling, trading, etc). In Pokémon X and Y you can do it right off the bat through the touchscreen. Just press a button to go online and you’re ready to battle and trade with trainers all over the world, regardless of where you are in the game. This is a huge step up for the franchise, and already I’ve had battles with trainers that I would never have met before otherwise. Good job guys!
Real voice used for Pikachu
This is just a little surprise for me, but all Pikachus in Pokémon X and Y have the actual voice of Pikachu from the Anime TV series! Sadly, all the other Pokémon still have digitised imitation growls, but the use of Pikachu’s real voice really made me think twice about evolving it into Raichu.
Things I don’t like
Not enough new Pokémon
When I started the game, I was very surprised that I rarely encountered any new Pokémon. This lead me to read up online on how many there actually are. Normally there are around 130 new Pokémon in each generation (on average), however in Pokémon X and Y?…. 69. That’s right, just 69 new Pokémon have been introduced. That’s… just… not… enough! True, you can catch many of the old Pokémon in this game, and you can have all 718 in the game once you’ve traded with others or transferred them from your previous games (more on that later), but the lack of actual new Pokémon was a huge disappointment for me. This may be down to the level of detail Nintendo and GameFreak have given each new Pokémon, based on the principle of “quality over quantity”.
Limited use of 3D
Pokémon X and Y are only available for the Nintendo 3DS family (including the new 2DS), and Nintendo advertise the game as being a full 3D adventure. Sadly this isn’t the case. The only times I see the 3D option used on my 3DS in X and Y is in major cutscenes and in one on one battles. For the rest of the time the 3D is switched off, even in two on two battles! I was fully expecting the game to be 3D throughout; while wandering around towns and cities, cycling along routes, and fighting in all battles. Maybe us consumers misunderstood what Nintendo meant. It’s true that the entire game is polygonal rather than sprite-filled, and some people will argue that this is what they meant by “3D”, but when it’s available to play on a console that supports glasses-less stereoscopic 3D, that meaning changes somewhat. A big disappointment.
Touchscreen menus sluggish
It’s true that the menu is fast and responsive when using a PC in the game. Unfortunately, I find that touchscreen buttons and menus elsewhere in the game are sluggish and unresponsive. For example: I’ve done a few trades already and I have to press a couple of times before most buttons are selected. In the long run, this gets rather frustrating. I’ve found that if I wait about a second after a touchscreen button appears before tapping it, it works better. I find this rather disappointing, especially when it’s the exact opposite when using the touchscreen when operating a PC in a Pokémon Centre. It’s almost like two different teams were responsible for dealing with these two aspects of the game.
Can’t transfer my old Pokémon until after Christmas
Yes, you read that right. You CAN’T transfer any Pokémon from Black/White to X/Y until after Christmas 2013. Why? Because Nintendo/GameFreak have introduced a new system for storing Pokémon… and that’s in the cloud. It’s called Pokémon Bank, and the app to use it and, therefore, transfer your old Pokémon comes out Christmas 2013. This means that people like me who’ve defeated the Elite Four within the first two weeks of owning the game now have to wait another couple of months before banding together their best team and get their collection all together again. I suppose this gives me plenty of time to catch all of the new Pokémon in X/Y but, with so few new ones introduced, it certainly wouldn’t take two months to do.
Party becoming too powerful
This may have been my own fault, really, but during the first half of the game I had real worries about my Pokémon becoming too powerful for me to handle. As we all know, as you get each gym badge, the highest level where Pokémon will listen to your commands will increase so, as you go through the game, more powerful Pokémon can be controlled. Again, we all know that traded Pokémon get more experience points from battles than untraded ones. I wanted to start both games on the best foot possible, so I spent the first day making sure I had all three starter Pokémon on both X and Y, and I did it in such a way that all three starter Pokémon on each game was traded so they’ll get more experience. You can probably guess the rest. They were gaining too much experience from battles and reaching the limit of my trainer’s control by the time I faced the next Gym Leader. That said, I did this before on previous games and never worried about losing control of my Pokémon.
Pokémon X and Y suffers from a constant stream of pop-ups on the touchscreen, inviting you to use the features included in the game and battle/trade with others online. It doesn’t matter if you’re online or offline, you’ll find yourself tapping the “No” button on the lower screen many times so you can continue on your way. It’s very annoying!! Pop-ups is something you should have to contend with on websites on a computer, not in a video game you’ve paid £35 for! It’s suggested that the only way around this is to switch your lower screen from the Player Search System screen to either the Pokémon-Amie or Super Training screens.
All in all, I really like these games. They’ve introduced a number of improvements that make it a joy to play. It’s a shame that there are a few aspects that are frustrating or annoying. You’d think that we wouldn’t have these kind of problems when a franchise has been around for 17 years. Nonetheless, interest is still at an all time high and the improvements in the latest generation are certainly a testament of that. If you’re thinking of getting either X or Y (or both?), I’d recommend getting them now… or at least before January 2014, as the Torchic event I mentioned earlier will have ended by then.