Review: Pokémon X & Y

titlePokémon X & Y marks a notable step forwards for the series. After a few too many years perfecting an ageing formula, Game Freak has finally implemented the changes that many have been dying to see for a long time. It might not be the best Pokémon game ever made, but there’s enough here to warrant embarking on its familiar journey once again.

02Pokémon X & Y has received the largest graphical overhaul seen yet in the series. It’s an impressive looking game, largely down to creative level design and huge 3D environments that are great fun to explore. The dynamic camera angles that were first established in Pokémon Black & White return, and these help mask the fact that Pokémon X & Y still (secretly) works on a grid not dissimilar to the older titles. This makes for a game that certainly feels familiar in the way it plays, but has been improved upon drastically in one of the areas that needed it most.

But it’s not all good news, and the game’s ambitious graphics are at times too much for Nintendo’s console to handle. In fact, the majority of the overworld is rendered in 2D, presumably to counter the problems that are all to evident in the game’s stereoscopic 3D battles. Here the framerate drops to an appalling level, and the otherwise detailed and exciting battle effects are rendered unimpressive and uninteresting. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the 2DS is releasing on the same day, and it’s a shame considering that many of the game’s environments look perfectly suited for 3D visuals.

On top of this, I’ve often found that 3D helps mask the jagged edges found when playing games on the larger screen of the 3DS XL. Without this option there are times when the game doesn’t look as good as it should do, and this is disappointing.

07Sill, the new graphics are only one of a handful of new innovations, and many of these other features are unquestionable improvements for the Pokémon series. The player customisation options are really cool, and the game’s opening sequence has been streamlined. There’s a good chance that you’ve played the introduction to these games countless times, so it’s great that you’re now able to collect your first gym badge, catch a couple of Pokémon, and buy a new hat in the first hour of gameplay. You’ll also unlock a pair of Roller-skates to speed up traveling, and the EXP Share now gives experience to your entire party of Pokémon. This means no more grinding, which I’m sure will only upset the super hardcore.

The only element that doesn’t feel refined for returning players is the game’s story, and in fact this feels like a step in the wrong direction. You now have a group of Pokémon Trainer friends, and whilst this does remove the predictability of continuos battles with the same rival trainer, the writing is bland and the characters are uninteresting. I know this is a game largely aimed at kids, but in so many other ways it also appeals to older gamer, so it’s a shame there’s nothing in the story for us.

01Having played all the games in the Pokémon series, I find that the new ones hold my attention with varying levels of success. I mean we all know the formula works, but I always find myself asking if there’s enough new to warrant playing the same experience yet another time.Pokémon Black & White, for instance, were great games, but I didn’t put more than ten hours into them. Thankfully there’s easily enough to make X & Y worth your time, and this is one of the largest jumps forward the series has ever made. It’s not quite the mega evolution (awesome pun intended) that it perhaps could have been, but it’s still a substantial step in the right direction. For a Pokémon game the improvements are huge. I mean you can finally walk diagonally.

8/10

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