It’s hard to believe we’ve been playing Pokémon games for over 15 years. More amazing though is that despite the many versions over the years the core game has remained pretty much the same. Tokyo-based developers Game Freak are now on the sixth generation of the game and hoping to tempt you to catch ‘em all once again in Pokémon X & Y for Nintendo 3DS.
For our review we spent time with Pokémon Y. If you’re new to the series you might be a little confused as to why there are two games released together. This is something that has always happened with the series and players previously needed access to both copies of the game if they wanted everything. This isn’t so much of an issue with X & Y thanks to the Internet connectivity, more on that later.
While new players will likely be happy with either version of the game, experienced fans may want to do a little research before choosing. Each edition has a handful of exclusive Pokémon to choose from. The deciding factor for some will definitely be the new Mega Evolution mechanic. This is a new fourth tier evolution and the evolutions are different in each version.
The game is set in the region of Kalos which is inspired by France and your character starts their adventure at home in Vaniville Town. The story is a familiar one and you are tasked with finding and collecting Pokémon. Once you’ve found your favourites it’s up to you to train a team of six to help you defeat the various Gym Leaders in order to obtain their Gym Badges. Doing so allows you to go on to face the top trainers in the Pokémon League as well as extra quests.
Before you start playing you must choose the sex of your avatar as well as their appearance from a limited number of options. You then get to choose your first Pokémon from a choice of three which are Fennekin, Froakie and Chespin. You also get to meet your friends Shauna, Tierno and Trevor.
One of the first things to really grab your attention is the graphics of the new game engine. Gone are the old flat 2D sprites in favour of a new 3D engine that looks wonderful. The world of Kalos that you get to explore is large and detailed. Strangely despite being a 3DS title the game doesn’t make all that much use of the 3D and many players will probably prefer to turn it off. However the new engine shines the most during the Pokémon battles.
Battles are pretty much the same as in previous Pokémon games. Players take turns to choose their attacking Pokémon before selecting which of their abilities they will use. You then get to see the effect your choice has on your opponent. The new graphics look great during battles and Pokémon and their attacks are now fully animated. It takes time to learn what works best but the battles can be thrilling. This is especially true when playing against a real opponent.
The game can be enjoyed solo but it really comes alive once you enable the Internet functionality. When the Internet is turned on there are many more options available to you. The Player Search System features three lists, one to show other players around the world, one to show players you have interacted with and another list to show players that you have added as friends.
Selecting a player lets you do things such as battle with them, initiate a trade and even chat together. There’s also an option to create a 10-second video that other players can view. Pokémon can be put up from trade via the Wonder Trade system where you will get a random Pokémon in return for one you no longer wish to keep. Another neat feature is called O-Powers and these can be used to temporarily buff yourself or a fellow player.
The game also gives you some new ways to interact with your Pokémon via Super Training or Pokémon-Amie. Playing with your Pokémon via Pokémon-Amie helps you become more attached to them by feeding snacks or petting them. There are also mini-games to play together to help keep your Pokémon happy which leads to them performing better. Super Training lets you boost a Pokémon’s stats by playing different ball games.
Pokémon X & Y are without a doubt the best instalments in the series so far. It’s easier and quicker to get into for new players but just as entertaining and addictive for returning fans of the series. The new online features, graphical overhaul and gameplay refinements make these games essential for every 3DS owner.