Over 15 years ago, the first generation of Pokemon games arrived. Since then, they have evolved constantly, yet remaining faithful to that original formula. I remember vividly my trip to my local Woolworths store as a 9 year old boy with my brothers, to return to the family car with that large, red cartridge. Pure delight. To this day that memory is so evocative and real to me, it’s clear to see how dear this franchise is to people of my generation. Pokemon X/Y however doesn’t only just delight old fans like myself, it does plenty to bring in a new audience.
The game stays true to the winning formula. You’re a young boy or girl; coming of age, ready to go on an adventure. You are told to go and see the local Pokemon Professor; Professor Sycamore. As is the case, he has a selection of 3 Pokemon for you to choose from to start your journey with. Soon you’ll find yourself leaving the town to begin your journey, along with 4 other hand selected Pokemon trainers, each with their own ideas of what they want to get out of their journey.
The story continues along the same path as the many previous generations, guiding you and your new Pokemon from town to town, catching new Pokemon, accruing Gym badges and defeating an evil organisation along the way. In this generation, Team Flare is the enigmatic organisation that is trying to achieve their idealised future of the world. The story follows such a well beaten path, it could feel heavy and derivative. Fortunately however, Team Flare have very little input until quite late into the game and are actually a welcome distraction at that point, praise I could not give Pokemon White/Black’s Team Plasma.
Although there’s little to change the winning formula, there are still plenty of changes throughout. Most notably is the new art style. The 2D portaits are gone, and instead we are left with a beautiful 3D style that is so well executed that even the first generation Pokemon feel brand new (even if that means Mr Mime is the creepiest thing ever). Of the first generation, 111 of them have made their way into this latest installment, so there’s plenty there to get your nostalgia going. In total, there’s a whopping 454 Pokemon to catch. With such a huge amount of choice, it never feels like you absolutely MUST have certain Pokemon in your team to succeed. So long as you’re relatively sensible about your type choices, you really can pick your favourites and you’ll be okay for the main story. The new Fairy type doesn’t affect play all that much, and has only been added really to address the wide use of Dragon types in player battles.
The difficulty level of the main story of Pokemon X/Y is substantially lower than previous versions. During the main story, I never ‘whited out’ once from losing all of my Pokemon. The argument could be made that, 6 generations in, I probably don’t represent the average player. But the thing that made previous Pokemon games difficult was the constant grinding of levels in the long grass between Gyms. Although Exp. Share in previous games helped to an extent, the new Exp. Share almost completely eliminates any need for grinding. The new Exp. Share is a Key Item that you can toggle on and off and delivers Exp Points to your entire team. Couple that with fast rates of leveling, and the game can feel a bit of a push over at times.
Beyond the main game however, there is plenty to do. Since the introduction of breeding back in Gold/Silver, I’ve never felt comfortable enough to even attempt to understand the arcane workings of IVs. But the refinements made to the breeding system in X/Y have made it more accessible and the majority of my time played in the post game has been spent on breeding. It’s by far not at all necessary to do, but it’s compelling and rewarding enough to keep me doing laps around the major city to hatch my eggs. With a couple of extra legendaries to catch, some interesting quest chains, an endless Battle Maison and all of those mega evolution stones to get, breeding certainly isn’t the only thing to do in the post game. You could always Catch ‘Em All.
It stands as an extremely well polished RPG, and it would be very difficult for me to not recommend this game. Not only is there enough in the way of new content and quality of life improvements to continue to please long term fans, the entire experience is accessible to newcomers, young and old. Pure delight.