Pokemon X/Y - GoNintendo (spoiler-free) review

I've had a very long history with the Pokemon franchise. I was there from the very first Pokemon anime episode. It was the perfect way to start my day before heading into high school. I liked the show and idea enough to pick up the Game Boy game, even though I wasn't really an RPG fan. The feelings I had while playing that game remain as some of the best gaming memories I have. There was just something magical about that game. It really was the birth of something special.

Back in the days when Pokemon had just burst onto the scene, plenty of people were saying that Pokemon was going to be gone in a few years. Just like Pogs or Beanie Babies, Pokemon would slowly fall out of the public's interest. Nintendo fans knew different, and boy were they right. The series is still here here today, with hundreds of spin-offs and every single bit of merchandise you can imagine. Pokemon beat the odds and has remained relevant all these years, with a big thanks to the continuing anime and game series.

While the franchise keeps chugging along, I haven't had that same magical feeling that Pokemon Red/Blue gave me all those years ago. There have been plenty of fantastic Pokemon games since those early days, but that sense of wonder just hasn't hit me like it did originally. I thought that was a feeling that could never be captured or experienced again. That is, until I had the chance to play Pokemon X/Y. This is the series' most engaging entry since it first started.

Now I'm not going to pretend that I know anything about the intricate details of Pokemon battles. I fumbled my way through Pokemon Red/Blue and I continue to do that with every single Pokemon game. I have losses and tough battles every step of the way. I just don't have the time or patience to learn every stat, counter-attack and strategy. Outside of the basic 'rock-paper-scissors' gameplay mechanic, everything else flies far under the radar for me. If you're looking for a detailed breakdown of how stats and mechanics measure up to previous entries, there are many other people out there that are hugely qualified to give you that info.

What I can do is tell you of my experience with the game. I can share how I felt while playing, what I liked about the adventure and why I think it's really something special. It's clear that Nintendo/GameFreak/Pokemon Co. strive to make each major installment in the franchise something special and they usually achieve that goal. With that said, I believe Pokemon X/Y is the most unique outing that the franchise has seen since its original adventure. Please let me explain why!

If I had to use one word to describe Pokemon X/Y, I would go with 'alive'. I've never, EVER played a Pokemon game that made the universe feel so real. This is the first Pokemon game that makes me believe that there's a real, living and breathing Pokemon universe out there. While I'm not one that rates visuals as an important mechanic in game experiences, I simply cannot deny how much X/Y's presentation lends itself to the experience.

The visual overhaul that Pokemon X/Y received has really worked wonders. Sure, there are some new camera angles along the way, but it's the way these shots are approached that make the universe come alive. We're talking about camera movement and positioning that gets you closer to the action than ever before. Cinematic presentations that really make you smile. From the very beginning of the game when you set your character up, you have a real 'wow' moment as things kick off. Well, at least I hope you feel the same way. I definitely did!

Seeing a fully 3D Pokemon world feels almost surreal at this point. We're so used to the traditional style of Pokemon presentation, and while X/Y still retains some of that vibe, you're mostly in for a completely different approach. I felt like I was looking through a window to another world, and that look really made me want to reach out and touch what was going on. Sure, it might sound lame to some that I felt a sense of wonderful and realness while playing a Pokemon game, but it truly left a lasting impression on me.

Also lending to that side of the experience is the ability to really make your character feel unique. You can hit up shops in town to grab yourself some new articles of clothing to add that personal style to your adventurer. A new hat here, a new jacket there, it's the little things that really build up and add to the overall vibe. As you progress through the game and get deeper into the adventure, you can pick yourself up new clothing that reflects how far you've come. I felt like Ash in the Pokemon anime! He's spruced himself up over the years, and X/Y lets you do just the same.

Camera angles, pretty visuals and playing dress-up are all nice, but we know that's not what Pokemon is about. The game is all about battling with Pokemon! I'm still just as terrible at that as usual, but damn if I didn't feel good while doing it. While purists may want to turn off battle animations and skip the fancy animations, I felt they really made the battles come alive. The way Pokemon animate while on the field, being able to see them in 3D with action-oriented camera angles, it made the battles even more intense for me. Nothing beats taking out a gym leader with an intense camera swoop and some flashy animations!

Even better is the fact that one of my biggest Pokemon problems has been addressed. I have no idea how to build a good team and keep them leveled somewhat evenly. I always load up my starter Pokemon and run with it to the end. That is, until I hit a section of the game or gym leader that is super weak to whatever my starter is. Then I have to hit a wall of grinding with other Pokemon to get them to a point where I can continue. I'm stupid...I do this every single time. I also try to keep Pokemon leveled so I can avoid that, but I never manage to do it right. Pokemon X/Y avoids all those issues with the way Experience Share works.

What's the big difference this time? With Experience Share on, now every Pokemon on you but not in battle will receive half the amount of experience of those that battled. Those Pokemon that actually do the fighting will get full experience. In other words, at the very least, every single Pokemon on your person will get half experience regardless of if they battled or not. Oh my God, I cannot tell you how bad I needed something like this. It eliminates my own stupid nature and allows me to avoid some truly terrible situations later on. Yes, you might have to do a bit more leveling at some point, but by and large, you should be ready to go. You get Experience Share early on in the game, so you'll be set for most of your adventure with this feature. Better yet, if Experience Share isn't your thing, just don't use it!

You'll have plenty of instances to build up your experience while battling trainers and capturing wild Pokemon on your adventure. Boy, does this game take you all over the place. While every Pokemon title is known for bringing you to all sorts of locations, I believe the Paris influence on X/Y has made for some of the most gorgeous locations yet. The way some towns are decked out in a downtown Paris experience, complete with fancy cafes and pastel color themes, really makes them feel lived in. Really, there are some breathtaking places to explore here. I don't think I've ever felt that with a Pokemon title before. It's going to be hard to top the Paris influence in whatever Pokemon title comes next. It really makes for a beautiful experience.

For example, early on you happen upon a small forest route that has you weaving in and out of bush/tree mazes. There's light sparkling down into the forest in certain areas, as well as some brightly colored fauna. Match that up with the absolute gorgeous soundtrack in this area (I wish I could share the theme with you!) and it makes for such a soothing and mysterious experience.

That really does display how Pokemon X/Y comes together. The visuals, the music and the Paris influence seem to be expertly paired. They mix in with one another to create a living, breathing world that is more fun to explore than any other Pokemon title I can remember. It's hard for me to find any true complaints about the game, as far as my experience goes. If I had to nitpick a little, I'd say the 8-direction control scheme feels a little out of place with how lively the world is, but just snap on a pair of skates and those complaints melt away. I'd also say that X/Y might be too light on tutorials for newcomers, but kids are always quicker to pick up on stuff and longtime fans will be happy to hear that!

There many be some deep mechanic complaints that escape me, but I'm giving you a review on my experience with the title. For all I know, some of you might hate how certain battle mechanics are handled now, but I'd never notice them. The new fairy type might throw a wrench into your Pokemon works and have you crying foul. The Mega Evolutions might cheapen the experience for you or break the game in some ways for tournament play. All those are guesses on my part. I am not a tournament player, a high level player or a mid-level player. I'm just a guy that's been playing Pokemon for years, dumbing my way through it and loving it all the way.

Pokemon X/Y brought back my feelings from the very first time I laid eyes on a Pikachu. It's given a completely new lease on life to the franchise. This title has a pulse that you almost feel pounding through your 3DS. I can't help but smile while I put together this review. This isn't just another Pokemon installment on Nintendo's latest portable. For my time with the game, I feel it to be a truly revolutionary title that will have great influence on entries yet to come. Pokemon X/Y show the grandiose promise and experience that the original games set out to create.
Categories: Top Stories, Reviews, Portables
Tags: 3ds, eshop, pokemon


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