Pokemon’s new dimension

pokemon_x_y_e3ON ONE SIDE, I have a stack of course books; on the other, Pokémon X. It’s not a hard decision: being a grown-up simply doesn’t happen when Pokémon is involved. Logic dictates that the enormous adult fanbase should have grown out of the franchise when our parents were still packing our lunchboxes, especially since the premise of the game hasn’t changed. (Yourname)/Dicks/Ash/whatever you choose to name your character travels  the well-worn path from hometown to gyms to the League while catching Pokémon and combating some variation of Team Rocket on the way (in X and Y it’s Team Flare, a super-fabulous group of younger and less frightening Karl Lagerfeld clones, headed by the usual, obviously evil “good guy”). Some say that after nearly twenty years the old Pokémon formula needs a serious revamp, but veteran players have still found themselves as enthralled with X and Y as they were with Red and Gold as children. It may be an over-used formula but, as the game’s continuing popularity shows, it’s a bloody good one.

X and Y are, however, not without their new features. Firstly, your in-game mother is an ex-Rhyhorn racer. Of course, she chained herself to the kitchen sink as soon as your character was born, but by Pokémon standards this tiny piece of back story is progress. When I started playing the the first noticeable difference was the game’s 3D-ready facelift, which is a huge leap from the pixelated graphics and square sprites that we all knew and loved in previous instalments. The game now takes on a more detailed anime look. X and Y take place in the French-themed Kalos region: Lumiose City, the central hub of the region, is a huge area with its own version of the Eiffel Tower; Parfum Palace is a miniature Versailles, decked out in gold, while Route 7 is covered in flowers like Provence. Teamed with the new graphic style, battle backgrounds and more dynamic camera angles, this world is a sight to behold.

Green Pokemon XYPokémon is a game that has always relied on an aerial viewpoint, but we started to see some more variety in the camera angles in Black and White. While they still generally rely on top-down gameplay, X and Y take these changes even further. In Lumiose City, for example, the camera follows your character from behind as you navigate the labyrinths of the area. In other locations the angle changes to show you the building that has suddenly risen up in front of you, or the scenery in the background, giving you a sense of an epic adventure in a world where you are just a small fry. You can’t change the camera angle yourself, so for all you know there may be a gaping void on the other side of you, but they change to give you the best views of certain places. The 3D is only utilised when it needs to be, making those special moments even more impressive.

If you’ve always thought of your protagonist as you, but not quite you enough, there is finally an option of customising your character (although, I hope you like hats- they can’t be removed). You can also further expand your trainer identity by creating your own P.R. video, in which you can choose animated poses and facial expressions. There are also several key scenes where characters, Pokémon and surroundings are animated; the game is no longer reliant on stills.

In terms of gameplay there are some great new additions, but let’s continue with the focal point of the game: the Pokémon themselves.

X and Y feature 69 new Pokémon, taking the total number up to 718. You’d think that by this point they’d have run out ideas, and in this seems to be true in some cases as there are some that seem to be re-hashes of the classics. Scatterbug is this generation’s Caterpie, and even eventually evolves into Vivillon, another butterfly Pokémon. Its cocoon stage, Spewpa, looks like Togepi exploded. There are only so many animals the designers can take inspiration from, and these are beginning to be re-used. Bunnelby is this generation’s rabbit Pokémon- and has feet for ears. Dedenne needs a mention because it’s adorable, and looks like a chubby baby Raichu. Then there are the Pokémon that have been inspired by objects, such as Klefki, the Steel/Fairy-type keyring  Pokémon (seriously, why would a keyring be a fairy?) and Honedge, a sword that gains a shield in its final evolution. There are also some Halloween-themed ones that pop up near Laverre City. There’s Phantump (creepy tree), Pumpkabo (creepy pumpkin/ bat thing) and Gourgeist (creepy pumpkin with… is that a butternut squash coming out of its head? I don’t even know).

Blue Pokemon XYAnd of course, let’s not forget the new Fairy type, created to eventually Weedle out (geddit) the dull, but conveniently neutral, Normal type. This new type as given way to some cutesy, puffy Pokémon. When I first saw Sylveon, the new Eeveelution, in promotional images, I knew it was a plushie I needed to have- despite those cold, pupilless eyes.  Some established Pokémon have also become Fairy, such as Togetic and, more inexplicably, Marill and Snubbull. If it’s cute and pink, it’s probably now a Fairy. Based on mythology, the Fairy type is strong against Dragon, as well as Fighting and Dark. These are some of the most-used moves in the game, making it a type that is great on the defence. The type is also weaker against lesser-used moves such as Poison and Steel.

To commemorate this new type, one of the legendaries, Xerneas, is a Fairy. The other, Yvetal, is a Dark/ Flying type, and they have both been designed to resemble the letters X and Y respectively. In true Pokémon fashion these legendaries find themselves embroiled with Team Flare.

As always you can choose a Fire (Fennekin), Grass (Chespin) or Water (Froakie) type starter

Pokémon. They each evolve into a type previously unknown in starter Pokémon- Water/Dark, Grass/Fighting and Fire/Psychic- a welcome change to the usual Fire/Fighting.

X and Y introduce new ways to interact with your Pokémon.  Pokémon-Amie is an adorable new feature, perfect for younger and soppier fans (such as myself). Improve your Pokémon’s affection for you by petting it, feeding it Pokepuffs, and laughing at its inappropriately joyous face when you rub it in certain places. This is a fun way to gain the affection that causes certain Pokémon to evolve, and it’s certainly a more entertaining use of the stylus than the Poffin maker in Diamond and Pearl.

One of the most significant new features is, however, Mega Evolution, a power up for certain Pokémon that makes them the “Mega” version of their species, but only one Pokémon can undergo this change per battle. For this to work you need a strong bond with your Pokémon, the Mega Ring and Megastone that corresponds with your Pokémon. Megaevolution makes a Pokémon more powerful by raising its base stat by 100, and its abilities and type can also change. It also has an awesome animation. Classic Pokémon receive a revamp, as you can Megaevolve whichever of the three First Generation starter Pokémon you receive from Professor Sycamore in Lumiose City. When a Pokémon Megaevolves its appearance changes to give it more of an epic, powerful look- be it extra armour (Aggron), a bigger water cannon (Blastoise) or fancy hair (Ampharos).

The Exp. Share returns, this time as Key item to make the game pathetically easy by distributing half a battle’s Exp. points to each member of your party; you’ll be one-shotting gyms in no time. On top of this you can improve your team using Supertraining, a new touch-screen feature that lets you work on a Pokémon’s base stats from anywhere in Kalos.

Yellow Pokemon XYThere are two new types of battle: Horde and Sky. The former is a wild encounter, the latter with trainers who specialise in Flying type Pokémon. Getting attacked by five gawping Psyducks is hilarious at first, but you’ll soon come to dread Horde Battles; unless you have a Pokémon with a sweeping move in your party, prepare to be in it for the long haul. Sky Battles are pretty self explanatory- just ensure you have a few Flying type Pokémon in your party.

Perhaps Pokémon doesn’t need a huge overhaul. In terms of appeasing the veterans by keeping the old spirit of the game alive and appealing to a new generation of gamers, Pokémon X and Y succeed. New players are introduced to a fancier version of the game we loved as children, whereas old players can see how far their favourite game has come. We feel the old nostalgia, but at the same time the pride of watching Pokémon grow up- like a child, or more significantly, a once adorable Torchic becoming an overpowered Blaziken that smashes every trainer it meets. Overall, it’s a fantastic game, and whether or not you’ve been a fan since childhood I’d definitely recommend it.