Pokémon, Y are you so good?
Pokémon Y is perhaps the biggest leap a Pokémon generation has jumped, with 3D graphics and advanced wireless capabilities, but it does not wow as much as Black & White when they first came out just a couple of years ago.
The main reason for this is Black & White giving the essence of a bigger, bolder game. Pokémon Y is the best-looking Pokémon game to date and the extra processing power of the 3DS allow for some lovely, beautiful visuals, and the Kalos region is at least as interesting as that of Black & White – indeed, Kalos is something of a Pokémon milestone, it feels like the place it is meant to be; Kalos feels like France.
This is because of the music, music has always been strong in the series but in this new generation, the music is part and parcel with the whole appeal to the game, the amount of the accordion in the soundtrack is fantastic and the whole thing pushes the presentation and atmosphere in the game to levels you have never seen before Pokémon Y is a powerhouse in game world design and every corner of the map is a joy to behold. Even Gyms and the Elite Four have been given a makeover, gyms in particular are stronger than they ever have been and each one is a joy to participate.
However, the majority of the game is not available to play in 3D, which is an issue. I cannot fathom why the game is not available to play in 3D, as it does give glimpses into how nice the game can look when in 3D: in caves and battles. The fact that areas of the game and cut-scenes are viewable in 3D proves that it is not a case of too much strain on the 3DS’s processors, there is however a noticeable amount of frame-rate lag during battles when played in 3D, which is disappointing, but not a game-breaker and I still chose to play all battles in 3D (double, triple and the all-new horde battles cannot be played in 3D), as the battles really look nice in 3D, the new 3D Pokémon providing some of the best graphics on the 3DS.
Indeed, every single Pokémon has been updated into lovely cel-shaded models instead of sprites and while I was worried about the move to 3D initially, they have done a fantastic job with the new graphics – this still looks and feels like Pokémon despite the move to 3D for the first time in the main series. There are a total of around 69 new Pokémon, while this sounds like enough, this is the least amount of new Pokémon to have ever been introduced, design-wise, I have no complaints, but I never have. There are some real winners this generation though with Y exclusive Yvetal and X exclusive Xerneas in particular (the legendaries on the box) proving to be modern classics in Pokémon design.
Unlike previous games in the series, Pokémon X & Y have a good split with each type, and none feel under or over-represented, especially impressive given the introduction of the “Fairy” type (a new dragon killer nonetheless). The Fairy type doesn’t feel like it will be a particularly popular type choice as many of the Pokémon it has are of the cute, pink variety (a fair number of old Pokémon are now fairy type, like Jigglypuff and Clefairy); it’s not exactly fire-type. I was impressed by how natural it was to see a new type and to learn its intricacies for the first time. Despite all this however, the limited number of new Pokémon is slightly underwhelming and feels like a step back for the series. As does the story.
Pokémon games have never been ones to have particularly strong plots, usually just opting to focus on the sense of adventure and children overcoming evil adult plans to take over the world. Black & White stepped it up and we were treated to a yarn involving N and his plans to free Pokémon from their trainers, all stemming from a strange childhood. In Pokémon Y we are given the stock Pokémon storyline albeit with more emphasis on friendship and perhaps a teensy bit more on love for the Pocket Monsters.
One of the biggest new additions to the series is the “Mega-Evolution”, semi-evolving your ‘Mon with a altered design and higher stats for the remainder of the battle. Mega-Evolution is a neat thing, but it feels perhaps a tad underused thanks to the way it works; not many Pokémon can use the new feature, and to use it you need to have the correct mega stone attached to the Pokémon. For a new feature though, some impressive ground-work has been done and I hope it continues as long as the series continues.
A common complaint for the Pokémon series is how easy they are getting. I have never seen this issue before, as each game seems at about the same level of difficulty as the last. Pokémon Y however does seem just a little easier than the average Pokémon game, and there is a reason for this. The whole experience has been streamlined, as more and more people complain about not having much time to play their videogames (spending too much time on social networks probably), and as such there have been a couple of notable changes. It is now easier to level your Pokémon up (easier than ever to see and use EVs, still too complicated for little old me however); you get experience points when you catch a Pokémon – something that should have been in the series for a long while – and the exp. Share item now gives experience to each Pokémon in your party instead of one. Wild Pokémon now give the same amount of experience no matter what level your one is, instead of scaling up and down, which adds to quicker levels. Despite this though, you will finish the game in the same time-frame as you ever have finished a Pokémon game, just don’t expect so many frustrating moments. Steps down like this move Pokémon Y below the giddy heights of Black & White.
One key upgrade to the traditional formula is movement, there is no longer the grid-based system of old (although the map and things on it still adhere to the tried and tested formula), if you use the circle-pad to move you glide along on roller-skates, it’s great fun, but for me, D-pad is still the way to go, and the added diagonal movement is rather good to say the least. Other upgrades have been made like the Pokédex (which now has sections for different areas of the world for ease of use) and HMs are all but an extra by this point; it still takes too long to move and use items however, but overall, the improvements made to menus and navigation are appreciated.
Since Diamond & Pearl, the wireless options have improved and now they are better and more plentiful than ever, becoming more normal within the play routine. Also since Diamond & Pearl the Pokémon games have had bonus content on the touch-screen, this time we are given “Pokémon Amie” in which you can feed, pet and play minigames with your ‘Mon. There is a training minigame that actually increases your stats the more you play and you can connect online to trade (Wonder Trade is fantastic, just take my word) and battle whoever you wish, it’s a fantastic addition that gives you just more to do.
Pokémon Y is a very good game, I am unsure if it will stand the test of Pokémon time, but the improvements and visual enhancements made are vast, creating a wonderful world to explore brimming with content and life – it’s a joy to behold despite the lacklustre story and relative lack of new Pokémon.
Pokémon Y deserves a place in your 3DS’ library; just don’t expect something amazingly groundbreaking.