One Week With Pokemon Y

Artwork from Arkeis.com
I love Pokemon. Ever since I first got Red back in 1998, it's been my favorite video game franchise. I make no secrets about that, either. Since then, I've picked up almost every single Pokemon game that hit stores, with the exception of Mystery Dungeon series and a few others here and there. When I learned that the series would be coming to the 3DS, I could not have been more excited. I've had my copy of Pokemon Y for just about a week and I have to say, I'm a little torn on the game.

Let me just start off by saying that I did not spend as much time with the game in the first week as I would have liked. So much crap came up in the last few days that I haven't been able to give Pokemon the attention it deserves. I am only about 10 hours into the game so far. I like, I really do, but they seem to have dumbed it down so much.

I'm not trying to say that the game is dumb. It has most of what makes Pokemon lovable. The catching, battling, trading, and leveling up is all intact. But it seems like the developers made the game easier. By the end of the first hour of gameplay, I was already going up against the first gym leader and beating the crap out of her while barely suffering any damage.

My worry is that the devlopers sacrificed story for the new features the game sports. A lot of those features are pretty cool, like the Pokemon-Amie, which allows you to develop your relationship with your individual Pokemon outside of battle. It basically turns your 3DS into an over-priced Tamagotchi. You can pet your Pokemon, play mini-games with it, and feed it Pokemon Puffs. I honesty don't see myself using this very often but in the cases where a Pokemon can only evolve if it has a good relationship with the trainer, this will come in handy.

I also like the Super Training feature. Here, you can power up your Pokemon's individual stats to give them a power boost. You "battle" against a giant Pokemon balloon and kick soccer balls into a goal at the other end of the stadium. The Pokemon gains experience points in specific areas (HP, Attack, Special Defense) which affects their ability in battle. Again, another good feature but if the first gym battle is any indication, it's not needed for the main story.

It looks like Nintendo's real goal is to push the Social aspect of Pokemon. Utilizing the 3DS's StreetPass feature, players gain PokeMiles when they pass other Pokemon players. They can then use these PokeMiles to buy items that will help to power up their Pokemon, items like Rare Candy and PP Up. There is also a Wonder Trade. I haven't used this feature yet but I believe that it allows you to trade Pokemon with random people but you have no idea what you're trading for. So you could be trading your Rattata for a Mewtwo or you could get a Magikarp. That's the beauty of Pokemon!

I'm noticing the game is very French. There are a lot of things that just make me feel it was inspired by the French culture. Just looking at one of the new features, the Pokemon-Amie. It seems like a strange name for such a feature, until you realize that "Mon Amie" in French means "My Friend".

That's not the only instance, either. The second town you come to, one of the biggest towns in the game, is Lumiose City. The city is laid out like many big cities in real life; paved streets, tall buildings, and people populating the sidewalks. There's also a very large structure off in the distance that looks ridiculously like the Eiffel Tower. Which, again, makes sense. Paris is known as "The City of Light". In Latin, "lumos" means "light", and clearly that's where the name of the city in Pokemon comes from. I actually like this real world influence in the game; it makes it feel more real, like what if Pokemon actually existed in our world. I know, I'm weird but whatever. (And indeed, as I was looking for more info on X and Y for this write up, I stumbled across this, which confirms my theory.)

One thing that bothers me is the controls. You can run from the start and get roller skates pretty early in the game. But my issue is with how clunky the movement is. The game seems to continue the grid-based moving, so your character always has to take a full step even if you just tap the controls. It's similar to the way the previous games movements, which makes a lot of sense. However given that this game is animated with much more detail than its predecessors, watching him take a full step when you only wanted to go a half step is, at times, annoying, and it just looks weird. Even a few hours into it, I'm having trouble adjusting and keep overshooting my target.

They've made a lot of tweaks to the game that really make it enjoyable, though. The battle scenes aren't fully animated but they are close. When you throw a Pokemon into battle, it's rendered in a style like the animated series, giving them more life than the pixelated sprites of the past. And while each Pokemon still has their classic "call" or voice, Nintendo went the extra mile by adding Pikachu's cartoon voice into the game. It's a little thing but it was a nice touch.

I also like the flourishes they added outside of battle. When your character picks up an item, they animated an action of him or her actually putting it into the bag. Also, when you speak to a character that is shorter than you or interact with a trainer's Pokemon, the character actually bends over to get closer to it. Again, it's not something that affects the gameplay but you can see the kind of detail they added.

There's probably a lot more that I can say about the game but to be honest, I'd rather just play it. If you're a fan of Pokemon like I am, then you probably already own this. If you've never played a Pokemon game before and not sure where to start, then you may as well pick up X or Y. So far, it's a worthy predecessor to the previous games but without being further into the story, I can't say that that statement will hold up. Even though Pokemon games haven't always been story heavy, they've always at least been enjoyable. I'm hoping X and Y have the same kind of enjoyment.


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