Sunday, November 24, 2013
Pokemon Y - Thoughts
To put it succinctly, it's Pokemon.
Indeed there are a lot of differences from this iteration compared to the last: Fairy typing, Mega Evolutions, four "rivals", clothing to buy, skates, and much more. The most important of these is arguably an array of easy online features implemented into the series letting you trade and battle against random (human) trainers. Metagame players will have to deal with additional moves and rebalances, but for normal players the game still remains very loyal to its core: Grass/Fire/Water starters, random encounters, eight single type gyms, HMs needed to snag goodies, a villainous Team Flare organization, Elite Four & Champion, and a heaping of post-game content.
People play Pokemon for a variety of different reasons, ranging from a serious addiction for proving team synergy to the simple whimsy of wondering what cute creatures are found this time around. I explore the series somewhat casually, focusing on becoming champion and then comfortably retiring with my sextet of award-winning gamecocks. Personally, catching pokemon after my limelight serves no purpose and I'm not inclined to test my might against trainers online. Therefore the way in which I judge Pokemon, and have always judged Pokemon, has been as a straightforward singleplayer RPG.
From that perspective I repeat what I've already iterated above—not much has mechanically changed. What I enjoy most in Pokemon is forming my team and deciding what moves to obtain or keep. Trying to cover all angles against a chart of eighteen types and a myriad of type combinations is a pleasant mental gymnastic, especially when you're aiming to fill your positions with pokemon you actually want. My final team was comprised of a Chesnaught, Aegislash (my MVP), Blastoise, Pangoro, Tyrantrum and, of course, Yveltal. While I wasn't completely rounded (Blastoise was often the only one who could withstand a super effective hit), this was the only Pokemon game where I've been content with my entire ensemble, each one deserving of their berth.
The lull between testing poke-mettle against gym leaders was filled with simplistic sightseeing and monotype trainers. The game started off with juvenescent awe but around the 20th hour of my journey that marvel was drained through repetition. The most notable offender would be Team Flare, whose entire entourage consists ~10 pokemon that you fight over and over and over and over and over. The final bout with them is egregiously plodding and outstays its welcome before it really even begins; I'm unsure why Game Freak seems fine with lending its villains a scrimpy set of pokemon, especially since this game had three regions to draw from. It wasn't as offensive as Team Rocket's handful of poison types, but I expect a lot more progress to be made in the seventeen years since Red & Blue's debut (this gripe extends to the other games as well).
While I grew weary of the predictable battles, I was entertained with some encounters—particularly the Elite Four. However by late game my team's arsenal was solidified and I didn't experiment around with new abilities, opting for an almost mechanical use of high power attack moves no matter who was up to bat. This is largely a fault of my propensity towards offensive types but conversely the game didn't demand that I change up my tactics, allowing me to take the Champion's glittering tiara by brute force alone. This samey-ness did wear on me by the end and I was glad the adventure ended when it did.
Besides the gameplay (which is what you spend most of your time experiencing) there are certainly other aspects going for this entry. Visuals are sharp and the transition to 3D is nice, as water glistens and cities bustle. On the battlefield the pokemon models are replete with their own set of animations (which is impressive given the vast amount of them), the only drawback being the stuttering plague of slowdown during bigger fights. Dialogue remains reasonably charming and the plot shifts from the moral ambiguity of Black & White back to a more traditional story, including a strange lore regarding a three thousand year old king that finds its conclusion shoehorned in come credits time. Oh, and healing at pokecenters is faster too, thank god.
X & Y are fantastic entries to jump into for someone that's only played the original games, and a great experience for those that skip every other handheld generation. But considering that Heart Gold & Soul Silver came out in 2010, Black & White in 2011 and Black & White 2 in 2012, I don't think enough of the mechanics have developed for me to lavish the game with high praise compared against its predecessors. Fans of the series will be steeled against such criticism and will most likely be left ecstatic, finding its breadth of content justifying the price tag. But for me, in the end, I'm left wanting just a little bit more.
Images obtained from: tenminutegamereview.blogspot.com, polygon.com, guardian.com