Now we come to a BIG review. This is the sort of game that has most reviewers buckle and pander to the millions of gamers that buy the game. Here though we've already shown some integrity and its going to continue now. If your a Pokemon fanboy looking for more justification, then this review is not for you as I'm going to point out things you probably haven't noticed through your fanboy goggles. Don't get me wrong, I have a nostalgic love for Pokemon, Probably putting more hours into Red, Blue, Yellow & Green than most have spent during the entirety of the series, and its because of that love that I'm going to be as objective on this as possible. Because its needed. So how has one of the most eagerly awaited 3DS games turned out?
As always lets begin with the story, or the lack thereof. Like previous Pokémon games, X and Y both follow a linear storyline; and begin in pretty much the exact same manner. Your character in Pokémon X and Y is a young teenager from Vaniville Town who sets out on a journey with their 3 friends (Shauna, Tierno, and Trevor). At the beginning of the game, you get to choose either Chespin, Fennekin, or Froakie as your starter Pokemon before later receiving either Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle (Yay!) Your primary goal, as always, is to defeat the 8 Gym leaders for their badges then challenge the Elite Four of the Pokémon League and its Champion, to win the game. Can't have a Pokemon game without villains, so here we have Team Flare who appear at first to be geared towards making money off of Pokemon, but it is later revealed that their desire for beauty extends worldwide and they wish to wipe out humanity and civilisation to keep the planet in its pristine and beautiful state. Sounds good on paper, but in truth I found it to be underwhelming and the lack of solid support cast makes the issue even more glaring when you factor in the game is a single-player RPG. Its definitely the weakest story in the series to date. Your 3 friends (or 3 irritating gobshite friends as Andi put it once) always seem to pop up when you don't expect and tend to have you deviate from what you were doing to do something with them. I couldn't help but yearn for the rival system of old. With the old rival system, they would turn up and pummel you with slightly stronger Pokemon so you knew to step up for the next section. Here your friends are so easy to beat its criminal, causing you to not have any indication of what to expect in the next section from wild Pokemon. The game world is as large as you expect with the usual towns & cities sprinkled around the. Each town contains the usual Poke Centre (for healing and switching Pokemon mainly) and a Store (for purchasing items), whilst also adding numerous other places - including a new clothes store. Certain items of clothing are available in certain towns for you to purchase and customise your character. While a whole shop to host a few hats to buy is a little extreme, its a welcomed addition with the move to a 3D engine. The feature set for the game seems fairly large (Ive not really played the DS Pokemon games, so some of these may be new to me, but not you) which helps alleviate the woes of the story somewhat by offering a bit more content. The Player Search System (PSS) is a multiplayer feature that allows people to connect, battle, and trade with other players through the Internet. It uses the bottom screen and allows the player to search for other people playing both globally and locally. Having it always available on the bottom screen was a genius idea as its always readily available. Pokemon-Amie is also a new feature that allows you to develop stronger bonds with their Pokemon. It uses the touch screen to allow you to pet, feed, and play with Pokemon currently on your team. You may interact with your Pokemon by petting or feeding them via the touchscreen or mimicking their movements using the camera. It seemed to be a neat little feature that I unfortunately didn't spend much time with. I haven't mentioned the Pokemon themselves yet have I? Well there are now 718 in total, 69 new ones added for Pokemon X & Y. I'm hoping someday it stops. Most people will never capture half that, let alone all 718. Considering Ive only pretty much used 1st & 2nd gen Pokemon games, Ive personally found most of the new designs to be a little ridiculous. At times the 1st gen Pokemon look so out of place when put near some of the new designs. Still, that's a LOT of Pokemon if your going for that 'gotta catch em all' vibe. A new Fairy-type is introduced for both new and old Pokemon, the first new type added to the series since Pokemon Gold and Silver (Game developers stated the addition was used to balance the Dragon-type) Theres also a new element in the game with regards to evolving called Mega Evolution. With this fully evolved Pokemon can use special items to temporarily evolve further into more powerful Mega forms during battle, with some Pokemon having more than one possible Mega form available! Nothing can be said against the games content in that regard, but is it enough to blanket over the few issues so far, notably the lack of anything approaching a noteworthy narrative and lack of a decent supporting cast?
3D - Now lets talk 3D. Im just gonna come out and say it. Its woeful. Useless even. During most of the game it isn't even activated, the game mostly plays as a 2D title, and when it is active it has issues. The main area of 3D usage is during battles (as long as its 1v1) The main problem you've probably heard of though is that the framerate nosedives completely, almost hitting single digits at times. That turns out o be the case too. How is this possible in an enclosed area? I wonder that myself. The effect is also fairly flat during battles with little depth and no pop. The only time it looks at all good is during a Pokemon evolution, cinematics and the odd stroll through a cave where the 3D oddly kicks in (a little jarring when the rest of the time its 2D) Is this a sign of things to come from Nintendo's 1st parties now the 2DS is available? I hope not.
Its hard to deny that the series has lost some of its charm & magic due to the wealth of iterations that has come before. While the refreshed 3D graphics look gorgeous on the 3DS, although the 3D is woeful to say the least, those looking for a similar refresh in gameplay will be sorely disappointed. Theres still fun to be had but X & Y's general structure & gameplay remains almost identical to its forbears, whether the new additions are enough for you to overlook that is something to consider. Pokemon X & Y isn't quite the Magikarp of the series, but its far from the Gyarados either.
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Review copy provided by myself.