Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Retro Goat Reviews- Pokemon X

Pokemon X is the one half of the beginning of the sixth generation, and the handheld Pokemon game to be playable in 3D. While it doesn't feature a wide selection of new Pokemon (excluding Mega Evolutions, only 69 new Pokemon), it's main draw is the experience of playing a handheld Pokemon game, with such vastly improved graphics, sound, and etcetera. That being said, it doesn't lack in playing with a new level of depth and immersion, and the improvements to the more minor things only serve to make the overall experience more enjoyable.

Story- 8/10

The story is relatively the same, with you being a kid/young adult about to start their Pokemon journey, but this time you actually have friends! There isn't one or two rivals who only exist to occasionally battle you and possibly be rude to you, you're actually part of a group of friends. I always found it odd that you only knew one or two other people your age, but here you're actually part of a group of Pokemon trainers, much like you would be in real life. Just a simple little thing that makes this feels larger than previous installments, This games villain team, Team Flare, may very well hold the distinction of being the most flamboyant team to ever be in a Pokemon game. That is no small feat. While there were a few times that they got irritating, I often found them to be pretty funny but in a way that varying ages would be able to enjoy. You don't have to be six or twenty-five to find the jokes amusing, it does a decent job of being humorous for all ages. The villain team however doesn't have the ubiquitous feeling that teams like Team Rocket have. You don't get the feeling that they're everywhere watching you, merely that they exist and have a few goals they're trying to accomplish. This game does tackle two things not often found in the games though; war and death. They very bluntly state that humans have used Pokemon alongside them to fight wars, and they make it clear that thousands of humans and Pokemon both died from these battles. That's a pretty heavy topic for kids, but they handle it very eloquently so they tug at your heartstrings without traumatizing anyone. The last thing of note is a character named AZ, and while explaining in detail would spoil a majority of the story, he's a very intriguing character that made me genuinely want to progress the story to hear more about him. The handheld games have never been famous for their amazing story telling, but this game does have a nicely done story that can be both enjoyed and appreciated by old and new players alike.

Gameplay- 9/10

The main draw of the gameplay is, save for the obvious "Gotta catch 'em all" part, is actually a sense of nostalgia. At first it was clearly a new game, with new characters and Pokemon, but then you're given one of the original first generation starters. At that point, there's this feeling of childlike wonder and fun, because you see the progression the franchise has made. New players won't have a problem enjoying the game, but those who grew up with the franchise will see just how far it's gone over the years. The mere fact that I was battling a Pidgey with a Charmander again, just like when I was a kid, brought a sense of joy not often found in games anymore. As for catching them all, I noted the low amount of new Pokemon added to this generation, but 69 plus 648 is 718. That is not a small amount of Pokemon to be acquired and trained. However you will need previous games to fairly be able to get every single Pokemon, which is pretty standard with this series. Another addition is Pokemon hordes. That's essentially when, instead of battling one Pokemon in the wild at a certain level, you fight five Pokemon at a much lower level. It's entertaining at first, but the novelty wears off when you're spending ten minutes dealing with a group of Pokemon that will barely help you level up. There is one other noticeable issue though, the lack of content to enjoy after you beat the game. It took me around forty hours to beat this game, and that's with a good amount of goofing off. After that, you only have three legendaries (excluding the X or Y exclusive legendary that you find before the game ends) out of 51 to capture. There's also two new locations you unlock after the game is beaten, one for battling and one for capturing Pokemon, but they don't add more than a few hours to the overall play time. For players of past games who know what it is, the Safari Zone has been changed so the amount of Pokemon you find increases with the amount of friends saved on your 3DS. Zero friends, zero Pokemon. It's interesting in concept, but the execution is troubled when you realize that some people don't have anyone saved on their friends list, so this area is useless to them. The final change to the core gameplay though, save for the below paragraph on Fairy types and Mega Evolutions, is the ability to customize your character. It's a little thing that furthers the overall experience, and gives you something new to collect. It's just a nice new detail that compliments the rest of the games deep level of immersion, and it really is cooler than the ability to customize in a game would sound. Disappointment with the lack of content after the main story is done aside, this game provides an incredibly in-depth feeling, and can be enjoyed just as much by a child as it can be by an adult. If it wasn't for the lack of stuff to do after you beat the game, where normally beating the game unlocks a world of possibilities, I would call the gameplay absolutely perfect.

Changes From Past Installments- 8/10

I wanted to separate this from the core gameplay section of the review due to the need to go in-depth on the two changes this game adds; the new Fairy type and Mega Evolutions. Ever since the second generation of Pokemon games, debuting in the year 1999 in Japan and 2000 in North America, there hasn't been a single addition to the elemental types that each Pokemon have...until now. Fairy type is an entirely new type, with new moves and everything, that serves to change the standard strategy that one would have for Pokemon battling. Again, it's interesting in concept but the execution isn't as amazing as it could be. Fairy type is a near over-powered type, with it's only weaknesses being the relatively rarely used types Poison and Steel, while dominating over anything else. However, it isn't to a game breaking extent, and Fairy type Pokemon can be defeated just like any other Pokemon. The other issue with the execution though is that they stapled this new type on Pokemon from past games, such as Gardevoir, without explanation. It would've been interesting if this new region had a recently discovered type not found in the other regions, but it's more so treated as if it's always been there. There's a subtle nod or two to the fact that this type popped out of nowhere, but it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention to every last line of dialogue. The other new addition is Mega Evolutions. To clarify, Mega Evolutions are when a Pokemon goes past it's normal limitations and become an even stronger version of themselves, without turning into a new Pokemon. They do make sure this cannot be abused though, as you can only have one Pokemon mega evolve per battle. As opposed to the Fairy type, they actually do explain why this new things happens though, and it makes enough sense that it doesn't look like some gimmicky add-on. It's one of the most interesting developments lately from the Pokemon franchise, and it's clearly just beginning. There's a incredible amount of possibilities that Mega Evolutions could provide in future games, and it all starts here.

Graphics- 10/10

The graphics come close to making this game. The gameplay is as fun as ever, but the graphics add a level of immersion beyond what seemed capable from a Pokemon game, and it seriously shows the franchises progression over the years. The 3D is used beautifully, the Pokemon look incredible, and the moves look cooler than ever. This would be a great game without the amazing graphics, but they really do help elevate it from great to amazing. Not a single thing about the graphics seemed troubled, and the sixth generations transition to 3D gaming is completely seamless. 

Sound- 9/10

The sound is also very nicely done, and it compliments the rest of the game nicely. It helps set the mood for the given areas, and it adds on to the experience. The sound effects for moves is nicely done too, but it seems the sound effects still aren't as varied as they could be. However with hundreds of moves and hundreds of Pokemon, it's a nitpick more than anything and it doesn't hinder the game at all.

Difficulty- Varies

The game is admittedly the easiest Pokemon game currently released, and it's due to the simple change in the Experience All. Now it gives experience to each Pokemon in the party like in Red and Blue, but it is a fairly high amount for each and it doesn't take a huge amount away from the Pokemon that did the battling. This means that your entire team can be a vastly higher level than anything you battle, and that can make everything end up a total push over. That being said, it can be turned off at any point though, for those who want more of a challenge, so this isn't something every player has to deal with if they want a higher difficulty in a way.

Replay Value- High

Don't let the lack of end game content fool you, there is still the whole "catching them all" part of the Pokemon games to fulfill. Doing so is no easy feat, and it is an incredibly time consuming task. Any completionist will have their work cut out for them, and the more casual players will still likely try to get a high number of Pokemon. Needless to say, the replay value varies from person to person. If you just to beat the game, then you'll be busy for a few days. If you want to experience all this game has to offer, you'll be busy for more time than you could imagine.

Buy it?

Absolutely. This is a must have game for 3DS owners, and it really blows expectations out of the water. It's an absolutely incredibly game, amazing experience, and it really comes close to being a genuinely perfect Pokemon game. If you've played the previous games, you'll already now if you'll like it or not, and if you grew up on the franchise then you will absolutely fall in love with this game.

Overall Pokemon X and Y really does raise the bar for future games, and it will be incredibly difficult topping how wonderful these games are. They're two near flawless games, and the few aforementioned flaws are minor as well. It may very well be the ultimate Pokemon experience, and no one should miss out on it.

Final Score- 9/10