As some folks may have picked up from my review, it’s been a while since I’ve last played a Pokemon game – all the way back to Red/Blue. If you want to read my full review of the game you can find it here, but it’s actually been a really fascinating jump to see what some 15 odd years of innovation and iteration has done to the franchise. While I’ve been playing, there’s been several key elements that stood out as the best reasons to jump back into Pokemon if you’re like me and have been on hiatus from the series for quite some time.
Even if you’re the sort to turn off the 3D effects of the the 3DS, the new Pokemon X and Y still looks excellent. The sprites of older generations have been lovingly recreated and animated into 3D models. This makes battles more visually exciting to watch, even over and over again while grinding, and also makes the world more interesting to explore. Changing from the traditional top-down camera, the focus will even rotate at times to give you a better view of the surroundings.
Better Pokemon Variety
Oh look, another Metapod. While I can’t speak for how this has played out in other more recent titles, the variety of Pokemon, especially in the early game, has been much improved in Pokemon X and Y. The first few sections of grass and forest are stocked with all kinds of Pokemon species, meaning you don’t need to rely on the same early catches to fight the first several gym leaders or even just have a team that doesn’t look like it did the last time. Although if you are nostalgic for a few old favorites, most of them are there to be caught and Pokemon X and Y even gives you a second starter Pokemon from the original trio: Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle.
Easier to Jump Into
Pokemon X and Y offers a number of improvements for making the world of Pokemon just a little easier to get into. Mostly this is done through offering a bunch of key items earlier in the play experience. Roller-skates are unlocked within the first several hours of starting Pokemon X and Y, and the all important bicycle is earned not much longer afterwards. This makes getting around the world a lot faster and easier. The other major item you get is the EXP Share. This splits up the experience of the Pokemon that participated in the battle with the rest of the team, making it easier to power up a weaker Pokemon later on without returning to earlier zones or focus on a strong starter for an area without the rest of your team lagging behind.
More Convenient Trading
Long gone are the days of dragging out my GameBoy link cable or trying to get that IR sensor perfectly aligned in order to trade. The 3DS is capable of bringing all the convenience and reach that Wi-Fi and the Internet have to offer. Whether it’s trading with someone in the room or half way across the globe, Pokemon X and Y makes it easier than ever to “catch them all”. In addition to only certain species appearing in X or Y, there’s other incentives to trading. Pokemon from other world regions level faster and some variations or colorations of Pokemon will only appear depending on where you live. There’s even a Wonder Trade option to blindly play the lottery and see what you get. Fair warning: it’s probably that flower ones.
As a returning player that may or may not have “rare candy glitched” my team to max level, EV (Effort Value) is a mechanic that was entirely new and perhaps a bit mind boggling to me. For those who also don’t know, EV is the way that your Pokemon’s stats level up while it fights. The simplest explanation is that your Pokemon’s stats advance in response to what they are fighting. Battle a bunch of fast Pokemon and your speed goes up more than it normally would, for example. This however is not always desirable when looking to min/max your team to its absolute potential, which usually means focusing on a few key stats and not wasting your pool of EV on stats you don’t want or need. This used to be accomplished by sending out a junk starter that could absorb whatever fights you didn’t need and only sending out your specific Pokemon when a desirable win was found. You can still do it this way, but Super Training can replace this in a much more clear and concise manner. Want your Pokemon to have more Speed? Have it do speed training and use speed punching bags. Also, if you ever screw up or want to change, no longer do you need to start fresh. You can use bags to reset all your EV stats or berries to knock points out of a specific stat.
Perfect On-The-Go Gameplay
While traveling this week it has really rung true as one of the best features and that is Pokemon‘s ability to be a near perfect game to play on the go. The overworld navigation, battles and turn based combat means there’s no reason to “pause” the gameplay if you suddenly need to put it down. The game is naturally paused whenever you’re not actively giving it a command. If you’re mid battle, it’s simple enough to close the screen and toss it in your bag, and the game isn’t so complex that even if you don’t get back to the game for several hours you’ll have forgotten your battle plan or strategy . It’s the perfect companion for a 3DS when you’re not just parked on the couch.
Whether you’re a returning fan or a die-hard with every Pokemon game in their collection, there’s a lot to enjoy with Pokemon X and Y. There’s loads of new Pokemon to capture and tons to see and do in the game. If you need some more help just starting out, check out our Pokemon X and Y Guide for Beginners.