The lights are on
When I was in ninth grade in 1998, I remember a few kids that would sit in class before the bell rang and play Pokémon Red and Blue on their Game Boys. Despite owning the console, the thought of playing a Pokémon game never crossed my mind. I was never a big fan of JRPGs (especially back then), and I quickly dismissed Pokémon as a game for little kids. This was the same holiday season that gave me Metal Gear Solid and Ocarina of Time, so why would I want to waste time with some kiddie game that I (incorrectly) assumed was based on some crappy anime?
As the years went by, I became less stubborn and expanded my gaming horizons by giving new genres a chance. Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy Tactics blew me away, and I revisited and loved past classics like Chrono Trigger when they were re-released on the DS. JRPGs never became something I naturally gravitated towards, but I learned to recognize their value. That said, Pokémon always remained a franchise that I never gave a second thought to.
That finally changed in the last couple of weeks. Here at Game Informer, I started hearing plenty of excited chatter about X and Y from Kyle Hilliard, Tim Turi, and Ben Hanson. Their enthusiasm got my attention, and Kyle’s review made me realize that this new installment was as good of a hopping-on point as any if I wanted to finally give the series a chance. On Sunday, I bought my first Pokémon game.
I’m only about two hours in, but I’ve enjoyed most of it so far. It’s light on tutorial, which is kind of a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I hate lengthy, hand-holding openings to games. On the other, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. Basic concepts of the franchise are completely unknown to me, and I’ve had to learn several things through trial and error. When I tried to capture a rival trainer’s Pokémon, my Poké Ball simply bounced off its head. Having never seen a chart of strengths and weaknesses, I don’t know what Pokémon to pit against which type of enemy. I can reasonably assume that fire is good against ice and that water is good against fire, but other matchups are less clear (Should I use electricity against water or water against electricity? What the hell are fairies weak against?). I’ll see something like “tail whip” in my move list, and attempt to use it to finish an enemy off, only to find that it’s a non-damaging attack. Many elements of the UI and menu system seem confusing to me, and I’m still learning how to perform needed functions within them. I have no idea what boxes are, or why I need to go to a computer terminal to access my Pokémon. During most of my time with the game, I’ve had Bulbapedia on the laptop in front of me just so I have a little more of an idea of what I’m doing.
Being new to the series, it’s also harder to appreciate the numerous improvements that have been made to X/Y. The other guys in the office have raved about the 3D battle animations and the experience share system, but the impact of those features can’t be fully felt by me considering I never knew what it was like before.
Despite my confusion over many of the game’s elements and inability to put the improvements in the proper perspective, I really have enjoyed my brief time with the game. Each time I enter a battle in the tall grass, I’m excited to see if I’ll be greeted with a new creature that can potentially join my stable of Pokémon. Considering I was only familiar with the creatures that had previously appeared in the Smash Bros. series, there are over 700 Pokemon that I’ll be seeing for the first time while I play X/Y. It’s a unique experience that immediately feels different from any other JRPG I’ve played in the past, and I’m starting to understand its appeal. If my enthusiasm keeps up throughout the duration of the game, I’ll have no problem considering myself one of the millions of Pokémon fans.
Are you a beginner to Pokemon like me? Check out Kyle's guide for newcomers here.