The lights are on
Hello, Pokémon. It's been a while. Sorry I didn't play you when you first came out, but due to money issues and not owning a handheld to play, it was kinda hard to get around to up until recently. Now that I own a Nintendo 2DS (which I really like, by the way) I decided to make Pokémon Y the first game I picked up for it, and over a week and 30+ hours later I can see that I've made the right decision. So yes, before going any further I'd like to point out that this review is based on playing the game entirely in 2D.
Before getting into the subject of this review, let me first briefly discuss my history with the Pokémon games. In 1998, I begged my parents for a Game Boy Pocket just so I could play Pokémon Red, which made me a very happy kid after getting some really good report card scores. Years later, I pre-ordered my first game ever, Pokémon Silver Version. After 2002, my interest in Pokémon fizzled so I initially missed out on Ruby and Sapphire (though I played Emerald version years later). I wasn't able to play Diamond or Pearl at first pass either, but tried Platinum a few years ago to only mild approval. Black and White versions were just okay to me, and didn't get to try their sequels.
With that being said, I played through Pokémon HeartGold from start to finish, and once more through. It was a much better remake than FireRed in my opinion, and the replay value that HeartGold presented kept me playing for over 120 hours. When all is said and done, that's easily my favorite DS title ever. But, enough digressing and let's go back to the present.
Now with Pokémon Y, I did my best to keep any expectations as low as possible so I could just enjoy it, and I'm happy to say that X and Y both could very easily become my favorite Pokémon games of all time. I didn't even need to keep my expectations low--from the introduction down to the very last tidbits of gameplay, the game kept exceeding almost every expectation I had for it, and when it didn't, something would eventually make up for it entirely.
In terms of story, the intro mostly sticks to the formula that's made the series popular; some new professor asks about you, your mother tells you the professor wants to see you, you meet your rivals and/or friends, you choose your starter Pokémon and you're on the way! You eventually collect a Pokédex, and are of course tasked with collecting and gathering data on all the Pokémon--719 Pokémon now, to be exact--with the help of your friends and your Pokémon.
If it were just like that though, the game would be way too easy and lack any kind of challenge, so of course there's a criminal organization out to get you, and they go by the name of Team Flare. Like previous iterations of these crime organizations, Flare has their own intentions, and theirs is to make the world "beautiful" in their own way, even if it means destroying everyone and everything in their paths.
In terms of basic structure anyway, it's all there the way I've described it. However, it's all in the way the game's presented and told is what makes this entry so special. Thanks to the 3DS' power, everything comes to life. Towns comes to life, battles come to life, environments come to life, even the usual top-down view changes from time to time, allowing more room for these little details to pop out at you. Though sometimes the controls suffer as a result, it's nice to have a Pokémon game that breaks the visual norm like this. It makes up for the story-telling which suffers, though the Team Flare part of the story actually ties in very nicely which is impressive.
If story-telling were taking the proverbial back-seat this time around, then the battle mechanics, online trading and battling capabilities, training options, Mega Evolutions and, well, the Pokémon would be crowding up the rest of the auditorium too much to care. There is so much extra content and activity in this installment that it's impossible to completely discredit this game for something that was never really a big deal to begin with.
Mega Evolutions are a terrific addition to the battle system. As long as the Pokémon is equipped with the proper Mega Stone, players can Mega Evolve their Pokémon once per battle, which allows for some cool designs and ridiculous stat boosts for a brief time period. Think of it like Pokémon going into Super Saiyan form. Sometimes, even in later battles a Mega Evolution can make the difference between an opponent having one more chance at knocking your Pokémon out, or you doing the same to his.
Other optional but helpful activities in the game allow you to boost your Pokémon's stats and EV levels through Super Training, where they can use specialized training bags to boot said stats. Pokémon-Amie will bring out the inner-D'AWWWW in even the most hardened of gamers. With Pokémon-Amie, trainers can let their Pokémon out of its ball, pet it, feed it Poké Puffs and play easy mini-games such as berry-catching and tile puzzle solving to make your Pokémon more friendly with you. Some of these interactions are way too adorable. There, I said it. HINT: Try either Pikachu or Raichu.
Of course, it'll be impossible to "catch 'em all" unless you trade with others, so luckily trading options are easier than ever. You can either trade locally via Wireless, otherwise you can connect to the Internet and trade with friends, acquaintances or even passer-bys. Speaking of trade, this game has a feature that's new to me, called Wonder Trade. It allows you to trade ANY Pokémon you have in exchange for a Pokémon that some other random person across the world wants to offer up. Sometimes you'll get something as common as a Pidgey or an Axew, other times you'll get starter Pokémon like Froakie or Cyndaquil. Take a chance, you never know what you'll get--and that's why I love Wonder Trading!
I found that Pokémon Y felt like it was a lot easier than other games, however. A big part of this is because toward the beginning of the game, someone gives you an Exp. Share, which shares experience with all of your Pokémon after a battle even if they didn't participate. While it's an awesome item to have and I do solidly recommend it for newcomers, if you're a veteran Pokémon trainer you might feel better off without it. Before I earned my 8th badge, two of my Pokémon were nearing Level 68!
To be fair though, it difficulty doesn't matter. Nothing changes the fact that this is easily the best Pokémon game I've played since Gold and Silver, and I can't think of any reason 3DS (or 2DS) owners shouldn't play it unless they're stubborn "genwunners" or joyless people. It gives you reason to keep going back to it, even long after taking on the Pokémon League.
Like William Shakespeare once said: Gotta Catch 'Em All!
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