Pokémon X & Y (3DS) Review – Pikachu and Co. Make the Jump to the 3DS in Fine Form

When I refelct on the initial Pokémon games I think that I was a bit too old when they first came out as they just didn’t interest me at all. I dismissed them as being a childish game, too easy for this hardcore gamer. There’s no denying just how big the franchise is though with Pikachu being as recognizable as any other mascot character like Mario, Sonic, Kirby or Link. That still didn’t sway my attitude though as those pocket monsters did not appeal to me at all; that is, until I had my daughter Hannah.

I consider Hannah to be one of the biggest Pokemon fans around. She can name hundreds of different Pokémon and what they do. She’s played every Pokémon game, owns thousands of Pokémon cards, has watched all of the movies, and she is an avid collector of Pokémon memorabilia. So to say that she is the expert in the family is an understatement. As for me, I know a bit about the gameplay, the graphics, and the music from sitting and watching Hannah play over the years, but I never really played a game myself; however Pokemon X and Y piqued my curiosity. With the series taking a new direction, some new additions to the gameplay being added, and of course the fact that Pokémon X and Y are the first games in the franchise to be released on the 3DS, I was interested to finally sit down and play the series so I could see what this popular RPG was all about.

We here at COG were lucky enough receive a copy of both Pokémon X and Y to review, so rather then write a traditional review posted by one contributor we thought we’d do something a little different. I have enlisted the help of Hannah, the ‘Poke-holic’ mentioned above, to write this review with me so you’ll get two points of view: one from the teenaged seasoned Pokemon veteran and one from a total newbie to the franchise.

Hannah: Just like every other Pokémon game you start off on an epic adventure to become the Pokémon League champion. And once again you come across yet another bumbling team of wannabe Pokémon Trainers trying to take over the world, this time named Team Flare. I found the story pretty interesting and even very emotional at times! I really like the fact that when you first play you get off to a quick start and can jump right into the game. I have found that previous games in the series feel like it takes way too long to start your adventure. I also found that this new release is pretty cool because you can now customize your character at the beginning of the game and you can change outfits later in the game too.

Jen: Like Hannah I was quite pleased I could easily jump in and battle when first starting the game. In regards to my own experience I found that the tutorials were quite well done, and within minutes I happily caught my first Pokémon! For me I found the pacing was a bit slow in the beginning. Yes, you could jump right in and play and get to the first gym quite quickly, but it seemed like it took ages to get to the second gym. Admittedly, I didn’t find myself too involved with the plot, as I was more focused on getting to my next gym or leveling my Pokémon, but the story focuses on helping Professor Sycamore, aiding him in his research about Mega Evolutions, a new feature in the game.

Hannah: Moving around has really changed. Right away I noticed that you can now walk diagonally, instead of just up and down and right to left. Also new to series is that before you get to the first gym you get a pair of roller skates to move around. This can be kind of hard to master at first, but with practice you’ll get the hang of it. The roller skates make it a lot easier to get around and much easier than using the bike in past games.

Jen: I agree that the roller skates did make it pretty easy to get around, but switching from the d-pad to the analog stick got rather annoying at times when I wanted to simply walk. I also found myself frequently using the B button to run, especially through long grass to avoid encountering Wild Pokémon.   

Hannah: The graphics were awesome! The new region of Kalos is definitely based off France. I noticed some of the locations in Lumoise City had French names and the characters used French words too. I really like the 3DS characters! This newest game in the franchise, with the updated graphics, really does seem to be what Pokémon has been trying to be all these years, visually speaking, and it looks like it’s finally succeeding in doing that. For example the Pokémon battles make you feel like you’re in an actual battle now. The animation of the attacks was pretty cool, and you can actually see the ‘faint’ animation when a Pokémon is defeated!

Jen: I’d agree with Hannah in regards to the visuals. The tower in the centre of the city definitely looks like the Eiffel tower and the Kalos map looks like France as well! The map itself was quite easy to traverse, the routes quite simple and straightforward. I understand, from talking with Hannah, that in previous games this wasn’t the case, and perhaps it’s been “dumbed down”, but as a newcomer to the series I really appreciated the design. There are numerous buildings and little towns to explore, and many weird townsfolk to meet, like the very strange and creepy Mr. Bonding.

This graphics look pretty spectacular on the 3DS screen, particularly the Pokémon themselves. No more 2D sprites as they are now 3D character models, and their attacks are now animated. Hannah also pointed out that they now look true to their size too. The camera is still primarily a top down view, but with more detail, occasionally switching to a view behind your character to showcase the beautiful environments, especially in Lumiose City. We had the opportunity to use both our own original 3DS and a borrowed 3DS XL from Nintendo, and while the game looks quite nice on the original 3DS this game was meant to be played on the XL as it really does take full advantage of the larger screen.

I must say I was very disappointed with the sound effects. Pokémon still sound much like their older counterparts, not matching their updated character models at all, with the exception of Pikachu, who, much to Hannah’s delight, exclaims “Pika!” in the midst of battle. Fans of the series will be pleased that the familiar themes they have come to know and love remain in the soundtrack too.

Hannah: As for gameplay, I was happy that they introduced a new Pokémon type, Fairy, which is the first time this has happened since the Johto region (Pokémon Silver and Gold). At first the fairy type didn’t seem good at all, but once I learned all the moves I really liked playing with these Pokémon, especially Sylveon! There are a few new Pokémon this time around and it’s a perfect mix of new and old. It was nice to see some of my old favourites, (yay Charmander!) and I was pretty impressed with the starter Pokémon: Chespin, Froakie and Fennekin. I chose Fennekin, and it’s not a Fire/Fighting one thank goodness, like many of the older fire based starter Pokémon of past games. I admit that I found some of the new Pokémon kind of weird, and not in a good way either. There is this one Pokémon based off a keychain and it is literally a loop with keys around it and eyes. Some of these strange Pokémon can be unexpectedly powerful though and kind of hard to find. I saw lots of Pokémon I already know but had trouble finding some of the newer ones. It was also cool to ride a Pokémon over rocky areas and deep snow, something you could never do before.

Now one thing that I really did like in X and Y are the new Mega Evolutions. These add a powerful twist to your battle style and strategy. When you use Mega Stone (discovered later in the story) your Pokémon become extreme, taking your already fully evolved Pokémon to a new level of awesome. But not every Pokémon can do this as you’ll find only certain types are “Mega-Approved”. The mega evolution animation seemed a bit over the top though and rather silly to watch. I wasn’t too impressed with the new Horde battles, and the Sky Battles seemed a bit pointless really, just a battle with Flying Pokémon, nothing special about it.

In regards to the games challenge, maybe it’s because I know quite a bit about Pokémon, and I’ve played all the games before, but I thought this one was a bit too easy. I did not find the single player game very challenging at all.  

Jen: But I did! As someone who is who is new to the series I’m not very familiar with the “type” gameplay, so I did struggle a bit first, often asking Hannah what is effective against what. But I soon discovered strengths and weaknesses of each, and held my own against the numerous trainers and wild Pokémon I encountered. The battles themselves can be quite intense, especially with the newly added Horde battles, in which you find yourself facing multiple lower level Pokémon.

I’ll admit that I’m really surprised with the depth of the game. There is a fair bit of strategy involved. Discovering that there are only four moves that can be equipped and many new moves available to learn as your Pokémon levels up, it’s pretty deep. Lowering defenses, raising attack powers, using potions, finding out what move attacks first, effects like poison and paralyze……there is a lot more involved in battle then I could have ever imagined. And to think Hannah has been playing all of these games over the years and mastering them.

Many familiar Pokémon make an appearance in X and Y. From the much beloved Pikachu, to Snorlax, Squirttle, many Pokémon fans will be happy. I do have to agree with Hannah though as some of the new Pokémon are just plain weird. A key chain? We both had a good laugh when we encountered a Klefki. And despite having names like Flambebe, and looking light and dainty, the new fairy type Pokémon can really pack a punch, especially against Dragon types. I really liked the EXP Share feature that ensured that the Pokémon in my collection that I did not use also gain experience points from a battle. I tried my best to rotate mine, but did tend to favour my starter Chespin so this feature was quite welcome!

Hannah: Pokémon Amie is a new feature that uses the 3DS camera and I really like it because it gives you a way to bond with your Pokémon, which makes them stronger in battle. And the little mini games are kinda fun too. You can spend lots of time petting and enjoying your Pokémon. I really liked that when you smile or move your head, your Pokémon did the same; however, there were times that it seemed like the 3DS camera didn’t pick up the movement and facial expressions that well.

Jen: I am not on board with you on this one Hannah. I personally didn’t think that Pokémon Amie added much to the game at all! I understand that it helps a player bond with their Pokémon, but it was a tad too childish for my tastes. If you like Tamagotchi or pet-sim games, then this is right up your alley, but I personally felt a bit ridiculous petting and feeding them.   Hmmmmm, given some of the audience this game aims for, it does make sense though.

Super Training on the other hand was a fantastic way to level up your Pokémon’s base stats, raising attacks and defenses, speed, and HP through a series of mini games and Training Bags for your Pokémon to attack. Eventually, you’ll gain access to Super Secret training that gives you a chance add some pretty rare items to your inventory.  Now this was cool.

I think what impressed me the most of Pokémon X and Y was the online play. The Player Search System was exceptional; a perfect example how online should be on handheld system like the 3DS. We stumbled upon it unexpectedly, sitting next to each other on a train, playing the single player campaign, when all of a sudden Hannah’s avatar’s head popped up on my lower screen. Tapping her avatar I found I could view her profile, battle, trade with her, give her O-powers (temporary boosts) or view her Trainer PR Video, all through Infrared Connection or Local Wireless. The option to battle other players within the vicinity of your own 3DS works so seamlessly, it really blew me away. Our connection was quite good, and she repeatedly beat me in battle (and took great pleasure in it!). The Player Search System, or P.S.S., allows you to connect with not only your 3DS Friends, but with nearby players as a “Passerby” as well as players from all over the world whose avatars appear in your menu, and this is all done without using those ‘pain-in-the-butt’ 3DS Friend codes. Connecting to the Internet opens up a wide range of online options, including Wonder Trade, in which you blindly trade your Pokémon with hopes of receiving one in return that isn’t a Level 3 Weedle.

Hannah: I really like what they’ve done with the Pokémon series. With Pokémon X (and Y) the new changes are pretty awesome and this is now my new favourite game in the series. I’ve already beat all 8 gyms, evolved many of my Pokémon, caught the Legendary Xerneas, but I can’t put it down! And with the cool online play, I’ll be playing this game for a long time. 

Jen: I was shocked by how much I enjoyed Pokémon Y (Hannah chose the ‘X’ version). I found it to be surprisingly challenging, and while it may a bit too easy for veterans of previous games I think it’s a great introduction to the series for new players like me. I grew attached to these funny little creatures, taking great pride in watching them evolve and battle, and much like Hannah, I’m quite sure I’ll be playing this game for a long time.

So, what is our conclusion?  Well, with just the right mix of nostalgia and new features, as well as beautiful, colourful graphics, and a very impressive online experience, Pokémon X and Y both offer a refreshing change to the much loved series that both newcomers and long time fans can appreciate, and these games are one of the best titles available for the 3DS system to date. It is a must own for any 3DS owner.

The Good


The Bad