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A ridiculously in-depth Look at Pokémon X&Y

11/11/13 2:40pm
tl;dr

After a whole month of doing almost nothing but playing Pokémon I think I've seen enough to provide you with the single most in-depth look at Pokémon X & Y you'll find on ScrewAttack*, a.k.a. Part 4 of my Pokémon X & Y Thoughts Pentalogy, my PoXYThoP!

 

*Disclaimer: You may find a more in-depth look at Pokémon X & Y on ScrewAttack.

 

Pokémon games have a tendency of coming out two days before a new semester starts. That wouldn't be a problem if they weren't this insanely addictive. If you already watched Ben and Nick's review of Y and that other version, you may be aware of the fact that the new generation of Pokémon games is not too shabby. But just how not too shabby is it?

 

 

First things first: You can pick any of the seven available languages you want when you start the game, but understandably so can't change it later, because that would mess with the awesome multi-language Pokédex. The fact that you can select a language that is not the same as your standard 3DS setting is something I immediately loved, despite it being nothing special. The Pokémon series are the only games I play in German, so not having to change my system settings for one game is a huge plus. I know it's a rather niche thing, but every game should do that again, not just a select few.

Speaking of German: There will be some phrases in the following article that are used in the game. I translated them myself whenever I couldn't find the official English translation. I probably didn't use the exact same wording, but they'll still mean the same thing.

 

I have no idea where to put this, so I'll just throw it in here: You use the circle pad to skate and the D-Pad to walk and run, works really well. Skating is not as fast as riding your bike, but allows you to grind on certain rails and do tricks(which don't do anything), which is pretty neat.

 

New Pokémon

What would a new generation be without new Pokémon? Let's never find out, GameFreak said, and brought 68(+3 leaked ones) new Pokémon into the series, plus 28 of the brand new Mega Evolutions I'll talk about later, for a total of 96(or 99) creatures to discover. While this is a relatively small upgrade to the roster, I very much prefer the quality over quantity approach(looking at you, Black & White). The new Pokémon are (mostly) memorable and (mostly) either cool or adorable. How useful/popular they'll actually be in competitive play is yet to be determined. The designs range from this:

 

It's like a panda, only awesome.

 

...to this...

 

Please leave.

 

I absolutely love the starters, because they're all, again, either cool or adorable at all their stages. They even follow the tradition of making the Grass Starter the least interesting one. Some of you may remember my prediction that all starters will in their final form gain a secondary type to cancel out their weaknesses to one another(Water/Psychic – Fire/Dark – Grass/Fighting). Turns out the opposite was the case: Instead, Froakie's final evolution is a Water/Dark type, while Fennekin ends up as a Fire/Psychic(it IS as awesome as it sounds). I was right about Chespin, though, so...yeah, I was close. Just wanted to point that out.

 

 

Summa summarum: I like (most) new Pokémon, and so will you.

 

The New Type: Fairy (and the Rebalancing that came with it)

 

The Fairy type is just there. That didn't sound too nice...what I was trying to say is, it falls into place perfectly. Fairy is super effective against Dragon, Fighting and Dark and not very effective against Poison(Called it!), Steel and Fire, while taking double damage only from Poison and Steel, but not Fire. Fairy types take half damage from Bug, Dark and Fighting attacks and are immune to Dragon.

 

Most Fairy type attacks are Special or Status moves, with Play Rough(Strength 90/Precision 90, with a chance of lowering the opponent's attack) as the only (known) Physical among them.

Among the few offensive Fairy moves, my favorite has to be Dazzling Gleam(80/100), a very potent move capable of hitting multiple enemies at once. It turns Gardevoir into one heck of a Dragon slaying Femme Fatale(let's never speak of male Gardevoir).

 

It just works. After a couple of battles involving Fairies you'll be using Fairy-attacks like they've always been there, even though it's not one of the types that actually make sense(like Water>Fire>Grass).

 

The Fairies advantage against Dragon, Fighting and Dark(three types a lot of very aggressive Pokémon have) makes them very useful(but not necessary) in serious matches as they provide you with a great counter against rush-down strategies. Their biggest weakness, however, is having to go up against the other defensive types Poison and Steel, which depending on the Fairy's move set, can easily end up being impossible to fight.

 

The fact that a Steel type can safely take out a Pokémon that threatens a team's main damage output with just one or two attacks makes Steel a lot more valuable than before.

A little too valuable, the fine folk at Game Freak thought: In generation 6, Steel has lost its resistance to Ghost and Dark type attacks. While this did lead to a nasty surprise for my Honedge, I fully understand the decision to rebalance the types.

 

I did NOT expect liking this one.

 

Summa summarum: Fairy type, you're alright. You can stay.

 

Except for you. Get out.

 

Other, unrelated changes to the balance were made, with the following being the most prominent:

Electric types are now fully immune to paralysis, and Grass types are no longer affected by '-powder' and '-spore' attacks.

A whole lot of attacks have been changed in terms of their strength and accuracy, some of which quite notably. They're listed on Bulbapedia. Bulbapedia, the Poké-Pedia for Poké-Pros.[Smiles at camera, gives a thumbs up]

The abilities Drought, Drizzle, Snow Warning and Sandstorm have been nerfed: The respective weather they cause now only lasts for 5 turns instead of for the whole battle, making them considerably less excessively overpowered.

 

Pokémon-Amie

Not actual gameplay, but an accurate representation of how adorable it is.

Pokémon-Amie is one if my favorite pointless time sinks in the game, which is good because there's no casino for some reason. Just like almost everything in X & Y, it can be accessed through the touchscreen at any time. You can pet and feed your Pokémon, with different Pokémon having different preferences to where to be petted(grow up). You can also play three different minigames with them. The minigames, while simplistic, are surprisingly fun and award you with Pofflés('cake') to stuff down your Gardevoir's throat. Whenever the 3DS's camera recognizes a face, you can trigger another minigame-like thing: Your Pokémon will make some faces at you and wants you to copy them: like tilting your head to the side, closing your eyes and opening your mouth. I know, I did this joke already, but it actually happened in that order.

The face recognition works really well if you're in a sufficiently well lit area, and I couldn't keep myself from smiling like an idiot whenever my Pokémon cheered at how willingly I pursed my lips at a sheep.

 

The whole purpose of Pokémon-Amie is allowing the player to bond with their Pokémon, so that they are motivated for battle and will fight more proficiently. This is shown by a short text pop-up ( which is usually something along the lines of "Gardevoir is eager to receive Bennet's orders") at the beginning of a battle. It's impossible to tell which values improve when and by how much without someone reading into the games code, which people are doing as we speak.

 

What I can confirm, however, is the fact that Pokémon-Amie has no effect on competitive battles, it's just a nice addition for the single player fans.

 

Summa Summarum: It's fun, and it's adorable. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

Super Training

Accessible at any time through the touchscreen, Super Training is Game Freak's answer to the horrible grinding required to train your Pokémon to perfect EV. Basically you control your Pokémon standing on a hovering football goal and firing balls at the goals popping up on a giant Pokémon balloon, while avoiding the giant black balls flying at your face(grow up). There are three levels of training for each stat, the later, more efficient ones are quickly unlocked. Successfully completing an exercise awards up to 12 EV and a sand bag. The sand bags can be used to further train the stats. My only problem with that is that you have to tap the touchscreen repeatedly for 10 to 30 seconds(depending on the the bag's size/effectiveness) for the bag to have an effect, which is not fun at all. However, seeing how EV training now takes about 20-30 minutes instead of 2 hours this is only a small complaint. I managed to train an entire team in the time it took me to train one Pokémon in B&W 2.

 

Summa Summarum: While still a mindless grind, EV training is now a more convenient, considerably faster mindless grind. It gives you all the satisfaction of training while still leaving you with enough time to shower and eat, unlike previous installments.

 

Mega Evolution

The all-important bond between Pokémon and Trainer required for Mega Evolution doesn't matter at all. Instead any Pokémon carrying the appropriate Mega Stone can Mega Evolve once you've progressed far enough in the story. Megas are far more powerful than their standard counterparts, but not necessarily flat upgrades. Mega Ampharos, for example, while insanely strong and beautiful, is slower than its normal form. Megas often have different abilities and occasionally even different types.

 

There are several limitations that prevent Megas from taking over the meta game. Firstly there's the obvious fact that Megas can't carry any other items, which is a bigger deal than it seems at first. Secondly, and most importantly, while it's perfectly possible to have everyone in your team carry a Mega Stone, you can only trigger one Mega Evolution per battle, giving the Megas a flagship-like role as either a center piece to your strategy, or just as a big scary monster.

Thou shall fear its name.

 

The moment of the enemy Mega Evolution feels like the intro to a boss fight, and I love it. No matter if you shut your opponent's Mega down instantly or have to wear it down in a long struggle, you will fist pump when its HP drop to zero. These small moments alone make Mega Evolutions a worthwhile addition to the Pokémon formula.

 

This leads me to the one point I disagree with Ben and Nick in: They consider Mega Evolution 'brainless', as they see no reason not to always mega evolve right away. While this is true to a certain extent in single player, a poorly timed evolution can work more towards your opponent's advantage than your own in competitive battles, as Pokémon like Gyarados, Gengar and Ampharos gain new weaknesses. Especially when you only have one Pokémon with the ability to Mega Evolve in your team, it's not hard for your opponent to predict that it almost certainly will do so.

In every online battle I fought so far, my opponent immediately tried to take out my Ampharos with an Ice attack, expecting it to evolve into its Dragon/Electric form. Being the tactical badass that I am, I took a turn to paralyze the threat before triggering the evolution, taking considerably less damage than I would have otherwise. Had I have Ampharos evolve turn one, it could have easily cost me the game.

I was disappointed in the way you get new Mega Stones, as I expected some seriously epic adventures to be had. Some of them are just given to you by random people, but most of them can be found post-game just lying on the ground somewhere. Aside from the fact that it's not exactly exciting, there's a personal problem I have with that: The Stones are only visible/collectable between 8 and 9 pm. Most if not all of my social life begins at 8 pm, so with the exception of Fridays and the occasional Sunday I couldn't go looking for them. After running through the whole world to look for sparkles on the ground I ultimately gave in, looked up the locations of the stones and gathered them all in exactly 13 minutes 25 seconds of not adventuring at all.

 

Speaking of Mega Stones: There are several version exclusives, the most prominent being of course the X & Y versions of Charizard and Mewtwo. While it is cool that you can trade your Y stone for an X one to get an evolution you can't get otherwise, there's only one of each of them per game, so either way, at least one of you will be one Mega Stone short.

 

Summa Summarum: Mega Evolutions are a pretty cool addition to the Pokémon series, and while not all of the Megas require too much strategy, they won't achieve more than any regular Pokémon when just thrown into battle relying on their strength alone. The process of getting Mega Stones is, with a few exceptions, actually kind of lame and I could do without the version exclusive Stones.

 

The Story and Characters

'Everyone has to die, so they cannot destroy the world's beauty'. Holy shmoly, I thought, that's a pretty dark goal you have there Mr/Ms. BarelyaSpoiler. This is the premise of X&Y, have fun kids. How can you put something as serious as this in a way that people who had crayons for breakfast would understand? You don't, thought whoever was responsible for writing the plot, so let's do so regardless.

Unlike previous games, were you're constantly interfering with Team Blank's goals, battling their leader who 'let's you get away this time' before meeting him later for an epic final showdown, the main villain of X&Y sends hundreds of faceless, worthless goons at you, that will never be even remotely challenging. But then, you finally find out that the person who twenty hours ago explicitly said that they want to kill everybody is the villain. You battle them, and they suck and lose. Now the path to the legendary Pokémon they were planning to use for their plans is open. Quick! Get there! Cancel the Apocalypse!

O hey, random drunk who just stumbled into the studio and has yet to be caught by security. What was that? You think the player should first team up with their worthless friend, who literally does nothing but slow them down, to fight 20 worthless, faceless goons in a row without making any visible, encouraging progress before continuing with the significantly less tedious part of the game?

Those are characters. With names other than 'Grunt'.  I don't remember 4/5 of them at all. Those of you capable of deductive reasoning already know which one I consider the least forgettable.

Sure, why not? I see no reason not to listen to a random drunk person telling us how to design our game.

Almost the entirety of the story is crammed into a 2 hour long section towards the end of the game, and it is just horrible. There is no sense of urgency, there's no challenge and you don't feel like you've accomplished anything by the end. The shear amount of 30 second-battles makes it feel like an eternity. So Team Flare are basically wild Zubat.

[Sighs]

 

With a premise this daringly dark I was hoping for something, you know, good.

It's quite hilarious, though, how easily you can catch the Legendary with a standard Pokéball.

 

The lameness isn't limited to the villains, unfortunately. In X&Y your "rivals" just happen to be your four new best friends, all with the one-dimensional quirks we know and love. There's the fat guy, and the smart guy, and the obnoxiously cute girl. I like that you can pick a nickname only they will call you by because Über B is an awesome name, shut up.

Then there's your main rival: Your new neighbor, who will always have the opposite gender of what you picked because Nintendo know.

 

Just saying.

 

S/He is a complete waste of a rival. Not only is s/he significantly weaker than you every time you meet, s/he also just gives up shortly before the end. What kind of rival just gives up? Most of the recent ones do, and this one's no exception. S/he's not even mad about it. Give me someone who wants to beat me, for crying out loud!

 

Summa Summarum: The premise was surprisingly dark and actually quite interesting. Unfortunately, the pacing was absolutely off, and I not once was under the impression Team Flare would actually ever achieve anything, no matter how many pretty 'We're doomed' cutscenes they threw at me. Characters are, as has been tradition for the past 4 generations, pretty damn lame(Not counting Cynthia from DP(grow up), she's the hypest). While the lack of a decent rival -despite having four of them- is at this point no longer a surprise, it is still a disappointment.

No points for the story, I'm afraid.

 

Sky Battles

They suck. Only flying and levitating Pokémon can take part in these optional battles.

I thought the whole point of Sky Battles was to showcase some pretty 3D landscapes. However, no matter where the battle takes place, it will always have the green trees backdrop. Even if you're on a beach fighting someone on a cliff on the other side of the water.

 

Summa Summarum: Sky Battles suck and no effort went into making them.

 

Horde Battles

Being attacked by five Pokémon with considerably lower levels than your own wastes your time by making you sit through five identical attack animations in a row(sometimes more when you're up against Mime Jr using Copycat). They're not as time consuming when your Pokémon knows multi-target attacks, one of which will be enough to take them out.

They're not all bad, though: Since you will usually find five Pokémon of the same species in one horde, and can reliably attract them with the item Honey or the move Sweet Scent , you can use them to quickly train EV(Super Training is still faster, though). Also worth mentioning is the fact, that horde Pokémon often have hidden abilities, which have usually far more interesting effects, e.g. Ninetale's hidden ability is Drought, which instantly casts Sunny Day the moment the Pokémon enters the battle.

 

Summa Summarum: If you're looking for a horde battle, you'll be happy when you run into one. If you're just passing through, they're annoying beyond belief.

Raising Pokémon

So I've said some nice things and some not so nice things about X&Y, making it look like they are no worthy successors to B2&W2. Turns out I really, really, REALLY love Pokémon Y. And here's (Pokémon) Why! [slaps himself in the face]

I was really worried when I read an interview about how Pokémon had to be changed to compete with all those stupid mobile games and cow clickers more and more people succumb to. But then I actually played it and immediately saw what they meant: They started respecting the players' time. Insane, I know.

Aside from the aforementioned Super Training, there are several other features that reflect this decision.

The first change you'll notice is that now your Pokémon gain experience even if you catch a wild Pokémon instead of having to defeat it. This speeds up the early game tremendously, as you no longer have to chose between training your team and adding new Pokémon to it. Very useful, considering the large amount of different Pokémon you can find in just one patch of high grass.

The second change was made to the Exp. Share. Instead of being a held item, it went back to distributing exp. among all of your team like it did in Gen I. However, instead of cutting the exp into six parts, all of your Pokémon gain half of the exp the participating Pokémon receive, independent of how many members your team has. You can turn it off any time you want, if you want to, you maniac. The new Exp. Share is what makes X&Y so incredibly easy, but it also makes training entire teams a whole lot faster, which makes creating new teams infinitely less tedious.

A less obviously helpful addition is the Battle Château. There you will always find trainers for you to fight. Doing so will eventually grant you higher ranks, all named after titles of nobility. Because, you know, the French love their nobles.

 

Ba-Dum-Tish!

The higher your rank, the stronger some of the trainers will be you encounter(including gym leaders and Elite 4). At a certain rank you will find some Kimono-wearers who exclusively use Audino.

 

Those guys.

What's so special about that? Audino has an unreasonably high experience yield, which means you get tons of exp from defeating them. You can reach a point at which you'll fight Audino at levels 50 and beyond, making leveling up extremely fast(often times multiple levels per battle for most Pokémon below 50), especially in combination with the Exp. Share.

 

Summa Summarum: Game Freak sacrificed difficulty for convenience. Considering Pokémon games have always been more time consuming than challenging, there's absolutely no more challenge to be found in the main game. Speeding up progression, however, makes the game more fun and already kept me playing for longer than B1&W1 ever did.

 

I'd also like to point out a change in the translation when learning new moves. I've noticed this in the German version and don't know how it has been handled in other languages. When selecting 'Keep old moves' instead of having your Pokémon replace one of its moves for a new one, the game will ask whether it should 'Give up learning [move]?', instead of the classic 'So [Pokémon] shouldn't learn [move]?" I'm bringing this up because I to this day don't know whether to answer this question with 'Yes' or 'No' and I really appreciate this change.

 

Character Customization

Finally!

Through the course of the game you'll be able to buy different clothes and accessories, change your hairstyle and wear colored contact lenses.

That's me. Riding a Lapras. It's more fun than watching Red ride a Lapras.

If the customization stopped there we would have been thankful for what we've got. But it doesn't, Game Freak wanted to make sure that every player in the world is unique not only in appearance, but in image as well. At first a feature I didn't quite know what to do with, I fell in love with the Trainer PR Studio, which allows you to make your very own 10-second PR video featuring you and one of your Pokémon. You can set things like background, camera angles and movement, poses and facial expression, music, text pop-ups, sound effects and special effects from a growing selection of options. These settings can be changed for every full second. I spend hours tinkering with different combinations of sound and visuals, timing cuts and finding ways to work around the limitations. Maybe it's just me, but I'm having tons of fun with it, and hope that this feature will return in future titles.

 

Summa Summarum: You're your own original character. While it doesn't change game play, it sure makes everything a lot more fun.

 

Before I talk about the last few tweaks I like, there's a few more problems I'd like to address:

B2&W2 had a little clock on the touchscreen at all times, even in battle. That was great. X&Y uses the touchscreen for tons of different stuff, but somehow doesn't have a clock. That's not great.

Also I think the soundtrack, while still good, is nowhere near as awesome as the rather unique one of B2&W2. This becomes especially noticeable in gyms: They used to have tons of personality in their music alone, making even a straight line a more memorable gym than anything X&Y have to offer.

 

Lastly, the frame rate suffers in 2v2 battles, and basically dies in 3v3 battles. This doesn't interfere with game play, obviously, but it's not very pretty. However, it can be easily forgiven considering that Pokémon and their attacks have never looked this good.

Online

Welcome to the present, Pokémon, we've been expecting you. Patiently.

All of X&Y's online functions can be accessed anywhere, any time on the clockless touchscreen.

The GTS(including its sweet theme song ) makes a return, same goes for trading, battling and voice chat, all of which are perfectly functional. They were also made actually usable this time, by allowing you to see who among your friends, 'acquaintances'[strangers you've played with before] and a bunch of random people are online. You can challenge anyone to a battle, invite them to trade, ask them if you can view their PR video and a bunch of other things.

If you stumble across some German guy called 'Bennet' in a sweet red fedora, be sure to do any or all of those things. I probably won't have anything better to do.

There's one problem with the voice chat though: When challenging someone outside of the Battle Plaza, you both have to select the same voice chat setting(On or Off) without knowing which the other picked. Instead of just turning it off when one player wants it to, the game just kicks both of you out. I don't think this is intentional and I hope it will be fixed.

The new Wonder Trade allows you to trade one of your Pokémon against someone else's without knowing what your going to get. Sometimes you get lucky, but usually you don't. It's fun for a bit, but by no means the feature we've been waiting for.

 

There's also O-Powers, which are similar to the Pass Powers from B&W. They provide a variety of bonuses you can use on yourself, or, at a lower cost, on other players. The energy they require recharges over time, and the more steps you've walked with your 3DS that day, the faster it does so. I found myself using the exp- and money-bonuses quite a bit, while ignoring the stat-boosts completely.

The biggest improvement has been made to ranked online battles, as they are now actually possible. In earlier games the match did not count towards the Win/Loss ratio of either player if it was interrupted by flicking the wireless-switch. Now whichever player's 'connection problems' led to the end of the match will automatically be declared the loser. Suddenly I am able to use the Pokémon I've trained in fun, rewarding battles, instead of playing for two turns before somebody's WiFi rage quits. And even in the now rare case that they're still pulling the plug, I've got a free win for the rankings, which is fine by me.

This little change makes X&Y the first good Pokémon games for competitive players. Combine that with everything in the Raising Pokémon section and you got yourself the future of Pokémon.

I already fell victim to some seriously impressive plays(though not as often as seriously impressive plays fell victim to me) and I think the fact that online battles are just so much better now is responsible for keeping players interested enough to reach whole new levels of skill, and with every skilled Trainer out there, Pokémon becomes more fun.

Summa Summarum: Despite some minor flaws, Pokémon X&Y's online features are fantastic. I could very well imagine that this kind of connectivity is what Game Freak wanted to achieve from the very beginning of the series, and they've finally done it.

Pokémon X&Y are the foundation of a new age of Pokémon games. They did what every good Pokémon did before them: Make every previous installment unplayable in comparison. While they may not have delivered on everything one would have hoped for(the StreetPass feature is literally not worth mentioning), they improved the formula in ways one couldn't even think of, to an extent one could have never imagined. Looking back at Red&Blue, it's incredible how far the series has come while still staying true to its roots. If you haven't played Pokémon in a while, or never at all, this is where you want to start. If X&Y don't win you over, Pokémon is not for you.

 

Well, that was part 4 of the pentalogy, and if I know my Greek, and I don't, that means there's only one part left. And you'll find out what that is once I get around to stop playing Pokémon for long enough to write it.

Which may never happen, so you might just as well share your thoughts on X&Y in the comments while we're waiting.

 

Until next time, and thanks for scrolling through desinterestedly, reading only the last few paragraphs.

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