So here we are again. It’s been a week since this game came out as of midnight tonight, so odds are if you wanted a review you’ve found it already. But I’m doing it anyway, bringing a Lily flair to the discussion. Without further adu, let’s send out our Gardevoir Katie and have her use Review!
Hello, there! Welcome to the wonderful world of Pokémon! My name is Katie. Our world is full of fantastic creatures called… okay, you get the idea. I really shouldn’t have to explain the premise of these games to you, you’ve been there and done that and even if you’ve never really involved yourself in the franchise, you certainly are familiar with the concept. This is GameFreak’s sixth time at bat, not to mention trading card games, various anime adaptations, even more manga adaptations, and a wonderful world we like to call ‘the most expansive franchise on Earth’. These little creatures are the most magical cash cows ever.
The latest installment finds you and your mom – an expert Rhyhorn Racer (that’s a thing!) – moving to the shining and hopeful Kalos Region, or as I like to call it, France. As a fellow transplant to the region, the local Professor, a bishounen named Sycamore, decides to gift you a new cute little supernatural killing machine, one of these cuties, along with giving you best friends. Because he’s a real stand-up guy like that, and wants you to have a posse. Your posse includes the Rival, (basically just the default trainer of the gender you aren’t), the lovely little lily Shauna who is how I consider myself having the authority to review this, the ‘dex completionist Trevor who seems pretty bad at Pokédex completion and Tierno who just wants to dance. No, I’m serious. Where Black and White were complex morality plays, X and Y are about following your own path in life and the bonds you build over the course of that journey.
Pokémon games have become methods of data collection about players, so despite the idea that fans of the series are always in the young age ranges, the in-game statistics have shown actually a pretty interesting spread across age demographics, with the people who started back in the 90s often still with the series. This demographic information has really made an impact of the development, with more serious and involved storylines starting with Black and White, and messages like ‘find your own way in life’ that appeal to the growing, often college-aged audience. X and Y has a very ‘college’ feel to it, actually, with its focus on the bonds you’ll forge for the rest of your life and the independence and adventurism. In previous generations you are given very specific goals by the Professor, but here Professor Bishounen tells you to make your own way, to do things as you want them done. Though previous titles never had, you know, supervision over you and your little cute wrecking balls, they always had someone telling you the right way to proceed. X and Y tells you that you already inherently know the right thing for your life.
So, quick aside before I get to he heavy ‘read more’ of this review, and that aside is Shauna. The Sinnoh Region’s champion, Cynthia, was very implied-lesbian especially in Black and White where she spent a lot of time at Catlin’s villa, surrounded by women in bathing suits and the equally arguably gay gym leaders Elesa and Skyla. But the entire case was very circumstantial and a lot like the ‘I see myself reflected here’ kind of thing that leaves a lot to be desired. X and Y strengthen this significantly with Shauna, who is interested in the protagonist regardless of gender, having several somewhat romantic scenes and one that is… well, remarkably romantic. This is a lightly spoilery link to the conversation as rendered into art. Again, Shauna’s bisexuality isn’t directly confronted, but I don’t think it ought to be. In a game about finding your own place in the world, what could be better than having a character who has a non-heterosexual orientation treated as just another person, with her own place in the world? Plus, there’s the whole argument that without saying what Shauna is, the writers avoid alienating American audiences who they consider too puritanical for an openly gay or bi character, which is a common point of localization censorship in anime and manga.
Now, on to the features.
X and Y introduces a lot of new bells and whistles, but only introduces around seventy new creatures. While admittedly disappointing, particularly in light of the profound lack of Legendary Pokémon this generation, it is rather understandable. Nothing from previous games could be reused in this title, no character models, no monster models, no environments, nothing. This marks the first title in the series since the first that had to be built up completely from scratch, with all seven hundred creatures getting completely remodeled for the new graphical environment. GameFreak said, as part of its opposition to DLC, that they don’t release incomplete games, but the massive amount of work that went into the graphical improvements here almost certainly is what resulted in probably the least weighty installment in the series.
The gym design… no the city design… hell, all the design in this game is remarkable, and with the return of photography from HeartGold and SoulSilver, you can upload to your online album up to forty-eight pictures of your protagonist in these amazing environments. You can even take your photo in front of the end of the damned world, but it might be too spoilery to show you. So I’ll make it a link, like this, so you can’t blame me for anything.
For more spoiler reasons, I won’t go too into the plot, but suffice it to say Kalos is the most dangerously mentally unstable of the regions, from the really dark plans of Team Flare to the creepy-as-hell new trainer type “Fairy-Tale Girl”, a six-to-eight year old girl who my friend called ‘Cheese’ seems to think killed her parents because the voices told her to and is now wondering the countryside with Fairy types and a meat cleaver just waiting for the voices to tell her to kill. Kill! She’s the counterpoint to the Ghost-trainer Hex Maniac, who bears an unsettling resemblance to the main character of WataMote.
I just alluded to the new type of Pokémon, Fairy, which is immune to freakin’ Dragons. So far it only seems to have two real damaging moves, Dazzling Gleam and Moonblast, but both pack a serious punch. These come with a handful of other new features for wild creatures, including Horde Battles, where you fight one-on-five against underleveled wild enemies. Hordes increase the chance of catching ‘mon with rare abilities or Shiny coloration simply through the law of large numbers. EV Training for hardcore fans just got far simpler with the addition of Super Training, a minigame that allows you to improve EVs, or what the game calls “core stats”. You also have a Nintendogs-esque feature called Pokémon Amie, the French word for friendship. No, it wasn’t named after Reggie Fils-Amie. You can pet your Poké’, you can feed it cupcakes, and you can play games. This feature has led to many luls, as detailed by Kotaku. Amie is also required to evolve Eevee into Sylveon, the new Fairy form. And full circle.
Pokémon Bank is a feature that’ll come online with a one-month free period in December before being an annual subscription service that allows you to transfer Pokemon to the Global Link en masse and from there to X and U, you can also keep monsters stored in the bank which will have easy sorting and searching features. The GTS also features a currency called PokéMiles which are generated by long-distance trading via the internet, as well as the album of photos you’ve taken in-game and the list of achievements unlocked. So far none of the features available on the Global Link are very interactive, instead being something of a storage space for data about you and your adventure, including a timeline of events like badges earned or achievements unlocked, and even with the inclusion of the Bank in December it doesn’t seem like we’re going to see the same level of interaction with the Global Link that the Dream World gave us in Black and White.
Admittedly, there are some issues. The fewest new Pokémon ever is mitigated by most of this generation’s additions being all-stars and not the largely forgettable ‘packing peanuts’ so common before, but the lack of Legendaries is disappointing, as is the lack of post-game material in light of GameFreak’s opposition to DLC. Additionally, the level progression and pacing seem a little odd, but they’ve never really nailed down good level progression or pacing so I can’t really hold it too strongly against them. The story and design of the world, of characters of really everything was wonderful and makes up for a lot of areas that lack luster, though. Some articles, specifically Nintendo World Report which bashed this title with like five authors, have argued that the smattering of small problems with this title make it the worst installment in the series, and on our Facebook I commented that these people simply remember fondly a Rose-tinted Version that only appeared in their hearts – no Pokémon title has ever been perfect, they’ve just always been wonderful, and on that measure X and U are two of the grandest successes so far.
Maybe it’s a fair criticism of me that this and Black and White represent the ‘Lily Versions’ that only exist in my heart, maybe I’m willing to overlook some flaws because the series has been with me most of my life, but I personally feel that X and Y honorably follow the new breath of life the series got with Fifth Generation games and that Kalos, while maybe not the most content-packed place, also has its own damned Nintendogs crammed in, so a little nod to how much is really there would be nice. Has any Pokémon title ever been a home run? No. But we all still come to the game, because it’s a hell of a show, and we’ll stick with it because we vowed to catch them all. Frankly, I’m not sure what else you ned.
What did you think of X and Y? Which starter did you choose? What title is your favorite? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page! And if you want my Friend Code or those of other MangaDen contributors, pop on over to the Forums’ thread dedicated to X and Y. We’d love to hear from you! And with Lily’s anniversary coming up, we’re excited for all the things we’re going to bring to you in the coming weeks!