Pokemon Y Review
Seventeen years and the Pokemon series is still going strong. It's almost impressive to think that over the years, the series has been able to stick with the same basic formula and still bring in droves of fans, new and old alike. Then again, maybe the simple concept of catching them all (and maybe getting a special colored Pokemon) is enough for Game Freak to keep pumping out the different versions, but series veterans began to complain of the Pokemon games getting stale... after all, you can only collect eight badges and become the Pokemon League Champion so many times before it gets old.
With the fifth generation of Pokemon, Game Freak made some small, but noticable changes to the formula, including the attempt to create a more meaningful plot, as well various improvements that helped make battles and exploration less slow and tedious. Now, with the series first entry on the 3DS, Pokemon Y offers yet more changes to the tried-and-true formula to help keep interest alive in tired Pokefans--most prominent of which being the series' jump from the pixel standard to fully 3D. Does the sixth generation of Pokemon rekindle lost love for the series (or keep the loving blaze strong), or does Pokemon Y fizzle and leave much to be desired?
Pokemon Y's beginning is much like many other entries: You are the new kid in town, and as such, Professor Sycamore decides that it's your destiny to become a Pokemon Trainer. You and four (!) other kids set off on a Pokemon adventure, learning what it means to be a Trainer and taking down an evil organization along the way. The story structure doesn't really try to shake anything up like the fifth generation did, but it's sufficent and does take a quick glimpse at some deeper plots, even if they aren't fleshed out.
However, most people aren't going to be playing a Pokemon game for its engaging plots, and Y improves in almost every other field. The biggest change to the Pokemon formula this time around is the jump to 3D graphics, and this jump succeeded wonderfully. The Pokemon now feel more alive than ever before, and the attack animations have more power behind them as well. The actual 3D effect is a bit lacking, though: It's only available in battles and a few specific areas, and when you turn the slider up the fps stutters pretty dramatically. It's best to not use the 3D with this title, despite the effects themselves not looking bad.
Also worth nothing is the game's setting itself: the Kalos region is based off France, and it shows. The cities and towns of this new region really reflects a (somewhat glorified) French theme, and this stylistic choice permenates throughout the entire region. While Pokemon Black/White only really showed its unique setting in the sprawling and maze-like Castelia City, almost every town in Pokemon Y feels like it's make with the country of inspiration in mind.
Another big upgrade is how easy it is to connect with other players via the Player Search System. Any time after you start the game, you can connect to the Internet and see friends playing online at the same time, as well as passerbys from around the world. From there, you can choose someone to trade or battle with, as well as access the GTS and the Wonder Trade, where you trade a random Pokemon for another random Pokemon. That's right, you no longer have to trek back to a Pokemon Center to trade Pokemon, nor do you need a Friend Code for a spur of the moment battle: As long as you have an Internet connection, you're good to go. The only awkquard thing about the PSS (and other online functions in the game) is that you'll lose your Internet connection if you put your system into standby mode; seeeing as the 3DS typically holds its connection even in standby, it's somewhat odd that Pokemon Y doesn't.
Super Training is another addition to this new Pokemon game, and helps to get the average Pokemon player into a more competitve scene. Super Training is available at the start of the game, and essentially allows you to train Pokemon in Effort Values, a previously invincible stat that required a fair amount of research to understand. EVs determine how much a Pokemon will gain in a given stat, so it's helpful in gaining an edge over other players online, though not nearly as important in a normal playthrough. Essentially, Super Training takes gaining EVs down to playing through some mini-games and your Pokemon hitting punching bags, making the process overall much faster and less tedious. Unfortunately the game itself doesn't offer much explanation on Super Training, which somewhat ruins the point of it, but anyone that fiddles with it will be able t o get the gist of it quickly enough.
Even Pokemon Amie, the seemingly superficial addition to Pokemon Y, has some small effect on how you play. Playing mini-games and feeding your Pokemon Poke-Puffs may seem like a waste of time, but spending time with your Pokemon in Pokemon Amie will have some interesting effects in the main game (though not in any kind of online battles). For example, a Pokemon may land a critical hit when it otherwise wouldn't because it wanted to show off to you, or survive an otherwise knock out blow to seem strong to you. It's small, but it's a nice effect, and it certainly gives Pokemon Amie a bit more substance in the main game than past additions like the Pokemon Musical or Pokemon Contests were.
Of course, there are other small upgrades to the general game. Little things like different grass colors having different Pokemon apperance rates, the ability to customise your trainer's looks, and battle changes like Grass-types not being affected by spore moves all add a bit to the game and simply make it that little bit more fun to play.
We can't forget about the new Pokemon type, either. The Fairy-type, the first new Pokemon type since the advent of Dark- and Steel-types in Pokemon Gold/Silver, has a big affect on how people can use weaknesses and resistances to their advantage. Fairy types help take down some of the previously difficult to defeat types (Dragon- and Dark-types), as well as give Steel-type moves a bit of a boost be being weak to them. Overall the new type is an interesting addition to the formula, albeit one that only series veterans may truly apprecaite.
However, not all of Y's new updates are completely well thought out. One of thes emore problematic updates is the change to the Exp. Share. Originally an equipable item that allowed an out of battle Pokemon to get half experience, it's now a key item that gives all out of battle Pokemon half experience. While that seems like a good idea, it usually ends up with your party leveling up too quickly, and the game not scaling to this sudden change in level gaining. The Exp. Share can be turned off, but also allows for the opportunity to change your party around more than you would in a previous entry, but for the most part the Exp. Share makes the game a bit on the easy side, with your over-powered Pokemon steamrolling over most of the competition.
Also, there is an overall lack of post-game content, especially compared to the fifth generation of games. After you complete the main story, you get access to the Friend Safari, a neat little twist on the Safaris of the past involving the friends registered in the 3DS and whether they're also playing Pokemon. But, other than that and the typical couple of extra caves to explore, that's about it. Other than trying to fill up the Kalos region Pokedex, there's little incentive to keep playing unless you're interested in trying to battle with others online.
It's important to mention that there are also a relatively small number of new Pokemon for this new generation: There are only 69 new Pokemon this generation. While that may seem disappointing, Black/White brought in so many new Pokemon it makes sense that the number is cut down a bit this time around.
So, how does this new Pokemon generation stack up? For the most part, it's another fantastic entry to the series. Moreover, it's a great game to re-introduce old fans of the series with its graphical and mechanical upgrades. If Pokemon X or Y interests you, consider picking it up; unless you're completely turned off of the franchise, you'll find much to enjoy in this 3DS game.