Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Rooksburg Reviews: Pokémon X (Part One)

Sorry for the long gap guys- this has mostly been due to various training courses, and making sure the previous post was fresh on here (incidentally if you haven't already, fill in this survey: ), but for the last few days it's been more because of this:

That's right, I got Pokémon X (and my fiancée got Y) and we've been pretty much playing them all day every day since.  Over 4 days we're still only halfway, having just beaten the Lumiose City gym, hence why this is only a 'part one' review.

The 3D.
Its no coincidence these were launched
at the same time as Pokémon
This is what has been on everyone's minds since a 3DS game was announced- what will the 3D be like?  Honestly, it's not bad- but it's not great either.  Firstly the overworld is not in 3D; only selected areas, and battles.  When it is active, it's quite subtle and adds depth rather jumps out at you.  In my opinion, this is much more effective and easy on the eyes, though it can be difficult to keep the 'sweet spot' to avoid double-vision.  That being said, you could turn off the 3D and it won't feel like you're missing anything at all; there's a reason why the 2DS was launched to coincide with X and Y.

The new pokémon.
Every new generation introduces a ton of new species, and X and Y are no exception; however they have introduced a lot less than usual (the count is currently around 70 and unlikely to increase).  It is likely more will be introduced in this game's sequel, but I can let it slide for this release as there are so many new features introduced.  Most controversially, these games also introduce Mega Evolutions- evolutions that can only be activated mid-battle, if a certain pokémon is holding a certain item.  Allegedly only popular pokémon have mega evolutions, Charizard and Mewtwo getting two, though there have been interesting choices like Kanghaskhan and Pinsir that have also gained evolutions.  To me, mega evolutions are wholly unnecessary and don't add an awful lot to gameplay (other than taking up a large chunk of the plot), but may be interesting competitively.  As for designs, that's subjective but in my opinion they did better than Gen V- I'm spoilt for choice as to which new pokémon to add to my team.
Mega-Evolutions would be much more useful if more were available mid-game

The new gimmicks.
Along with the pokémon themselves, every new game tends to have its own gimmicks and this one's no exception.  Most prominent are Pokémon-amie, and Super Training.  Pokémon-amie lets you play minigames with your pokémon and feed them treats, raising their 'affection' value.  This causes flavour text to appear in battle ('Fennekin awaits Dan's orders', 'Charizard's in a bit of a pinch and looks like it might cry'), giving a more personal experience to games- and a lot more heartache in Nuzlocke runs.
The cutest feature GameFreak have ever added.
  However it also has benefits like increased crit chances, increased evasion chance, and even the possibility of a focus-sash like ability where the pokémon survives a hit with 1HP left.  Super Training is similar, in that you play minigames with your pokémon, but in this case the purpose is to raise your pokémon's 'effort values'- a previously invisible score that decided how many points your pokémon gains on level up in certain stats.  In all cases the games are easy enough, not as boring as Gen V's dream world, and give you something to do if you're fed up with constant battling.  Most likely you'll spend a lot of time in Pokémon-amie during the game, then switch to Super Training for post-game competitive team raising.  The other new gimmick is trainer videos, but you're unlikely to spend much longer than 10 minutes fiddling with them.

The story.
As with other titles, the story is pretty generic- you're a young trainer sent out to become champion and fill
the pokédex, and along the way legendary pokémon and an evil team will get involved.  The pleasant surprise in this game, is that the legendaries have only had a couple of passing references and there's only been one scenario involving Team Flare so far- this is a welcome change from the Team Rocket dominated Gen I and II, and the hundreds of legendaries in Gen IV, and just as I start missing those elements then it looks like it's all kicking off now I'm leaving Lumiose City.  NPC dialogue also seems to have improved, though the progression is still very linear.

The multiplayer.
Possibly the most welcome feature of these games.  You can now interact with anyone at any time.  The O-Powers feel a little cheaty, but they do come in handy and give friends a purpose other than someone to trade with or battle.  The GTS has been improved, as you can exclude 'special' pokémon from the requests so no more 'Zekrom lvl 9 and under'.  However in it's place, there's the Wonder Trade in which you offer a pokémon and get a random one in return; as is to be expected, this is littered with early-game rubbish and it'll require a lot of luck to find anything useful.

The randomness.
Part of the Pokémon series' charm is the randomness you encounter, and this gen has possibly raised the bar on that front.  So far I've encountered strange men down dark alleys, a gliding ghost in an office, many Espurr that appear to be mind-controlling people with their cold, dead eyes (including me...), and a slightly awkward firework display with a girl I only met a couple of days ago.  And not forgetting the NPC dialogue, claiming fedoras are fashionable, telling me my power levels are over-9000, and telling me that Gary Oak/ Blue visited recently (one step behind him again!).  Then there's the gym leaders...

Criticisms so far.
Despite having over 40 hours on this game in 4 days, I still have criticisms.  So far these are:
Framerate drops.  Not by much, but noticeable and makes me cringe a little when it happens.
Lacklustre 3D.  It's nice to have on at times, and in the areas of the overworld where it works, but more often than not I find I'm switching to 2D if only for battery's sake.
Uninteresting gym leaders.  I know in Gen V the leaders were involved far too much in the plot, but at least they had some input.  So far only one gym leader appears to have any significance, and even then it wasn't for long.
Mega-Evolutions.  I'm not against the concept, but if you're going to hype them up so much then let me use something other than Lucario or Ampharos.  I'm annoyed I have to wait for postgame for things like Absol, Mawile, or Bannette.
Gifts.  I don't want your stupid Kanto starter, Lucario, or Lapras- I want to catch my own.  And I don't want the EXP share that early in the game, and affecting my whole party- I know you can switch it off but I don't want to start struggling only to have a friend tell me to use 'easy' mode.

Also, not really a criticism, but there's so many pokémon in this game... It's really hard to pick a team.  I could raise them up after completing the game, but that wouldn't be the same.  I could have a huge rotation of my team, but that'll require a lot of pokémon-amie-ing.  If ever there was a need for a second save file, this is it.

That's all I have to say for now, but once I complete and play a bit of post-game I'll have more to say.  So see you in a couple of days then!

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