Anyone familiar with Pokémon is aware that the main objective of each game is to collect the eight gym badges to grant you access to the prestigious Pokémon league and become the Pokémon Champion. No matter what nefarious group needs thwarting along the way, the ultimate goal is to get those badges and defeat the best of the best. That challenge of course involves triumphing over the Gym Leaders, but before you can even get to them you must tackle the gym itself. The gym layouts have improved over the years becoming noteworthy of the technical and imaginative prowess of the team behind the series. However not every gym is quite as memorable as the last and thus I shall be taking a look at which Gyms in the latest Pokémon releases stand out and which ones missed the mark this time around.
Best #1: Cyllage City Gym – Grant – Rock-Type
Pokémon X and Pokémon Y are visual triumphs for the series and this is reflected in almost all the gym layouts in the Kalos region. Coumarine’s great tree, Santalune’s spider web and Anistar’s cosmic maze all are deserving of praise however, no gym really captures that visual delight quite like the Cyllage City Gym. This unassuming cave on the outside reveals a formidable climbing wall on the inside ready for the player to scale. Added to that is a mighty waterfall crashing down in the background making the gym feel spectacular enough to forgive the amount of hours we had to invest before finally getting to the second badge challenge. Furthermore I would have thought after all that time not competing in gym battles the next leader would be a pushover compared to my now powered-up Pokémon. However the power of Grant’s Amaura was simply enough to wipe the floor with my team let alone his Tyrunt waiting in reserve. Competing here sure made me question the pre-supposition that rock types could easily be triumphed over with the water or grass starter. Did I forget to mention the bench hidden at the back; I never thought a Pokémon Gym would be a place to relax but with this one I could spend a whole day sitting there enjoying the majesty before me.
Worst #1: Shalour City Gym – Korrina – Fighting-Type
After celebrating the visuals of the latest set of gyms, I come around to one of the weaker entries Kalos has to offer. The Shalour City Gym doesn’t match up with the standards of its brethren. Roller skaters dash around in the overhead perspective the majority of the game has to offer and there isn’t really much to see inside than a couple of rails used to reach Korrina at the centre. It’s nice to see the roller skates being utilised within a gym but we’ve already been to the skate park on Route 5 and really there’s not much to this new mode of transport aside from a handful of tricks that act as distractions at best. However it really doesn’t help that the whole gym is overshadowed by The Tower of Mastery plot and the promise of Mega Evolution finally becoming yours to utilise. It’s simply something to get through with as quickly as possible befor the real battle against Mega Lucario (which turns out to be a tutorial battle rather than a real challenge). Overall Shalour City Gym is a huge disappointment when it stands against what the rest of the game has to offer. At least once it’s over and done with the game finally picks up the pace, that’s a consolation at least…
Worst #2: Laverre City Gym – Valerie – Fairy-Type
Our next gym lets itself down in a way quite different to the Shalour Gym, which is a shame considering Laverre City is the first Fairy-type gym to appear in the series. The problem with Laverre City is the layout inside is Saffron City Gym revamped and restyled. Sure it’s a pretty house and it is built inside a cool tree… but with so much detail inside this gym it’s a shame to see it wasted on tried and tested teleportation pads. Sure the Santalune Forest borrows it’s layout from Viridian Forest but this throwback (if that was to be the intention) feels thrown at us at without warning and rather undermines rather than enhances the Kalos region we’ve been getting to know. Valerie herself is not a bad Gym Leader and it is nice to see individuality in each of her gym trainers, but overall the claustrophobia of the house jars against the grandeur and scale of all the other gyms. Sadly there’s a lot of individuality here but that remains merely on an aesthetic level, whereas on all other levels it fails to meet the standards of the remaining gyms of the region.
Special: Lumiose City – Clemont – Electric-Type
Before I reach my second best gym of the Kalos region I’d like to take a moment to commemorate the most unique gym that the game has to offer. While gyms generally follow a simple, reach the end of the puzzle to challenge the leader format, every so often this is shaken up making it very hard to judge every gym by the same standards. For that reason Lumiose City Gym merits special mention here. A quiz show hidden inside the Prism Tower was quite a pleasant surprise. A quiz show that brought to the game series the anime sequence “Who’s that Pokémon?!” was even more of a delight. This gym just feels so unique in almost every aspect; we have the Clemont’s little sister imposing herself on the scene, the gym being inside the game’s most recognisable monument and the puzzles inside being so playful, it’s a nice diversion that really pays off in most respects. However it’s these unique bemoans some irritations. If you’re like me when playing Pokémon and like to battle every gym trainer inside before challenging the leader then you have to either travel awkwardly through the levels in the lift or get the question wrong on purpose which, I don’t know maybe I just care too much what the scripted trainers think of me… How can I get the questions wrong when they’re so easy!
Best #2: Snowbelle City Gym – Wulfric – Ice-Type
The final gym I want to discuss does also happen to be the last gym challenge in the Kalos region. Yet I haven’t placed it here because Wulfric particularly poses much of a challenge. In actuality I struggled to choose between this gym and Anistar City for the second best slot (not that Olympia was a challenge either; Meowstic as a signature Pokémon, my rival has been using one of those 5 badges or so ago). Both gyms are huge to behold and I remember upon walking into each one a small “woah” escaped my mouth. However while Anistar city is an incredible cosmic journey to the core, Snowbelle inevitably was won out here simply because there’s an actual puzzle to solve. The giant rotating platforms inside this giant freezer really gives you a sense that the final challenge is on the horizon; the scale of the gym really gives the player a sense that only experts have the privilege of scaling this gym. However it isn’t only the puzzle that won out here, but Wulfric himself. Wulfric indicates that if you’ve raised a good team than he’ll probably be a pushover and you know he’s right he was a pushover. It’s just nice to see that Game Freak has accepted the last gym is rarely much of a challenge when we now have access to all kinds of Pokémon by the time the final badge challenge comes about. It makes you feel all the more ready to take on Victory Road directly afterwards.
That concludes my best, worst and unique on the Pokémon gyms in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. Do you have your own favourite gyms in the Pokémon series? With the release of Pokémon OmegaRuby and Pokémon AlphaSapphire coming to us in the next 2 months we’ll have more Gym Leaders and their puzzles waiting for us to overcome. What new challenges await us are yet to be seen, but with the new 3D build over the sprite based originals we can be sure there’ll be much more than a rehash of the original gym layouts for us to play through.
If you enjoyed reading this or you just simply love Pokémon check out my editorial on the implementation of design in the more recent Pokémon releases here.