With Pokémon Sun and Moon finally released its time to look back on their immediate predecessors; Pokémon X & Pokémon Y were the first pair of games released on the Nintendo 3DS and more importantly, the first main Pokémon titles to be presented entirely in 3D. Gone were the sprites of yesteryear, and in their place we received the 3D models fans had been pining after ever since Pokémon Stadium did it first. However it takes more than a modern look for these games to stand out from the crowd.
Pokémon X & Y do indeed add more to the franchise than perhaps any entry since Gold & Silver, all in an effort to balance the formula for a new generation. We received a brand new type in the Fairy type, which among other things finally curbed the wrath of the Dragon type whilst giving the Poison type a little more validity. We also got a new mechanic in Mega Evolution, a temporary form of evolution which added a tremendous boost to many older Pokémon, breathing new life into past favourites. There were also many more aspects tweaked in order to balance the battle system further, all of which have allowed us more options than ever when it comes to choosing a team of six. However while these have helped the series progress overall, what is there about Pokémon X & Y specifically that make them stand out?
Truthfully that’s a difficult question to answer, for first we have to confront the big elephant in the room here in that X & Y are just too easy. Never before has the main series been such a total breeze to play through. Sure the difficulty of every Pokémon game largely depends on how we make up our teams, however this time around we seem to revert to a Red & Blue state where we can spam one Pokémon for the whole game and still get by relatively unscathed. For all the improvements given to the battle system it is but one item that makes it all redundant as far as the main story is concerned; the Exp. Share. This revamped item now gives our entire party experience points from every encounter, regardless of whether each creature actually appeared in battle, meaning raising a worthy team is effortless. Indeed this item has been retained in OmegaRuby & AlphaSapphire and Sun & Moon, however it seems more apparent that its effects are embedded into X & Y’s frameworks. I’ve played these titles both using and not using the Exp. Share, and with it off each NPC’s Pokémon’s levels spike so much between each area that we are horribly left behind without it. Thus the game either has a too easy option or a super frustrating one, meaning the challenge doesn’t feel rewarding. Thus it’s difficult to judge how good Pokémon X & Y truly are because they’re built around an item that makes or breaks the game.
This issue besides what we’re left with is a pretty enjoyable experience when we consider the positives. Hunting each area for Pokemon is more interesting than it’s ever been with every route being home to loads of creatures from all across the series. The Kalos region is just as interesting as any seen before it and there are plenty of twists on how we traverse this vast world that help otherwise dull routes stick out in our minds. The plot, while not perfect, has plenty of memorable set pieces with a relatively mature subtext, showing us Game Freak’s new dedication to present a respectable narrative outside the typical gym badge collecting set up. New features such as the Player Search System & Super Training make communicating with other players and training specific stats easier than many could have ever imagined, and we get to add more personality to our adventure by being able to customise our trainer for the first time. Even more impressive here is that in-game currency actually means something, there’s plenty of goodies to spend it on. Ultimately there’s loads in Pokémon X & Y to commend them above the other games and the overall presentation is rather positive, especially that complete 3D world.
Pokémon X & Y however are hard to grant the title as best in the series’ history. They are great games and the improvements made to the franchise have all been made for the better, only aside from these things, they aren’t the most stand out entries from the past 20 years. Certainly not the worst, Pokémon X & Y may end up being more forgotten than past games as time ticks away, but as the first full 3D Pokémon main series titles, they sure do a good job of cleaning things up for the future.