Pokemon ‘X’ and ‘Y’ present a move forward for series

By Stephen Margelony-Lajoie

The Pokemon series arrived on the video game scene in 1996, bringing with it the simple yet entertaining idea of catching and raising “pocket monsters” to the Japanese role-playing game genre. The game has been phenomenally successful and fascinated people of all ages for years, raking in millions and millions of sales with each sequel. However, after more than ten iterations and rereleases of the JRPG, Pokemon’’s once-successful formula has grown tired and overused. The recently released Pokemon “X” and “Y” have taken the old formula and, well, evolved it.

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The biggest update to the game is its breathtaking graphics overhaul. Financially, the creators of Pokemon didn’t really have any choice other than move their attention to the 3DS, Nintendo’s latest flagship handheld device. The most logical move was to let go of the series’ ancient sprite-based look and static battle art. In “X” and “Y,” characters and environments come to life, looking cartoonier than before (but not as ridiculous as the Pokemon anime series). Movement in the game still feels similar to its classic sprite-based days, with most areas relying on a grid-like mode of travel via foot, roller skates, bicycle and sometimes Pokemon. The classic movement looks much more fluid thanks to flush, beautiful, cel-shaded characters, cities and castles inspired by Parisian culture.

Since players spend the most time battling with their ferocious pets, the game’s creators have ensured that battles look and feel much more dynamic than in previous games. The movement of Pokemon finally features actual movement this time around, and every Pokemon’s moves have been given a 3D touch that impresses players. The big issue with the battle graphics is the lack of creativity in scenery. Unless you’re fighting a gym leader or a member of the Elite Four, you’ll see the same environments repeatedly. However, this might have been an issue of system capability, as there is some obvious lag during most of the fights throughout the game. As amazing as the Pokemon and their move animations are in this game, they would have served better on a different, more capable gaming system.

The new battle mechanics themselves, however, are greatly welcomed. In order to add more diversity to battle strategies, a new Fairy type of Pokemon has been introduced. In addition to being the Dragon type’s worse enemy, the Fairy type also brings into the mix new weaknesses and resistances, but it’s still a majorly cute addition to Pokemon warfare. Another prominent update to the game’s mechanics is Mega Evolution, a temporary in-battle evolution that requires a Pokemon-specific Mega Stone and a special device that interacts with the Mega Stone. Mega Evolution, although suspiciously similar Digimon’s famous Digievolution, was executed brilliantly. Instead of giving Pokemon an extra evolution that makes them more powerful overall, Mega Evolution only changes strengths, weaknesses and aesthetic appearance. For instance, a Fire type (usually weak to Ground) may inherit the abilities of a Ground type temporarily. This makes the Pokemon more impervious to Ground type moves, but makes Ice a major weakness. Other than this, the next best thing about Mega Evolution is really its incredible aesthetic value. For instance, a black Charizard? Few other things in the game get cooler than that.

The new generation’s weakest moments lie within its story. Now, it’s no secret that the storylines of past Pokemon games have never been the series’ strong suit, but Pokemon Black and White took the story to epic proportions that questioned the structures of morality and ethics in the Pokemon universe. “X” and “Y,” on the other hand, feature little more than a bland, albeit fashionable, villain seeking the world’s destruction with very little motive. This is unfortunate because the series finally accomplished a groundbreaking achievement in storytelling with Black and White, but the creators forewent repeating this success to focus on improving all other aspects of the game regarding graphics and gameplay.

“X” and “Y” will be fresh and exciting for longtime lovers of the series, but the game will never reach perfection until its creators can finally mesh their storytelling talents with graphical evolution.

Stephen Margelony-Lajoie can be reached at [email protected]