Thoughts on Pokémon X

If you know me personally or follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I love Pokémon. It’s not only my favorite game series, but my favorite intellectual property of any kind. The latest installment, Pokémon XY, was my most anticipated game of this year, and it did not disappoint. In this blog, I’ve collected some of my thoughts and impressions of the game for the perusal of anyone interested.

– The game is gorgeous. It’s a bit disappointing to me that it does very little with the system’s 3D capabilities, but there’s no denying this is a huge improvement over the series’ sprite-based past. The Pokémon animations are particularly strong, going a long way to make them seem like living things. When I was nine we dreamed of Pokémon games looking as good as the anime. XY looks better.

– Thanks to a liberal increase in how XP is given out, it’s much easier to keep your monsters leveling up at a healthy rate and to incorporate new, lower-level ones into your team. This is XY’s single biggest mechanical improvement over the past games, as it keeps the game flowing at a much better pace and encourages using a variety of monsters rather than relying on a few favorites. Playing the main quest from start to finish requires almost no grinding whatsoever.

– I was skeptical about the much-hyped Mega Evolution mechanic, as it initially seemed over-the-top and out of place in the series, but I must say Game Freak successfully turned my opinion around. It adds an extra layer to the already incredibly dynamic combat of the series and provides some awesome new character designs to say “whooooaaaa!” at. More importantly, it’s a great way to give new life to monsters that can’t have another full-fledged evolution (or simply don’t really need to).

– As with most Pokémon games, X’s plot is fine but not really noteworthy or special. The series’ trademark optimism gives some heart to what’s there, but it’s not going to be what anyone remembers about the game. Which is fine, as Pokémon will always be the kind of game where the player’s personal experience is more meaningful than what the game presents.

– There are only 69 new Pokémon introduced in this game, whereas other all other major installments have introduced 100 or more. This was initially disappointing to me, as discovering unannounced new monsters is the game’s biggest thrill, but in the big picture I think it’s a smart move. Slowing down how many new creatures are introduced each time lets Game Freak keep on adding more without letting the totally number get out of control. It also allows them to utilize the past stable to its fullest in this game, really making it feel like Pokémon from all generations coexist together. As for those new 69 themselves, I’m quite fond of them. Nobody in the world does creature design better than Game Freak, and their skill is on full display here.

– Many of those new monsters of of the brand new Fairy type. This is another change that made me hesitant when first announced, as I worried about the established formula of the Type system been messed with. But it was masterfully executed, fitting perfectly into the existing system to counter overpowered Dragon types and be weak to under-utilized Poison types. Plus, there have always been fairylike Pokémon, and several of them have been retconned to the type, making it feel like it’s been missing from the series all along. I already can’t imagine going back to Pokémon without it.

Overall, it’s just great to see the magic of the Pokémon series is alive and well 17 years after it started. The game still exudes wonder and adventure, keeps me engaged with constant discovery, and just plain puts a smile on my face like no other one can.