Just When I Think I’m Out

The Pokemon series is often criticized for its glacial evolution. In many ways the newest versions of the game are just like Red and Blue were way back in the day. This criticism is misguided at best. While the basics remain the same, every generation brings plenty of new and different things to the series. Every generation of Pokemon is more different the average releases in series like Halo or Call of Duty. X and Y may bring the biggest changes the Pokemon series has seen yet. With Pokemon, they got the core right the first time, all the changes happen on the periphery. Until this game, the graphics have largely tried to stay true to the original games, echoing them in look. But while the look and rules of combat have remained the same, the stuff under the hood changes quite frequently.

Pokemon X/Y changes are numerous and surprisingly all quite good. First of all, they’ve added a new type for the first time since the second games. The new Fairy type is a needed change. It really helps balance the overly powerful Dragon type. Dragon being so powerful may have worked when Dragons and Dragon moves were exceedingly rare, they have proliferated and are some of the most powerful Pokemon. Now there is a surefire counter to them. Plus, it goes back and changes some old Pokemon to be Fairy type. Most of them really make sense, like Clefairy and Jigglypuff. There has also been some rebalancing to the type chart, but I’ve actually learned the type chart, so I’m not sure how that went exactly.

Another big change is to the presentation. The graphics are fully 3D now. And they look good. Pokemon Y is a genuinely good looking 3DS game. The Pokemon are no longer static sprites and animate in battle. Maybe the best part of the new graphics is the ability to customize the player character’s clothes. Being able to change anything other than gender of the player character is big change in and of itself. You can now play as a reasonable facsimile of yourself. Then there are the tighter integration of online features. No longer do you have to go to the Poke-Center to trade or battle, you can do it anywhere, anytime. It really helps make battling online easy. Plus, the new Wonder Trade feature, where you choose a Pokemon and trade is randomly with someone online is a lot of fun. It is a big step closer to the Pokemon MMO everyone always thinks they want. I’m not even going to go into Mega Evolutions, since I couldn’t care less about them.

Despite all these changes, Pokemon Y is still Pokemon. You still travel the country catching every new monster and fighting every other prospective master. You still collect gym badges and beat the Elite 4 and Champion. There is still and evil gang out to control or destroy the world. It is an addictive formula. Like I always do, I burned through the game as fast as possible. I fell in love with a handful of the new Pokemons, specifically Hawlucha and Pancham. It doesn’t have the draw of Pokemon White’s all new Pokedex for the main game, but it makes up for it with a staggeringly huge Pokedex. In fact, it is three Pokedexes taped together.

For Pokemon, the changes to X/Y are seismic. But I don’t think it is enough to convince people who don’t like the series. It’s still more Pokemon. The core is not going to change, not as long as the games still sell like crazy. And honestly, it doesn’t need drastic changes; it works as it is. Pokemon has always been really good, and it still is.

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