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Elite Overlord LeSabre™

On that 'Non stop road'
  • So, we have another Pokemon game on our hands. The newcomer to the arena is Pokemon X and Y. The previous games, Black 2 and White 2, finally put an end to the downward spiral of the quality of these games, which nosedived with the uninspired Heart Gold/Soul Silver, and further plunged with the disappointing Black/White. So, the obvious question is, do X/Y continue the B2/W2 trend of improvement, or were those games just an anomaly and X/Y represent another fall from grace?

    The Basics
    With X/Y, Pokemon finally makes the jump to the 3DS. This time, your journey takes you to a region called Kalos, which is (not at all vaguely) based off France. I mean, the references are obvious, from the French phrases sprinkled throughout, the Paris-inspired Lumiose City whose Gym is located in what is obviously a replica of the Eiffel Tower, and the cafes all over the place. Here, well, you probably know the drill by now - get a starter Pokemon, add more to your army, beat eight Gym Leaders and a gang of ne'er-do-wells, then topple the Elite Four and current Champion to take the throne. And capture a bunch of Pokemon to fill in a Pokedex, if you're so inclined to do so. Or you could be like me (and Erika from 1st gen) and only capture the attractive ones lol. The difference between Pokemon games - and why some are vastly superior to others - is how you go about doing this - who you meet, what happens, what everything looks like, what tools are there (or not there) to help (or sometimes hinder) your progress. So, how do these new games stack up? Read on...

    What It Looks Like
    The game is the first to be rendered on the 3DS, and the region is beautifully rendered. Some of the interiors of buildings, like the Parfum Palace and the Battle Chateau, are delightfully elegant and luxurious.

    The 5th generation games represented a stop-gap compromise between 2-D sprites and 3-D effect environments; this had mixed results and battle scenes in those games looked especially crude and pixelated. That is a non issue here. The change to full 3-D models has been complete, and the effect is nothing less than stunning. Your character's model in the overworld is attractive and moves fluidly (now with diagonal movement!) and even include little animations, like you character looking around when you don't move her for a bit. The battle scenes and Pokemon models therein are smooth and look every bit as good as Battle Revolution on the Wii, if not better. I do wish that trainers appeared behind their Pokemon like they did in the home console games, but that might be due to a technical limitation with the 3DS. All in all, a very pretty game to look at.

    Actual 3-D effects are limited to single battles, some cutscenes, and some additional locations. It wasn't really a big deal for me personally, but I will say that another 3DS RPG, Tales of the Abyss, did have full 3-D effects for its overworld and towns, and that game had more elaborate locales than X/Y do. As for battle scenes, I noticed some framerate issues even during single battles, so perhaps it's better that double/triple battles didn't have it implemented.

    What It Sounds Like
    With one exception, the sounds are pretty typical for a Pokemon game - some of the tunes and sounds are recycled/remixes of old ones, some are new, but very little here will surprise you. Unfortunately, that one exception is a mark against X/Y.

    Hey, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world? It's right here in X/Y, carried over from the anime for your ear-splitting displeasure! That's right, the worst Pokemon of them all not only shows up, but is fully voiced! I cannot stress how painfully irritating this thing's voice is. It is one of the two primary reasons I haven't watched the Pokemon anime in over a decade, and now I have to put up with it here. If it's any consolation, the yellow nuisances only appear in the wild in two areas and are used only by a few trainers. And of course, no other Pokemon gets the full voice treatment - not only is this classic Game Freak playing favorites, but it's oddly out of place for any one Pokemon to be voiced while the other 700+ get their default random noise - it doesn't matter which Pokemon it is.

    Bottom line - you're still better off with a pair of headphones and your personal music collection. "Eye of the Tiger" makes for as epic a battle theme as anything the game can deliver.

    New Features
    X/Y implement the single largest improvement to the franchise since the choice to play as a female trainer back in Crystal - and that would be trainer customizations. I am not exaggerating when I say that half the fun in this game is buying all manner of clothes and dressing up my character to suit my preferred style. And I think I've gotten the perfect style for her right now, but tomorrow I might find something new that I absolutely must have her wear! There are several clothing boutiques spread around the region, and certain items in their stock change daily, so it's a daily habit of mine to visit them everyday and spend copious amounts of money there. The boutiques in Laverre and Anistar have the best overall selection of clothing for the female trainers, in this reviewer's humble opinion. Things like eye color (contacts) and hairstyle can also be changed, but the clothes shopping alone has me totally engrossed.

    On a related note, the female protagonist ranks as my second favorite in her default outfit (behind Leaf), but with the custom outfit I chose for her, easily vaults into first place.


    The Player Search System (PSS) is another great new feature, and was the reason I finally bit the bullet and bought a wireless router for my place. This feature, which is located on the bottom screen, allows you to interact with not only players on your friend code list, but other players from around the world who happen to be playing at the same time with their 3DS connected to the network. The GTS and random battling functions are also accessed through this. Best of all, you can trade with someone on the fly - no need to march back to a Pokemon Center to conduct a trade, as you can access all boxed Pokemon to put up for offer, wherever you happen to be. Oh yes, and unlike a certain (less comprehensive) online feature in the previous games, it doesn't force you to play "20 Questions" at startup.

    Also accessible via touch screen is Super Training. Effort Values (EV's) were formerly "hidden" stats. Super Training now makes them visible, and allows you to train specifically for EVs without battling wild Pokemon/gaining levels. There's a minigame that involves hitting targets using the touch screen that raise your EV points in a particular stat, and you can also hit corresponding punching bags to raise them as well. It takes some time, but with this feature, you can actually EV train your in-game team members before entering a single battle with them. There's also a punching bag that resets EV points to zero if needed.

    The final touch screen function is some bizarre virtual pet thing that I will most likely not end up using, as the concept of touch screen activated virtual pets weirds me out. Plus, messing around in there increases - among other things - critical hit rates. And I've had enough captures escape me due to critical hits to know that this is one "benefit" I definitely do NOT want.

    Leveling up can be ridiculously easy thanks to the new Exp. Share - which functions like the Exp. All from the first generation games, except that it no longer splits the experience. In fact, if multiple Pokemon participate in a battle, points are no longer split either. All Pokemon that take part in a battle get the full experience point yield from the defeated Pokemon, and everyone who didn't gets 50% of the experience yield if the Exp. Share is turned on (it's a Key item you toggle on and off). Oh yeah, now you also get full experience for captures. Exp. Share cuts down on grinding, but if you like a challenge, turn the Exp. Share off or you will be overleveled for most opponents.

    The Roller Skates method of movement includes some nifty tricks and allows you to move outside of the eight dimensional grid, but it can be tricky to use when trying to fine tune your character's position (like, to enter a building). They're activated automatically when you you use the Circle Pad and the only way to "deactivate" them is to activate the Dowsing Machine. I do wish there was another way to turn them off since I find it more natural to use the Circle Pad for movement because of other 3DS games I've played. For me at least, the skates rendered the Bike mostly obsolete. I'd still like one of these games to let you drive around in a huge V-8 luxury sedan, but that's just probably me being a car guy. Riding Pokemon was touted heavily in pre-game promotions. In reality, it's only used in a few areas, movement is slow, and Pokemon are placed at the location in question for you to use - your own aren't used. Which is probably a good thing for me - I don't think any of my team members would have been "rideable" (two aren't big enough, one's a giant sphere, two of them fly, and the sixth stands on its hind legs.)

    The Battle Chateau facility is the spiritual successor to the Black City/White Forest facilities in B2/W2, but thankfully without the confusing maze aspect. It's a repeatable battle arena where your battles earn you money and experience, and as you rank up, you get tougher opponents, sometimes even Gym Leaders and the Elite Four once your rank is high enough. I liked the concept - as you battle, you gain rank, power, and fame, and eventually attract the attention of celebrities. It's an excellent venue for earning money and experience (the latter especially after Furisode Girl trainers begin appearing, as they use Audino exclusively), and almost makes up for the lack of other rematch options. About its only drawback is one that extends to the rest of the game - trainers there will not come at you with a full roster.

    Post-game, the Friend Safari is how you acquire some of the Pokmeon that don't appear in the main game, and is another reason to exchange as many Friend Codes as possible. Each friend is associated with a specific type, and their safari will have three representative Pokemon from that type. And thankfully, the stupid rules of past Safari facilities are thrown out - you can battle these Pokemon and use your own stock of Pokeballs to catch them. These Pokemon have a chance of having "hidden" abilities and are guaranteed to have at least two "perfect (31)" IV stats which is helpful for breeding competitive-level teams. Even so, I wish that these safaris would have had more Pokemon that are unobtainable in the main game - quite a few Safari Pokemon are found in the main story campaign.

    As for those unobtainable Pokemon? You'll need the Pokemon Bank and Poke Transfer utilities. The former is a cloud storage system and the latter lets you upload Pokemon from 5th generation games to the cloud. There's a small annual fee. Whether it's worth it or not depends on how many Pokemon you need to store, how often you move Pokemon between games, and how often you plan on starting new game files in X/Y. If you plan to do a lot of any of those activities, it's well worth the cost as opposed to buying another 3DS and having to trade one Pokemon at a time. One limitation: apparently the Bank will not store held items.

    The post-game battle facility is called the Battle Maison. New name, new bosses, same format. But at least it doesn't include random trainers from past regions as a cheap gimmick. And at least there's no format that involves having to use rental Pokemon, since most of the time those end up having horrible movesets. And the four ladies who head up the place are pretty.

    New Mechanics
    Two changes to battle mechanics have been added. First is type number 18 - called "Fairy" Now unfortunately, with few exceptions, most of the representatives of this type are the exact definition of the "cute pixie" stereotype that goes along with the name "Fairy" so I ended up not using one. I did have an attack of the type on one of my team members, though. It's supposed to be the Dragon-counter type - it's supereffective against Dragons and take no damage from the type - but it also gives the neglected Poison type a much-needed boost, as Poison is super-effective against it. Another addition are "Mega-Evolutions" which are temporary forms, accompanied by stat boosts and sometimes a change in type. Only a select few Pokemon get a Mega evo, and you can only activate one Mega per battle. The Pokemon must also hold a special item to trigger the change, so Mega Pokemon lose the benefit of using other held items. I hardly ever use it, mostly because only two Pokemon I use even get a Mega form (and neither of those are on my primary team as of this writing.) It seems more like a gimmick anyhow.

    As for other battle changes, Steel loses a couple resistances (Dark and Ghost) in exchange for being super effective against the new Fairy type, and some attacks have had their power and/or accuracy modified.

    Because of the aforementioned Mega Evolutions, and because this is Game Freak's first foray into 3-D models for a handheld, the number of new Pokemon is around 70. None particularly stood out to me (either in a good or a bad way, they were pretty much "average" IMO, kinda like 5th gen's roster in that regard), so I ended up using a team of old familiar Pokemon anyway.

    The game introduces 5 vs. 1 "horde" battles, which pits one of your Pokemon against five wild ones, who are usually of a much lower level than other wild Pokemon in the area. It's an easy way to gain large amounts of experience if you have a move that hits multiple Pokemon. If not, or if you're trying to capture a Pokemon in the horde, it's more challenging, as some groups are known for inflicting status conditions as fast as you can heal them, while others will not hesitate to reduce your attacking or defensive capabilities by multiple stages per turn.

    There are also "Sky Battles" which are limited to Pokemon that can, well, fly. These can be tricky because the roster of eligible Pokemon is limited, and many share similar weaknesses. Of course, you can exploit this second fact to your advantage by equipping your eligible Pokemon with moves that do heavy damage against Flying types.

    The Story/Characters
    Herein lies the ultimate irony: B/W came up short in nearly every respect except the story and characters, while the story and characters happens to be one of the few areas in which X/Y does fall short. Let's talk Gym Leaders and the Elite Four, since that will take up the least of our time. They don't get much development. Yeah, one's a photographer, one's an eccentric inventor, one's mad because you dismantled the organization that issued her paycheck, and one earns his paychecks from a Medieval Times dinner tournament restaurant, but it doesn't go any deeper than that. Korrina's the only one who gets significant time outside the Gym, and her involvement in the bigger scheme of things ends after the battle that immediately follows your Gym battle with her. These could be interesting characters, but with the lack of development they're given, we'll never know. Hell, even something like FR/LG's Fame Checker would have helped somewhat in this regard.

    In every Pokemon game, there's some organization that's stirring up trouble, and their name begins with "Team" so it's easy to recognize who in the game is up to mischief. Here, they call themselves "Team Flare," and if nothing else, their bright red suits live up to that name. And they LOVE those suits. First rule of Team Flare: You do NOT talk smack about the Team Flare suit in the presence of a member. Their goal? To hear it from their leader, there's too many people causing too much conflict and that's ugly, and pushing the reset button on society is the beautiful" thing to do. And the $5 million (plus enough style) admission into the group is the only ticket into Team Flare's post apocalyptic utopia. Or something like that. But according to most of the grunts, the goal is so they can sport stylin' threads. And that's the weakness of the entire Team Flare scenario. There's a disconnect there. The big man's plot of mass genocide is deadly serious, but most of the grunts are impossible to take seriously because they ramble on about their fashion sense and take the time to strike their signature pose before each battle.

    Speaking of the team's "big man", the game tries to pull an "Evice/Greevil" (from Colosseum and XD respectively) and reveal Flare's boss early on without identifying him as such, and only dropping subtle hints. But unlike Colo/XD, the guy's affiliation is painfully obvious when he first shows up. His hair color alone is pretty much a dead giveaway.

    Oh yeah, and there's this freakishly tall immortal dude who is the very opposite of stylish and somehow ended up with the same name as Arizona's postal abbreviation, which gives an extra layer of bizarre to the whole thing. Really, why not a scheme that revolves around embezzlement and insider trading? Not only would that be more realistic, it would be more interesting as well.

    Now we arrive at the biggest flaw with X/Y: The "rivals," and I use that term loosely. It's no secret that Game Freak has failed to produce actual rivals for a long time now. What is surprising is the new low to which they've sunk. There's four now. And they all suck. If they could be concisely summed up in one word, that word would be, "parasitic." Two of them show up at your doorstep uninvited like so many Jehovah's Witnesses, preaching the "gospel" of "We're Now Friends, And There Ain't A Damn Thing You Can Do About It" and from that point forward, they will literally latch onto you and slowly drain away any self-control and sanity. They will appear before you early and often, often with no reason other than to waste your time and tick you off. Below, in the spoiler tag, I present the six major failings of these pathetic excuses for "rivals."


    Even more than in the 5th gen games, there is a glaringly obvious attempt to artificially inject emotional, sentimental stuff into the storyline, as if having every other NPC preach the gospel of friendship with Pokemon wasn't stifling enough. It comes off as being sappy and embarrassing. Witness the crappy poetry during the ending credits. And some of the worthless dialogue from the "rivals" probably contributed to that too, but honestly by that point I was just mindlessly mashing "A" whenever they showed up while actually paying attention to something else. Really, I'd appreciate less attempts at sappy sentimentality and more one-liners adapted from action flicks (i.e., "bring it on", "do your worst", "time to take out the trash", "I got your game, sucker", "we can do things the easy way or the hard way, how do you want it?", "should've picked the easy way", and so on). This is a game about battling, after all. Why not have dialogue that reflects this fact?

    What Got Left Out
    There are a few features that are lacking in the game. Vs. Seeker. Secret Base/Villa. Poketch-like utility device. Globe that tracks where your trading/battling partners are located. The signature on your trainer card. Join Avenue (one of the highlights of B2/W2). Fame Checker (from FR/LG; I already touched on this). Pokeball seals. They also removed two key features related to item organization - they took away the "commonly used items" section from the prior games, and the ability to reorder items like you want - there are sorting options, but none that let you move items up and down the list at will, unless I'm missing something. The search option for the Vs Recorder has been all but eliminated; the only way to add battles is to know the exact code for a video you want to download. The Pokedex seems dumbed down - the option to compare a Pokemon's size and weight to your character's is gone, for one thing. None of this is major (except perhaps, the inability to self-sort your items; that is a pain), but they're the little things that would help to improve the game experience, and not including some of them seems to be an oversight. And by the way, I still want them to give us back the ability to store items in the PC. I'd rather have that as opposed to infinite bag capacity, to be honest.

    Meowth/Persian are not in the game. Not in the main story, not in the post game, not in any Friend Safari. And that disappoints and baffles me. The family has not been in the main story of a Pokemon game since Johto (or XD Gale of Darkness if you count the GameCube spinoffs), Persian's looks would be a perfect match for the region's theme of beauty, and Pay Day would be a major help in financing my clothing shopping sprees. And let's face it, Persian isn't a great battler, but it's certainly better than the Normal type cat we get (Delcatty, who was in both X/Y and B2/W2. I used Delcatty for STAB Return, but dropped it for Persian as soon as Pokemon Bank went live).

    There is a distinct lack of rematch options in the game. The Battle Chateau and the restaurants in Lumiose are pretty much your only options. Even the Elite Four stay at the same levels instead of becoming stronger. And on the subject of trainers, X/Y continue a disturbing trend that started in B/W, called "opponents don't have enough Pokemon" syndrome. Symptoms include: Gym Leaders having at most three Pokemon, the Elite Four only having four Pokemon, and most random trainers having at most three Pokemon. This is especially baffling in Victory Road, where one would think the toughest trainers in the region would have close to full rosters.

    However, it must be said that leaving things out is not necessarily a bad thing. The Pokemon franchise has added quite a few stupid features, ideas, and characters that, mercifully, don't show up here. The world tournament from B2/W2 definitely deserves mention here. It is one of the things that negatively affected my score of B2/W2, and for good reason: It was blatant fan-pandering done on the cheap. Compared to the Battle Frontiers of past games, it was lacking in variety and difficulty. Relating to this, I'm also thankful that cameo appearances from past games are kept to an absolute minimum (i.e., ONE, and this character is completely justified in his traveling to different regions because of his profession, unlike just about everyone else who's made a cameo in the past, who had no reason to appear other than, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if they showed up in the game?").

    I'm also glad they didn't re-introduce the dumb idea of Pokemon following you (a strike against HG/SS). It implies a lack of control over your Pokemon, and from a practical standpoint, they just plain get in the way when you're doing stuff like trying to collect hidden items (OMG that frustrated me to no end in HG/SS). The "changing seasons" mechanic from the previous generation is also gone. My gripe with this feature was that certain areas couldn't be accessed unless it was the right "season" and you either had to remember to go back to collect items/battle trainers when the time was right (by which time you were likely overpowered for said trainers), or mess with your DS date settings to get to them.

    The Bottom Line
    On the whole, I did not think that X/Y would be as good as they turned out to be. Yes, they still have their issues, and it's the traditional Pokemon game we've all known for years, but it's the traditional Pokemon game executed very well. Trainer customization makes a huge difference, but these games are also pleasing to look at, help cut down on time-consuming level grinding, have a mostly good (with a few exceptions) selection of Pokemon, and only have two notable annoyances. Compared with recent Pokemon games, these latest additions to the franchise represent a dramatic turnaround for the better. This is the most I've enjoyed a Pokemon game in quite a long time. Let's hope that the follow-up games add some missed features, offer actual rivals for a change, and keep characters from past games where they belong - in the past. If they manage to do that (especially the last two) Game Freak could really have a winner on their hands.

    +Trainer Customizations!
    +Beautiful in-game graphics
    +(Mostly) good Pokemon selection
    +Player Search System is best online play interface to date
    +(related to above) On-the-fly trading capability
    +Easy leveling with Exp. Share (and can be turned off if desired)
    +Battle Chateau
    +Friend Safari
    +Much faster saving (unless syncing to Global Link)
    +Super Training
    +Cameo appearances kept to a minimum

    =Team Flare: Stylish, but hard to take too seriously
    =New Pokemon
    =Mega Evolutions
    =I am forever going to accidentally call Clemont, "Clemson" (my alma mater)

    -Most annoying Pokemon is voiced in game
    -Annoying, bizarre, useless, attention-whoring rivals
    -Poorly executed attempts at emotion
    -Some features not included
    -No Meowth/Persian YET AGAIN
    -Limited rematches/no stronger Elite Four

    Overall: 8.8/10.

    Haruka of Hoenn

    Rolling writer
  • I personally drew the line at HG/SS and decided that I didn't want to buy any of the newer pokemon games, just because the old ones suit me fine, and because I don't play videogames as often anymore. But it's still interesting to know where the Pokemon franchise is heading. It's interesting that they based the region off of France. I wonder if they'll start a trend with that in future games, basing regions off of real countries. That would definitely add a cool dimension.

    I think it's nice that they finally included trainer customizations. I remember thinking about how cool that would be way back in GBA time, but in retrospect, I guess with the tiny 2D sprites you wouldn't have been able to do much. Maybe just change the colors of your clothes or change from a skirt to shorts, but even then that wouldn't have made a big difference on the pixelated screen. I can tell that in these games, you can enjoy the outfit you created.

    They're really putting the sportlight on these game mechanics now, aren't they? I never cared much for competitive battling, so I don't feel strongly either way about it, but it's definitely giving the player more power. But I'll say this -- I always thought it was cool how the old games didn't tell you much about their inner mechanics and left everything for you to figure out. It made things more fun, and gave you more satisfaction when you uncovered things yourself. (Even if you went online to get the answers from somebody else, it still felt like you were doing some undercover mission and getting secrets not everyone was privy to.) I remember getting out a Braille chart to decipher the cave texts in Fire Red, and feeling like I was on top of the world when I finally realized what they meant. :P

    And whoa, instead of the regular Pikachu cry, they actually come out saying "Pikachu" or "Pikapika" in the game? I can see how that would be jarring. But I guess since Pikachu is the mascot and all, they'd be fine with doing it...

    As for tuning out the in-game music with regular music, I did that with HG/SS. :P For me, the best music in Pookemon was Hoenn, and after that Sinnoh, then Kanto. I look it up on Youtube just to listen to it.

    I actually like cameo appearances from other games, even if they're not completely logical. It makes everything feel connected.

    But all in all, from what you're written, I can see that these games are packed with stuff. Reading this has certainly gotten me interested in these games, and though I won't buy them, I'll still read more about them. Nice review!

    Elite Overlord LeSabre™

    On that 'Non stop road'
  • LOL for HG/SS and all of 5th gen, I kept telling myself that I wasn't going to buy the games, and ended up buying them anyway... and then later selling them back to Gamestop. Looks like you have more self control than me :P For me, for some reason I get these urges to play Leaf Green over again, just because. And I totally want them to base a game on North/South Carolina.

    Like I said in the review, customizing was the big draw for me this time around (it certainly wasn't the godawful rivals :/). I would have liked more frilly, floral items so I could make my trainer more closely resemble Lisa, but it's a cool feature nonetheless. And now not everyone looks the same when you link battle :P

    I think there's a more general trend toward making these games easier, sadly. The stat mechanics are out in the open. The Exp. Share has a major upgrade. Trainers use fewer Pokemon than before, including Gym Leaders and the Elite Four. And now you have characters (like those pitiful excuses for rivals) practically telling you where to go instead of having you figure it out yourself.

    Ugh, don't remind me of that thing. Seriously, that thing's voice should be used as a means of psychological and mental torture in military prison camps.

    Pokemon game music has mostly been pretty blah to me. Exceptions include the Aqua/Magma boss battle theme, the Cynthia battle theme, and some of the tunes in Emerald's Battle Frontier.

    About cameos: I didn't mind it when Jasmine showed up in D/P/Pt; I actually thought that was pretty cool. HG/SS started to go overboard with it, but then 5th gen totally went off the deep end. They had this battle facility where EVERY SINGLE gym leader, champion, and overrated, title-stealing a-hole living in a cave showed up, which IMO would practically cripple a region since, like, all of their Gym leaders went AWOL. And it doesn't help that half the time, I was asking myself, "Who are these people?"

    Yeah though, there's quite a bit in these games, and you can get the gist of the storyline and stuff through reading about it.

    Thanks for reading :)