Saturday, October 19, 2013
The core plot and mechanics are all essentially the same, its still a rigid turn-based RPG featuring a massive monster collection theme as you go ahead to become the greatest Pokemon master of them all by beating every trainer in your region. The only changes to the battle mechanics are shallow tweeks of moves and elements, with the overall balance of power slightly reconfigured thanks to the addition of new Pokemon and the new Fairy type. Really the expansions are mainly superficial: the game is now finally in full 3D, with all 700 (God knows how many) Pokemon now moving in real time animations and full depth. The online features are far more extensive, allowing you with extreme ease to trade, fight, or simply communicate with friends or anonymous South Koreans from all over the globe almost immediately. Even better, most of the petty annoyances that have weakened this series have been ironed out, making for a much faster, prettier, and exciting Pokemon game then we've ever seen before.
Right now, within two minutes of booting my brand new 2DS* I could be in the midst of an epic Pokemon duel with a random Japanese stranger. Actually, let me try it out right now and see how it goes. Wait a second. Yup, got my ass kicked. And now some passerbyer person named Gabe wants to trade. And I can't believe this, but I just got a Hydreigon for a Skarmory. Let me thank him by giving him some boost Capture power. See how Pokemon has evolved? Do you see how much fun this game is?
The new Pokemon realm is called Kalos, which is based off on the northern half of France. You start off in a small town around Bourges and Nevers, then march north to Poke Paris, then travel the world collecting badges as you go. Though technically it all looks like the same formula, only with a far larger and more impressive region than ever before, there actually have been several obvious major changes. First of all, the variety in Pokemon offerings is expanded massively. Before you've reached Poke Paris you could easily build a perfectly strong team with a great typing variety. Baby forms of the great dragon Pokemon of past are just marching along ready to be caught, along with Pokemon that used to be hyper rare. You can actually catch wild Eevees for the very first time.
Generally raising Pokemon has been made far easier. The classic item, the EXP Share, which allows you to share battle experience with a single Pokemon, now shares all the experience with your entire team. There are also about six other ways to boost your EXP amounts, so levels are never really a problem. When in the past you had to choose between having a small party with high levels or a large party with low levels, now you can have a six Pokemon team covering every element and battle role and still be ten levels ahead of your in-game foes. Level grinding is almost never needed, even when you add new Pokemon to your team six badges deep into the game.
GameFreak, realizing that this game was going to have a very deep mutliplayer focus, has also allowed you to customize your game avatar. You'll always be a cute generic anime boy or girl, but depending on your outfits you can either be a traditional Pokemon master, a garish disaster of colors and hues, a pretentious hipster, or become like me, THE LORD OF HIGH FASHION. For a man who in real life dresses generally in shabby T-shirts and plaid shorts, I have rapidly adapted to the life of a pure metrosexual, hunting around the world for the perfect pair of pants to match my shirt, which was 100,000 Poke Dollars, by the way. Women swoon in my wake, men get frightening and confusing boners, and children... children merely weep in awe. I am fashion, none shall be my equal.
The biggest addition though, for me, is how you can now play with your Pokemon. Thanks to a new addition called "Pokemon Aime" (perfectly named so that Google thinks you're looking for the "Pokemon anime") you can sit down with your caught Pokemon and pet them, feed them, or play minigames with them. So let's say you catch a Pikachu. Now you can go feed it some cupcakes and watch the hearts float upward as it falls in love with you. Just don't pet its belly, it gets really upset when you touch it there. Or you could get a Kirlia and continually pleasure her until she explodes with joy. So this is perfect for anybody who ever wanted to really communicate their Pokemon and for sick freaks who always wanted to jerk off a Machamp. We don't judge here at Planet Blue.
Oh you're still here? Sorry, I got distracted, I just beat Joey from New York. He decided to pull in a Tyrantrum against a Lucario, which was a very foolish move.
Anyway, one unfortunate side effect to the great variety and leveling options is that the game is too easy. Again, its all too easy to have a full team of six Pokemon against far less competent CPU trainers with the additional advantage of being ten levels ahead. For some reason Gamefreak compounded the problem by restricting just about every trainer to only having three or four Pokemon, even the Gym Leaders. We have Elite Four members with only four Pokemon thirteen levels below the hero, its embarrassing. Not only did I never lose a fight during the course of my Pokemon adventure, I never even got beaten down to just one Pokemon. There was nothing even close. The Champion came out in a flourish of power and a very impressive theme song, then got her entire team swept one by one. Here we have the ultimate power in the French Pokemon world being wiped out faster than her country's armies in WWII.
I guess the fact that "Pokemon X" very foolishly off-balanced itself in terms of difficulty doesn't really matter, since the core of the challenge will always come from human battles. The multiplayer meta game is as complex and competitive as its ever been, a massive sea of intense scholarship which I will never be able to decipher. Heck, I can't even remember whether Rock is supereffective against Fighting or if its the other way around. Pokemon is one of the roughest competitive turn based strategy games you can play on your 3DS, since any well-formed plan you might be building will inevitably be ruined by a lucky critical hit or somehow an attack missing. Or because your Pokemon are simply rubbish, and you suck at commanding them. Multiplayer is a hard ocean to sail, filled with many frustrations and misery.
Since this is the latest and greatest Pokemon game, "X" offers a wide variety of solutions to the minor annoyances that plagued this series for decades. You can now trade any Pokemon you own, even in boxes, at any time. You don't need to go to Pokemon Centers for a trade, its an easy and fast work of online communication. For the most part you do not need HMs to get through the game other than Surf, one of the only good HM moves, so HM slaves aren't entirely necessary but still required to find every item**. The game is even nice enough to only have a handful of dungeons and most routes are not plagued by tall grass everywhere, so I won't need to unleash a pogrom against Zubats this time. Money is extremely easy to obtain so you aren't going to go broke at any point. However, they refuse to change the idiotic layout of the PC and Pokemon Box systems, which just bugs me.
So to conclude: "Pokemon X" is a horribly unbalanced, cruel game where you become addicted to the superficial world of high fashion and cramp your hands trying to make a Gardevior orgasm. It is also the greatest Pokemon game of them all, without a doubt. This is a game you need to be playing, right now.
* I got the Nintendo 2DS over the 3DS thanks to one being about thirty dollars cheaper. 3D pretty much always sucks anyway.
However, Nintendo, I do have a bone to pick with your marketing here. It seems like nobody but us hard core Internet dwellers actually understand that the 3DS is a new system, and not merely a DS redesign, and you made it that much more confusing to lost parents who haven't played video games since "Pac-Man" era to really have any clue what their children need to play the Pokemanz version. This is the same problem with your Wii and WiiU, by the way. Nobody was confused when the Nintendo 64 came along to replace the Super Nintendo, why is it so difficult now?
** I absolutely hate HMs and hate the man who thought of them. You will one day be taught a lesson, and it will involve two spoons, a clawhammer, and a bucket for all the blood.