Welcome to the Kalos Region, where Pokemon has truly evolved. And we don't mean a simple evolution from Metapod to Butterfree, but Pokemon, as a game, has finally grown out from its formulaic shell. Gone are the cookie-cutter entries where the only thing that ever changed was the Pokedex and a few lackluster add-ons, Pokemon X and Y has redefined what it is to be a Poke-master. Throwing together a roster of the series' favorites and about 70 new creatures to capture, Pokemon's debut on the Nintendo 3DS breathed fresh air into a series that was starting to become uninspired in its delivery. So let's pick a starter, set out from home and see if Pokemon X and Y have what it takes to be the very best, like no one ever was.
Much like its namesake, Pokemon X and Y, at the basic, chromosomal level, is a Pokemon game we have already experienced plenty of times. You leave your mom at home (apparently Pokemon protagonists are always raised by single moms), meet your neighbor who becomes your rival (and, surprisingly, a potential love interest), and leave your hometown to meet a professor who gives you, your neighbor, and a couple other tag-a-long friends one Pokemon each. While this formula has been written in stone pertaining to Poke-adventures, what X and Y do completely different is in terms of their delivery and aesthetics.
For players new to the Pokemon experience, we would like to point out that there are virtually no differences between the two versions available except for the rare and "Mega" Pokemon. Let it be known that there is pretty much no way for Poke-maniacs to truly catch 'em all unless they had a copy of both titles or a friend willing to trade from the other side. Nevertheless, Pokemon X and Y offers many solutions to many of the problems that the series suffered up until this point? Want to get all three starters? There's a way to do that. Want to trade with your friends on the fly? Switch on your 3DS' Wi-Fi and you can trade or battle your friends whenever they are online (as long as you're willing to deal with the 3DS' annoying friend code system).
The Kalos Region is very much based off of the country of France, with a huge Parisian (referring to Paris, NOT Paras) city at the center of the area. The people wear French berets, high-fashion is celebrated and sitting around in cafes doing nothing is a livelihood and pasttime. We were surprised to get a bike again and not a moped. Speaking of fashion, this is one of the first Pokemon titles where you are able to decide on what your character looks like aside from choosing their gender. You are able to buy outfits, get haircuts and even put in colored contacts. If we were to tell these features to fans of the previous games, they would think that these details would not matter due to the other Pokemon titles being stuck in the Zelda top-down camera angle. But Pokemon X and Y feature a dynamic camera system, which zooms in and out on your character/Pokemon depending on circumstance. Though you are not able to fully control this camera, it brings a much-needed sense of cinematography to the scene. This matters even more because X and Y have been fully rendered in 3D.
Graphically, X and Y are, arguably, the most beautiful titles ever made for the 3DS. The models of the Pokemon themselves are the closest they have ever been to animated series. The same thing can be said of the games' protagonist. In pre-battle animations and cutscenes, your character and Pokemon look like they were rendered in an anime. Unfortunately, graphical hiccups and lag can be occasionally found during battles when they are large monsters fighting or if there are many movements going on during the neutral stances of both combating creatures. But for the most part, the fighting and character animations on both the field and battle maps are very smooth. The only other major signs of slowdown can be found when connecting to the internet. The few technical detriments in Pokemon X and Y can be attributed to the limitations and quirky design of the 3DS and its interface, such as disconnecting from the internet each time you shut the 3DS system (or sleep mode for the 2DS). At the same time, the benefits of the 3DS allow Pokemon to exceed and branch out into the online world.
As if your adventures throughout the Kalos Region didn't have enough minigames, the secondary features of the 3DS' touchscreen offer many other things to do with your Pokemon. At the forefront is the Player Search System, which is your default bottom screen. Once connected to the internet, the PSS allows you to see which of your friends are online and to see everyone around the world that is currently in your area of the Kalos Region at the same time as you. These passersby are relatively pointless, you simply get random greeting messages popping up along your screen. You might get random duel or trade invites, but the main reason people will use the PSS is for its friends list and for those looking for online fights and trades. Online players are able to bestow O-Powers, temporary buffs, to other players. So that does bring about a pleasant sense of camaraderie when buffing others or receive surprise buffs from people online.
There is also Wonder Trade, where you offer out a Pokemon and receive a random one in return. You can even make your own Trainer Videos so that your opposition can see a custom intro of you before you send your Pokemon out onto the battlefield. The Pokemon-Amie system allows you to pet, feed and play with your Pokemon to help build good relations between trainer and pocket monster (leading to stat boosts and unlocking secret evolutions). And the Super Training system allow you to specifically train your creatures with Holo-Targets and punching bags in order to raise specific stats.
The sound effects and songs of Pokemon X and Y are what you would expect from a new Pokemon title. Like its roster, X and Y's soundtrack consists of the best of the best from previous Pokemon titles, featuring high quality remakes of the series' most favorite tunes. At the same time, X/Y adhere to the French aesthetic, offering amazing melodies which correlate to the environments around you.
A major letdown is that the Pokemon still reverberate sound effects upon their emergence and do not say their names like they do on the animated series. The only exception we found to this rule was Pikachu, which surprisingly had the yellow mouse's infamous voice. If they did it for Pikachu, they definitely had the technology to do it for others. We're sure that some of the more pointless side features could have been sacrificed in order to include more pocket monster voices.
Ultimately, we recommend Pokemon X or Y (your choice, we suggest looking up the Pokemon exclusive to either title and for you to chose based on your preference), for anyone with a 3DS. Rising above Luigi's Mansion, Ocarina of Time 3D and Fire Emblem, Pokemon X and Y is the primary reason to own a 3DS, excelling well beyond our expectations. Unfortunately, the online aspect to X/Y could have been executed a little bit more seamlessly. The only major detriment to X/Y can be found within the computer A.I. Like previous titles, the computer A.I. does not try to take advantage of Pokemon types while in battle. You would think that a computer-controlled fire type would use fire attacks against a water Pokemon, but it would spam tackle instead. While most players probably would never notice this, the difficulty of X/Y was relatively low. As long as you adhered to the type differences, you would only need 2-3 Pokemon to carry your team, blowing through the competition at a consistent rate. Again, this is due to the computer A.I. not prioritizing its decisions in adherence to the type differences. Nevertheless, we haven't been this excited to try to catch 'em all in years, and we can thank Nintendo for finally understanding the power that's inside.
This review is based on retail copies of Pokemon X and Y for the Nintendo 3DS which were each purchased for review.