It’s not surprising to me that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time with Pokemon Y so far. After all, we pretty much know what to expect from a Pokemon game at this point — the only question is going to be in the nuances. What little upgrades and improvements would we see as the series transitioned into 3-D on handheld for the first time?
I’m about 25 hours into the game, with six gym badges to my credit. So this will be something of a half-review until we post our full take on Pokemon X and Y within the next two weeks.
- A Revolutionary New World: The graphics look amazing. Like Fire Emblem Awakening and Super Mario 3D Land before it, Pokemon X/Y utilize just about everything the 3DS can muster. Creatures and cities alike look gorgeous whether your 3-D slider is turned all the way up or down. When I briefly booted up Black 2 to check on something, it was almost jarring how much of a gap there was between that generation and this one.
- Something Old, Something New: The new Pokemon count might not be as high as in other generations, but if anything, that allows for a more blended experience. Instead of beating the Elite Four and then having hundreds of new Pokemon inexplicably show up in bushes around the region, you have a mix of old and new from jump street. The very first forest has some unfamiliar faces (like Scatterbug and Fletchling) and some tried and true ones (like Pikachu with a voice cry and the ubiquitous Weedle and Caterpie).
- Wait For It…: The pacing is a little weird, although that’s becoming more common as the series goes on. The beginning of the game follows a familiar format (except for starting in a city that doesn’t conveniently have the Pokemon Lab in it for the first time), but things get a little tricky in between badges one and two. Specifically, you’ll tackle the first gym around level 9 or 10, then find yourself in the 20s before you reach the second leader. It’s probably six or seven in-game hours between them, and at some point you’ll start to wonder where your next challenge is. After that, the gyms come at a much more consistent pace.
- New Pokemon: I’m sure the usual complaints will come rolling in about some of the new designs (a sword? a keyring? lol pokemanz is out of ideas), but let’s not pretend Voltorb and Ditto were inspired choices either. The introduction of the Fairy type helps to balance the metagame a little bit, giving Steel and Poison a buff on the attack side and giving common types like Dragon and Fighting something additional to think about. In addition, some of the new creatures come with unique type combinations like Steel/Ghost and Fighting/Flying.
- Gotta Catch ‘Em All — Again: At its core, the experience hasn’t changed much, other than looking prettier than ever. I’m sure that’s a problem for the same jackasses who have complained about this series and its lack of evolution (pun alert), but I’m fine with it. Taking away the eight-badge, fight-an-evil-team formula from Pokemon is like telling Mario that he won’t have a jump button in his next game. It’s part of the identity at this point, and while it’s fun to dream about a 3-D console release or an expansive MMO, Game Freak will never have an incentive to go out on a limb while their current games continue to make money hand over fist. So you may as well enjoy what we have, slappy.