In “Pokemon X” and “Pokemon Y,” a hero-worshipping cult once again seeks to destroy the world, but somehow that's not quite as important as you becoming the next Pokemon League Champion. This spit-and-twigs combination of intensely stoic melodrama and inevitably victorious sports film has long been the core of the “Pokemon” series. In “X” and “Y,” the franchise's newest releases, the main changes to the formula are from the technical side.
“X” and “Y” bring “Pokemon” to the Nintendo 3DS for the first time, welcoming aboard a long-awaited suite of visual upgrades and enhanced features. The flat pixel art has been replaced with 3-D character models, enabling much-improved animation. Internet play has been expanded to allow instant play between online gamers; no more walking your character to a specific in-game “room” to initiate a network connection.
In “Pokemon X” and “Pokemon Y” — there are two versions of the same game with slight differences for collectors, as per usual — you'll play a young Pokemon Trainer out to prove he or she has what it takes to conquer the highly competitive world of cross-species animal combat.
This is a world of kids, where adults are all either blindly obsequious to the wonders of Pokemon battling, or blindly obsequious to an underground movement trying to flatten the Earth. One small twist is that your character is part of a team of kids, each with their own favorite thing about Pokemon. Naturally, your character's specialty is battling, and you will travel back and forth across a small continent catching Pokemon and challenging everyone you see to a fight.
Pokemon improve and evolve over time, learning new attack moves and changing forms. “X” and “Y” introduce “mega-evolutions,” which amount to a new way to make your favorite fighters look even cooler during a battle. As you work your way from town to town, eventually you'll have a hand-picked team of Pokemon that will be strong enough to defeat the world's League Champion. Oh, and just before that, you'll have to deal with some people who want to kill everything, but that's just another Tuesday for a gritty Pokemon trainer.
The most interesting feature new to “X” and “Y” is that, when connected to the Internet, you will get a live list of not only your online friends playing Pokemon, but also a fresh selection of players from all over the world. You can initiate a battle or trade with anyone who is willing, no matter where you are in the game's story. Your communication with other players is extremely limited, so parents do not need to worry. Even though these other players are not part of your game, technically, it's like there's always somebody playing right beside you.
It's a shame that the interface is so ugly and baffling. The game's menus and buttons take some time to master, because the layout designs are an unpredictable mess. There's still plenty that the creators need to tackle to simplify the presentation.
But when a series is so crushingly popular, interface issues are not something that stops most gamers. “Pokemon X” and “Pokemon Y” set another high watermark.
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