Pokémon X is the latest game from the massively popular Pokémon franchise, which started life in 1996 under the title Pocket Monsters (not to be confused with Monsters in my Pocket… anyone remember those things?) As the first proper Pokémon game to be released on the 3DS the series has taken the opportunity to receive a visual facelift, which has seen the brand’s traditional 2D look transition into the realm of three dimensions. Pokémon trainers shouldn’t worry however because aside from the graphical tweaks this latest instalment keeps the core gameplay they love unchanged in what could be the finest Pokémon game to date.
The game sees players take control of the son/daughter of a famous Pokémon racer who has been enlisted by a scientist to help them with their Pokémon research. Gripes, budget cuts must be bad if the scientific community is now resorting to child labour. As in other Pokémon games the player is tasked with travelling across the land cataloguing any Pokémon they come across on their Pokedex. As a fledgling Pokémon trainer you’ll also be expected to challenge gym leaders to Pokémon matches in order to earn sufficient badges to face the reigning Pokémon champion for their title.
At its core Pokémon is a role-playing game that focuses on turn based combat. When coming across a wild Pokémon or rival trainer players enter into battle with a team of up to six critters. Combat strategy focuses on selecting the right Pokémon to counter the opponent you are facing. As an example, if you are facing a grass type Pokémon it would be advisable to summon a Pokémon with fire based attacks as these deal extra damage to their grassy brethren. Winning matches earns your Pokémon experience points and once they accumulate sufficient xp they will level up – making them stronger and in some cases allowing them to evolve into a more powerful (but generally less cute looking) form.
In terms of levelling up teams Pokémon X must be one of the easiest games in the entire series. Early on in the story you are bestowed with an Exp Share item that gives your entire team a portion of the experience whenever you win a battle. This is a huge help as in the past only Pokémon participating in combat would earn xp. This would often result in lopsided teams were trainers would focus on one overly powerful Pokémon with weaklings filling up the remaining five spots. It’s such a joy being able to play through the adventure with a balanced party without having to resort to mind numbing grinding (or forcing the weakling Pokémon to consume steroids.)
As mentioned above, Pokémon X’s most distinguishing feature would have to be its new graphical style. Although the visuals don’t push the 3DS to its limits, X is a significant improvement over the older Pokémon games. For the most part the action is presented using a bird’s eye view (akin to the classic Zelda games) but in certain areas the camera will switch to a third person vantage point to give a closer view on proceedings. In combat Pokémon are now brought to life thanks to animated 3D models that resemble what you would find in the console Pokémon Coliseum games. The flashier aesthetics make the action sequences much more satisfying. I can now revel in delight as I spy the anguished expressions of female Pokémon getting abused by a Tentacruel.
Even though most of the action takes place on the top screen the bottom display is by no means neglected. Using the stylus you can play mini-games with your captured Pokémon, which increases their affection and stats. Players taking advantage of the online features will also be able to use the touch screen to challenge trainers from across the globe to matches, bestow them with temporary Opower bonuses and send out messages. Best of all being connected to the net permits you to exchange Pokémon with other people or if you are feeling brave you can try the Wonder Trade facility, were you pick a Pokémon to trade with a randomly selected person. If you are fortunate you may find a generous person giving away a rare Pokémon… although more often than not you’ll come across jerks offloading worthless level three Bunnelbys.
So we reach the end of the review and it is time for me to give out a rating. All things considered I have no hesitation awarding Pokémon X a full five stars. Even if it isn’t a radical departure from the older games the new 3D visuals succeed in freshening up a franchise that was starting to feel a tad stale. Even though the story can be rushed through in under twenty hours there’s plenty of post game content to justify coughing up the full retail asking price. Completing the Pokedex, breeding Pokémon with perfect stats and hunting down the Legendries alone will give you a hundred hours worth of enjoyment. My only real complaint is that the design of the newer Pokémon is a little lacklustre. One of them looks like a key ring for goodness sake. I haven’t caught one of those yet. I wonder were they roam? Probably behind the sofa… that’s where my missing keys normally end up.