Sunday, 10 November 2013

Rooksburg Reviews: Pokémon X (Part 2)

Having exposed myself to most of what's left of Pokémon X (barring wi-fi battles, as I'm still busy building my team), I can now conclude this review.

The Story:
The story is practically non-existent in Pokémon X and Y.  There are a couple of references to Team Flare but nothing significant, then they just sort-of show up in places you happen to be.  As you get closer to the 8th badge you're suddenly called to another town where all hell breaks loose, you're forced to capture the obligatory version-exclusive legendary pokémon, then you're literally told 'let's go back to Anistar town and carry on where we left off!'.  The only evidence anything happened at all is a geographical change to one of the towns, otherwise everything continues as normal.  The legendaries themselves don't make an awful lot of sense in context, and their existence isn't really explained, much like this generation's 'N'- here called 'AZ'.  He seems a very interesting character, but unfortunately isn't given time to develop his character aside from a couple of beautiful cutscenes.
My grade for the story is 6/10- what little there is is very good, but it's very much a case of 'blink and you'll miss it'.  Hopefully this gen's sequels/third version will expand on it.

The League:
The 'final boss' (here taken to mean the last challenging encounter before the credits roll) of any Pokémon title is the Pokémon League, where you must face the Elite 4- each specialising in a certain Type- and the Champion.  Often it is expected you will use tens of Full Restores and Revives and maybe even a few Ethers.  You can also expect to face 'that one guy' who poses a real threat, leaving you with one pokémon standing.  That being said, this generation was a pushover.  The biggest reason for this?  Pokémon-Amie.  Seriously, if you want any kind of challenge then don't use Pokémon-Amie as it will make you feel like you're cheating, when every hit given is a crit and every hit taken is endured leaving you on 1HP.  Add O-Powers into the mix and it gets even worse.  An easy solution to make it more challenging would have been for opponents to have the same Pokémon-Amie benefits, after all you'd expect a gym leader or Elite 4 member to have a strong bond with their pokémon.
I give X and Y's league a 4/10 if you're using Pokémon-Amie, and only a 6/10 if you're not using it.  This is partly due to the forgettable Elite 4.

The Characters:
In Black and White, and Black and White 2, the gym leaders and champion played an integral part of the game.  You would often bump into them, they would help in your adventure against Team Plasma, and generally you got a feel for them as something more than just people to defeat.  X and Y don't have that.  The only times you'll find a gym leader outside of their gym is very rarely in the Battle Chateau, and even then they're underlevelled.  The champion is lacklustre; although you've met them earlier in the game you don't know much about them and they don't seem to have the passion of former champions.  The Elite 4 have extremely interesting designs and personalities, but again there's no development outside of battle.  As for other characters, yes there's the sense of being on a simultaneous journey with your friends but do they really deserve the same amount of credit in the ending cutscene?

Character's get a 7/10, in the hopes they get some development in the sequel or in a piece of postgame I haven't reached yet.

So far it's coming across that I've disliked the game.  Yet I've racked up over 180 hours on it.  Why's that?  Let me explain...

Route Design:
I can't emphasize enough how good the route design is- and this goes for the 'dungeons' too.  Previous games had routes that all looked similar, a mostly linear path with patches of grass and possibly a Strength puzzle for an optional extra.  In that respect these games are exactly the same- only the routes feel more natural.  Each has a different 'theme'- an Autumnal area, a beach, flower gardens, etc.  There are tens of pokémon available on each route, some varying by which patch of grass you're exploring.  There are still Strength puzzles, but they're hidden away- you'll only find them if you go looking for them, usually with Surf or Waterfall.  The 'dungeons' are varied and unique too- from Glittering Cave's 3D view, to Reflection Cave's doors hidden in mirrors, to the Lost Hotel hideout for skaters.  It's almost certain you won't discover everything on your first visit either.
A solid 8/10, as there should always be room for improvement.  And Route 1 is very silly.

The Post-Game:
I feel this is a concept unique to Pokémon games- that of a 'post-game', i.e extra content available after the credits have rolled.  Regardless, there's no shortage of options available to you.
'Gotta Catch 'Em All!'.  In total there are now 718 pokémon.  Around 118 are not yet available, until Pokébank goes live in December.  (edit: LOL)  That means that between the two games there are approx. 600 pokémon you can catch which will keep collectors (like me) busy for hours.  To catch them all you'll also have to visit:
Friend Safaris.  Some pokemon are only available here, and they all have high odds of having their Hidden Abilities and perfect IVs (individual values).  The idea is that every 3DS Friend Code has a Type associated with it, and 3 pokémon allocated to it of that type.  When you add someone as a friend you can encounter their three pokémon, but you can't encounter your own.  There are now hundreds of places online where you can share friend codes for the purpose of finding your perfect 'poké-bro', which inevitably leads to further hours of:
Breeding.  Getting your perfect pokémon has never been easier thanks to friend safaris and a new use for the Destiny Knot.  Every pokémon has IVs that differentiate them from others of their species, and in previous games these values were practically invisible.  Now, however, there is a judge that can tell you what your highest IVs are and whether they can get any better- then it's a case of simple genetics and breeding chains to get pokémon with up to 5 perfect IVs (it is possible to get 6, but extremely impractical).  You'll spend hours reading up how to do this online, let alone the hours you spend in-game actually doing it!  The end result is:
Battling.  Personally, I'm still on the breeding stage so can't comment on what the battling community's like at present- but if you think you're ready for battling then take comfort in the fact that there are no hacked pokémon (at least until Pokébank comes out), and there is a ranked battle system so (theoretically) you'll always be fighting someone of around your ability.  You also have the option of Singles, Doubles, Triples, and Rotation battles.  Unfortunately no Sky or Inverse battles, but perhaps in future DLC?

But wait, there's more!

Post-Game Lumiose City:
On returning to Lumiose City, you will now be recognised as a celebrity due to your champion status.  This is a welcome change from previous games, where the public were completely oblivious to your actions.  Some battle cafés will also now be open to you if you fancy a small challenge and a hefty collection of mushrooms (and if you want to give an old man a heart attack- seriously, the dialogue in this game is a lot darker than previous games.  Incidentally, don't forget to pick up the pokémon you left with that lonely man...).  You should also now have enough money to increase your style leading to new haircuts and outfits to try, as well as some different dialogue with townspeople and even more recognition.  Not only that but Looker returns, setting up a detective agency in Lumiose City!  Cue a dramatic series of events, marking a story possibly longer than the one in-game, and with the potential for DLC.  Finally, a new train is available to take you to a brand new town- home of the friend safaris and the Battle Maison- this generation's Battle Tower/ Battle Subway, and just as cheaty as ever- but a much better challenge than the League was, and the only way to get certain items.
All-in-all the postgame gets a 9/10 for the sheer amount of things available to do- if they actually release some DLC then this will be a definite 10/10.

In conclusion, this game is exactly the same as its predecessors, only better.  After 180 hours I'm still not bored, as I keep switching between catching, breeding, and Looker's missions.  The gimmicks are fun but there's always the threat they'll be taken away in the next games- just as contests and following pokémon were.  The story leaves a little too much open to interpretation, and the characters have next to no development, but after Black and White 2 I hold out hope for some further story either in a sequel or DLC.  From what I've seen, all multiplayer elements are amazing, at least until hacked pokémon come back in December.  And whilst I'm not a fan of Pokémon-Amie's in-battle effects, the feature itself is very cute and will put a smile on anyone's face.

...Except Espurr's

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