Platform: Nintendo 3DS

I was wondering how to preface my review for Pokémon X & Y without the usual cathartic drawl reminiscing about the 15 years since Pokémon Red & Blue’s initial Western release on the Nintendo Gameboy. However, Pokémon X & Y has made that completely impossible, in a good way. What I’m trying to say is that Pokémon developer Game Freak have succeeded in creating something that hasn't just appealed to a new generation of gamers, but has also realised the fundamental elements that enticed their veteran audience.

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If you haven’t played a Pokémon game before, fear not: the story, is always the same with very minor differences. You play an avatar boy or girl (you decide) that lives in a region called Kalos. One day you meet-up with some friends who have gotten their hands on some Pokémon. Upon choosing your starting Pokémon, your group of friends are summoned to the nearby metropolis city of Lumiose to meet a famed Pokémon researcher called Professor Sycamore, who wants you to fill your Pokédex (An encyclopedic device that records all the data about the Pokémon you encounter). From there, your journey as a Pokémon trainer begins, collecting Pokémon and battling fellow Pokémon trainers whilst investigating the secret of ‘mega-evolution’, an entirely new concept to the series.

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You start off with the exploration portion of the game, controlling your avatar around cities. The major difference here though is that this is the first Pokémon game that utilizes a proper 3D user interface, with impressive camera work that shows off a lot more environmental detail, as opposed to the previous games that were predominantly ‘top-down’ in nature.

One of the best additions to Pokémon X & Y is that you are given roller-skates incredibly early on in the game. Your avatar already has a running mechanic (which is a boon within itself), but the rollerblades and bike you get later on really speed up world exploration.

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Combat, while fundamentally similar has been given a makeover. Everything from the battle flow, such as encountering a wild Pokémon in tall grass or encountering a Pokémon trainer who wants to battle you has been kept the same, but as soon as the battle actually starts, major differences can be seen and felt. The combat interface looks absolutely gorgeous with its new 3D rendered sheen. Pokémon from every game in the series look amazing in 3D, however what I loved was that developer Game Freak kept the original 8-bit sounds for each Pokémon’s ‘call’ or sound.

Instead of having to trawl through menus like previous games, everything is laid out really neatly with your options clear on the 3DS’ bottom screen. Your choices (Fight, Bag, and Run for example) can be accessed either with usual button controls or the touch screen. Since things are so well laid out and can be interacted with so easily, combat flow is much faster, intuitive and of mor enjoyable.

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Catching Pokémon is also an enjoyable process, as the detail of catching them, then seeing their stats on the Pokédex screen is incredible. The Pokédex is also very fun to use as you really get a breakdown of stats for each of the Pokémon you encounter, and with the added new feature of showing where you can catch them.

Another new feature is the P.S.S system that allows players to communicate with each at all times around the world or locally via street pass. At any time, you can start communication with players globally to either battle, trade or simply chat with them, the latter of which uses the Nintendo 3DS’ microphone functionality.

The game chat function works so well that it actually made me angry that other games like Animal Crossing: New Leaf or other 3DS multiplayer-centric titles haven’t utilized this technology. It made the experience of interacting with players from all cultures around the world a much more enjoyable and also made complete sense when trading Pokémon, allowing the player to barter properly without resorting to archaic text-chat.

While the does game lack a co-op feature, players will be delighted to have access to ‘O-Powers’ that allow you to share at anytime (during combat or exploration) abilities that aid you or worldwide players and friends. For example when I needed health during a battle, I called for some aid from a friend and they immediately gave me an ‘O-Power’ that healed my main Pokémon for full health.

Pokémon X & Y has also seen the inclusion of Pokémon-amie, a new bonding mechanic that focuses on developing a relationship between your Pokémon and the player. Apart from being a glorified 3D tamagotchi mechanic, it is incredibly important to bond with your Pokémon as it guarantees beneficial features such as your faster leveling, and even the ability to evade certain deadly attacks altogether. Most importantly, the bonding mechanic will let you access mega-evolutions that allow you to temporarily evolve your Pokémon further during combat, past even their maximum evolution. Certain Pokémon (not all) can have their own ‘super-saiyan’ moment and turn into an ultra version of themselves with hyped up stats.

The Super Training mode acts as a series of mini-games that can increase your Pokémon’s individual stats. Completing these mini-games unlocks punching bags that you can make your Pokémon attack vigorously to further upgrade them. This ability to further upgrade your Pokémon means that when you do eventually want to breed them, you will always end up with completely unique Pokémon in respect to stats and temperament. The possibilities are practically endless given the hundreds upon hundreds of Pokémon in this game.

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Graphically, the game is charming and similar to the anime series, but a bit more modern in style. It ‘fits’ in with the tone of the series and the designs of the Pokémon themselves have never looked better. However, 3D is never used during exploration and only appears during cutscenes and combat, the latter of which lags the framerate to half its normal frames when 3D is enabled. Personally, not being a fan of 3D tech in the first place, I think it's hardly a loss as the game still looks gorgeous in 2D.

The world of Pokémon X & Y is incredibly vast and I almost don’t want to spoil for newcomers and veterans-alike by mentioning too much. I will say however that it's really clear what Game Freak have done here, and that is combine everything that has made Pokémon what it is today, whether it be game, anime, manga or movie, and put it into one game.

There are just so many things that have been done right, from the implementation of new features, a fully functioning online mode that actually works, graphics, improved mechanics that retain the old style of the series while improving on it - all of it results in an impressive game. It's a very self-aware title, and those types of games usually make the best ones, because there is so much history behind them and they realize the strength in their roots. Now, if anyone ever asks you what Pokémon is all about and why it's so great, you can just point to Pokémon X & Y.