Pokemon is totally an RPG. Granted, you are leveling up small, adorable creatures to do your fighting for you, but there’s experience points and grinding, even equipment! Totally an RPG.
I actually haven’t played much Pokemon prior to this. I dabbled with Pokemon Diamond with my DS Lite, but I got bored with it pretty quickly, and I was also borrowing it from someone, so I had to give it back. I liked how cute the creatures were, but there wasn’t an interesting plot of any kind, so it didn’t really hold my attention.
Once I got my 3DS, though, I started reading a lot about all of the new upgrades to Pokemon X/Y. The biggest one was the full 3D models of every Pokemon. That’s like an entire additional dimension of adorable. Also, I could not only play a girl, but I could also dress her up? Man, sign me up! (Yes, I am occasionally very girly, and I have a deep enjoyment of dressing up my in-game avatars. For instance, most of my resources in Guild Wars were spent on researching and constructing the coolest-looking possible armor set for my necromancer, mixed and matched from all of the armor sets.)
I ended up with Pokemon X instead of Y because that is the version my friend had and was willing to sell to me. So that’s what I got! The legendary deer-looking Pokemon in X looks awesome, anyway.
So this edition of Pokemon is super polished. It’s still essentially the same game with the same plot – Professor Named-After-A-Tree gives you a starter Pokemon and a Pokedex and lets you loose on the Whatever Region to catch as many Pokemon as possible and collect gym badges while thwarting the evil designs of Team Something-To-Do-With-Space and hearing rumors of a legendary Pokemon that you eventually catch with your Master Ball. Or maybe that’s just the plot of the two games I’ve played?
Anyway, this time around, Professor Sycamore gave me the choice of a Chespin, a Fennekin, or a Froakie.
Obviously, I picked the Chespin, because it looks the most like a bunny. SO CUTE! EEEE!
That’s why I keep playing this game, actually. The new 3D models have made this game STUPIDLY cute. Every time I encounter a new Pokemon in tall grass, I squeal and declare that I wish to catch it BECAUSE IT IS SO CUTE. This is further enforced by the Pokemon-Amie system, a set of mini-games in which you get to interact with your Pokemon and play with them and pet them as if they were your fantastical pets. You even get to feed them. WITH THE STYLUS.
It is SO CUTE. Nintendo clearly read my mind and gave me exactly what I wanted in a Pokemon game, because I want a bunch of adorable creatures to be my pets that I can play with and feed, like Tamagotchi, but way more badass. Each Pokemon has a favorite place to be scratched with the stylus, and it rewards you with hearts when you find it. You can feed them Poke Puffs of varying fanciness (fancier ones give more hearts). Leaving aside the dubious nutritional science that went into feeding your Pokemon only fancy sweets that look like creme puffs, it is…can you guess? YES, IT IS SO CUTE. Even the mini games you can play with your Pokemon are pretty fun. I’m really addicted to one called Head It, where you tap with the stylus to bounce yarn balls off your Pokemons’ heads.
There’s even a primitive facial recognition software built into Pokemon-Aime. When the camera recognizes that there is a face in front of it, your Pokemon prompts you to make silly faces at it. It gets really happy and vomits hearts everywhere when you make the right face, but gets soul-crushingly disappointed with you when you don’t. Unfortunately, the camera is really bad at reading my face.
My husband probably thinks I’m really crazy, watching me try to contort my face into what my 3DS will interpret as a “medium smile.” And most of the time I fail to please the cold, unfeeling eye of my camera. Which MAKES MY POKEMON SO SAD. Which makes me feel absurdly guilty. So I don’t play the face game very much. I don’t want to disappoint my virtual fantasy creatures.
There is a practical benefit to all of this Pokemon petting, too. As your Pokemon’s affection levels rise, it becomes more effective in battle. So my favorite Pokemon, my Bunnelby, almost has his affection maxed. Consequently, he sometimes dodges attacks that would otherwise hit him, and often escapes status effects. It’s pretty cool.
ALSO, SO CUTE. I gave him an Everstone, I don’t want him to evolve. His evolution is derpy looking. Observe:
ANYWAY, I have had a lot of fun customizing my avatar. I was a little disappointed when I started the game that there were so few clothing options to begin with, and the ones you are presented with the opportunity to buy early on are prohibitively expensive. However, once you find the Amulet Coin (an item which gives double money from trainer battles) about 10-15 hours in, money is never an issue with this game. I was a little irritated to discover that to change your avatar’s hair, you go and get a “haircut,” which is kind of cute, except that you don’t get to see pictures of the haircuts and choose one, you answer questions about what you want your hair to look like. So you don’t actually know what your hair will end up looking like until after you have paid for your virtual haircut, and if you don’t like it, you have to pay to have it done again.
For once, I can insert an actual screenshot from my actual game, as there are “Picture Spots” sprinkled all over the world of Pokemon X. Pictures of your avatar are then uploaded directly into your 3DS camera program, which you can then easily upload to Facebook. It’s a cute idea, and I wish more 3DS games would take advantage of the ability to take in-game screenshots. If only because it would make writing game reviews much easier.
The new Fairy-type Pokemon are pretty cool. Also, CUTE. I was especially excited about the new Fairy evolution of Eevee. My stated goal for this game is to collect every evolution of Eevee, and one of the first ones I got was Sylveon, the Fairy-type. Mostly because to get Sylveon, all you had to do was play with an Eevee a whole bunch in Pokemon-Amie, something I really wanted to do, because Eevee really is one of the cutest of all the Pokemon. They’re pretty powerful, too, and a nice balance against the Dragon-types. My Sylveon can murder most things with her Moonblast.
An attack which involves a giant pink moon. The Fairy-types are very pink-centric, I have noticed.
Pokemon is a weird game. Without a real plot and with so much to do, everyone plays it slightly differently. My game is very focused on collecting all the cute things, especially Eevees, pimping my avatar, and playing with my Bunnelby. Someone else could spend all their time farming berries and breeding Pokemon. Or using the really robust online offerings and trading and battling badasses from Japan. I have had a lot of fun with WonderTrade, where you trade one of your Pokemon for a random Pokemon from another random player, but I haven’t traded much on the GTS (everyone seems to want either level 91 or greater or Pokemon I’ve never heard of) and I’ve only played a couple of online battles (my entire team was wiped out by the opposing team’s leader with one hit every time). So Pokemon is hard to review. It’s fun to play with, but it doesn’t hold my attention in the same way that a story-rich offering like To the Moon or Ni No Kuni does. I play Pokemon a lot, but only while I’m doing something else like watching TV or exercising.
I can, however, say with confidence, that this is the richest Pokemon experience ever released. There is so much to do here, and it just looks AMAZING.
Also. IT’S SO CUTE.