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Loving it, but a HUGE note of caution: update your game
on October 23, 2013
NOTE: when Pokémon X & Y shipped there was a bug that could break your save game. That has been fixed in an update, so before you play you should run the update. It's really easy to do and the 3DS will walk you through each step--you turn on the network, launch the game, say yes to the prompt to update it, and walk through the prompts to get the update applied.
Pokemon X and Y are a fantastic progression of the Pokemon series, and just like with 'Black' I & II and 'White' I & II, my daughter and I each chose one of the two games--this time around she's playing 'X' and I'm playing 'Y'. It's amazing to see how much more we get in the terms of content, graphics, music, and of course general things to do. However, before I say more I think you should be aware that there is a savegame bug in the out-of-the-box new product that could kill your savegame. I'll post a link to an article about it in the comments, so update your game using your 3DS to get the fix before you get to Lumiose City!
If you're new to Pokemon, the shortest way I could explain it is that you are a young person in a land where many different kinds of creatures exist in the wild called 'Pokemon'. These creatures can be captured and cared for, and for many children this is a kind of rite of passage: you learn how to capture and train Pokemon, travel the land on your own, and have adventures. You use your Pokemon to have battles, against other trainers and against wild Pokemon. If it sounds a bit cruel, keep in mind that this is a game for young people and as such Game Freak goes out of their way to make the story a positive lesson: you have to take care of your Pokemon, they grow to like you, and no one ever dies--they just 'faint' and can be revived. Some creatures can 'evolve' into different forms, and with X and Y we now get 'Mega-Evolution' that adds to our options and makes the possibilities even more diverse.
If you're contemplating buying a Pokémon game for a child in your family, there is educational value to be had here: I'm amazed at the huge and creative variety of creatures, and my daughter has coached me on strategies: type matching and analysis are important skills that require memorization, reasoning, and a bit of basic math. You have to manage money to buy things and plan your inventory before taking a trip out of town. And sometimes your character is asked questions to make them think.
Pokemon X and Y are the latest entries in the series, and they take the new ground that was broken in Pokemon Black and Pokemon White (both of which had sequels, I & II) several steps further. Perhaps the biggest change in X and Y is that you interact closely with your Pokemon:
- play with them: there are fun minigames that you play together
- feed them: you get "Pokemon puffs" that look like little pastries that you can hand-feed them using the stylus
- interact with them: petting them makes them happy, and when they're in a particularly good mood they'll play a game with you in which you get to make faces with them: the 3DS camera will show your Pokemon your smiling, winking, or making a 'kissyface'. Your Pokemon delight in your antics.
- train them: you can play other minigames that boost their stats, allowing you to really bump up their skills! Have a Pokemon that's slow? Do lots of Speed training and they'll get faster. It's been huge amounts of fun watching my favorite Pokemon's stats raise and they really do perform better in battles.
All of this revolves around a central story line, with good guys and bad guys, and the difference between X and Y seems to be that the storyline in 'Y' appears to go into a little bit darker territory than 'X', though both have the same overall story. You are encouraged to use the wireless aspects of 3DS to trade, battle, and 'see' each other's Pokemon when you're with someone else who is playing X or Y. You also get "O-Powers", which can be used to bump up stats as well. And early on in the game you have a chance to choose one of the three first-gen 'Starter' Pokemon and add them to your party, which is a really nice nod to the earlier games.
There is a lot more to X and Y in that your character can now change clothes and mix and match different outfits. You can buy clothes in various boutiques throughout the land, and my daughter loves coming up with her own fashion ideas. Your character can shoot 'promo videos' of themselves, though this bit is kind of weird and a bit lame, like the 'movies' that you could make in Pokemon Black and Pokemon White...not very clear how it works, not sure exactly what the purpose is.
There are huge benefits this time around too: most of the game is animated, and it all has a very nice cel-shaded look (think Sly Cooper or recent Zelda games). Camera angles are fairly dynamic, especially during battles, when the camera pans around or does split-screen effects, etc. Battle is a lot more animated, with more visual effects. The music sounds really great, as if it's been orchestrated this time around. The region you are in resembles a European village, complete with a lot of French-sounding names and places. As a very long-time player of JRPGs, I really didn't mind the look of the prior games at all--but I really LOVE the new look & feel of Pokemon X & Y! But the biggest boosts to the gameplay are:
- Experience Share isn't specific to one Pokemon: it's in your pocket and causes bonus XP to be shared with every member of your party
- It used to be that if you captured a Pokemon, no experience was handed out for the battle: now, you still get XP.
- It also used to be that if a Pokemon fainted during a battle and wasn't revived before the battle was over, they didn't get XP. They do now! I even had a Pokemon faint and level up while fainted. This was a pleasant surprise that makes level-grinding easier to do.
If you're new to the Pokemon games and this is your first one, X and Y are a great place to begin--you'll be a bit spoiled! If you're a fan of the original games, picture this as another step forward, with a whole new look. I've really enjoyed the additions and changes, as most of them seem aimed at making the entire experience of a Pokemon game more enjoyable.