Pokémon has always appealed to a wide range of play styles; from the casual fan just looking to catch some pocket monsters, to the dedicated online battler who cares about IVs and EVs. In Game Freak’s Pokémon debut on the three-dimensional platform, the improvements are big and small; and all of them matter in one way or another.
The first improvement is obviously the cosmetic change from seeing only the front and back of sprites to having entire Pokémon rendered out and active. The battling animations are impressive and you will never turn them off like you may have in previous iterations. Early on in your journey, you feel sad for making the cute little Pokémon faint (unless you’re a soulless monster, then you probably enjoy it). Your Pokémon are now your pals, instead of just being elemental monsters for your disposal.
The new Pokémon-Amie mode reinforces the last point. By using the bottom screen, you can scratch, feed, play mini-games with your team and even use the camera to wave, smile and wink at your Pokémon. The Pokémon now are alive; they get frustrated, angry, happy and show emotion.
The over-world is the where the next effect takes a great step forward. With the 3D capabilities, the entire region becomes a visually gratifying experience. The trees blow in the wind, the water’s waves and ripples could be mistaken as real, and you can even interact with your environment. I spent a good 15 minutes sitting on a bench in the first city just looking at the NPCs pass by and interact with each other. Even the little things are just so real; Pikachu yells his name, rollerblading seems real, you bend down and reach into your bag when you pick up an item, idle animations from characters such as stretching and yawning, splashing through puddles, crunching leaves, and even bending down when speaking with the little kids. The game is satisfying.
Multiplayer is revamped and is actually prevalent. With your internet connection on, you can use the Player Search System to make player interaction a snap! Simply tap on the player’s avatar to battle or trade with them. You can view their “Trainer PR Video”, which is Pokemon’s way of having a profile. Voice chat with friends, exercise a bunch of different ways to trade – including the new Wonder Trade. Simply select the option anywhere you are, pick your Pokemon (even from your box!) and wait for the magic to happen. You’ll be paired at random and receive the Pokemon they have selected at random. Don’t like what you’ve received? No worries! Throw it back on the Wonder Trade and get something else.
Gen-wunners rejoice! Some of the original 150 Pokemon are scattered through the new Kalos regions and will take you back to the age you want so much. Three certain famous starters make their reappearance with the opportunity to train one yourself. As soon as you reach the first forest, you’ll have a feeling of déjà vu. Pikachu, Caterpie and Weedle are everywhere along with the entire forest being a clone of the original Viridian.
All in all, the people at Game Freak are ushering in a new era and Pokemon X and Y will be the great pivot point that changes the future for this series. Long gone are the days of simply battling and training; now the focus is on the experience with friends old and new.