There’s never a right time for a gamer to admit that they’re getting to old to play kids games. But at 22, I think I’m slowly encroaching on the age where it’s no longer socially acceptable to be excited about throwing a virtual red and white ball at a Pikachu.
However, when a friend of mine raved about the 3D capabilities of the new 3DS and said that Pokemon was a ‘must have’ title, I was understandably skeptical. However sometime after Christmas I found myself in GAME talking to a smoking-hot employee about the kinect system of the Xbox One. Everything was going great!, I was talking about video games, she wasn’t calling me a nerd or throwing a drink in my face. Result! Unfortunately, she then asked the inevitable question “Is there anything I can help you with?”
Obviously I couldn’t just say: ‘I was browsing with no intent to buy anything and thought you were really fit.”
So I came up with a brilliant cover story: “Well, I’ve been looking into getting a 3DS and the new Pokemon game.”
I felt the need to justify this to the twenty-something woman by explaining that it was a late Christmas gift for my seven-year-old nephew, but decided to take advantage of the situation and get myself a copy of the game while not losing any of my (admittedly none existent) ‘street-cred.’
Five hours later…
I’m sat on my sofa with the TV on in the background, but I no longer know what’s on. My eyes hurt from the 3D but I simply can’t pull them away.
Since Red and Blue, everyone has been searching for a Pokemon game that can bring back the original level of imagination and awesome back to the franchise. I thought this was achieved with Black and White, but coincidentally enough, with this new release, things seem to have moved into a grey area.
I don’t know where X and Y came from, my personal theory is that one of them is very masculine (Y) and the other very feminine (X). Wherever it appeared from, the name has little effect on the amazing graphical detail and battle animations that are produced in game. Sure, most of that credit must go to Nintendo’s latest pocket-sized console, but you can’t fault a smooth and interactive HUD.
Like the other games, Y introduced a host of new Pokemon for your enjoyment, including a ninja frog as the final evolution of a starter and a cute little flaming puppy. It also gifts you a choice of one of the original starter Pokemon later on in the game – a welcome surprise for those of us old enough to remember the excitement of been given your very first little critter by Prof. Oak – quick heads up to my first Charmander Mr Smoaky.
The Adventure Begins
Because I started my epic adventure with Froakie, the water-type frog Pokemon, I decided to pick up Charmander when I was given the choice later on. But with access to the Global Trade System (GTS) you can get any of the pokemon you desire, as long as you are willing to sacrifice one you currently posses.
At the start of your adventure, especially if this is your first 3D game, you are likely to play around with the cool 3d slider on your console like I did. THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA! Caps may seem excessive, but it makes your head hurt like someone just tried to lobotomize you with a Wrecking Ball and it wasn’t very friendly on my already tired-from-work eyes.
Once you settle on a decent setting though, the battles become cooler. The Pokemon feel further away, and their stats and information come closer. This makes you feel like a real trainer in the field, hunting out their adversary through the long grass near your home town, you hold all the information and the decision making power, while your Poke-pal is a few metres ahead of you, absolutely tackling the F*** out of that Caterpie – it’s the closest we have to a real Poke-trainer experience until they master holographic projection – unless you have a group of very dedicated friends who have started some sort of ‘fight club’ where they dress up as Pokemon and beat each other until someone really does faint.
The Unbeatable template?
Regardless of the graphic capability of the new handheld or the different colours and shapes the new creatures take, some things in the world of the red and white ball stay the same:
There are eight gym leaders and once again Dark-type Pokemon don’t get any representation.
The Elite Four are laughably easy.
There is an evil faction that has completely useless members who pose no challenge to you.
Allow me to explain more thoroughly: I have a full-time job, and I’ve owned the game a week, which left no time to stand around in grassy areas tediously leveling my team to ridiculously high levels to obliterate the Elite Four – a tactic I previously used. I stormed through the game, battling every trainer I came across on the way and using O-powers (more on this below) fairly sporadically.
Yet, here is my 6-man team the game recorded for my first clear of the Elite Four:
Reuniclus, Lvl 80
Doublade, Lvl 80
Charizard, Lvl 80
Pikachu, Lvl 77
Greninja, Lvl 79
Talonflame, Lvl 81
As you can imagine, I made quick work of the E4’s level 63+ Poke teams without using any items or consumables.
If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, we knew this was going to be the way. No one goes out and buys Fifa 14 and complains there’s too much football in the game. This holds true to Pokemon, it might be a cliche that has existed since the original Red and Blue for GameBoy, but we’d complain if there were only five Gym leaders, or if the Elite Four took an extra 24 hours of leveling to match on power (and can you imagine how short the game would be if Team Rocket (or in this case, Team Flare) could actually beat the hero? – I mean seriously, how have the police not caught an organisation which just stands outside caves and in big buildings in cities?
That doesn’t mean that we paid full price for a re-hash. No Sir! This game has it all, you get to ride a Rhyhorn, jump around on a Skiddo and plough through ice on a Mamoswine. Plus, the mini-games let you see the tricky EV point system that has been the subject of some of the trickiest maths this side of particle physics.
O no she didn’t!
O-Powers are a mysterious new force specially designed for this generation of Poke-warriors. For those of you who are uninitiated, O-powers are like magic spells the player can cast on him or herself to increase the effectiveness of certain actions of gameplay. However, staying true to form, Nintendo make this much more useful to use on other players than it is yourself, simply by reducing the cost of these powers when they are ‘gifted.’
You have to unlock these ‘gits’ of course, most are in Pokemon Centers or hotels and are a fairly simple conversation away though, so it’s almost a little too easy.
After the Elite Four
Once the Four toughest trainers in the game – pause for laughter – and the champion have been beaten, you endure an awards ceremony which wraps up the sentimental part of the story, and drops you in your home town.
Now the game really excels, or sucks, depending on whether or not you have access to Wifi.
If you can connect to the internet, you get to battle trainers from around the globe, play the lottery of Wonder Trading, level your starting team to 100 and begin to fret about the rated Pokebattle tournaments that are sure to come in the future.
If you can’t, you can level your team to 100 and breed them till you have the best possible stat combos until a man from the internet shows up and welcomes you to this century, because the game might as well end here if you can’t join the rest of the world in the online battle-fest that is Pokemon Online.
Me? I ran around and caught a male and female Eevee, left them alone at the day care with some oysters and a Barry Manilow CD before coming back around 500 steps later to find a shiny new Poke-egg waiting for me. Once the oysters were eaten and the entire album had ended, I had eight eggs, ready to make my battle team of Eeveeloutions.
This is simply what I wanted to do: create a team of multi-coloured fox pokemon that I can use to beat all these kids from around the world who don’t have school or lives to contend with.
I had really hoped for a much more mature conclusion to this. Perhaps I would realise that I was too old for Pokemon, that it was no longer cool to be able to recite the entire Poke-rap (the original) without being prompted when you get to Magneton.
True to form, this was an epic fail on my part, I now not only have my faith in the franchise restored, but I also want MORE!
Yes, I want to go back in time and ask that girl from GAME out, yes, I want to have not wasted the past 40 hours of my downtime focusing on making my Charizard Mega Evolve, but at the same time… I just want to Catch ‘Em all!