Bravo, GameFreak, You Got a Grown-Ass Man Playing Pokemon

Been a while (exactly one month!) since I posted last. I’m working on that. No one actually reads this though so I’m really only disappointing myself. The worst kind of disappointment.

I mentioned a few weeks ago how obsessed I’ve been with my 3DS, and following the final 35+ hour 100% completion of Majora’s Mask 3D, I was craving something new. Something fresh, something unlike anything I’ve played in a while. I wanted to get into a new adventure, and for reasons unknown, probably nostalgia, I was pulled in the direction of Pokemon.

I was intrigued by the many playthroughs I had skimmed through on YouTube – a 3D Pokemon? That is pretty neat! While at the local video game store (not GameStop, I always feel like I need to clarify), an employee was indulging my many questions about “getting back into Pokemon,” generally trying to get a feel for whether or not I was signing up to a hundred hour commitment that I would regret.

Evidently, the Pokemon X/Y games were originally intended to bring back the early adopters of Pokemon from the late 90s. Or something of that nature. Once I heard this, and saw the price tag was exactly the value of my gift card, I picked one at random, basically choosing the sweetest looking cover (looking at you, Pokemon X), and brought it home. Made a pot of coffee and got my ass to work.

One thing that always felt cool and also strange was the world of Pokemon. Not the fact that wild monsters roam about, or anything obvious like that. Every single person lives to interact with Pokemon. Talk to any one person, and they explain to you their hopes and dreams of doing something that has to do with them. Interact with a television, and there’s Pokemon on TV. I’ll be honest with you, this is exactly what I imagine Japan is like. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, and probably will one day, but in the meantime I’m going to maintain that no one does anything except talk about and interact with the little monsters.

Getting back to the game, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the game still felt like I remember Pokemon Red feeling. Walk around, get in some battles, battle some trainers, get your ass some gym badges and call it a day. I spent many, many hours (relative to my schedule; a 13 year old in 2015 could probably have done this in 5 or 6 days) throughout the course of a month grinding away, and loved every minute of it. As I sit here writing this today, I have finally beaten the game (just the other day!), clocking in just under 50 hours. Of course, the great thing about it is that it can last as long as you want it to. And truth be told, I’m good. I’m not hitting the buffet up for thirds.

Let’s talk about what I loved about it so much, from the perspective of a person my age.

Nostalgia Induction

Obviously this was a huge reason I picked up the game in the first place. I went nuts when I got to the very early point in the game where you get to pick a second starting Pokemon. I won’t spoil it for you, in case you’ve never played it and are still considering. Every time I encountered a Pokemon from the original Generation I, I went nuts, and dropped many, many Pokeballs trying to catch it. Er… him. Or her.

While the architecture to Pokemon clearly hasn’t undergone any major changes (aside from being able to move diagonally, of which I still haven’t figured out how this affects your step count in tall grass…), it still felt really fresh, but of course take that with a grain of salt, as this fellow hasn’t played since Red. And a little bit of Yellow, if  you want to get technical. But by then the Pokemon fad had died out.

Experience Share (Exp. Share)

I know from reading reviews that there’s a decent split between folks who liked this feature and those who hated it, or thought it took away from the challenge. On the one hand, I see what people mean. Essentially, Pokemon who were not involved in a single battle will get roughly half of the XP of the Pokemon who were involved in a single battle. So just by sitting in the party, Pokemon would get XP even if you never used them.

You could also turn this on and off on the fly (and very easily, too, with a shortcut key), but for someone with limited time like myself, this is a godsend. I can recall having to grind up a few Pokemon endlessly, and shit, that took forever. This made it do-able to “catch up” Pokemon that were maybe not quite in fighting shape yet, while removing the grind from the equation.

Of course, by the end of the game, I had built up the equivalent of 12 or so absolutely dominating Pokemon. I made short work of all the gym trainers (with some exceptions near the end, generally relating to Type weaknesses), and can probably attribute most of this to Exp. Share. Either way, I would not have been happy if I had to do all of this manually. There’s a big difference between challenging the player in difficulty, and challenging the player’s will to live through excessive grinding requirements.

Moving Around Made Fun!

As stoked as I was when I finally got a bicycle, the roller skates were definitely one of the coolest things ever. Sure, it’s great that they move you around faster, but the inclusion of grinding rails and subtle puzzles just made moving around that much more enjoyable. I really wanted to explore. Stumbling into a new area to find tons of new hidden items and awesome rails to grind was just a cool feeling.

The environments looked great, and while not entirely in 3D, which was actually kind of a bummer, they were diverse enough to be enjoyable in each new spot.

Also totally mentioning is the music. I absolutely love how dramatic the Japanese can make their video games (everything, really) through the use of music. It was fitting and perfect, and the gym trainer battles were made to feel so epic with the awesome accompanying music.

Super-Training and Pokemon-Amie

I thought this was a pretty cool new addition to the franchise (according to reviews, at least). But there are a series of mini-games that you can use to boost the power and happiness of your Pokemon. Feeding and petting your Pokemon can net you a better bond with each, and playing mini-games can raise their enjoyment. Sound a little overwhelming? Well… it is at first. But it’s also not totally mandatory to sit there petting a Pokemon for 20 minutes a time. I maxed out the heart meter of my final party, and it’s pretty funny to see how differently they react to you once they actually like you.

Super-Training is a series of mini-games that you interact with to earn “effort value” for different stats of each Pokemon. I won’t get into what that means here, but it’s pretty fun and lets you really customize each individual Pokemon to your liking.

Buying Clothes

It’s pretty easy to accumulate a pretty huge amount of money in Pokemon, and what better way to spend it than on fancy clothes? It made me question myself and my life priorities at times, but man, recreating yourself as an anime character carrying a murse never felt so rewarding. It felt nice to spend that hard-earned cash from dominating countless trainers on a new hat or boot.

Trading Online

Ahh, trading. I remember being a kid and what a pain in the ass it was to trade. Pretty sure it involved cables and lots of patience, something that’s in short supply when you just want to play the damn game.

Unfortunately, ~50 hours into the story mode and I was never able to actually complete a regular trade (the ones where someone puts out Pokemon A, looking for only a Pokemon B), as I never had what the other person was looking for. But then I discovered it – a feature called Wonder Trade.

This is Wonder Trade, in a nutshell:

  1. You connect to Wifi.
  2. You select a Pokemon you want to trade.
  3. Wonder Trade finds you a partner who also wants to trade a Pokemon.
  4. You exchange Pokemon. BLINDLY!

Oh yes, some interesting things came back to me from this feature, but I was hooked on it. Every time I would catch a new burner Pokemon that I had no intention of keeping/battling, I’d give it (what I considered to be) an interesting name, and ship it off into Wonder Trade, and usually get something terrible in return. But I didn’t care. It’s like gambling the penny slots. Probably won’t get much back, but hey, it’s only a few cents down the drain.

Somewhere out there is my dear Skiddo named Skidmark. Hope you’re doing alright, pal.

The Sense of Adventure

Overall, I am very glad I grabbed this game. Somehow it managed to captivate me to the point where I could spend a half an hour or more just wandering around in tall grass in a new area, trying to discover and catch all the Pokemon I could. In fact, that was probably my favorite part of the game – simply wandering around and trying to catch Pokemon. Using the Dousing Rod also added to this, as I could find hidden treats in the wild while hunting for new monsters to give weird names, and then give to strangers.

While I’ll definitely admit that I’m about Pokemon’d out after dropping almost 50 hours into it (I know, I know. There are folks who regularly log hundreds of hours into a single game. I get it, I’m impatient), I’d recommend this to anyone looking to get into an awesome adventure in an easy to pick up and play RPG, ESPECIALLY if you have a nostalgic connection to the earlier days of Pokemon.

I recognize that Alpha and Omega are out there ripe for the pickin’, but I’ve got my heart in other places for the time being. It’s been a wild ride Pokemon X, and while I’m sure I’ll return for more at some point, it’s time to move on to greener pastures. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


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