Pokemania

Pokemon week is here again. For me, this is the first time I have tried a Pokemon game since those heady early days when the idea of collecting and battling Tomagochis was a novel and new concept. The series, though, is still going strong with a half dozen updates over the Gameboy/DS series of portables and a handful of things to do on your home console.

I remember playing the original and getting bored pretty quickly. I was well outside the target demographic, but the reviews were so good, I figured it must be worth playing. Other than the novelty of collecting various critters and leveling them up, little else stood out to me. I’m sure there was some sort of plot, but it made so much impact that I have no idea whatsoever what it might have been. Since the original release, Nintendo transitioned to releasing the games in pairs with each half having some exclusive pokemon (pokemen?) for you to collect from friends, acquaintances or random people walking around with Gameboys and copies of the game. Again, for the target demographic, that worked pretty well, but until I had nephews, I hadn’t actually seen another human being that played the game in the meatspace.

Having purchased a 3DS XL over the summer for MegaTen IV, I’ve once again read glowing reviews and been persuaded to purchase the game once again. I chose Pokemon Y (instead of version X) because some people believe the theme of X is order and Y is chaos, and chaos just seemed more fun. There was one interesting thing I read in the reviews: Pokemon X/Y apparently maxes out the limited hardware capabilities of the 3DS in such a way that it barely has any 3D content, and when it does, the game can be terribly laggy. Knowing this, even if you are playing in 3D, sometimes the game will turn the feature off so you can actually play. Seemingly Nintendo’s 21st century trait of releasing systems with only minor technological improvements seems to have come home to roost in the handheld division.

But outside of keeping my 3D slider down, the game is the best looking 3DS game I have yet played. Even good Nintendo games for portable systems seem to have horribly ugly textures. This is not the case with Pokemon X/Y. Sure, you can see the game is built with something not terribly unlike RPG Maker, but everything just looks great. While I haven’t been much of a Nintendo gamer since the N64, Pokemon X/Y also features the first good camera I have experienced in a Nintendo game. It always moves just to where you need it to be. This isn’t a major thing. Constantly moving and readjusting the angle in MegaTen IV didn’t stop me playing that game, but not having to move the camera has made Pokemon Y a pleasure to play.

Next, trading pokemon is a hallmark of the series. Pokemon X/Y has broken down my personal barriers and set up online swapping in several different ways that makes it something I can actually do. Besides trading pokemon with someone you meet in the meatspace, there are several different ways to trade online. You can set up a trade for a particular pokemon you want. A few taps and you just wait for someone to find and accept the trade. Next, you can use the online system as a proxy for meeting someone in real life, that is, you can find someone, offer them a pokemon and have them offer something back. Simple and easy. So far the way I best enjoy trading is doing a blind trade with someone at random. The system facilitates it. It might take a few minutes while it finds someone who is up for the trade, but there’s something nice with sending off a pokemon and getting something different and unknown in return. The people who accept your trade are added to your “acquaintance” list in the game, so you can find them in the future for other interactions.

I am enjoying the game thoroughly. I will write more about the game the more I advance through its content. Good luck trying to catch them all.