Pokemon is a 17-year old franchise, and flagship of Nintendo’s first party titles, that has relied on the same formula since its inception. While the policy to “not fix what isn’t broken” has certainly been successful for the Pokemon franchise, each new generation has brought with it new wishes from fans on how to make the Pokemon experience more personal, and how to improve the overall presentation. After 17 years, X and Y are now the quintessential and refined entries in the Pokemon franchise. Although the formula remains the same, this new experience is absolutely unparalleled.
X and Y begin as all Pokemon adventures do, with the protagonist having just arrived at a new home in a new region, before being handed a Pokemon partner, a digital encyclopedia and sent off on an adventure. Right off the bat, veteran players will notice subtle changes in start of this adventure. For instance, rather than having one rival character, you have four friends who accompany you on your Pokemon journey. Each of these friends has different goals and ideals, and this is one of the things I came to appreciate most about X and Y. The diversity in friends represents the diversity of people playing Pokemon. Some are determined to conquer the Elite Four and become Champions, some are on a journey to complete the Pokedex, while others are simply going around the world to have a good time and make friends. X and Y is an inclusive adventure that allows for all of these goals to occur.
X and Y has over 450 Pokemon available in the pre-Elite Four Pokedex, more than in any other region. Surprisingly, very few of these 450 are new Pokemon, and many of them are drawn from previously explored regions in the Pokemon universe. This creates a wonderful experience combining nostalgia and new adventures. For example, in this game, you get to choose two starter Pokemon: one from the new generation, and either Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle from the original Red/Blue games.
|The three new starters from the Kalos region! Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and will prove an invaluable ally.|
Perhaps the greatest strength of this new generation is the completely overhauled visual presentation, brought to life by the Nintendo 3DS. Despite the fact that the overworld cannot be displayed in 3D, the environments of the game look incredible. I would frequently get lost in the various routes and cities within the Kalos region, just to marvel at a shimmering river or softly falling snow, while spellbound by the music. Battles looks incredible as well, with each Pokemon now having been rendered in 3D, and each displaying unique attack and idle animations. For the first time, I feel as though Pokemon are creatures truly brought to life.
|Chespin prepares to launch a powerful Solar Beam attack!|
The plot of X and Y is relatively straightforward, and provides an engaging 35 hour experience before opening up to post-game contact. I really enjoyed my struggles to thwart the ambitions of Team Flare, all the while obtaining Gym Badges and preparing to take on the Elite Four. The plot is one of the most well-developed in the series, but does suffer from some minor pacing issues. I easily spent the largest percentage of my adventure between the first three Gyms, and then I quickly reached the fourth through seventh Gyms in almost immediate succession. Suddenly finding myself near the end of the game was a rather jarring experience, and I felt somewhat cheated as the plot rushed through several new environments in short succession.
However, some of the greatest strengths of X and Y are its new mechanics that provide the player with whole new ways to delve into the Pokemon world. Arguably the most popular of these is Pokemon-Amie, which allows you to pet and play with your Pokemon directly, using the touch screen of the 3DS as an interface. This function has plenty of appeal simply as a cute little mini-game, but playing with your Pokemon has some amazing effects in battle. Some of these effects are superficial, such as changes in the text when you send a Pokemon into battle. At one point in my adventure, however, one of my team members survived an otherwise fatal attack with one HP left, and I was informed that the Pokemon toughed out that attack simply because it loved me too much to disappoint me. It was the first time a Pokemon game has ever made me cry.
|Petting and playing with a Pikachu in Pokemon-Amie is a uniquely entertaining experience|
In X and Y, it is easier than ever to connect with friends in the Pokemon universe. Trading and battling with complete strangers can be done within minutes after obtaining your starter Pokemon, and that interconnectivity makes X and Y a uniquely collective experience in the Pokemon franchise. This installment has also revolutionized the competitive meta-game, with the new Fairy type balancing out previous type advantages, and the Effort Values of each Pokemon now directly visible and under the player’s control.
That is not to say that this experience is perfect. Aside from the pacing issues, I found that X and Y removed some of the challenge of Pokemon. New experience mechanics, such as capture experience and the revamped Experience Share item make gaining levels require little to no effort on behalf of the player. Without grinding to level up my Pokemon, or EV training, I almost immediately found myself with significant level advantages over AI trainers and Gym Leaders. Even the Elite 4 and Champion of the Kalos region were easy to defeat without breaking a sweat. That lack of challenge definitely takes something away from the experience of veteran players, while making X and Y more inclusive to a new generation of Pokemon fans.
Overall, however, X and Y provide an experience and presentation unmatched by any of the previous Pokemon generations. Whether you’ve been a fan of Pokemon since the days of Red and Blue, or whether you’re entering the franchise for the first time, X and Y is an essential addition to your gaming library.
|Having Friends visit can be great, unless they are jerks and mess everything up|
It’s been almost twelve years since the release of the Nintendo Gamecube. The little purple box boasts a wide range of excellent releases, and Luigi’s Mansion was one of its earliest and brightest. Despite the game’s short length, Luigi’s Mansion was innovative, intelligent, and gave the timid Luigi a chance to shine in the spotlight! Now, at long last, Luigi’s Mansion has been given a sequel on the 3DS. The result? It’s a delightfully comic and eerie adventure, one that takes the innovation of its predecessor to beautiful new heights.
The story opens in the haunting Evershade Valley, where Professor E. Gadd (retired Ghostbuster) spent his days studying the playful and friendly ghosts inhabiting the region…or at least he was until the “Dark Moon” was shattered and fell out of the sky. As a result, the ghosts become hostile and start causing mischief and mayhem around the Valley. E. Gadd then drags Luigi out of his comfortable life, hands him some equipment, and sends him off to collect the fragments of the Dark Moon.
The gameplay is very similar to the original Luigi’s Mansion, and is fairly instinctive and accessible. Luigi is armed with the Poltergust 5000: a vacuum specially designed to suck up anything from dust to piles of cash, and even malicious little phantoms! Capturing the ghosts is a fairly straightforward process. You just charge your “stroboscope” (read: big flashlight) to stun the ghosts, and then use your Poltergust 5000 to wrangle them into captivity! Not all ghosts will be so easily captured, however! There’s a certain puzzle element to discovering the weaknesses of each type of ghost, and figuring out how to get them into the beam of your flashlight. This makes it so that collecting ghosts is never a bore, and I always felt a sense of satisfaction when I finally managed to trip up a cunning specter.
That’s a big twinkie…
Outside of capturing ghosts, Luigi will frequently be forced to solve various puzzles in order to advance through each mansion. Many of the puzzles are well-designed and present a fair challenge, but by the end of the game, they do become slightly repetitive. It’s a minor flaw, but it did occasionally draw me out of the whole experience.
The presentation of Dark Moon is nothing short of delightful. Each of the spooky mansions you explore in Evershade Valley has its own aesthetic quirks, unique puzzles, and countless hidden secrets. The world of Evershade Valley is beautifully designed, and the game was clearly developed to maximize the 3DS’ potential. Seeing mischievous ghosts gambol about and pop up out of the screen never ceased to be entertaining.
You know Zuul, for an undead demonic entity, you are one adorable little puppy.
The greatest strength of Dark Moon is probably the fact that it does not take itself too seriously. Despite the spooky premise, the game is nothing short of hysterical. Luigi’s bumbling efforts and the ghosts’ antics faultlessly inject humor into the gameplay. You may not end up doing something as ridiculous as fighting an ancient Sumerian god in the form of a giant marshmallow man, but you’ll constantly be charmed and wearing a smile.
There’s also an interesting multiplayer mode, where you and three other players work together to clear randomly generated rooms of ghosts, and collect coins for bonuses. It’s not a very in-depth multiplayer experience, but working together to capture ghosts often plays out in rather entertaining ways.
“Don’t cross the streams.”
Overall, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a fantastic and long-awaited revival to a delightful franchise. It suffers from its predecessor’s faults of being rather short (you can expect approximately 12-15 hours of gameplay) and being rather fast-paced at times, but it’s an enthralling and masterfully detailed experience. If you missed this game’s release and require any more incentive, I only have one more thing to say.
GO GET HER, RAY.