Pokémon X is a role-playing game for the Nintendo 3DS. It is another installment to the Pokémon series by Nintendo, so I’ll be assuming you’ve either seen my Pokémon Blue review or know about Pokémon in general by this point. Feel free to get up to speed because this is going to be long enough without repeating a lot of the basics in detail. I was a little burnt out on the series after playing Pokémon White, but I decided to give this one an honest shot because it looked pretty good. I’m a little shaky on some of the specifics since I’m no expert, but I hope you can forgive me if I miss anything. So what does this entry bring to the Pokémon series? Let’s dig in.
Most of the basics are the same. It’s still simple turn-based combat with your party of Pokémon. There are the type effectiveness, moves, TMs, HMs, leveling up, evolving, and all of that jazz. Your main goal is still to catch as many Pokémon as you can on your journey to become the greatest, strongest Pokémon trainer. You need to collect the eight badges, defeat the Elite Four, face off against the Pokémon champion, and get mixed up with a team of criminals and a legendary Pokémon along the way. It’s all by the books at this point. And a lot of the things in the game have existed in other entries as well. Natures, abilities, double battles, triple battles, a day/night cycle, battling, trading, breeding, shinies… there’s just so much stuff in the series at this point that it’s almost overwhelming. But there are some new things here as well.
The big one that will work its way into most of the battle considerations is the inclusion of the new fairy type. Get ready to spend some time browsing an effectiveness chart or just feeling out a new type for its strengths and weaknesses. You’ll also want to check out what old Pokémon have now acquired this new type as well. Of course there are plenty of new Pokémon in the brand new region as well. The other big game changer is mega evolution. With the proper Pokémon holding the proper mega stone, you’ll be able to trigger a mega evolution in battle. This will only last for that battle, but it can alter the stats and type of your Pokémon to give you even more possibilities in the heat of the battle. Two other neat features are Super Training and Pokémon-Amie.
Super Training is mostly a minigame you can play with each Pokémon. You select your Pokémon and then select your stage. There are six different kinds of stages, each with three variants. In all of them, the goal is to shoot balls by tapping on the screen and try to hit the target areas on the large balloons representing a defending Pokémon. You can freely move your Pokémon around within a defined area as well. You can shoot quickly for less points or charge up shots to try and gain more. Generally, shooting enough targets in a row will trigger a red target that can be hit multiple times inside of certain window of time. You’ll also have to dodge the enemy’s projectiles and the minion robots that try to get in the way. Your goal is to hit a certain score within the time limit. If you succeed, you’ll gain some points into a certain stat’s effort values. This is the first time in the series that you’re given direct control of these, and the way they work is a bit confusing, but I’ll put it as simply as I can. Basically, these points influence the way your Pokémon’s stats raise upon leveling up. So a Pokémon with high points in attack will generally have a higher attack stat as it levels up. This is also why wild Pokémon tend to be weaker than trained ones, because only trained Pokémon can obtain effort values. Though every Pokémon does start with some unchangeable base stats. Don’t worry, you can track all of it on your chart. There are three variants for speed, attack, defense, special attack, special defense, and HP. The higher the gain, the harder the difficulty. Upping your stats and effort values will net you better perks when doing the Super Training as well. For instance, upping your attack or special attack will make your attacks net you more points per hit. Also, if you complete the minigame then you can gain extra training bags based on your performance. Most are just for giving you some more stats, but others do some special things like increase your performance for the next training regimen or even reset your current stats if you’d like to redo them. You can equip the bags for any member, but they can only be used once. You then can either leave the Super Training window open and let your Pokémon hit the bag once per minute, or tap the bag to make your Pokémon hit it faster. Having varying amounts of points per stat helps to fine tune your distribution. There is a maximum amount of points you can get, which you can also track on the main Super Training screen for each Pokémon. After you fill that meter and fully train your Pokémon you unlock Secret Super Training. These are a set of more difficult challenges that must be completed in order. You can gain some nice rewards if you perform well in them, but they will not further affect your EVs.
Next up, let’s cover Pokémon-Amie. This is a way for you to interact with your Pokémon outside of battling and Super Training. You select which Pokémon you want in your play area. On the main screen of this you will see the little sprite of your Pokémon in a flat area as other people’s Pokémon slowly come by and bounce around. They will often leave gifts such as decoration items or Poké puffs. Decoration items can be placed around your area. You can also change the background to your liking as well. It doesn’t really do anything, but it’s there for your own personalization. Then there’s the play screen. Going to this screen will bring your Pokémon onto the touchscreen by itself. Here you can pet your Pokémon with the touchscreen and feed it Poké puffs. Doing these two things will increase its affection for you. This is not to be confused with friendliness, which is different for some reason I guess. You can keep track of their level of affection by hitting the switch button on the first screen. However, you can only feed your Pokémon when its food level is low and petting it will stop increasing the affection once its enjoyment level is low. The food level will decrease over time naturally or with activity. Enjoyment can only be increased by playing with your Pokémon. You can do this by hitting the play button on the second screen. There are three minigames you can play. One has you tapping and dragging the appropriate fruit from the trees to the Pokémon that wants it. Another has you moving tiles of a moving picture into their correct position on a puzzle. The last, and the one I did the most, has items falling down onto Pokémon on the bottom screen which you must tap at the right time to knock away. Each one has four difficulties with three that scale up in difficulty and a final one that is potentially endless provided you don’t mess up the allotted amount of times. You can also gain extra Poké puffs based on your performance. Better Poké puffs will increase happiness more. Getting up the affection of your Pokémon has a number of interesting affects in battles, such as helping them avoid attacks more often or even healing their own status ailments, among other things.
I’m sure there are a ton of new little things that veterans could go on and on about, but I think I found myself the most impressed with the level of polish and convenience here. Visually, the game looks wonderful. Lots of vibrant colors and simplistic 3D models fit in with the cartoonish nature of it all. It’s crisp and clear. The sound design and music is pretty good too. I appreciate that the battle animations are flashy yet still move along fast enough to keep things from being drawn out. There’s also the nice automatic progression so you don’t need to keep hitting A to advance the text during the fights. You can just sit back and enjoy the show. The day and night cycle is tied to the 3DS clock so it’s usually night when it’s actually night for you and the same with day. TMs can be used over and over again as needed. There are a lot of healing spots and shortcuts in more difficult areas to keep you from being too worn down over longer expeditions. There are these things called O-Powers that you can use on yourself or on others online that recharge over time and can be leveled up. They grant slight boosts like increasing a stat for one battle or increasing your capturing power. You can also increase your chance of getting a critical catch, which is an immediate catch of a Pokémon, by just catching more Pokémon. Some Pokémon have interesting ways of evolving beyond the typical leveling up or use of stones. The held items can be quite interesting. You can even customize what your character looks like along the way. You can do trades and battles online with your friends or with strangers. You can even do a wonder trade where you offer a Pokémon and it randomly trades with someone else doing the same thing. When learning moves you can see the stats and descriptions of them, along with the ones you currently know, to help decide if you want to replace an old move for a new one or not. The bonuses from Pokémon-Amie are nice, as are the bonuses from the surprisingly fleshed out minigame of Super Training. There is a lot to collect, train, and perfect. There are a few places you can go to get battles on a regular basis as well, including double battles, triple battles, and the new rotation battles. Rotation battles are 3 on 3 fights where you can select to keep your Pokémon up front or rotate it to another and have that one attack. This brings in a strategy of considering who will attack first and how the outcome of that attack will affect the rest of the turn. There are also sky battles, which are fought in the air with only Pokémon that can fly. You can get a neat detector for finding unseen items. You can get running shoes, skates, and even a bike for traveling around faster. And probably a bunch more stuff that I’m not even able to remember off the top of my head. My point is, there is just SO much to do in this game and all of these features seem to be fleshed out incredibly well. It’s amazing. Even so, I should TRY to point out a few flaws I had with it.
Rotation battles and sky battles are cool, but they are pretty scarce. Especially sky battles, as I don’t believe there’s a designated place for doing more of them, so they end up feeling like a gimmick. And if you have no flying Pokémon, you can’t even do the sky battles. Pokémon-Amie has some pretty helpful results, but it can be rather tedious to do for all of your Pokémon. I guess the idea is to do it over time, but it honestly didn’t make me feel more connected to them while doing it. The results made my character root for them more, but it’s not really worth the long road getting there. Super Training had the same effect. But I suppose getting them out of the way early was a good idea that made the rest of the game more of a treat. The city in the middle of the region is a bit annoying to navigate. It’s not too terribly big, but it’s very samey-looking all over and the movement there with the camera’s auto adjustment just feels clunky. There aren’t really rivals in this game, which is something I really liked about gen one and two. You just kind of magically make these friends right away even though you’re the new kid in town, and you fight them along the way. The criminal team doesn’t seem very threatening or evil. In fact, their message is more like a misguided act of heroism. Their plot seems pretty rushed near the end out of nowhere. And the legendary shows up pretty abruptly too. And oh gee, how will I ever take on this legendary Pokémon when I was given a Master Ball already? Along with that lack of a real accomplishment due to a lack of struggle, getting healing points in the middle of all of the game’s major cavernous areas and such is a bit lame. Yeah, it’s convenient. This whole game is incredibly convenient. But where is the accomplishment of getting through a tough labyrinth all on your own if you’re given shortcuts and healing points inside them? It takes away some of the accomplishment. Fairy type is nice to mix things up, but it does seem tough to understand its effectiveness if you’re just taking guesses. I also feel like giving you one of the gen one starters partway into the game is a tad strange. I personally don’t like to invite the comparison to gen one anymore as to keep it all fresh for me, so having one thrown in my face like that bothered me a bit, but I can see how others might be more accepting now than I am. While the game is very clearly built towards playing for a long time, it’s maybe built for that a little too hard. It’s not super long for the main quest, which I appreciate, but it’s hard to erase the data AND I feel like the diminishing returns will become too much, even with such a full game as this. Oh, and they’ve been handing out some event Pokémon lately, but they’re all level 100 already so you don’t get the joy of training them. What’s the point? Competitions I guess. So I’m not saying it’s perfect, but most of my gripes are very minor and nitpicky.
Pokémon X is probably the best designed Pokémon game I’ve played, and it might just be my favorite now too. It adds in some new stuff here and there, it makes all of the old stuff even more convenient, and it all comes together in a beautifully polished package the turns it into an absolute must-have for RPG fans, Pokémon fans, and 3DS owners alike. If you can only get one game to play for a while on your 3DS, this one will keep you busy for many hours with a pace that’ll keep you surprisingly engaged as well. It’s Pokémon at its best. This is coming from a guy who was a gen oner for a long time, too. So… ya know. It’s probably pretty solid. Although I barely got this out before Pokémon Sun and Moon so… well maybe you can find this one cheaper once those two are out, right? I’m sure I’ll get to those sometime… maybe… probably… eventually.