Well, considering that absolutely no other notable major video games worth purchasing came out this week, I’d say this would be a good time to finally take a look at Pok?mon X & Y, no? Particularly the stars of the game: the various all-new Pok?mon that make up this brand new generation.
Now, in case you’re wondering where the typical review is and why we’re kind of late to the party here…well, that’s largely due to personal technical difficulties getting in the way. Plus, it’s honestly kind of a hard game to review…but for those of you still wanting to get the basic pros and cons…
PROS: The new graphics and scenery are really damn nice, there are more improved ways to gain experience, online play is easier and better than ever, the gameplay is still solid and fun, Pok?mon-Amie can be kind of awkward but is ultimately awesome, and the new Pok?mon (mostly) kick ass.
CONS: Pok?mon Hordes are annoying, Wonder Trade is pretty much a huge unbalanced load, precision movement can be annoying, HM-required roadblocks are still a pain (and mandatory at some truly annoying points), the game is indeed pretty damn easy, more than a few new features seem superfluous (especially PR videos), Team Flare is just too damn stupid to take seriously, the characters and story feel like a step down from Black and White, Mega Evolutions just feel like silly, blatant fan service, and there are too few new Pok?mon.
But I’m ranting here, and no one ever likes that. Besides, leaked info seems to suggest that there may be more Pok?mon to add to the game after all…but until then, we can celebrate the current highlights of this new Pok?mon generation (not counting the Mega Evolutions as new Pok?mon, because even the Pok?dex doesn’t). Because despite smaller numbers, the franchise can definitely still hit it out of the park when it comes to lovable (and marketable) new critters indeed. But is that fact, or is it my own screwy tastes talking? Press on for more…
…Yeah, gonna be honest, I originally just planned for this to be a Top Ten. but then I realized that the majority of you would kick the living crap out of me if I didn’t include the T-Rex Pok?mon with the power to crush anything in his path with a massive set of jaws. So I wisely decided that including him would benefit me in the long run.
Plus, you know, he is a motherf***ing T-Rex. Can’t deny that kind of coolness.
Oh, I am not going to make any friends for ranking the frigging cotton candy and meringue Pok?mon higher than the T-Rex. But I just can’t help it, I love the little doofuses. Why? Well, aside from honestly being pretty damn cute, I admit to being a fan of the Cloudcuckoolander type of character (as my secret Pinkie Pie shrine you don’t know about would demonstrate, if it existed). And come on, look at the guys and tell me that they don’t have “Cloudcuckoolander” written all over them, to the point where they resemble little Pok?mon versions of Quina from Final Fantasy IX, right down to the tongue and tendencies to help out in the kitchen.
Silly? Yes, but definitely endearing in their silliness. A weird yet lovable critter definitely worth having by your side. But still weird. Seriously, they require friggin’ whipped cream to evolve…
Okay, and including the perfume Pok?mon isn’t helping things, I know. Truth be told, I was not a big fan of most of the new “Fairy” type Pok?mon…I mean, aside from being mostly assigned to every stereotypically “cutesy” Pok?mon possible, Game Freak gave them a type advantage against Dark, Fighting, and Dragon types, homes to some of the most badass Pok?mon. Basically, if it weren’t for the weaknesses to Poison and Steel, I’d think an alternate name for “Fairy” here would be “Mary Sue.”
Thankfully, we have Fairy Pok?mon like these Spritzee and Aromatisse to add a dash of creativity and attitude to this new type. I mean, fluffy scented masquerading plague birds of (implied) doom? How could you not love something like that? And why did they not have a secondary Dark type? Missed opportunities, dammit. And given that the Kalos region was modeled off of France, bonus points for being the most French Pok?mon in the game. Well, aside from the poodle Pok?mon that the game will shove in your face at every opportunity to remind you that BY THE WAY, THIS IS FRANCE. I’ve seen more than a few people show distaste towards Aromatisse, and while I see where they’re coming from, I still think these are a couple of cute and unique Pok?mon myself. Then again, I also chose Mr. Mime as one of my favorite Gen I Pok?mon, so what the hell do I know.
In Pok?mon X, the Pok?dex immediately describes Goomy as the weakest Dragon-type Pok?mon, and Goodra is essentially described as an extremely friendly purple lizard who doesn’t look the least bit threatening. Game Freak, did you try to make a wimpy-looking dragon so that the game’s Mega Evolutions and older designs wouldn’t be overshadowed? Because if so, the sheer amount of fan art I’ve seen for these guys suggests that this is your Springtime For Hitler.
The evolution of Goomy to Goodra, from Derpy-ish slug to sleek, smooth, wide-eyed ass-kicker is a particularly well-designed one indeed (and one that might even have a touch of mythology to it) that I applaud. And its affectionate nature is indeed pretty sweet, conjuring up the image of many embarrassing yet adorable victory hugs after a battle. I am still surprised by its popularity, though. I just don’t get what huge chunks of Japan, and deviantART especially, see in a giant slime monster with tentacle-like appendages that tends to get physically affectionate with its trainer a lot…and having realized what I just typed, I’ll shut up now.
Alright, about 90% of why I chose these guys is largely because I just really, really wanted these games to include a frilled lizard Pok?mon already. And what do you know, not only did they deliver, they did so in spades! Solar-powered frilled lizards who generate enough energy to do 40 mph runs? Oh, hell yeah! The sun-based color scheme is also a sweet little touch to the design as well, definitely creating an eye-pleasing little lizard. And it has a skittish and hyperactive look to it in both cases, which indeed ends up making it even more damn charming.
Oh, and did I mention that they can learn Surf? Yeah, remember all those times you forced to teach a Pok?mon Surf just so you can cross a body of water, no matter how small it was (and yes, they sadly force you to do it in this game to advance as well)? You ever want to get revenge on those sections by electrocuting every damn Water Pok?mon in your way with the power of the friggin’ sun with the help of your high-voltage lizard friend who can run across water? Of course you do. And that’s just one reason you need to love a Pok?mon like this.
Now if you still feel that Pok?mon X & Y still owe you a truly badass Dragon-type, then you’ll be pleased to know that not only did they give you a badass bat dragon; they even threw in a set of built-in amplifiers to boot! Hell, they even incorporated it in Boomburst, one of Noivern’s moves where it straight up crushes rocks and opponents with pure sound (insert dubstep/bass cannon jokes here). So basically you have a sleek, badass flying hunter who in milliseconds can switch to blowing you away with boombox ears.
And Noibat’s no slouch as well, being able to incapacitate the mightiest of wrestlers (save for one, but we’ll get to that) with a similar amount of ease. They’re a bit tough to catch at first, but trust me when I say that this wicked duo are more than worth the effort. Bring the noise, yo.
As the Team Fortress 2 player who shot me back into a pit of lava showed me, sometimes you just can’t beat a Force-A-Nature. And Phantump and Trevenant help solidify that belief, being shadowy, intimidating Ghost/Grass-types who can manipulate the forest itself to do whatever it needs. Well, “intimidating” only applies to Trevenant, mind you…Phantump falls more under the category of Pok?mon that try to look intimidating, but actually end up just looking even more adorable in the process (a category we’ll definitely be revisiting, by the way). Then again, according to the Pok?dex, tales say they may be the ghosts of dead children, so…um, yeah, I’m just gonna chalk that up to “old tales” and the designers deciding to pull another Cubone-style situation on us.
In either case, as one of the series’ first Ghost/Grass dual-types, these Pok?mon provide another great usage of mythology in the games and effectively pull off a creepy yet awesome vibe that definitely makes you want to have them by your side. Besides, better to be on the side of nature than against it…
Having to decide which Starter Pok?mon to represent here was a difficult choice indeed, what with the options being “Fox Witch,” “Ninja Frog,” and “I’m-Not-Entirely-Sure-What-Animal-It-Is-But-Holy-Crap-It’s-A-Goddamn-Walking-Tank Knight.” But amongst these offerings inspired by classic fantasy tropes and animated sitcom characters, the Chespin line was the one that stood out most to me. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the Starter Pok?mon that come off as the most hyperactive and/or playful (see also: Totodile and Squirtle), but this freaky little mammal/nut hybrid just wouldn’t stop winning me over across all of its evolutions. It gradually goes from being a cheerfully peppy and impish woodland critter to an armored gentle giant who isn’t afraid to kick some major booty to protect its friends, and all along the way it remains a cheeky and fun companion.
Even the second stage, that some have derided, becomes incredibly lovable once you see it in person, all round and clad in a makeshift shield with an adorably eager expression on its face. Again, not entirely sure exactly which animal they’re supposed to be, but most sources seem to lean towards hedgehog…which would mean that yes, the hedgehog was ironically the big winner for Nintendo this time around.
For those of you familiar with the series, you might be aware with the challenges of having to choose between having an unbelievably cute Pok?mon and its unbelievably badass evolved form. Well, say hello to the ultimate version of that challenge. So which will it be? On one hand, we have a scrappy little cub trying his hardest to appear tough but failing because he’s just too damn cute (I’m not kidding: that’s basically the official Pok?dex description), but you just love the little guy for his friendship and his determination to try and be an intimidating fighter. On the other hand, you can evolve him to Pangoro by having another Dark Pok?mon in your party, which means you have a saucer-eyed youth whose life eventually changes due to an incident with a dark person, finds themselves changing due to the darkness being thrust upon them now as well, and eventually loses their innocence and becomes an imposing, muscular, feared, scowling caped creature of darkness known for a violent temper and powerful physical attacks that will still not stand for bullies in any way.
So basically, he becomes the Pok?mon equivalent of Batman.* Even more so than the actual bat Pok?mon.
And yet it’s still difficult to choose which one is better. Truly a sign of sheer awesomeness.
*(Yes, I know Pangoro was actually based on banch? students, but come on, Pok?Batman. How could I resist that?)
Oh, you clever bastards. Releasing your game a couple of weeks before Halloween and including a jack-o’-lantern-themed Pok?mon, ensuring loads of seasonal fan art that helps promote the game? I tip my hat to your deviousness.
Nonetheless, Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist each perfectly embody the Halloween spirit, coming off as being delightfully playful and mischievous while also trying to come across as spooky as possible. Mind you, the little yellow eyes, tiny widdle fangs, and fluffy wings and bangs kind of lean towards being more awww-worthy than spooky, but that only makes them more sweet in the end. If you still want spookiness, there’s always the parts about them carrying spirits to the afterlife, cursing people with eerie singing, and joyfully choking prey to death with tendril-like appendages. So yes, looks can be deceiving indeed…but come on, look at those widdle fangs! Awww!
And for bonus points, they even have a signature Trick-or-Treat move…that turns opponents into ghosts so it makes them easier to hunt. Again, both perfectly playful and spooky! Yay!
…Do…Do I even have to explain this choice? Look at him. That, my friends, is badass personified. The second I saw a Hawlucha in the wild, the immediate thought that first crossed my mind was simply “ME WANT.” I mean, you just know the little guy will swoop into every battle he can find and kick multiple asses in the name of peace. It gets even better when you do capture one, and he starts making dramatic pro-wrestling gestures in and out of battle. Did I also mention he knows a new move called Flying Press, where he actually dive bombs from a turnbuckle onto the opponent?? God, I wish I had footage of that to share with you, so just take my word for it. I…I am in awe. Despite the low number of new Pok?mon this time, I think we can safely say it was all worth it just for this brave, honorable mofo.
By the way, you may have also noticed that this is the only Pok?mon on the list without any evolved/pre-evolved form of any kind. Because let’s face it: Sometimes, you just really can’t improve upon perfection indeed.
Dishonorable Mention: Klefki
*sigh*…Okay, here’s the thing. Throughout the whole franchise, I’ve never truly shown the same contempt for certain Pok?mon that others have. Trubbish, Vanilluxe, Dunsparce…hell, I even admitted to straight up liking Mr. Mime earlier. I don’t necessarily like all of them, but I have no ill will towards them.
Klefki, though…is the first Pok?mon I’ve ever truly hated.
I’m sorry if that sounds stupid or anything, especially if you (somehow) like Klefki, but I just friggin’ hate this design. I mean…a KEY RING Pok?mon?? Not even a key Pok?mon, but a key ring Pok?mon? Seriously, I am honestly baffled when it comes to comprehending what the design process and approval of this thing must have been like. It’s just an incredibly stupid, nonsensical, and lazy design, even by the standards other people accuse latter-day Pok?mon of having. I mean, what the hell is with the blatant car key on it? Why did they think a key ring would make for an awesome companion or combatant? Why did they make it look like it can sixty-nine itself? Why did they make it a Fairy type so that it can have an advantage over Hawlucha, which is just WRONG. Klefki, you do not deserve to defeat Hawlucha in combat. You don’t even deserve to fight him.
…But enough of my ramblings. In spite of Klefki, the Pok?mon X and Y lineup is impressive indeed, just too damn small to reach its full potential. Hopefully those leaked Pok?mon end up being a reality soon, because having even more badass and charismatic little varmints to catch and play with is never a bad thing indeed. Having moundfuls of older Pok?mon can be a consolation prize, of course, but it still serves to highlight one of X & Y’s biggest flaws. Whereas Pok?mon Black and White’s set of 150+ wholly brand-new Pok?mon suggested a fresh start, with older Pok?mon only available once you complete the game as a great reward, X & Y tends to feel like the exact opposite. It has the air of Nintendo staplegunning the ol’ nostalgia goggles and trying to keep them on you at every moment, offering up old-school Pok?mon, Mega Evolutions of said old-school Pok?mon, and references to earlier Pok?mon games left and right.
Well, nice try, guys. But as seen above, I still found enough fascinating new Pok?mon to play with in place of/alongside your older offerings. They’re a ragtag bunch of bizarre and odd beasts, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except for the f***ing key ring, of course.
Naturally, odds are you disagree with me, so feel free to list off your X & Y favorites in the comments as well, maybe even your favorite current teams or friend codes so you show them off even more, or just thoughts on the new games in general. And for more entertaining reading, you should probably check out Jonathan Holmes’ Top Ten Reasons why I can’t get into Pok?mon X for an alternate look at the game’s other flaws, or Chris Sims’ The Best new Pokemon From Pok?mon X and Y, just in case you want a second opinion to back up your eventual yelling at me. Nonetheless, happy trails, trainers!
Previously by Kyle LeClair:
Ten Other Video Games That Deserve Cartoon Shows
The 10 Most Kickass and Kid-Friendly Modern Downloadable Video Games
Ten Other Disney Video Games That Deserve Modern Upgrades
The Ten Best Non-Star Wars LucasArts Games