Pokémon X & Y: Nintendo series looks set for an evolutionary leap on 3DS
14th Jan 2013 | 15:51
In a way, last week's Pokémon X & Y announcement was similar to the news that Royals Wills and Kate are expecting a baby. We were all expecting it would happen eventually, but that didn't stop parts of their fanbase almost losing their minds when it did.
It's understandable, because for many gamers of a certain generation Pokémon is a reliable constant, a series that continues to offer the same addictive, OCD-itching gameplay they remember from their childhoods without succumbing too much to modern gaming's need for extra bells and whistles.
Have a look at Pokémon Red and Blue on the humble Game Boy, then take a gander at last year's
At first glance, the Pokémon X & Y trailer shown last week looked like a complete reboot for the series and seemed to offer the full 3D Pokémon adventure fans have been demanding since the days of the GameCube. It's only when you look at each scene closer that you realise this is actually the same Pokémon fans have known and loved for more than 15 years.
Cleverly, despite looking like a brand new take on Pokémon, X and Y is just another evolution in the series. The 3D environments are just like those in Black and White, only the detail has been greatly improved (thanks to the power of the 3DS) and the camera angle has been shifted from a generally top-down view to a more dynamic, active one with lower shots. Though the game now looks like a "proper" 3D adventure, when you break it down and look closely, the only real drastic change that's been made - other than the obvious increase in detail - is the switch from sprites to polygonal models.
Yes, generation six means the hero trainer you play as is no longer a sprite and is fully polygonal for the first time in the series, meaning Game Freak no longer has to perform the fancy sprite-scaling tricks it had to do any time it wanted to move the camera in Black and White. Now that the heroes are polygonal the camera is free to swoop around freely, providing more dramatic angles as you explore the various areas in the game's new, as-yet unnamed region. The best-looking Pokémon game ever? It's a dead cert.
If Game Freak makes good use of this newfound camera freedom, it means it could more easily give each town its own unique feel. Pokémon games used to struggle to make each town feel different since the camera was fixed and various buildings - the Pokécentres, Gyms etc - all looked the same. With only a handful of exceptions, most towns felt fairly generic. Now, with the ability to set the mood with dynamic camera angles and the extra detail offered by the 3DS, the towns can potentially feel far more varied.
The switch from sprites to polygons won't just have an impact on the exploration sections - the battles themselves will also undergo the first proper visual overhaul since the series began in the 90s. Gone are the days of sprites squaring up to each other with looped animations while "moves" take the form of effects appearing on top of them.
Instead, expect more elaborate Pokémon Stadium-style battles with proper attack animations, more impressive effects and, once again, that newly-liberated camera flying all over the shop to make things more exciting. We hope there'll be an option to turn these animations off, though - as great as we're sure they'll be, grinding could become a proper pain if you have to sit through a small epic every time you want to perform Scratch on a Rattata.
Of course, that's assuming you'll be able to find a Rattata right away. While the trailer shows older, familiar Pokémon scrapping with each other it's not yet clear whether Pokémon X and Y will feature Pokémon from previous generations in its main adventure, or whether it'll be like Black and White and only feature entirely new Pokémon, unlocking access to the older ones once the main story's been beaten. It's not yet been confirmed how many new Pokémon will feature but we have at least seen five newcomers - the three starters and the two legendary Pokémon that are likely to grace each game's cover.
Once again, the three starters come in grass-type, fire-type and water-type flavours. While it'd be easy to sigh and accuse Game Freak of laziness for once again assigning the same types to the starter Pokémon (this is the sixth generation of Pokémon games and it's the sixth time we've had these three types), they are the most logical types to use to get newcomers used to the "rock-paper-scissors" style type system implemented in battles.
Besides, the theory currently doing the rounds is that each starter may have secondary types we don't know about yet. Without wishing to get too technical, the trailer shows Chespin, Fennekin and Froakie each performing a move suitable to their type, then a second move of another type. This has led to rumours that they're actually grass/dark, fire/psychic and water/fighting type Pokémon respectively.
The two legendary Pokémon likely to feature on the covers of X and Y have also been shown off, bringing the total number of legendaries in the Pokémon series to 50. Xerneas is a big deer-like Pokémon which forms the shape of an X, while Yveltal is a flying Pokémon shaped like a Y. It's not clear yet whether they'll be joined by more legendaries, but given that the Black and White games introduced a total of thirteen it seems likely.
It's early days for Pokémon X and Y so expect the usual mind-numbing trickle of information over the coming months as new Pokémon and features are individually announced in various Japanese TV shows, magazines and comics. At least this time the game is being afforded a worldwide release in October, so for the first time Pokémon fans in the UK won't have to wait up to ten months to get their hands on the next generation (as was the case with Diamond and Pearl). It's safe to say Nintendo has its handheld Christmas number one sorted.
Your starters for three
A look at the three starter Pokémon in X and Y
The grass-type starter for generation six is Chespin, who looks a bit like a squirrel wearing a plant on his head. This is the first time a grass-type starter hasn't been based on a reptile, so it'll be interesting to see if it's more popular than the likes of Chikorita, Treecko and Turtwig were back in the day.
The fire-type starter has already been deemed the "cute one" by the rabid Pokémon fan community, thanks to the fact it essentially looks like a dog with big ears. It's actually most likely a fox though, probably based on the fennec fox found in the Sahara desert. Cue the inevitable "Firefox" meme.
The water-type starter is a frog with a weird furry beard thing around its neck. It seems Froakie will be the inevitable "rubbish-looking" one that everyone ignores (funny how it's always the water-types). However, if - as the rumours are to be believed - it ends up being a water/fighting type Pokémon, it might well evolve into something truly badass.