Gaming Editor Louis Wright looks back at the 6th Generation of Pokémon on the precipice of its 10th anniversary
On the precipice of its 10-year anniversary and the recent release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet (2022), it seems pertinent to reflect on the series initial jump to 3D with Pokémon X and Y (2013).
Pokémon X and Y can be defined as the most distilled Pokémon experience. Even more so than the initial release of Pokémon Red and Green (1996), X and Y are the rawest, most pure form of the monster collecting series. They take the classic formula of navigating routes, collecting and battling monsters and trainers alike, and collecting gym badges to take on the Pokémon League and run with the concept. They are streamlined, stripped back to their gameplay loop, making for some of the easiest games in the series to simply pick up and play.
Gone is the deep and immersive story of its immediate predecessors Pokémon Black and White (2010). While this helps as an introductory point in the series, it also hinders them significantly. The series may be taking its greatest graphical leap to this point, but what has it lost in doing this?
At best the story of Pokémon X and Y is lacking, especially given its great potential. The elements of a fantastic story are immediately present: an immortal man eternally wandering the earth attempting to redeem himself for past transgressions, a commentary on the intertwining and necessary nature of life and death, and a genocidal maniac as a main villain that ties all of these themes together.
However all of these elements are only tangentially present to the main quest of collecting challenging the Pokémon League, even more so than in previous entries. These are interesting and engaging elements that, by not being in the forefront, miss out on reaching their full potential.
What these games do boast, however, are some of the best creature designs in the series. Pokémon X and Y, with the series’ jump to 3D, see a new literal new dimension to the creature design.
Pokémon are now more detailed, more intricate in design, and more ambitious with the concepts they encompass. Previous generations would never have considered concepts attempted by Pokémon such as Florges, Vivillon, Malmar, and Dragalge. These are Pokémon that are reliant on the animations and depth provided by a 3rd dimension to work, and the designers clearly took full advantage of this.
This is further seen in the introduction of Mega Evolution. What still remains the series’ most fondly remembered and best implemented generational gimmick, these temporary evolutions for already fully-evolved Pokémon reinvigorated, and in some cases reinvented, tired old designs. Forgotten Pokémon like Mawile and Banette had new life breathed into them, giving players a reason to use them for once.
That’s not to mention the design concepts that were folded into these designs. Charizard finally received its Dragon-typing, Pinsir became a verifiable monster, and Ampharos became truly majestic. Mega Evolution was an exciting and refreshing concept for the series, introducing some of the series’ most fondly remembered designs, all of which are now sadly lost due to the gimmick’s removal in later entries.
Pokémon X and Y, far from the most fondly remembered games in the series history, have certainly left an impact upon the franchise. Successfully transitioning the mainline games to 3D while making for fun and memorable adventures in their own right is something that should be commended. However, this is not to say their faults should be ignored. These games are ones that, while good, have glaring faults. The strange balancing making the game far too easy, a significant reduction in new Pokémon, and the aforementioned stories are chief among these. More than any other game in the series, X and Y necessitated a third version to round out the games, which they were unfortunately robbed of. However, this will make the inevitable return to Kalos all the more sweet whenever the Generation 6 remakes roll around.
Watch the trailer for Pokémon X and Y here:
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