Come along for a guided tour down a gradual Pokédecline

Pokémon X and Y (2013)

I have to wonder what it’s like for those famous people who have completely outgrown their friend group on their way to greatness. It’s happened to me a lot, actually. That is, people around me go on to find success and meanwhile I’m still finding farts funny, especially when I wake myself up with them.

There must be some dreadfully awkward scenarios where the superstar becomes temporarily embarrassed; after having been whisked away into the world of fame and fortune and adulation, they suddenly have to re-face their old childhood.

All those embarrassing moments, when the ordinaries treated you like a peer, all coming back to haunt you at once. Take noted treacherous Sassenach Graham Norton for example. He’s actually from the same neck of the woods as me, but he’d never tell you this himself. In fact, if you transported him right now to my hometown, you’d probably hear the screams from space.

Fear not though, Graham, I will be on hand to help you. No, really, I’ll take you by the hand and lead you around our hometown, and you can see that it ain’t so bad to return to your roots. But maybe, he wouldn’t want that. Maybe he’s the type who hates those faux-affable tour guides and would rather make his own way around. Certainly I’m like that, which makes me a bit of a loose cannon on the local Viking Splash Tour.

You know what I mean, don’t you? When you’re in a museum, wouldn’t you rather cut about at your own pace, maybe pretend to read some facts from a sign maybe, and come to your own conclusions? When it’s some student leading you through the building, then fair play to them for trying, but they’re lost on me.

This is why I could never get along with Pokémon X and Y for Nintendo 3DS. These games really did mark the beginning of the handholding trend in Pokémon games, you know. That’s not to say we were afforded an awful lot of freedom to begin with, though.. Truth be told, apart from the first generation which really did play by its own rules, Pokémon is a lot more linear that we might like to think.

But God almighty, you just cannot get rid of the hapless group of pilchards who hang out of you for almost the entire game. And just when you think you might have a nice alternate road to go down, you get stopped with some bullshit excuse or other, like the lights aren’t working so you and your Electric Pokémon can naff off home. It gets so bad that you’re really not playing the game for yourself, and it feels for all the world like you’re just being taken on a guided tour through the region instead.

And insultingly easy too, God. I will admit I made the mistake of playing through the game with the Exp Share on, which means that every Pokémon gets a whack of experience, even if they were like Chewbacca in A New Hope, you know, when he bottled out and preferred to stay at home instead. You even get experience points when you catch a Pokémon as well, which isn’t a bad feature by any means, but it gets so that you might as well be ‘roiding your Pokémon.

By the time you get to the Champion, whose name I can’t even remember but who has a wonderful bell-chiming theme, it really is The Expendables versus The Highly Bendables. The final battle was all over in about three minutes, before the spectators (my baying cheerleaders) even took their seats. There was also an eleventh hour plot about some sort of nuclear laser megaweapon being hidden underneath a town and dug up by the evil fashionista Team Rocket rip offs, but I was fully sleepwalking by that stage so if you want to discuss the nuances of it… may I direct you to my troupe of annoying helpers being ugly and annoying over there?

The 3D world should be enticing, especially for Francophiles among you, because the Kalos region echoes France closely, and yes you’ll hear more than one comedy accordion in here. It was comedy when I used to try, as a 9 year old, to lift one of those badboys in our school band, believe me. But here’s the problem, and it’s a problem you’ll get at any tourist trap. Who needs a guided tour? You’ll just be ripped off.

Pokémon X and Y should have and could have been great. After all, the 3DS had a lot of merit, and this was the chance to bring Pokémon into the third dimension. But unfortunately, this enormous fish really has been taken out of a small pond and made to look quite ordinary by the rest of the school, and it really fails on all of those points. Let me explain – firstly, yes the 3DS does have many strong points, and in the right hands it’s a powerful piece of hardware.

Unfortunately it would seem that Game Freak don’t possess the right hands, and you can forget about using the 3D feature in the game for the most part, which I usually don’t use it anyway, but if you want to give it a quick lash in the battle, you’ll find the frame rate getting torn right down. Not very optimised, is it? Next, the third dimension for Pokémon. An exciting prospect in theory, and it’s not that the Pokémon look bad, in fact I think they look rather good. But, I dunno, I’m never happy, I’d call it a step back from the wonderful sprites in Black and White.

We know now of course that the 3D models used weren’t going to get much better as the years worn on. They should have got more use out of those sprites, they could have lived off them for decades. And it’s good fun to whizz around the world on your new roller blades too. The new Pokémon designs are hit and miss, and I realise I will sound Genwunner very quickly, after all the first generation featured a small pile of goo turning into a bigger pile of goo – but the crucial factor here is that the bigger goo gives you the finger. We got a real knockback after Gen 5 gave us not just two rubbish bags, but three ice cream cones.

But I fear Gen 6 jumped the Sharpedo once and for all by hitting us with a Pokémon modelled after a set of car keys. This was meant to be a French based region, so I don’t think some fashionable designs would have been out of the way? Not everything has to be a fire-breathing dragon, or a genius design like old Chatot, but I think we can do better than that, can’t we? I feel like Wayne Campbell complaining about the ineptitude of the actor in Wayne’s World 2, prompting him to be immediately replaced by Charlton Heston. Pokémon should have the best-in-class design and ideas, because
they’ve certainly got the best-in-class revenues. So why can’t we get some Charlton Heston Mons in to go with it?

There really aren’t that many extra Pokémon added to the fold here. The Mega Evolution mechanic is pretty cool and adds a new lease on life to the likes of Pinsir and Beedrill, but in terms of brand new designs only 72 were added. Although that can have its positives as well, in that they’ll be easier to remember. But considering this game isn’t at all memorable, what makes you think the new Pokémon will be?

Of course, you need to play this game. Mainline Pokémon games are obligatory for all of us, whether we like it or not. You simply need to have them under your belt. It’s a bit like going out to see that tiny Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen. You really, really couldn’t be bothered going, but you have to. You know your life won’t be worth living until you go on down, and have someone in your face, annoying you all the while.

3 June 2022

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