Pokemon X and Y released worldwide last week, and millions of us have fallen back off the wagon. We certainly did, and have been revelling in the myriad new features that this new evolution brings to the table. There's a lot to love about the Kalos region, but also a few little quibbles that leave us moaning under our breath about the 'Good Old Days' in Pallet Town.
We're still hard at work on our full review and final verdict, but for now, allow us to present some of the features that we both love and loathe about Pokemon X & Y!
10: New Ways To Train!
Pokemon X & Y goes heavy on minigames, as you'd rightfully expect. There are plenty of touchscreen diversions to enjoy during your adventure, but unlike previous titles, they're actually capable of improving your team on a fundamental level. First up is Super Training: a selection of fun shooting galleries that can actively increase your Pokemon's base stats and make them more effective in battle. Better yet, we can also finally get a feel for how the hidden Effort Value (EV) scores work behind the scenes. About time too, frankly.
Pokemon Amie may be a little bit weird from time to time, but its Nintendogs-style touchy feely minigames are a neat new way of improving your friendship with your team so long as you don't overthink anything. Seriously, don't.
9: Full Capture XP
A minor point, but an important one. Pokemon X & Y now grants you full XP if you capture an opponent in a Pokeball rather than knock them out, which is such an intuitive and fundamental new feature that we wish it hadn't taken so long to implement.
Better yet, with the retooled XP share now unlocked from the early game and granting all Pokemon in your squad a slice of each victory, it has never been easier to create a balanced squad (and whip Kakuna and Magikarp into shape without the usual hassle!).
8: Excellent Starters, For Starters
Pokemon X & Y boast some of the best starters since Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander. Our new selection are excellent both in terms of designs and evolutions, while their final form dual-type poses an extra threat. With Psychic > Fighting > Dark matchups working alongside the traditional interplay of Fire, Water and Grass, there's much more to think about when speccing your squad, while your versatile starter can now assume multiple roles to free up roster space for other more niche Pokemon.
Of course, you're then able to get Charmander, Squirtle or Bulbasaur too. Be sure to save straight after the Professor Sycamore battle with a full party so you can soft reset until you get the nature you want. Or not. Depends on how beardy you are, really.
7: Honedge. Kinda Sucks.
What do you call a Steel-type Pokemon who learns practically no useful Steel-type moves? Honedge. Though this sharp new critter is one of our favourite new designs, its dual steel-ghost type actually makes it vulnerable to pretty much everything except normal attacks, while its horrendously slow speed can only be worked around by taking up valuable space in your moveset with buffs.
And where are the devastating Steel attacks? It's a freaking sword, for goodness' sake! At least you can find Shadow Claw in the Glittering Caves, which is a half-decent ghost type TM.
6: Snorlax Is Back, Baby
Snorlax is amazing, for oh so many reasons. As a Normal-type fan, I'm always sure to have the tanky bruiser on my squad to absorb damage and utterly ruin opponents with body slams and headbutts - especially when they're immune to poison. Oh yes. There's no stopping the awesome... apart from when I decide to spoil my adversary's hard work with the classic Rest and Sleep Talk combo.
But we really love Snorlax because, when used properly, they make for an interesting diversion and plot point. Having to find the Poke Flute was a key moment in Red & Blue, and despite X & Y's palace section not quite living up to it, waking up the snoozing powerhouse takes us off the beaten track and makes us feel like we're really in a living world, rather than just glumly going through the motions.
5: There's A Freaking Keyring Pokemon
Seriously. Seriously? Every Pokemon generation has its fair share of crappy designs (let's not forget the likes of Exeggutor and Vanillish), but it seems that Game Freak have run so low on inspiration that they decided to empty their pockets and draw what falls out.
What's next? A wallet Pokemon? A cigarette packet Pokemon? A half-sucked lollipop covered in fluff and receipts Pokemon?
4: Sky & Horde Battles Are Rubbish
Pokemon X & Y promised two new types of battle: soaring Sky engagements and tense horde brawls. Both of which are utterly disappointing.
First up, the Sky battles are plain lazy. Rather than letting any Pokemon that can fly take part, they're only open to Pokemon with hovering or flying character models... meaning that poor old Farfetch'd can't get involved, but flipping Gyarados can. So, erm, where are these flocks of gracefully-flying Gyarados then? They'd be a major hazard to air freight, surely?
Horde battles are also a better idea on paper than they are in practice. Seeing a squad of Zangoose ganging up on a Seviper may be fun from time to time, but unless you happen to be using a Pokemon with a multi-hit ability, you'll have to laboriously take down each low-level opponent individually in one of the most boring battles in the entire series. Frankly, you're better off just running. Unless you're rocking a Blastoise with Surf and Bubble, that is.
3: The PSS Is Particularly Sweet, Son
The new Player Search System is a thing of utter genius, and perhaps the boldest step forwards for the series yet. If you enable Wi-Fi connectivity, your friends list are automatically entered into the game, while hundreds of other players from around the world are just a tap away at the bottom of the touchscreen.
You can trade with them. Chat with them. Battle them. View their profile or slickly-edited trainer PR video. Even grant them some temporary buffs via the new O-Power system. Playing together is brilliant, and Pokemon X & Y sets a new standard for the franchise by putting everything at your fingertips.
2: Mega Evolutions Strike The Balance
The new Mega Evolutions have been handled brilliantly. Powerful enough to make you feel like an utter badass (especially when you roll out the epic Mega Blastoise), these temporary new forms have been perfectly balanced with commensurate weaknesses, meaning that canny competitive opponents will just go ahead and KO your critter anyway. Or switch out to a Pokemon with type advantage. It's a fun new option solo, but the competitive playing field remains nice and level. What's more, plenty of older Pokemon now get a new lease of life, such as Absol and Aggron.
That said, it's a shame that Mega Evolutions aren't a bit more mysterious. Though the story makes a big deal out of them, the first Mega Stone you get explains how it works in the item description - not to mention that Nintendo told us exactly what to expect in the months running up to launch.
1: The Art Style: Sugimori's Scribbles Come To Life
Our major concern about Pokemon X & Y was that the jump from sprites to full 3D would destroy the series' personality. So many games suffer during the transition, with characters looking washed-out, clunky and plasticky.
But we needn't have worried. Pokemon X & Y took a different tack with a neat halfway point between sprites and cel-shading, boasting gorgeously vibrant designs perfectly replicated with thick black lines and splashes of colour. Pokemon has never looked better or more real, not just in terms of the fluid animations and personality-packed attacks, but because battles look like Ken Sugimori's legendary artwork has been somehow brought to life right in front of your disbelieving eyes. Factor in jaunty camera angles and numerous different expressions, and Pokemon X & Y becomes a bold new foundation for the series for years to come. Sprites? Who needs 'em!
That said, the jump to 3D does mean that decades of gaming innovation has caught up with Pokemon all at once, and some of the series' more archaic conventions are more difficult to ignore. Not to mention a thoroughly inconsistent frame rate. We'll deal with that in our full review.
With that, it's time we jumped back into Kalos, but there's no way a ten-point list can sum up everything we love (and don't like) about the newest Pokemon phenomenon. While you wait for our verdict, why not share some of your thoughts about Pokemon X & Y in the comments!
We'll also be running a tips and tricks article very soon, so if you've got any advice to share, let us know and we'll quote and credit you!