Pokémon X & Y – Nostalgia Revisited
Has anyone ever noticed how the phrase ‘old hat‘ has, quite ironically, become old hat? Well, until recently I’d considered the Pokémon games to be fairly old hat in comparison with my modern day gaming tastes, regardless of my childhood love affair with the franchise, yet that all seemingly changed when I picked up a Nintendo 2DS with Pokémon Y the other week…
I don’t know whether to label it journalistic curiousity, a mid-life crisis or maybe even some sort of quest for knowledge, potentially providing me with an opinion on a game that I’ve heard so much about but didn’t have the slightest bit of interest in any more. Regardless of how I justify it with myself, I took the plunge with yet another one of my ‘Classic Ciaran‘ impulse purchases.
I plummed for the budget option of a 2DS, rather than splashing out the extra on a 3DS or 3DS XL, largely because I’m not a big fan of the 3D fad and the price point was hard to ignore. If I turn out to hate it, so be it, but at least it won’t have been a vastly expensive error in judgement on my part. Please note that these are the words of an old Pokémon fan that has been absent from the series since Pokémon Yellow, and so I’ve had a lot of catching up to do…
My first thoughts were that the game is really nice, and when I say that I do mean absolutely bloody lovely. I’d forgotten how appealing a game could be without needless mayhem and it’s one of the rare examples of a title that doesn’t need gratuitous sex/nudity, violence or swearing as some sort of unique selling point for older age groups, but I do imagine that an 18 rated version could be very, very interesting indeed.
You could be, let’s say, walking through a field on your jolly adventure towards the next gym badge, only to be challenged to a battle by a sprightly, bright-eyed young ‘un. He says his reasons for initiating the confrontation are to make a new friend (yes, you!) and gain more experience, purely because his mum told him that was how he could become a great trainer (n’awww!). Once the battle is over – and you’ve most likely one-timed his level 5 Weedle – he’d congratulate you on your victory, hand over some Pokémon dollars and tell you how he wants to be like you when he’s older (n’awww once again!).
Like I said before, absolutely bloody lovely.
Another randomer that I happened upon presented me with a gift and a little positive message about how sharing nice things with friends and even strangers can make the world a better place. In 99% of the games I’m used to there would have been a quest attached to this in order to receive the item but, no, that’s not the Pokémon way. I believe it was at this point that I started to get heartburn because my heart had been warmed to an unnaturally high temperature. It’s certainly a refreshing change from playing Grand Theft Auto Online, anyway.
The in-game battle animations and character designs have grown leaps and bounds since I last delved into the series. Not only am I now experiencing a Pokémon game in colour for the first time, but the twitchy cardboard cut-outs of old, performing rigid attacks with very little ‘wow‘ factor, have been replaced by unique character motions that fans of the cartoon series will instantly recognise. Battles are now drowned in vibrancy, courtesy of the location’s surroundings providing a backdrop, which effectively help each new fight to feel unique with its own mise en scene.
New additions such as the ‘Wonder Trade‘ and ‘Global Trading System‘ allow players to trade Pokémon across the globe anonymously and specifically, respectively, helping players to fill their Pokédexes, find hard-to-get Pokémon and maybe even show the occasional bit of generosity to a stranger thousands of miles away. ‘Mega-Evolutions‘ are new to generation six and feature as an over-arching narrative for Pokémon X/Y, which sees the player learn more about the hidden power of certain Pokémon as their story progresses.
Stepping back into the franchise after 12-13 years in the wilderness has not been as awkward as I’d first imagined, although I have found myself in ‘noob‘ territory for certain parts of it despite being amongst the first wave of Pokémon fans through generation one. But this is a game aimed at children, after all, so it is pretty easy to get to grips with if you’re not at all familiar with the games, whilst there are a few more discrete features that require internet or strategy guide assistance to make the transition that little bit smoother.
For example, Pokémon now have genders – the relevance of which was clarified within a few clicks on Bulbapedia – and also breeding is apparently a ‘thing‘ now, too. This then forced me to come to terms with the thought of Mr. Mime and Jynx being deposited in the day care together; the two of them wait until everyone has gone to bed, Mr. Mime proceeds to pinch and play with the air in front of Jynx in an eerily seductive manner and then, without warning, he releases the contents of his pokéballs all over her. Grim.
‘Mills and Boon meets Pokémon‘ digression aside, I’d forgotten what the main appeal of the original games were for me during my dalliance with them way back when; Pokémon is essentially a role-playing game, and was the first role-playing game that I ever got my hands on. I absolutely loved it for years and then, as time grew on, my tastes evolved (pun intended) and I began to play games such as The Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect series. For many people like myself, Pokémon kicked off a whole generation’s love affair with RPGs which will still be going strong today as consistently great games emerge from within the genre.
Playing Pokémon X/Y is like going back to where it all began for me, except there’s now a far better game combining with the nostalgia in order to make this a far more gratifying experience. After almost 40 hours of gameplay – and a near relapse of a Pokémon addiction I’ve been free of for over a decade - I already consider my rash investment to be fully justified. Of course, there is a chance that I may not buy another Pokémon game for a long time after this, as was the case when I bought Pokémon Yellow, but for now I am more than enjoying my time in the Kalos Region.
If you’re a sentimental and nostalgic fool like me, I do think a lot of you would be surprised by how much you’d enjoy revisiting the Pokémon games, too. It’s not as much of an investment as an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4, and quite likely won’t provide as much longevity as a home console, but what it does offer is a handheld portal into one of the nicest gaming worlds and communities that I’ve encountered in a long time. Plus everyone loves a cheeky bit of nostalgia, right?