New Pokémon

One of the big draws for me when buying this game was the fact that it promised to give longtime Pokémon players a second dip into the experience of discovering the world of Pokémon for the first time by showing only the new creatures until the end of the main story. The fact that there are over 150 new Pokédex entries means that they really went the extra mile this time to make sure that happens. And they did an excellent job; one of my biggest gripes with previous generations was that there were too many old Pokémon sprinkled in with the new ones – in the end, it didn’t feel like the new roster did much to stand on its own. Now they’ve created a full lineup.

There’s a lot of redundancy in order to fill certain strategic roles once assumed by older monsters. For example, the starters seem pretty much the same as they always have, with a new move or two splashed on to keep things fresh. The Fire starter even follows the recent trend of evolving into a Fire-Fighting-type. Munna and Musharna take on the Dream Eater role that Drowzee and Hypno once held. And, of course, Pidove’s evolutionary chain becomes the new Generic Bird Pokémon line once taken by Pidgey, Taillow, and Starly. But this is okay; there’s a reason those roles were so strong in prior games. That these Pokémon are all you get for the initial stretch means that you’ll get to know them and their unique strengths and weaknesses nonetheless.

I’ve been trying to spread out my training among more than just my primary team this time, and with much more diligence than in previous generations. This is part of the reason why my progress has been so slow and I haven’t just focused on a straight run of the game in order to get out a review ASAP. I really feel like this game deserves my full attention.

New Region

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Unova. While I positively love the region in terms of concept, with that whole urban New York style feel coming off as really great and more in line with my American sensibilities, I feel like the graphical and design approaches haven’t really done it due justice. I realize they’re trying to do the best they can to make things feel bigger by using techniques like wrapping Castelia’s bay along a curve or showing off dramatic views like the one of Skyarrow Bridge, but in the end these do nothing to impress and instead make me wish they’d planned more in the way of actual content.

And while the more traditional areas like small towns, forests, and Routes look very nice, particularly with the seasonal effects, I feel like they leave much to be desired in terms of exploration. For example, I haven’t found too many “dead-ends” or truly maze-like areas so far, and I feel like those are what made running around in previous games so fun. Essentially everything can be overcome by following a short path, with branches from the path existing solely for the purpose of battling. As a result, I usually don’t even discover battles until after the point when they would have been challenging.

Maybe this is a good thing; after all, it makes backtracking a bit easier. But moments like discovering that the dangerous path in Pinwheel Forest isn’t actually the primary path, which instead is a perfectly straight road with only a couple trainers to get past, were pretty disappointing.

Story & Gameplay

So the rumors are true, and this game does actually try to establish a cohesive plot. It’s not an especially deep plot, and is basically expressed through the same tropes we’ve seen for the entire series, but it is a plot on a level we haven’t really seen so far. I’m really liking the whole idea of Team Plasma thinking that owning Pokémon is oppressive, since it really touches on one of the moral questions I’ve wondered about since Gen III. Of course, the story’s probably a bit overhyped, since it’s mostly conveyed through two means: you either find a main character who wants to battle or you learn that Team Plasma’s up to no good and head off to stop them. This is probably a good thing, though, as it means the story is content-based rather than cutscene-based.

I’ve already touched on some of the new features I’ve encountered, but here’s a quick recap for those of you who missed them:

  • Pokémon are now fully animated in battle, and will constantly be moving around rather than just bobbing up and down
  • When multiple Pokémon participate in battle, experience points are more logically distributed based on level; lower level Pokémon will acquire more experience in order to grow faster
  • TMs can now be reused as many times as you like, so you don’t have to worry about conserving them for your dream team
  • The C-Gear allows you to communicate in a number of different ways in order to make better use of the DS’s wireless capabilities; the quick access to wireless features should prove to make such communications more streamlined
  • When a Pokémon drops down to critical HP, the battle music shifts dramatically; the tempo of the song is perfectly in stride with the traditional warning chime, which works really nicely

I may need to take another hiatus of sorts tomorrow due to school, but I should be back on track in terms of gameplay by the end of the day Friday. Expect another round of “Defending Skyward Sword” in the meantime!

My adventures so far:

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