The Backlog #5: Pokemon Y

Since it’s inception World of Warcraft has allowed players to collect non-combat pets; these were critters that could be summoned to hang out with you while you did pretty much whatever you felt like.  They could not attack or be attacked; they were just there for vanity purposes.  In Mists of Pandaria though, pets could battle one another in turn-based combat.  They would subsequently level up, and gain new abilities.  Pets from all Azeroth could be battled, captured, and leveled up.  There were trainers to battle too, and they offered some cool rewards for defeating them.  You could even pet battle against your friends.  Does all of this sound familiar?  Does it sound a little too familiar, even?  If pet battling in WoW sounds an awful lot like Pokemon that’s because it’s basically an exact rip off of the Nintendo franchise.  I had never played a Pokemon game when I fell in love with pet battling in WoW, it was a franchise that cut it’s teeth during my “too cool for kiddie games” phase.  When I realized how much I was enjoying pet battling in WoW though, I thought it was time to give the original a chance.  As luck would have it Pokemon Y for the 3DS had come out about six months prior, so I had a hot new Pokemon game to enjoy.

WoW pet battles.

I purchased Pokemon Y with the intention to play it while I was on a family vacation.  I figured I’d lounge around the pool with my 3DS.  As it turns out, I didn’t have nearly as much Pokemon time as I had hoped, and once I got home I put the 3DS down for quite a while.  All of that said, my random game picker chose Pokemon Y last week and I figured it was high time that I played it.  Here’s what I thought.

I managed to spend upwards of 4 hours with Pokemon Y, and while I have enjoyed it for the most part, there are some fundamental things that bother me about the game.  First off, Pokemon Y seems to hide all of the numbers from you during battle.  You cannot see your HP, your opponents HP, the amount of damage you’ve done on an attack, or even how many rounds poison or other effects will last.  It is completely possible that there is a way to show that type of information, but so far I have not been able to find it.

In addition, pokemon often have the opportunity to learn new abilities, but those abilities typically have to replace existing abilities.  If your pokemon wants to learn Fire Charge, but it already knows four abilities, it has to forget one in order to learn it.  This system wouldn’t be so bad if you could test the new ability first.  Unfortunately you can’t do that though.  You’re forced to decide whether or not you want the new ability without knowing much of anything about it.  What’s even more annoying is that, as far as I can tell, this choice is permanent.  To be fair, there is no reason why you couldn’t capture another pokemon of the same species and make different choices in their abilities.  Perhaps that’s meant to add replay value.

I also feel like Pokemon Y  is throwing way too much at me, way too fast.  In the last hour or so I’ve gotten a farm where I can grow berries for my pokemon, a day care center that I can drop them off at, and a quest to find out more about “mega-evolution”.  None of this is every fully explained though.  The farm, for example, is supposed to grow berries, but what I do with the berries, or what benefit they might offer my pokemon is a complete mystery to me.  Is this worth spending time on the farm?  I have no idea, because the game won’t tell me.

What do I do with these berries?

All that being said, the actual gameplay is great.  You catch pokemon, you battle them against other pokemon, you level them up and they evolve.  It’s pretty cool.  It’s exciting to see what a pokemon will look like after it’s evolution, and to see them grow in power.  This is all made even better by the fact that Pokemon Y is a pretty great looking 3DS game.  The ability effects in particular look superb.

I find myself continually being drawn back to Pokemon Y because I like the core gameplay so much.  All of the ancillary stuff that Pokemon Y offers is annoying though, and the lack of depth in battle reminds me that Pokemon truly is a game aimed at children.  It’s fun, and I’ll probably spend some more time with it, but I wish there was a deeper alternative; something that scratched my collectionist itch while still giving me adult level challenges.