Pokémon X & Y is selling like crazy, and it’s little wonder seeing as Game Freak’s winning formula is as strong as ever. VG247’s Dave Cook is currently addicted and needs immediate help.
”You know that classic thing people do when playing RPGs with random encounters? That thing where they just run around in circles to grind battles and level up for a bit? Yeah, I did that. For almost three hours.”
Man, I was so excited to get back into the Pokémon series. I hadn’t played any of the core titles since I imported Pokémon Red back in 1999, and through a recent combination of shooter fatigue and a desire to broaden my gaming palette, I was ready to return with Pokémon X. “Bring it on,” I thought.
So there I was last Saturday morning, hungover to buggery and getting ready to lose myself in a world of grand adventure. I started to recall all of the fun I had trekking through the Game Boy original in search of rare beasts, and the sense of achievement that came with defeating all the Gym Leaders. Finally bagging Mewtwo was another victory, as was winning my first PvP match over link-up. I was finally going back to that place, that charming land Game Freak had invited me to all those years ago.
My character woke up in his bed and suddenly that magic feeling returned. Just like in Pokémon Red, I couldn’t wait to leave my house and explore the Kalos region. What would my team be? Which areas would I explore first? Oh, the possibilities were endless. I quickly skimmed my mum’s dialogue before leaving the house with a backpack full of Pokéballs and dreams. Watch out world, Dave the Pokémon trainer is here, and he’s going to be the best damn adventurer in the land. Just you watch!
I left the house and strolled up the sunny path to stock up on supplies and select my starter Pokémon. I went for Chespin because I couldn’t deny his cheeky wee smile. “We’re going to make history together you adorable little scamp.” With my new buddy in tow I left the safety of town and hit the first route. Once there I saw the game’s first patch of long grass, which is where wild Pokémon can be battled and caught. I wanted to start building my dream team straight away so I rushed in and captured a Zigzagoon, then a Pidgey, then a Fletchling and more. It was awesome, but something had gone terribly wrong.
You know that classic thing people do when playing RPGs with random encounters? That thing where they just run around in circles to grind battles and level up for a bit? Yeah, I did that. For almost three hours. I just couldn’t stop. There were so many different Pokémon hiding in that one patch of grass that I just kept on fighting to get as many as possible, then once I had them all I became obsessed with levelling them up as much as possible. I knew they’d run into tough battles eventually, so I figured I’d power them up a bit before continuing.
“A bit,” is an understatement. I then realised why I had avoided the Pokémon series for so many years. It was because I must have sunk over 60-hours into Pokémon Red when I was younger. I had a level 99 Charizard, I had captured all of the creatures on my cartridge. Aside from linking to get all of the Pokémon Blue animals I had essentially finished that game 100% and there was no way I was going to put that much effort in again. As I grew older I had less and less time to do that sort of thing anyway. But there I was, running laps around a sodding patch of undergrowth for hours.
The next day I re-approached Pokémon X with a clear head and set about actually furthering the quest. Each new area included more patches of grass and even more creatures to ensnare, to the point that I actually repeated the same process multiple times. Granted, I didn’t spend three hours in each route – I mean, that’d just be ludicrous, right? – but I did feel compelled to get all the available Pokémon in an area before moving on to the next. It says to me that Game Freak’s formula is now so superbly paced and designed that it’s hard to avoid being sucked into the vortex of grinding.
Yet, there’s still an incredible game in there. Say what you will about how cute or ‘child-like’ the Pokémon series is, it’s still a damn fine RPG that offers a great deal of depth should you wish to drill down. There’s no question that it’ll reel in kids with its colourful creatures and addicting nature, but a great deal of my adult mates are currently hooked on it too, and many of them have been grinding away longer than I have. It’s one of those games that gets people talking, sharing ‘watercooler’ anecdotes of what they did in a certain situation, or discussing who’s in their line-up. I always find games that do that fascinating.
So while I managed to escape that first patch of grass, Pokémon X as a whole has me hooked. Now I’m out there in Kalos trying to forge the ultimate team of Pokémon and earn all of those shiny gym badges. I’m determined to see it through to completion before the next-gen consoles launch and if I’m being perfectly honest, I haven’t been this captured by a game since a little title called Dark Souls, and some of you already know how much I like that game.
So let’s discuss our Pokémon journeys so far. Feel free to share your thoughts on X and Y below and we’ll try to get a conversation going. I’d love to hear what you all think.
Disclosure: to assist in writing this piece, Nintendo sent Dave a download code for Pokémon X on 3DS.