We’re exactly one month away from the true beginning of a brand new generation of Game Freak’s crown jewel video game franchise. Ever since the middle of May, news for Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon has been coming at a frequent clip, with information coming almost monthly. With so much newness to look forward to, Pokémon Sun and Moon are looking to cap the series year-long 20th Anniversary celebration with a bombastic finale.
But before we jump into the newest generation of Pokémon, let’s take a look back at the previous one.
Now, I want to start this piece off by being very clear about something. I’m not going to make too many comparisons between Generation VI and the ones that came before it. There are a few reasons for this; for one, I haven’t played many of the games past the original Pokémon Red, Blue, Gold and Silver. In recent times, I have only completed the main campaigns for X and Alpha Sapphire, both of which will be talked about in this piece the most. In addition, I am currently working on Pokémon Platinum, and have yet to play Black, White, and their sequels, though I plan to do so in the future. Any references to these games I do bring up are strictly based off of viewing experiences rather than actual gameplay experiences.
Second, and most-importantly, even if I did play any of the previous titles, I would rather not compare Generation VI to previous generations too much. While I may bring up fleeting comparisons, I would rather judge this generation on its own merits instead of weighing them against those of its predecessors. Yes, there are things that previous generations did better; case in point being the fifth generation’s storyline. But at the same time, the point is more about my own personal experience with generation six.
Having said all of that, what was Generation VI like for me? Well, on an overall scale, it was a solid generation to return to after so many years away from the series. There was a lot that Game Freak did well with this generation, and just as much that they fell short with. The story of Pokémon X is, unfortunately, one of the latter.
The story takes a very back-to-basics approach, where you journey across Kalos to collect eight gym badges and challenge the Pokémon League, all while dealing with an evil organization along the way. The thing is, this would’ve been fine if not for one key problem: Missed potential. Shauna, Tierno, Trevor and Serena/Calem are enjoyable enough to be around as human companions, and as characters, there are some cool concepts; Tierno’s obsession with dancing, for example, is a great idea that I would’ve loved to see explored and expanded on. Unfortunately, the game’s story never seems to develop these characters any further than their basic traits.
AZ is even worse in this regard. At least the companions have a presence in the story, but AZ is just…there. His backstory is explained somewhat, but other than that he has no real impact. The story could’ve had a focus on AZ and his place in the lore, and it would’ve been far more interesting. All we get instead is his backstory, very little exposition from him, a battle following the champion, and a reunion with his beloved Floette. That’s all.
That’s the biggest issue with Pokémon X and Y’s story. There’s so much potential here for a compelling storyline, between AZ’s past and the history of Mega Evolution. None of it is tapped into, and all we’re left with is a hollow story topped off by a laughable evil organization in Team Flare. (Don’t get me started on those jokers, I swear…) I understand that Pokémon isn’t known for prize-winning narratives, but if you’re coming off one of the most story-driven entries in the series to-date…Black and White, for those keeping score at home…a little extra effort would’ve gone a long way.
Outside of the story, the gameplay fares much better, albeit with a few hiccups of its own. The introduction of Fairy-type Pokémon brought a sense of parity to a series that was otherwise dominated by Dragon-types, and Mega Evolution was a good way to breathe new life into some old favorites like Gardevoir and Charizard. (That being said, I do feel like there was some favoritism involved in the development of some Megas; did we really need Mega Garchomp?) On top of that, while the likes of Aegislash, Talonflame and Greninja wore out their welcomes in the eyes of competitive players, the new Pokémon that were introduced this generation are all great additions between their concepts and designs.
Sadly, the fact that there were so few new Pokémon presents a nitpick that I have with Generation VI. X and Y’s combined selection of monsters (as well as that of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire) are curated from past generations to make up for the small number of new ones. This makes Generation VI’s games feel less like a brand new generation, and more like an anthology of the series’ greatest Pokémon. Yes, it does offer players plenty of options for in-game team building, but my point still stands.
On a final note in regards to problems I have with the game, it felt a bit too easy, even by the series’ standards. Part of it does have to do with how the EXP Share works, but it’s not the only factor. (Even though, for what it’s worth, I didn’t find the EXP Share to be all that busted.) Super Training and the benefits you get from Pokémon-Amie, like shrugging off status conditions, also factor in. Once you train and play with your Pokémon, and you have an idea of what’s coming as far as opponents go, beating the main story is a breeze. For instance, I went into the Elite Four with my team at least five levels lower than the champion’s ace, and I still managed to make it through the last fight without losing anybody. Granted, there were one or two moments where things looked dicey, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that beating the champion was fairly simple.
Whatever issues Pokémon X and Y may have had with story and gameplay, it’s tough to deny that Game Freak managed to nail the little things. Kalos is an amazing region to explore, with some incredible locales worth exploring. The soundtrack is phenomenal (try to tell me the theme of Xerneas and Yveltal isn’t epic with a straight face), it looks good, trainer customization is an excellent addition, and Pokémon-Amie is a fun, charming way to interact with your Pokémon companions in ways you never could before.
As far as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire go, the problem is that I never played the original third generation games when they came out, due to their release coming around the same time I started losing interest in Pokémon as a whole. So I can’t really judge whether or not the remakes are improvements over the originals. That said, I think they’re fine games, all things considered; they build off of what worked in X and Y, while adding features that I’m surprised didn’t make it into those games, like Soaring. The fact that they didn’t include customization for the remakes was a downer, but it doesn’t make it any less of a good game.
Overall, Generation VI of Pokémon was just as I described it earlier: Solid. It did have some growing pains, with the jump to the Nintendo 3DS being chief among them, but it still managed to do enough to succeed in my book. Not for one second do I regret returning to the series with this generation.
I do want to close on one thing that I feel needs to be mentioned. Without name dropping, there are some individuals who are far more passionate about Pokémon than I am who have said that Generation VI felt “soulless.” Now, I’m not going to say that these people are wrong; after all, that’s their opinion, and they’re entitled to it. Having said that, I respectfully disagree with that notion. The fact that you can customize your trainer however you want them to look, as well as the ability to actually interact with your Pokémon partners, shows that there is a soul to these games. Moreso, the problems with Generation VI have nothing to do with a lack of soul so much as they do missed opportunities and the aforementioned growing pains. Sure, X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire weren’t perfect games, and they made some weird design decisions, but that doesn’t necessarily make them soulless. Make of that what you will, but that’s just my two cents.
So, those are my thoughts on Generation VI of Pokémon. What do I think of what lies ahead for the series? Well, I feel that I’ve talked more than enough here, so we’ll save that topic for another time.
‘Til we meet again,