Pokémon X and Pokémon Y Take Some Bold Half-Steps Into The Next Generation

By Robert Ward . September 2, 2013 . 12:05am

Game Freak is taking a pretty bold step forward with Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. If you’ve seen the full demo footage from Gamescom, you’ve just about seen all that the demo at PAX Prime in Seattle had to offer, but you may not have picked up on the subtler details which I’ll discuss in this hands-on piece.


For those unfamiliar with the demo, it lets you run around a courtyard as the male or female protagonist; you have seven minutes to challenge trainers, catch or defeat wild Pokémon, and find Professor Sycamore. The new graphics may take a step away from the presentation of older handheld iterations, but all of the sound effects used in the game (text boxes, item use, menu selection) are still there.


The first thing to strike me was the way that movement works with the Circle Pad and directional pad. Using the Circle Pad will automatically equip your character with rollerblades, allowing you to move quickly (except for in tall grass) in 16 directions. Touching the d-pad, however, will remove them and let you walk around slowly, but only in eight directions. It’s a convenient system that allows for speed or precision.


Other alterations have been made in favor of convenience as well. There is a new “Restore” command beneath your Pokémon’s icon when you go to check your party during a battle. This is a shortcut that allows you to choose a healing item (to heal hit points or power points/status effects) without having to rummage through an item screen via the traditional “Bag” button. Game Freak has always been the master of subtle half-steps.


Speaking of half-steps, although I am impressed by the transition into full-3D battle scenes, I still see the remnants of older Pokémon games polluting the screen. Each Pokémon still has a designated circle that they reside in during the battle— and one that stands out vibrantly from the beautiful natural environments that make up the background. The battle animations, though awesome, feel a lot like the battle cutscenes in Fire Emblem: Awakening; except Pokémon never really make contact. For the most part, they stay on their respective sides during battle. This doesn’t stop the battles from looking more like a filmed competition, though, an aspect that looks borrowed from the Pokémon Stadium games.


Battles aside, there were two things I that really stood out to me in the demo: first, Pokémon that were displayed on the same map as the character had their own individual models. In the garden where I was walking, there were Fletchlings hopping around as a bird naturally would in a garden. Skiddo had its own model, which pranced when you rode it, as did Rhyhorn (shown in a montage after the demo was over). It’s a nice touch that makes the Pokémon world feel all the more natural.


The second object of interest, and my favorite part about the demo, was the music. The Pokémon team has utilized overarching themes in every game since Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire. Where Ruby/Sapphire focused on loud trumpets and other brass instruments, Diamond/Pearl showcased the Piano. The remakes Heart Gold/Soul Silver elaborated on the use of classical instruments, and finally, Black/White focused on Bells and Whistles (as well as percussion and wind instruments to vary the tones of different seasons).


For their part, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y seem to be focusing on guitar. Actually, they’re doing a lot—Professor Sycamore’s theme is using an accordion and sounds like it comes straight from a Professor Layton game, and the “riding a Pokémon” theme that played when you hopped on Skiddo in the park was reminiscent of Paper Mario. Oh, did I mention the rockin’ rival battle theme? Because it’s pretty rockin’.


I also took the opportunity to poke the brain of the closest Nintendo employee about StreetPass features in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, and what I found out is pretty exciting.


Apparently, much like the C-gear in Pokémon Black and Pokémon White, the games will show you how many players are in your vicinity, and allow you to interact with them. The first time you meet them, they have to agree to accept your offer to battle, trade, or chat—but after you meet someone twice, they get bumped up to “acquaintance” status. Once you meet them five times, they’ll be automatically registered as a friend on your 3DS and you can talk to them, trade, or battle as often as they’re online. Pretty cool, huh?


Despite all the news, though, I still can’t figure out much about the Pokémon Amie feature, where you pet Pokémon using the 3DS touch screen. I hear it’s got some temporary stat-boosting effects, but the people I talked too didn’t have much to offer in terms of new information. Rest assured, though, that if they spent a lot of time making this peripheral system, then it will be a system worth using… regardless of how odd and peculiar the concept is.


On a final note, the in-game buttons feel a little clunky. They’re much more comparable to Mario and Luigi: Dream Team in the sense that they feel like one giant image that you press. There’s very little feedback or satisfaction in selecting an attack, but that’s hardly something to ruin a game as big as Pokémon X and Y. Additionally, there were some frame rate issues with the demo at PAX, but we were assured that it was simply a product of heavy use at the demo station.


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  • InfectedAI

    “there were some frame rate issues with the demo at PAX, but we were assured that it was simply a product of heavy use at the demo station”

    That makes no sense whatsoever. Games don’t perform worse just because you’ve played them a lot. They could just say it’s an early build and they’ll be fixed by release.

    • grayson gee

      They probably meant “heavy use” as not in the fact that the demo was played a lot, but probably the 3DS was being used roughly by some people playing the demo, plus the demo ran for nearly the entirety of PAX. Though I do hope this is a problem GameFreak can fix by the time the game launches.

      • Andrew Norris

        It could just be poorly optimized from an older build of the game too.

        • grayson gee

          It’s possible, though probably not that far back seeing as many of the features introduced are in that demo, though seeing as Mewtwo was the first MegaEvolution introduced, and its the only one you see in the demo it could be farther back than I think.

    • Daniel blue

      It DOES make sense. Games with unoptimized code may suffer from memory leaks, which make the game run slower and the longer you play it.

  • Ferofax

    …as much as I am excited about X/Y in general and will definitely get at least one of those two (probably the one with Xerneas), I still vainly wished they built the game around Pokedex Pro graphics, even if just for battles.

    Just imagine.

    • The frustrating thing is that the Pokémon models are, in all likelihood, the ones from Pokédex 3D Pro. Just that they have this toon shader running that gives them the cel-shaded look. I wish there were a feature to toggle between the two styles.

      • Shuga Suenaga

        pretty clever but i really doubt it since the world is cel-shaded too :/, they still look cool though

        • Solomon_Kano

          Now that you mention it… it would be pretty weird to have Pokedex Pro visuals for the Pokemon in a cel-shaded world, huh? Cel-shaded alone is for the better, with that in mind lol.

        • Yeah, this is why I would imagine we aren’t being given the choice. Because it would clash with the world design.

      • Ferofax

        Mmm, makes sense. Let’s see if a version Z pops up with the Pokedex Pro shaders. Though that’s highly unlikely, unless they do something like the GB Gold/Silver to GBC Crystal upgrade.

      • Pedro Tavares

        No they aren’t like I said above this are made by gamefreak, the others aren’t.

        • It doesn’t matter who they’re made by. The assets are all owned by Pokémon Co. and can be used in whatever game they wish.

    • Solomon_Kano

      I rather like the look they went for, since it’s kept things at least reminiscent of the games’ 2D days, but I was originally hoping Pokedex Pro was a glimpse into what we’d be getting this gen.

      I’m satisfied, but I do hope they put that style to use at some point. Maybe Gen VII (man, it feels weird to think that far ahead).

    • Pedro Tavares

      I personally am happy with Cell shading this was the perfect transition for Pokemon.
      I never liked the feel of the console games, they just look slow, with the cell shading it has this faster, cartoony feel to it.

      Also the console games and the Pokedex 3D aren’t made by gamefreak.

      So yeah I’m hoping they keep improving but keep the cell shading, its perfect for Pokemon.

      • Ferofax

        Which explains why their 3D foray doesn’t feel so snazzy, almost like a baby step.

        • Bobby Jennings

          I agree on that.

        • Pedro Tavares

          Looks pretty damn good to me of or are you talking about the console games/pokedex 3D?

          • Ferofax

            Truth be told? Yes, it looks good for a Pokemon game, but 3D-wise, it’s almost Playstation era. Or DS era, at least. Especially compared to something as snazzy as Pokedex 3D models.

            But then again, I realize the fact that fancy & shiny isn’t the art direction that this game took, so there’s that. And I also realize that with Pokedex 3D being largely a diorama-style presentation, they can go full blast with the models, textures, lighting, all the shiny stuff, because that one model will be the only thing onscreen that’s getting all the horsepower, so to speak.

          • Suicunesol

            You can say that about the overworld. But I don’t think the same can be said about the battles. Neither Playstation nor DS could dream of putting models of this calibur on screen. Not to mention that the 3DS is fully capable of displaying at least 4 Pokedex 3D models at once; you could do that in the AR mode. I do belief the models in X/Y are based off the ones from Pokedex Pro, but with different shaders.

    • Armane

      I just wish they didn’t go for a super-deformed style. I always enjoyed the trainer’s battle sprites and the 3D models they are using just don’t compare.

      • Slayven19

        I’m happy with the way they did it now, I’m glad they don’t compare because with this people can get away from the nostalgia that keeps them from seeing things in a different light.

  • Youko

    No more half-measures.

  • Solomon_Kano

    I really, really like the sound of the new movement options! That’s super convenient. The Pokemon just roaming in the world is an excellent touch as well.

    As for the circles around Pokemon during battle, I’m of two minds on that matter. On the one hand, it’s kinda nice to have that remnant of the previous style, but on the other… well, it just really makes no visual sense. It clashes. Now that we’ve moved into this full-on 3D world, why not just let battles play out Stadium style? It’s especially weird, when you consider that indoor battles actually don’t have that visual separation of your Pokemon’s space from the arena (as seen in the footage of the double battle featuring Politoed).

    Don’t really mind it though.

    • Miss_Madness

      It isn’t that weird to me, since they’d have add extra animation for every single pokemon, the total of which probably being more then 800 to count. That takes up a lot of space. So it’s probably a necessary evil, just to have it cut.

      • Solomon_Kano

        Not really. I’m not asking that the Pokemon move outside of the area they’d normally occupy or anything, just that they get rid of that visual barrier the circle creates.

        As I mention, they do it for the indoor battles in X/Y already. No additional animations necessary.

        • Miss_Madness

          Sorry I misunderstood you that orz. I think they are there as a marker for where the pokemon are standing. Indoors you can get away with just have a flat back drop. But when there outdoors they probably need to mark a clear area where the pokemon is standing for the visual appeal. They could have just use grass to fill in the space but that would cover up the pokemon. Or they could get rid of it but then you’d have to deal with the flat back drop. It’s more of a design thing then anything else I guess.

          • Solomon_Kano

            It’s cool, man.

            Honestly, and maybe this is just me, I think a “flat” green field would make more sense if I’m fighting in a grassy field than these random tufts of grass that only pop up where your Pokemon are standing.

            Besides, they’ve got clouds, trees, hills, and such to break up the space now, unlike prior games, so it’s not like the areas would be lacking visually if they remove that.

    • JustThisOne

      I think I’m weird because I think the circles are kind of… cute. But I guess I can understand that it’s bad as a design choice.

      Maybe they kept it for Nature Power. It’s that move that no one really uses, but it’s based on whatever terrain you’re on. And even though the background should be some kind of hint, the circle thingys make it obvious.

      • Solomon_Kano

        I mean, I don’t dislike the circles or anything, it’s just kinda weird visually when literally everything else changed. Like… they moved to Stadium presentation (complete with DYNAMIC CAMERA ANGLES! WHOO!), and then were like “Wait, put the circles back in!”

        Hm. The Nature Power angle could work, though, like you said, the background should make that obvious (especially with how detailed they’re getting now).

        • JustThisOne

          Ooh ooh! Or maybe from a visual standpoint, the circles act all spotlighty.

          • Solomon_Kano

            Now that? That works. Given the variety of colors Pokemon have, some Pokemon might be harder to distinguish from the environment without it. Though, in that case, they could at least make the circle a bit more subtle, but it works.

            Then again, there’s no spotlight effect for indoor battles (where it’d make the most sense, since… well, actual lights lol). So… I dunno. They just didn’t wanna fully let the circles go yet , I guess lol.


          • I agree, I do wish they’d make the circles a bit more subtle if they weren’t going to totally drop them.

            Anyway, it’s too nitpicky of me, I just usually deal with these things

          • Solomon_Kano

            Yea. I mean, I’ll deal for now, chalk it up to homage to the old style, but if they’re still a thing in Gen VII, I’m probably be a bit less cool with it.

  • French

    It comes out on my 23rd birthday,I need this eventually, hopefully on the day !! I’m gunna have to get a 5th 3DS though (but thats another painful story :( )

  • Suicunesol

    What is odd and peculiar about petting and feeding a Pokemon, Mr. Ward? How is Pokemon Amie weird? I think the name is silly too, but this is something that many people have wanted for years–to get up-close and personal with your Pokemon rather than sending it into a cockfight all the time. It’s the next step from simply having a Pokemon follow you and checking on its mood once in a while. I’m really glad they added it, regardless of its effect on battles.

    Otherwise, I’m not exactly ecstatic about the article. Paints too many things that don’t bother me in a negative light.
    I don’t mind the circular platforms around the Pokemon–they’re a stylistic choice that nods to the previous games. Regarding the decision of having Pokemon attack from a platform, I imagine Nintendo doesn’t want too much physical contact between Pokemon in order to minimize violence. There’s also the issue of providing multiple animations for 600+ Pokemon; it’s just too much. Not to mention that more involved animations will result in longer Pokemon battles when they should be brief instead

    Also, the cell-shading is fine and I like it. The Pokedex 3D Pro presentation was nice, but I don’t need to see it repeated in this game. It doesn’t suit the games.

    Not happy about the circle pad = skates and the d-pad = walking. Using the d-pad on the 3DS is very cumbersome. The control scheme had better be configurable.

    Also unhappy about the C-gear-like bottom screen. Good for Japan. Useless for the West. Black and White’s bottom screen was a complete waste of screen space. HeartGold did it better.

    • Herok♞

      Well its pokemon if you will be in a setting where you would be around other people playing then you would be lucky, like for me if I were returning to high school and so was everyone else from the class of 2013, I know I would have at least 5 people on that list by the first day, however I am heading off to school and it has a pretty niche anime/gaming club so I am sure I will have a good amount of people to play with there.

    • Sergio Briceño

      I think it had less to do with giving fans what they wanted and more to do with Pokémon is not all about violence. Don’t kid yourself, that wasn’t a much wanted feature (or at least, if there were a list there would be lots above that one), otherwise Pokémon Yellow playthroughs would be 50% petting Pikachu and 50% running around and that isn’t the case.

      I think what the author meant is that until we know what exactly is good for, he won’t be convinced it belongs in the main Pokémon series of games. It could be a stat or happiness booster. But if it’s just to give you a tamagotchi like experience with Pokémon, then a new Pokédex 3D is much more suited to do that than the main game in the series. But I’m pretty sure it’s got some use.

      • Kokujo Report

        According to Serebii Pokemon Amie will influence the following- text: The introduction message, and various statements throughout battle change in context critical hit ratio: The Pokemon will score critical hits more often Evasion: the Pokemon will evade attacks more often and finally Survival- the Pokemon will endure a hit that would of knocked it out.

        • Suicunesol

          Interesting~! I wonder if those effects will be transferred to competitive WiFi battling as well. I’m thinking not because it would give Amie-users an unfair advantage.

      • Suicunesol

        Yeah, okay, it’s not like fans were hankering for it. But I think it’s a natural evolution for a Pokemon game to have that feature when the technology is right there.

        Adding it in a separate Tomagotchi-like game is not the same. You don’t want to fool around with any Pokemon; you want interaction with the ones you used yourself, gave nicknames to, and travel around with. Those are the “real” Pokemon that you consider your own.

        The idea totally belongs in the main games since that’s where the world of Pokemon comes to life the most. I don’t think Amie is that in-depth either, but it is something far better than merely checking the mood of the Pokemon following you.

        (And it’s a good feature for the young girl players too. Would prefer it over Pokemon Contests.)

    • Solomon_Kano

      “Otherwise, I’m not exactly ecstatic about the article. Paints too many things that don’t bother me in a negative light. ”

      I mean… that’s just the nature of differing opinions. I don’t wholeheartedly agree with every article, but I don’t know that I’d say I’m “ecstatic” when I do. That’s just me though. Not trying to attack you or anything, if it comes across like that, I just thought that was an interesting statement.

      As for the minimizing violence angle, I don’t buy that. It’d be no more than the Pokemon cartoon targeting the very same audience has been showing for nearly two decades now. The animations though? Yea, that makes sense. Doing all that animation for an ever-growing roster of Pokemon would be TONS of work.

      • Suicunesol

        Yes, of course. Mr. Ward is entitled to his opinion. It’s just rare that I react negatively to an article on Siliconera. So sorry about that.

        I mentioned “minimizing violence” because it’s something I noticed that changed about the anime as well. I remember in the original Kanto saga in the 90s, and even in the Johto saga, there was a bit more raw physical contact than in the series today. Nowadays, more special effects are used to mask the physical violence in the show, and we see more energy-based special attacks.

        • Solomon_Kano

          Nothing to apologize for, I just found that an interesting statement is all. You’re good.

          I haven’t watched Pokemon in some 4 years now, so I’ll have to take your word on that.

    • Robgoro

      If you had the chance to play the demo, I think that you’d probably be more sympathetic towards the article. My problem with Amie is that it seems like another half step towards a better system. Take Pokemon Conquest, for example, which did away with experience and instead made your Pokemon level up depending on its link level with you, which increased in percentage the more you used it. That sort of system seems more likely tied to “getting to know your Pokemon” than patting it on the head, decorating it, and feeding it cakes. I hardly think that petting Lucario’s snout is going to please that desire for connection that fans have, though some of the cuter one’s, like Fennekin, might. The thing is, it’s a rudimentary system designed to be something functional. That’s how it felt. Keep in mind, though, that it could have CERTAINLY been held back by the demo ;)

      One of my biggest issues with Black and White was that it was never intended to have the original Pokemon in it. It was supposed to be a fresh start to the Pokemon name, but after a lot of rage, they responded to fan outrage and made EVERY Pokemon available after the completion of the main story. It’s good to keep the legend alive, but it comes at a cost. The number of Pokemon is sadly limiting to what they can do, and that includes what you mentioned about animations – but if they had actually started over, or had the courage to restart in another region with a new generation, it would leave room for small touches like individual animations. They’re animals, after all, and every animal has a different gait, a different way of moving, a different presence.

      Other than that, the presentation is great! I love the cel-shaded art style. I really like the idea of building street pass into the game. Those ideas are wonderful – but they seem just a little held back by their legacy.

      This is the same company that goes about solving a power issue (dragon types) by creating another overpowered type (fairy) to create balance instead of something simple like readjusting stats. The same company that rendered Psychic types worthless in generation II by creating dark types.

      A legacy is something you preserve by recreating it in spirit. Their legacy is limiting, and that’s sad to see after almost twenty years. I guess that’s Japan, though, the same country that rebuilds temples every 20 years to maintain a 10 century tradition of purity.

      In the end though, everyone is going to love X and Y, even me – so don’t worry too much about differing opinions. ;)

      • Suicunesol

        “One of my biggest issues with Black and White was that it was never intended to have the original Pokemon in it.”

        Where did you read this? Is there an article on it?

        Yes, Pokemon is certainly held back by its legacy. Its legacy is also what has so many fans sticking to the franchise. You can throw it all out and start anew. But it’s a really risky move for a franchise that’s still selling so well. Omitting Pikachu, Charizard, fan-favorites, all of the legendary Pokemon is a big deal. Such a decision is more likely to decrease popularity than to increase it.

        BTW… Nintendo could give custom characteristics and animations to each Pokemon. They’ve got the money for it; just hire a massive team of animators. Pokemon is, by all accounts, a legacy AAA franchise that deserves such treatment. But I think Nintendo knows that doing so would not be worth the money if people would buy the games regardless.

  • Croix Zapp

    i feel……so old..

  • Virevolte

    I didn’t know there were such musical choices for each version. I’m a litte ashamed. I don’t often play with music on DS.

  • Virevolte

    I’m just saying this because it itches me : “Amie” don’t take an “e” for Pokemon. It’s not because you’re using a french word for naming it in english/japanese that it’s okay to ignore simple grammar rules. ^^”

    • Robgoro

      I think that the localization specialists over at the Pokemon Company International are apathetic towards grammar in general. This is the same group of people who thought they could make a compound word using Talon and Flame, and that it would actually sound like a name.

  • Raltrios

    Not going to listen to that music until the game is in my hands, no matter how tempting it may be.

  • OhMyClarence

    The battle animations from what I’ve seen so far has been the biggest let down for me, but I acknowledge that it’s probably what had to happen to save space. It’s just easier to make generic battle animations for the 1000+ moves than it is to make more custom animations and physical contact for all 700+ likely Pokemon.

    Though I will give them credit for trying to make the transition less irritating by manipulating the camera during battle so that for some physical moves that contact the camera shift away from the attacking Pokemon to whatever move, like Rollout. So that it looks like your Pokemon is moving towards your opponent. Though it’s weird that they didn’t do that for Quick Attack. Which isn’t a move that gets a lot of action later in the game, but is likely a move you will see a lot of during early stages of gameplay.

    Oh well maybe they’ll update things in the third expansion.

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    one word: hyped……

  • Guest

    Having this released worldwide at the same time make it so much more appealling, it really grabbed my attention!

  • Spirit Macardi

    One thing I really wish they’d do is re-record sounds for the older Poke’Mon. It’s extremely jarring when you come across a new creature and it makes a rather realistic animal call, then come across an old one and it lets out a screeching electronic noise.

    • Symbol de Au

      They have re-recorded at least a few of the sounds.

    • JustThisOne

      Haha, actually I was wondering about this the other day. It’s going to be more interesting now, with 3D models making 8-bit noises.

      But they’ve probably thought of that. :>

    • Hinataharem
    • Suicunesol

      They did re-record sounds for the older Pokemon! :D At least, for the ones we’ve seen so far.

      They’re reminiscent of the original cries, but are a bit less 8-bit-ish.

    • Robgoro

      They did. The sounds they use for Pokemon are not the same sounds they used in other games – they’re updated, much like they were in Stadium.

  • Aaron K Stone

    I heard they were going to go for more contact in Battle Revolution for the Wii but it got changed back to non-contact because it would raise the age rating. So I don’t think it’s laziness or technical limitations.

  • Jesse Torres

    I think you went in to this game expecting too much, that’s why it sounds like the game is not very impressive considering to compared a demo to every nintendo game that came out this year.

  • Godman

    Man you couldn’t find out how in-depth the Trainer Customization is?
    This is pretty much the only thing left I need complete confirmation of
    I know you can change clothes and skin colors, but no clue on hair styles, coloring, ect

    • Robgoro

      No comment on it, I’m afraid. All I’ve heard is that it’s pretty basic, a set number of outfits that you can wear, but still things that vary from your first one.

  • Placido Michael Cortorreal Flo

    Well so far…i have liked all the new features to be honest, except for the circle and directional pads scheme.
    even though it is useful that way, i in particular like running about in the pokemon games, barely used the bycicle ever.
    But thats another story, i really dont like what they have done with it because i belive you could use the directional pad as quick slots so i dont have to be opening everytime my bag and check the inventory…an example of this is
    UP > town map
    down > fishing rod
    right > roller blades
    left > you name it…(use surf without pressing the A buttom near a shore, lake or any other body of water)
    Y(like in gen IV and others) > you name it too

    That way you have 5 quick buttoms that help you tons without the need of opening your inventory much.
    I hope gamefreak notices this and adds more options as of how use the circle and directional pad

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