With the introduction of 3D animated models to Pokémon, battles in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y have certainly become flashier. In fact, they’ve become downright reminiscent of Pokémon Stadium, Colosseum, and Battle Revolution, down to the attacks and fainting animations. Having not played those games in a long time, it was an unintended trip down nostalgia lane for me.
While there are no idle animations for Pokémon during battles, the camera travels around a lot, which helps keep things feeling alive. It will pan around, zoom in on the opposing Pokémon, and essentially do its best to make the scene look cool as the Pokémon stand around waiting for you to finish inputting your commands. In trainer battles, this effect is intensified, with more intense close-ups and a fancy face-off screen reminiscent of fighting games.
As for the animation of the Pokémon themselves, X and Y’s animation is amazingly fluid, but with a catch. The game will lag if you have either the stereoscopic 3D turned on. Additionally, if you have more than two Pokémon facing off such as in Double or Triple battles, the 3D effect will turn itself off. Perhaps this is why the game seems to actively avoid any Double Battles, even if it would make more sense in a situation…
Battles themselves are sped up quite a bit in Pokémon X and Y, with the flow of battle moving even faster than it did in Pokémon Black/White. Notably, the HP bar drops faster and the text moves faster during battles. In fact, in the case of some attacks like Aerial Ace or Brave Bird, the damage appears almost instantaneously. It’s almost as though they developers were trying to match the force behind the attack animation with how fast the Pokémon’s HP drops.
There are other minor tweaks, too. While your Pokémon doesn’t slow down much when it’s in danger (and the background music doesn’t change), the game will beep to alert you of low health as usual. Unlike in previous games, it will only beep a few times and then fall silent. Perhaps this is another factor contributing to the game’s idea of “beauty?” Peace for your ears?
As for features completely new to battles in Pokémon X and Y, there aren’t many. There are the Mega Evolutions, which are a temporary evolution that can be activated in the middle of battle. When a Mega Evolution is available, you’ll see a button on the bottom screen alerting you. These Mega Evolutions grant a variety of power boosts such as type changes, stat increases, and ability changes. The Evolution activates the turn you press the button, and after you press it, you can also select an attack. Both actions will take place on the same turn, so the timing of your Evolution can be important.
There are also Horde Battles and Sky Battles. Sky Battles are simpler to explain—they’re a battle that takes place in the sky and only Levitating or Flying Pokémon can take part. One thing to note is that, because only these Pokémon can take part, your other Pokémon don’t gain any EXP from the battle. I found it interesting that Sky Battles would almost always catch me by surprise since the opponent was one or two screens away, standing on another ledge, when they challenged you.
Meanwhile, Horde Battles are wild battles that activate either randomly (albeit rarely) or by using a Honey item to attract a group of 5 Pokémon. These Pokémon will all be at a very low level, which is just as well, because they will all take their turn chipping away at you. It can be very frustrating and time-consuming fighting these battles, and they were one of my least favorite addition to the game because of how aggravating it can be to sit through five rounds of Growl, only to find my attack doing minimal damage because of it. The best strategy is to blast them all with a multi-enemy attack such as Surf or Bug Buzz… unless you want to capture a Pokémon, in which case you’ll have to sit through the long haul.
Other than these changes, however, the largest change to Pokémon seems to be a shift in balance. An obvious way the gameplay is shifted from previous generations is the introduction of the Fairy type, and, the game has retroactively added Fairy type to many Pokémon, such as Mr. Mime and Azurill. In fact, Pokémon X and Y seem to emphasize dual-typing involving Fairy or Normal types rather heavily. For example, Grass and Normal or Electric and Normal. This gave me some trouble because I never previously had trouble with Fighting types, whereas now I find myself accidentally sending out Normal type Pokémon because I’m not used to this dual-typing. Fairy types, too, gave me some trouble because they were an unfamiliar, new type. It was surprising how much I relied on familiarity when I found myself actually having trouble battling a Snubbull.
In addition, there are other subtle ways the game has changed. I found it very easy to level my Pokémon. Not only do you have an EXP Share that affects the entire team, but the EXP gained per battle is higher than before as well. My Pokémon’s levels were shooting through the roof by the time I got to my first Gym. Luckily (or unluckily) as time went on, this difference between the opponent’s levels and mine gradually decreased, so I was provided more of a challenge again later. Nevertheless, I continue to remain much higher-levelled than most of my opponents.
That having been said, this didn’t always mean I was stronger. Interestingly, I found that, despite the level difference between Pokémon, I didn’t always overpower my opponent. I’m not sure if there were other factors involved such as IVs (the hidden stats that are part of the Pokémon metagame), but I remember doing more damage in past games to the opponent when I was this overlevelled. Not only is the damage reduced in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, a number attacks have been modified, with status effects, buffing, and debuffing being emphasized, and the AI for enemy trainers takes advantage of these possible strategies.
An example of this is Water Sport being used by a bug trainer, preventing me from making efficient use of my Fennekin’s Fire attacks. Now that’s something you don’t see often in non-competitive Pokémon play.
Overall, I found the game balance in Pokémon X and Y very strange. I was always overlevelled, yet I wasn’t having an overwhelmingly easy time in battles, especially as time went on. In other words, I feel like the game should have been much easier, but sometimes it was even more difficult, especially when I was at a type disadvantage. As a result, wild Pokémon battles, where there were a variety of types possible, presented more of a challenge than Gyms, which focused solely on one type.
Additionally, due to the sheer number of Pokémon that show up, it’s a very good thing that you gain EXP for catching Pokémon. Otherwise, you probably would never level up at all because almost every other encounter ended up being something, new no matter where you were.
I did end up trying out many different Pokémon and experimenting with many of the newcomers. I suspect this was what they intended, too, since one theme of Pokémon XY seems to be “choices”. Usually I would focus on my team of 6, but now I found myself rotating Pokémon out and still having a high-level team.
Food for thought:
1. Something I recently found out is that the more you change hairstyles either for yourself or your Furfrou, more options will open up. Boutiques change their clothing stock over time. I’m not sure if it’s on a rotational, randomized basis or if it’s based on the number of badges you have, which is how regular stores work.
2. According to an NPC, the horde Pokémon sometimes have rare Abilities. Knowing Pokemon, I think these are talking about Dream World abilities.