When Pokémon shifted locales from Unova to Kalos, geography wasn’t the only aspect of the game that underwent a change. In fact, while many of the changes in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y appear minor, they all add something, from atmosphere to customization to convenience and improved flow of the game.
One of the handiest changes is the Pokémon organization system. While the upcoming Pokémon Bank cloud service certainly sounds useful for players returning to the series, the Pokémon Box system in the game itself has had a few of its kinks ironed out. While the baffling choice of Pokémon Deposit/Withdraw is still present (as always choosing Organize Box allows you to do both at will, so having a choice that only lets you do one or the other has always been redundant), you can now drag Pokémon directly into your party from the box. While this choice was present in Pokémon Black/White, it required a roundabout movement because your party wasn’t always visible on the screen. This time around, things are far smoother.
In addition, you can now transfer multiple Pokémon at once through the Tray option. When you activate it, all you have to do is drag an opaque box over the group of Pokémon you wish to transfer and then drag them as one over into another Pokémon Box. The only drawback of this is that the Pokémon have to be pre-organized in the order that you would like them to display in in their new location, but aside from that, the Tray options saves a lot of time and effort—especially if you’re moving multiple Pokémon between three or so boxes.
Finally, the drag/drop function in the boxes, by which you can hold your stylus over a Pokémon to pick it up and then drop it over another Pokémon, resulting in the two swapping places, is also now present in the Pokémon menu from your main menu as well. You can use this to switch Pokémon or to switch held items. I find the latter extremely handy since you normally have to go through a series of menus to accomplish this relatively simple task.
You can also access shortcuts to heal your Pokémon in and out of battle (instead of going through the Item menu). This is done using Y + D-pad to select your shortcut item. Additionally, you can hold down the L button to see the effects of Pokémon attacks during battle (instead of going through the Pokémon menu and selecting Check Moves). All of these shortcuts minimize the need to scroll through menu after menu to accomplish these common actions.
Other added options are completely new to the Kalos region itself. Since Kalos is all about “beauty,” it only stands to logic that you also “beautify” yourself. In most locations, you’ll find boutiques that sell clothing—shirts, pants, socks, shoes, hats, bags, and accessories (and dresses, if you’re a girl). Every town has different stock that changes over time, though you can be sure they’ll cost a pretty penny wherever you go. In addition, you’re given a Lens Case that you can use to change your eye color, and Lumiose City has a Salon where you (not your Furfrou) can get a haircut and change your hair color. Additionally, in every Pokémon Center, there’s a changing room, where you can change your appearance, which will affect your trainer’s appearance in the overworld, on your Trainer Card, in your save profile picture, and the opening sequence to every battle where you throw the Pokéball. (And in ending animations, too, for special battles such as fighting against your rival or Team Flare.)
Finally, there are the new methods of transportation. We’ve all heard about the Pokémon riding, but that is actually a very small feature since it’s limited to very small areas and it’s not with Pokémon in your party. For example, you can ride Gogoats through Lumiose City, but they function as a sort of public transportation so you don’t have to navigate the massive, and admittedly confusing, city yourself. Outside of Lumiose, you can ride Skiddo in a closed pen (and although you can jump the fence the same way you can in Zelda: Ocarina of Time with Epona, even then Skiddo can’t seem to figure out how to climb stairs). Finally, at one point, you’re required to ride a Rhyhorn through a treacherous trail of craggy rocks that prevent your trainer from making it through himself.
The Rhyhorn in particular is hard to control because of the way its controls are mapped and the speed at which it moves. It can break boulders with its horn and open the way to various small side paths where you can find items. However, like the Skiddo, the Rhyhorn is confined to its trail and that’s it.
That’s riding in a nutshell. The actual new mode of transporation is the roller skates. The skates are are used by employing the 3DS Circle Pad for movement, instead of the D-Pad. They’re a fairly fast way to travel around in style, and if you are so inclined, you can even dash or perform tricks like a back flip or a 360 upon landing after a ledge. Some places have rails where you can approach and skid down to reach different areas. The skates are incredibly smooth and fun to use—with the only problem being that sometimes they’re a bit too fast and smooth, so much so that turning in a specific direction to talk to NPCs or trying to head into a door can be difficult.
That said, the ease with which you can switch between skates and regular running is easy. Want to skate? Use the Circle Pad. Want to run? Use the D-Pad + B. Some areas won’t allow skating, though, such as houses or nature preserves, so in those areas you can use the Circle simply Pad to run.
Finally, if you prefer to travel even faster, you can use the bicycle, which is back again. This is much more familiar to Pokémon veterans, so there isn’t much to say about it, except that it’s faster than skating. It’s also the only mode of transportation that allows you to move quickly through grass, since the skates get tangled and you end up walking when you hit tall grass anyway.
In addition to these features, there are plenty of smaller presentation changes like real-time reflections in mirrors as you pass by them. Then there’s the ability to sit down on nearby benches and chairs, which will sometimes shift the camera to allow you to see the scenery better. There are idle animations for when you leave your character alone for some time. Meanwhile, during exploration, Strength rocks don’t simply move back in the way if you leave the screen (no such luck with Cut trees, though). Finally, this is a tiny but nice change—your character kneels when talking to children or Pokémon.
While many of these changes are superficial and serve no purpose, they do give a sense that Kalos is a place and not just a location in a new game.