Last week, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata dropped a veritable megaton on the world by announcing Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, the next two installments in the popular monster catching franchise (and, most notably, the first to boast full, 3D visuals). This in itself wasn’t all that surprising; given the increasing strength of Nintendo’s handhelds, it was only a matter of time before the series made the leap from pixels to polygons. But I’m sure like many others, I had assumed this transition would be more in the vein of Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, which featured rendered characters and environments from the same overhead perspective of earlier titles. That, at least, seemed to be the direction Pokémon was inching toward with each successive release.
Needless to say, I was awestruck when the trailer began and the camera panned to reveal a new, fully-rendered protagonist, one that was decidedly younger looking than his counterpart from Pokémon Black and White (though whether that was by choice or as a result of the new visual style, which bears a slight resemblance to Dragon Quest IX on DS, has yet to be seen). I was even more surprised when I saw him take his first glorious steps into Route 3, the camera trailing behind him as it would in something like The Legend of Zelda. It was clear now the series was going to finally embrace the third dimension in earnest.
Still, while there’s no doubt Game Freak will be doing its best to make Pokémon X and Y the most radical installments of the franchise yet (at least by its current standards), there are some things we can already infer about the games from the brief footage we’ve seen. For one, they will most likely adhere to the same eight gym formula the series has been following since its debut. This should be a given, as there is very little reason for the series to abandon a structure that has worked so well for it for the past seventeen years. Much like Zelda stubbornly clings to the formula established by A Link to the Past, so too will Pokémon iterate on the eight gym structure with every new title (though the fresh assortment of gym leaders each time ensures that they’re at least a bit more unpredictable than Link’s recent adventures).
It also looks like the pair will be continuing some of the trends begun in Pokémon Black and White. The new setting in particular, from what little we’ve seen of it, has a rustic flair to it like much of Unova, with stone walkways and ornate landmarks dotting the countryside. The most prominent of these is undoubtedly the Eiffel-esque tower standing at the heart of what is presumably the games’ largest city, which seems to suggest the region will be based on– or at least inspired by– Europe, just as Unova was modeled after the United States. We also got a brief glimpse at a new forested area (which, judging by past titles, will likely be situated near the beginning of the adventure), as well as a barren valley housing a high-tech complex, its stark contrast with the rest of the footage implying that the games will have one of the more varied regions in the series.
Perhaps the most scrutinized of the revelations thus far are the five new Pokémon, two of which– Xerneas and Yveltal– will be X and Y’s respective mascots. The other three, Chespin, Fennekin, and Froakie, will serve as the pair’s new starters, taking up the traditional Grass, Fire, and Water roles. What’s particularly interesting about this trio is that all three creatures performed two separate attacks in the debut trailer, which has lead many fans to believe that each will have a secondary type to complement its main one. While that’s certainly possible, these rumored typings don’t seem to be reflected in their designs, and it’s just as likely the attacks were chosen to demonstrate the new battle engine, which is far more expressive, with its dynamic camera angles and three-dimensional characters, than in past titles. That said, it’s all but guaranteed that at least one of them will gain a secondary typing on evolution considering how many previous starters have done just the same, but it’s much too early to tell which of them will, and what type it’ll be, based on what we’ve seen so far.
It’s also too early to tell just how many new Pokémon will be added to the titles. Game Freak has already confirmed that the national Pokédex will have over 700 different creatures after the pair is released, but it’s certainly possible that the number of new ones will fall short of the 100 typically introduced in a generation. Iwata himself lent this theory some credence when he mentioned that players will be able to capture old favorites during the course of the game, suggesting that their Pokédex will be bolstered with creatures from every previous generation, much like Ruby and Sapphire before them.
It seems the games will also be placing a much greater emphasis on wireless communications this time around. I’ve mused in the past on how the series could incorporate more online elements into its gameplay (outside of becoming a full-fledged MMO), and I believe its most natural course of evolution would be to expand on Black and White’s Entralink function, which allowed players to enter another person’s game, Animal Crossing-style, and take on co-operative missions together. Game Freak might have had the same idea; astute fans may remember a brief scene in the trailer that featured two characters running simultaneously through the new forest. While the clip lasted all of three seconds, it seems to imply that players can indeed enter another person’s game via Wi-Fi and team up to accomplish certain goals. (Of course, it could also mean that there will be instances when you’ll be accompanied by a non-playable character, much like there were in Diamond and Pearl and, most recently, Black 2 and White 2, but I prefer to hope for the best.)
Still, this is all just baseless speculation on a trailer that’s a little over a minute in length, so it’s certainly possible that I’ll be wrong with most of my predictions. Given how conservative they are, though, I’m fairly confident that at least a few of them will come to fruition. It’s clear Pokémon X and Y are going to be the most radical installments of the series on a surface level, which will no doubt go a long way in keeping it fresh and exciting (not to mention help inspire new fans to pick up their very first Poké Ball), but their mechanics will likely grow at the same glacial pace with which they’ve always evolved. That’s not necessarily a bad thing considering that each new title is still able to capture the sense of whimsy and adventure that made the first pair so magical, but it may come as a disappointment to those hoping for a true revolution for the series. One thing is for certain, though; Pokémon X and Y will be launching around the world in just ten months, so we’ll be hearing plenty of more about them soon enough.