Whenever a new handheld console is released by Nintendo it’s only a matter of time until Pokemon makes an appearance. One of the biggest game series of all time, the monster training RPG for all ages is a hit whenever a new entry is released. And with the Nintendo 3DS system being an exciting leap forward in handheld technology, people waited for the sixth generation of the franchise with bated breath.
Pokemon X & Y were the first mainline games released on the Nintendo 3DS, and the first entries into Generation Six. Despite being a commercial success, the previous two Generations had received some criticism amongst fans. Generation Four for adding relatively few new Pokemon, and for a lot that were added being evolutions or pre-volutions of existing monsters, and Generation Five for introducing too many new Pokemon, and keeping returning creatures until the post-game section, forcing players to have to play through the game with a wholly new team. Whilst there’s the joke that Pokemon fans can never be happy, and these complaints do seem to highlight an audience hard to please, Generation Six tried its best to find a happy balance.
Despite being released in 2013, development for the game began much earlier, in 2010. The game’s director, Junichi Masuda, was said to have begun the development of the game with three core themes that he wanted to be present in all parts of the gaming experience: beauty, bonds, and evolution. After some consideration, the team decided to base the game’s new region, the Kalos region, on France to best capture the idea of beauty. The game draws heavily from European culture, with the setting very much reflecting this, along with several of the new Pokemon introduced. Several of the locations in Kalos are inspired by real world locations, such as the Carnac Stones, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre.
To explore the themes of bonds, the game’s story would introduce a mysterious character that would appear at different points in the game, a man searching for a one of a kind version of one of the new Pokemon introduced into this generation. A man who has lived for hundreds of years, it’s the bond of love and friendship between him and his Pokemon that drives him to keep searching for it, and it proves to be the emotional heart of the story.
When it comes to evolution, however, the game very much stands out. Every Pokemon game features evolution, with the majority of creatures in the game being able to evolve at least once. In order to set this game apart from the others it introduced Mega-Evolution. This new feature would allow players to find special stones throughout the game world, tied to specific Pokemon. When equipped, the player can once per battle make a final stage Pokemon evolve further for a short time, giving them a new form, as well as boosted stats and abilities. This combat-focused evolution added an extra wrinkle to combat, where players would have to try to anticipate if an opponent would use a Mega-Evolution, and to think carefully about when to use theirs as it could only be used the one time per fight. This feature also included some cool new design upgrades for Pokemon that had existed since the series began.
Using the new technology from the 3DS, Pokemon X & Y was able to introduce better graphics, and the two-dimensional sprites that had been used for Pokemon up to this point were replaced with three-dimensional polygons, allowing for more detail and flexibility in the designs. This did also mean that the game required a larger development team, and became one of the biggest Pokemon dev teams to date. The new console also employed gyro controls, which the game incorporated in fun ways such as having to turn the console upside down when levelling up a specific Pokemon in order to trigger its evolution.
This was also the first time in the series history that a Pokemon game was released on the same day worldwide. However, there were incidents of the game being sold early in some areas, despite Nintendo warning stores of penalties if this was done. Interestingly, the UK seems to have been the worst for this, with articles about it appearing in several media outlets. Following incidents of supermarkets putting the game out for sale a day early, other retailers decided to break the release date in order to keep up with other stores and retain sales.
Despite some trouble with early releases, the games did well once they hit the shelves, and 1.26 million copies of the game were pre-ordered in Japan before release. It was reported that by the end of the first week of sales the games had sold more than 2.09 million copies in Japan, and 4 million worldwide. Pokemon X & Y became the fastest selling titles on the Nintendo 3DS to that point, and were only surpassed by Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon years later. As of this year they have sold 16.68 million copies, beating their successor, and becoming the second highest selling game on the console.
Pokemon X and Pokemon Y were released on the Nintendo 3DS in the UK on 12th October 2013.