Just as little girls are taught to love Barbie and little boys are taught to desire fast cars, the Japanese are taught to idolise Paris. It seems that to your average Tokyo Joe, Paris is the mecca of style, grace and finesse. However, this bubble is sometimes burst by the language barrier, the crime, and the generally hostile French attitude towards tourists, in such a violent way that scholars have come to call it ‘Paris Syndrome’ where the (often Japanese) visitor is so overwhelmed 0that they can be afflicted with anxiety, tachycardia, and other hilarious conditions.
This is the story of a young person travelling the country, saving the world and learning about his/herself by battling with your party of ‘Pocket Monsters’; mythical critters which are carried around and nurtured. Luckily for everyone, there is no cause for psychoses in Kalos; the quasi-French setting of the 6th Generation of Pokemon. And this idealised Franceland is absolutely delightful. In true Pokemon style the colours are vibrant and pop right out the screen. The music lilts and spurs in equal measure, and the general tone is almost sickeningly hopeful. But all this is standard fare for any Nintendo title, especially one whose mascot is a big yellow mouse, cute as a box of kittens mewling at a bus stop. This is old news to any Pokemon fan. However, this is where Nintendo plays its trump card: 3-flipping-D. The colours don’t just pop out at you, they pop in, the artwork resolutely smacking you in the face with future-tech. Of course, many have already grown bored with the third dimension, but the evolutionary spike between the sprite-based predecessors and the new games cannot be underestimated. The ability to see your Pokemon breathe and smile goes further to making them seem alive than any artwork. This is what you always dreamed of after playing Pokemon Stadium. This is how it was meant to be.
The main attraction, as with any Pokemon game, is always going to be the little buggers themselves. Even if the pictures were being beamed directly into your brain, you still wouldn’t care if Boringmon wins or not. The new roster is… not bad at all. Maybe this judgement is because this author has got stung by his Turbo-Awesomemon ‘evolving’ into Manboobmon too many times. But this is still a cause to rejoice, because it means the drama is still there. Mysteries to unfold, the excitement that comes with the possibility of finding Mega-Turbo-Awesomemon. Nintendo’s strategy of releasing the game worldwide simultaneously means that everyone is in the dark; you can’t just wiki the answers, which leads to a refreshingly nostalgic experience reminiscent of playing the original games.
Developers Game Freak have made moves to assuage the staleness of the past few Pokemon iterations by mixing up the core tactics. The inclusion of a new type/genre of monster, the ‘Fairy’ type, has thrown everything out of whack for professional pokemaniacs everywhere, a wild card in battles which has meant having to re-learn basic tactics. This added dynamic is another way the gameplay is kept fresh, and as you can imagine the new Fairies cater to a younger and more oestrogen-enriched demographic, a step in the right direction for in an industry constantly criticised for being a spotty boy’s club. Your mother would be happy to know there is nary a firearm in sight in Kalos.
This doesn’t mean however, that this is a shallow experience. Pokemon, as a whole, is perhaps the most intensely strategic game in existence. You don’t have to delve in, and in JRPG tradition simply grind a little to overcome an obstacle, but the depth of the system is outrageously rich. The most cerebral football match or chess game can’t hold a candle to the complexity of battling Pokemon, and unravelling the techniques and combinations is still as addictive as it ever was. Screw ‘catching them all’, I’m pretty sure it’s impossible anyway. You can (and probably should) pour whole weeks into finding everything the world has to offer, and making a team which could give Chuck Norris a run for his money. This is the beauty of Pokemon, the immense satisfaction of creating a symbiotic team ready for anything, or just being able to use some Pokemon because you think they’re cool. And here, both are the right choice.
The story is still reliably thin and character development a dichotomy between blatant and non-existent, but Citizen Kane this is not, and it never pretends to be. To the young, Pokemon is a happy-clappy dream world where they can play with incredible creatures, and to the old it is a radical test of your strategy and resolve. Pokemon may not have changed much this generation, but the differences are effective and affective. If you’ve played Pokemon before, there is no way you can afford to miss this one. And if you haven’t, this is probably the best time to start.