Much furor has erupted on the internet lately with the announcement of Pokémon X and Y, the 6th generation of the franchise. While most fans are overjoyed at the seemingly myriad updates that grace the new games, a small but vocal undercurrent has voiced its displeasure at the fact that gamers will have to fork out their hard earned on the Nintendo 3DS simply to play the games. The Nintendo DS certainly has had over its lifespan a large number of updates, including the lite version, the DSi, the DSiXL, the 3DS and the 3DSXL. With many gamers not considering the 3DS a truly new device in its own right (in the vein that the GB Advance was over the original GB or DS was over the GBA in turn), some are indignant that they should have to pay again just to play the latest iteration of their favorite series. Indeed, it is true that some will buy the 3DS to play nothing but Pokémon, and having to buy a whole console for nothing but one game is something of a tough pill to swallow.
In this article, let’s see just whether the 3DS really is worth the upgrade, by looking at the advantages it holds over its predecessors, as well as the new features its main draw cards Pokémon X and Y will possess over their previous iterations.
The same, but different.
Despite the significant changes that the 3DS holds over its older cousins, the fact that its physical appearance is very similar to them, as well as sharing most of its name, means that many consumers have been unable to think of it as a new console in its own right. This is a misleading assumption, as the 3DS possesses a host of upgrades which make it a superior machine to older models. To summarize its upgrades briefly, these are some of the key features that set it apart from the DSi: an accelerometer and gyroscope, backwards compatibility with GBA and GB games (awesome!), 3D camera capabilities and of course, an analogue joystick. The accelerometer and gyroscope are significant upgrades as they will allow users to influence play simply by tilting or “steering” the device, in much the same way as mobile games on iPhone and Android devices do. The analogue stick will also open up a new, more modern style of gaming for the DS and brings it more in line with its main competitor, the PS Vita, which now possesses two sticks. So we know that the 3DS is a significant upgrade to be reckoned with, but what about the thing that really matters, the games?
The 3DS suffered from a poor lineup on launch, and even to this day has failed to put out any really compelling titles. While it continues to sell moderately well in key market such as America and Japan, sales are definitely taking a downward trend in the US. That is all set to change with Pokémon X and Y, as the perennial series promises to sell in absolute droves. Many commentators have stated their intention to buy a 3DS purely to play Pokémon, and this is set to be a boon to Nintendo, which has suffered greatly from the flop of its flagship handheld.Pokémon X and Y is the first properly exciting upgrade to the franchise in some time; while the fifth generation utilized a faux 3D effect to make its appearance more modern, the gameplay was achingly familiar to that found even on Red and Blue back in ’98. Despite the popularity of the games, and the critical plaudits they received, they were hardly considered groundbreaking in most circles. Pokémon X and Y however, promise to break away from the old formula in a truly remarkable way, utilizing what appears to be a 3rd person viewing angle and more realistically proportioned character models. Terrain also seems to be more realistically shown, and hopefully this puts an end to the never-ending jokes about not being able to climb ledges.
One of the most enjoyable things about any Pokémon game is course the battling, and in Pokémon X and Y the simple battle animations of previous games seem to have finally been given a meaningful update. Screenshots and action snippets appear to show dynamic camera angles, better animated battle sprites and truly epic attack animations. Everyone knows how grinding it can become working your way through NPC after NPC to reach the next destination, but hopefully with this new, more exciting battle style the new games will make this less of a chore.
While plenty of exciting new content is set to be added to Pokémon X and Y, with more likely to be revealed as the release date approaches, the core game that we all know and love is likely to be relatively unchanged. Gyms, routes, towns and NPCs are all likely to remain in a familiar format, and the way in which players progress through the game is liable to stay the same, i.e., starting out in a specific town and travelling through the world route by route, gym by gym. Training and levelling is unlikely to change drastically from older games either. In other words, the core experience that is so important to the franchise will be untouched, but updates to improve, evolve and develop this experience to new heights will be implemented.
All this toing and froing eventually leads us back to the question: Is it worth forking out for a new console yet again? Unfortunately this is a personal question that will be ultimately be answered by your level of dedication to the series and the value you place on continuing it. As someone who has played all the generations and has stuck with the series throughout its lifespan, I can safely say that I will be handing over the price for a 3DS come release date. In my opinion, most fans will do the same.
One section of the market which appears likely to be won over by X and Y is that of old fans who have let the series fall by the wayside. These are generally casual fans who enjoyed the originals but found the lack of real updates to later gens frustrating. With the massive updates to the game environment that X and Y offer, it seems likely that this will be the catalyst to woo back a large portion of lost audience.
While it’s ultimately a personal choice whether or not you consider Pokémon X and Y worth an entire console upgrade, the reality is the 6th generation of Pokémon is going to sell bucket loads of 3DS’s, and hopefully inspire a new wave of development in 3DS games. The addition of backwards compatibility is a nice selling point for the 3DS when considering its worth, as many older games from the Gameboy line offer entertainment still. The reality is, being just over two years now into its product cycle (and over 2 and a half years by the time X and Y are released), no guarantees can be made as to how long the 3DS will remain Nintendo’s flagship model. However this same fact conversely means that plenty of cheap second hand units are now on the market and can be had for relatively low prices, meaning that the investment to upgrade may not be as large as you think. Regardless, plenty of consideration must be given to just how much value entertainment wise you expect to get out of Pokémon X and Y in order to avoid ending up with an expensive paperweight gathering dust in your cupboard.
Will you be buying the 3DS to play gen 6, or will you wait for the next big thing that we all know is just around the corner? Let us know in the comments!