By ArbitraryWater 11 Comments
Of all of my video game purchases this year, my best one thus far is probably that 3DS I got off Ebay for $120. With it, I was finally able to dispose of (i.e. sell) my launch-era DS Phat with a broken hinge to one of my friends in exchange for $20 and possibly his copy of Muramasa. Fire Emblem is still my preemptive game of the year (though, it probably doesn't hurt that I haven't actually played a ton of games that came out this year) and Super Mario 3D Land will probably end up somewhere on my “Best of 2013 that didn't come out in 2013” list. But for once I am going to tell you about games that have come out in 2013, recently even. Also they're both for the 3DS. Which is why I mentioned it in the first place.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
Ace Attorney is probably one of those franchises that I'd follow into the pits of hell. Something about the anime courtroom antics appeals to me on a fundamental level, even though the gameplay involves a lot of trial and error and I'd say there has yet to be a truly bad one, though I've heard... less than great things about Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney. Thankfully, unlike certain other franchises that I've followed into the metaphorical pits of video game hell (Resident Evil), it hasn't yet reached the point of me writing semi-apologetic blogs about games that people seem to hate a lot. In fact, I'd say that its new 3DS outing is one of the better installments of the series. Certainly better than Apollo Justice, that's for sure. I feel like talking about the game in any sort of detail would be spoileriffic, so I'll have to speak in generalities.
It's a bit easier than previous games, there are some pretty fantastic characters, including the three main protagonists though some returning faces really get the short end of the stick, especially a certain late-game cameo. The game looks really good, having transitioned to 3D models that are just as expressive as their sprite counterparts. The music is really good as well, unsurprisingly. I'm not sure how well it would work as a game for first-timers though. There are more than a few references to previous games (including a rather hilarious jab at that infuriating music segment from AJ:AA), and it's pretty much a direct sequel to Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, so if you haven't slogged through that one yet (It's not the best one in the series, that's for sure), there are some things you won't get, for as much of that game as this one seems to sweep under the rug. Play it. Otherwise Capcom won't release these in the US anymore and I'll have to rely on overly-literal fan translations to get my fix like I will with Ace Attorney Investigations 2 once they finish that one. And you wouldn't want that, would you?
I'm not going to blow your mind when I say that Pokemon X/Y is totally like the other 5 generations of Pokemon games that came before it. However, it's also the best Pokemon has been; period. While my memories of Gold probably can't be topped, I've enjoyed the hell out of Pokemon X despite the part where I am both a grown adult and someone who thought they were done with the series for good. Of course, that gives the impression that I haven't played the series since gold... which is entirely untrue. Even after Leaf Green, when I said I was done with the series, I still sunk an embarrassing amount of time in Diamond and Soul Silver. Black version was apparently my limit, I lasted about 4-5 hours before this computer arrived in the mail and I was able to finally play PC games that came out after 2005. Sorry Black version, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a far more compelling experience in the fall of 2011.
The mechanics of catching monsters and forcing them to fight for the pleasure of your 11-12 year old trainer self continues unabated, but I'm going to be honest here when I say that if you are playing Pokemon for its compelling story, challenging difficulty or innovative gameplay concepts you are doing so for the wrong reason. For a lot people posting on these forums, I'd imagine the appeal of the series probably hinges on its status as RPG comfort food; predictable, safe and nostalgic. You may notice I've been talking about the series in general terms. That's because Pokemon X does not buck any sort of trend. You can still attempt to catch them all, there is an evil team that wants to do evil things (and you'll probably catch the Legendary on the box while defeating them) and at some point there will probably be a Pikachu despite the little rodent not being anything special stat wise (unless you give them a light ball, at which point its special attack reaches levels rivaling the likes of Mewtwo).
However, for as ingrained as Pokemon's core gameplay has always been, anyone who says that the series hasn't changed since Red and Blue is willfully ignorant or on hunkadunk. Pokemon now is far more complex than Pokemon then. The thing is though, a lot of those changes aren't always obvious at first glance and more than a few are aimed at the postgame or competitive settings. Like every other title in the series, you can probably coast by most of X/Y using just your starter, over-leveling them to compensate for whatever weaknesses may result like when you were 7 and used Venusaur almost exclusively. In fact, you can do that even more easily in X/Y thanks to the new EXP share, one of many convenience tweaks that make this game for me. Sure, it means that your entire team will probably be >5 levels higher than most of the other trainers you encounter and you can sort of steamroll everything, but it removes a lot of the tedium involved with trying to evenly level all of your pocket monsters and I will continue to emphasize the part where any difficulty those previous games had was simply an issue of grinding. That's not all though. Having gone back and messed with the DS pokemon games in my possession, those are some slow-ass RPGs. X/Y is a much faster, snappier game thanks to the rollerblades it gives you before the first gym. Throw in super training, a mechanic that simultaneously makes the meta-elements significantly easier and more transparent, and suddenly the competitive aspects become a lot more friendly as well since you no longer have to write down your pokemon's EV numbers and such. It also doesn't hurt that X and Y have the biggest variety of pokemon to catch, which means that if you had a team you previously relied upon, you can probaly recreate it here.
It cannot be stressed enough that these small changes, combined with the move to full 3D are what make Pokemon X for me. It's been long enough that I would have probably enjoyed it regardless (the game certainly looks good), but for the first time I am seriously looking at stuff like natures and base stats, and then using that information to crush my friends and the random suckers who challenge me to a battle over the game's constant online presence (another great thing, though I believe it was also in B/W). If I have some sticking points, there's not much of a post-game besides the usual Battle Tower equivalent and looking for Mega Stones (which, along with the fairy type, seem to throw a wrench in a lot of the previously established metagame). It also cannot be stressed enough how easy the game is. Anything else is sort of indicative of Pokemon as a whole, and I've come to terms with the fact that Nintendo will never change it. And if that's an issue for you...? Well, as Tomb Raider expert, Final Fantasy VII finisher and fellow bloggist @dankempster once said: Pokemon isn't for you anymore. Play Shin Megami Tensei if you want similar ideas with more mature themes and demanding gameplay. That's the long and short of it.
Also, PM me if you want to exchange friend codes. I'd be down.