Charging through the tall grass, my six most loyal compatriots at my side, I enter battle after battle on a never-ending quest to become the very best. For the past three weeks, my life has been devoted to the art of combat. I’ve obliterated all who stand in my way, only granting mercy to the rare few deemed worthy of joining my steadily growing army. All others must perish. I’ve traveled countless miles, climbed mountains, scoured shorelines and wandered through forests. I’ve fed a sword a cupcake. This has been my first experience with Pokemon.
Before Pokemon X/Y launched on Oct. 12, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. If you’ve been following along with this series (Part 1 and Part 2), then you’ll know that, up until that point, I had never played a Pokemon game before. I was not completely oblivious to the game or its loyal community of trainers, of course, I just wasn’t entirely convinced that catching and training little monsters would be able to capture the attention of a 30-year-old, lifelong gamer.
Despite that uncertainty, I allowed myself to get pretty excited leading up to the launch date. I was heading into unfamiliar territory. I was finally allowing myself to take part in a series I had ignored for literally half of my life. I had a community of friends who were eagerly anticipating the arrival of X/Y right alongside me, all of them fans of the series since the very beginning.
Following my initial (8-hour!) play session with the game, I was hooked. I absolutely fell in love with the game, despite its repetition and occasional lack of explanation. I hate grinding, but I no longer seemed to mind fighting the same battles over and over again, so long as I knew my adorable Chespin was growing more powerful by the minute. Even the vague (or complete lack of) explanations had a way of winning me over. If I wanted to know something, I had to seek it out, turning to my internet brethren or personal friends to fill in the blanks or walk me through the details. The game became a quest for knowledge, each piece of new data furthering my understanding of the game, its systems and the community that’s grown up catching ‘em all. Pokemon X/Y was charming, wholesome, exciting and, most importantly, new and interesting to me.
My lack of familiarity with the series has perhaps been my greatest ally in enjoying these past few weeks with Pokemon X/Y. I’ve seen some folks complain that there aren’t enough new Pokemon in this version, that the game’s formula hasn’t been altered enough, etc. Save Pikachu and a handful of other Pokemon, every critter I come across has been an exciting new discovery for me. Similarly, all of the game’s various systems are unknown to me, keeping the entire adventure fresh. While some seem to feel this is simply a solid entry in a long-running franchise, it’s been a wholly novel experience for me.
I read somewhere that Pokemon X/Y can be completed in about eight hours. As for me, the game has managed to tap straight into my obsessive compulsive side. Being fresh to the series, I am perhaps driven more than the average player to experience every bit of what’s available, to linger in various zones, to keep exploring the fields of flowers in hopes of finding something unfamiliar. As a result, I am on the road to just the third gym in the game (out of eight) with 40 hours of gameplay already under my belt. To say I’m taking things at a leisurely pace would be something of an understatement.
I have trouble leaving an area if I feel there’s a chance I haven’t caught every type of Pokemon available. I’ve spent an upsetting amount of time with Pokemon-amie, the digital pet-esque mini-games that let you interact with your various ‘Mon, feed them treats and strengthen your bond with them. I’ve grown more berries than I care to admit. I’ve traded with strangers and friends alike. I’ve leveled up handfuls of creatures rather than focus on my strongest six. I’ve become a very familiar face within the Battle Chateau. I’ve shown off my favorite catches and gawked with envy at the collections of others. I’ve spoken to every stranger I come across in the game’s various towns and watched in awe as my Pokemon evolve and learn new abilities.
In short, I didn’t just drink the Pokemon Kool-Aid. I chugged the entire jug and am eager for a refill. It’s entirely possible that somewhere along the line I will finally set my 3DS on the table and say to myself, “Okay, that’s enough.” The story hasn’t been so engrossing that I feel compelled to see it through to the end. What has propelled me forward, instead, is the constant reward loop of exploration and discovery. That could eventually lose its luster and I may walk away perfectly happy with the hours upon hours of fun Pokemon X/Y has supplied me with up until that point.
Then again, I could just as likely be playing this game into the New Year. There’s plenty of content left for me to uncover and enough tweaking and optimizing options to keep a sucker for details hooked for months on end.
That’s something I’m not fretting over, though. I’ve had a blast these past few weeks and, until that excitement wanes, I plan on coming back for more. Maybe my love of this game is due to the fact that I chose to ignore the Pokemon series for the past 15 years. It could also have a lot to do with the fact that the folks at Game Freak have crafted a wonderful title with charm to spare. Whatever the reason, though, I’m glad I finally took this first step into the tall grass.