This morning Nintendo, in the ever-genial form of company president Satoru Iwata, announced the forthcoming release of two new games in the Pokémon series. Pokémon X and Pokémon Y will launch on 3DS this October, and in an unprecedented and very pleasantly surprising step, the two games will be released in all major territories simultaneously.
Iwata rather telegraphed the surprise by pointing out the steadily decreasing gap between the games’ Japanese and English-language launches as he took us on a brief history lesson of the franchise, making special note of the new connectivity features introduced with each new generation. Nothing was mentioned about the new games’ online functionality beyond Iwata pointing out that the global release would allow fans to “enjoy the adventure found in Pokemon X and Y with trainers everywhere”. He did, however, add that “features enabled by the Nintendo 3DS will be incorporated in the game”, an obvious hint at Spotpass and Streetpass implementation – and don’t be too surprised if the gyro sensor isn’t incorporated in some way.
We were, of course, treated to some footage of the new games, which run on a new 3D engine. Though it looked a little rough in parts – the overworld areas appeared to be suffering from some framerate issues – its appealing thick-edged aesthetic recall both Dragon Quest X and Professor Layton And The Miracle Mask. The battle scenes look a good deal more dynamic than before, attacks carrying far greater visual impact. Nothing, perhaps, that Dragon Quest Monsters hasn’t been doing for a few years, but the sheer number of monsters and potential attacks to consider would prohibit anything more graphically intensive.
The third-person perspective and art style might be new – not to mention the ability to rollerskate around town – but otherwise it looks like we’re in in fairly familiar territory. The footage showed trainers waiting patiently on opposite sides of a pathway, no doubt to accost you for a battle, while we caught glimpses of three or four gyms, each with a fresh gimmick. A giant spider web suggests we’ll be facing a Bug-type leader at some stage, while flaming plumes at the entrance of another are a fairly strong hint that its champion favours Fire types.
Talking of elemental typing, Game Freak is clearly unwilling to rock the boat too much when it comes to starters. We were treated to a brief look at Water-type frog Froakie, fiery fox Fennekin and current Edge favourite Chespin, an adorable woodland mammal apparently disguised as a chestnut. The cover Pokémon are likely to be the two Legendaries featured at the trailer’s close: an angular, imposing stag with rainbow antlers represents X, while the wings and tail of a diabolic bird formed the shape of a Y. It’s perhaps not too much of a stretch to suggest we might see a Pokémon Z in 2014, though whether that will come in the form of a third 3DS game or a brand new Wii U title remains to be seen. The latter wouldn’t come as a great surprise, particularly given Nintendo’s promotion of Monster Hunter 3G’s cross-platform connectivity.
“In addition to meeting new Pokémon, you will be able to see some of your favourite Pokémon again on Nintendo 3DS this October,” confirmed Iwata, as he waved a cheery goodbye. A mixture of old and new, then? The 3D graphics and worldwide release date might be new, but otherwise it’s evidently business as usual for this perennially popular series – and one suspects Nintendo will be banking on it being just that.