Every generation of Pokemon games adds new creatures to the mix to the point where the total number of Pokemon is over seven hundred. Take a moment and think about that. Seven hundred different character designs, many of which have been updated with new animations and new visual touches as the years have gone on. Can you think of any other game franchise that sports over 700 character models? I can’t. Heck, I’m happy if I get maybe two dozen different enemy types in a game. Sure, not all of them are going to be winners, but even if only half of them were good, that would still be over three hundred winners. That’s a heck of a lot of pocket monsters.
After the jump, what good are new creatures if you can’t train them?
Pokemon games give the player an odd mix of visibility into character progression and highly technical systems secreted away from the player’s view. As your creatures evolve you can pick which moves they learn and which moves they forget, and you can then breed new Pokemon based off parental templates that have certain move sets, but the entire mechanism of raising individual statistics has always been hidden from the player. In fact, if you didn’t know that it was possible to raise these stats, called effort values, the game would never tell you.
Effort values are raised by defeating Pokemon that have high stat values corresponding what you’re trying to raise or by holding/using certain items. If you want to raise your Pokemon’s speed statistic, fight some fast Pokemon. If you want to raise HP, fight Pokemon with a large life bar. You get the picture. As Pokemon of specific type typically congregate in certain areas of the game, raising statistics outside of hacking your game’s save file involves running around the same area and fighting the same Pokemon over and over. Luckily any Pokemon that takes part in the battle gets the same stat bumps so you can raise levels of many Pokemon at once, but you’re still running around beating up Machops for an inordinate amount of time.
With Pokemon X and Y, not only have EVs been exposed to the player with the Effort-O-Meter, you can now raise your Pokemon’s stats through mini-games. I’m not sure if you can still get EV bumps the old fashioned way but seeing how I was never one for grinding for EVs, I can’t say I care all that much. The Super Training mini-game isn’t that much more exciting than grinding out the same Pokemon fights over and over, raising stats involves shooting soccer balls at giant Pokemon balloons until a set point value is reached, but at least here there’s no randomness in the system. If you want to raise your Special Attack stat, play the Special Attack mini-game. Different Pokemon get different stat bumps depending on where their base stats shake out, but it’s still pretty easy to spend ten minutes and raise all of the stats for a particular monster. Once you complete a game instance you get a punching bag that you can use to raise your stats even higher provided you don’t mind the wrist strain involved in frantically tapping the touchscreen.
Stats aren’t the only important thing though, friendship with your Pokemon also comes into play. The friendlier your Pokemon are, the better they do in battle, landing criticals, dodging attacks, doing more damage and so on. Some Pokemon evolve only when their friendship value gets maxed out. In previous games, you kept your monsters happy and friendly by using them in battle and feeding them things that they liked. Clearly when you spend your life stuffed in a small ball the bar for happiness is pretty low. Here there’s another new mini-game called Pokemon-Amie that allows you to pet your Pokemon, make faces with the camera to amuse them and feed them Pokemon puffs. I don’t know if Pokemon Puffs are puffs you feed to Pokemon or are puffs made out of Pokemon, either way, my team gets pretty happy when they eat them so I’m not asking any questions. Petting your Pokemon is about as exciting as you would imagine and the mini-games available to make them even happier seem unearthed from free web-based games circa 2001, but at least the game gives you control over raising an aspect of your Pokemon that previously felt shrouded in mystery.
Mini-games certainly aren’t anything new and Nintendo has a long history with them, so it’s not a novel idea to have them in Pokemon games, but the fact that these mini-games give players control over aspects of their Pokemon that they never would have discovered without the mini-games is pretty dang cool.