This is a staff response piece to this week’s “Weekend Wondering” community poll question: “What do you think of the 3D Graphics in Pokémon X and Y” Feel free to share your own thoughts on the subject in the comments!
I wasn’t really expecting visual greatness from Pokémon when it made its big jump to Nintendo 3DS – all I really expected was a clean, nice-looking first step into the world of 3D. Game Freak had already kind of taken baby steps in this direction with the DS entries, with their pseudo-3D buildings and landscapes, and I figured they’d continue with that obviously successful direction.
Suffice to say that the results so far haven’t been encouraging. The 3D style used in Pokémon X & Y seems caught between two worlds – it’s muddy and at the same time feels like it’s trying to carry over the 2D look into fully 3D graphics. Given what we’ve seen so far, the world of Pokémon X & Y looks like it might as well have remained 2D.
Frankly, I don’t think that would have been a bad thing – there have been some positively beautiful environments in the DS games, and specifically in Pokémon Black & White. I remember being positively wowed by the forested areas in autumn, something I didn’t expect from a Pokémon game. The screenshots for Pokémon X & Y – at least what we’ve seen so far – haven’t quite been so impressive.
And the overall world design doesn’t seem to have changed much. Aside from the camera showing more things in the distance, I’m not sure I would have really been able to tell that the game was a serious first step into the world of 3D. It looks to be more or less laid out in the same grid-like fashion we’ve always known. If that’s the case, why bother making it 3D at all? At least in 2.5D games the 3D graphics have the benefit of fleshing out the level backgrounds with intense levels of detail – here we don’t even get that. Visually, it’s a Pokémon game through and through, just with low-res 3D models instead of the usual 2D sprites. There’s nothing design-wise that couldn’t have been done with 2D graphics.
What’s more, I bet the level of enhancement they could have brought to the 2D sprites is much higher than what they’ve achieved with the 3D, which so far actually looks like a last-generation handheld game. Someone in the comments made a Spirit Tracks comparison, and I think it’s a pretty apt one. That would have been appropriate on the DS, where this level of quality was fairly average; on the 3DS, the bar is set considerably higher.
It’s not that I’m opposed to 3D graphics – it’s just that, given the results we’ve seen with the game’s world so far, the leap doesn’t seem justified. There is, however, a part of the game where the 3D graphics represent a clear improvement over the previous visuals: the actual Pokémon battles. It’s clear from the appeal of games like Pokémon Stadium that there’s something viscerally exciting about seeing those battles take place in 3D. They’re more animated, the attacks are more dynamic, and they help the player feel more embedded in the experience.
I’m sure there’ll be moments in Pokémon X & Y where the world still manages to be interesting. We saw a glimpse of a scene with stained-glass windows and big, blazing torches that honestly seemed pretty cool. I’m just not sure that the glimpses we’ve seen so far justify the series’ leap to the world of 3D. There’s still so much more that could be done with the 2D graphics, and I’m sure the game would still look beautiful and modern in the process.
I know it’s too late for anything to change, but as someone who has invested into at least one game from every Pokémon generation, I’m willing to admit that I’m not quite sold on the current direction. 3D should be used to help make a game come alive, not just out of obligation.
Other Pokémon-related articles at GenGAME:
- GenGAME Interview: Pokémon Prism Releasing 2013, Indie Games in the Works for Koolboyman
- Pokémon X & Y Fan-Art Already Exists in Abundance
- Pokémon X & Y are Still in a Fairly “Early Stage of Development”
- Pokémon X & Y Aren’t On Wii U Because Game Freak Believes in the Social Power of Handhelds
- First Official Screenshots for Pokémon X & Pokémon Y
- Enjoy the Announcement Trailer for Pokémon X & Pokémon Y