After leaving Coumarine City, I found myself at the entrance to the Lumiose Badlands: a harsh, windy desert full of burrowing Pokémon. Although players have already visited desert-like environments in previous games, there were two mechanics that made this one a bit different. Firstly, gusts of winds would slow me down as I moved to my left. This was more of a hassle than anything, and aside from a few puzzles where I needed to build up speed to grind on railings I can’t really see why it was implemented in the first place. It’s less of an obstacle and more of an annoyance, but perhaps its purpose is to emphasize the harshness of the locale. The second feature is far more interesting: instead of randomized battles, you can see clumps of dirt where Pokémon are burrowing underground and by walking on top of them you begin a battle. This is a mechanic I like in RPGs, because it gives the player the option to try and avoid encounters or face them head-on. I really hope this concept is utilized more later on in the game.
I came across the Kalos Power Plant, which was under the control of Team Flare. Upon entry, I was surprised to find out that I could turn on the stereoscopic 3D in order to view the inside of the building not only in three dimensions, but also with a neat diorama-esque look. I don’t tend to play games with stereoscopic 3D turned on for more than five minutes, but I kept it on the whole time I was in the plant because it gave the world a feeling of freshness that really amplified the new three-dimensional models. Text bubbles popped out of the screen while the bottom of the plant sunk into the 3DS screen. It was a really neat effect, and it made me even more disappointed that most of the game cannot be viewed as such (apparently a few caves utilize the effect, too). There didn’t seem to be any slow-down, but I can understand how bigger, open areas would cause the framerate to drop significantly.
Behold, the glory of an environmentally sound Power Plant! (Also a great message for the kids)
When I finally got to the commanding members of Team Flare, I found out that they were using the plant to harvest energy for a device that they didn’t name. I’m quite interested in finding out more, and usually Pokémon games reveal more of their stories around the sixth or seventh gym, so hopefully I won’t have too far to go!
You can see this in stereoscopic 3D, and it looks stunning.
When I got back into Lumiose City, the power had returned and I was able to explore its northern and central portions. Just like a regular city, there are plenty of shops, people and confusing alleyways to explore and interact with. I quite enjoyed the parlor where you can get your Furfrou’s hair cut, especially since the changes remain in battle. There are multiple cafés and houses full of people who give you items as well as some neat shops that sell special items. Navigating the city puts the camera right behind your character, and pressing left or right on the directional pad rotates it around. This kind of dynamic control is certainly quite interesting and immerses you in the city, but sometimes it can get a bit annoying when you’re trying to find a specific shop and are continually panning the camera to see what’s around you. With a bit of refining, I can see this being a really neat feature in future games, though I wouldn’t mind an option for a top-down view to make finding my way around a bit easier!
If you’ve seen screenshots of Lumiose City, then you’ve probably seen the big Eiffel Tower-esque building in the center. Little did I know, this structure housed the fifth Pokémon Gym. I was excited to see what kind of interesting designs they had put into this one, especially since I knew that the gym leader was an inventor. I was a bit disappointed when it turned out to be a Pokémon gym where you needed to answer questions to progress, just like Cinnabar Island’s gym in Pokémon Red/Blue. There isn’t anything wrong with that kind of design, I was just expecting something more unique.
Now THAT’S one heck of a view
When I got to the top, I started my battle with Clemont and his team of Electric-type Pokémon. My Pokémon were under-levelled compared to his (remember, I’m avoiding most wild Pokémon encounters to make the game more challenging), which resulted in three or four defeats. Despite losing constantly, this is the most fun I’ve had with a gym battle in a long time. None of my Pokémon are particularly effective at battling Electric types, so I needed to study the gym leader’s moves to succeed. Towards the end, I was able to predict when and under what conditions he would use certain moves. It was a close call, but with some clever strategy I came out on top and it was immensely satisfying.
Professor Sycamore has just called me again. He wants me to meet up with him and Lysander in a nearby café. What will happen? Stay tuned until tomorrow!