Pokémon X & Y Logo

I’ve been playing Pokémon X for the past few weeks–my first one since Diamond six years ago–and I still can’t tell if my lack of progress into the game is my fault or the game’s. I’m leaning toward foisting the blame onto the shoulders of all 718 Pokémon.

My major gripes with the Pokémon series have only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I’m not in 4th grade anymore, so I don’t have near endless hours to grind and level up my creatures.

Pokémon X & Y new creatures

Pokémon X takes some really big steps toward easing the grind (which was my biggest complaint before). Let’s count ’em off.

  1. All Pokémon that participate in the battle receive 100% of the EXP: That wasn’t the case in previous games (I think). This makes it easier to train multiple monsters.
  2. EXP Share is now a key item that affects your entire team: Holy shitballs yes. Instead of making it an item that a single creature can hold, Pokémon X‘s EXP Share can be turned on and left alone. It gives 50% (I think) of the EXP to all the creatures in your team.
  3. Catching wild Pokémon still earns you EXP: again this means a battle that ends with the satisfying click of a newly captured Pokémon isn’t wasted time.

These three things make raising a team of Pokémon that isn’t just your single, overpowered starter a lot, a lot easier.

So why am I over 11 hours into the game with only 1 gym badge?

Yeah. It’s you Pokémon

I don’t claim to be a Pokémon Master or something, but even with all these improvements, Pokémon X still feels like the same grind-y Pokémon games of yore.

The second problem I identified two years ago during my time with HeartGold still applies. Healing (and its cousin, Earning Money). you got two ways to heal your Pokémon: for free at the Pokémon Centers or with purchased potions. Berries might be free but they still take time to cultivate, so I’m lumping them in with potions.

You only earn money by defeating trainers or selling items, but there’s a finite number of trainers in the game. This limits the amount of healing items you can purchase. And thus it forces you into the monotonous cycle of fight a couple of wild Pokémon battles, get too hurt to fight any more, go back to town to heal at the Pokémon Center. Rinse and repeat.

Pokémon X gives you greater rewards for doing this lather, rinse, repeat cycle (woo shared EXP!), but it’s still a slow process. Considering the changes this particular game brings to the table, maybe there are ways to alleviate this and I just haven’t discovered them yet. With the 3DS’ wireless capabilities, perhaps you can earn money by battling other trainers over the internet. That’d be kinda cool actually.

Pokémon X MegaCharizard

However, for those that don’t have internet access/don’t want to play other people online, they’re kinda stuck doin’ the grind.

So what if wild Pokémon dropped sellables? Ignore the made-up word and stick with me. In other games enemies don’t just necessarily drop money (yeah it would be kinda weird if a wild Spoink was rolling with wads of 100s), but they drop skins, meat, bones, whatever. Stuff you can sell to shops for cash money.

If a Pokémon game did this, it would allow you to buy healing items to your heart’s content and not have to continually slink back into town to metaphorically lick your wounds.

I don’t buy arguments that eliminating the grind would somehow a) dilute the soul of Pokémon or b) make the games too easy. The soul of Pokémon is its creatures–the capturing, evolving, and putting together the best team–not the grind. And grinding doesn’t equal difficult. If anything, the older I get, the more I find grinding to be a waste of my time. I don’t look at an RPG that requires 80 hours to complete and think, “Wow that’s difficult.” Instead I think, “I don’t have time for that.”

So yeah, Pokémon. After getting this all off my chest (again), I can say with a skosh more confidence than at the beginning of this post, “It’s not me. It’s you.” We can still be friends, right?

Though considering how many millions of copies each generation of Pokémon has sold, maybe it really is just me…