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Pokémon X & Y: Nintendo series looks set for an evolutionary leap on 3DS

3D environments and cross-type Pokémon on the agenda for 6th-gen instalment...

In a way, last week's Pokémon X & Y announcement was similar to the news that Royals Wills and Kate are expecting a baby. We were all expecting it would happen eventually, but that didn't stop parts of their fanbase almost losing their minds when it did.

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It's understandable, because for many gamers of a certain generation Pokémon is a reliable constant, a series that continues to offer the same addictive, OCD-itching gameplay they remember from their childhoods without succumbing too much to modern gaming's need for extra bells and whistles.

Have a look at Pokémon Red and Blue on the humble Game Boy, then take a gander at last year's Pokémon Black & White 2. Other than the inevitable need to improve graphically, both share very similar core gameplay. Appropriately, given the game's subject matter, every Pokémon game has been an evolution rather than a revolution - and despite offering the biggest graphical kick up the backside the series has seen to date, Pokémon X & Y will continue this tradition.

At first glance, the Pokémon X & Y trailer shown last week looked like a complete reboot for the series and seemed to offer the full 3D Pokémon adventure fans have been demanding since the days of the GameCube. It's only when you look at each scene closer that you realise this is actually the same Pokémon fans have known and loved for more than 15 years.

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You can now use rollerskates to travel quickly

Cleverly, despite looking like a brand new take on Pokémon, X and Y is just another evolution in the series. The 3D environments are just like those in Black and White, only the detail has been greatly improved (thanks to the power of the 3DS) and the camera angle has been shifted from a generally top-down view to a more dynamic, active one with lower shots. Though the game now looks like a "proper" 3D adventure, when you break it down and look closely, the only real drastic change that's been made - other than the obvious increase in detail - is the switch from sprites to polygonal models.

"The battles will undergo the first proper visual overhaul since the series began in the '90s"

Yes, generation six means the hero trainer you play as is no longer a sprite and is fully polygonal for the first time in the series, meaning Game Freak no longer has to perform the fancy sprite-scaling tricks it had to do any time it wanted to move the camera in Black and White. Now that the heroes are polygonal the camera is free to swoop around freely, providing more dramatic angles as you explore the various areas in the game's new, as-yet unnamed region. The best-looking Pokémon game ever? It's a dead cert.

If Game Freak makes good use of this newfound camera freedom, it means it could more easily give each town its own unique feel. Pokémon games used to struggle to make each town feel different since the camera was fixed and various buildings - the Pokécentres, Gyms etc - all looked the same. With only a handful of exceptions, most towns felt fairly generic. Now, with the ability to set the mood with dynamic camera angles and the extra detail offered by the 3DS, the towns can potentially feel far more varied.

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The switch from sprites to polygons won't just have an impact on the exploration sections - the battles themselves will also undergo the first proper visual overhaul since the series began in the 90s. Gone are the days of sprites squaring up to each other with looped animations while "moves" take the form of effects appearing on top of them.

Instead, expect more elaborate Pokémon Stadium-style battles with proper attack animations, more impressive effects and, once again, that newly-liberated camera flying all over the shop to make things more exciting. We hope there'll be an option to turn these animations off, though - as great as we're sure they'll be, grinding could become a proper pain if you have to sit through a small epic every time you want to perform Scratch on a Rattata.

Of course, that's assuming you'll be able to find a Rattata right away. While the trailer shows older, familiar Pokémon scrapping with each other it's not yet clear whether Pokémon X and Y will feature Pokémon from previous generations in its main adventure, or whether it'll be like Black and White and only feature entirely new Pokémon, unlocking access to the older ones once the main story's been beaten. It's not yet been confirmed how many new Pokémon will feature but we have at least seen five newcomers - the three starters and the two legendary Pokémon that are likely to grace each game's cover.

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