Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-10-16 16:14:04
Pokemon Amie is Awesome
Like a lot of gamers right now, I have the Pokemon fever. X and Y, the two latest games in the popular series, have done a good job of breathing life into a series that was fast becoming stale. They have achieved this through a variety of means, but perhaps one of their greatest successes is Pokemon Amie, as it allows you to do something that people have wanted to do in Pokemon games for years - actually interact with your Pokemon.
While the system is relatively simple as it's an optional minigame, it fulfills its basic purpose and works surprisingly well. Pokemon Amie is an in-game little app that makes use of the 3DS' online features remarkably well. At its simplest level, it's a small little place where you can feed your Pokemon and play minigames with them. If that was all Pokemon Amie was, it would be a cute little addition to the game. Surprisingly, there's a little more to it than that.
There is something incredibly cute about stroking your Pokemon with the stylus and getting them to make contented noises and faces as you rub their ears and belly. Playing with them increases your bond with the Pokemon, which has various benefits, including helping Eevee to evolve into the new Pokemon Sylveon. It's fun to get a treat and feed it to your Pokemon - they respond realistically as they munch on it, and the little love hearts of adoration that come out of them reminds me of looking after Tamagotchis as a kid. That all the Pokemon in the game are programmed in (a number around the 700 mark) is pretty impressive, and a lot of effort has gone into making sure that all Pokemon can be interacted with and will react with their own animations and behaviours. Rubbing the belly of an intimidating Pokemon like Pangoro is amusing, especially when he shows his fangs and puts on a gruff face while resisting stylus tickles.
Outside of actually playing with the Pokemon, Pokemon Amie has a few other benefits. You are able to customise your little Amie hub with wallpapers and decorations, which adds a nice personal touch to your bottom screen. More interestingly, though, is that you are able to put food out for other Pokemon to eat, which in turn will help them to become more content. These Pokemon can either belong to strangers or friends on your Friends List - as long as you have an internet connection, all sorts of people can stop on by to have a nibble on the food you have put out. It's really cool that I can look down at my 3DS right now and see my girlfriend's Eevee chewing on a Poke-puff that I put out for her to eat.
The system is in its infancy - it will be quite a few years before the world of Pokemon becomes as immersive as it deserves to be. That said, I find that Pokemon Amie does a good job of doing two important things well: firstly, it allows you to interact directly with your Pokemon, and while the amount of things you can do with them is limited, it is undeniably cute and enjoyable to stroke a Jolteon or play a tile puzzle game with a Charizard. Players have wanted more personal connections to their Pokemon outside of the pixels in battles for a while now, and Pokemon Amie is a step in the right direction to achieving this level of intimacy.
Secondly, Pokemon Amie's limited - but well-executed - online capabilities, allowing you to feed other players' Pokemon as a background process (and likewise, they can feed your Pokemon) is a step closer to making the world of Pokemon feel more alive and bringing players together. What may seem at a glance to be a tacked-on minigame is anything but. A lot of people I speak to about Sonic Adventure list the Chao Garden as one of their favourite things about the game. I doubt Sonic Team expected it to be as popular as it is, but plenty of people fell in love with it all the same because it was cute and fun. Pokemon Amie is similar in that lots of gamers already love it and express their belief that it adds a considerable amount of personality to the world of X and Y. I don't disagree - it brings the world of Pokemon to life in a way that the handheld games haven't done before, and I look forward to seeing how it can be improved upon in future installments of the franchise.