The game will occasionally and rather annoyingly block your path with various NPCs giving some contrived reason for why you can't get past, or you know just a giant sleeping Snorlax blocking the route, but one of Pokémon X and Y's best features is still the ability to wander and explore its world. There's tons of people to talk to, objects to interact with and branching paths to travel down, even when the game is ultimately funneling you in a single direction. It also does an excellent job of rewarding you for backtracking and meticulously hunting down every corner - there's a little bit of joy to be had in realizing that you missed a side corridor in a cave and trekking back to find a new item, and it always feels like there's something to see and do besides just fight random battles.
From breeding and berry farming to training and pampering your Pokémon, there's a bevy of activities to distract you from the normal grind. There's even a bunch of shops and options for customizing your character and a surprisingly in-depth video editor. Not all of these activities feel terribly necessary, or that well integrated, and some seem more like gimmicks tacked on to use some feature of the 3DS more, but on the whole it's better to have too much than too little.
For returning fans who may have skipped the last few generations, the online features give you access to other players at the press of a button. Being able to trade not only with your friends but the entire fan base makes tracking down specific Pokémon a lot easier. Game Freak has cleverly tweaked numbers and features to encourage you to interact with other players, like foreign Pokémon receiving more experience, certain coloration of Pokémon only being available in some regions, or certain special powers that can heal or buff your Pokémon being cheaper to use on others than yourself. It's a fair bit different from the days of huddling around a link cable, but the game has adapted well to the changes in technology.
The biggest problem with all of these options is how much it stresses the menus; nearly every action, even simple ones, requires navigating a tedious extra menu option. There certainly could have been some better consideration to what needed to be immediately available and what could have been integrated together. It gets a little grating that things like buying and selling items or depositing and withdrawing Pokémon from storage requires navigating back out to the previous menu. I'm already putting Pokemon in the box, why can't I just pick them up as well.
And the Pokémon themselves are back in full force. There were some standouts, but the last few generations of Pokémon design have felt a bit forced, as if generic everyday object got 'mon' slapped on the end and that was the driving force behind making many of the new designs. It feels like there's a breath of creative fresh air in the new Pokémon in X and Y. This is helped in no small part to the new graphics and engine. It won't be the first time that you've seen Pokémon in 3D, but it's a first for one of the core games on handheld. The switch from sprites to animated models looks great, and with a little creative camera work and effects, battles are a lot more visually enjoyable.
Bottomline: Pokémon X and Y is packed with a world to explore, activities to delve into and plenty of Pokémon to capture. You'll get caught up in Pokémon X and Y for hundreds of hours.
Recommendation: Unless you actively hate the franchise, Pokémon X and Y belongs on every holiday list this year.
This review is based on Pokemon Y because I didn't want a Princess Mononoke knock-off deer.