Game Rant’s Riley Little reviews Pokemon Black and White
Pokemon has been a massive series for Nintendo for over a decade, and since it’s been around so long it has built up quite a loyal fan-base. That’s why when Nintendo announces a new Pokemon game it quickly soars to the top of many most wanted lists. Now that the latest games have finally hit store shelves, Pokemon Masters everywhere have come out of hiding and are now fully immersed in Pokemon Black and Pokemon White.
For those who have managed to come this far without purchasing the game then they surely need to know what they’re missing out on.
Pokemon Black and White both start off similarly to other games in the franchise. You’re once again the child of a single mother, you love Pokemon more than anything else, and you set off on a journey to catch ‘em all – while simultaneously becoming a master Pokemon trainer. However, other than those staples of the franchise, the game’s beginning is pretty different. This time players won’t have to wander around their extremely petite village doing mundane tasks in order to go off into the world and start building a team – because players will select their starter right from the get-go.
The fine folks at Game Freak have also taken the initiative to give the main character two best friends that also serve as rivals – meaning they’ll be encountered and battled pretty frequently. Having two rivals also ensures that the one Pokemon that is left behind at the lab actually has a home this time, and isn’t just left on a desk to collect dust (something that was always a bit of a personal pet peeve). Neither of the rivals come across as Gary Oak arrogant, which doesn’t make for overly entertaining appearances, but each actually has a distinct personality that comes through clearly upon reading some of their dialogue.
The story is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable ones that the series has ever seen, which makes for a nice breathe of fresh air. Sure, the plot focuses on another team of deviants who are trying to paint the world in the image they see fit, but it’s a little deeper than most of the other Poke-plots.
Team Plasma and the 7 Sages are trying to liberate Pokemon from humans, so that they can all reach their true potential – like PETA. Team Plasma tries to accomplish their goal by running around stealing Pokemon from unsuspecting trainers. They do use Pokemon to battle – but they claim it’s strictly for the greater good. Are they hypocrites? Yeah, but that’s what makes for an interesting story.
The story may be better in Pokemon Black and White, but odds are that a lot of people aren’t purchasing the game for its story. Instead, they’ll be checking out the new land of Unova and all of the new Pokemon that inhabit it. The second players are exposed to Unova they will notice a substantial difference compared to past games in the series. Black and White are built on the same engine that was utilized in Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver, but Game Freak has implemented a panning camera which helps immerses the player even more. The cities now feel 3D and also help give players a better sense of scale when it comes to the size of these towns and cities – but the towns have received more then just an aesthetically pleasing 3D feel.
One of the first things aspiring Pokemon trainers will notice is that the Pokemon Centers and PokeMarts have now been combined into one extremely helpful building. Creating the PokeCentMart makes a lot of sense and those who are frequent flyers of both locations now save a lot of time that used to be spent running back and forth between the two locales. Gyms have also been upgraded and now feature even more interactive puzzles that must be deciphered before players are able to challenge the gym leader. Some of the new interactive puzzles include a roller coaster, massive cannons, and even walls made of honey that players can walk through.
The new Unova region is very cool, but it’s the new Pokemon that will take up most of your attention. Game Freak has completely booted out all of the previously known Pokemon (until the main story has been completed anyway), leaving only the new roster intact, and this is actually an extremely good decision on their part. For the first time since Pokemon Red and Blue players are thrown into an unfamiliar land as they encounter unknown creatures with new moves and abilities. It’s refreshing to walk into a cave and NOT see a Zubat or Geodude, however, in some areas it seems like they have just been replaced by the likes of Woobat and Roggenrola.
The Pokemon battles, themselves, have also seen a nice upgrade (both mechanically and visually). One much appreciated upgrade that fans have been asking for since Pokemon Stadium on the Nintendo 64 makes its debut in Black and White, and that is, of course, that now the Pokemon will actually move while in battle. The battle camera seems to have also followed the path the Pokemon took and it is no longer stationary, meaning that it zooms in and pans around which immerses players even further in the battles.
On top of the aesthetic upgrades to the battles, two new battle modes have now been incorporated and they are actually quite enjoyable. Triple Battles have a certain layer of strategy to them as Pokemon on the right and left can only attack the Pokemon in front of them as well as the enemy’s pocket monster in the center. However, your Pokemon in the center is able to attack all three of the Pokemon that your opponent has on the field. This is a fun option, but after eliminating two of your opponent’s Pokemon it’s just a two-on-one battle that seems more slow than enjoyable. Some Pokemon also have moves that can be combined to offer up severe damage, and that ability was previously only possible on the cartoon show.
Triple battles are a nice addition, but it’s the Rotation Battles that up the ante and bring about an experience that has never been seen in past titles. Rotation Battles increase the difficulty substantially and really require some form of solid strategy for anyone who plans on walking away with a victory. You can switch around the positions of your Pokemon before attacks and the opponent can do the same, and that makes for some enjoyable and hard-fought battles that fans, new and old, will be able to enjoy.
The final pièce de résistance that appears in B&W is the addition of some seriously awesome and long overdue online features that are now accessed through a new Key Item called the C-Gear. The C-Gear takes the form of a menu that fills the entire bottom screen of the DS handheld, and it will enable players to instantly trade or battle with any of the friends that they’ve registered. Pokemon can now finally be traded from their inbox, which means that you no longer have to boot up the trading room, trade six guys over, leave, and get six more.
Pokemon Black and White may not have the best visuals ever seen on the Nintendo DS – but they are still the best the series has ever seen. The way they’re utilized draws players further into the game than ever before, and long-standing fans of the franchise will appreciate every second they spend in Unova. The new battle mechanics and visual upgrades really change the way the world feels and looks, which adds some much needed revitalization. These games could very well be the best in the series and they have ensured that the Nintendo DS goes out with a solid bang before the Nintendo 3DS hits retailers.
Pokemon Black and White are available now for the Nintendo DS.
P.S. If this review has convinced you to purchase one of the games then you better act sooner rather than later, because the legendary Pokemon Victini is only available until April 10th.