Pokémon Black and White are the two newest games to the Pokémon franchise. As with all of the previous games; one version has Pokémon that can only be obtained via trading with someone who owns the opposing version. Aside from that, 2 areas; White Forest and Black City are available to their respective versions, each filled with Pokémon unavailable for capture pre Elite Four.
Pokémon White is a return to the winning Pokémon formula that has seen its way through three generations of handheld console. You start of as a wide eyed teenager looking to explore the world, you leave your house you go see the resident professor with your two friends/rivals. The professor then gives you a choice of a starting Pokémon; Snivy (grass), Oshawott (water) and Tepig (fire) to take on your journey. The remaining Pokémon will be taken by your friends Bianca and Cheren; Bianca taking a Pokémon with a weakness to your starter and Cheren taking your type weakness.
You then set off on your journey battling trainers, capturing wild Pokémon, defeating gym leaders and your rivals and the new villains: Team Plasma. Team Plasma replace Team Rocket (and all other spin offs) as the main threat throughout the game and serve as the main plot to the game. Team Plasma is preaching that Pokémon should be free and all trainers should release them, whether it’s by choice or by force. They tend to be slightly weaker in comparison to the gym leaders and trainers in the areas nearby so they should never halt the storyline for you.
Where this generation takes a turn is that the new Pokémon introduced in this game are the only Pokémon available until the main story is complete. Afterwards the second half of the continent opens up with the Pokémon from previous versions all at level 50-60. I found this at first to be very underwhelming as was adamant to have my old team back but I was very wrong. This game feels like the first in the series, with everything being fresh; I was like starting a new adventure with never quite being sure about what Pokémon you would meet or what it would do to you. This is enhanced by rarely or never before seen type match-ups making every battle and encounter feel like your first Pokémon adventure.
There are some new battle types added to the Pokémon formula, with rotational battles and one-upping from 2 way battles; Triple battles make their way onto the scene.
Rotational battles involve changing to adjacent Pokémon without penalties in a full party battle. Triple battles are a very difficult beast to judge as the Pokémon with wide ranged moves that can hit multiple targets have a severe edge in combat to those that don’t; so planning who to take is a big deal and more so than dual battles.
Seasons have also been added to the game, these change the chance of a Pokémon appearing as well has having environmental affect which equates to extra night time during winter, longer days in summer and snow piles in winter that make some areas accessible or inaccessible.
The interface is slightly clunkier than previous games as the bottom screen no longer contains a menu for access to bags and Pokémon from the off but instead a hub for all the connectivity options. The options being online, infrared and wireless, these are just basic connectivity options all the battles, online trading and union room are all still available in the Pokémon Centre. The C-Link online is for the Pokémon Dream World which lets you catch some unavailable Pokémon by registering your game online. Infrared is for sending friend codes, trading and battling where wireless is inappropriate and doing feeling check which earns items for in-game (most importantly heart scales; which are used for relearning moves). C-Link wireless has two options; X-transceiver which lets you talk and see other Pokémon owners who have a camera and microphone as a video call feature and there is the Entralink. The Entralink is a zone in the middle of the game world which serves two purposes: The first purpose is to give access to the Pokémon Dream World and catch Pokémon associated with it, the second purpose is to access another player’s world and help them with small missions. These missions range from hiding items in their world to healing them in battle, all of which benefit them, while you gain rewards via trading the pass points you earn for completing missions.
Graphically it’s similar to the previous DS Pokémon games but with a few bells and whistles added such as; full 3D environments (rare but quite spectacular (usually)), more battle animations on the sprites and a few changes to the graphics for old sprites and moves as usual. The 3D can bring a bit of the wow factor when you see a sight for the first time; such as crossing the huge bridge to the main continent. Sometimes it is used in quite an over the top way with the isometric view rotating slightly to see more of a west/east facing door as you enter the building. Some of the sprites are less impressive than they should be due to the DS’s resolution, hopefully meaning this will be the last generation of Pokémon with rough looking sprites for the 3DS and any future platforms. The colour pallet is nice as well, with it being consistently bright but not off-putting. The environments as usual are designed to be as appealing as possible with it always flowing nicely between beach and grass, forest and pathways and murky caves are always dark but still manage to feel full of colour.
As with all Pokémon games the audio is top notch, with the music changing pleasantly between locations and battles and the Pokémon’s cries still sound good despite the age of some of them. The traditional battle music has been added too which at first can sound overproduced but as with this generation in general it is just another thing that you will warm to after very little time. Location and battle music always slip to and from with no problem. Special encounters have a wonderful sense of emergency about them even when your team are 20 or more levels higher than the legendary you’re tracking down. The moves in and out of battle (HM’s) have a very satisfying sound when used, with water splashing and bites and scratching making equally satisfying noises. There are some environmental sounds for weather, with thunder storms being my personal favourite.
As with all Pokémon games it has the presentation to a very high standard, but these standards need to be pushed further soon as they can’t ride the same success forever. It is always full of colour and the seasons add to make there be a little bit more variation. Some sprites loo particularly bad when brought up close and some of the newer Pokémon are really not worth grabbing from the cutting room floor in terms of aesthetic appeal.
The sound in Pokémon has never been bad and this game lives up to the same standards. The music flows really well, battle sounds are all appropriate and memorable.
The same old Pokémon gameplay with small mini-games, online and wireless features and some new additions to make battles more varied make this the most substantial Pokémon to date and will have you enjoying the game past its natural end.
Catching all of the Pokémon will take upwards of 70 hours easily, and that’s with online trading being abused efficiently. Your first play through the main game will take 30-50 hours depending on your experience with previous games. Anyone playing this should end with gameplay time reaching over a hundred hours if you’re going for a full or mostly full Pokédex. That and the plethora of online and connectivity features means you should always have something to do.
Overall – 5
Pokémon is a winning formula and is difficult to find unappealing. It brings enough new features to be taken as more than a carbon copy of previous titles but lacks any true innovation in terms of gameplay elements. Any fan looking to rejuvenate their love for Pokémon should buy this and any newcomers longing for a long lasting immersive game will be more than pleased with it.
At first reveal I was very sceptical and even more so as I trawled through the new Pokémon line-up but after having racked up almost 60 hours game time I am pleased to say this is a return to form. It feels like playing the first game in a series because of its limitation to only new Pokémon for the first half of the game, so it left me new to all the mysterious type combinations. It also has a different layout to the previous games so don’t expect an easy ride against bugs, grass and normal at the beginning, it really adds a lot more variation which I found made me make more tough decisions on what to train and keep in my party. If you want to relive that first exposure to Pokémon; pick this game up it really is worth the ride.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.