Pokemon Black (& White) offers gamers a slew of new things to experience in the world of Pokemon. Trainers have 150+ new Pokemon to catch and the brand new Unova region to explore. It is the newest entry in the series and in fact marks the fifth generation of Pokemon games. Pokemon Black/White introduces a lot of new elements to the series, but brings back everything that made Pokemon giant franchise. All of that is nice, but is Pokemon Black/White worth a purchase? The short answer is, Yes, Pokemon Black/White is worth both your money and time.
Pokemon Black starts like any other Pokemon adventure with a brief introduction to the town’s professor, in this case it’s Professor Juniper, and some menu options. Shortly after entering your details you meet Cheren and Bianca, your childhood friends. As you and your friends discuss life as Pokemon trainer, three Pokemon are delivered to your house and you must choose a starter Pokemon. As always, you get the first choice. Cheren and Bianca then choose the Pokemon they want. You will interact with Cheren and Bianca as you journey through the Unova region. Sometimes this could be practice battles, or just a small chat, but I really enjoyed interacting with Cheren and Bianca and hope this is something that can be fleshed out in new Pokemon games.
Besides this new level of interaction between your childhood friends, Pokemon Black/White offers other familiar story elements. Pokemon has always been about catching Pokemon to fill up your Pokedex, but is also about defeating the Elite Four and Pokemon League Champion to become the very best. Pokemon Black is no different, however, this time you will go up against another rival group similar to Team Rocket, the mysterious Team Plasma.
Team Plasma is a new rival group for the series and they plan to liberate Pokemon, then take them from their owners. They are against the connection humans and Pokemon share and are trying to release them for their own good. You will also encounter the mysterious N, one of your main foes throughout the game. He is trying to catch the legendary dragon Pokemon (Zekrom in Pokemon Black) and then use that Pokemon to achieve his ultimate goal. It is up to you to find and catch the other legendary Pokemon (Reshiram) and stop N and Team Plasma. This story will continue to chime throughout the game and even has a little twist that I didn’t see coming.
Playing Pokemon Black is not different from other Pokemon games. Gamers still catch and train Pokemon to use in Pokemon battles, with the ultimate goal of beating all eight gyms then going on to the Elite Four. This is hardly new, but it is a formula that doesn’t really need change. Some new elements include Triple and Rotation Battles. I honestly don’t remember running into any Triple Battles, but I did experience a few Rotation Battles. I was expecting one of these two new battle types to show up in a Gym battle, but it doesn’t. Aside from that, holding items is a feature that returns, as well as TMs, HMs and of course, day and night cycles. Seasons play a big role in these games as well, as some areas are only accessible during certain seasons; seasons change on a monthly basis.
Pokemon Black/White is easy to control. It follows the very same basics seen in other games; D-Pad for movement, A to confirm and B for cancel. However, as this is a Nintendo DS game there is some touch control involved. The touch screen features what normally would be your pause menu in the other games. Such menus are your bag, trainer card, Pokemon, etc. They are all easily navigated with the stylus and in fact streamline the entire experience. Touch screen functions are also found during battle sequences. Using the stylus during battle is done the same as navigating menus, and I found it to be a pleasant experience. In fact, when I wasn’t playing with the stylus I found myself stumbling through the menus more than normal. Another cool thing is the in-game clock; I wish more games would include this feature. It allows me to keep track of time while I play, might sound simple, but I think it is genius.
Graphically, this is hands down the best looking game in the series. Everything is represented with great looking 3D models and the world itself feels a little more expansive because of this. Using this style also allows for cool graphical effects such as Castelia City spiraling around your character as you move. Other neat effects included in the game are those such as hail and sandstorms, each adding a bit of atmosphere to the game. Aside from adding atmosphere, these effects can carry over into battle and can help or hinder you depending on the type of Pokemon in battle.
Battles overall are much better than past games as well. Pokemon are now animated, even if it is just a little. One thing that I could criticize is the lack of attack animations. Most attacks do have different attack animations, but what I’m really trying to get across is that it would look much cooler if the Pokemon engaged each other rather than just a few little effects.
Pokemon Black/White has the best music to date in my opinion. Each town has its own theme and music can also change depending on the situation. For example, when battling, the theme will change when your Pokemon reaches the red level. When this happens, the theme evolves into a darker one to complement the situation at hand.
Pokemon Black (or White) is definitely a great addition to the series. It adds new interesting gameplay elements while sticking to what made the series great. Graphically, it is easily the most impressive in the series and the same can be said for its sound design. There is a ton of replay value here with the main campaign taking around 20 hours to complete. With a robust set of online features and the inevitable training and trading Pokemon with friends, there’s a ton to keep you coming back.
Obtainment: Borrowed Review Copy