Review by Slickyrider

"Another entry in one of Nintendo's greatest franchises; but does it offer anything new?"

General Overview

As the long-awaited Pokemon Black, and its counterpart, White, introduce the “5th Generation” of Pokemon, there is much to be expected, and admittedly, these games do deliver what has been promised: a fresh experience, in a new region, sporting a tad over 150 new Pokemon. Beginning with the standard fare: small town, two rivals (a tradition introduced in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum), and a Pokemon Professor which gives the hero his/her choice between a Fire-, Water-, or Grass-type Pokemon. A nefarious group of villains is introduced by the time the player reaches the second town. Though you won't find wild Pokemon that aren't completely useless for about an hour and a half of gameplay, your starter, and the elemental monkey Pokemon (whose type is weak against your starter's) given to the hero should suffice for that long.

The aesthetics of any game weigh heavily on the player's opinion of it, and Nintendo has pulled out all of the stops for Black and White, creating areas such as a metropolis with “skyscrapers that pierce the sky”, which is immediately followed by an arid desert route constantly plagued by a sandstorm. The different areas in Black and White are undoubtedly incredibly diverse, but do they offer anything new from what was seen in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum? I, the reviewer, cannot answer that question: it rests solely on the shoulders of the player, and my review may only change the reader's perspective if he or she so desires to agree with me.

Gameplay

As is expected, he player is charged with the task of embarking on a journey to become the “Pokemon Master”, which essentially entails: assembling a hand-picked team of a maximum of 6 Pokemon at a time (while the others are stored in the PC, which can be accessed from all Pokemon Centers and some other locations), defeating the 8 Gym Leaders, and advancing to the Pokemon League to defeat the Elite 4, the strongest Pokemon trainers in the land, then besting the Champion of the League, the most elite trainer of all. Of course, your path to the next objective is not linear: there are always story diversions to attract the player to another location, perhaps introduce new characters, or new Pokemon to be caught.

The battle system in these games has been improved greatly, no longer do your Pokemon emit animations of the selected moves, they are relatively animated while battling. This battle system is quite promising, revealing a mechanic to the players that has never been explored. It is still in the preliminary stages of development: say, a Pokemon were to use “Tackle”, one wouldn't observe the creature actually tackling its opponent. Otherwise, the system has mostly remained the same, with the exception of the addition of a few new moves (such as Incinerate, Work Up), and abilities (Victory Star, Telepathy).

The most critically-analyzed and deeply explored section of any Pokemon game would be...the Pokemon. Many are judged based on their design (one example of this would be Snivy, the Grass-type starter, who begot the name “Smugleaf” before it's Japanese name was released, due to its smug demeanor). While you may find that some of the Pokemon designs of this generation are a bit quirky, most of them are quite creative. While they all certainly aren't akin to a fire-breathing dragon, an oversized turtle with cannons mounted on its shoulders, or a monstrous botanic creature with a bulb on its back, the creators of the series have not lost their touch. I'll leave it to the player to probe the 5th Generation at their own desire.

The story of Black and White is quite intriguing. In the opening cutscene, preceding the game itself, a man garbed in ceremonial clothing is seen holding a crown. As the camera zooms outward, six sages are seen kneeling on either side of the room of the ceremony. The man in the center places the crown upon the head of a younger man (who looks incredibly similar to the one that presented him the crown), and the younger one takes a haughty stance, stretching his arms outward in such an arrogant way that would imply he is of great importance. Many questions are already raised by this single cutscene, and each one will be explored throughout the game's course.

Music

Pokemon Black and White offer a diverse soundtrack, whether it be the tune heard many times throughout the game of a wild Pokemon battle, or the upbeat music of Castelia City, Pokemon Black and White do not disappoint in this department. I assure that the player will discover at least one track in the game that he or she likes.

Graphics

The graphics have been slightly improved since the last installments in the series, Heart Gold and Soul Silver, and still feature the same “mock-3D” style first used in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. There have been a few augmentations, such as the aforementioned animated battle sprites, as well as a few areas in which the player is given different perspectives of the landscape, such as a bridge at the beginning of the game called Skyarrow Bridge. Those are the two integral changes in terms of graphics; therefore, pretty much nothing else has been altered.

General Rating

Positive:

Entirely new region to explore
New Pokemon, increasing the total number to 649
“Baby steps” taken to improve the overall experience
Emphasis and improvement on Wi-Fi gameplay

Negative:

Not enough done to change the game's overall feel

Final Note

Long-time fans of the series almost definitely have this game already, and are reading this review to see what others think of the game. Those that have been fans in the past, but have given up on the series, should revisit it by picking up Pokemon Black or White. I would discourage new fans of the Pokemon franchise from beginning their experience with this game, and instead starting with Fire Red or Leaf Green. Overall, this game is a fun installment in the series, with incredibly minor flaws that should not discourage the reader from buying the game. If you're going to get a Pokemon game, purchase it, don't rent it.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/10/11

Game Release: Pokemon Black Version (US, 03/06/11)


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