"The Honest Review you REALLY wanted to read, born from 400 hours of playtime"

If you are even reading this review you have most likely already made up your mine to buy the newest releases, Pokemon Black and Pokemon White. You have either been with the series for awhile or are just getting back into it and looking for some time to waste while you wait for your game to arrive in the mail or store.

To those who are truly new, and those who know what to expect from a major Pokemon release but on the fence of weather of not to get this game, read on.

I'm unsure of WHERE to start with this game. I have been playing the main series since Pokemon Blue, played through Gold, Ruby, Leaf Green, Diamond, HG, Black and all the games in between, Japanese and US launches for some of these. Over the years I've played casually for the adventure and story, played competitively, and played as a game completionist over the years, though admittedly, the closest I've gotten to completion is collecting all 150 Pokemon in Blue, getting the Gold Trainer Card in Leaf Green and the Silver Card in Diamond. Depending on how you play, the overall score will differ for you.

Story:

I will not spoil anything story-wise for this game, you need to play it to really get it I believe(or you could look it up somewhere on the internet). Yes, you follow the role of an aspiring new Trainer who wants to prove his or her strength to the world and along the way you fight against an opposing organization and other would be greats. Each game has slightly altered or added to this tried and true game formula, like all successful Nintendo franchises, however Black and White goes further than that. Much further. If you played Pokemon Platinum and enjoyed the conflicts between Cyrus and Cynthia, and the details like the story of the swordsman who went around killing Pokemon for sport, then do note that this game takes that level of twistedness and honesty a bit higher. Oh, it's still good and clean, like before, but be warned that the world of Pokemon is more...exciting and dangerous than before.

Graphics:

Honestly, you are better off looking at screen-shots and videos, they do more justice than anything I could type.
But anyway, the over-world looks stunning, however battle graphics are a mixed bag. Those familiar with games prior to this will be happy to know that battles are more lively as Pokemon move constantly and camera angles change depending on attacks used. However sprites look pixelated and attacks, or well some of them are just inexcusable.

There were certain attack animations in Diamond/Pearl that got a graphical overhaul in HG/SS, and yet in B/W, they look about as bad as they did in DP if not outright worse. Why? Moves like Fly and Charge Beam look great and take advantage of the hardware with the camera angle changing and lighting effects gathering to the Pokemon, then letting loose in one stream towards a foe. And yet, you have a high power move like Psychic appearing on screen with a static, pixelated 2 frame animation. Why?

Regardless, the game is among the most well crafted on the DS.

Sound:

Again, impossible to feel from this review. Look up the music in videos or something. But know that the music sounds amazing and has an Earthbound like feel at times, which isn't such a shock, considering that a good number of people that work on the Pokemon games worked on Earthbound/Mother series.

Gameplay:

To those new to this series, here is how it goes down. You get your Starter Pokemon, and use it to catch other Pokemon for battle/collecting purposes. All the old staples and elements of strategy from past installments are in, and many are updated and changed.

While the number of new attack/abilities is dwarfed compared to the number of new Pokemon, alot of old moves/Abilities got boosted or have added effects. Nothing TOO surprising, seeing as how GameFreak has been doing this since Emerald back in the GBA era of games.

However, there are certain gameplay elements I appreciated and those I simply did not care for.

The new Trainer Gear that appears on the bottom of the screen is known as the C-Gear. It's function is to show the time, battery life, and allow Trade/Battles and sending your Pokemon to a website to play mini-games basically. This sounds good on paper, but it really disappointing when in Diamond and Pearl you have a device that told the time, showed a Pokemon type chart, Pokemon in the Daycare, a Berry plant app, a drawing app, a color app, timer, and about a dozen other fun apps in comparison. Even in HG/SS, you could access a bunch of menus and auto run from it's touch screen.

The new main "fun" mini-game taking the place of Contest, Pokemon Musicals, also suffers from not being as well made as it could have been. In this game, you dress up your Pokemon, choose a musical to participate in and watch them dance on stage, with little to no control whatsoever. There are pieces that let you appeal once or twice, but that is about it. The dancing mini-game in the Super Contests in D{/Pl was more in-depth and fun than these honestly. After playing the Pokethlon and it's 10 mini-games, you will find it hard to even find this mini-game remotely enjoyable.

Another gripe is the lack of a way to re-battle Trainers aside from the Elite 4 anytime you wish. In the games of Fire Red/Leaf Green and up, there was an item called the VS Seeker that allowed you to re-battle almost any random trainer with a higher leveled team. Even HG/SS had the Pokegear which while not as free as the VS Seeker, still let you re-battle someone at anytime of day if you had all the Phone numbers. B/W does away with the concept almost altogether and has a random set 21-29 trainers to be fought once daily in a few spots on the map. It's easy to level up in these games with an experience system that helps more than it hinders in the long run, but going to the same 3-4 grinding spots really makes the rest of the game world feel empty after the main story is over, which is a shame, as the game world is beautiful and full of life visually.

Another gripe I had is that certain game functions like decorating a room/base and growing berries are negated to a website, that you get a time limit onto. It's not just the fact that both are extremely limited compared to past versions in the games, but really, taking out two features loved and restricting them to a website you can't even use more than once a day? If not for the ability to win a few trophies and certificates for your in-game room and stealing a few berries from wild Pokemon, I would honestly rage even more at this being nerfed as it is.

In the defense of the nerfing of personalization, one can alter their Trainer Class, Nature, and such on their Trainer Card and participate in a few surveys among other things. You can even make a simple animation on your Trainer Card which is cool. You can even go on Missions in Wireless mode with a friend to win Powers to gain more money/exp gains and more, a shame their are no 1P missions for the same purpose, like in Diamond/Pearl with the Underground.

The online aspects of the game suffer/are blessed by the same things. While it's cool you can battle online against random people it's only 3 on 3 set at level 50, and the Auto level 100 cap is gone for Wifi battles against friends. The GTS still suffers from the same problems as in Gen 4 but has a new feature with Negotiations in which you can trade and see what other people have in real time.

Worth noting that in B/W there are two main areas that differ wildly from one another in the opposite version, 1 area requiring another game to link with to unlock it's full potential. Would not be a problem if you could do this online, but it's local wireless only. Again, I ask, why, when the online portions of the game got boosted so much.

Basically, the game is a few steps forward and a few steps back. While a good game in it's own right, it is truly the remakes/3rd version that we all await. To the credit of this game, I enjoyed it more than Diamond and Pearl when they were first released.

For the casual player, this game is a 9. The story and 1P campaign will last you a while and you'll love traversing the world gathering new Pokemon friends. You may even feel strong emotions towards the end at certain characters.

For the competitive player, this game is around a 7, for while you can still train and do it better and faster than before, limitations from certain design choices limit you on training regimens such as not being able to grow EV reducing berries. However, the Battle Subway and it's options will last you a while and random wifi is fun to play when you get matched up with good players.

For the completionist, this game is a 7. Plenty to do, but not as much as past entries like DPP and HG/SS in terms of postgame content.

Enjoy the dungeon.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/10/11

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


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