Review by Mykas0
"A renewed Pokemon adventure, but is it still worth your money?"
Another year, another Pokemon rpg. Unless you've been hiding inside a cave for more than a decade you probably already know what this is all about - defeating eight gym leaders, facing some stronger trainers and then proceeding to capture all the beasts. Although that basic spinal cord is still here, this new game also has some very innovative mechanics, ones that will certainly please older fans and new players alike, and they are easily seen as soon as your start playing.
It's true that your character acquires his very first pokemon in the usual conditions, but just as you're stepping in your very first patch of grass you'll see one of this game's most interesting changes... unlike before, where you'd be instantly attacked by some known creature (probably a Pidgey, a Rattata or a similar enemy), in this new game you'll be seeing a lot of new creatures. In fact, until you complete the first half of the game you'll never even see any known beasts, which adds an extremely interesting strategical component to the game; deprived from the same creatures you've been seeing for years, this game actually gives you the opportunity to experience the Pokemon series as if you were playing it for the very first time. Not knowing what kind of creatures you'll be seeing next - unless you resort to a guide, that is - you can end up feeling that each captured creature is special, and you have the opportunity to fully reinvent your team.
Another interesting change is the fact that this game, unlike its predecessors, doesn't rely on HMs to keep you from accessing new areas. They're still here, but you'll have to use them a very limited number of times to complete the main storyline. No longer do you have to keep a useless creature along with rest of your party, which you'd use whenever you wanted to reach new areas. Instead, the usage of those gameplay seem to block mostly optional areas, which you can face whenever you want - before or after completing the main storyline.
Now, I'd be more than glad in trying to announce some changes in the main storyline, but all the classical Pokemon elements are still here; you have to face some bad guys, defeat all gym leaders and... you probably know it all by know, but this game can actually surprise you by giving you something (slightly) new... instead of just leading you around all the badges and having your main character face a team of bad guys, the main storyline pretty much swaps the main tasks, fusing them in a whole new way. Obviously, the storyline is certainly not a Shakespearian tale, but it has more interest and innovation than ever before, even if by sticking to the same focal points.
However, the most impressive change this game has to offer comes in the form of its multiplayer features. The classic trading/battle options are still here, but this new title also presents players with a vast myriad of new features. Ranging from three on three battles (some of which have special rules) up to C-Gear (an easy-to-use mode that provides enhanced connectivity features), I cannot help but feeling that the Dream World deserves a very special mention. This new mode, which you unlock very early in the game, is an online mode crowded with mini-games, which gives you the opportunity unlock rare creatures and grab new items. Since most Pokemon acquired in this mode are not unlockable in any other way, this is a fancy new option that all trainers will enjoy exploring, even if there's no real cooperative connectivity besides item trading.
Unfortunately, not everything is good about this game, and it seems to suffer from an extremely infrequent problem - having more than 650 different creatures for the player to capture, this game has a pretty high play time, but it can also upset newer players. There is a very limited number of players who are actually willing to go and capture every single one of those beasts, and by providing, in the second half of the game, several creatures in a very limited space it ends up being terribly hard to capture particular creatures even if you know where they're placed. In the very same patch of grass I managed to find a Kangashkan, a Fearow and some others, but trying to re-encounter some of those creatures also seemed a lot harder than in the previous games.
Such basic flaw also leads me to a more important one - between different areas the encounter ratio seems to widely vary, in a bad way. There are places where you may find the very same creature 10 times in a row, and other places where you'll face a battle every two steps. Unless this is an unmentioned plan to get the player to use, from time to time, items that keep wild beasts away, I can't seem to find a real sense behind this flaw.
Overall, this game also seems to be easier than before. Some players could easily state that this depends solely on who's playing, but this problem goes further than that; instead of keeping the dungeon layout of previous games, here you'll also see doctors (who fully heal your team for free, no matter how many times you ask them to) in strategical points, ensuring that you never have to face any major battle with a weakened team and giving you the opportunity to advance further in the game without much effort.
Technically, however, this game is rather impressive. Every pokemon is finely animated, and not only when they enter the battlefield (as before) but in every single second of battles, with improved animations for attacks and waiting poses. The three-dimensional world from the previous games has been improved, but all Pokemon are still in 2D, striking their opponents with beautiful (and, it seems, less repetitive and more accurate) special effects. A special mention should be given to the creature design; while some creatures are complex, innovative and beautifully drawn, others are so simplistic they end up being ridiculous, such as the case of Mamepato (an actual pidgeon), or Meguroco (a crocodile).
The songs heard in each area are now a lot better, and you'll often feel that you actually have to hear them, instead of simply turning them off as you might do in other games. The voices of all Pokemon are of the same quality as before, but I really doubt anyone would buy this game (or decline to) because of that.
To make a long story short, should you buy this game or not? The answer comes down to two simple questions: do you really feel like capturing 650 Pokemon? Do you have the required hardware to play this game online? If your answer to both questions is yes, then you should certainly buy this game. However, if you just answered no to both questions, I really believe that it is better for your to stay away from this game. Despite its updates to a classical formula, in the long run you'd possibly dislike this game, best played by those who can actually play it online.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/10
Game Release: Pocket Monsters White (JP, 09/18/10)
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