Pokemon White Version
Review by Cenedarprime
"It's a brave new world...of Pokemon."
There's never an end to it, it seems. Every time a new hand-held console is born from Nintendo's billion dollar womb of electronics, it is all but guaranteed that a version of the infamous Pokemon franchise will show up on it. Ever since the original Red and Blue versions on the Game Boy (remember that big grey brick?) Pokemon has made a place for itself in the hearts of millions of gamers of many generations the whole world over.
Being a Pokemon veteran and having played at least one game from each generation, I've come to realize something. Pokemon continues to sell like crack to addicts because Nintendo seems to have pegged a perfect money-making formula of progression. Each generation has given us the same basic story, gameplay and focus for players. Catch all the Pokemon, battle and trade with fellow trainers, and become the ultimate Pokemon Master. Oh, and maybe take out a criminal organization while you do it.
While all this remains the same, Nintendo has changed things from generation to generation. For example, in Gold and Silver, we were introduced to the day and night system as well as a real life clock in the game. This made weekly events possible as well as changing Pokemon seen in the wild depending on whether the sun was out or not. Heck, there were even TWO regions worth of gym leaders, wild Pokemon, and trainers to see!
Ruby and Sapphire introduced latent Abilities for all species of Pokemon, in addition to the now infamous double battles. And the remakes of Red and Blue introduced this generation, FireRed and LeafGreen, came with wireless adapters to make battle and trade possible without all the fuss of connecting extra cables. Diamond and Pearl came with what many argue to be one of the biggest innovations, and that is online functionality. Yes, people the world over can now trade and battle each other from across the globe, simply by having internet access. There were other gameplay tweaks, such as the new split between physical and special moves, but these seem almost invisible to most casual players.
When Nintendo announced that Pokemon's fifth generation of core titles, Black and White, would not only be released on the DS family of systems, but mere MONTHS after the release of the best-selling remakes, HeartGold and SoulSilver, I admitted myself worried. I had begun to feel that while Pokemon was still a fun and addicting series, the true innovations in it had begun to become fewer and farther between. Nintendo then promised us that Black and white would be a true revolution to the series. It would truly shake up how things are done.
Well, Black and White have been in the USA for a little while now and many of us have beaten the main story and are on our way to either creating our ideal team for battle or are seeking to fill that now TREMENDOUS Pokedex. Is Pokemon Black and White the revolution to the series that Nintendo promised us?
No, it's not. However, Pokemon Black and White lay the groundwork for some truly revolutionary possibilities in the series, and are, by far, the most solid entries in terms of gameplay, story, and visuals (mostly). Whether you are new to Pokemon or haven't thrown a Pokeball in a few years and are looking to give it another go, get yourself Black or White.
Anybody who has played Pokemon before knows the drill. "Gotta catch 'em all!" (TM) is the battle cry of the series as it always has been, as you raise a squad of six Pokemon to fight trainers and wild Pokemon, defeat the evil toadies of Team Plasma, and eventually make yourself Champion. All tweaks to the battle system from the previous generations hold true to this game, and it even introduces two NEW forms of battles. Triple battles pit Pokemon in a 3-vs-3 battle where even a Pokemon's position on the field can influence where they can attack, and Rotation battles put teams of three Pokemon on rotating platforms. While both of these new battle types are fun and introduce their own elements of strategy into the mix, I feel like they were not utilized nearly enough to make them truly prevalent in the series. In the main story, I only had a couple triple battles and ONE rotation battle. These trainers are mostly available for repeated fights, but I still feel like Nintendo really didn't take full advantage of them.
I am happy to report, however, that it seems like Game Freak wanted to put a slightly higher emphasis on story. Team Plasma, the criminal organization in Black and White (a la Team Rocket in Red and Blue) seem much more dangerous and threatening, and at the same time relatable. They fight to "liberate" Pokemon from human trainers, believing that Pokemon and humans cannot truly be equals until humans set them free into the wild once more. They bring up an issue of morality that is surprisingly mature and slightly dark for the Pokemon series, and at times you may find yourself asking if training Pokemon truly IS unfair to the critters. And while the fights against them are not really harder than those against Team Rocket or Team Galactic, there are so many MORE members of Team Plasma that you feel like they have a stronger foothold in Unova than any team ever has in their own respective regions.
Online and connectivity functionality remains strong in these games. Players can now use their C-Gear to trade and battle their friends on the fly, without needing to hit the Union Room in the nearest Pokemon Center. This gives them extra options as far as connecting to friends and expanding enjoyment of the game. Also, coming on March 30th will be the Pokemon Global Link, allowing us to connect our games to the internet to check our global battle rankings, and even walk through our Pokemon's dreams in the Dream World, giving us access to items and Pokemon with unique abilities.
The gameplay is still as solid as ever and pacing has increased slightly, allowing for more fluid battles. If only those triple and rotation battles were used more...
This is where many fans are used to being disappointed. For years, Pokemon have remained as still "cardboard" figures on the screen during fights. Well, no more of that, said Game Freak. Pokemon now have idle animations during fights, and while they don't move differently when attacking, it still helps to make them feel more alive and less like an unmoving target. This does have it's downside though, when sending out your own Pokemon and looking at them from the back, they are closer to you and therefore larger on the screen, which makes them look slightly more pixelated and less pretty. It's not by much and you won't be going "Eww!", but it's still noticeable.
There are now 649 Pokemon total. Yes, that's right, 649. That makes even the intimidating 493 of the previous generation seem outright childish. This being said, as with every generation, the new Pokemon are a bit of a mixed bag in terms of design. I think some of the coolest Pokemon in the series have been introduced this generation, especially seeing the evolutions of the starter Pokemon. Others, however, are not quite as cool and look a little...well, they look as if Game Freak is beginning to struggle for ideas. I mean an ice cream cone makes sense for an ice type but...really? Ice Cream? Given this is subjective and your own opinions of the Pokemon this generation will differ from others. So that's a call to make for yourself. I'm not even taking a point off for the designs because they are so subjective.
The world in this game, known as the Unova region, is not based on a region of Japan like others in the series. In fact, some say it's more closely relatable to regions of the USA, especially in New York when you see the tall skyscrapers and industrial feel of Castelia City. Apart from this, Unova also appears to be the most visually diverse region in the series. Each town has its own true feel and theme, in fact the only buildings that look the same from town to town are the Pokemon Centers. Even the gyms have different outside looks now, which is great to see. Visiting each town truly makes for an engaging and ever changing experience, one I look forward to continuing even after I have become Champion of the Unova League.
I will start by saying this, Pokemon Black and White have the best music in the Pokemon Series since Red and Blue. There, I said it. The themes in this game very much fit to whatever battle scenario you are playing. When fighting your rivals, the theme is actually quite playful and almost child-like, since your rivals are still your friends. Fighting gym leaders and the Elite Four have their own epic themes, and the music even changes when you are on a gym leader's final Pokemon. Legendary Pokemon have their own intimidating and epic music, and Team Plasma has appropriately dangerous sounding themes.
Each town has its own unique track of background music to it, ranging from catchy to "meh, it's alright". My personal favorites lie in Opelucid City and Nimbasa City. The other big sound portion lies with the Pokemon themselves. While they still speak in two to three second bits of MIDI nonsense, they are still unique enough to sound different for each species.
This is where Pokemon has and always will be a truly great game. Even after beating the main story there are plenty of things to keep you occupied. Between taking on the Battle Subway, exploring the newly unlocked parts of Unova, and getting into the Pokemon Global Link (once it is opened) will keep you going for a while. And even after that, there are still a grand total of 649 Pokemon to see and collect for your Pokedex. Will you want to train them all to level 100? Almost assuredly not, unless you have the passion or took an extremely foolish dare. But you will at least want to see them all. And there is something to be enjoyed from pounding the Elite Four into rubble with a team of extremely over-powered monsters. It's a favorite past-time of mine.
Pokemon Black and White are not a true "revolution" or "re-boot" of the series as fans were hyping it up to be, or Nintendo for that matter. But between everything that IS new, to the fact that all you will see is new Pokemon until you beat the main game and can trade from older titles, I haven't felt this engrossed in a Pokemon title since, you guessed it, Red and Blue. (Yes, none of your older, uber-powerful critters until you beat the Elite Four!) But if you consider yourself a Pokemon fan or want to get into the series for the first time, do yourself a favor and make Black or White your first title. You will not regret it at all.
Replay Value: 10/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/21/11
Game Release: Pokemon White Version (US, 03/06/11)
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