Review by keyos27

"Very close to being a perfect game"

Another 4 years passed, since 4th generation games which introduced a lot of new stuffs such as new Pokemon, Wi-Fi battle/trade, and many other features that we have enjoyed. We have experienced almost everything that had kept us entertained long enough so far, and now we got another new series Pokemon black and White. In my opinion, title names are perfect as they match to colors of legendary Pokemon. What can we expect more again? What kind of new features did Nintendo and Gamefreak prepare for us? Also what did they do to improve some of the weaknesses that we have experienced from the past? Their effort for 4 years is about to be revealed.

Story: 10/10
To be honest, I never thought I would give a perfect score on a story for Pokemon game. In fact, this version deserves one. The story is not just about a single protagonist traveling around the town collecting gym badges and defeating an evil organization to stop their plans to steal Pokemon and take over the world. It also contains a lot of serious and fun scenes related to the origin of legendary Pokemon and the goals of an evil organization called Team Plasma whose plan is to liberate Pokemon from human so that Pokemon can be free. Sounds much more intriguing than usual right? We get to see some strong and unique characteristics from antagonists, and there are 2 rivals who challenge you for Pokemon battles and help you during a journey. Dialogues are really well written and interesting, and the climax scenes will give you the best experience along with music, graphics, and atmosphere.

Gameplay: 7/10
This game has a lot of improvements as well as downsides. Sadly, Gamefreak did not manage to satisfy all the players despite of the fact that this game covered many issues that we have had in the past, and they also got rid of important features that they already had. Let's talk about positive aspects first. An interface, the menu itself pops out when you press X, unlikely a previous version like Heart gold/Soul silver, there is no menu on the bottom screen. No big deal but I think most players were happy with having a menu at bottom because you did not have to press a button to go to menu. But there is a reason why the menu is not at the bottom because there is something new called C-gear which contains 3 features that you can enjoy. First IR mode, it gives you an access to battle/trade, exchange Friend codes, and feeling check with people near you. What is amazing is that you can battle and trade at outside of Pokemon centers. Second one is Wireless communication. It allows you to enter the Entralink that contains Pokemon that were captured from the dream world and a place to travel to other people's Entralink to complete missions. Last one is On-line mode, this gives you an access to the dream world in which you need an Internet to enter, and you can catch and transfer Pokemon with special abilities to your DS and not only that, you get to decorate your house, plant berries and visit other people's houses once you exchange your Friend code with them.

Another important improvement is speed. No more slowness, everything got faster. Especially, when it comes to battling, you will notice numerous things moving fast such as Pokemon moves, weather effects which no longer show every turn, and HP bar. During a battle, you also can see the duration of the weather, for example if it is raining, it will show a rain sign one top right, and it also tells you how many Pokemon of your opponents have left so you no longer have to count or remember them.

Some changes were made for an item storage bag and PC box. You can now organize items by tapping a green button which automatically narrows them down in order of the same kinds of items. Also if you want to search for a specific item, you don't have to scroll down or flip pages, all you have to do is tap the scroll bar and it will move to where you tap right away, however the icons for items are shown at top screen and letters are small so some people may find Heart gold/Soul silver's item storage system better than this. PC box now can be completely controlled by a stylus. You can move your Pokemon from a box to any boxes no matter how far they are away. There is a new separate box called “Battle box” that let you keep maximum 6 Pokemon and they will be ready whenever you are about to battle. You will realize how convenient it is every time you use it. The number of shortcut items you can register by pressing Y is now unlimited. Basically when you press Y, it will show all registered items and all you have to do is choose the one that you like to use. You can change the order too.

And the most exciting news! TMs are infinite now! Now matter how many times you use, it won't disappear and you won't have to buy them again. Because of that the prices for TMs got ridiculously expensive but as it is always easy to earn money in Pokemon game, TMs being unlimited negate the high costs. But seriously Gamefreak should have done this from the beginning as seeing how many players including myself have suffered from getting and buying TMs every time we overlap moves. For last, EXP system got changed. If your level is higher than your opponent's, you will gain EXP but you will gain more when your level is lower, vice versa.

Next, let's talk about some in-game atmospheres, we now have a season, spring, summer, autumn, and winter and you get to see various types of trees and different Pokemon and people depend on season. Some Pokemon transforms into a different appearance and a few places are only accessible in a certain season. Pokemon center and shops are now united so you can heal your party and shop in the same place. There is a place called “Battle Subway”, it is just like a battle tower in previous versions where you get to battle various trainers consecutively to achieve a winning streak and face bosses to upgrade your trainer card which is the same as before. However the difficulty level got higher as Pokemon that enemies use are EV-trained and have non-gimmick move sets. As always, like a Pokemon contest and a Pokethlon, this time, we have a Pokemon musical. I should say it is the simple event of all time. You just have to dress up Pokemon by choosing appropriate accessories based on themes and throw stuff at audiences when spot light hits you. Dressing up is the most fun part, as you get to make Pokemon look totally different and extraordinary.

Another great new feature got introduced, especially for those who love battling, random matches. When you go to Wi-Fi, it will automatically search your opponents and you get to battle random trainers from all over the world. Unfortunately single is limited for 3 vs 3 and double is 4 vs 4, but you can enjoy other new battle systems such as Rotation, Triple, and Launcher battle. It would have been much better if 6 vs 6 were available.

Ok, it is time to talk about negative aspects. Remember in Heart gold/Soul silver, we had an auto run where you did not need to hold B button to make your character run? In this game we don't have it. We have to start holding B button that sometimes makes your thumb sweat and tired again. That is not the only thing that we lost. They also got rid of “Pokemon following you” feature which was so appealing. You won't be able to re-battle trainers or gym leaders because Both VS seeker and telephone do not exist. However, there are trainers you can battle daily and some of them have high level Pokemon that will give you a decent amount of experiences.

Now, I am about to let you know the major downsides for a competitive battle. An auto-level (50 and 100) for Wi-Fi no longer exists for 6 vs 6 both single and double which means you have to match your level to your opponent's level. Basically there are two options which are a battle without level restriction and Flat rule. In Flat rule, there is an auto level but only 50 still good but you only can do 3 vs 3. We really need an explanation from Gamefreak why they turned Wi-Fi system like this. How are we going to check Individual values and a base power of hidden power? And most importantly how are we going to raise every Pokemon we want to use in a battle up to standard level which is most likely level 100 to match with your opponents? We have just got more grinding to do. Also each team will get revealed before the match so opponents get to see what Pokemon you have which makes a battle more like a predicting war and unexcited. Some people find this more interesting and challenging but most people don't like it because you won't surprise your opponents much by giving hints and strategy to them.

Graphics: 9/10
We safely can say that Pokemon game's graphics is getting close to a standard 3D. This game proves it. They polished graphics for almost every element such as cities, natures, and Pokemon. As you travel each cities and villages, you will be surrounded by 3D buildings and colorful trees. As you surf over the sea or dive under the water, you can vividly see streams in a detailed and natural texture, and interior designs of gyms look outstanding in terms of how each obstacles move. The camera angle is another factor that makes its graphics awesome. For example, when you cross a bridge, it will zoom in and zoom out and at the same time a ship moves under the bridge and trucks run over the bridge. It just makes you doubt whether it is a Pokemon game or not. And finally, we now get to see an animation of sprites. Depends on Pokemon, you will be able to see various actions, some Pokemon flutters its wings while flying, others shake their tails and jumping at the same time, and fire types breathe flame from its mouth. Also when the HP gets low, the movement slows down, and camera moves itself by rotating and zooming in-out. We can definitely feel the effort of Gamefreak. Poke-dex has been upgraded with clean, simple and nice looking design. It will allow you to show shiny forms if you have caught one, and it contains animations for every sprites as a replay. You will feel a huge difference when you compare them with previous versions. It makes you not want to go back to old games. But there is one minor problem that everyone seems to agree with is that when you see your Pokemon from back in a battle, the pixel is too vivid and dotty that it makes you feel like you are playing this game with 16 bits. They could have made it little bit clearer but still satisfied and watchable.

Sound: 10/10
Pokemon BGM always has been a blast especially gym battles, Elite 4 and legendary themes. This game is no exception. There are many blend new music and sound effects that suit to the many kind of situations. For example, when the HP gets low, the music changes into a fast paced pattern with emergency kind of theme. Also when the gym leader's last Pokemon is sent, you get to hear classic + newly mixed battle theme. The boss and rival battle themes are epic and hardly get bored of listening as they give you a chill at a certain point. The sound effects for Pokemon moves and cries have improved dynamically. You also get to hear slightly different types of BGM in different season, and more various well-composed songs will be revealed after you beat the game.

To sum it up: Pros and Cons

+ Fast game speed
+ 3D environments with animated Pokemon
+ Simplified and improved menu, PC box and Poke-Dex
+ Infinite TMs
+ Internet compatibility

- Lack of re-battle features
- Berries can only be grown in Dream world
- No more auto-level for 6 vs 6 Wi-Fi, and auto-run
- Unable to skip dialogues with a stylus and have your Pokemon following you

Overall, this might be the best Pokemon game of all time. With an Internet compatibility features and advanced graphics in 3D as well as tremendous replayability while catching and battling amazingly looking new Pokemon, an exciting adventure is waiting for us.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/21/11, Updated 03/29/11

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

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