Review by EJRICH

Reviewed: 07/21/11

A Black Gem

When a game series has been out for the length of time that the Pokemon series has, people are bound to notice a striking similarity between the successive titles of the series that usually pop up over time. Pokemon is no exception. Hailed as a revolutionary step into the next generation, Pokemon Black and White were supposed to change the way we thought about the Pokemon franchise with a bevy of new features. Did these two titles accomplish that goal? Nope. Are they bad games because of it? No again. Standing on their own two legs, Pokemon Black and White are quality titles for the Nintendo DS that outshine and surpass many of the current titles on the system today, let alone the rest of the franchise itself.

The first thing that must be noted about Pokemon Black and White is the fact that Unova is an absolutely gigantic region that puts many of the previous Pokemon regions to complete and utter shame. The sheer amount of nooks and crannies to explore in the world provided is simply staggering, and in a way, can be quite overwhelming at first for the casual person looking for a simple pick up and play affair. For those willing to continue on and explore, though, the Unova region is definitely a treat. Whether it be the frigid ice coolers of one town out to the west to the high mountain peaks of Victory Road, Unova literally has something for every eager adventurer out there. Everything is also beautifully animated on the graphics side of things, leaving a good taste in the mouth as the areas are explored.

So you know that the world is big, but how about the rest of the game? Believe it or not, Pokemon Black and White represent some of the deepest and most complex RPG titles out on the market today. The cool thing about it is that while they may be deep, they are also extremely easy to fool around with if you simply want to play the game. Not many titles offered today can say that. Starting off, Pokemon Black and White are turn-based games that rely on largely a text interface to relay information to the player. Pokemon are monsters that you capture and train to fight against other Pokemon. Standard RPG features such as hit points and experience points exist, and like in many other RPGs today, your goal is to reduce your opponents hit points to zero, thus letting you win. There are a multitude of Pokemon to capture in the game, along with a bevy of elemental types for the player to use if he or she so desires.

Some new features that separate Pokemon Black and White from their previous brethren include Triple and Rotation battles. Triple Battles are practically their namesake. You and your opponent will each have three Pokemon on the field at once. If you’ve ever played a previous Pokemon game before and have fooled around with double battles, practically the same rules apply on a more macro level. Rotation battles are different for the fact that they literally allow you to rotate up to three active Pokemon at once. Guessing which Pokemon your opponent will rotate in is both a mentally taxing as well as surprisingly complex affair, making it one of the more intricate new features of the game. Other new treats include a fully revamped roster of Pokemon for you to capture and experience (which consequently are the only Pokemon you can use up until a certain point, which is a welcome experience to say the least) as well as the ability to take part in WIFI battles over WIFI. The WIFI battles themselves are a decently fun affair, but a grievous mistake was made in the fact that players are virtually allowed to disconnect with no penalty whatsoever, killing any sort of competitive spirit in ranked or, to an even more saddening effect, in free battles. Meeting up with friends is still the easiest, and in many ways least maddening, way for you to experience a battle with a live person.

Storywise, Pokemon Black and White still offer the much of the same as previous titles, going along the lines of you being a young trainer who is setting out to capture Pokemon, get the Eight Gym Badges, and finally defeat the Elite 4. There is mind-numbingly annoying evil entity that the game provides to try to spark some interest in what they deem to be a story, but the setting and plot development are weak at best and should not be counted on to provide much enjoyment at all. It’s nothing to really slam the game over, but Pokemon has never really been about a grand story, and these games really don’t buck the trend in that regard.

Graphically, Pokemon Black and White are essentially still running on the same graphics engine as the previous HeartGold and Soulsilver titles, with a few minor changes such as in certain areas where buildings and other landmarks are portrayed in a sort of 3D effect. It’s a nice touch against and already colorful background, and while it doesn’t change the game tremendously, it does give a sort of satisfaction as you make your way throughout the different areas in which these graphical changes are present. Also, every Pokemon battle has finally been fully animated, so most Pokemon will now both move as well as in some cases, perform the attack chosen during battle. You still will not see a Pokemon attacking another, but it is a step in the right direction. Musically, Pokemon Black and White offer a rather light soundtrack that compliments the rather happy flow of the game. While nothing incredibly special, it is a fun soundtrack that never gets old as you traverse the many areas of the game.

Finally, it should be noted that while it may not be one of the most sought after things in Pokemon, the difficulty of the game has increased to the point where the game is actually of decent challenge if played the way the developers intended the game to be played. Over-leveling your Pokemon will still break the game in terms of difficulty, but if you just go throughout the game in a fun way and explore, you will never really be too challenged, but still challenged to a point where it keeps things interesting. A tough concept to explain on paper, but whatever.

Pokemon Black and White are quality titles that are a literal joy to play through. While they may not do much for the overall scope of Pokemon itself, they still sit atop the series as the best games that Pokemon has to offer. If for some reason you are on the fence in terms of getting this game, know two things: One, while they may not change a ton, the new region of Unova is actually worth playing through. While it was kind of hard to get through Ruby and Sapphires’ land mass, Unova is actually fun and exciting to play. Two, the absolute magnitude of things to do and experience is something to witness. If you need a title to kill time for whatever reason, this is the one to do it with. Pokemon Black and White are fun, addicting games that should be experienced if you have a Nintendo DS. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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