Pokémon Black and White

10 Overall Score

Written by on April 27, 2011 in

 

One of the first games I ever played was Pokémon Red.  From the very start, I loved it all.  I swore to be the very best, like no one ever was.  To catch them was my real test, to train them was my cause.

Since I first started up Red on my big ol’ grey brick Gameboy, I have been hooked.  I have played every generation since including the remakes.  I have seen Gamefreak take Pokémon from a glitchy, simplistic, and unbalanced game, to the massive franchise it is today.  Each game slightly improving on its predecessor, adding game mechanics, types, and of course, Pokémon.

So now we have Generation V, Pokémon Black and White.  So what sets these games apart from the smorgasbord of other Pokémon games?

Here is the breakdown.

STORY:

Typically, Pokémon games have always been weak on the story side.  Usually the story can be contained in: You, kid, get Pokémon and beat up gym leaders.  Fight the arbitrary bad guy gang as well.  And CATCH THEM ALL! Nothing more, but nothing less.  Starting from the little town of Nuvema Town you go forth to complete the PokeDex that the professor gave you.  Once you reach the next town, you meet Team Plasma and the story starts.  From then on out you will meet Team plasma a LOT as you travel throughout the world to get the 8 Gym badges (the Pokémon equivalent of boss battles)  and eventually are allowed to take on the great and powerful Elite Four.  You gradually level up and get stronger, with stronger moves and more Pokémon.

The bad guy gang has always been mostly uninteresting and just tacked on of the sake of having any sort of narrative.  Black and White, on the other hand, actually manages to produce a fairly engaging narrative.  This time the baddies, Team Plasma, are portrayed as an extreme version of PETA.  Their whole goal is to separate people and Pokémon by using.. umm… Pokémon.  Yeah, they are riddled with hypocrisy, which actually makes them more interesting.  Black and White will even portray some NPCs as unsure whether or not Team Plasma is doing the right thing or not, including Team Plasma members. The main antagonist, N, who you meet fairly early on, is also interesting.  He and you are supposedly part of some crazy prophecy and you have to awaken the legendary Pokémon.  N is a little off and actually has a strange respect for you yet despises the fact that your Pokémon actually trust you.  It is actually very interesting.  The Gym leaders also make a lot of cameos, sometimes a few too many, but it is nice that Gamefreak has given the personalities and motivation for doing what they do.  Usually when you go to a town with a gym, the leader won’t fight you, or simply won’t be there, until you complete some random task, usually involving Team Plasma.

However, the ending is where the story gets good.  This is a nice ending that was quite unexpected from a Pokémon game.  I won’t spoil it, but even if you did see it coming, it is still very interesting and gives much more depth and purpose the story so far. There is also a lot to do after the game “ends.”  When you beat the Elite Four you realize that you have only seen about 2/3rd of the map.  So there is a lot more to go and see.

Your “rivals” are also somewhat different from earlier titles and you see a lot more of them.  Have you seen Bleach?  Yeah, your “rivals” are basically Uryu and Orihime.  The serious, calculating trainer who simply wants to be the best.  It is nice to see that Cheron (Uryu) does seems to better understand why trust is important with his Pokémon and the question posed to him by the Champion is deeper than simply “do you care for your Pokémon?”  They even delve a little but into the purpose of what power and strength mean and question what the end goal should be, especially with the Champion.  On the other hand, there is the klutzy, caring girl who messes up a lot.  Unlike Cheron, Bianca (Orihime) is a terrible trainer, and even that gets questioned as to what her purpose is.  Her role is usually the comforter and “bodyguard” for the Professor.  She is caring and lovable, but not very bright.  What little character development there is for these two, and all the rest for that matter, it is interesting enough to keep you listening and caring about them, even if it is somewhat predictable.  They even spend time working on back stories for each of the characters and try to give them as much depth as possible in the short amount of time you speak with them.

 

GAMEPLAY:

 

The biggest thing, and the main reason I was very interested in Black and White, is that their 150 Pokémon are all new.  None have been seen in previous games.  Now, for those you have never played Pokémon, this may be unimportant, but for me, who has played every stinking game, it is nice.  In other games, I was always making sure that I was trying out the new Pokémon and avoiding staples that have been set in many games.  No more Pikachu.  No more Dragonite.  It’s all new.  This is a definite plus.  It allows for new, interesting type combinations that have never been done, such as a ground/electric type, a ghost/fire and many others.  The Pokémon are also very well balanced throughout the game.  You will find some very good Pokémon early on and some even better ones late game.  It allows you to get a set team early enough and when you reach middle to end game, you may only want to switch out one or two instead of having to retrain an entire team.  I found that Diamond and Pearl were poorly balanced in this aspect, and some of the good Pokémon seemed few and far between  and I felt I was continuously ending up with similar teams.  Black and White gave many different team options.  Also, the game seems to be far more balanced when it came to leveling.  Each gym leaders’ Pokémon were just a little bit higher level then you and the game never really forces you to do too much grinding.  It is just very well paced.

This is a Pokémon game, after all.  The gameplay remains, for the most part, unchanged.  It pits you against various trainers.  You have your party of up to six Pokémon and send them out one at a time against the opponents Pokémon.  You have 4 moves to chose from and you have to reduce the opponents Pokémon to 0 HP to win.  Simple really.  The nice thing about Pokémon is that there are never any force loss or trick battles that have strange win conditions.  Your goal is always to reduce the opponents Pokémon to 0 HP. There are, however, a bunch of new moves with new and more interesting effects.  There are a lot more usefully stat boosting moves, like Hone Claws, which raise both attack and accuracy.

There are new battle types though.  While most battles are single battles, there are new triple battles and rotation battles.  Triple battles pit 3 on 3 all at once.  The interesting thing is that position matters.  A Pokémon on the far right usually won’t be able to hit the Pokémon on the far left while the Pokémon is the middle will have the easiest time hitting each opponent’s Pokémon.  This battle type actually allows for more strategic team order.  Many moves have also been added to be better in triple battles, such as Flame Burst which deals damage to each adjacent Pokémon.  They also added in rotation battles.  These are a hybrid o triple battles and single battles.  You send out three Pokémon at once, but only one is in front taking damage.  You can switch between them each turn to do strategic hits and blocks against the opponent.

Yet the most welcomed change came from the HM’s and the TM’s.  These “machines” are used to teach Pokémon it normally couldn’t learn.  Previously, TMs were coveted one use items that taught some of the best and most useful moves, or at least good early moves.  I always fretted over using them because, well, you could only use it once and they were either expensive to buy, or there was only one in the game (which was usually the case.)  TMs are still as rare and as coveted, but now they can be use infinite times!  You no longer have to sit there for hours debating with yourself whether or not using the TM is worth it. You can just use it over and over again with no worries!

HM’s, which are similar to TMs, but are used also in the field and usually required to advance the story, have always been infinite use and haven’t been changed much.  Black and White only has six, when there were 7-8 in previous versions.  Also, I beat the game with only finding 3 of the 6, and one of which was fly which only serves as a quick travel.  This meant that I did not need to fill a slot in my team with am “HM slave.”  I didn’t have to travel back to the Pokecenter over and over to get the Pokémon that knew the right move to proceed.  HMs are now used more now to get secret items and in the end game.

The only disappointment is that the menu interface has been downgraded since Heartgold and Soulsilver.  While it is better than Diamond and Pearl, it’s not the best.  Also, for some odd reason, they took away the L=A option.  Don’t really know why.  It really isn’t that important, but was just a nice shortcut button.

 

GRAPHICS:

 

The graphics of Black and White are fantastic.  For the first time, the Pokémon are not simply 2-D sprites bobbing up and down.  Each Pokémon has a unique looping animation during battles.  It really makes the game more alive.  The sprites are clean and the worlds are colorful.  It is exactly what you would expect from a Pokémon game.  It simply looks good.  The only issue, is that some of the camera angles are weird.  They try to show off the new “big city” look, but it sometimes just looks off and somewhat messes up your movement.  However, these instances are few and far between and they do in-fact show off the cool “big city” look.  There not much else to say really.  The game looks good and captures the world of Pokémon very well.

MULTIPLAYER:

 

Multiplayer has always been a hassle in Pokémon.  It used to be a level balancing act of trying to get to the precise levels to be able to fight in the level 50 or 100 categories.  If you happened to be level 51, you were out..  In Black and White, they changed a lot of that.  Now, you are scaled down to whatever matchup you are in.  So if you have level 60 Pokémon and enter a random matchup, all your Pokémon’s stats will be scaled down to level 50.  This is a very nice addition as it allows players to keep playing the game after they have their competitive team without worries about being over leveled for the ranked matches.

However, true competitive play is still somewhat unapproachable.  Many people spend hours and hours breeding and training their Pokémon so that they have the most perfect stats and movesets.  For the more recreational player, such as myself, this seems like a daunting task that would create far too much frustration and take up way to much time.  A skilled trainer still can do well in these battles, but unless I put the effort into perfect training and breeding, I will always be at a disadvantage.  Yet, when I get back up to around level 50 and have a decent team, I would not mind trying my hand at the multiplayer again.

There are also many side things to do in multiplayer.  The problem is that many of them require you to physically be around a bunch of people who are also playing the same Pokémon games and have their C-gear on, which is the in game name for the online capabilities.  There is also something called the Dream World, which is similar to the PokeWalker from Heartgold and Soulsilver but instead is on your PC.  Yet again, much of this is arbitrary and simply serves as ways so to socialize with other Pokémon players.  None of the extra online stuff has ever caught my interest too much, but for the younger players who play with their friends, it may be kind of fun to do the surveys and show each other their Dream Worlds.  There is even a way to travel to other players world using an the Entralink which allows you to do missions and side-quests.

The Battle Subway is the Battle Frontier reintroduce in Black and White and is available far sooner than the Battle Frontier was in Diamond and Pearl.  The Battle Subway allows you to battle AI trainers alone or with a friend in a variety of battle modes.  You basically fight until you lose and the result is recorded.  The nice thing is that level doesn’t matter.  All your Pokémon’s stats are calculated for level 50 along with the opponents.  this is just a nice way to test your own battle skill instead of your level grinding skills.

 

FINAL WORDS:

 

I could go on into all of the little details and changes they have made.  Pokémon Black and White are the best Pokémon games to date.  Because the base 150 is completely new, it is far more approachable for new players, and may make older players who have been away for a while give it a second look.  It also gives veterans, like myself, a chance to jump into the game without any knowledge of what to expect.

The story is the best of any Pokémon game so far.  While Giovanni and Team Rocket are still the greatest bad guys, Team Plasma and N are a close second, and the story that comes with them is for sure the best yet.  It is nice to see the gym leaders characterized even a little and to see them take part in the overall story.

The online play is the best yet and it is all offered early enough that you don’t have to wait until you are worn out on the game to unlock a lot of the extra battle modes like the Battle Subway and Wi-fi battles.

 

Black and White combines the new with the old to create a stand out game from the Nintendo DS that will keep you catchin’ ’em all.

A copy of Pokemon White was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

SHARE THIS POST

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Evan J Stark View all posts by

One Comment on "Pokémon Black and White"

  1. peter May 13, 2013 at 6:45 am - Reply

    very good

Leave A Response