Pokemon Black/White Review

With all of the medical stuff that has been going on of late, doing a review of Pokémon has taken a backseat. On the bright side, actually playing Pokemon has come to the forefront. Yet here I am, months after launch and I am still playing the game pretty hardcore. Not bad for $34.95. First, the obvious. There isn’t really anything spectacularly new here. Like many other Nintendo games (ie Mario & Zelda), Nintendo made pretty much the same game as all their predecessors with a somewhat different story line, new locations, and a few small new features to keep it interesting. If this weren’t a console/handheld game, most would consider Black & White to be nothing more than an expansion to the base Pokemon game.

This might be the biggest complaint most people can really make about Pokemon Black & White, and rightfully so. Many of my biggest problems are that the fundamentals really are the same as Blue & Red some 10+ years ago. A big example of this is that at some point in every game you meet the person who has invented the computer system, we now have five different computer systems each with a different inventor, and each system is identical to the last. At what point can’t we just introduce the PC without meeting a new inventor? There are many similar instances to this.

The main thing I think most players notice in this version of Pokemon is that they did away with any old Pokemon in the main adventure line. You cannot meet up with geodude anymore until you beat the elite four. To which I say, Yay. This was an overhaul of which is long overdue. Black & White launched with more than 150 new pokemon, a similar number to the original Blue & Red and so you get the same sort of feel as the first generation. This really brought freshness to the series that is long overdue. I can’t tell you how sick of geodude and zubat I was, and yet somehow these were always the only solution that any generation had for caves. I just assume not have caves again than have them again. I hope this is how future generations proceed as well.

The next big new thing is seasons. I don’t know if this has really had the impact that Nintendo promised really. I don’t think that it was as huge as the day/night cycle was and they all but abandoned the day/night cycle in this version as well. No more can you find different pokemon based on time of day, and there don’t seem to be time specific events either, that sucks. There are seasonal events and there are some areas of the world that aren’t accessible in some seasons as well. This is a nice twist but it is too bad that they sacrificed one instead of another. There definitely are some ice pokemon that come out more in winter than other seasons, but that seems to be the limit of the pokemon based on season. Again I feel like they had a good idea but didn’t quite execute well enough. I am interested to see how this idea progresses in future generations.

Multiplayer seems to be much more beefed up in this version of pokemon which is awesome. There are missions that two local players can undertake that can give minor bonuses, you can now battle random players online, and they also have a much better global trading system which gives you live trading capability with other players. The unfortunate aspect of this last one is that it doesn’t seem people use the normal global trading system much anymore except to try to get legendaries with common pokemon.

There is also the Dream World which you can send pokemon off to the internet. There you can access a little house, a garden to plant berries, and an area to catch pokemon from other regions. This last area you go and meet up with the pokemon, play a simple mini-game with them, if you win the mini-game you can later pay a berry to bring it back to your game. These pokemon that you catch in the Dream World have new abilities that weren’t previously accessible for the pokemon of the type you catch, so there is a benefit to finding these pokemon past just having pokemon you can’t normally get in generation V. You can only get one pokemon a day however, so you have to choose carefully. Also, if you play enough games and water other people’s plants, you can get access to new areas and new pokémon, and your pokemon that you sent can also gain up to one level a day as well which is nice.

In this version, they have also expanded multi-battles. You can  fight other trainers with three pokemon at a time. Status effects and Fighting moves can only usually affect adjacent pokemon which means this type of fighting has a lot of tactics involved which I think is really cool. However, It would have been cool if there was a Battle Subway train with it and I’m not sure if you can fight other players 3 vs 3 either. So this doesn’t seem fully fleshed out. There is also rotating fights which means that the opponent you are fighting can change fight to fight, this makes things really interesting because you could think you have a tactical advantage when you don’t.Lastly, you can find double wild battles in tall grass which I think was well needed. I personally love using these when I am pumping experience.

There is one thing odd about this game that is new. It seems immensely easier in many respects. As a good example, the first gym allows you to choose the type of pokemon you fight in the end boss. This is used to help new players learn the differences in pokemon types, but in the end for anyone who has ever played the game (which I imagine to be most people playing it), it turns out to be way too easy. Also there are “medics” spread sporadically around the world so that you don’t need to return to heal. While I think that this works sometimes in particularly large dungeons (Sparkstone Cave for instance), many times it just makes the game more easy than it needs to be.

Other random things I liked…

* Sparkstone Cave is awesome. A great way to avoid the lack of rock/ground types that they put in these games and at the same time find someplace for electric pokemon that isn’t a power station.

* There are a wealth of new Ghost types in this game, seems like there were more here than in other generations. Some of the new moves are really stellar, and many others I think can make this game far more interesting once I figure out how to use them right.

* The Pan monkeys are cool, I would like to see them add more types in the future and a third evolution (maybe they could have an Eevee-like baby evolution).

* The Storyline. While for the most part, it holds to the tried and true, there are certainly twists in this story that make it very different from other Pokemon games which I very much appreciate. I still am unsure how much I like that the villains are trying to free pokemon and the similarities to RW animal groups, but I think in the end the point is fairly good still. I think the uneasiness I have with it is actually quite good.

* The amount of stuff to do AFTER the Elite Four. I feel like there was more to do afterwards than any previous game, including the midpoint games (Platinum, Emerald, Crystal, etc). There are about 8 routes afterwards, 2 major cities, a minor city, several dungeons, and a plot line that has you looking for members of Team Plasma. It was very well done.

Random things I didn’t like…

* The amount of normal pokemon early in the game. I wish I was liar in saying that if you get a fighting type early in the game, you are at a severe advantage through much of it. So get a good fighting type early and keep him beefed because you will need him.

* I like the functionality of the C-Gear (their multiplayer interface), however the interface is kind of terrible. You have to turn it off otherwise it tears down batteries most of the time, and it prompts you at the start of every game and then prompts you to make sure you don’t want it. And then because it is off most of the time, you are left with one screen that essentially blank for no reason. I really liked HeartGold/SoulSilver’s interface the best and was hoping they’d take that and add in it some of Diamond/Pearl’s functionality into it. But no, they essentially killed the interface and left you with a blank screen. And lastly, no new Eevee evolution. Boo.

* Bridges. This is kind of a middle one because they have some cool bridges. But a few of them are just long and boring with nothing at all happening on them.

Overall, the game is very good. Better than Ruby/Sapphire, worse than Gold/Silver, probably in line with Red/Blue. Not the best, not the worst.