Pokémon Black and White Review

Nintendo DS Exclusive

No Choice of Difficulty

Hours Played: 50 hours

            Pokémon Black and White, the fifth generation in the Pokémon series, features the most improvements and changes that the series has ever had in a new instalment. But that isn’t saying much, now is it? Pokémon Black White fails to evolve (I apologize) the series in any significant way, and although they are still good games, the classic franchise is beginning to show its age.

           Although it isn’t very important, I should note that I played Black version for this review. So any discrepancies you find can most likely be attributed to that fact.

Zekrom (right) looks cooler. Hands Down.

             Any-who, Pokémon. Black and White. Surprising the entire gaming public, Pokémon Black/White puts you in the shoes of a teenager as he or she sets off on a journey to catch every Pokémon and to see the world, but he or she slowly gets caught up in a struggle to save the world from a terrorist group. It’s so unique isn’t it?           

             Well it actually is the most unique and serious plot the franchise has ever seen. However, it doesn’t necessarily benefit the game in any way. The terrorist group in this game is Team Plasma and the evil thing that they are trying to do is… trying to free all the Pokémon from humans. The game puts you in the shoes of what is the villain of the story (At first). It brings up an interesting argument both for and against the way people treat animals, but it is never explored enough to warrant it as significant. It’s overly serious themes and tone actually harm the game, since the world and characters are so vibrant and joyful, yet the story is much more serious and morally ambiguous. It creates and odd contrast that doesn’t fit within the game’s world and it becomes more laughable than serious at some points. But nobody plays Pokémon for its story (At least I hope not). 

           Pokémon’s accessible yet deep turn based combat makes a triumphant return, with all of its pros and cons. For the one or two people who don’t know what Pokémon’s combat is all about, this is the rundown: the player will either encounter Pokémon in the wild or through other trainers. A battle is fought with one, two, or three Pokémon on each team, depending on the type of battle. The player and enemy both pick one of four moves from their Pokémon’s arsenal, and whoever has the fastest Pokémon attacks first. You must conquer eight Gyms in order to fight the Pokémon league, and be crowned the best Pokémon trainer in the region. You will be able to catch a massive variety of Pokémon of your choice throughout the game, and level them up as you battle. It’s fun, accessible, and addicting. The game is very much the same as it was in previous instalments, with a few improvements and tweaks. A new type of battle is introduced, where three Pokémon fight at the same time. It’s a nice twist on the formula, but it doesn’t happen often enough in the game for it to matter. TM’s no longer break when you use them, and HM’s are no longer mandatory to beat the game. Instead, they allow the player to take shortcuts or find secret items. It makes the game more straightforward and simple, and it comes out as a more enjoyable experience, but not by any significant amount. The only bad addition is the new set of Pokémon. They’re terrible. You know that a developer is out of ideas when they have enemies based on ice-cream cones, lamps, and garbage bags. The worst one is a Pokémon who is called Gurdurr, and his only defining feature is that he is holding a girder. They’re not all bad, but most of them are. All in all, the game is still enjoyable and addicting, but some long-time fans may start to lose interest, and others who thought previous instalments didn’t have enough changes might be very disappointed with these games.   

Behold him in all his glory and might!

            As always, Pokémon’s graphics and audio are unique to say the least. Game Freak has never tried to make visual technical games, and instead they went try to keep alive the graphical limitations of the first games. The game is still a mix of 2D and 3D visuals, and Pokémon are still under pixelated. Although it may seem to be odd to newcomers, the visual are actually very well done. They are unique and harken back to classic 16 bit games. However, the newer generation of gamers may not appreciate this visual style as much as older players. The 3D element has been improved, with many more areas using a 3D perspective and quick changes between 2D and 3D. The audio has the same issues that the visuals have. The audio is comprised of unique pixelated soundtracks that are incredibly well-orchestrated, well implemented, and well played, especially the tracks that play while fighting stronger enemies. The Pokémon still feature the same indistinct sound effects, and they still sound terrible. Again, the audio harkens back to classic games, but it may alienate newer players.

            Pokémon has always been franchise that boasted extravagantly long adventures, and the newest versions are no exception. The main story is a bit shorter than previous 40 hour instalments, with the games clocking in around 30 to 35 hours. But don’t despair, because the endgame content is much larger than previous games. There is a whole section of the map that opens up after the game is completed, with many new trainers to fight and places to explore. There’s also a challenging version of the elite four that can be fought after the game concludes. Depending on how much you feel inclined to complete, the game can easily stretch out to become 40 to 50 hours long. And after that there’s always one more thing to fall back on.

            The online component in Pokémon is the best that it has ever been. It’s much, much simpler to use, and boasts many more options and game variants. Trading with other trainers has also been streamlined greatly, making trading so much easier and hassle-free. If you don’t want your game to end, then the multiplayer will keep you going for a long time.

            Pokémon Black and White are the best games in the franchise. It has been fine tuned to become the perfect game for fans, but that has its costs. Newer gamers may not enjoy the game as much as older gamers who can appreciate the games nuances or aged presentation. It’s still an enjoyable game no matter who you are, but if Pokémon wants to be the powerful influence that it used to be, it’s going to have to take a few risks with their next games.

Pros

–          Classic tried-and-true gameplay

–          Perfect for fans

–          Greatly improved online component

–          Lengthy adventure

Cons

–          Fails to improve the franchise in any significant way

–          Ugly and uninspired Pokémon designs

–          Story feels out of place

Overall: 7/10

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