Thanks to the fine people over at PlayAsia.com, I was able to import and aquire a Japanese copy of the new Pokemon Black/White video game. It’s no secret in the forum that I’m the 2nd biggest pokemon fan at TSG, so does this game live up to my expectations, or did it fall by the wayside?
After the jump, learn the truth behind the game’s storyline, the revolutionized gameplay, and the world’s newest pokemon.
Oh, and to obviously get this out of the way.
*cues the classic Pokemon R/B/Y theme*
Congratulations! It’s your 12th Birthday, and the local professor of your town has given you [and your two friends] your very first pokemon! The smuggy grass lizard, the adorably cute sea otter or the self-frying bacon! As you go on your journey, you encounter challenges as you attempt to become the Pokemon Champion of your respective region!
The same tired formula. Gym Battle + Elite Four + Champion + Predictable After Game. Right?
Pokemon Black/White has revolutionized the formula, if not chunked it out the airplane on the route to Isshu.
Pokemon Black/White starts like the other games. You do get your starter pokemon, and start on a journey to become a Pokemon Master/Champion. However, you quickly become embroiled in a fight for the very fate of the world!
The regional team, Team Plasma, is after one thing. To separate the boundries between humans and pokemon, and to free pokemon from the shackles that mankind has bound them to. In short, PETA protested at Nintendo a few too many times, and I suppose they’re a tad bitter. Unlike the previous wacky villains, these villains have a vision that could [arguably] be for the betterment of pokemon. Much like the game’s title, the situation isn’t exactly black or white. There’s two sides to every story, and the difference between right and wrong is who has the most power.
I digress. Your mission is simple enough now. Beat the Plasma Rival to the pokemon champion! Because only when he has become champion of the Isshu region, will he have the power to go through with his plan, with nobody to stop him.
Thankfully, this mission isn’t exactly boring. Much like the Sinnoh gym leaders in Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, the gym leaders in Black/White are very “involved” and not just standing in the same location every day all day. Actually, the only gym leader that ISN’T involved with a key aspect of the story is the first gym leader, but they’re waiters, so they’ve suffered enough.
Because I don’t wish to spoil the ending, I’ll leave the ending for you to look up on youtube.
But in short, the ending is one of the most UNEXPECTED, AMAZING, JAWDROPPINGLY SPECTACTULAR things I’ve ever seen in a game like this. Without going into detail, it takes the usual pokemon ending and shoots it out of a cannon and into a crater on Mars.
For totally revitilizing the way Pokemon tells their usually “kid-friendly” story, and go into a much darker, yet morally ambigious theme, Pokemon Black and White gets an A!
One of the few things that underwent changes was the gameplay. The same battle formula is pretty much standard now. However, it did make some key innovative differences:
1) x-Items can now be used on party pokemon instead of only just the primary pokemon.
2) Weather effects animations are removed, and a tiny blip on your bottom screen lets you know what’s what.
3) Pokemon move during battle & have appropriate facial expressions/colors for status ailments.
4) Triple Battles. [Few and far in between. I can count the number of them on one hand]
5) TMs no longer break after one use.
While some of the new aspects of gameplay were WELCOME [such as the massive removal of HM required areas and a severe lack of caves as compared to HG/SS/Plat], some were just plain cruel. Instead of retaining the wildly successful Pal-Park, we get a new and irritating “Poke’Slinger” minigame for porting previous Gen IV pokemon. Instead of Auto-Run and Auto-Bike and the menu on our bottom screen, we get the far less interesting “C-Gear” taking up the whole screen. [The C-Gear is a means of wirelessly connecting to local trainers in the area]. I am so distraught over that, that I’m almost still shocked at it, and I’ve had the game for 2 weeks now.
Meanwhile, I can’t overly complain. The successful formula of battles, puzzles and overworld movements [OH! Before I forget. Walking is much faster, running is like old biking and biking is like a mach jet 10] are intact, which a few bonuses we got in HG/SS stolen away from us.
Much like when any generation gets released, we’re all under the same disillusionment. “THESE ARENT MAH POKEMANZ! WHAR IS MAH BIDOOF U CRAZEH PEEPS”.
When you pick up the game, these masks will quickly crumble. In Gen IV, Pachirisu was the cuddly member of my party. In Gen V, Victini and Mijumaru took my hearts quickly. My gigantic dragon Ononox became my new Salamence from Gen III. And naturally, Alvin the angry chipmunk became the region’s new Rattata, just with Hypnosis, Detect and other irritating moves that will make you chuck your DS at the local orphan children.
I especially took a liking to Shandela, a ghost/fire Chandelier pokemon. While having a candle as a pokemon was somewhat disturbing at first, when it fully evolved, it became a massively enjoyable pokemon to have on my team, and the overall design of it was equally gothic and victorian.
Speaking of which, the art direction in Gen V with pokemon have a lot of interesting influences. Candles, Ice Cream Cones, Garbage Bags? You’e got to admit that it’s quite creative to make interesting and fun pokemon out of everyday objects. Although I gleefully await the “origin of species” on these.
I’m going to quote out of context several things I encountered in my post game.
1) Lv 67 Clefairy
2) Underground ruins, where I drowned and returned to the surface.
3) HIDE AND GO SEEK OH YEAH BABY.
4) Champion Cynthis kicking my rear.
5) Selling a pot for 200,000 pokedollars.
Needless to say, there is a LOT to do in this game after you finish the main story. The elite four and champion await you with a greater challenge! Cynthia makes her return from Gen IV, and is bringing the heat! A newly unlock-able area, similar to the battle zone in Gen IV [with MANY hidden dungeons and items everywhere]. The sports arena offers a daily challenge to take on cheerleaders, football players, baseball players, fans, and Carmen San Diego [with obscenely high levels]. Also, with the new HM’s you get post-game, you can unlock new areas in the other parts of the world you’ve already explored.
I’ve still got a lot more to go before I finish my game with this. Besides the obvious 600+ pokemon to capture and complete your poke’dex, there are several distractions to keep you busy for a long time. Definitely worth EVERY PENNY.
The gym leaders retain their usual levels of difficulty. They have counters to their obvious weaknesses, and are usually a tad stronger than you.
The Elite Four have taken a minor drawback on difficulty. Instead of the full 6 team, they’ve gone back to just 4, with 3 at the same level and the fourth 2 levels higher. Late game Grinding really isn’t necessary.
I take that back. The pokemon in this region have OBSCENELY HIGH levels for final evolution. Not even the psuedo-legendaries anymore! Normal pokemon are evolving at the high 40’s and early 50’s. To get my dragon to his fully evolved form, I had to get him to level 48 [the same level of the elite four teams]. Had I gone the distance and evolved my bird, I’d be going to level 52. BAD NINTENDO. >:/
The post game is the worst of it. Trainers are nearly 20 levels higher than the elite four and the final boss you’ve just defeated. It took nearly a day before I was at a range level high enough to deal with the enormous amount of trainers everywhere. Not to mention the wild pokemon. You saw earlier where I mentioned a level 67 clefairy! While that’s a massive extreme on the level scale [only found at the entrance to the final dungeon post game], the wild pokemon are some of the highest levels I’ve seen post-game. It’s just a minor annoyance, yet a great opportunity to get some great pokemon that evolve late. Can you say HALO THAR WILD METANG AND STARMIE?
The only way this game could have possibly disappointed me is if it went too nuts and became Pokemon Ranger. I’m not hard to please, especially with Pokemon. So naturally, I have a little bias. But I’m not the only one that’s recognizing this greatness. Famitsu gave this a perfect 10/10, which is virtually UNHEARD of.
This game gave Pokemon the breath of life that it needed to revive itself. The standard formula was growing tiresome. While Gen IV was fantastic, I was saddened that they’d cut back on the level of creativity that Gen III had attempted.
Black/White changes the way we all look at Pokemon. Darker themes, better game-play targeted towards helping the gamer get the best experience he/she can hope for, and a new type of region based on more “modern” themes and locations. New types/designs of pokemon with new creative minds make for a fun adventure.
In the end, I think Pokemon brings out the child in us. The longing for adventure and more simplistic times when we didn’t have to worry about the tax consequences of winning the lottery. Black/White does that, but speaks to us on a level that we, as an older audience, can appreciate.
I highly recommend Pokemon Black/White the second it hits American shores.
OVERALL SCORE: A+