Pokémon Black & White, the brand new entries in the phenomenally popular series, are finally here. This is the second time that a totally new Pokémon game has come out for the Nintendo DS, and has a lot to live up to.
Pokémon Diamond & Pearl were brilliant games, with features coming out of their ears and hundreds of great new Pokémon- as well as the then-new hardware’s graphical power. Black & White can’t just rely on the fancy new graphics of the DS, however- so they have to work even harder to impress.
This makes it even more astounding that Game Freak seem to have effortlessly created one of the best Pokémon games ever.
Black & White are completely new adventures, with an original story and world, so there’s plenty for fans to get themselves lost in. Most importantly for long-time fans is the fact that 155 completely new creatures inhabit the world: you won’t be running into any old Pokémon in the main storyline. Unfortunately some might cause a few raised eyebrows, being obvious equivalents (for example, a flying type caught early in the game that evolves three times- remind you of anything? coughPidgeycough) or just plain rubbish.
This of course means you have to re-learn which Pokémon are strong or weak against each other (the Pokédex is actually useful for once), and forces you to create a team that is effective rather than just sentimental. On the other side to the coin, however, is that the game appears to be completely focused on new players, much more so than any other Pokémon game.
You’re being force-fed how to play virtually all the time, and sometimes it feels like you can’t go more than two steps without someone calling out and telling you how to use TMs (incidentally, they aren’t deleted when you use them now, so all of my team now know Hyper Beam). It can be very frustrating for a long-time fan like me, but for new players I’m sure it is invaluable advice- Pokémon games can be very complex.
There’s even more depth to Black & White than ever before, with endless events and features to engage you with when you’re not playing through the massive main story. Over a weekend I’ve logged 30 hours playing, and it feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of content- and I don’t just mean filling the Pokédex.
The story involves a new villainous group- Team Plasma- who have a surprisingly deep motive for their involvement in the story. I won’t spoil anything, but I was genuinely impressed with the characters and motives involved. There’s a couple of annoying “rivals” who show up constantly, but that’s the only complaint I can really make.
There are so many new features in Black & White it’s hard to know where to begin. Triple and rotary battles, a new camera system, monthly “seasons”, and a handful of multiplayer and Wi-Fi features are the most notable, as well as the fancy new polygonal graphics.
I say fancy, but really this is where the game is let down. Pokémon games in the past, especially Ruby & Sapphire, were beautifully decorated with sharp sprites and colourful worlds. Black & White, however, uses ugly polygonal models in places, and scales up sprites in battles, making them look blocky and, honestly, rubbish. It’s a small hindrance, but despite the flashy new camera in battles and the movement (like flames and blinking eyes) are just spoiled by the terrible upscaling.
However, Black & White are undoubtedly the best Pokémon games to come along in a long time, and possibly the best since Gold & Silver. If you’re a Pokémon fan, you have no excuse not to buy this game, and if you’re not, I strongly urge you to give the best RPG series ever created a try starting with Black or White. Or just get both if you don’t want to seem racist.
+ Massive world with loads to do
+ Great storyline
+ It’s Pokémon
– Early game spoon-feeding
– A bit ugly
Pokémon White was the version played for this review, for over 30 hours. On a launch-day fat DS, no less. Pokémon Black and White was developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo, and released on: JP- 18th September 2010, EU- 4th March 2011, US- 6 March 2011, AUS- 10th March 2011. The review copy was purchased by the author.