Reviews// Pokémon Black and White

Posted 7 Mar 2011 17:14 by
This is wrong. I’m 25 years old, and already feel like an old man. In gaming years, 25 is an eternity and no game proves that to me more than Pokémon. Kids of family friends whip out their Nintendo DS consoles and rather than challenge them to a trainer battle, I stand there giving them a lecture about what Pokémon was like “back in the day.”

I wouldn’t have cause to moan like a dejected, old hermit with a back problem if recent games had been good to me over the last few years (ignoring the sublime remake of Gold and Silver, of course). It might be my fault for failing to keep up with the series after the original Red and Blue, jumping back into the series with Diamond and Pearl and getting thoroughly baffled.

Or it might be Game Freak’s fault for feature-bloating the series to the point of confusion. Since the Pokémon Company declared that it was on a mission to cut out all the blubber with this sixth generation Black and White edition, I’ll let Game Freak take the blame for everything. Even the broken handle on my kettle, that’s its fault too. Yeah. I’m honourable like that.

As a result, Pokémon Black and White has around 150 brand new monsters, an entirely new region to explore and a focus on adventure and battling rather than bizarre underground mining and cauldron-stirring to complete your Pokedex. Don’t call it a reboot though, because this is anything but.

Monster Monster!
You still start your journey as an energetic young lad/laddess going into the big bad world for the first time. You still meet an eccentric professor who’s studied all the Pokémon in the world - but asks you to fill a blank encyclopaedia anyway - and you still have to tackle eight elemental gyms before fighting the Elite Four to become Champion.

This time around, your adventure to the Pokémon League runs parallel to a storyline that revolves around apparent activists Team Plasma. Wearing the usual Team Rocket, white-suited garb and featuring a leadership of Seven Sages, you’d be forgiven for thinking that their campaign for ‘liberating Pokémon from selfish humans’ isn’t exactly good-natured.

Indeed, they seem to have confused the word ‘liberation’ with ‘steal’ somewhere along the line. Although a strange old guy called Ghetsis appears to be the face of this group, it is a mysterious chap called ‘N’ who assumes the role of your ultimate rival. As you travel through the world of Unova with childhood friends Bianca and Cheren (who also want to figure out what to do with their lives) you’ll be foiling the underhanded plans of Plasma too.

Story! Story!
The storyline is the usual tale of morality and the definition of good and evil, right and wrong. It is underlined on occasion with some impressive 3D cutscenes. It’s engaging enough to keep you interested in what happens next, and somehow it doesn’t distract you from your gym badge collecting activity either. Intertwining the plot with the traditional gameplay goal in this manner is a mighty impressive one.

What’s also helpful is the fact that all of the standard Pokémon in this generation are brand new. You’re not constantly looking at a Pokémon and thinking back to which of the other 490+ creatures it could be related to, and in a sense it freshens your mind and gives you a clean slate to work with.

The majority of these monsters are designed very well and are given a fair bit of life in battle thanks to a little bit of animation. Seeing squirrel-esque “mon Patrat shake his fist like an angry farmer and dragon-with-a-bowl-cut Deino snap erratically at you like he’s gunning for your ankles” is something that would be described as ‘adorable,’ if I was enough of a man to feel comfortable using such a word.

Dark Dog! Dark Dog!
Of course, I’m not sure about all of them. I was surprised at the third evolution of the Dark/Normal dog Pokémon Lillipup - when it became a Stoutland my jaw hit the floor. I won’t spoil what it looks like, but I seriously was not expecting it. So too was I slightly disappointed with Timburr’s evolution into Girdurr - rocking a curly perm has about the same effect of making you look hard as wearing a salmon pink polo shirt.

Perhaps most pleasing is that the majority of these Pokémon all hark back to Red and Blue’s Pokedex lineup. Pidove, a blatant homage to the classic Pidgey, is one of the first Pokémon you get to capture, and one can see Geodude in Roggenrola, Zubat in the pig-snouted Woobat and Clefairy in Audino.

With Black and White comes the introduction of seasons in the game world, which can alter the appearance of certain Pokémon. Seeing different forms in this manner isn’t necessary to complete your ‘Dex, but it adds a certain excitement when you come across a Deerling that’s been affected by the cold Winter snap.
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