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"[GAME] Pokémon Black/White Review"

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Mon 07/03/11 at 23:42
Regular
"Tip The Scales"
Posts: 869
Pokémon Black and White Review

For the purposes of this review, Pokémon Black was used.

Whether you like it or not, there is no denying that Pokémon is an institution, a huge juggernaut that has been taking over several media, including anime, card games and, more interesting for us, video games. The series has been a huge cash cow for Nintendo since it’s original release in 1996 (1999 here for the UK) on the original Game Boy, and over the 15 years the game, and Pokémon world itself, has evolved and improved beyond imagination.

So, you want to be the very best? Like no-one ever was?

Pokémon has always, since the early beginnings, had a fairly consistent and easy to follow storyline. A Pokémon trainer (you) starts his (or her) journey into adulthood, meets a Pokémon professor, chooses a Pokémon, then embarks on a quest to complete the Pokédex and become the Pokémon champion. Along the way, you meet and compete with your rival, fight your way through several gyms and take down an evil organisation. It’s a fairly standard affair and the new generation of games don’t deviate too far from this structure.

What can be said about the storyline is it is much more interlinked and involved than the previous games have been. Team Plasma (the aforementioned evil organisation) are an ever present force throughout the game, and show much more intelligence as plans seem more effective and impactful on the world around them. As representative of an animal rights activist group, Team Plasma also seem to address a much more mature matter than other groups, which is a welcome change and something very much in the games’ favour.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

Pokémon Black and White introduces yet another 155 creatures to an ever increasing roster. As a slight change of tact for the series, older generation Pokémon are completely unavailable in the first parts of the game (rationalised by positioning of the Unova in the Pokémon world map), which can be a bit off-putting to the purists. Whilst it can be seen as a bit of a risky move, it works surprisingly well, forcing experienced players to experiment with new teams and monsters. This levels the playing field slightly, and makes the game slightly less easy than the earlier versions had perhaps gotten.

It also has added the “ooh” factor, something that has been a little removed (especially in the remakes) of running into actual new Pokémon. Obviously, this runs out after a bit, but it gives extra excitement for heading into new areas, not knowing what you might possibly run in to. Unfortunately, most of the new Pokémon don’t match up to the quality of the earlier iterations, some of them are rubbish (one or two of them literally), but most just lack charm or character, and feel a little forced.

I Choose You!

For the most part, Pokémon Black and White play like their predecessors; NPC trainers fight you, long grass hides wild Pokémon. Wild Pokémon are caught using various types of Pokéball, and stats and moves are gained through the eventual levelling up of owned Pokémon (it’s slightly more complicated than that in reality). That is how a Pokémon game plays.

And it’s not much different here, but there are some subtle differences. For example, experience points gained from a battle depend on the levels of the Pokémon involved, as well as number of Pokémon used, as opposed to being a fixed value for each. This is an interesting change to a formula that has been consistent since the beginning, but one that makes sense overall.

Alongside the times of day (introduced in Gold and Silver for Game Boy Colour), Black and White has also introduced a monthly seasonal changeover, further influencing Pokémon appearing in certain areas, and the weather conditions of the surroundings (and therefore the battling conditions). The addition is nice aesthetically and makes the world seem a little more realistic, but can be frustrating for the compulsive Pokémon collector.

Battling has also had an overhaul in the new game. The basics are the same; choose one of four available moves to use in semi-turn based combat, or some of the available battle items in an attempt to (non-fatally) defeat your opponent Pokémon. However, the action has been slightly sped up, which improves the flow of battles. Alongside this, the new camera angle shows more of the battle and, whilst it isn’t quite Pokémon Stadium, is a significant improvement to the visuals.

Triple and Rotation battling has been added into the mix for this iteration, also. Both allowing 3 vs. 3 battles in either a straight 3 on 3 or a "tag team" style rotation battles, adding more strategy in either Pokemon positioning (3 on 3) or playing to possible strengths and attempting to avoid your own weaknesses (rotation).

Smeargle used Sketch

Battles aren’t the only part of the game to get a new perspective on things, as the roaming camera changes as you walk around the world, giving a more cinematic view of the surrounding areas. This is a nice change to the static nature of the camera of previous games, but can accentuate the somewhat outdated models that the game still uses, with obvious pixilation occurring on close-up shots.

Black and White also uses cutscenes a lot more than previous iterations. It is definitely nice to see a Pokémon game using more of the DS’s graphical capabilities during the game, and it is possibly a sign of what is to come when the series inevitably jumps to the 3DS.

Jigglypuff used Sing

Pokémon is hardly known for it’s rousing music, and whilst some of it is fairly familiar (Pokémon centre theme is one that has barely changed over the time, and the healing chime is almost iconic), Pokémon Black and White’s music tends to do it’s job of playing in the background fairly nicely, with a nice increased variety of battle music (which I wholeheartedly approve of). Another audio improvement with the new game is the change of the health critical chime. Instead of an irritating high-pitched beeping noise, the battle music changes, something that is far less irritating (albeit still with the beeping).

It’s not very effective…

Whilst there isn’t much to complain about in this Pokémon game (there rarely is), and Game Freak have a reputation of continuous improvement, there is one part of the game that seems to have stepped back a bit. That is the touch screen space. Whilst it is admirable that Game Freak wanted the internet connectivity to be much improved (and the removal of requirements to be at a Pokémon centre to fight, trade etc. is a very good one), the constant presence of C-Gear is hardly necessary, and would be more effective as a possible Pokétch application. Black and White suffers slightly from the lack of Pokétch, as it was an extremely useful bit of kit, and it’s loss will be mourned by many (…sort of).

It’s Super Effective!

It’s a pretty standard Pokémon affair, and if you’ve played the games before and not “got” it, or not enjoyed it, then very little in Pokémon Black/White is going to change your mind. But, if you’re a fan of the series, or looking for a role-playing game with deceptive amounts of depth, then you can’t go too wrong here. It may not be a graphical behemoth, but it doesn’t need to be. Sure, some old-schoolers may complain about the lack of availability of earlier generation pokémon, but give the new blood a chance before dismissing them outright. Overall, a further step forward for the series, perhaps further evolution (What? Pokémon is evolving?!) as opposed to revolution, and a good send off for the series heading to 3DS (probably). Goodbye, another 100+ hours of my life. Hello, Unova!

Score: 9.2/10

Additional: Of course, there are subtle (and not so subtle) differences between the two games. Black and White partially differ in wild pokemon availability, availability of 3 on 3 and Rotation battles, as well as the exclusive inclusion of Black City (a trainer heavy battle city) in Black and White Forest (a wild Pokemon heavy forest) in White.
There have been no replies to this thread yet.
Mon 07/03/11 at 23:42
Regular
"Tip The Scales"
Posts: 869
Pokémon Black and White Review

For the purposes of this review, Pokémon Black was used.

Whether you like it or not, there is no denying that Pokémon is an institution, a huge juggernaut that has been taking over several media, including anime, card games and, more interesting for us, video games. The series has been a huge cash cow for Nintendo since it’s original release in 1996 (1999 here for the UK) on the original Game Boy, and over the 15 years the game, and Pokémon world itself, has evolved and improved beyond imagination.

So, you want to be the very best? Like no-one ever was?

Pokémon has always, since the early beginnings, had a fairly consistent and easy to follow storyline. A Pokémon trainer (you) starts his (or her) journey into adulthood, meets a Pokémon professor, chooses a Pokémon, then embarks on a quest to complete the Pokédex and become the Pokémon champion. Along the way, you meet and compete with your rival, fight your way through several gyms and take down an evil organisation. It’s a fairly standard affair and the new generation of games don’t deviate too far from this structure.

What can be said about the storyline is it is much more interlinked and involved than the previous games have been. Team Plasma (the aforementioned evil organisation) are an ever present force throughout the game, and show much more intelligence as plans seem more effective and impactful on the world around them. As representative of an animal rights activist group, Team Plasma also seem to address a much more mature matter than other groups, which is a welcome change and something very much in the games’ favour.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

Pokémon Black and White introduces yet another 155 creatures to an ever increasing roster. As a slight change of tact for the series, older generation Pokémon are completely unavailable in the first parts of the game (rationalised by positioning of the Unova in the Pokémon world map), which can be a bit off-putting to the purists. Whilst it can be seen as a bit of a risky move, it works surprisingly well, forcing experienced players to experiment with new teams and monsters. This levels the playing field slightly, and makes the game slightly less easy than the earlier versions had perhaps gotten.

It also has added the “ooh” factor, something that has been a little removed (especially in the remakes) of running into actual new Pokémon. Obviously, this runs out after a bit, but it gives extra excitement for heading into new areas, not knowing what you might possibly run in to. Unfortunately, most of the new Pokémon don’t match up to the quality of the earlier iterations, some of them are rubbish (one or two of them literally), but most just lack charm or character, and feel a little forced.

I Choose You!

For the most part, Pokémon Black and White play like their predecessors; NPC trainers fight you, long grass hides wild Pokémon. Wild Pokémon are caught using various types of Pokéball, and stats and moves are gained through the eventual levelling up of owned Pokémon (it’s slightly more complicated than that in reality). That is how a Pokémon game plays.

And it’s not much different here, but there are some subtle differences. For example, experience points gained from a battle depend on the levels of the Pokémon involved, as well as number of Pokémon used, as opposed to being a fixed value for each. This is an interesting change to a formula that has been consistent since the beginning, but one that makes sense overall.

Alongside the times of day (introduced in Gold and Silver for Game Boy Colour), Black and White has also introduced a monthly seasonal changeover, further influencing Pokémon appearing in certain areas, and the weather conditions of the surroundings (and therefore the battling conditions). The addition is nice aesthetically and makes the world seem a little more realistic, but can be frustrating for the compulsive Pokémon collector.

Battling has also had an overhaul in the new game. The basics are the same; choose one of four available moves to use in semi-turn based combat, or some of the available battle items in an attempt to (non-fatally) defeat your opponent Pokémon. However, the action has been slightly sped up, which improves the flow of battles. Alongside this, the new camera angle shows more of the battle and, whilst it isn’t quite Pokémon Stadium, is a significant improvement to the visuals.

Triple and Rotation battling has been added into the mix for this iteration, also. Both allowing 3 vs. 3 battles in either a straight 3 on 3 or a "tag team" style rotation battles, adding more strategy in either Pokemon positioning (3 on 3) or playing to possible strengths and attempting to avoid your own weaknesses (rotation).

Smeargle used Sketch

Battles aren’t the only part of the game to get a new perspective on things, as the roaming camera changes as you walk around the world, giving a more cinematic view of the surrounding areas. This is a nice change to the static nature of the camera of previous games, but can accentuate the somewhat outdated models that the game still uses, with obvious pixilation occurring on close-up shots.

Black and White also uses cutscenes a lot more than previous iterations. It is definitely nice to see a Pokémon game using more of the DS’s graphical capabilities during the game, and it is possibly a sign of what is to come when the series inevitably jumps to the 3DS.

Jigglypuff used Sing

Pokémon is hardly known for it’s rousing music, and whilst some of it is fairly familiar (Pokémon centre theme is one that has barely changed over the time, and the healing chime is almost iconic), Pokémon Black and White’s music tends to do it’s job of playing in the background fairly nicely, with a nice increased variety of battle music (which I wholeheartedly approve of). Another audio improvement with the new game is the change of the health critical chime. Instead of an irritating high-pitched beeping noise, the battle music changes, something that is far less irritating (albeit still with the beeping).

It’s not very effective…

Whilst there isn’t much to complain about in this Pokémon game (there rarely is), and Game Freak have a reputation of continuous improvement, there is one part of the game that seems to have stepped back a bit. That is the touch screen space. Whilst it is admirable that Game Freak wanted the internet connectivity to be much improved (and the removal of requirements to be at a Pokémon centre to fight, trade etc. is a very good one), the constant presence of C-Gear is hardly necessary, and would be more effective as a possible Pokétch application. Black and White suffers slightly from the lack of Pokétch, as it was an extremely useful bit of kit, and it’s loss will be mourned by many (…sort of).

It’s Super Effective!

It’s a pretty standard Pokémon affair, and if you’ve played the games before and not “got” it, or not enjoyed it, then very little in Pokémon Black/White is going to change your mind. But, if you’re a fan of the series, or looking for a role-playing game with deceptive amounts of depth, then you can’t go too wrong here. It may not be a graphical behemoth, but it doesn’t need to be. Sure, some old-schoolers may complain about the lack of availability of earlier generation pokémon, but give the new blood a chance before dismissing them outright. Overall, a further step forward for the series, perhaps further evolution (What? Pokémon is evolving?!) as opposed to revolution, and a good send off for the series heading to 3DS (probably). Goodbye, another 100+ hours of my life. Hello, Unova!

Score: 9.2/10

Additional: Of course, there are subtle (and not so subtle) differences between the two games. Black and White partially differ in wild pokemon availability, availability of 3 on 3 and Rotation battles, as well as the exclusive inclusion of Black City (a trainer heavy battle city) in Black and White Forest (a wild Pokemon heavy forest) in White.

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