Well, it’s been a great ride so far; having been a grand sixteen years since the original Red and Blue hit US shores. With the arrival of Black and White, the reviews were mixed between its fanbase on whether or not the game could either stand up to the greatness of its predecessors or potentially stand out as a greater game.
Of the key issues that originally stood out to contrast to the fanbase was the fact that the Pokémon presented forced the player to only look through the new lens of the gaming before opening up its variety later on. Not to say that this same concept hasn’t been applied before, in Black and White, the selection felt a mite lacking as a large selection of the 156 new Pokémon added were set as their own evolutionary lines with no attachment to prior generations. From these Pokémon that were added, a large selection of them were set to either be a part of their own evolutionary lines or legendaries with only a handful actually being dedicated to being individuals, although this could merely be a griping oversight on my end.
I will say though, when you’ve hit a point where as a company, you try to make more than 600 creatures unique and individualized, there should be some Darwinistic wiggle room available to the developers. At this point, I would think it should be alright for similar looking Pokémon to be added to the games. Machop, Machoke and Machamp? I see Timburr, Gurdurr and Conkeldurr. Teddiursa and Ursaring? How about Cubchoo and Beartic as bear counterparts? Or what about Tepig, Pignite and Emboar to the Swinub, Piloswine and Mammoswine pig groupings? Point is, at this stage of development, I think there’s room to have more of the same, just given the wide berth of selection that they have available.
In the latest Pokémon installment, we take the role of new protagonists Hilda and Hilbert (horrible English names, I know) as we travel across the Unova region learning about, capturing and training new Pokémon, facing against new Gym Leaders with wacky new Gym designs and fighting against the evil organization: Team Plasma. I have to say, I rather enjoyed how Game Freak went about designing things in their new installments by adding effects like moving through walls made of honey, firing oneself through cannons and manipulating dragon statues to build walkways to the Gym Leaders.
Alongside our player character, we’re also introduced to two friendly rivals -Cheren and Bianca- as well as our primary antagonist -N- and interestingly enough, throughout the entire game, everyone is kept within a pretty good and friendly area amongst each other. With our two friends (OH MY GOD WE HAVE FRIENDS) in tow, each starter choice gets to be utilized in one way or another as each trainer selects a starter, finally leaving that whole silly “one gets left behind” mumbo jumbo in the dust. HOORAY! EVERY STARTER GETS PICKED NO MATTER WHAT!
As for PETA-I mean Team Plasma, their goals are pretty cut and paste from the other organizations that have appeared through the gaming franchise with their goals to “liberate” Pokémon from their trainers in order to further pursue their own selfish desires for global domination. Ghetsis, their leader imposes himself as a kind, yet powerful leader who speaks of freeing Pokémon from their captivity and to set them all back onto the path of freedom and happiness, though anyone who plays this game can see that while his WORDS may have merit, his character does not bear any positive traits to relate to. And should one oppose him or Team Plasma? “HURR HURR, FIGHTING WITH DER POKAYMANZ IS BAD. LET’S FIGHT SO I CAN SHOW YOU YOU’RE WRONG.” GENIUS! /sarcasm
In terms of overall plot, I'll admit that I still had the mindset that it was going to suck and wouldn't be able to enjoy it. Gradually over time though, I found that the game started to grow on me. As I progressed, I saw myself progressively enjoying myself to what felt like a familiar but COMPLETELY different game. The dynamics felt and were presented in a more technologically progressive manner, rustling grass (which I’ll get to in a bit) was implemented in wild areas, wild encounters and battles were different and in general, everything seemed so... so different.
Of the things added to Pokémon Black and White, battling was one of the most overhauled dynamics added to the game, with its newly added system of triple battles. The concept of triple battling is presumably a thought that’s been in the developer’s minds, but in its presentation, triple battling involved having three Pokémon out on the field with each one having the opportunity to hit between three to five opponents. Given the general fighting mechanics, it’s always recommended to place your strongest Pokémon in the center (on the second place in your party; weird thought, I know) in order to maximize your fighting potential. By doing this, your “lead” can hit all opponents at the downside of possibly being hit by anyone. The diagram to the left is a simplified way of illustrating what I've explained.
As for running into wild Pokémon, two new methods have been implemented into gameplay which involve dark grass and rustling grass (or moving environment). In the former example, dark grass allows trainers to run into slightly more powerful Pokémon than they would in normal grass and occasionally, the dark grass allows trainers to go up against stronger Pokémon and even have the opportunity to fight against two at once. As for rustling grass (or moving water, moving sand, etc.), this newly implemented feature allows the trainer to come across rarer Pokémon that they normally wouldn’t come across in the wild, or possibly find Pokémon with better stats.
All in all, I would have to say that the gameplay, while innovative did come off somewhat flat in its presentation. It was almost as though the guys at Game Freak hit a slump and tried to push out another good game, but unfortunately fell short on their presentation. While the gameplay was fun, it did feel a bit flat. Thankfully, I took it in stride, acknowledging that they’ve been at this game for just a little over fifteen years at this point. With talks of the first definitive sequel (without gen-hopping) I’d like to think of Black and White as a beta to the later release of Black and White 2. It was fun, but definitely something more suited for a laid-back gaming experience.
Reviewer Rating: 3.75/5
Reviewed by: Kaz