The long running RPG series is back for another round. This month saw the release of Pokemon Black and Pokemon White for the Nintendo DS, and the overall consensus is that this one passes muster. As a relatively conservative series, Pokemon games rarely have groundbreaking or revolutionary changes from edition to edition, and Pokemon Black and Pokemon White are no different. Diehard Pokemon fans won’t be alienated by some of the minor tweaks and changes that have been introduced, and may even enjoy some of the new flourishes.
As a Pokemon game, there isn’t much wiggle room in terms of plot and premise. In Pokemon Black and White, you are an aspiring Pokemon trainer tasked with “catching ‘em all” whilst earning eight gym badges and defeating the elite four to become the champion. The villains in this game are Team Plasma, a sort-of hardline Pokemon-rights activist group seeking to liberate Pokemons from their servitude to trainers like you.
Pokemon Black and Pokemon White have 3D graphics that are familiar to Nintendo DS titles, but works to retain the retro feel of 16-bit graphics you’d see in a classic SNES RPG. While the mix of next gen graphics and throwback pixels may seem like an odd combination, it works. While moving around the map, the perspective pans and tilts, giving a very pleasing sense of space.
The most noticeable departure in this series comes in the battle scenes. Where Pokemon once stayed static and still, they now animate while attacking, taking damage, etc. Overall, it’s very nice—even the staunchest of purists will welcome the visual improvement.
Pokemon Black and Pokemon White include some in-game developments that are designed to make progressing through the game less frustrating. For instance, you can now Pokemarts and Pokemon centers are now available under the same roof. You can also find trainers who can heal your team, saving you a trip back to town when you’re in the thick of it. Also, you can teach TMs to as many Pokemon as you’d like, rather than just one. Another big change: you can now have battles with up to three Pokemon at a time, which introduces an additional element of strategy.
Pokemon Black and Pokemon White have a stronger focus on multiplayer gaming, which means that the entire bottom screen is dedicated to connecting and interacting with other players. For those who enjoy playing with other Pokemon trainers, this is a boon. But for those who usually stick to single player, this can be a nuisance. In previous Pokemon games, the bottom Nintendo DS screen could be customized based on your preferences. Pokemon Black and White does not have this feature.
If you’ve played all Pokemon games up until this point, there’s definitely no reason to stop now. Pokemon Black and Pokemon White pick up where previous Pokemon titles left off and retains the allure of the series.