|Dev: Game Freak|
|Pub: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company|
|Release: March 6, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Lindsey Weedston
If you want to know how popular Pokémon games are, the new Black and White versions were pre-ordered 1.08 million times in Japan, and on launch day sold 2.6 million copies. Moving on.
Many, many of us enjoy Pokémon, with its lovable, portable creatures and delightful simplicity. We may joke about how little has changed since Red and Blue, and about how much money Nintendo has made since then without really having to be at all innovative, but we love it. Well, Pokémon fans are in for a treat with the latest pair of games, as a surprising amount of new features can be found within the region of Unova.
The most exciting features to be found in Black and White are the new battle mechanics. If you thought double battles were awesome, soon you will experience the joy of triple battles! They're a lot like double battles, only the Pokémon on the left side can't attack their opponents on the right side, and those on the right can't attack those on the left. The monster in the middle can attack all three. Double battles were probably the best idea to come out of Pokémon since its creation due to the fact that they require a different strategy than single battles, giving more variety in a game that could possibly be described as monotonous. Triple battles will therefore make Black and White even more exciting. The fact that some Pokémon won't be able to reach others will add yet another level of strategy to the games.
On top of this, there will be rotation battles. These also use three Pokémon, but they fight one at a time. What makes them unlike single battles is that the player can change to one of the other two Pokémon without using a turn. It'll be like having three Pokémon who know Baton Pass. This kind of battle will require a completely different strategy, and should be quite a bit more entertaining than using the same move with the same monster over and over.
Less exciting are the numerous other additions, such as changing seasons, actual highways with moving traffic, and of course, a whole load of new Pokémon. Nintendo continues to scoff at round numbers by adding 156 creatures. That's more new Pokémon than has ever been in a game, even if some of them do look like old ones that were painted different colors. Then there are the features that replace old ones, like the Pokémon musicals (instead of Pokémon contests), the Battle Subway (rather than the Battle Towers/Frontiers), and the C-Gear (to replace the Pokétch). Most importantly, there are two new, awesome, legendary Pokémon to catch: Reshiram in Black and Zekrom in White.
There are also plenty of new features that are only usable by those lucky enough to own a DSi. These players will be able to access the Pokémon Global Link, which will allow them to battle random people over the internet in an effort to increase their global rank. They can also get to Dream World, where Pokémon and items from previous games can be found and brought back to Unova. The High Link feature will allow players to go into their friends' games and complete special missions for power ups. This is all exciting news if your DS has internet. The global rating system in particular seems like it will have the potential to make some Pokéfans very obsessive.
The most surprising addition to the game is some decent graphics. Compared to anything else, they're not impressive, but compared to all other handheld Pokémon games, they are. The camera actually moves during battles, zooming in on the creature attacking or being attacked, making for a more dynamic experience. In the city, the screen rotates around the 3D buildings. There are honest-to-god cutscenes, one of which features a green-haired guy holding a crown and a close-up of someone's eyes. It almost looks like it could be close to being on par with the other Japanese DS games. This is unexpected considering how little the Pokémon series has focused on its visual appeal beyond the cuteness/coolness of its monsters. It might cause players to care a little bit about the story, or it might just be weird.
Speaking of story, Black and White's villainous organization is Team Plasma, and they're a bit different from the other Teams we've seen so far. They're not just terrorists. They're eco-terrorists. Team Plasma, led by their leader who is seriously named "N," is dedicated to the liberation of Pokémon from humans. N and his cohorts believe that humans use Pokémon as tools, and wish to create a separate world where the monsters can live in peace. N even lets his own Pokémon go after each battle, which makes him somewhat less of a hypocrite. This may be a sign of the general maturation of the Pokéfans, because I don't think children would appreciate this kind of moral depth. Don't people treat Pokémon as slaves? They are captured, imprisoned, renamed, and forced to battle and (in Black and White) prance around on stage in goofy costumes. I imagine that it's going to be hard to think of N as a "bad guy."
The Pokémon series has never had a reputation for trying new things or having a whole lot of depth, and it's never needed these things to be enjoyable. However, it's always nice to see developers putting in some extra effort to keep things interesting, and if a large chunk of the Japanese population is to be believed, it's paid off. Famitsu, the weekly Japanese magazine, gave Pokémon Black / White a perfect score of forty out of forty. It's hard to imagine that the series has improved so much as to be perfect, but I suspect that Black and White will be an improvement—one which I am looking forward to playing.
CCC Freelance Writer