|Dev: Game Freak|
|Pub: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company|
|Release: March 6, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by James Trujillo
Since its inception back in 1996, Pokemon has been one of Nintendo's most popular franchises to date. It's become such a phenomenon in popular culture that just the utterance of the name will garner a reaction. Whether that reaction is good or bad usually depends on the person's knowledge on the subject, but, whatever the case, the name recognition is there. Now it's time to enter the fifth generation of the Pokemon series, and fans are surely excited about what this new release has to offer.
The fine folks at Nintendo were gracious enough to invite us to a preview demonstration of Pokemon Black and White that showed off a great number of new features for the series. The most obvious is the improved graphics and interactive camera angles you'll experience during your playthrough. They're subtle touches, but each Pokemon in the game is now fully animated, and doesn't appear as much like there's someone standing behind a cardboard cutout providing movement. During battles, the attacks are also more animated than ever before, and the camera moves along to bring more life to the battle sequences. However, the most interesting use of the camera is within the game world's new region of Unova.
Each version will feature two distinct locations unique to each game, along with completely different environmental characteristics. When wandering through the urban Black City, you'll instantly notice the way the camera scrolls around the curved streets, zooms in when ducking through an alley, or pans back to reveal a larger scope when crossing a bridge. Although I didn't see much of the White Forest, I was assured that it would largely appeal to the more nature-oriented individual.
It's also important to note that each version of the game will greatly affect how you approach the gameplay. Pokemon Black's exclusive area of Black City will feature far more trainers to battle than in Pokemon White. Because of this, the Pokemon you battle will be stronger and give you access to different rewards for defeating the trainers in your vicinity. You'll also have an easier time acquiring items from the variety of shops throughout the city. Alternately, the White Forest in Pokemon White will contain a wide array of wild Pokemon for you to capture that are not available in Pokemon Black. Their starting levels will be much lower and you will also be able to find many other items exclusive to Pokemon White during your journey.
The battle system in Pokemon Black and White is largely the same as the previous versions, but has expanded even further with the addition of all-new Triple Battles. Players will now have a more strategic approach to their battle experience with this three-on-three format, putting great importance on the placement of Pokemon during these scenarios. For example, a Pokemon in the center position will have free reign to attack all three of the opponents, but the Pokemon in the side positions are a bit limited. Their attack range is narrower, allowing them to reach only the Pokemon located in the center or directly in front of them. Players will need to choose the center role carefully, because not only will they have more freedom to attack, but they also become more vulnerable as well.
Another new addition comes as a replacement to the Poketch, which was featured in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. The new C-Gear takes a more streamlined look at a variety of features like Wi-Fi and Wireless connectivity, while also giving much quicker access to a few different multiplayer facets. The focus seems to have been more on building a stronger community, as the game now makes better use of the Nintendo DS's infrared communication between devices. Battles between friends can take place in a matter of minutes with IR connectivity, as well as direct trades right out of the PC box and an almost-instant exchange of friend codes. The C-Gear can also be customized in a multitude of ways by rearranging, changing, and adding icons or wallpapers to make a more aesthetically pleasing touchscreen.
Pokemon Gold and Silver first brought the concept of day and night cycles to the series, but Pokemon Black and White takes it one step further with seasonal cycles. Lasting a total of four months real time, each cycle brings a change not only to the environment around you, with changing leaf colors or snow-covered walkways, but also grants the ability to obtain Pokemon who are only available during certain times of the year.
It's a bit overwhelming keeping track of all the new features packed in to Pokemon Black and White. From the new Pokemon Musicals, which replaces Pokemon Contests, to the brand new Feeling Check, which tests the compatibility between two players, what we saw is all just the tip of the iceberg. Fans will have plenty to keep them occupied with the introduction of over 150 new Pokemon, once the game hits store shelves on March 6th 2011. The only real question followers of the franchise need to ask themselves is which version they're going to pick up, because deciding between the two might be difficult.
During the closing moments of my preview of the game, the two Nintendo representatives asked me which game exclusive Legendary Pokemon I preferred: Pokemon Zekrom (available in White) or Pokemon Reshiram (available in Black). I chose Zekrom based on looks alone, and was informed that their survey throughout the day revealed 100 percent of the male demographic chose Zekrom, while 100 percent of females chose Reshiram. I still stand by my choice. I already have enough of the hectic city life, so gathering Pokemon in the White Forest just sounds a bit more relaxing, and I could use the vacation.
CCC Freelance Writer