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Pokémon Black Version Review (Nintendo DS)
Review by 
9.04/10 from 17 user ratings
 
NOTE: This review is of the Japanese version of the game. Some stuff may change in the American version, though if history is any indication, nothing aside from names will. I imported it a while time ago, but I wanted to truly appreciate every aspect of the game before reviewing it, since Pokemon is my favorite franchise nowadays and I wanted to do it justice. I needed to use Serebii sometimes to look at Pokemon types/moves, and I had to check out a Walkthrough twice due to not knowing what do to because I didn't understand the text. But other than that, I could progress just fine.


Pokemon Black and White are the new installments of the main Pokemon franchise, introducing the fifth generation of Pokemon. There's a whopping 649 Pokemon now, and a new region called Unova. You're a kid who fights Gym Leaders and becomes League Champion, blah blah, we know this. The question is the same as with every new Pokemon game - are the upgrades worthwhile enough to catch them all again? And the short answer, is still the same - for diehard Pokemon fans, they are. For someone who's never been interested in Pokemon, no. For a Pokemon fan that's tired of the formula, also probably not. Regardless, I will discuss them at length for those interested.

The first change any player's going to notice is the graphics. The engine is very similar to that found in the fourth generation, however there's a lot more 3D going on. While the game retains the overhead view, the characters are taller and thinner, giving them a more realistic look. There are speech bubbles now instead of plain text at the bottom of the screen, making conversations more dynamic. What's also more dynamic is the battle screen - the sprites animate, the camera moves to focus at the Pokemon that's attacking, and quickly shifts to the Pokemon that's being attacked, and just rotates around when the battle's idle. I thought this would slow the battles down, but believe it or not, they're actually faster than they were before. The Pokemon you're using is a bit pixelated since it's zoomed in so much, but other than that, I think this is a very welcome change to the games. The textures are definitely upped from Diamond and Pearl.


The second major change are Triple Battles. They're 3 on 3 battles. There are two types of triple battles - regular and rotation battles. Regular Tripple Battles act just like double battles, but there's a catch. See, there's 3 Pokemon on each side - one in the left, one in the center and one in the right. Your left Pokemon can't attack your opponent's right Pokemon. The only guy that can attack everyone is the one in the middle. Rotation Battles allow you to, well, rotate your Pokemon. This rotation wastes a turn, meaning, you can't attack the same turn you rotate. Let's say you have a Water Pokemon on the left and your foe has a Fire Pokemon on the right, you can rotate your guy to the right or center for super effective damage. Of course your opponent can rotate too. I think they're a welcome change and definitely add a bit of strategy, and thankfully they're not very common and often optional - very nice.

I should also mention, Black and White are probably the version with the most differences between them in Pokemon history (though they're still not huge, lol). Aside from exclusive Pokemon, each game has an exclusive area (they're in the same spot in the map, and you get to them after beating the Elite Four), White Forest and Black City. Black City is great for battling strong trainers and buying rare battle items in shops, whereas White Forest has tons of rare Wild Pokemon unobtainable in Black, and you can also buy berries. At first they start out pretty empty, but more stuff is added as you use the local wireless aspect of the games. I'm not entirely sure how this works due to language restrictions/not many wireless friends, sorry. Aside from this, there are some cities/routes which have small aesthetic changes depending on your version. White looks more natural, and Black looks more technological overall. This is especially noticeable in the city with the Eight Gym. Speaking of, the last Gym Leader is and old guy in Black, and a girl in White. Their teams are exactly the same. I guess Black is the version to get if you're a competitive battler, and if you're a collector, White is for you.


The last major change is the Season Cycle. Aside from the day-night cycle that's been around since Gold and Silver (except in Ruby and Sapphire, but those games suck so it's okay), there are seasons now. They're not exactly like real life, though. Each season lasts one month, allowing for three cycles a year. It's Spring in January, Summer in February, Autumn in March, Winter in April, Spring in May, so on. These bring about obvious cosmetic changes, for instance routes will have snow in Winter, brown leaves in Autumn and the grass will look extremely green in Spring. And they also sprout gameplay changes you'd expect from the Pokemon franchise; some Pokemon are found in the wild only in Winter, for example. Or some will only be in an early route in the Summer, and won't be obtainable until much later in the other seasons. Or they might be common in Autumn and rare in Spring, so on and so forth. The music also changes in some routes depending on the season. The most major change is one specific new Pokemon which I won't spoil, which has four different forms - one for each season.

Speaking of, I gotta say I really, really like the new Pokemon. I will only show a few early ones in a picture below for spoiler reasons, but the majority of them both look great and have great types and movesets. You might be interested to know the Unova Dex is only made up of new Pokemon, meaning, you won't see your old favorites after getting the National Dex (after beating the Elite Four, as usual)


There are also more minor changes that are definitely welcome. You have two Rivals this time instead of one (the classic rival, and a girl that picks the Pokemon that's weak against yours), TMs are now infinite use, Poisoned Pokemon don't lose health outside of battle, you can catch two Legendary Pokemon as soon as you get Surf, there is one huge, fully 3D city with many streets and stuff (you've probably seen it, they marketed the hell out of it), but it's nothing insane gameplay-wise, the first Gym leader has three types and uses the one that's strong against your starter, you'll occasionally find shaky patches of grass randomly (like those with the PokeRadar, if you remember) which contain rare Pokemon, and a few more.

There also are small, but very welcome new Wi-Fi features. Everything that was in the fourth generation Wi Fi is here, but now you also have Random Matches (finally), and live trades on the GTS, meaning you're paired up with a random person, you select a Pokemon of theirs and they select one of yours, (you can check out the other guy's Pokemon's stats and everything) and if you both approve of the trade, it happens. You can do this multiple times with the same person.

Everything else is the same. Of course it's different, but it's the same formula. You'll find eight Gyms with puzzles, routes, water routes, routes with weather effects, HMs to get, trainers to fight, wild Pokemon to catch, small side-quests to do, dungeons, an evil team, etc, etc. The touch menus/boxes from HG/SS return, but the "run automatically" button is gone, same as the Pokemon following you and the Pokewalker support. By the way, the music is GREAT. I was honestly surprised. A huge improvement over Diamond and Pearl.

Overall, if you expected a new Pokemon game with welcome improvements to the same old formula, you won't be disappointed. I think it's better than D/P/Pt, definitely better than R/S/E, and slightly worse than HG/SS, but maybe that's just because I personally love the Johto games a lot.

This new generation of Pokemon delivers on what it has always delivered and nothing more. Again.

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Posted: 02/07/11, 20:30:54  - Edited by 
 on: 02/07/11, 23:11:49    
 
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Fantastic review, great job. Interested in trying this iteration out eventually. I got other games line up at the moment, but I did appreciate how Platinum made Diamond and Pearl much much better. Hope these games continue the trend.


Posted by 
 on: 02/07/11, 21:30:09
Thanks for the review @GelatinousEncore. Have you been able to use the Trade features outside of the Pokemon Centers. If so how are they?


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 00:29:20
Nice review, man. I won't be picking this up, because I'm still in the thick of Soul Silver. Maybe I'll cave for Grey 3DS. Maybe.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 00:35:56
Nice job on the review! Of course I'm grabbing this immediately on release (I mean really, look at my icon lol), and a lot of what I've seen/heard/read really has me intrigued. As far as how it compares to other gens, I'm still a big fan of "if it ain't broke don't fix it".... Pokemon seems to always change just enough to keep me enticed without trying to become something else.

It's probably what I appreciate most about the series.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 02:02:21
@sirmastersephiroth The GTS (or Global Terminal) is now in every Pokemon Center. I explained how it works in the review. The changes are nice.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 02:40:11
@GelatinousEncore I'm sorry, I didn't explain myself well. What I actually meant is are you able to perform a trade outside of the Pokemon Centers with other people. For example, let's say you're outside in the field and a friend wants to trade Pokemon with you. I think I read somewhere that you can just trade right then and there and that you can even battle with him. Have you been able to try that out?


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 02:54:10
Oooh, sorry. I haven't encountered any of that, other than the classic in-game trades. I screwed around with Wi-Fi and didn't see any of that. Maybe it's Local Wireless stuff? I dont have any people to test that out.

I know you can do some of that stuff in White Forest and Black City (interact with other people, I think you can battle and trade but not sure), not sure about other areas.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 03:17:50  - Edited by 
 on: 02/08/11, 03:18:54
Very cool that you played through the import. I'm looking forward to this game's release in the US. I really like some of changes they made you described. 3-on-3 adds another layer of strategy, and things like infinite use of TMs sounds great.

I was wondering what was it about Ruby and Sapphire you did not like very much?


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 03:36:51
Meh, I usually just buy the third Pokemon of every generation. (ex. Emerald, Platinum, etc.)

I still have yet to buy Platinum, though. I don't know, I think Pokemon is becoming something like Guitar Hero or Call of Duty was to me- it is the same thing over and over again.

Great review, though.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 03:48:08
@roykoopa64 Third generation Pokemon (mostly), too many water routes, no day-night cycle, not being able to trade with any game aside from Ruby or Sapphire (this wasn't the game's fault, but it still annoyed me), lame Rival compared to Silver (I'm used to them being nice and friendly now), lame music.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 04:04:39
@GelatinousEncore I found some info on the trading features from serebii.com. And yeah, it's local wireless. I also found a video that shows the infra-red trading in action:



Infra Red Options
The C Gear's Infa Red options are the parts of the C-Gear that are the most plentiful as there are four options here. These options require you and your friend to be in close proximity with your DS consoles facing eachother to allow for the IR signal between the two cartridges to be read. These features are as follows

Battle: This option allows for a quick battle between you and your friend over IR. This battle works immediately and uses your current team in the battle.

Trade: This option allows for quick trades. You can select Pokémon from both your party and your boxes in order to trade with your friend quickly

Friend Code Exchange: This option is for a quick method of transferring Friend Codes between you and your friends. This will allow you to swap them with people you've just met and face them over WiFi at a later point

Feeling Check: The Feeling Check is a brand new IR feature which has you and your friend interact via the Touch Screen. This interaction will show how compatible you are and you'll get scored accordingly. If your compatibility is between 00 and 60, then you'll receive a Heart Sweet item. For 60 up to 80 however, you'll receive two. This can only be done with a person once a day.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 06:56:34  - Edited by 
 on: 02/08/11, 07:01:54
Nice, I've never been able to try any of that! And probably never will with the Japanese version


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 15:53:39
@GelatinousEncore This is one of the reasons I'm so excited about this game. Are you going to get the American versions? If so which one?


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 23:08:31
Yeah, I imported White, so I'll get the American Black.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 23:21:53
I'm getting Black also. I have a friend who's getting White so I should be able to trade easily. If not we can always trade here.


Posted by 
 on: 02/08/11, 23:34:59
GelatinousEncore said:
@roykoopa64 Third generation Pokemon (mostly), too many water routes, no day-night cycle, not being able to trade with any game aside from Ruby or Sapphire (this wasn't the game's fault, but it still annoyed me), lame Rival compared to Silver (I'm used to them being nice and friendly now), lame music.

Craziness!

Nah, it's all personal opinion - RSE was my favorite gen for a long time, until the 4th gen (I didn't care for the 2nd gen too much and had that confirmed with the HGSS release). Loved the 3rd gen Pokemon additions (Flygon! Ninjask! Whiscash! Salamence! Manectric! Pelip-- wait, Pelipper sucks). I agree on the lack of a visible day/nite cycle.

I didn't mind the water routes, it was nice to have such a different, more island-esque location. And I liked Wally! I thought it was great to see him evolve and be so powerful by the end-game.

Still, 4th gen is my fav now.


Posted by 
 on: 02/09/11, 00:19:33
@Dynablade We have different views then :p Johto was my favorite when it came out (I was blown away, the original G/S is one of the few games I'd give a 10/10. And trust me, they are few), and it still is my favorite region. HG/SS is my favorite game in the series now.

Sinnoh follows it, then Unova, then Kanto, then Hoenn. (this is region-wise only. B/W is a better game than D/P IMO, and Red/Blue is better than both)


Posted by 
 on: 02/09/11, 00:34:40  - Edited by 
 on: 02/09/11, 00:36:05
@GelatinousEncore

I hear yah. I still loved the hell out of GS and for its time... wow. Asking me to rank the mainline PKMN games is like asking me to rank different brands of chocolate ice cream.

...I don't even know if that analogy really makes sense. I'm just hungry at this point and ice cream sounds so damn good right now...

EDIT: for me it's Hoenn, Sinnoh, Johto, Kanto. It's really hard for me to go back and play RBY and GSC these days - I'm playing through Emerald (again!) right now though (off and on).

I'm pretty sure the new region will take over for me though. Unova just looks awesome.


Posted by 
 on: 02/09/11, 02:04:54  - Edited by 
 on: 02/09/11, 02:07:08
I know what you mean. That's the thing about the Pokemon franchise, the games are so consistently similar, yet so consistently good, it can be hard to know which is your favorite. But then some of them do some minor things that I love, and some that I hate. To me, it was a huge deal to go back to Kanto in G/S, and the water routes in R/S were really annoying, for instance.

Oh, and the Running Shoes were a great addition in R/S, but then you couldn't use them indoors. So it defeated the whole purpose, turning them into a shittier Bike that you get a bit earlier. D/P fixed this, thankfully.


Posted by 
 on: 02/09/11, 02:42:39  - Edited by 
 on: 02/09/11, 02:49:13
Sorry to bump this, but I didn't mention it in the review and I thought it's relevant. I left it out originally due to spoilers, but I figured I can tease you without spoiling anything

There's a major shake-up in Black/White toward the end of the game. I won't tell you what it is, but you definitely wanna play until the end if you want to see a pretty significant break to the formula. I figured informing you guys without telling you what it is would make you more eager to see it for yourself...


Posted by 
 on: 02/12/11, 00:04:13  - Edited by 
 on: 02/12/11, 00:08:50
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