Sunday, November 21, 2010

Donald's Pokemon Black/White Review

This review is based on a Japanese version of the game. Certain online features such as Dream World will have to wait until the North American release due to a lack of Japanese knowledge on the part of the writer.

When it was announced several months back that the Black and White versions would feature no old Pokemon for a majority of the adventure, there was some fear among experienced players that everything would just be cloned over from the 1st generation like they did in Ruby and Sapphire. Despite some evidence to the contrary - namely the 3rd consecutive Fire/Fighting starter - enough has changed and enough of the annoying things from prior games have been excised that this is the most enjoyable ingame romp yet.

Addition Through Subtraction
The key is that a lot of the little annoying things in the game - Golbats, HMs and the old experience curving - have been ditched. Golbat is pretty self-explanatory, but there is a grand total of 1 time in the game prior to the Elite 4 where you need to use an HM out of battle. The first time through, I didn't even pick up Strength until two cities after it was needed and didn't miss it.

If you're the kind of person who wants to explore the side areas - and you should, considering the rewards are pretty powerful Pokemon and some good moves - you will need Strength and Surf. But since you're probably using them as in-battle moves anyway, it won't cause you many problems going through.

The other major timesaver is that it's quite easy to add new members to the team if you need to. Although they did take out the Vs Seeker, it's made up for with four things:

- Repeatable TMs
- A way to trigger an encounter with a wild Pokemon that has the highest base experience of any Pokemon in history
- A new experience curve that gives Pokemon more experience at lower levels
- A free Lucky Egg during the course of the storyline

All of these boosts make it really easy to use favourites or cool-looking Pokemon, although there are certain ones that are still more equal than others.

Story Considerations
Although the bar isn't set very high for Pokemon storylines, it was set by Platinum with the Team Galactic storyline. At least from what I can gather from reading story FAQs, the TVTropes article and various fanon that the storyline is actually deeper than the one in Platinum. Much like the older heroes in the game, it's a reflection of the maturity of the franchise.

(Again, this is subject to further reflection once the English version is out.)

New Pokemon
Let me lay it out first; A 3rd consecutive Fire/Fighting final form of the Fire starter is annoying, and if Pokemon #655 is Fire/Fighting, there may be mass homicide. However, I've been able to play through the game five times over with wildly varying teams in each one (even allowing for the one mono-fire expirement).

The only odd thing is that there's not many specially-focused Water types - you have Daikenki (who ends up with a better physical movepool anyway), Brungeru (the Water/Ghost) and, uh, that's it. Of the other Water-types, they're mainly physically focused - if Kerudio wasn't an event Pokemon I'd be a lot happier.

As usually happens, I've basically put away my 4th gen games at this point - the only times I've booted one since were to get Mew and to refresh the Pokewalker in Heart Gold. For a game that I really can't even read, this is one hell of an accomplishment.

If this is the end of Pokemon on the 2DS, it's a helluva way to go out.

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