DS Review

Pokemon White

The white stuff

Why do people still mutter about how Pokemon is a kids game? Actually do they even do that? I don't know. I've spent sufficient years around Pokemon addicts that it all seems rather normal now, even when you're discussing your Pokemon choices in public. Looking at the glazed eyes that follow when I mention the game to a non believer though, it's clear that people belittle this extraordinarily detailed and deep RPG even now. Still who cares about those silly people? There's a whole plethora of new Pokemon to catch and Pokemon Black and White is a truly essential purchase for fans. While SoulSilver and HeartGold went some way to being something new, Black and White truly pushes it introducing elements that you'll wonder why no one implemented them before.

The plot is distinctly familiar. You play a young teen that leaves their tiny town along with their Mum in order to seek fame and fortune as the best Pokemon trainer in all of Unova. You're given a choice of three Pokemon before you set off as is customary for the series. There's the grass type - Snivy the serpent, Tepig the fire pig and Oshawatt the otter and water type. Yeah OK, sentences like that are probably the reason why some people associate Pokemon with kids. Ignoring that irrelevant point though, Pokemon Black and White sets the scene just how you want it to. Even better, unlike previous Pokemon games, it throws you straight into the action. There's no drawn out tutorial sequences here. Accurately predicting that you know how to play games, Pokemon Black and White gets straight into the thick of it. Within not that long at all, you'll be trundling off to get your first of many gym badges and working your way up the Pokemon gym leader rankings. Besides the usual tropes that we've come to expect from Pokemon stories, there's the addition of Team Plasma - my favourite set of baddies in a long while. They're slightly mental animal (or should I say Pokemon) rights activists with an aim to free all 'enslaved' Pokemon by defeating you. It's a little twisted but it works. I found myself much more entranced by them than any previous villain too. Understanding the motivation behind such things made for a pleasant change.

The story isn't what will keep you playing though. Instead it's the 'gotta catch em all' mentality. With 156 new Pokemon to collect, the world of Pokemon feels renewed and fresh once more. Sure some of them are a little familiar but for the most part, each of them feels different enough to be new and exciting. Even if some concepts are potentially scraping the barrel of originality such as the curious looking Baibanira - a Pokemon made out of ice cream. Original yes but a good idea? Maybe not. Regardless, you won't be seeing any old favourites until you hit the end-game content which is very good news, extending the longevity of the game massively.

Indeed, everything about Pokemon Black and White is streamlined and improved upon. Each Pokemon now has their own individual animations to witness throughout each battle, tying in nicely with the improved graphics overall. It's unfortunate that in battles, Pokemon still look a bit old fashioned and low resolution, but environments look sharper and the pseudo 3D appearance makes for a grand backdrop to wander around. When you enter huge cities, you actually feel like you're somewhere grandiose. It also sets off thoughts of just how wonderful a Pokemon game could look on the 3DS in the future, and I'll certainly be crossing my fingers tightly for this eventuality.

Little things such as the fact that Pokecentres now incorporate the Pokemart so you can heal up, rest your Pokemon and stock up on items all in the same place demonstrate that clearly a lot of thought has been put into just how to improve on such a winning formula. TMs can now be used multiple times on different Pokemon so you can create the ultimate Pokemon team. Battles are much the same as before but now you can have 3 on 3 fights where the placement of characters affects who can do what, adding an extra layer of strategy. Plus you can now encounter two Pokemon at once in the wild.

Even the gym battles feel a bit more involved as you frequently have to solve a series of puzzles before taking on your foe, whether it be a simple maze or a collection of riddles to find a hidden gym leader. Relatively early on in the game, I adored one sequence where you had to follow a series of clues in a library in order to find the gym leader. It might have been quite easy to accomplish but it made for a more satisfactory experience than just walking up to the leader.

Online functionality has been extended further still. A C-Gear device becomes available not long into the game and encompasses fighting, trading and importing Pokemon online. A global ranking system aids the competitive player and a Pokemon Dream World, yet to be opened up, allows players to send their respective creatures online to obtain items and meet other Pokemon. Then there's the Pass By mode - another mode I haven't been able to test out yet. This seeks to allow players to wander around with their DSes, scanning for nearby trainers using WiFi so that they can then trade or fight with them. The potential is certainly there but I do wonder if it'll only ever really be used at conventions or gaming expos.

The aforementioned end game content is impressive with the Pokedex enlarged to over 600 Pokemon in all, new towns unlocked along with many forests and caves, previously inaccessible, being opened up. There's even a new story arc affectively creating a whole new game once you've defeated the Elite Four the first time round. To say that you can quite easily spend 10s of hours playing this game without even scratching the surface wouldn't be hyperbole at all. You can spend /hundreds/ of hours quite easily and still not have mastered everything. There's a tremendous amount to do here.

Pokemon Black and White is a fantastic experience. It's the best Pokemon yet with a huge amount to do. The difference between the two titles is sufficient enough to encourage you to track down a friend with a different version - each of them offering a set of exclusive Pokemon and their own unique area to explore. But much like previous instalments before it, you still get an extremely comprehensive package if you stick with the one title. It's the most complete Pokemon title yet and a very appropriate way to say goodbye to your DS before the ever tantalising 3DS emerges.

E3 Trailer