Pokemon Black Version Review for DS

Platform: DS Check Price
Pokemon Black Version screenshot
Pokemon Black Version screenshot

I was recently asked my most anticipated game of 2011. The answer? Pokémon Black and White. This response was met with looks of bewilderment and disgust, gradually evolving into a chorus of laughter - I’d chosen a children's game over the likes of Uncharted 3, Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim. But as a big RPG fan, the most hardcore eastern offering of 2011 is arguably the new Pokémon. It hasn't been too long since I retired SoulSilver to its box, however, and the sting of losing in the first round of the 2010 national Pokémon championships still lingers, was I really ready to wave goodbye to another two hundred hours on a new poké-adventure? The endorphins swimming through my veins after finding the sleek black cartridge that had appeared on my desk alluded to a resounding yes.

The start of the game presents you the age-old choice of three Pokémon: Snivy, the serpentine grass starter; fire pig Tepig; and Oshawatt the otter. After making your choice, you're handed a Pokédex from female professor Juniper and then leave the small town of Nuvema to make a name for yourself in the Unova region. Sharing this quest are childhood friends Bianca and Cheren, whose paths repeatedly intertwine with yours over the duration. Unlike your rival in previous games, the two remain on good terms with you despite nagging for battles every five minutes.

It's good to have friends, though, because the nefarious Team Plasma is attempting to do what all villains want to do - separate Pokémon from their trainers. They justify their shenanigans with PETA-esque morals this time around, though, arguing that keeping these poor creatures cooped up in balls all day long is unethical. Their argument is militantly enforced by King N and the Seven Sages (the upper echelon of Team Plasma). This N (quite why his name is a single letter is never explained) is your true rival; a misguided youth who walks a path similar to your own, only on the 'dark side' of life. The narrative feels far more poignant than in previous titles, and despite being somewhat cheesy, with words such as destiny, truth and courage bandied around with alarming frequency, it's interesting to follow.

The biggest addition to Black and White is that each and every creature in the game (including older critters from previous titles) now has its own individual animations to accompany it in battle. They flex their muscles, wag their tails and flap their wings. My Emboar, the final evolution of Tepig, shifts his weight from foot to foot, as flames on either shoulder flicker with visible intensity. He looks totally badass.

With a few exceptions, the new Pokémon designs are excellent. Whilst more obscure creatures like Litwick (a candle) and Vanillite (an ice-cream) take some time to adjust to, you can't help but admire the creativity of Game Freak's art team, who have managed to add an impressive 156 new creatures to the 500-strong roster. In fact, until you reach the end-game content, each and every critter you come across is brand new. Interestingly, each pays homage to another of the original 150 Pokémon from 1996's Red and Blue. Tracing their roots feels like a game in itself for the long-time fan.

Black and White also makes use of 3D cutscenes for the first time in the series, alongside conversations taking place with character artwork in the background - a JRPG staple heavily reminiscent of Tales of Symphonia (and its sequels). Architecturally, this is the most ambitious Pokémon game yet, with cities spanning several screens, filled with skyscrapers, alleyways and dockyards. As you cross the several huge bridges in the game, the camera shifts perspectives, zooming in and out to give a sense of scale. The world of Unova is certainly impressive, complimented perfectly by new camera angles, fancy artwork and an upgraded graphics engine.

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User Comments

Joshua55's Avatar

Joshua55

I wanted to say thank you for posting such a great review, it really helped me make up my mind about buying this game, cheers :D
Posted 17:36 on 09 March 2011
IndoorHeroes's Avatar

IndoorHeroes

Exclusive footage of Pearson dancing with a Pokémon at the Black & White launch party last night...

YouTube Video
Posted 11:22 on 04 March 2011
chelskiboy247's Avatar

chelskiboy247

He he, my brothers and I never were good at sharing so it was always a case of waiting for the other to finish with it.

I've only just started SoulSilver and am yet to play Pearl or Dragon Quest IX (they're all my sister's) so I can probably wait for Black/White.
Posted 00:19 on 27 February 2011
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ chelskiboy247

Yeh I can see that being a real pain, and it would be helpful to have backup saves as well for when things go tragically wrong. Nintendo have always said that Pokémon is a very personal experience, so it's like having something that is completely yours, and not shared with anyone. Also, I wouldn't let ANYONE near my Pokémon carts for fear of them deleting saves or just losing them.

But that's where you buy Black AND White AND a new (3)DS so you can trade and battle! I'd say it wasn't quite worth it, but all I've played on my DS Lite since I got it is about 250 hours of Pokémon. Oh, and Professor Layton.
Posted 23:25 on 26 February 2011
chelskiboy247's Avatar

chelskiboy247

I see what you're saying, it's just annoying when there's more than one of us who wants to play it.
Posted 22:44 on 26 February 2011
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ chelskiboy247

That would change everything. It would more or less negate the need for trading back and forth between friends, which would suck. Also, I think the games are made from the perspective that you start a journey once, and that's it. If you 'complete' the game, you don't start again, you carry on collecting Pokémon.
Posted 22:33 on 26 February 2011
chelskiboy247's Avatar

chelskiboy247

Damnation.

Thanks for the quick reply though!
Posted 22:11 on 26 February 2011
Jamin's Avatar

Jamin

Nup, still just the one I'm afraid.
Posted 21:31 on 26 February 2011
chelskiboy247's Avatar

chelskiboy247

Do these versions have multiple save files? I remember the single save slot being very frustrating before and it's about time they did to be honest.
Posted 20:48 on 26 February 2011
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

Absolutely fantastic review.
Shame I no longer have a DS though :/
Posted 21:32 on 14 February 2011
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ Ghost5

WHAT! How do I miss this stuff! Cheers though.

D':
Posted 16:49 on 14 February 2011
Ghost5's Avatar

Ghost5

Just a reminder that you can go and collect your shiny Entei this week from Mystery Gift on D/P/Pt/HG/SS and transfer it to B/W to unlock a special Pokemon you cant get otherwise ;)

Shiny Suicune is next weeks Shiny.

Raikou was last week.
Posted 16:48 on 14 February 2011
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ Jamin

Because I'm not done catching Legendaries yet and still haven't beaten the Elite 4 for the second time =( In Pearl I need to catch Regigas, but that means going back to Ruby/Sapphire and catching Regice and the other two!

Yeaahhh I'll probably never get round to that :P
Posted 16:42 on 14 February 2011
Jamin's Avatar

Jamin

Played Black. And yup, aside from different Pokémon, there's two unique areas to each game: Black City, and White Forest. You can recruit people to come to these areas, gradually fleshing it out with life.

@Woffls, why would you want to be able to trade BACK to SoulSilver? Surely just keep all your Pokémon on Black/White once they're there? And I'll happily cap my team to whatever level you guys want. I had to cap my Lvl 100 team at 50 for the championships, putting to waste many hours of hard training :(
Posted 16:37 on 14 February 2011
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ Woffls

Judging by his performance in the CHampionships, you have little to worry about!

Quote:
Two Pokémon can now appearance at once in the wild,
Sorry, but I had to point this out. It is the only negative I can find in the review, though. But don't you feel that it was a bit pointless? Everybody who is going to buy this game already knows that they are, regardless of what score you popped onto the end. I would like to know which version you played, as the two have different regions in them this time around, or so I hear. And, yes, I would definitely be up for a battle!
Posted 16:29 on 14 February 2011

Game Stats

9
Out of 10
Pokemon Black Version
  • New animations and cutscenes
  • C-Gear offers incredible social features
  • 645+ Pokémon
  • Same old formula
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 04/03/2011
Platform: DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: RPG
Rating: PEGI 3+
Site Rank: 1,056 47
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