Pokemon Black Version

Pokemon Black Version Review for DS

On: DS

Featuring the next generation of all-new Pokemon.

Review Verdict Read Review
9Out of 10
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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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19 Comments

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Woffls's Avatar

Woffls@ Jamin

Oh yeh right, with your level 80 squad against my level 22 Pidgeotto replacement. Unless I storm through the gyms and import my Soul Silver and Pearl squads, but then I wouldn't be able to trade them back /o\
Posted 16:20 on 14 February 2011
Jamin's Avatar

Jamin@ Neon-Soldier32

Ah, good spot.

I figured once I'd downed the Elite Four for the second time I'd probably be happy putting a review live. Obviously it's a game that you can pour hundreds of hours into (I put well over 500 into the original Gold and Silver) -- but you have to draw the line somewhere. I've seen most of what there is to see now, though, and am looking forward to giving you guys a battle or two after launch.
Posted 15:55 on 14 February 2011
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

If I buy this it will be because of the post-game, which is usually quite dry and not tied together well enough to be interesting. It looks like the extra story arc might help this, but I'd still rather have a series of extended side quests to go on.

I still have Soul Silver in my DS right now, and I'm not done with it. I guess that's the problem with Pokemon, in that the series has been brilliant for so long that it's difficult to justify investing in the next one. Unless it's in 3D n_n
Posted 15:51 on 14 February 2011
Neon-Soldier32's Avatar

Neon-Soldier32

Quote:
Wit a few exceptions,

Watch out for typos!

Excellent review Jamin, I know that I've been bugging you over Twitter asking questions and what not.

How did you decide when you had played enough to review the game on? And, what stopped you from giving this game a 10?
Posted 15:46 on 14 February 2011

Game Stats

Pokemon Black Version
9
Out of 10
Pokemon Black Version
  • New animations and cutscenes
  • C-Gear offers incredible social features
  • 645+ Pokémon
  • Same old formula
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Release Date: 04/03/2011
Platform: DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: RPG
Rating: PEGI 3+
Site Rank: 1,556 144
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