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Pokemon Black and White review

AT A GLANCE
  • Ridiculous amount of ridiculously deep content
  • Way more post-game content
  • Best multiplayer support yet
  • Same eight gym formula
  • No more Poketch
  • Not having time for any other games

Pokemon Black and Pokemon White feel like what a DS Pokemon game should be. Of course, it has the ultra-deep battle mechanics that Pokemon is known for, coupled with the series' most beautiful graphics and sound to date. And with a new region and now over 600 Pokemon to collect and train, there's more content in B&W than in most (practically all) full console games. No doubt, Pokemon B&W is absolutely a fantastic game. If it were the first entry in the series, instead of a game built upon the shoulders of its predecessors, it would be the easiest 10/10 to award.  

The big question though, is whether or not enough significant upgrades have been made since the last DS generation of Pokemon games to justify Black/White's existence. To find out, let's start at the beginning.


Obligatory explanation of the Pokemon series


Pokemon is like an RPG with over 600 playable characters to choose from. You play as a Pokemon trainer who adventures around a region filled with cities and wilderness, catching various Pokemon and then using your captured Pokemon to battle other Pokemon. Besides exploration, the core gameplay mechanic has two main components: collecting and battling.

The collection aspect ("gotta catch 'em all!") is what Pokemon is most well-known for, and rightly so. What elevates Pokemon's collecting mechanic into compulsive addiction territory, besides the imaginitive designs of the Pokemon themselves, is that every Pokemon is literally unique. You can rest assured that your Snorlax is in some way different than anyone else's Snorlax, from his IVs (individual values determined at birth that affect his stats – like Pokemon genetics), to his EVs (effort values that affect his stats based on how you trained him), to his nature (a value that effects his strengths and weaknesses), OT (original trainer) and so on.


Above: This is my Wobbuffet, not yours

So much data goes into each Pokemon that it essentially constitutes a sort of DNA, and many complex values work in conjunction to create differences among Pokemon that range from subtle to extreme. Even if you're not familiar with the details of how everything works under the hood, you can still see the results as your Pokemon grow in various ways, and it's why properly training a Pokemon by battling it with other Pokemon can be so rewarding. 

But you don't need to know any of this to enjoy Pokemon. The true brilliance of the series is that it can be played on a wide array of levels from shallow to the deepest of the deep. On the surface, it's a basic, turn-based RPG that's simple enough that even a fairly small child could grasp it and successfully play through the story campaign. Delve deeper into the game mechanics though, and you find an unparalleled level of strategic depth, with infinite possibilities for training and battling Pokemon. And you don't have to play it on one end or the other – Pokemon players fall everywhere on the spectrum because the game allows for however much depth you're willing to explore. 


What's new in Black & White?


Where to start? Like in previous generations, B&W adds a lot of little new features and improvements that add up to give it an overall evolved feel. The most immediately noticeable improvement is in the graphics – this is a showcase for how absolutely beautiful sprite graphics can be. The pseudo-3D visuals perfectly show not only how timeless sprite art can be, but at the same time show how it can be updated to look modern and fresh. B&W truly looks worthy of the DS hardware while maintaining the beloved aesthetic of the series. 

Gameplay-wise, in the single-player, our favorite addition is definitely the seasonal changes. Exploring a new region is one of our favorite aspects of playing a new Pokemon game, and the seasonal shifts add a dynamic element to exploration that we haven't seen in the series since the real-time day/night cycles introduced in Gold and Silver. Seasons also have a real-time component, but they cycle through by calendar month rather than by real-life season, so Spring is in real-life January, Summer is in February, Fall in March, Winter in April, then Spring again in May and so forth. The day/night cycle and days of the week still exist too, and days are even longer in Summer and shorter in Winter, which is a cool touch.

Seasons aren't just dynamic visually either – they actually affect the gameplay and your ability to explore the environment. Winter has the most pronounced changes, where ponds freeze over so you can't fish or surf, but piles of fluffy snow form below cliffs, so you can walk up the gently sloping snow to access a previously inaccessible area. And of course, some wild Pokemon encounters vary by season too, depending on the Pokemon's particular habits. All together, the seasons go far to make Unova feel like a living, breathing world that you can explore at length and continue to discover new things even when revisiting previously explored areas.

And of course, there are 150+ new Pokemon to discover, catch and train. Some of them are clearly inspired by Pokemon from previous games, like Woobat, who shares some common traits with Zubat from the original 151. Most, however, feel fresh and new, with creative visual designs and many with new type combos. Ultimately, it's going to come down to personal taste whether you like the new Pokemon, and as always some are obviously cooler than others, but overall it feels like an inspired bunch that's about on par with Pokemon introduced in generations past. 

More Info

Release date: Mar 06 2011 - DS (US)
Mar 04 2011 - DS (UK)
Available Platforms: DS
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Game Freak
Franchise: Pokemon
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence
PEGI Rating:
3+
GamesRadarCarolynGudmundson
GamesRadar

Life is nature's way of keeping meat fresh.

Topics

Pokemon

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  • rjjones - April 26, 2011 2 a.m.

    THATS RACIST!!! but i get teh blakk one
  • secretsearcher - March 19, 2011 6:07 p.m.

    decision made. i'm getting white. if only because i really want that black legendary...
  • secretsearcher - March 19, 2011 6:04 p.m.

    Well fine. I'm sold. I was planning on not buying one of these (Poke'mon has been getting old for me), but you've convinced me otherwise. Now I just need to decide which to buy...
  • gamingfreak - March 17, 2011 11:48 p.m.

    Every time I'm done with Pokemon, I get sucked right back in.
  • Austin_SJ - March 8, 2011 2:36 p.m.

    I kind of wish I had a DS.
  • GamesRadarShanePatterson - March 8, 2011 2:26 a.m.

    MUST GET
  • GameManiac - March 8, 2011 1:36 a.m.

    Must. Get. White. Damn you Gamestop for making me wait. Oh well... At least I'll finish Heartgold by then.
  • Felixthecat - March 7, 2011 9:04 p.m.

    Got it Friday, fucking love it. Best game since Pokemon Yellow, and this is coming from an owner of every main series Pokemon game thus far. Everything feels new, it's so different. Should have gotten a 10 IMO.
  • jackthemenace - March 7, 2011 4:22 p.m.

    I love the game, but... I can't help feeling that it's getting too samey. The whole new 'dex is obviously supposed to try and combat it, but, like the article says, the tried and tested eight-gyms-then-pokemon-league, as well as one dodgy team that always seems to do the same thing just make the series kinda stale. They need to come up with something new, a bit more of an adult pokemon game (IK,R!?) I've loved the series since i was, what, four? But it's glaringly obvious it has been the same thing ever since i was four. Over-all, while i do love the look of the game, and the new dex is brilliant, I honestly think i preferred HG/SS, just because it was amazing with the fact it had the two whole regions to explore, and I'm worried once I've finished this, i won't have anything left to do if i don't do the multiplayer. I guess the main thing is that i want a more adult Pokemon. @reCAPTCHA: Barth Splef? Was he Vaders mentally-impaired cousin?
  • AuthorityFigure - March 7, 2011 12:44 p.m.

    So I'll assume then that Platinum is still superior.
  • super0sonic - March 7, 2011 8:21 a.m.

    I am getting white that tron city looks dumb.
  • Aletheon - March 7, 2011 6:32 a.m.

    Nothing wrong with 8 gym formula. Why is that a negative?
  • chewbaca777 - March 7, 2011 2:29 a.m.

    thanks for the review! i will be ordering this game asap! but to tell you the truth i was going to buy it anyway
  • Conversen - March 6, 2011 11:17 p.m.

    I've been playing the game for about an hour... omigosh right?... and have listened to every Pokemon Monday podcast to this point. Needless to say I'm having a huge geekgasm. But I agree with the review except that I wish they had kept the HG/SS idea of having the first Pokemon in your party out and following you around, cause that was pretty cool. Good review guys! It's only on par with Halo Reach though.
  • KrEid - March 6, 2011 6:26 p.m.

    Just finished it this morning (UK) and it's actually my new fave! I haven't always taken too kindly to the new games (I'm looking at YOU Platinum!) but this one was rather bladdy good! Also, no more damn Zubat caves \o/
  • Smeggs - March 6, 2011 5:16 a.m.

    MY GOD! When will my prayers be answered? Why have they not added a Party-Trade or Mass-Trade system yet? I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels it's a major pain to have to sit through a minute-long cutscene just to trade one pokemon to someone! I want to be able to go "I'll trade this, this and this for that, that and that. Go." I want a full-party swapping system. Especially when I'm done with all my pokemon, I like putting them into a version I don't play for storage so I can start a new game, but it takes forever. I'd like to be able to mass trade stuff, just to be able to dump it into a PC. Another problem with transferring for storage is you have to trade a pokemon for a pokemon. There should be an option to just send a pokemon to another version and straight into a PC.
  • D0CCON - March 6, 2011 4:22 a.m.

    @Marioman50 Black version is actually the one that looks more futuristic. Not to mention that the change is purely aesthetic and won't affect how battles play out. A building in Black version may have glowing lights and sliding doors while the same building in White will be painted brick with wooden doors, but the actual buildings themselves are the same. The main difference is Black version gives Black City (a place to fight trainers) and White gives you White Forrest (a place to catch Generation 1-4 Pokemon that don't appear in Black). Just thought you might want to know if you are looking for the future-y game.
  • AlpineGuy - March 5, 2011 10:04 p.m.

    Thing is...as cool as this looks, I'm still in the middle of SoulSilver, and I don't think I can commit to another Pokemon for a while. Plus, the PokeWalker is so damned cool. I don't ever want to stop using it.
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - March 5, 2011 8:06 p.m.

    @redthehaze Metacritic actually doesn't factor into our traffic much. It's not a huge source of inbound links. That Just for You, Metacritic blurb is part of every Super Review, dating back to 2009. It's more a joke acknowledging how Metacritic pulls whatever it wants out of a review as its own summary, so we prepare one ourselves to make sure OUR points make the summary.
  • Crimmy - March 5, 2011 6:49 p.m.

    Time to pour another 500 hours into a new Pokeymanz! Oh, and I'm going with Smugleaf. The name Snivy can suck it.