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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

But does it feel new enough?


Yes and no. Much ado has been made over Game Freak's decision to exclude previous games' Pokemon from the main story campaign of Black and White, and it does help alleviate the tedium of yet another Pokemon game full of Geodudes, Zubats and the like. Still, it kind of feels like switching one for the other, as soon enough, if you spend too long in any one cave, you're going to grow weary of the local flora and fauna.

The biggest factor contributing to the sameyness of B&W is that it conforms to the same paradigm set by the previous four generations – the main story quest consists of earning eight gym badges and going on to defeat the elite four and league champion to become the region's new champion. We all expected this to be the case, and it's not necessarily a huge negative, but it would be cool if someday a Pokemon game retained the core battle mechanics but mixed up the single-player campaign a bit more so that your quest was something other than defeating gym leaders.

Despite the story feeling similar to previous Pokemon games though, B&W's single-player does change things up in two notable ways. The first is less significant but perhaps most surprising, and it's that the story is actually quite good compared to previous games. Without getting too specific/spoilery, the basic gist is that Team Plasma wants to liberate Pokemon from their human oppressors by stealing them away and separating humans and Pokemon to protect them from each other. Their leader, N, is an idealistic young man who loves Pokemon and hates to see them suffer. He's the most nuanced and truly interesting character ever introduced in a Pokemon game, and it's refreshing to face an antagonist who's more than just the villain who's secretly(-but-not-really-secretly) evil.

At times, because of the obvious parallels to the topic of animal welfare, the story does feel a bit uncomfortable, since the Pokemon trainers who are analogous to being supporters of vicious dog fighting are the good guys, and the animal activists who want to stop them from forcing their Pokemon into battle are the bad guys. The story is not always what it seems though, and people on both sides are shown to have their good and bad sides. And while it's not absolutely groundbreaking, it is definitely the first main story in a Pokemon game that presents moral gray areas and comes close to eliciting an emotional response.

 

The second addition that's even more important to fans of the series is that there's absolutely tons of post-game content. It's a common wisdom amongst the Pokemon community that a Pokemon game really begins when you beat it, and that's certainly true of Black and White. Not only is there a large portion of the map left to explore, including the version exclusive areas of White Forest and Black City, but you're even presented with new quest post-game. It's great to see Game Freak really acknowledge that the bulk of most Pokemon fans' playtime hours are spent after the story is over.

Also one last new point to mention is that Pokemon Black and White also work in conjunction with the Pokemon Global Link (PGL), which is part of the official Pokemon website and can be found at www.pokemon-gl.com. When you create a PGL account, you can sync up your game with the site to access leaderboards and even obtain Pokemon and items you can transfer to your game.

 

It's not available outside of Japan yet, but it's scheduled to release elsewhere in spring. If it mirrors the Japanese version of the service, it will feature two primary components, the Global Battle Union (GBU) and the Dream World. The GBU is an online leaderboard that lists the global battle rankings of all players with a PGL account, and we've been told it will be used to seed the official Pokemon tournaments in real life. The Dream World is a flash site where you can earn Pokemon and items through various minigames. From what we've played of the Japanese version, the games themselves are nothing too exciting, but it's a nice way to pad out your Pokemon collection, especially when you're bored at school or work.

For many fans though, the true meat of the post-game is in the multiplayer.


Multiplayer


Despite Nintendo's multiplayer-crippling, stodgy stance on family-safe security, Black and White manages to offer a remarkably multiplayer-friendly experience. In fact, there are so many multiplayer features that it isn't practical to cover them all in-depth here, but here's a brief rundown.

In place of Diamond and Pearl's Poketch (which was rather forward-thinking, wasn't it?), Black and White introduces the C-Gear, which sits on the bottom screen and acts as a hub for multiplayer. The infrared (IR) connection makes trading and battling locally an absolute breeze (you can even access your full PC while trading now!), and you can automatically exchange friend codes without having to enter any numbers. Via local wireless you can also use the Xtranceiver through the C-Gear, which allows video chat with up to three other players.

The other big local wireless feature is the Entralink, where you can sneak into another player's game while they're playing and leave treats for them to find or give them power-ups that last for a limited time. For example, if you see your friend is online playing, you can see where he or she is on the map, warp there and talk to them to give them a "Pass Power" that gives them a discount on all shop items for 30 minutes, for example. The more you complete these friendly, helping-hand missions, the better Pass Powers you'll have access to. The Entralink isn't a huge deal gameplay-wise, as each mission only takes a few seconds, but it fits well with the spirit of friendship that Pokemon's multiplayer has always sought to foster.

The Union Room and Wi-Fi options return within each Pokemon Center in B&W, and now the Global Terminal can be accessed from any Center too. Not only is it more conveniently accessible, but the Global Terminal also has some new features for both trading and battling. The new GTS Negotiations option allows you to join up with a random player across the globe and peruse each other's Pokemon and negotiate a trade. Random battle matchups also have both unranked and ranked modes now, so you can either play casually or for realsies. In ranked mode you have a battle ranking that goes up and down depending on your wins and losses, and you're matched with other players of similar ranking.

The brand-new triple and rotation battles have the biggest impact on multiplayer too, since they help to level the playing field a bit between unevenly matched players. Both triple and rotation battles involve each player having three Pokemon on screen at once, but the rules are quite different. In triple battles, three Pokemon on each team fight at once, but the Pokemon on the left and right sides can only hit the two closest Pokemon on the other team, whereas the one in the middle can hit and be hit by everyone. It's basically the same as a double battle, but triple.

Rotation battles are a little different though. You still have six Pokemon on the field at once, but each team's Pokemon stands on a turntable that you can rotate however you want each turn. Only one Pokemon can move each turn, and it's largely up to luck how the battle goes, because you never know which way your opponent is going to turn the dial, meaning you can't plan out your moves and strategy as well as you could in a normal battle. In this sense, Rotation battles are great because they provide a more casual approach to multiplayer, without the inanity of silly minigames. Remember the Wi-Fi Plaza minigames in Platinum? Yeah, we don't need any more of that.

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+

Topics

Pokemon

75 comments

  • 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.

Showing 1-20 of 75 comments

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