Fifteen years after the Pokémon craze began, Game Freak and Nintendo have partnered once more to produce another title in their long-running handheld game phenomenon, “Pokémon Black” and “Pokémon White.”
This time around, trainers enter the Unova region of the
Pokémon world, which is based on the urban design of New York City, unlike select regions of Japan in previous games. The defining feature of the game’s Unova region is its season changes, which dictate what Pokémon are available at certain points in the game.
The game play remains unchanged since the first generation of Pokémon games. In this edition, gamers have to beat eight Gym Leaders, a criminal organization, an Elite Four and the current
Pokémon Champion to become the regional one.
The villainous Team Plasma, who, instead of dominating the world like criminals in prior games, has a PETA-like message, discouraging trainers who use their Pokémon for the sake of battle — as it is hurtful to the monsters. Instead, the team wishes to separate Pokémon from humans entirely, creating a world clearly segregated between man and beast.
The major difference between the two versions of the game is the exclusive areas of each, which have their own benefits. “Pokémon White” is set in the White Forest, a deep and rich woodland filled with low-level basic Pokémon ready for trainers to capture. On the other hand, “Pokémon Black” takes place in Black City, a highly advanced metropolitan area that hosts many strong trainers with fully evolved Pokémon. Choosing a version depends on whether the trainer’s goal is training or capturing.
Despite being an old and repetitive game play system, “Pokémon” does not feel stale, especially because the new Unova region hosts monsters different from prior generations. This means no fan favorites like Tyranitar, Salamence, Chansey or even mascot Pikachu appear until after the trainer beats the Elite Four and takes down N, the supposed leader of Team Plasma. But by this point, trainers have already bonded with new Pokémon in the region, such as the flying squirrel Pokémon Emonga or the thug/lizard inspired Scrafty.
While this fifth generation of game play hosts a refined story line and new Pokémon, its improved graphics are the game’s true selling point. For the first time, both enemy and friendly Pokémon are constantly moving during battle stages. Also, more streamlined attack mechanics allow for beautiful scenes within the small confines of a DS screen. If improved fighting graphics are not enough, the out-of-game play visuals perfect the scene. Marvelous bridges span multiple angles of the screen while changing seasons depict cities covered in snow, flowers or autumn leaves.
The game also introduces the triple and rotational battle. In both cases, the trainer pits half of their team against an opponent for a new variation to the Pokémon battling system. Triple battles allow gamers to control all three Pokémon at once, while rotational battles allow them to alternate the three Pokémon without losing a turn during the switch-off. Both require an expert level of skill and timing to avoid defeating one’s own Pokémon before those of their opponents and to strategically position certain Pokémon for optimal damage.
The game also enables trainers to wirelessly link to Pokémon Global Link, an online area where they can access the Dream World. Here, trainers capture and transfer Pokémon to their game, including those with special abilities and attacks not found in the game play, which ultimately creates a better team.
Improving Game Freak’s already winning formula, “Pokémon Black” and “Pokémon White” are highly addicting and will provide months, if not years, of entertainment for college students — at least until Game Freak releases its next major game.
3 out of 4 stars