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Pokémon Black & White Preview

Josh_Laddin By:
Josh_Laddin
02/01/11
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE RPG 
PLAYERS 1- 5 
PUBLISHER Nintendo 
DEVELOPER Game Freak 
RELEASE DATE Out Now
E What do these ratings mean?

Hey, we're running out of colors here, guys!


I’m sure no one out there other than yours truly is aware of this, but the first game I ever reviewed for GR was a Pokémon game. Because of that, all things Pokémon hold a little extra sentimental value for me beyond just my childhood memories. The title I reviewed back then, however, was from the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, and as I noted at the time, most of those spinoff games can’t hold a candle to the main series (Do candles even exist in a world where your pets can literally be made of fire?).

click to enlargeIn any case, I feel fortunate and somewhat accomplished now that I’m able to discuss a real Pokémon game. If you’re already a fan, then you can be all but assured that the core gameplay will satisfy you. If you’re a naysayer, well, all the stuff you naysaid (yes, it’s a word, look it up) before still holds true. And seriously, go find a new dead horse to beat, willya? It’s been 15 years already!

That being said, Black and White are doing their best to not be another sequel with just another hundred or so new monsters to catch. The new entries are an attempt, instead, to reboot the series in a way – if not in story and concept, then at least in gameplay. One of the immediate examples of this is in the availability of the Pokémon: Yes, there are over 150 new fuzzy fighters to collect, but those are the only ones you can find until you beat the game once. Unlike previous entries where the new Pokémon were sprinkled in with the old, Black and White are like Red and Blue in that you’ll be immersed in a world full of new and unknown monsters. Once you finish the good ol’ Elite Four, you can then embark on the now Sisyphean task of truly catching ‘em all.

click to enlargeThe observant trainer will also notice a vast array of improvements to all the gadgets and utilities we’ve come to expect from Pokémon, all in the name of convenience. Tired of walking back and forth from the poké-center to the poke-mart? That’s ok, because they’re now one and the same. How about having to log into that dirty public PC to conduct all your trainer business? While you can still go the old-fashioned route, you can now trade and battle your friends from anywhere in the game world via IR communications!

When it comes time to battle, you won’t find a whole lot that’s different, with the exception of new 3-on-3 fights. It plays out similar to solo and 2-on-2 battles, except your three animal slaves line up opposite their enemies – and they can only target the Pokémon directly facing them or the one adjacent. In these scenarios you’re likely to want your tougher Pokémon in the middle, as they’re the only ones that can hit (and be hit by) all of your opponents’.

Speaking of animal slavery, the plot of Black and White actually proposes (gasp!) some challenging moral dilemmas. The big bad organization that opposes you this time, Team Plasma, has decidedly different goals from the Team Rockets and Magmas and Aquas before them. Rather than taking over the world, Plasma’s mission is to set free all the Pokémon from their oppressive trainers and their little round prison cells. Some have drawn parallels between Team Plasma and PETA, and with good reason. It’s refreshing, in any case, to see villains in a Pokémon game that aren’t, *ahem*, so black-and-white.

click to enlargeAnd to round the whole thing out, of course, is bigger and better presentation. While the old Pokémon look is still as prevalent as always, a lot’s been done to give it a more modern feel. The game features some anime-influenced cut-scenes to flesh out the story, as well as a dynamic panning camera as you traverse certain areas. Perhaps most significantly, Pokémon finally have their own animations in battle, bouncing around and fidgeting while waiting for their turn and flinching from attacks.

I hardly need to mention the fact that, like it or not, a new Pokémon release is a titanic event in gaming. When March 6th rolls around, you should probably either be waiting in line at the store or hiding from the pandemonium at home.
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