Do you have the Pokéballs to catch them all?
First generation elitists of Pokémon will be disturbed to note that in this latest installment, 156 new Pokémon have been introduced. There’s a reason we never hear “Gotta catch ‘em all!” anymore—with a current grand total of 649 pocket monsters around, it takes a lot of dedication to catch even half (let alone remember all their names and types). But with a fresh new set of adorable starter Pokémon and many new features, it’s hard to resist a new adventure in the newly introduced Unova region.
[image1]If you're fan of Pokémon, you know the drill—you start at mom’s house, meet up with “friends”, and get to pick a companion from three Pokéballs presented to you by a local Professor. Only this time, the Professor is a woman (finally!) and you sadly don’t get to name your rival a four letter word.
Out of the three starters, there are the typical water (Oshawott) and grass (Snivy) types, as well as a fire-fighting type to choose from. I choose to quietly accept that there is only one dual-type starter because it is ridiculously adorable, and “Tepig” is a clever name.
Though the main goal is to catch as many Pokémon as possible and to become the Pokémon League Champion (I prefer “Pokémaster"), Team Plasma occasionally stands in your way. They’re sort of like members of PETA with really freaking sweet battle music—do yourself a favor and don’t play with the sound off when you fight them.
Freeing Pokémon from their roles as slaves is Team Plasma’s goal, and they “liberate” Pokémon by stealing them from their owners. Team Plasma is not the first group to specialize in stealing, but at least they do it under the guise of a good cause.
If this is all sounding awfully familiar, fear not—Pokémon Black and White offers many new features, including Triple Battles and Rotation Battles. These involve more strategy than regular battles, which some seasoned trainers (cough) know can already be intense.
[image2]Triple Battles involve each trainer using three Pokémon each, but it’s not the free-for-all you might imagine. Depending upon placement in the line, there are restrictions to which Pokémon can attack or receive attacks. Rotation Battles are somewhat more self-explanatory, as a different Pokémon out of three is used by the trainer each turn.
Changes in graphics are one of the biggest differences between these two titles and previous installments. Of course, for the most part everything is charmingly flat, pixilated, and somewhat deformed. But on many occasions the perspective suddenly changes—the bird’s eye view is not the only view that Unova has. This was initially mind-blowing for me, and still hasn’t lost its charm many, many hours later.
Seasons have also been introduced, which affects gameplay in several ways. Besides creating different environments (think snow in Winter, blooming flowers in Spring), certain Pokémon look different depending upon the season. Most importantly, the chances of finding certain Pokémon changes through the seasons, and certain areas are only accessible during the right time.
For those who like to engage in battles with real people but have no friends to play with (who will admit to liking Pokémon, shame on them), the Random Wi-Fi Matchup mode is for you! The new C-Gear device allows you to check on people playing nearby, and DSi and DSi XL owners will be able to engage in video chat as well.
Another nice addition is increased diversity, including previously mentioned female Professor Juniper and several ambiguously brown characters. Rather than young children, playable characters Hilda and Hilbert are teenagers, perhaps to represent the aging fanbase. If this is the case, though, I believe the next generation calls for playable characters in their early to mid twenties (and probably without booty shorts).
[image3]It’s highly likely that if you spent any energy at all anticipating Pokémon Black and White, you’re going to be ridiculously pleased with whichever version you choose. For Pokévirgins who are curious as to what it’s all about, this is a fine place to start.
One of the best things about Pokémon is that it can be as complex of an ordeal as you’d like it to be. You could take the intense route, and only keep Pokémon you catch with suitable “natures”, do a little EV (“effort values”) training, and make elaborate move-sets for your very carefully picked team. Or, you could just play the damn game and keep whichever Pokémon you think is coolest or cutest in your team.
Pokémon fans shouldn’t miss this new generation, and those who are at all interested should give Black or White a try. There’s definitely a reason some people have spent a decade of their lives playing Pokémon games, and it’s not because it makes them popular.