“Hey wait a second! Chris, didn’t you already do a preview of Pokemon Black & White?” Yes, actually, I did indeed do a preview of Pokemon Black & White. We in the US are still waiting until spring of 2011 for the new versions to come out, but Japan has had Black & White since September, meaning that there are no details of the game left a mystery to the world anymore. Care to learn a few things about the 150+ new Pokemon and the game that frames them? Here’s my second preview of Pokemon Black & White.
By the way, are you curious about sales figures from Japan? For the past month, Pokemon Black & White have, unsurprisingly, dominated the sales charts. These games are immensely popular, and despite what I say either way on what I’ve seen thus far, they’re still going to sell millions of copies when they release here. Let that be a warning to shut the heck up if you disagree with me. I’m not trying to take down the series, I’m just telling you my thoughts.
The graphics are definitely an improvement over previous titles, at least insomuch as Pokemon now move during battle ever so slightly. The artwork is still 2D pixel art, and that’s just fine, but they finally hop back and forth a little when they’re just standing around. Now that I’ve seen it in motion, it actually looks pretty cool. The only problem here is that the Pokemon will begin to move slower when their health is dwindling, an idea that works in theory but in practice it just makes the game look like it’s running slower when Pokemon are damaged. The world map especially utilizes the processing power of the DS, generating some pretty impressive worlds to explore in full 3D. Basically, the game does really look pretty good.
As expected though, the sound is identical to the not just the previous DS titles, but the Game Boy titles. I’m so ready for the version that does away with the chiptunes battle cries and updates each Pokemon to sound like they do in the anime. It’s a mainstay of the series that feels archaic and needs to be fixed already. There are no technical reasons behind the decision, so it all comes down to the designers thinking these sounds are still okay. At least they improved the story.
Well, at least I guess they improved the story a bit. I kind of don’t care whatsoever when I hear that instead of being a 10-year-old you’re now 12! OMG! I’m so much older, aren’t I?! But yeah, the plot is one-to-one with previous titles. It’s paint-by-numbers Pokemon, except your pallet is just blacks and whites. Go collect Pokemon. Go fight eight Gym Leaders and collect their Gym Badges. Go defeat the Elite Four. Mix in some random “Not Team Rocket” team and you’re done. Hang it on the fridge next to the other pictures of a fire engine.
Seriously though, how can the Pokemon games get away with the same exact game over and over again? While sure, Mario games revolve around the princess getting kidnapped over and over, the levels are designed completely differently from each previous Mario game, whereas in Pokemon games the concepts are pretty solid and identical to even the first few titles. There are still only 17 types of Pokemon and they only evolve up to a third stage, if they even evolve at all. You level up by battling and learn up to four moves. Therefore, the entirety of the game has to be hinged off of the new grouping of Pokemon since that is the only new aspect to Black & White. And no, 3-on-3 battles doesn’t feel like a real new game mechanic, it just feels like a kid was asked what they could add (“Uh, he should be, like really old, like 12, and you can have two, no THREE Pokemon battling at once! And make everything a Fighting-Type Pokemon! I love those!”).
I’ve looked over all the new Pokemon a few times, being careful to check the typing of the new ones. Would you be surprised to learn that the starters are once more Grass, Fire, and Water types? No, of course not, that’s just the norm. But the Fire-Type pig you can choose evolves into a Fire-Fighting-Type, making this the third Fire-Starter in three generations to add Fighting to its typing. Why? Could they really not think of something more interesting? I’m not asking for something groundbreaking, but where is a Pyshic-Poison type? Or even a Fire-Water type? Sure, not for a starter, but anywhere in the game? There are a lot of repeats for types with Rock-Flying, Water-Ground, and Water-Electric showing up once more. I was happy to see a few new ones, like a Fire-Bug-Type, plus the new Legendary Pokemon are Fire-Dragon and Electric-Dragon types, making them the first typing for those.
My verdict on the 155 new Pokemon? Hmm…yeah, there are a couple that look pretty cool. There are also a lot that look pretty boring and other still that just look like they aren’t trying anymore. I just have a heck of a time getting into a new batch of “the same but different” Pokemon every generation. There are yet another group of early Not-Pidgeys, Not-Caterpies, and Not-Rattatas that I kind of roll my eyes at. Apparently, the game also restricts you to only the Black and White exclusives for the story portion of the game, meaning you aren’t going to have the chance to catch any Pikachus until after you’d really like to use them for the meat of the game’s narrative.
Overall I continue wondering to myself, “What’s the point?” Why should I even attempt to catch all 649 Pokemon? There’s no way anyone can do that short of owning every previous Pokemon title on the GBA, DS, and GameCube, plus attending every Pokemon-related event in the world. For someone like me on a budget and a time crunch, the goal of 649 is impossible and frankly, it’s not even fun. I want to play Black & White Versions, but not because I’m excited for them. I want to get my wife and I to play them together but I don’t see myself caring even the slightest if I have to play another Pokemon journey alone.
So what do you think? Are you picking up Black or White Version when they release? Do you think the new Pokemon look awesome? Can you just not wait to collect eight Gym Badges again? Leave a comment and let me know. If I get enough I’ll evolve into a more popular writer and learn the move “Earn A Living.”
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