I’ve been an on-again/off-again Pokemon fan for a long while. I really got into the 4th generation games (Platinum / SoulSilver) and I was feeling pretty burned out on the series when the 5th generation was announced. I bought it anyway since Nintendo was offering a special Victini Pokemon as an early buyer bonus and there would be no other way to legitimately catch a Victini. I bought the game, caught my Victini and shelved the game until recently when I needed something to play on a long plane ride to Iceland (About a 7 hour plane ride, worth a visit).
Pokemon Black and White officially introduce the 5th generation of Pokemon gaming. The Pokemon formula hasn’t changed since the beginning of the series and Pokemon White is no exception. You run around the world catching Pokemon and participating in morally ambiguous ‘dog fights’ to increase your level and build your bond with your Pokemon. In real life you might be called a sociopath and be placed in an institution (either correctional or mental) but in the context of a video game world this turns out to be a lot of fun. The biggest surprise this game has to offer is that the main plot point actually examines the morality of capturing Pokemon and battling them against each other. I wouldn’t say the conclusion reached is especially convincing but it does add a bit of complexity to a plot that otherwise is targeted towards a younger audience.
The game starts off normally. You pick a starter Pokemon of Water, Plant or Fire type and then set off to collet the 8 gym badges so you can challenge the Pokemon League. There are 17 types of Pokemon and battle is played like the world’s biggest game of rock-paper-scissors. Fire beats plant, plant beats ground, ground beats electric and so on.
Several graphical improvements such as partially 3D environments have been included in the game but for the most part this game looks like the previous generation. Items, moves and the menu system are largely unchanged. There is a new ‘dream world’ your Pokemon can access that requires online connectivity and (like most Nintendo online features) is a pain in the butt to use.
I’ve already mentioned that the game is targeted towards a younger audience. Dialog can be simplistic and explanations drag on far longer than they need to. There also seemed to be an issue with the random encounter rate. Some parts of the game seemed to have an enemy encounter EVERY SINGLE STEP. Eventually I gave up and used Pokemon repellant so I’d be able to move around. This left my team a bit underpowered at the end of the game but I was much less likely to smash my DS while playing.
I enjoyed the game but the whole Pokemon genre is getting pretty stale. There are now 649 Pokemon that can be caught several of which (such as my Victini) are only available through special events and are otherwise unavailable. Nintendo has been irritatingly stingy about how often they release event-only Pokemon, especially outside of Japan. It’s all a transparent ploy on Nintendo’s part to extort gamers into buying more Pokemon games and attending Nintendo events. The worst part is how easily it works on me. I own a game from every Pokemon generation and I’ve picked up (almost) every event Pokemon for the last several years. I’m pretty sure my wife thinks I’m a loser but thankfully she rarely tells me to my face anymore.
- 156 new Pokemon!
- Improved game engine.
- Random encounter rate seemed unusually high.