It has been about fifteen years since the first Pokemon game came out and looking back on these five generations nothing has changed; the core foundations of the Pokemon games are still there. Every generation we hear that all that is added to each new generation is a hundred or so new Pokemon. The new generation of Pokemon is finally here with a hundred and fifty six new Pokemon and with sales of 1.08 million in the first day, it seems that they finally did something new with the Pokemon franchise. Or did they? Are Pokemon Black and Pokemon White simply the same old thing with new graphics.

Story: At its core, the story is essentially the same – you are a boy or girl (but this time your age is around 17-18 instead of 10) starting off on a Pokemon journey to eventually become a Pokemon master, get 8 badges and conquer the Elite Four. You are given a choice of one of three starter Pokemon (fire,grass, or water) and your two friends choose the leftovers. You are then rushed to the Pokemon lab in your hometown, given a Pokedex, and told to travel Unova and see all the Pokemon that you can. The thing that makes this story a little bit more interesting is that your rival is a leader of Team Plasma, essentially a extreme PETA group that wants to liberate Pokemon and do away with “enslaving” them in pokeballs. Your rival “N” has been growing up with Pokemon and sees them as his friends, not things you use to do battle with. The new story has a lot of potential to be a deep and engaging story, but unfortunately falls short. It never really gets any deeper and most of the plot twists are pretty predictable.

Pokemon Design: Because the story and game mechanics rarely change, one of the most talked about things in Pokemon are how the Pokemon actually look. From what people have told me and my own opinion, you either love or hate the design of the new Pokemon. There is no in-between “these are kind of okay Pokemon.” I will admit some of the new Pokemon designs are kind of lame and the naming of some of them is downright disappointing, but I think that a lot of people are just nitpicking. To be honest we heard the same thing about Generation 3 (Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald) and of Generation 4 (Diamond/Pearl/Platinum). After awhile the new Gen grew on people and they liked a majority of the new Pokemon. Give it a bit of time and maybe some of the new Pokemon will grow on you I know some of them have for me.

Graphics: Graphically, Pokemon Black and White are the best yet and show the most improvement between generations. The outer world looks amazing and everything has a more 3D look to it than last generation but it still comes off as almost 2.5D instead. The graphics really shine when you get further into the game with certain bridges you cross over and certain towns that you enter. In these few special places, the camera angle changes to really show you the whole potential of the hardware and what it can show off. Other than those few special moments, there are not really any other wow factors in the game environment. One other new addition is that in battle, the Pokemon are animated and constantly moving. Your opponent’s Pokemon looks great but your Pokemon comes out as a pixelated version, which is disappointing but is understandable due to the fact that your Pokemon is closer to you and needs to be blown up to a bigger size. The camera angle is always changing depending on what attack you do to your opponent and vice versa. Also, when on the move selection screen in battle, the camera will slowly move around and pan over your Pokemon and the opponents. Kind of a cool little effect, but honestly nothing that surprising. I was also disappointed that the battle sprites were not in a higher resolution because some of them looked really great but others look down right poor. Unfortunately, the old moves from the previous four generations have not really been updated since last generation. The new moves that are introduced are pretty cool to use and really use the hardware to its fullest. One thing that was surprising is that none of the Generation 4 sprites have changed. I transferred all 493 of my Pokemon from Soulsilver to Black and my PC Boxes of the first 4 Generations looks exactly the same. I don’t mind at all, but it just surprises me that they didn’t change the sprites. Overall the graphics of the game are an improvement from 4th Gen but still fall short when it comes to detail.

Gameplay: Much like the story, the gameplay of the game is essentially the same. You go from town to town battling trainers, grinding your Pokemon up to a certain level, and then battling the gym leader. Then an encounter with Team Plasma and/or a rival battle happens and you do it all over again. Even though this is the core of the game there are a ton of new features that have been added. The gear that you get this time around is called the C-Gear and it allows you to sync your game to the Pokemon Global Link and Dream World (Unfortunately at the time of this review the Pokemon Global Link has been down since launch but will open March 30, 2011.) You can also trade Pokemon and battle with people within a 40 ft radius of your DS using the infrared connection settings on the C-Gear.

One thing that makes this different and a little more involved than previous generations is that none of the previous 493 Pokemon can be transferred to your game until you beat the main story. Also, none of the old Pokemon can even be found in the wild until you beat the main story line. This forces you to catch Pokemon, look at their stats, and learn what type they are, and pray that this Pokemon is not going to end up being the new Luvdisc. In previous generations, I usually knew most of the Pokemon available; so, when I encountered a Kadabra in the wild in Diamond and Pearl, I caught that and used that as my Psychic type because I knew that it was a decent Pokemon with a good move set. That is no longer the case, and the through my whole gameplay I rather enjoyed being confused on what my line up would be.

There are new battles types now such as three on three battles, which work the same as two on two battles, and also rotation battles, which actually add a new system. In rotation battles, three Pokemon are sent out at once but only one can attack each round. You have the option of rotating to the left or right to another one of your Pokemon every time you choose an attack, though. Surprisingly this adds a different dimension to the game, especially when you combine it with having to learn all new Pokemon completely from scratch.

Once you beat the Elite Four and finish the main story, the real fun begins. You can finally work on importing or catching all of the old Pokemon and start collecting and trading all your Pokemon with friends. There is a Battle Subway which is the Unova version of the Battle Frontier, and also random battle matching where you start a battle with someone over wi-fi without the need to exchange friend codes. This will help a lot in the future when you need to test out a new Pokemon team and don’t have anyone around to test it on. Some things that are disappointing are that they changed the PC box management system. It takes some getting use to, but in all honest I preferred the old PC box from 4th Gen better. It seemed to be easier to use and a bit more streamline. Also, there is now no way to constantly run without holding the “B” button. This also means that the “L” button can no longer be substituted for the “A” button.

Conclusion: Pokemon Black and Pokemon White are still the same old games that Pokemon Fans have come to enjoy. For people new to the series it is a great game to start with. The main story took me about forty hours to complete, and afterwards with trying to collect them all and create teams to battle friends with, you can easily log two hundred plus hours in this game. This game is definitely worth the price.

Graphics: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Story: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆
Gameplay: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Balance: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Intangibles: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Overall: ★★★★★★★★½☆

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