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Sunday, 15 May, 2011 12:48 PM
'Pokemon White' is a great game for the Nintendo DS
Yes…I am one of those people who still plays Pokemon. And that’s good because I can review the latest Pokemon game with little effort.
As always Pokemon comes in two flavors and in this case we get Pokemon Black or Pokemon White. I played the White version, but as any Poke-vet knows the game is essentially exactly the same for both sans a few exclusive Pokemon; which is still essentially true here except also each version gets one different area between them. Pokemon White gets something called the White Forest and Black gets…I think it’s called the Black City. So there, that’s the differences in case you don’t know which to get! Oh, and the White version you catch the Black Legendary Dragon whereas in the Black version you can catch the White Legendary Dragon.
Pokemon games have all been really scant on story and all essentially the same. You play as an aspiring Pokemon trainer and have come of age (twelve?) to travel the world and become a Pokemon master. A professor gives you your first Pokemon, you don’t have a father, and you meet your rival or rivals as is the case with this game. This is the same in every Pokemon game you could ever play. Later you meet the evil organization of the game which is Team Plasma, a sort of anti Pokemon trainer group that advocates for Pokemon freedom.
They don’t come off very evil despite their clearly evil looking leader. But for the most part they roam around scolding people for using Pokemon as tools and to battle. It’s actually really funny that it took Nintendo this long to write a story that actively points out the inherent flaws of the Pokemon universe. How can you love and care for your Pokemon, consider yourself as “equals” or “partners” which the show and games have advocated for years, and still send them into dangerous cock-fights for money and prizes? Team Plasma brings this up, and it’s very funny as the heroes have no answer for this. They just act stubborn, ignoring them and continue on as life intends for the average Pokemon trainer.
Your hero gets two friends that are sort of your pseudo rivals where one battles you constantly and one just occasionally. And you also have a main rival who is…I guess the second in command of Team Plasma? So you battle him right up to the end of the game while Pokemon moralisms are spouted back and forth where no one wins because no one makes any sense.
This is one of the most obvious improvements made to the standard Pokemon game. While I don’t see any actual graphical upgrades in the game, they changed the perspective giving the player a much different sense of the world. Normally we just get an overhead perspective and that’s it, but in this game we get several viewpoints and it acts almost 3D in a way. It’s very interesting and I can’t really compare it to anything else I have played on the DS. Leave it to Nintendo to innovate.
Pokemon White is a standard issue Pokemon game. You catch Pokemon, battle with them, and trade them either locally or over the internet. Pokemon is as always a game about type advantage. Water beats Fire, Grass beats Rock, so on and so on. No new types were added in this game, but we do get 150 more Pokemon in all. That raises the total count to over 600. Catching them all is a daunting task to say the least.
The game has 8 gyms to conquer, and an Elite 4 like most games. Also we get a casino as usual, a battle subway (same as battle towers), and a large Pokemon Supermarket. As usual you can pick berries, compete in beauty contests, breed Pokemon, and compete in a music contest thing which I honestly haven’t even touched yet.
The changes are minor, but I do enjoy some of them. Nintendo has been refining the “register” feature for a long time now trying to get it right. The register feature in the more recent games allows you to assign a key item like the bike or fishing rod to the Y button for quick access. However, it was never really that user friendly when often you would need the bike then the rod then the bike then the VS seeker or item finder or whatever. So regardless you were always still pausing the game to get to the item you wanted making it really inconvenient. Pokemon White solves this issue by giving you a secondary key items menu that you can bring up. You can assign to have certain key items show up on the menu too, so if you never use say the Poffin Case you can leave it off the menu entirely and never look at it. This level of customization is really nice and makes playing the game even less of a hassle. I still think they could improve this though as I believe these items could be accessed without needing a menu at all, but that’s just me. I mean there’s a large touch screen at the bottom…tiny icons right? Tap and go!
Another interesting addition is the touch screen is now a constantly active Wifi screen. I have not had much time with this but from what I understand you can have multiple trainers in the game with you at any given time as long as they are within the wifi zone. I have heard this can be a really annoying mechanism and slows your own progress as you end up being stuck in the area the other trainers have entered with you until you all decide to move on to the next screen. There is a lot I do not know about this feature but it seems pretty interesting.
Nintendo added in yet another feature I have not tried yet (since they just began the service a few days ago) which is the Dream World. Using a special item given to you by a certain Pokemon you can enter the Dream World once a day for a few hours. In this place you can get berries and Pokemon from the past and it’s all hooked up to a website Nintendo has up. You decorate a house and do other activities like a mini Animal Crossing in a way. I would only use it to get Pokemon of course, but it’s just another thing to get lost in.
The biggest change I like though is the increased battle speed. Grinding Pokemon to high levels or evolving them hasn’t been this painless since the Dodrio game on Pokemon Stadium where you could play Pokemon Blue or Red at 3 times the normal speed. This was honestly the only improvement I wanted, and though I still think it could be a TAD faster (why do we have to watch the Pokemon come out EVERY time?) it’s at least a step in the right direction.
Pokemon games have always had really catchy tunes and Black and White are no different. I would still argue Pokemon Pearl and Diamond by far had the best soundtrack of these games but that doesn’t make Black and White bad. They are generic Pokemon tunes and none are grating to the ears but most of them come off as glorified elevator music.
The sounds are as good as they have always been, from slashing or burning enemies to the generic indiscernible Pokemon sounds they make. And of course most of the noises are reused and recycled from older games which is actually a good thing in a game like this. You grind out hours and hours and sometimes you just want to look away and you can with a trained ear as you can recognize a critical hit or the sound of a captured Pokemon immediately.
One thing Pokemon has always had in spades is value. If there was ever a game that gives more bang for your buck it is Pokemon. Just doing one task can give you hundreds of hours of entertainment, from building a competitive team, catching them all or even just doing the side quests. And now with the addition of the Dream World there’s a whole new place to sink your time.
I beat the main story in 36 hours and currently have 90 hours in the game trying to catch everything I can and beating the Elite 4 a second time as they get stronger in round 2. For $35 it’s clearly worth the price, unless you just don’t like Pokemon. Also, if you’ve played Pokemon before this isn’t exactly a mega upgrade from previous games. It feels and plays like every Pokemon game ever made with minor improvements and additional time sinks, so there’s no reason to play these games if you have the “been there done that” mentality.
There’s too many Pokemon! I can’t possibly catch them all!
Release Date: March 6, 2011 / Platform: Nintendo DS / Rated: Everyone
Photo credit: Nintendo / The Pokemon Co.
Pokemon White box art
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