To call me a fan of the Pokémon franchise would be an understatement. While I’ve never caught ‘em all, I’ve definitely played ‘em all (the games, not the adorable little Pocket Monsters themselves), and am still a huge fan of the biggest thing to come out of Japan since sumo wrestlers.
(I was going to go with a much less tasteful joke there, but given that it hasn’t even been two weeks since large parts of Japan were left in waste, I opted not to. Probably a wise decision.)
Anyway, Pokémon: Black Review: I CHOOSE YOU!
This game starts out like any typical Pokémon title: You wake up in your room, your mom calls you to come downstairs or something or other, and soon enough you’re on your way to Pokémon Professor [Insert Plant Name Here]’s lab to pick up your very own encapsulated elemental creature. As usual, you pick one Pokémon out of three types: water, fire, or grass. I’m pretty superficial when it comes to the look of my Pokémon, and decided to go with the cutest monster: Wotter.
An interesting change to the franchise already is that instead of having a set rival (who is typically a complete asshole) you have two friends who are relatively normal and devoid of narcissism or a serious Napoleon complex. They take the two Pokémon that you so mercilessly cast aside, and then you’re off on your very own voyage.
By the time you reach the first city, there are already some pretty different elements from previous Pokémon titles:
- Pokémon Professor Juniper is a WOMAN. Who doesn’t look ancient and isn’t related to any of your comrades. It’s about time a female was deemed worthy enough to study Pokémon.
- All of those familiar Poké-faces you’ve grown accustomed to over the years are entirely absent. You are only able to catch and train the 156 new Pokémon introduced in the Unova region (until the game is vanquished, then Pokémon selection opens up a bit).
- You’re no longer an 11-year-old child who was (irresponsibly) given permission to tour the world for the sake of filling a Pokédex. You’re now in teenaged-range; if I had to guess, I’d say 15 or 16. It’s about time Nintendo started realizing that little kids aren’t the only people who play this game (or maybe they’re just trying to dissuade pedophiles from purchasing).
- Pokémon Marts and Centers have been combined into one convenient stop for all your battling needs. It’s always been slightly annoying to have to run halfway across a city/town to buy crap after you heal up your team, so hooray for this.
- TMs (Technical Machines), or moves that you teach your Pokémon, can now be used an infinite number of times. They were a one-shot deal before, which kind of pretty much really sucked if you spent half the game raising a certain Pokémon and teaching it all these sweet moves, only to find a better guy near the end, thus causing you to ditch your original guy (with all of those moves that you can’t transfer) for something faster and shinier.
- The entire world has been revamped so that the game actually looks like it was developed for the Nintendo DS, and not the GBA (save for the Pokémon sprites themselves, which are so pixilated in battle that they seem very out of place with the rest of the overall game design). There are actual three-dimensional buildings, structures and elements that work really well for every other new feature introduced in this game.
And that’s just a short list of some of the changes.
It doesn’t take long before you encounter the cult and main antagonists of the game, Team Plasma. As Hawkins stated, they are a “master race of ginger knights.” Not only is their appearance non-traditional to the franchise, but their motive is as well: Steal Pokémon from every trainer so that the creatures may be liberated and happy and without oppression from selfish humans.
So they’re a master race of ginger hippy knights. At least at first glance.
Now, in total, I’ve really enjoyed this game. I’ve looked forward to it since its announcement last year. I’ve been a fan of the Pokémon franchise since I was in fifth grade, way back in 1998. So since the very beginning. Oh God, I don’t know whether to feel young or old…
Anyway, I compare every new main Pokémon game in the series to the originals: Red and Blue. I have to say that while Black (and White, for that matter) contains a lot of the newer gameplay elements from more recent titles that I just don’t really care about (berries, dressing up your Pokémon like child beauty queens to compete in fashion shows onstage, etc), it really got back to the very roots of the original Pokémon titles. It felt like the most complete game since Red and Blue. There wasn’t a lot of misdirection in where you needed to go or what you need to do to progress the plot, the storyline was pretty solid (who would’ve thought that the World of Pokémon was one of ethics, as well?), and while I’m still not very fond of Generation 5 Pokémon in general, they were a pretty good fit in this new environment.
The final bit I’d like to touch on is game difficulty. Now, I can’t remember who said it, but it was on a GolgoCast from a couple of weeks ago… They said that in picking a female trainer at the beginning of the game, you’re choosing the easier difficulty level. While I didn’t believe this bit of Poké-folklore before, I may actually give it some merit now. I usually have at least two or three instances in an entire play-through of the game where my entire team faints and I have to run to a Pokémon Center to recover. While I haven’t actually faced the Elite Four yet in Black (I’m almost there, geez, back off), I haven’t had one instance of completely exhausting my team. Perhaps when the third sister version of Black/White comes out (I’m gonna call it now and say it’ll be Gray), I’ll pick a boy trainer and see how I fair then.
While it doesn’t take a lot to please me (especially when it comes to cute things beating the shit out of other cute things for money and experience), I have to say I’m very impressed with all of the changes and improvements they’ve made to the latest installments in the Pokémon franchise. Nintendo has had a stranglehold on my wallet for over a decade, and if they continue on the path they’re on now by breathing new life and ideas into a 13-year-old project, they will continue seeing my cash for years to come. I just hope that after Gray comes out (it better be called that, damnit), Pokémon will still continue to see installments in their main series. Not any of that Pokémon Ranger side-story crap. Screw those games.