New Pokémon game breathes fresh life to franchise

In the beginning, there were only 151. The numbers kept piling up through the generations. The various colors and precious stones consistently added more to keep us catching new and exciting creatures. The newest iteration of the Pokémon series brings us to Pokémon Black and White. This version brings even more Pokémon for us to catch as well as new features that are sure to please anyone who is both new to the game and familiar with the series.

The game itself starts out pretty much like all of the other games. You’re asked for basic information such as your name and whether you’re a boy or a girl. Afterwards, you are introduced to your two best friends, Bianca and Cheven, by Professor Juniper. These two will choose the other two Pokémon that you don’t pick and will also serve as your rivals for the main storyline. From there, your mom and the professor send the three of the you out on your adventure throughout the Unova region to catch as many Pokémon as  you can to complete the Pokedex.

Walking around the Unova region, players might find a real-world familiarity in certain cities. This is because Nintendo decided to base parts of the Unova region on New York City. The Skyarrow Bridge in the game is based on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, while Castelia City is based on Manhattan.

The main antagonist group from the series is once again an evil organization, but this time it’s Team Plasma. Team Plasma’s mission in Unova is “Operation Pokémon Liberation.” They want to get rid of the idea that Pokémon need to be caught by trainers to use in battle and that people should live as equals to Pokémon. However, their forceful habits and cruel tendencies make the protagonists and their friends feel they need to stop them from treating the Pokémon so poorly.

The main difference between the versions is, once again, the Pokémon themselves. In the Black version, the legendary Pokémon is a dragon and fire type known as Reshiram and the White version has the dragon and electric type known as Zekrom. What’s interesting about these two Pokémon is that Reshiram of the Black version is a white-colored Pokémon, and Zekrom of the White version is a black-colored Pokémon. Other differences include the availability of certain Pokémon between versions as well as one of the gyms changing the gym leader.

Those who are familiar with the Pokémon series will find many familiar elements as well as some new features that they will find useful and exciting. The first is the introduction of a system of seasons and changes depending on real-world time to the game. Each month of real time that passes will equate to one season in Unova. Different seasons will yield different Pokémon for you to find in the wild, and this will even change the appearance of some of them in battle.

Another new feature is the introduction of triple battles. In the previous generations, double battles existed which put two Pokémon against another two Pokémon. In the new version, teams of three Pokémon can do battle against each other. Another new battle system is rotating battles. Similar to triple battles, rotating platforms control which Pokémon is active for that turn. The platforms can be rotated one step once per turn to change the active Pokémon without wasting your move.

The multiplayer elements have also been enhanced for the new generation. C-Gear allows you to access other players online and even serves as communication between the storyline characters using the Xtransceiver. When using it to contact real-world friends, you can, when using a DSi or DSi XL, see the other person if the camera is enabled.

The C-Gear can also warp the player to the Entralink, which is an area in Unova where the player can meet Pokémon from the Dream World. The Dream World is a feature which lets players upload their Pokémon to the Game Link website. The website allows the Pokémon to obtain items, such as berries, from the Dream World and meet other Pokémon. Players can customize houses for their Pokémon to stay in while they’re in the Dream World. Players can also have their Pokémon participate in various mini-games.

Other new game features include sprite animations throughout the entire battle, the Pokémon musicals, which replaces Pokémon contests and changing music based on various situations such as low hit-points in battles or getting on and riding your bike in town.

Pokémon Black and White is the first generation to include a female Professor, as well a black gym leader and a more ethnically diverse cast of non-player characters (NPCs). Another new aspect of the game is that you cannot use or find Pokémon from the previous generations in the wild until you complete the story and obtain the national Pokedex. This forces veterans of the series to only use Pokémon from the new generation, forcing them to acquire new strategies for team make-up and learn the new Pokémon themselves.

The Pokémon series has captivated gamers of all ages for the good part of the last 15 years. We all know what we’re getting ourselves into when we buy a main series Pokémon game and Pokémon Black and White definitely delivers. The new features and Pokémon bring a refreshing style of game play for those familiar with the game as well as those who have never picked up a game of Pokémon before. This is easily the best Pokémon game in the series so far.


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