First Impressions on Pokémon Black

Back in 1996, Satoshi Tajiri, and Nintendo released two Game Boy games Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue (Pokémon Green in Japan). “Pocket Monsters” or Pokémon, as they were referred to in the United States and Europe, small creatures that you embarked upon a journey to capture all 150 of them. Along the way you battled other trainers of increasing difficulty, defeating Pokémon Gym leaders to the Indigo Plateau, where you went against the top 4 trainers in the land of Kanto, the Elite Four. Once you defeated the Elite Four, you were given a final battle against the Pokémon Champion, your rival and childhood friend.

Fast forward 15 years and 4 different handheld consoles to 2011. Where the success and popularity of Pokémon ceases to be swayed by the current economic climate. As of writing, Nintendo released that both the Pokemon Black and White Version’s combined sales reached 1 million in just one day in the US. Pokémon has gone through a lot over the last 15 years. 5 generations of Pokémon games: Red/Blue/Yellow, Gold/Silver/Crystal, Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, and now Black/White. Each generation of Pokémon expanded the Pokédex that the previous iteration used, from 151 to 251, to 386, to 493, and to the current 649 variations of Pokémon.

Now, down to main event. My first impressions on Pokémon Black Version. I recieved my copy in the post on Monday morning, along with the Game exclusive Reshiram and Zekrom printed Nintendo DSi, which I have to touch on, is the greatest handheld gaming device I have used to this day. The button placements feel right in your hand, the screen’s resolution is fantastic, and the internet ability you get on the DSi is brilliant, I would highly recommend if you don’t already to invest in a DSi or a 3DS when they’re released in your area. I’ll hopefully be in Birmingham on release day to check both the 3DS and the iPad 2 and do a write-up on them instore.

The graphics first of all are great. The overall look of the game is just stunning as it uses it’s 3D engine, something that Pokémon hasn’t done before. Normally in a city, as you wander around, the camera sticks on you, at a predetermined angle, and the buildings are set to that. But in Black and White, all the buildings have a front facing view, and a view for each side. The main reason for this is that when you walk into a building to enter it, the camera zooms a little in on you, and tilts so you see the door opening. This makes the game feel a a little more in-depth than previous titles, and more personal to you, as it shows that the game is following your story.

The battle engine has taken a major overhaul this time round, with fully animated battle sprites for Pokémon in battle. This gives Pokémon such as Manna, who floats, an animation that shows their legs moving underneath them, set off the ground. When attacking however the battle camera zooms in on the move slightly, following for example a tackle onto the receiver. When the move is finished, the game returns to it’s original camera, taking in both Pokémon on-screen. New inclusions for battling, that I’ve encountered so far are rotation battles, which are much more in-depth as you are able to switch Pokémon around in a 3v 3 situation where only the Pokemon on point can attack. Although to be honest I haven’t fully grasped the concept of rotation battles yet, as I’ve only experienced it once.

As you start off in Black, for the first time you have two rivals, Cherim and Bianca, who choose the other 2 starters that you didn’t, either Snivy, Tepig or Oshawott. Cherim however will always choose the Pokémon with the type advantage over you,  where as Bianca will be at a disadvantage. As always, I chose the Grass type starter, Snivy, which has followed the trend of mine, joining Bulbasaur, Chikorita, Treecko and Turtwig in the exclusive club. Not to give any spoilers away into the main plot, the main villainous group this time around is Team Plasma, hellbent on freeing Pokémon from their trainers, for the greater good. So we have a Pokémon game with the main bad guys having a moral issue with the concept of the game, and trying to create an idealistic world with the use of Pokémon kept to a minimum. Nice mindf*ck there Game Freak.

The playability of Pokémon is better than ever in my opinion. I’ve really grown to accept this generation of creatures as true Pokémon due to there being no inclusion of the other 493 until after game completion, which is a nice touch giving these guys a chance to stand on their own away from the Pikachus and Marills which dominated the games up to Platinum. Online is a dream, and although I’ve barely tested it out, my first match was great to set up and play, and although the game is still limited by Friend Codes for a custom 1 v 1, it makes up for it with the awesome playability level that it has. I’ve had the game for a little over under 72 hours and I’ve managed to rack up around 15 hours on it, and I’m onto the 5th gym, with 50 Pokémon in my Pokédex, although the game is a little slow for the first 6/7 hours. So the length of the game may be definately over 150 hours to complete 100%, as an estimate.

Pokémon Black Version is without a doubt my absolute favourite Pokémon game, despite lacking in an Umbreon availability to start. It unquestionably the most in-depth title in the series and a must have game for the DS. If you have a DS and some time that you want to fill, I’d recommend this game in a heart beat.