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Review: Pokémon Black & White Versions

John Funk | 4 Mar 2011 21:59
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One thing that hasn't gone away is the emphasis on grinding levels. Pokémon Black & White does make it easier to raise an evenly-leveled team; lower-level Pokémon get more experience for defeating higher-level enemies, and you gain even more experience if you swap your team during a fight. Still, "easier" in this case is hardly "easy." There will still be times when you'll find yourself having to take some time to go out and beat up helpless wild 'mons to level your team up, and while this goes by more quickly than before thanks to the improved pace of battles, it can still be a nuisance if you don't like grinding.

Nintendo has also added some ambitious new online and social features to Pokémon Black & White in the form of the C-Gear, a new gadget in the game that makes it possible to connect wirelessly to the internet anywhere in the Pokémon world to chat with friends or to battle. The Pokémon Global Link will let players hunt for new Pokémon and Berries online, and the Global Battle Union should make it easy for trainers to find real human opponents whenever they want - in theory, anyway. The Global Link doesn't go online until the end of March, so whether the reality will live up to the promise is anyone's guess.

That Nintendo and Game Freak have put so much of an emphasis on the online features this time around is both a blessing and a curse. If you have friends who play Pokémon, you can use the Entralink region in the middle of the game's world to go into their version of Unova and accomplish multiplayer missions together (again, in theory) and genuinely-multiplayer Pokémon is something that fans have been wanting for years. But at the same time, if you don't have wireless internet or know anyone in real life who plays Pokémon - something that's probably far more common in the West than in Japan - then these features are pretty useless. Since the developers have allocated the entire bottom screen of the DS for the C-Gear outside of battles and menus, that's a lot of wasted space - one yearns for the functionality of the Poketch from Diamond & Pearl.

But that's something that will inevitably be fixed in the next version of Pokémon, because that's how the series works. It's always iterating on itself, always improving and overhauling and tweaking. Pokémon Black & White is the best entry yet in the series - until it evolves yet again.

Bottom Line: With slick and fast-paced battles, a more adult take on the traditional Pokémon concepts and an entirely new roster of characters, Pokémon Black & White is as close to a "reboot" as the franchise has ever seen, but it doesn't reinvent what doesn't need reinventing.

Recommendation: If you're hoping for something radically different, you're out of luck. If you're looking for a fresh-feeling take on tried-and-true concepts, it's the best Pokémon yet.

GAMES WRITER John Funk would like to battle! He misses Eevee.

Game: Pokémon Black and White
Genre: RPG
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): DS
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US), Amazon(UK), Play.com(UK)

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