The Zero Hour

Reviews, rants and oddities on video game and film culture.

Pokémon Black/White: A premature review

I am a 19 year old and I still like Pokémon. Whilst this doesn’t have the stigma it had a few years back (I actually know people who play the games now, which is always good), Pokémon is still viewed by the majority as a simple kids game. Now anyone that actually plays them knows this is absolute hokum. Whilst it’s appeal is fighting cute monsters, there’s so much more depth within the series. Want to catch a Pokémon? Each Pokémon has a percentage of chance of being caught, as do the Poke balls used to catch them, so you have to match up and do some statistical analysis of what ball to use, not quite as simple as holding down B and wiggling the D Pad, is it?

So with this in mind, let’s turn our attention to Pokémon Black and White, the newest in the series, I’d like to say this is a review, but considering the game hasn’t been out for a day in England and I’m yet to defeat the first Gym leader, yet alone really delve into the games story and monsters, I think I’d be acting a bit rash to immediately go “BUY THIS GAME NOW” but from what I’ve played so far, wether you’re new to the series, or an old hand, you should at least consider it.

The game is as addictive, as fun and as easy to pick up (despite my previous explanation of the catching mechanics) as all the other games, but that’s largely because essentially, it’s the same game. Sure, the names have changed, the Pokémon are different, but the formula hasn’t changed. And whilst this is usually a problem, it doesn’t hinder the game at all. Pokémon is a series that perfectly developed it’s style of RPG right out of the bag. All the games since have done is add on to it, think of it like a house and every new game adds an extension, eventually that house is going to look really ugly, but in this case, it’s still looking as glorious as ever.

That said, Game Freak have made a very brave attempt at looking at the series with a fresh perspective and it kind of works, the experience points system has been shaken up, now your Pokémon will get more EXP if they defeat a Pokémon a higher level, which means you won’t rely on your inevitably overpowered starter Pokémon for the whole game and focusing more on type advantages (Pokemon is essentially a big convaluted game of Paper Rock Scissors). And, also whilst there are 649 or so Pokémon in existence now, only 150 are available and all of them haven’t appeared in any game before, it throws us back to 1996 all over again.

The downsides I’ve discovered so far is mostly small little details, I’m not a big fan of the new sprites, they’re a bit gangly and look a bit awkward, so I’m hoping they’ll grow on me, the EXP system takes a while to get used to and there’s considerably more grinding involved. Furthermore, I’m still waiting for the Pokémon game with a custom character creation, which would not only give that extra element of personalisation, but would also be a fantastic opportunity to open up to more online options. But other than that, the game is so far fantastic and if it stays to the regular Pokémon formula and habits, and there are no Pokémon that look like lawnmowers and fridges, then this is a good solid 9/10 waiting to happen. I may add a few more bits to this once I get through the main storyline and try to complete my Pokédex, but for now, it’s a…well, it’s a Pokémon game and to be honest, that’s quite high praise in itself.

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