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Friday
Apr152011

Pokemon: White Review

I'm a proper Pokemon fan.

As pretentious as that may sound, it's true. I've played a game from each generation (Yellow, Gold, Sapphire, Pearl and now White), and I played Pokemon Pearl for 350 hours... So when it comes to Pokemon, I like to think I know what I'm talking about.

Doesn't really work on anything but a DS screen...

Which makes reviewing the game all the harder. I can't look at the game objectively, I have to compare it to the games that came before. There's no way I can look at a Pokemon game from a neutral perspective, it would be like looking at your mum objectively. Is she fit? Yeah, see, you can't do it (hopefully).

The differences between Pokemon White (and Black) and the previous installments (Diamond and Pearl) don't seem very dramatic at first: Aesthetically it's more or less the same, the story progresses in the exact same way as all the other games (Collect Gym Badges, get to Pokemon League etc.) and you start out in a tiny village with a professor named after a tree giving you your first Pokemon. It's not until a few hours in that you realise the game is starting to challenge some of these concepts. Some unsuccessfully, some very successfully.

The core story is what you would typically expect from a Pokemon game, a 10 year old boy gets his first Pokemon and goes off on an adventure to be the Pokemon champion. Short, sweet and simple. Only in this installment they've tweaked a few of the more nuanced story beats, for example, instead of having 1 rival, you now start out in your home town in a threesome (calm down) of best friends, all eager to start your journeys. Obviously after you've selected your Pokemon, they share the remaining 2 between them. You'll fight against and alongside them throughout the course of the game, and actually by the end, I really felt like it had been a 3 person story, which in my opinion, was a small triumph... for a Pokemon game at least.

Oh no! Not... Team Rock- I mean Plasma!!!As with any good (or bad) Pokemon game there's an evil team at work, setting off evil plans, stealing Pokemon, kidnapping people etc. In Pokemon White & Black that team is Team Plasma. On the surface if it they're your typical Team Rocketesque bad guys, but in actuality, they're whole shtick is that they believe Pokemon trapped inside Pokeballs are essentially slaves. This resonates instantly with anyone over the age of 12, and even had me questioning whether I should be catching so many Pokemon. I mean I've got my 6 I travel round with... but I've also got boxes full in the PC, just rotting away. Really it's a pretty abrasive direction to take the evil Team at first, but ultimately, aside from some banter between you and them, they do the same stuff the other evil teams did: Set off evil plans, steal Pokemon and do a spot of kidnapping. They're just controversial enough, but also just enough like the old baddies to be memorable.

The way you interact with the story is also... I'm gonna say, improved. Most towns you go to will have a sort of mini-quest you need to attend to before the gym leader will appear. What makes these cool however, is that often times on these missions you'll be fighting alongside the gym leaders themselves. This helps makes the gym leaders seem like actual presences in the communities, but does little else except delay your inevitable gym badge.

Colourful bunch, those gym leadersThe classic Pokemon battle system remains intact. Fire beats Grass, Grass beats Water, Water beats Fire, and a whole mess of other elements and types in between. Pokemon White doesn't bring any new Pokemon types to the table but this is fine, as I think we've already reached saturation as far as that goes, but it does bring with it some mandatory new moves and items, although in my experience, most of these seemed incredibly superfluous. I mean, an item that makes your Pokemon float in the air until it's attacked once? I see its uses, but I also see Leftovers right next to it, so get it out of my face. Also seemingly intact (for all you fellow Pokemon mega-nerds out there) are IVs and EV training. If you have no idea what they are, it would take far too long to explain, but needless to say there's a lot of depth to Pokemon you may not have even realised was there.

Triple battles add much more to think about, though personally they weren't really my thingThe final big change I came across absolutely blew my mind. It completely transforms the entire game in many ways. It makes it more fun, more stress-free and in a way, easier. The ability to re-use TMs. For those not in the know TMs were a one-time use machine that let you teach a move to a Pokemon. These were important because for moves like Stealth Rock, or Roost you would only typically find 1 in the whole game and moves like this become very important in the professional scene. Having TMs be re-usable is a game changer. No longer do you have to debate about whether to use your 1 Thunderbolt TM because you were coming up to a water Pokemon heavy area, you won't have to hold back on teaching a Pokemon Ice-Beam just to see if it complimented your existing moveset, no more teaching a TM to a Pokemon only to realise 9 hours later that it would have learnt the move anyway. Literally, out of my current 75 hours playtime, this has been the change that has most convinced me that Pokemon White is a truly revolutionary step for the franchise.

And then, I realise I haven't mentioned the new Pokemon yet, and my mood changes.

What. The. FUCK.With the exception of maybe 7 or 8, every single one of the new Pokemon in the game are fucking terrible. They anger me. Their very existence feels like a thorn in my bellend. I mean look at that ice-cream cone thing. Either Nintendo are high as kites, or just stupid. You guys honestly think that this ice-cream monstrosity can grace the same screen as a gem like Gengar, or Vaporeon and not look like a practical joke you guys forgot to take out? It actually sickens me that some of these Pokemon made it through vindication. There's one of the new Pokemon that is actually just a dog. JUST a dog. Not a six-legged dog, or a dog with wings, just a regular dog that when it evolves, gets taller and grows more fur. Fucking bullshit.

These new Pokemon, while horrendous on the eyes and soul, are actually a necessary evil for the amount I liked the game. See, once you complete the game you open up some new areas, places where the trainers and wild Pokemon are all of a sufficient level that you're back having tough battles literally minutes after becoming the champ. While that's great and all, the beautiful twist is that all these trainers use the classic Pokemon we love to bits. There really is no word Aside from Blitzle, there is not a single one of these Pokemon whose throat I would not slitto describe that feeling you get, after watching these crappy Pokemon fanny around for 60 hours, coming across a trainer with a Rapidash. It feels something close to satisfying a craving you've held onto for a week. I imagine it has in common some of the same endorphine-releasing properties that sex does, or of a cigarette 6 months on nicotine patches. I never knew just feasting my eyes on a Golduck could be so more-ish. It really made my day.


So what we have here then is the "Greatest Hits" of Pokemon games. You get the obligatory new single, followed by all the old classics you know and love.

Pokemon White is the classic formula expanded upon, but more than that, it's a game that takes the franchise 1 step forward, and no steps back. A far cry from the massive overhaul some sceptics are waiting for, but just innovative enough to keep this old Pokemaniac happy.

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Reader Comments (2)

I too love this game but I have the same problem with the pokemon. I can't help but hate them.

April 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuke D

Yeah, the new pokemons are really as what the fuck as it gets, but it seems like there are some new funky combo types (or maybe I am just have not played pokemon enough to know that they are not new) that might be fun to experiment on. Also I prefer the good old team rocket, who are evil just because they are, team plasma's agenda is a bit heavier and kind of cheesy for me. And lastly, is it really necessary, the whole gear thing practically disabling the bottom screen, unless you living with a lot of people who are playing the same game.

September 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiang

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