Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pokémon White Review

I recently bought the latest Pokémon game (the urge just got too big), and chose White out of the two because I thought I had read somewhere that it was supposed to be slightly better. I don't actually know if it is since I've only tried one. Gotta catch em all and all that. With each new Pokémon game I always have to convince myself (well, actually Love. I know it'll be awesome) that it will be worth the money, since I know that it will be exactly the same as the last game in the series. The only thing that has changed since Pokémon blue is the graphics basically, but that is also what I love about the series - why change a winning concept after all? But I read some reviews on this one and was intrigued when people said that some changes had been done and that old Pokémon fans would have a pleasant experience. Said and done, I bought it and played it. More than 30 hours of game time later, what do I think?

This is the one I didn't buy

First of all, just to get it out of the way - the game is exactly like the previous games, in case you had any doubts otherwise. If you've played any of the games beween red/blue up to this one, you'll know what you'll get. Professor hands you grass/water/fire Pokémon of choice at start? Check. Friend who picks Pokémon with strength against yours? Check. 8 gyms to finish off before Pokémon league? Check. Evil organisation that wants to revolutionize the world with their evil ways, that you have to fight? Check. And most importantly - catching, leveling and evolving loads of weird Pokémon? Check.

If the game is exactly the same, there's nothing more to say about it, right? Well, it's just about the same. Game Freak has actually tried to improve the smoothness and effectiviness of the game in some areas, so eventhough 95% of the game is pretty much like the one before, you'll notice some small but great changes that will further enhance your Pokémon experience!

  • Something that I enjoyed a lot with Digimon as compared to Pokémon was the possibility to fight with more than one Pokémon . They did implement double battles in Pokémon Crystal/diamond (maybe even earlier), but it was rarely used. In Pokémon White/Black they've implemented even more fights like these, and even triple battles. This is a welcome change, since the one on one does become slightly tedious after a while. Also, fighting three Pokémon at once does add a new level of challenge and tactic to the game. I only wish they'd added even more fights like these.
  • Itemfinder, which has been around for several generations, has been greatly improved. Instead of being an use item which only turns you in the right direction, it works more like a detector which you can have activated passively while walking around. It almost makes finding hidden items too easy.
  • They've added a lot more poke-healers around the world. Now you won't always have to struggle your way through 15 minutes worth of dungeon running to get back to the Poke-center - for the longer paths they've added npcs that will heal Pokémon for you (and they do it way faster than the poke-center!).
  • One of the best changes in the game is that TMs no longer are one-time use. Instead they're like HMs in that they can be used an unlimited amount of time. Unlike HMs however, they can be unlearned at any time, and I really wish they'd allowed HMs to be as well.
  • They've added rare Pokémons! No, they were probably always around, but this time they have a special emote in the game world and a special battle song, making the encounter (and catch) slightly more interesting.

There are a couple of things they could've changed while they were at it though;

  • When accessing the bank I can choose to either enter Deposit mode or Withdraw mode. Why can't they both be in the same mode? Why do I have to exit Deposit mode when I want to withdraw a Pokémon? I am already in the bank after all! This is something that only gets more annoying the more you play, because it makes no sense.
  • Random encounters. They don't have to be bad per se, but some game developers just don't understand how to weild the powers of random encounters. As with many other games with this feature, Pokémon White/black suffers from random encounters being too prevalent. I've had 4 encounters in 5 steps (which nearly had me hurl the NDS into the wall in furious nerd rage). If you use repel you don't meet any Pokémon. There really should be something inbetween.
  • I never did like how they have HMs work. With a limited amount of slots for your skills, still only 4, it hurts to have to teach your Pokémon a skill like Strength, if it isn't awesome. In the old games, Surf and Cut used to be among the best skills, so eventhough it was boring that your Pokémon had to run around with the same skill from early level until end game, you at least didn't have to drag around a worthless skill. And some Hms are definitely more useful than others, where some are needed to finish the game where others are only for getting some extra bonuses (and one which I haven't found any uses for at all yet). Read more about it in the spoilery tip section at the end if you like.
  • A change they did implement, but for the worse, was removing the re-duel feature from older games and instead added a Battle Dome, where you can pit yourself against increasingly more difficult players. This is both better and worse since it matches both sides Pokémon at the same level, which makes it impossible to simply brute force through. This way you really get to test your skills. On the other hand your Pokémon aren't awarded experience for these fights which make them kind of pointless to me.

They've also put a little (very slightly) more effort into graphics and music. Eventhough this game is extremely similar to the previous one, which also was to the NDS, White/black plays with perspectives in some fun ways. Nothing fancy or advanced, but at least something. I also feel like the music is among the best in the series, and I've got a new favorite in the Team Plasma battle song. You've also got the fairly pointless Pokémon gimmick, which has been pokeblocks, planting berries and dressing up for some games, in this game it's fortunately only dressing up and playing in the theater with your Pokémon. A complete waste of time if you ask me, but maybe there is someone out there, maybe, who actually enjoys it.

Look at those 3d effects!

Some people have complained about the quality of the Pokémon designs, or rather the lack there of. I did feel with generation 3-4 that they seemed to be treadmilling ideas and some Pokémons were just... odd. But I don't think so with this new generation where some of the Pokémon are new favorites (Litwick for instance). It's a matter of taste really, but Game Freak did decide to implement only the new generation into this game. That means no Rattatas and Pidgeys in the starting area. Personally I think that this is a good change, since the first Pokémon you catch usually are the ones you keep, at least for many levels to come. And for some reason they always decided to keep the boring Pokémons with each new game (Pidgey) instead of the interesting ones (Ghastly). Maybe I just think that because I've had to see them for 4 generations.

How can you not love that face?

There are many features that will allow you to do cool stuff with friends, but since I don't have any of those I haven't been able to test them. I can only imagine they'd make the game even more fun, because I remember from my old Pokémon Stadium days that being able to play your Pokémon against your friends is ultimately why you level all those little monsters.

All this can't remove the fact that this game is extremely similar to the previous ones. But I think Game Freak did the right thing when they decided that the concept didn't need overhauling, but that they could tweak some of the details. In my opinion they could've even gone a little further than they have, but the game is as fun as it ever was, and in any case it definitely hasn't become less good than the previous games.

As long as you haven't outgrown the joy in collecting and advancing loads of different Pokémon, you'll enjoy this game for sure. The reason I've stuck with every game throughout the series is because I know that I'll get a great game. There is just something about catching them all that is darn compelling, I've got to hand it to the creator, he really hit the nail on the head with this one. I just never tire of finding new Pokémon and evolving them, I can apparently do it over and over. And over (and over and over, there are 5 generations now). I've never played any of the spinoff games however, except for Pokémon Dungeon, so to me it's always been about the leveling and evolving.

Spoiler alert below! Some small tips if you intend to play the game.

  • As I mentioned, some of the HMs are used way less than the rest. I haven't found any use for Flash. Cut is only used for getting some extra items (unless it's needed very early on and I've forgotten about it). Surf and Strength are needed to complete the game. Fly is extremely comfortable, but not necessary to complete the game.
  • Although you can search through trash cans, I haven't found anything in them so far and I dare say I've checked through nearly all.
  • Talking to random people will be one of the best ways to attain important items.
Pictures from Wikipedia and Bulbapedia.

    1 comment:

    1. The move pokemon option on the PC allows you to deposit and withdraw pokemon at the same time without shifting between deposit and withdraw, you can release too if you want and shift between boxes and within boxes. For annoying HMs you want removed there is a uy called the move deleter who will make your pokemon forget the move.