After more than a decade since the original Pokemon titles first arrived in Japan, the franchise has exhibited no sign of slowing down. Game Freak’s remakings of Gold and Silver were proof that the classic collecting mechanic and rock-paper-scissors mode battle system hadn’t lost their brilliance. Still, Pokemaniacs have apprehensively waited for the franchise to take steps in a new direction. With the releases of Pokemon Black and White incarnations, these fans certainly have been satisfied.
Pokemon Black and White versions immediately demonstrate the 5th generation’s new direction with an animated cutscene. An uncharacteristically dark scene shows a crowning ceremony of a mysterious young man with no corroborating details as to who he is and the role he will play. The scene then alternates to a more upbeat scenario having the signature Pokemon theme song as the words “Hope,” “Dream,” and “Discovery” shoot off on screen, all the while expansive fresh environments of the Isshu area and figures of a ton of new Pokemon just waiting to be caught are exposed.
Having a quick intro by Pokemon expert Dr. Araragi, you are free to search the bustling new world. While we know little regarding the plot at this point, you are still in charge of collecting badges and combating stray trainers, inclunding encounters with troublesome Team Plasma. After a a couple of hours of exploring the Isshu region, you’ll observe more densely populated towns, tall housing constructions spanning multiple floors, and the Pokemon Center and Poke Mart merged into a one-stop shop. Worlds are colorful and elaborate, with each new area boasting its own catchy soundtrack. Camera angles dynamically shift while traveling, giving the three-dimensional space a feel of large scale. You will have a lot of of land to cover when looking for the 156 new Pokemon that come out in Black and White.
Players select one of three new starter Pokemon: Mijumaru (water-type), Tsujara (grass-type) and Pokabu (fire-type), and commence traversing from one grass patch to the next to engage monsters in battle. The combat system has incurred a graphical overhaul, as creatures are far more elaborate and better animated than the old pixelated sprites. Camera angles change to give a keener sense of action and battle music escalates when your Pokemon are low on health. Up to three Pokemon are able to take part in some battle scenarios, putting in an element of party-based battle. Even though the combat mechanics stay similar to one-on-one, figuring out which half of your six Pokemon to call up while being aware of elemental strengths and weaknesses rocks things up.