Review: Pokemon Black and White

These games are good. Play them.
Pokemon Black and White US Boxart

Hi there! Welcome to the world of! My name is Slab Bulkhead. Some people call me the Professor! Today I am here to review Pokémon Black and White. Belonging to the latest generation of Pokémon games, Black and White were released on the 6th of March, 2011. The premise of Black and White is the same as that of most other Pokémon portable games. The player is a young boy or girl who yearns to become a Pokémon master by defeating the Elite Four, this time in the new Unova region. Along the way, the player meets a team of morally bankrupt, costumed flunkies who carry out a leader’s orders to take Pokémon away from their trainers. The new games waste no time immersing the player in their virtual Pokémon adventure. Immediately after the player chooses their name and gender, the lovely Professor Juniper sends them a message informing them that they and their two best friends have been chosen to undertake a mission to complete the Pokédex. The message comes with a package that contains three Pokémon. At this point, the player chooses their Pokémon, has a battle with their friends, and then runs off to see Juniper. From there, the plot of the game, though unique in detail, is almost the same as in every other Pokémon game. The player fights the bad guys, defeats the Elite Four, and confronts the bad guys’ boss.

The Brooklyn Bridge by any other name...
The Sky Arrow Bridge is truly a spectacular sight.

At first glance, the game graphically resembles the Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver versions. However, when the player reaches the bridge to Castelia City, they are utterly blown away by the scope of graphical improvement in the game. The bridge scene is completed by a wonderful shifting, panning perspective that allows the player to understand the full scope of this bridge within the world of Unova. There are also parts of the game where the player receives calls over their phone device, the Xtransciever. During these calls, the screen is split to show moving illustrations of the characters who are speaking over the device. The character art is, for the most part, very good. The Pokémon art is very hit-or-miss. Many of the new Pokémon have interesting designs, such as Zebstrika and Galvantula. Some Pokémon in the game look simply awful, such as Gothielle, and still others are far too similar to old Pokémon. For example, Alomomola looks remarkably similar to Luvdisc. The Pokémon are animated in battle, something that, for the portable games, first appeared in Pokémon Crystal. Each Pokemon has its own unique tiny sprite in the party screen and a different sprite in the PC box, as in the third fourth generation Pokémon games. Many Pokémon have different sprite sets depending on their gender. For instance, while the male version of Pikachu looks the same as Pikachu has always looked, the female version has a small cleft in its tail. This design change, while interesting, does not really add much to the immersion of the game, nor does it assist the player much in determining the gender of their Pokémon, as a Pokémon’s gender is displayed when it enters battle.

Perhaps the most superb thing about Pokémon Black and White is the music in the games. When certain characters are talking to one another in the overworld or when certain events are taking place, the music played in the area changes. For instance, when the main character’s female friend Bianca is having a heart to heart conversation with her overprotective father a beautiful, somber theme plays to set the mood. The battle music of the game has improved quite a bit as well. The terrible beeping noise that played in all previous generations of the game when the player’s Pokémon were low on hit points is gone. Instead, a noise similar to the original noise has been turned into a special musical loop that plays under the same condition. It fits well with the game’s new battle music and is not nearly as annoying. The most memorable music in the game is the Team Plasma battle music. It is fast paced and intense, possibly attempting to trick the player into thinking that the battle they are fighting will be difficult. The mysterious trainer N has his own theme that is very similar to the Team Plasma battle music. He gets an even more wonderful battle theme during the player’s final battle against him. The player may find themselves intentionally drawing out battles simply to hear more of the music. It is that good.

Seriously? Plasbad?
Triple Battles and Rotation Battles are, as Team Plasma suggests, Plasbad.

The game’s interface is similar to the interface from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. The games do not allow the player to toggle the running shoes on and off as Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver did, which would have been preferable. For the most part, the interface to the game did not need many changes because the core game mechanics for Single and Double Battles have not changed since HeartGold and SoulSilver. There are, however, two new types of battles: Triple Battles and Rotation Battles. Neither of them are in any way spectacular. Triple Battles are an annoying kind of battle where a player sends out three of their Pokémon against three of their opponent’s Pokémon. While the Pokémon in the middle of the three can attack any Pokémon they wish, the two Pokémon on the sides cannot attack the Pokémon on the opposite side of their opponent’s field. This draws out battles if an unlucky trainer has a Pokémon faint or the trainer has poor type matchups. Rotation Battles are a type of battle in which the trainer has three Pokémon out at one time but only one of those Pokémon can attack. The trainer can decide to rotate their three Pokémon so that a different one is able to attack. Once again, this serves only to draw out battles. While the battle system is quite fun, Triple and Rotation Battles are poor additions to the series.

Readers: You are welcome.
No, Dragon TAIL.

Pokémon Black and White have added new moves and new Pokémon. The new Pokémon are almost all fairly odd. Some are quite absurd, but still endearing. The naming system for the new Pokémon seems to have been devised with the intention being to make the Pokémon sound as ridiculous as possible. There is, in fact, an evolution chain involving three Pokémon called Timburr, Gurdurr, and Conkeldurr. The new moves, however, are not nearly as ridiculous. The designers worked hard to try to make moves that were more universally available to Pokémon regardless of type by making moves similar to existing moves of different type. There are many that are very interesting, but some really stand out, such as Volt Switch and Dragon Tail. Volt Switch is a 70 power Electric-type special move that switches the attacking Pokémon out for a different party Pokémon of the trainer’s choice after the attack hits. Dragon Tail is a 60 power Dragon-type physical move that works exactly like whirlwind except that it deals damage.

On the whole, Pokémon Black and White are excellent games, proving that GameFreak’s best days do not lie behind them, but ahead. They may be extremely similar to other Pokémon games that have been released in the past, but each new Pokémon generation that GameFreak releases has something new and interesting to offer its players. This is what I love about the Pokémon games. It is why I bought Pokémon White, and why I will probably buy the next generation of Pokémon some time after it is released as well.


  1. That bridge! That amazing bridge!

    It really is one of my favourite moments in a PKMN game. Astonishing.

  2. @Ginia: DO IT. Seriously. You won’t regret it. PKMN Black/White is phenomenal.

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