Standing in line behind a horde of overweight 8-year-olds waiting to get their paws on the latest Pokémon game, I realized that the series’ target demographic really hasn’t changed much since the glory days of Red and Blue. That’s something of a shame, though, as Pokémon Black or White undeniably have something to offer gamers of all ages. In fact, between the truly outstanding design of the new Unova region and a plot that delves far deeper than past Pokémon adventures, this could really go down as one of the top releases in the history of the series.
From the first fields of tall grass you make your way through, one of the game’s highest points is evident – for the most part, these new Pokémon are rock-solid. Starting with Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, I’ve found the crops of new Pokémon to be disappointing, with more of what seemed to be inanimate objects with faces than actual unique creatures. White suffers from some of this; the most obvious losers include a triumvirate of ice cream based creations and a floating candle Pokémon (a shame, as the ghost-fire combo had great potential). For the most part, however, these are some of the coolest Pokémon in recent memory.
The updated plot of the game, especially the parts surrounding new villains “Team Plasma,” addresses one of the stalest aspects of the series. No longer are the enemies your typical black hat bad guys, out to abuse Pokémon and their powers for evil — rather, this new group prefers psychological warfare, going town to town to convince trainers that it is they who are abusing their Pokémon, using force to make their point when necessary.
Although the dialogue can get a little slow at times, the deeper ethical considerations of the relationship between Pokémon and their trainers that the game addresses are a welcome change for the game’s older fans.
For me however, the area where “Pokémon White” most clearly stands out over any of its predecessors is simply in how the game plays. In particular, the world feels more expansive in “White” than ever before. This is a direct result of the effort the developers put into level design outside of the game’s major cities – no longer are routes simply training grounds to get you from place to place; they are adventures of their own.
There are also numerous sub-areas outside of the cities that do a wonderful job of keeping the game from succumbing to repetition.
There is no pure good however, and “White” does suffer from a couple shortcomings; namely, the game draws more than is necessary from prior games and the graphics are still lacking where they don’t have to be.
Addressing the former, some of the game’s predictability comes from the fact that several Pokémon locations and evolutionary patterns are derived directly from older games — this first becomes evident when you encounter a Pokémon called a Woobat in the game’s first cave.
As for the graphics, it is often when the game tries to look its best that it looks its worst. Take Castelia City for instance — the 3-D here looks absolutely terrible and gives the “City of Grandeur” a distinctly tiny feel. The graphics during battles also look like they could still be supported by a Gameboy Advance.But minor gripes aside, this is a fantastic game — I, for one, am as hooked as I was in elementary school. I think it’s about time to get on WiFi and teach some of those chubby 8-year-olds to respect their elders.
Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.