One of the three startes, Tepig is a fire-type Pokemon.

Well, the Pokémon series may finally have run out of colors (or has been around long enough that Black and White is no longer  racist), but it certainly hasn’t run out of ideas. Still, how far has the series really come after all these years?

To be fair, Game Freak had their work cut out for them. You have to keep the series fresh, while keeping it inviting to both new players and the older generation that grew up with Pokémon. Walking that line can be hard, and this time they challenged themselves to do it without relying on any of the Pokémon from previous games.

Black and White is first and foremost possibly the best new generation of Pokémon since Gold and Silver. It brings a lot to the table and introduces the series’ first entry into pseudo-3D environments, rich cities and a story that’s actually engrossing. But some of the clutter was just trash that should have been thrown to the curb a long time ago. HMs are reduced to an almost meaningless part of the game, so why they bothered to keep them in I’ll never know. TMs are reusable, which is beyond amazing, the gym designs are equally awesome and Team Plasma might just be cooler than Team Rocket.

Yet all of  that comes at a cost. The gym leaders barely even begin to be challenging, the puzzles in the gyms leave something to be desired,  almost all of the caves and tunnels are one way paths without boulders to use Strength on (who would have thought I’d ever miss that?), and you just can’t seem to ever go through a town without coming across several Team Plasma battles.

One of the most important features of the game is the 150 brand new Pokémon. This brings with it such a heavy sense of nostalgia that hasn’t been since “Red” and “Blue,” because I walked into a cave and didn’t find a Zubat (though Woobat isn’t much better) or a Geodude. Discovery is the name of the game here, and it harkens back to the very first steps I took in the Pokémon world.

To boot, I actually found myself having more new Pokémon that I wanted to train and level up then I could fit in my team, and that’s about the highest compliment to the design staff that I can ever give.

And while some may be glad to see that the Pokémon sprites actually, you know, move during battles, the repeated random wing flaps or eye blinks seem exactly that: Random and having nothing to do with how a Pokémon would react during battle.

Even the attack animations seem downgraded from “HeartGold” or “SoulSilver,” let alone Pearl and Diamond. The DS is a powerful system and “Black” and “White” use many aspects of that in several ways, but the fact remains that the battles still look and play like shadows of what Pokémon should look like in today’s modern age.

As  of press time I’m just entering Victory Road, so I’m not quite done with the game yet. Through it all,  I just can’t shake the feeling that this is what Pokemon should have looked, felt and played like several generations ago. For such a promoted “reboot” of the franchise, it is still clutching on to relics from the gaming days of old, but it is a great stepping stone to take the series to even greater advancements the next time around.

The truth about it though is that it doesn’t really matter. “Black” and “White” are still great games and still the video game crack that Pokémon was when I was a “young’un” who couldn’t tell a Clefairy from a Jigglypuff.

Clark is a member of the class of 2012.

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