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My Review of Pokemon White

Posted May 18th, 2011 at 1:13 PM by Elite Overlord LeSabre™
Tags fifth gen

Okay, so I wrote a review of Pokemon White on Amazon a while ago, but I haven't shared it with PC yet... so here is said review, copy/pasted directly from Amazon... BTW I gave it 3 out of 5.

Ah, the Pokemon series of videogames. A franchise that has kept me entertained with high-quality games for over a decade. And now, the good folks at Game Freak have unleashed the newest generation of Pokemon games... Pokemon White and its companion game, Pokemon Black. These games were claimed to revolutionize the Pokemon experience, and met with rave reviews in Japan upon their release there. But, are they really that impressive? Here is one longtime Pokemon fan's thoughts...

These games are set in a region with the somewhat odd name, "Unova." To this day, the name still evokes images of the old Chevrolet Nova. But maybe that's me being a car guy. Anyway, like every Pokemon game since Crystal, you choose to play either as a boy or girl trainer. Only problem is, the girl this time around isn't... for lack of a better word, "attractive." She's wearing an outfit that I wouldn't let my hypothetical preteen/teen daughter wear around the house, much less on a journey by herself. This is purely a matter of taste, though it certainly didn't give me a very strong impression of the game to begin with.

Playable character designs aside, there is little doubt that these are the best looking main series Pokemon games to date... at least out of battle. In particular, the Skyarrow Bridge is a sight to behold the first time you cross it and the skyscape of the metropolis of Castelia City comes into view on the horizon. It was actually pretty awe-inspiring, for me at least. Clearly these games utilize the graphical power of the DS in ways that they should have for the fourth generation Pokemon games. In battle, the Pokemon sprites are fully animated (instead of a quick 3-4 frame animation at the start of the battle) and there is more of a 3-D effect as the screen zooms in on the opponent Pokemon as you attack it. However, those same animated Pokemon sprites look highly pixelated, especially the ones on your side of the battlefield. The names of the Pokemon in battle and their levels are presented in a cramped, small font that's not easy on the eyes. Still, on a whole I was quite impressed with the graphics in White. As for the music... I can't comment since I usually have the volume turned down on the game as I listen to '80's music on my MP3 player. I do recommend listening to Glenn Frey's "You Belong to the City" if you're wandering around Castelia at night - it fits perfectly.

The storyline is the strong point of these games. The new gang you have to take down is Team Plasma, who come across as the Pokemon world's version of PETA: They seek to separate Pokemon from their trainers, even if they have to battle with them like a group of hypocrites. But is there more (or less) to that goal than meets the eye? Equally mysterious is the enigmatic young man known only as N. Much of what he says to you early on makes little sense, and his motives and history are only revealed to you in small parts throughout the game. The Gym Leaders and your rivals (two of them this time) play a more active role in the story, as you'll meet up with them outside of battle, and they take an active interest in stopping Team Plasma's schemes. The conclusion of the main story involving Team Plasma is an interesting one with several unexpected twists and turns.

White and Black introduce the largest batch of new Pokemon ever... even more than the 151 of the original Red/Blue. As far as whether these Pokemon are any good, I'll just quote my local used-car salesman and say, "your mileage may vary." The new cast are fresh enough so they don't quite look like ones you've seen before (though I find myself drawing parallels between Pokemon like Purrloin and Glameow, or Lilligant and Bellossom, for example). There's no doubt that many of them have interesting designs and capabilities in battle, but for me at least, I found myself wanting to return to my old favorites from past games when all was said and done.

Again, you may or may not find some of the new Pokemon that "click" with you and your playing style. I didn't. And you have awhile to try the new guys out... Pokemon from prior generations won't even show up until you finish the main story. Doing that also unlocks the capability to send Pokemon over from your 4th gen DS Pokemon games... but like the Pal Park in those games, you can't send them back. Be careful. And you can't transfer held items, so that huge stock of Master Balls and Rare Candies you may or may not have in Platinum or Soul Silver will have to stay there. Sorry.

Some new moves are also introduced, but since most types already have their respective 80-100 power, 100 accuracy attack (your Ice Beams, Thunderbolts, Earthquakes, etc.) you may or may not get much use out of the new ones. At best they can allow a Pokemon access to a move type they couldn't get previously, or inflict your foes with an unexpected status effect. Two aspects relating to Pokemon moves have been improved significantly, however. HM moves, constantly a source of frustration for Pokemon players, have been given a much less important role. Except for one (Cut) you no longer need HM moves to complete the game... they're used to access optional areas but you won't be using them nearly as much as in previous games. Also, TM's are finally no longer one time use. You can now use them as many time as you want - a most welcome change.

The games have expanded wireless/wi-fi gameplay options, though I have yet to try out most of these features. You can share info from your game saves and surveys (which you can answer in Castelia City) as well as the normal trade, battle, chat, and GTS functions. There's also a Dream World you can access by using the "Pokemon Global Link" website. If nothing else, they're certainly interesting features to try out, but you'll need access to Nintendo's wi-fi network... something that I haven't been able to use regularly since last December.

For all that the game does right, however, several things that were or were not included combine to bring it down a notch or two. The way Pokemon gain experience is now based on level... like a few other RPGs, you now earn less experience the higher in level you are compared to your opponent. I have never liked this method of earning experience, as it makes level grinding annoyingly tedious (the only upside was that I spent so much time training in the grass I managed to come across not one, not two, but three rare shiny Pokemon in the process). But it took nearly 60 hours of play time for me to beat the game, and much of that was defeating wild Pokemon for a negligible amount of experience.

The whole experience-earning issue is made even worse because of a dumb decision made by the programmers regarding the trainers in the post-game. Without spoiling anything else, they are absurdly powerful - a good 15 levels or more higher than the Elite Four, with no trainers bridging that huge level gap. This forces you to beat weaker wild Pokemon for hours on end just so you stand a chance against the random Lass with Pokemon that could mop the floor with the Elite Four. That was not a good idea by any stretch of the imagination, and I hope this stupid idea does not manifest itself in future Pokemon games. Five levels or so higher than the Elite Four would have been reasonable... not 15+.

Menus are cumbersome. Any new item you collect is now put at the top of the item list instead of at the bottom. At the least it's inconvenient if you like to keep items like healing potions and repels at the top of your list for easy access... I can't count how many time I've gone to use a Repel and the system selected that random evolution stone I picked up a couple minutes before. At worst, you could accidentially pitch out the Master Ball or use up a rare Max Elixir because of this system.

Then there are all the good features of past Pokemon games that were inexplicably left out of Black and White... the Vs. Seeker (which would have made level grinding MUCH less of a pain), the ability to rematch Gym Leaders, Secret Bases, a Pokegear or Poketch-type utility device... none of these features made their way to the new games, and suggest to me that somebody at Game Freak got lazy toward the end and decided not to put in these things that would have surely enhanced the entire experience.

My personal experience with playing White is that it kept me quite entertained throughout the main storyline (despite tedious level-grinding) but my interest in the game dropped significantly after completing it. With no rematch capability except with the Pokemon League, your rivals, and a few others, there's little to do once you've explored the few routes that open up in the post-game. Yes, there's a reworked Battle Tower now modeled after a subway and called (naturally) the Battle Subway, but those places are more an exercise in frustration than anything else, and the rewards really aren't worth the effort. Again, if I had regular access to wi-fi that might change things, but...

Overall, I wasn't that impressed with White, especially after all the hype leading up to the release. Unlike previous Pokemon games, I don't feel especially motivated to play this one through again, despite the interesting (by Pokemon standards) storyline. There are too many little problems - things that were included that shouldn't have been, and things that weren't included that should have been - that all add up to a game experience that was more frustrating than I would have liked. I might have scored it higher if I grew to really like even a couple of the new Pokemon introduced, but in the end I ended up sticking with my old favorites. Maybe I really am getting old...

Pokemon White (and Black) are good games, no doubt, but given past games in the franchise, I expect Pokemon games to be excellent. And these new games just didn't quite reach that mark. Sorry, but I think I'll be sticking with the likes of Platinum, Leaf Green, and Soul Silver.

Wi-fi additions
TMs now have unlimited uses
Less reliance on inconvenient HM moves in the field

New Pokemon designs
New attacks

Cumbersome menus
Ridiculous post-story difficulty
Messed up EXP-earning
Lack of features from previous games
Posted in Pokemon Gaming
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  1. Old Comment
    DarkAlucard's Avatar
    I've never been grinding my pokemon so I think that the experience you gain as you progress through the story is correct. When I arrived the first time to the Pokemon League, my team was in a 52-55 average levels so I think I did well.
    After the league and the battle with N, I was surprised to meet with the trainers ans his pokemon around level 60-65, but instead of increasing the levels of my team, I decided to fight because it is a very interesting challenge.
    I agree with many things you mention but the worst of my point of view, is how it looks your pokemon when you enter in battle, too pixelated.
    Posted May 18th, 2011 at 2:30 PM by DarkAlucard DarkAlucard is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Meinfoo's Avatar
    ^My thoughts exactly.

    Castelia city seems so alive.
    Posted May 20th, 2011 at 2:43 PM by Meinfoo Meinfoo is offline

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