The Latest

Still Catching- Pokemon Black/White Review

Sean”White Version”NOLA: If I were to check our analytics, I would see that very few children are reading this right now. I would imagine, that on average, our readers are in their early thirties, about 70% male, and that 99% have played a Pokémon game before (yes, your browser knows whether or not you’ve played Pokémon before, and yes- our website magically collects that data). With that as a given, I don’t really need to explain the basics of Pokémon in detail: you select your first Pokémon, you are tasked with collecting information on all eight million species while you journey across the universe to earn eight badges from eight gym leaders.  The bulk of gameplay revolves around traveling from town to town, engaging in RPG-lite combat with your team of rocks, papers and scissors.  So if I assume that you already understand that, the question I’m sure you’re asking is “what makes this one different.”

Just like past releases, Pokémon White is a slight variation of the Pokémon formula; however the marginal improvements provide a much more meaningful impact this time around.  The core cast is made up of over 150 entirely new Pokémon, and for once it doesn’t feel like the creature creators phoned it in. Every new animal I encountered was colorful, animated and most importantly, unique. For the first time since my original run-in with Pikachu, I was excited to catch new, unrecorded Pokémon. There are also several battle types, to keep competition fresh. Although most fights are classic one-on-one or two-on-two Pokébattles, there are occasional three-on-three and “Rotating Battles,” which place three of your Pokémon on a Lazy Susan to give you a total of 12 attack choices every turn.  The new battle types add an extra layer to strategic planning by adding an emphasis on support commands, and will make you think twice before giving Tail Whip and Leer to each and every one of your pets.

Just like the last batch of Pokémon games, Black/White uses polygonal environments rather than the old sprite-painted backgrounds, but this time, the environments really take advantage of the added depth provided.  Although the top-down perspective is fixed, you will occasionally catch a glimpse of an item or shaking bush (the tell of a rare Pokémon) hiding behind a wall in the distance that you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise, and from time to time, you will come across vistas that allow you to see far off in the distance to see the solutions to puzzles in the future, or the location of a secret area in the distance. Battles are also waged in 3D space, and although the combatants are still pixilated sprites, the use of dynamic planes and shifting space make each simple animation vivid and complex. Little details like that make the modeled environments feel much less like a gimmick and more like a conclusive design decision.

The other major addition to the game is the C-Gear. The C-Gear is a passive system, similar to the Street Pass mode that the 3DS offers, which allows Pokémon Masters to exchange information without opening their DS’s. Throughout the course of the game, the C-Gear will not only collect information about your Pokémon play-style, but also about your personality, based on questions asked by various townsfolk. If left on, the C-Gear can provide useful information, like how many people in your area that play Pokémon and leave their C-Gear on like dogs, and how many people in that same, minuscule demographic like cats. I wouldn’t bank on many people using the feature, however, because the Gear uses almost as much battery power when closed as the DS uses during play – completely sapping my battery during an average work day.

Pokémon White is easily the best Pokémon title since Blue, but I even with all those improvements, it still can suffer from “more-of-the-same.” But before we shout and burn it in effigy let’s be honest with ourselves: this game was never really meant for us. Game Freak didn’t make this game, thinking of the thirty-something, well-read gamer with discerning enough taste to read, that has played 3 different colors of Pokémon. They designed this game for the 13 year-old gamer, who’s best friend told them about this game where you collect monsters! The main character’s mom puts it best when she talks about how every kid that age goes on a Pokémon adventure. She did when she was that age. Maybe it’s time that we first generation Pokémon Masters retire and pass the torch to our sons and daughters.

Pokémon Black/White is the best possible game for first time trainers. I may have caught ‘em all a half-dozen times before, but if I were doing it all over again, for the first time, I couldn’t imagine a more magical introduction to the series than with this game.

DesertEagle “Black Version”: Like the lowly Squirtle who overcome opposition for the opportunity to morph into a powerful Blastoise, Pokémon has determinately focused  on evolving. Since the release of Blue and Red on monochromatic Game Boy screens thirteen years ago, the ubiquitous series has avoided radical changes. Instead, developer Game Freak has vigilantly tweaked any disruptive elements, with retaining the series’ proven formula. As my colleague SeanNOLA stated, Pokémon Black and White‘s journey will feel remarkably familiar to veteran trainers. In spite of this small detriment, I have become inseparable from my DS over the past week, hoping to use any idle moments to ensnare a wandering Snivy.

Once players get past the game’s tutorial, the myriad of small changes start to endow Black/White with its distinct personality. After getting acquainted with , Pokémon‘s recurrent (albeit growing) roster over the years, getting a fresh menagerie of creatures feels invigorating. No longer are players able to blow through the game’s gym leaders with their preferred pocket monsters, the title encourages finding new favorites to complement a trainer’s play-style. Sure, there’s a handful of clunkers in there- from Pokémon which resemble a set of cogs to a ice cream cone, but most of the designs display enough kawaisa to charm the most finicky badge collectors.

Even with the battle scene animations left on, Black and White‘s combat is speedier than its predecessors. Typically, deep grassy grinds are accompanied by impatient button mashing; now the title nearly keeps pace with eager players. Smartly, the game has relocated the Pokémart inside the Pokémon Center, streamlining jaunts through each town. Small additions such as reusable TMs or the sporadic defeated trainer who heals your team, are also welcome.

Pokéfan’s have been adamant about being able to battle and trade online. While the aforementioned C-Gear allows a connection with pre-established acquaintances, the Pokémon Global Link promises tournaments, and a gateway to the Dream World. Here, player build a house, purchase furnishings, and can play mini-games in a berry-driven economy. Regretfully, The Global Link wasn’t ready for Black/White‘s launch; players will have to wait until March 30th for online functionality to go live.

Whereas most iterations of the franchise have provided formulaic villainy though a nefarious-minded rival, Black and White deliver a more satisfying storyline. With an unmistakable nod to animal rights organizations like PETA, Team Plasma asserts that Pokémon shouldn’t be confined and forced to battle. While it’s pleasing to see the game poke fun at its detractors, the title sidesteps some of the ethical issues which have enthralled the franchise’s more mature fanbase. In a perfect world, differences between versions of Pokémon would be based on subject matter, instead of creature exclusivity. Unlike, NOLA I’m not quite ready to relinquish my trainer gear.

When the twenty-first century hit, I expected Pokémon to follow Big Mouth Billy Bass into obscurity- it seemed exceedingly unlikely the monster catching phenomenon could sustain itself for long. Yet ten years later, Game Freak has managed to offset the toils of tedium. Whether that’s demonstrates the ingeniousness of the Pokémon formula or an unrelenting effort, I’m uncertain. What I can declare, is whether  DS owners pick up Black or White, ‘catching them all’ is still indisputably pleasing.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. OMFG, I will read all this later. EPIC.

  2. No one writes this much on freaking Pokemon. Thank you guys. YOU ARE AMAZING.

  3. I’ll post my friend code as soon as I get this. I expect everything to do the same.

  4. Cool review, but whats with Nintendo getting in to the habit of launching things AFTER arrival (3DS store and browser).

    That seems like a bad habit.

  5. Did you guys hear IGN had to edit their review and remove pictures/spoilers?

    Anyway, your review beat them to a pulp!

  6. This might be the longest anyone has ever written about the Pokemans.

  7. little bear in the pic has a penis on his chest. HAHAHA

  8. An ice cream cone? really? Have they totally run out of ideas?

  9. Wow, some of those Pokemons look really pixelly- even for a DS game.

  10. I can’t believe you guys still enjoy Pokemon. Whats next Hot Wheels, Babbies, and Candyland?

  11. thanks guys. You really outdid yourself this time.

  12. Keyboard Cat Lives

    Last time I played Pokemon I was rocking the Gameboy Color. Am I really missing that much?

  13. I think the bigger issue people are missing is that Pokemon has united SeanNOLA and Deagle on something.

  14. that shit was just lazy. No depth at all. screw IGN and their weak reviews.

  15. I’m waiting for a Cigar with eyes myself. I’ll call him Smokemon.

  16. Bigger isn’t always better.

  17. I’ve been drooling over at Seribii all day. White want!

  18. I’m glad I’m not the only old man who likes to play with the Pokemons.

  19. Just got it. right now walking is so slow. When do I get the bike?

  20. Spoiler, I don’t want to Pikachu!

    Get it?!?!?!

  21. great double review. On release day no less!

  22. Any Beibersaurus sightings?

  23. I’m glad you guys don’t just write this off as kids crap.

  24. something NIS will probably never do.

  25. Who is Lazy Susan?

  26. KlingonStepchild

    Can’t wait until Amazon sends mine. I got them get in gear soon.

  27. I have $10 that says Team Plasma is just Team Rocket in disguise.

  28. Eww, those fight backgrounds look pretty bad. Like bad photoshop gradients.

  29. The equivalent of Deagle’s Big Mouth Billy Bass reference.

  30. Remember guys, “Gotta Read it All!”

  31. I’m sure I’ll pick this up. Is there one that more popular than the other (Black, White) ?

  32. Pokemon is for teh babiez.

  33. In for the 150 new pokemens. Thats what we’ve been asking for, right?

  34. Nintendo sneaks one past the ESRB!

  35. So is C-Gear online or just local?

  36. My dad still has one of these in his office. I bought it for him at least 10 years ago. I think my Mom has tried to get him to throw it out at least a few times, but he always stops her.

  37. Yep, good review. As a 32 year old father, it’s not time to pass the torch, but play together. (But I would like to see Deagle’s Bioware-style Pokemon)

  38. Wow, pretty amazing review! I didn’t know you guys were suck Pokeholics!

  39. routes 1 and 2 seems like they have 3 pokemon on them. WTF?

  40. You guys might be drinking the Pikachu pee flavored kool-aid on this one. Any game that gets an ‘A’ should be innovative, not just rework a few things, add some new monsters and send the box out.

  41. If I fight another Lillipup, I’m going to vomit. That’s all there seems to be around the first two towns.

  42. I saw more people picking up Black at Best Buy.

  43. I really don’t need you guys monitoring my web habits 😉

  44. Can I just admit I’m a 34 year old professional (no kids) who loves these games? I wouldn’t be caught dead playing in public, but at home I rival the obsession of a 12 year old.

  45. Not every reader is a 30 year old dork. I’m a senior in high school guys! If I’m playing this in 12 years shoot me, tho. Don’t you get wierd looks from kids?

  46. Great review- hopefully this won’t be sold out when I hit the stores this week.

  47. 6 hours in. Love it so far, again.

  48. I’ve put about the same and I’m starting to warm up to it.

  49. Pretty amazing review.

  50. Once you get past the first two towns, there’s much more Pokemon.

  51. JessicaSimpsonisHavingmyBaby

    Wow, finally was able to read it all.

  52. Grabbed this yesterday. So far it’s pretty similar to the last Pokemon games I’ve played.