Game Review

Pokémon Black and White Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

Black and White and good all over

Last year’s Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were just stopgap games to tide eager trainers over until the launch of Generation Five: Pokémon Black and White. Now the latest iterations in the series are here to eat up DS gamers’ spare time once again with a stack of new monsters and features.

Set in the brand-new Unova region, populated by equally brand-new Pokémon, you won’t see any familiar monsters as you progress through the lengthy story mode. That’s right: no Zubat, no Geodude, no Magikarp. It’s welcome and refreshing for the series, and will reignite the sense of wonder many felt playing their first Pokémon title – after years of encountering the same monsters in the same areas, the decision to start from scratch is a brave one that pays off. You can still encounter classic monsters after finishing the story and trade with other DS versions of the game, but while on your journey to become the Pokémon Master you’ll only see fresh designs. As you’d expect, the new monsters vary from the excellent to the mundane, but there are enough good ones to pick a squad of six favourites.

That’s the biggest departure for a story mode that otherwise hits most of the traditional points: you travel from town to town, defeating gym leaders and grabbing badges and abilities to let you explore the world more freely. The core structure is never likely to change drastically, and fans will find themselves in familiar territory here, but there are plenty of new features along the way.

The most noticeable improvement is to the graphics, particularly in battles. A new camera zooms in and out of the action, and each monster is now animated, both from the back and front, which give the fights a sense of dynamism that’s been missing from previous handheld outings. Some of the scaled sprites look blocky up close, but the addition of animation makes up for it.

Outside of battles, there are some neat uses of the 3D construction too: one city is circular, with the camera showing a side-on perspective, and one particular gym sends you flying through the air with the viewpoint altering along the way. It’s not the huge sea change some may have been expecting – you’ll still spend 90% of your time looking at the same top-down perspective of previous titles – but it does make a difference.

There's also a new Triple Battle system, which actually features two different 3-on-3 modes. Triple Battle is as the name suggests: you throw three monsters into battle and your opponent does the same. The Rotation Battle is what really intrigues – here you have three Pokémon on the field, as it were, but only one can attack, meaning you need to rotate your squad to keep your strategy working. It's essentially a regular battle with no delay between switching monsters: you can bring in a different Pokémon and attack without waiting a turn, and your opponent can do the same, so victory becomes a matter of prediction as well as luck. The game's rock-scissors-paper battle system becomes even more important here, and although such fights are infrequent, they prove good fun.

Pokémon titles have always been about communication, and here the new releases excel. The bottom screen holds the C-Gear, a communication device that lets you easily connect locally via wireless or infra red or go online to access the Dream World. Tapping the wireless stars shows how many nearby trainers are in the Union Room and whether other C-Gears are detected, letting you seek out other players more easily. You can’t do much until you get to Pokémon Centre, but it’s handy to know if that’ll be worth your while.

Other local features include the new Entralink, a mysterious area in which two players can embark on missions together. Completing a mission grants the player special abilities, such as double experience or a better chance of catching Pokémon, for a limited time. It’s only accessible through local wireless, so you’ll likely only get the best out of it with a regular playing partner.

One of the other big additions is the Xtransceiver, which lets up to four local players (or two online) to access live video and voice chat. The quality isn’t fantastic, but it’s a neat bonus for DSi, DSi XL or 3DS owners.

Lastly, there’s a section for infra red connections, which allow you to battle and trade at almost any point in the game without heading to a Pokémon Centre first – ideal for impatient gamers. You can still access the Global Trade, battle and enter the Union Room at any Centre, of course. Having all these connection features easily accessed through the touch screen during the game is a big improvement on previous releases, and should help to streamline the process of connecting players together.

With all the new graphics, monsters and wireless features, these are the best Pokémon games DS can produce, but with 3DS just a few weeks away, some will feel they could have been held back for the new console’s launch. What’s good about the game on DS may well have turned out better on 3DS, but this is true of almost any game, and shouldn’t colour your decision to buy one of the DS’s last big name titles from Nintendo.


Black and White are certainly up there with the best of the series: unlike HeartGold and SoulSilver they don’t have nostalgia as their main attraction, but they come closest to recreating the sense of discovery felt when embarking on that first journey with Pokémon.

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User Comments (91)



TKOWL said:

2 more days for America... this is gonna be one long Saturday D:



Ai64 said:

It's definately right up there with the best. I was so anticipated of the games. It was also worth the wait too!



Kevember said:

I got this game a week before its official release and it's amazing, I've played it for 20 hours and I can say this is one of the best games of all time, and of course the best Pokemon game. It deserves a 10, nice review though.



Kid_A said:

For the love of---why do they stick with this awful visual style? The DS is capable of so much more.



triforceofcourage said:

Hhhhmmmmmmm... Both you guys and NP said it felt more like a fresh "new begginning" Pokemon game. I might just have to overcome my fear of pokemon game sameness to get this!



Punny said:

Looks great! I can't wait to go to Unova and meet Professor Juniper!



Pyrodon said:

Why was it a 9 and not a 10? You didn't really mention anything negative... or at least not negative enough to bring it down a star.

@Kid_A is that a joke or what? It's the classic pokemon style!



BulbasaurusRex said:

No mention of the radically different Team Plasma, the version exclusive areas, or the seasonal changes?



Omenapoika said:

Kid_A, have you actually seen it? It's one of the best looking DS games I've played!
This game rocks. Many of the new monsters give a "whatta'vem-wut?"-look but after a while it sort of adds to the charm.



y2josh said:

Thanks for the quick review. Looks awesome. I'll be making a trip out of town Sunday in hopes a bigger city actually puts this game on shelves release day.



Chris720 said:

The one thing that springs to mind whenever I see "Pokèmon Black and White" is: You racists...

Never been a fan of Pokèmon, but glad it got a good score, sure the Pokey-fans will be delighted.



Pastry said:

I'll be a playing this on Sunday!

I feel like the local wireless video chat is a bit frivolous though, like "I'm right next to you but let's talk using our DS."



1080ike said:

Awesome, but as a couple of other people said, why the 9/10 if there was nothing wrong?
It's gonna be a looong 42-hour wait...



Ecto-1 said:

One question, is it still possible to import Pokemon from the GBA games, or is it compatible only with the other DS games?



Kirk said:

I'm gonna wait for the 3DS Pokemon games because I think it will be here that Nintendo will finally realize a truly 3D representation of the games, with fully 3D characters as well as worlds but also proper 3D battles too etc, but still with the classic gameplay design and slightly tilted top-down camera angles etc.

That is what I've wanted for quite a few years now and my instinct tells me I might FINALLY get it with Pokemon for 3DS.

If they manage that, along with a few other inevitable improvements and tweaks here and there, it really could be truly special.



Retro_on_theGo said:

If I had any money left after getting a 3DS and street fighter then I'd get this.
Unfortunately I know I won't. Guess I'll just skip this gen. Or at least hold out until the third game.( No way I can go a whole 3-4 years without a new pokemon game!)



Slapshot said:

Great Review James!

I've always enjoyed this series from time to time. I wish I had the time to blaze through Black quickly, but I don't. I think my next Pokemon adventure will be in 3D.



Linkuini said:

I honestly expected to hear everyone whine about how this game didn't live up to any of the previous ones. Talk about pleasant surprises!



Knux said:

@Mickeymac- Actually, they retracted that earlier statement and said they didn't mean that, so it's still possible. With that said, this Monday is going to be one awesome day.



Colors said:

I was expecting this to get a 9. There's alot of new mechanics and pokemon, but it's not exactly "new" enough to be a 10.



NGpenguin said:

Not a 10/10? ..... D:

XD this going to be one of my longest Saturdays ever! i just cant wait! (really i couldnt wait since the day it was titled, and shown.)



Pokeman said:

Five years, waiting for new pokemon, FIVE YEARS! AWESOME!! I have every pokemon game you can think of! POKEMON ROCKS! Can't wait for Sunday to come!



R-L-A-George said:

Can't wait til' my pokemon black is comes....It'll be monday because sunday is going to be busy for everybody.



Wolfenstein83 said:

Awesome, now if we could get these games on a console, that would be amazing, cause I don't play everything on a handheld.



NassaDane said:

I did not expect a 9, i was expecting much lower. I've played it and felt it to be one of the lesser of the pokemon. I don't know if the language barrier would change the experience that much but i'll see soon when i play the english one. I have enjoyed pretty much every pokemon so far but this one just takes too many steps backwards to feel right. Sure I absolutely love all the newly added fresh pokemon but that doesn't help the gamplay has weakened since HGSS. Its not horrible just feels very lacking in gameplay area.



Portista said:

No 10? I am a die hard Pokemon fan, and obviously with the voice chat and all it should get a 10. But, everyone has their own opinions. Nice review.



OverlordMao said:

Ehh, I'll do what I've done with every pokemon game since LeafGreen.
Step 1: Buy it 2 months after it's released,
Step 3: Never play it ever again until a new one comes out.

Yup, that's what I've done. The series is something I've grown up with, but it feels more like a chore to keep up with it over the years after Sapphire (which ended up being my favorite).



BulbasaurusRex said:

@27 You can only do it indirectly by transfering the Pokémon from a 3rd gen game to a 4th gen game (can't use DSi or 3DS for this part), and then you can transfer them from that 4th gen game to Black/White.

@40 How has the gameplay taken steps backwards? The only real changes to the gameplay from HeartGold/SoulSilver are the usual new Pokémon, attacks, items, and abilities; the new triple and rotation battles; a slight speed increase; and the ability to see opponents' teams at the beginning of the battle.



James said:

From our scoring policy:

9 - Excellent
A game that scores a nine should be considered a must buy for fans of the genre. Of course if we give a nine to a racing game and you only enjoy RPGs then this probably won't change your mind.

If someone doesn't like Pokémon, it's unlikely this will convince anyone to get on board, but for fans it's just the ticket.




This significantly better than the other Pokemon games. The best Pokemon game of all time really. NL have an out of 10 score regime (which is fine) not a percentage scoring regime so 9/10 is about right anyway. Sort of a game that is a mid-9 I'd say



TKOWL said:

@42 Yes, you can transfer any Pokemon from the Generation 4 games, but once you transfer 'em, you can't put them back in the original game.



Rensch said:

I prefer the earlier games but I admit the extensive multiplayer makes up for the absence of things like Safari Zone, Battle Frontier, Gym Leader rematches or having Pokémon follow you.



LordJumpMad said:

Great review James!
Sound like you really enjoy this pokemon game.
Is there anything that surprise you in the game?



3DS said:

already played i for about 10 hours and got four badges and at the fourth town it is awesome



North99 said:

Just got my copy of Pokemon White today. Someone always screws up their release dates. WOOHOOO!!!!



yoyogamer said:

Wait, you can't transfer Pokemon back to a 4th gen game? That could be a problem.



Bassman_Q said:

sigh Same ol', same ol'. I don' really understand why it gets a 9 with such subtle changes, but okay...

BTW it kinda reminds me of how other sites rate each new CoD game with subtle changes very highly...

/end rant



SamuraiShyGuy said:

Can't way to buy this tomorrow. It's been a long wait, but it game me enough time to decide which starter and version to choose (Oshawott and White).



North99 said:

Looks great so far to me, but I do wish the pokemon got to walk around with you on the map screen like in HG and SS.

Ridgey - sometimes you can find a store that sells electronics on the side and the store employees don't realize or respect the release date, and it ends up on the shelf a day early. I was hunting around on the internet and making calls first thing this morning.



Sylverstone said:

Had this in my hands today, very well-deserving score.

I was blown away by Pokemon Black and White.



Highwinter said:

I pretty much agree with the review, I love how it feels like the original Red/Blue, there's really a feeling of discovery and setting off on a journey that the other games have lacked.

However, I don't buy into the "if it ain't broke" philosophy. I think they could easily keep the GAMEPLAY mechanics the same, but change up much of the events. The story and progression are literally exactly the same as all the other games and that really lowers the overall score for me.



Token_Girl said:

Some really neat wireless/online features in this one. I wish I had friends locally to play this.



Froggievilleus said:

So far it has been a fun game. The only thing that I don't like is having to hit the X button to bring up my hot keys. I like in HeartGold that everything is there waiting. Is there a way to get that to happen in Black?



Bass_X0 said:

For all the new thing the game adds, its missing a lot of stuff from previous games. Its very basic in terms of additional features. I have beaten seven gym leaders but I feel like I should be only half way through the game, not near the end.



Ecto-1 said:

Thanks for the response.

I also miss the touchscreen hot keys, but I don't think there is a way to bring them back. The touch screen is used for other things, and I don't believe you can add hot keys like those in HG SS, although I may be wrong.

Overall I am really enjoying this game. I am surprised to be able to say that I actually like a lot of the new Pokemon.



Ridley said:

There seems to be a lot of hand-holding this generation. Healing items at the gym door and regularly placed healer characters away from the Pokémon Centers in the overworld.



Bass_X0 said:

Yes, I thought that too Ridley. You don't have to use the additional healing items and doctors but just by being there, you can't help but use them if you need to instead of going back to the Pokemon Center to heal then return to your position.



lex0plex said:

this review changed my mind about the game. I might just have to get this now



Azikira said:

This game is pretty sweet :3 I love the fact that you dont see older pokemon until it's beaten



realar said:

This game IS awesome!! This is the SECOND time I've played through White, this time in English! Playing in Japanese first was a good idea, it rewards you with English words to UNDERSTAND playing through and boy is it great. NOW I can enjoy the bulk of the story and get through the pokedex even QUICKER! I chose Tepig this time to get my second favorite starters Pignite and Emboar. I LOVE their designs ever sense I laid eyes on them and I can't wait to use them. BTW I named my Tepig off a Youtube user who rode the madness of rumor heaven at of which the information turned out to be true a good percent of the time, Boarbeque!!!!



Joejo said:

haha Huin city looks like Manhattan when your about to come of the bridge and the bridge looks like brooklyn bridge



GamerZack87 said:

Definitely have my eye on White Version, and I'll also be hunting stores and eBay for copies of Sapphire, FireRed, Emerald, Pearl, SoulSilver and Platinum!

NintendoPurist3DS is back in PokeMode!



Cabaco14 said:

Which one's better? Black or White? I am probably going with Black since it has all the techno and stuff



Supremeist said:

Might be trading in some DS games to get White tomorrow. Just getting it because I love Pokemon and I am just wanting something to keep me entertained until I get my 3DS! (August 25th) ]:



Supremeist said:

Well my comment was very long ago. I got a 3DS and saved my money instead, but as of now I'm still thinking of purchasing this!



Supremeist said:

Just went and picked this up, I'm having trouble deciding on what Pokemon to start with. Might go with Tepig.



C_wench_ said:

so, as a HUGE fan of the old-school pokemon ( i haven't played any "new" versions past pokemon crystal for gameboy color... just picked up a copy of soul silver recently but that doesn't count!) would it be worth it to get black or white? i'm hesitant not only because i feel there are way too many new pokemon now, but a lot of the new ones seem pretty half- assed. point being are these new pokemon a little better than the batch they came out with for diamond and pearl etc?



SkywardLink98 said:

I only recently got into pokemon with Pearl and plan on getting pokemon black 2 versus one of these.



Yanni said:

It's the first Pokemon game I've ever played. I bought it a month ago and it's in my 3DS ever since. What a lovely game!

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