Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pokemon Black: First Impressions

Pokemon Black and White launched last Sunday, March 6th, and-- as I'm still an elementary school kid at heart-- I picked up a copy of Black. Black and White are completely new Pokemon games, which is where most of the appeal came from to me. I was curious about the new Pokemon, despite seeing the starters and wondering where the inspiration came from to mesh a pig and rabbit together (Tepig) or to make another grass-type lizard starter. Based on the latter, I was also wondering if the Pokemon franchise had anything left. Honestly, how many other Pokemon could you get when you aren't introducing more "types"? And what about naming them? Can the writers of Pokemon really come to surprise us again with this latest installment?

Needless to say, I was more than skeptical. And in ways, I still am.

I only really have time to play Pokemon in a vehicle of some sort (sorry Wheel of Time series... you've been put on the back burner), so I'm about 8 hours in. A huge part of my subconsciousness is reminding me that I'm a 24-year old playing a children's game. I ignore the voice and press on with the game. It starts as all Pokemon games start: the hero(ine) is in his/her bedroom, and the Professor of this town wants him/her to go to the Professor's lab to talk about some exciting news. Happens again here, except now you have a couple of friends along for the ride (no prominent rival as of yet). You each get a starter Pokemon-- great. You each embark on your journey-- awesome. Like every single Pokemon adventure game to date for the Nintendo hand held systems, you're doing the exact same thing: filling up a Pokedex and traveling to eventually beat the Elite Four (I don't count the Ranger games because they're just silly). A huge part of me was hoping it would be different, but why change a good thing? Nintendo was right in their decision not to stray from the beaten path. They did that with Pokemon Ranger and failed. Terribly.

So, because I spent $40 on the game, I felt obligated to actually try to have fun. The Pokemon I'm encountering aren't imaginative in the least. You have your typical dog, cat, bird, and Bidoof-esque Pokemon that you'll only use as a HM whore later (*Cough*Patrat*Cough*). I'm not impressed... in fact, I'm regretting my purchase more and more.

I get to the first gym, which looks as though it promises some challenge. Depending on your starter, the gym leader will use the opposite, stronger type. Awesome! ...except that you can get a Pokemon that happens to be stronger than the gym leader's Pokemon from some random guy in the Dreamyard. How convenient. So the player lazes through the first gym. Enter the second gym. Oh-- right-- there's a guy who happens to be in every gym to help the hero(ine) with tips on beating the gym leaders. While this happens in every Pokemon game, it's different in Black and White. This adviser not only tells you the leader's weakness, but where exactly to find the Pokemon needed to wipe the floor with the leader's Pokemon. ........Really?!

The voice in the back of my head reminds me again that I'm playing a children's game. Right. So... they dumbed down Pokemon because it's a children's game. For the record, I didn't even use one of the strong, Fighting-type Pokemon suggested by the adviser dude. I whooped Lenora with my Pidove and Patrat, two Pokemon that were at the same level and of the same type as her two Pokemon. *Sigh*

At this point, I had lost pretty much all hope in the game until I started to notice the finer details. The Pokemon in battle are actually animated this time around. One really neat feature in the these latest games is that if you take too long to decide on a move, the screen (set in the point of view of the Trainer) starts to wander. The Pokemon will also wander around in the anticipation of it all. As well, I noticed last night that when an opposing Pokemon gets put to sleep, the eyes close.

I also found it convenient that they just put everything into the Pokemon Center.

The wifi and infrared connections are also nice. This game, like HeartGold and SoulSilver, has IR capabilities. It's a quick and easy way to register friends into your Pal Pad. They also have little things you and friends can do together over the wifi/IR connections-- such as this compatibility test-- which will result in in-game goodies at the end of it. The Xtransceiver tool is also neat. People with a camera and microphone can use it as a cheap Skype-type tool. It will split the top screen for the camera images!

I also read that you can customize the C Gear screen by downloading various backgrounds and themes. I will have to try that when I have more time.

Maybe not worth $40, but the finer details are still pretty neat.

The only concern I have about the wifi connection in the game ("C Gear") is that it will drain your battery like nobody's business if it's left on. It's easy enough to turn on and off, but even when you close your DS, it continues to run, so one has to be vigilant about the use of the wireless.

As I haven't had much time to play it, I can't say much else yet. I will continue to play it, as I am a devoted Pokemon nerd, but I am really hoping it gets better. I would hate to put it down after 20 hours and never pick it up again. But I suppose that's the nature of a Pokemon game.

(Have you bought Pokemon Black or White? What are some of your first impressions?)

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