Pokémon returns with a bang in Generation V, making its way to our dual screens just short of the 3DS launch. Pokémon Black provides a refreshing change to what is inarguably the most formulaic game franchise in existence, coming in as if on a war to extinguish assumptions induced by over ten years of monotony. In its arsenal it’s got 150 new Pokemon, some exquisite new animations and a revamped plot, as well as a bunch of new multiplayer features.
As Pokémon aficionados everywhere play this game, there will be cries of joy and exclamations of jubilation as they realise that the plot has not been recycled once again. While still bearing similarities to the previous four generations, Pokémon Black provides us with a story unseen before. Of course, the story still revolves around the two legendary Pokémon (Reshiram and Zekrom), and there’s still an evil team who blatantly have the worst interests of Pokémon at heart, but it’s the way the developers have used these plot devices that makes all the difference. For a start, there are now two rivals, Cheren and Bianca, and they provide some reasonably challenging battles the whole way through the story, as well as assistance against Team Plasma. Team Plasma are the Team Rocket, the Team Aqua/Magma, the Team Galactic of Generation V. Team Plasma, like every other team, attempt to force their ideology on the people: that Pokémon and people should be separated, so their King can rule the world. Although, perhaps the most intriguing plot device here is the young man N. Yes, his name is N. N is a sort of rival/enemy who you will meet many times along your travels. He is associated with Team Plasma, and his relation to them is revealed quite early on. The entire game comes down to a showdown between you and N, with him attacking you with Zekrom, the black Pokémon. I myself rejoiced when I was given a plot to chew on, instead of mindlessly defeating Trainer after Trainer to beat the one at the end. This has to be the biggest improvement of the game over its predecessors.
The Elite Four has changed quite a bit in Generation V. This time, you can challenge them in any order you like: a godsend if your party has a particular type advantage. Not to mention, there are some really cool animations of movement when you walk into each room, like stairways made of light and ghosts that fly you around. These are cool the first few times, but become incredibly irksome when you just want to get to the battle quickly.
Pokémon’s gameplay is pretty stock-standard across the board. D-pad to move, walk in long grass to find Pokémon, and each Pokémon have four moves each. However, there are a few changes in Generation V. For example, TMs are no longer just for one-use: they function like HMs, and can be used an infinite amount of times. Perhaps the coolest little improvement is the battle animations. For those of you who play with the animations switched off, you won’t notice this. But the animations have become slowly more three dimensional, with the camera zooming in on each Pokémon as it’s attacked. Due to the low resolution nature of the renders and the DS screen, however, the Pokémon get very pixellated when zoomed in on.
And of course, the thing that makes every Pokémon fan groan of late: the new Pokémon. It is clear that with many of the new Pokémon, the developers are getting desperate: I’m sure you’ve all seen Klink, the Pokémon that is just two floating gears. It evolves into Klang, which is three floating gears. And then into Klinklang, which is four floating gears and a spiked belt. This is perhaps the epitome of the Pokémon desperation complex. However, some of the new Pokémon are pretty damn cool, like Chandelure, Hydreigon, Cryogonal, Reshiram and Kyurem. This is a really subjective area, so make your own judgement.
Multiplayer features, many people's most favourite Pokémon activity, has returned, and they've really been thought through. The new C-Gear replaces the Pokétch. From the C-Gear, you can activate Online, Wireless and INfrared features. Online lets you sync your game on the internet, and lets you download battle replays. This section is the most confusing: I still haven't quite wrapped my head around it.
Infrared lets you battle and trade with people near you: a portable version of the wireless union room in Generation IV. The Wireless feature lets you literally walk across a bridge into someone else's Pokémon world, using a feature called the Entralink. You can then receive missions and receive awesome bonuses from the Entree: an odd rainbow tree that gives you Pass Power. This is a little odd: but the bonuses are incredibly effective, such as boosting the amount of XP that your Pokémon receive for a given time.
The main thing I’ve noticed about Pokémon Black, however, is that there’s just so much to do. Once you’ve finished the main storyline, there’s no shortage of entertainment. There are heaps of more trainers to battle, you can re-challenge the Elite Four, and everyone’s getting to much higher levels than in the previous games: its great for training Pokémon. There’s completing the National Dex of course, a task that becomes increasingly difficult with every new iteration. There’s new battling styles, triple battles and rotation battles to try and master. There’s double battles with wild Pokémon.
In short, Pokémon Black is well worth the buy. An altered storyline, new Pokémon and a heap of exciting new areas to explore and people to meet means one isn’t likely to get bored quickly.