Black, White, Black 2, White 2
#494 (Victini) - #649 (Genesect)
Cilan/Chili/Cress, Lenora, Burgh, Elesa, Clay, Skyla, Brycen, Drayden/Iris
Elite 4 & Champion:
Shauntal, Marshal, Grimsley, Caitlin, Alder
Victini, Cobalion, Virizion, Terrakion, Tornadus, Thundurus, Landorus, Zekrom, Reshiram, Kyruem, Keldeo, Meloetta, Genesect
Generation V is the current generation of the Pokémon universe. It was the first to avoid the standard trifecta of games (releasing just Black and White), followed by two direct sequels, also a first for the series. Black and White 2 are already out in Japan, but the rest of us won't see them until October. To avoid potential spoilers, I'll only be discussing Black and White here, but trust me when I say Black and White 2 will be something special.
Let's start off with some arithmetic! A huge 156 new Pokémon (the most introduced by any generation at once) brings the overall total to 649. For this generation, Game Freak opted for a fresh start too. Black and White contain only new Pokémon until after you beat the Elite 4 and obtain the National Pokédex. Personally, I thought this was a great idea that I hope is continued in future generations. It forced me to try out and get to know some of the new creatures, rather than just rely on my old favorites (sorry Jolteon).
With new features, catching all those new Pokémon became an even more varied experience. Seasons were introduced, so some Pokémon only appeared in Summer while others were isolated to Winter. Shaking grass was a first for the series too, which pinpointed a spot where rarer Pokémon might be hiding. Some unique pokeballs from previous generations were removed, while others not seen since Generation III (such as the dive ball) made a comeback. Even the ole' fishing rod had an overhaul and was reduced to one single item, rather than the old, good and super rods seen in games past.
Perhaps most obviously, Generation V had some interesting visual upgrades. Though the graphics are not dissimilar from Generation IV, it's what Game Freak did with them that made them special. Castelia City (the first true 'city' of a Pokémon game in a visual sense) showcased skyscrapers and a vibrant population that actually ran up and down streets. Skyarrow Bridge and Dragonspiral Tower put a spin on things (pun intended) by allowing your character to walk around a curve, rather than just in a straight line. Finally, Pokémon battle sprites were, for the first time, fully animated. Throughout battles they moved and jumped around as they waited for you to issue a command.
The true innovation of Generation V, however, was the C-Gear and Pokémon Global Link. The C-Gear functioned as sort of a permanent wireless hub for your game. As long as you turned it on, your game could automatically interact with anyone else nearby who also had the game. Passively, you could collect data and complete surveys, but actively you could use it to trade and engage in battles. Of course, its primary purpose was to connect you to the Pokémon Global Link.
The Global Link existed outside of the game. By creating an account on the website and registering your game card, you could "upload" a Pokémon by putting them to sleep in your game and then use them in the online Dream World. Dream World contained some fun mini-games to play and a house to decorate, but its main draw was the unique Pokémon found only there. By beating wild Pokémon in mini-games, you could catch them and bring them back to your DS game. This allowed you to complete your collection more easily, but also provided a side benefit: many of those Pokémon carried so called 'Hidden Abilities' that could only be found on Pokémon from Dream World. Among these are many metagame-changing skills, such as Ninetails with the permanent sunshine move, drought.
New ways to interact with other trainers also included the new Entralink, White Forest and Black City. The former of these three is a replacement for the Union Room or Underground of previous generations where you could play games with your friends and enter their world, or vice versa. The Black City and White Forest were version exclusives that allowed you to catch foreign Pokémon or battle more difficult trainers respectively. Both areas were populated by NPCs that could be refreshed by connecting with a friend and visiting their Forest/City.
Gameplay was not the only area that Generation V modified. The story in Pokémon Black and White, albeit still rather simplistic, was a big step forward. Important story related characters, such as N, were introduced, and the game took on a more serious tone. Gym Leaders played a large role across the tale and, by the end, you really felt like you'd made a difference in the world.
In summary, Generation V can really be seen as a facelift for the series. It refined a number of mechanics from previous generations and introduced many new ideas. It certainly wasn't without a misstep or, in at least one case, overkill (*cough*triple battles), but it shows Nintendo are willing to take new steps with the series.
Black and White challenged one of the great assumptions of the Pokémon universe: the loyalty of Pokémon. The narrative explored the rights of Pokémon and trainers as the villains tried to free all Pokémon from the clutches of their masters. Should Pokémon be caught like they are, or should we let them go free? The game provides an answer of mutual benefit and harmony, but I'm still not so sure...
Until Generation V, my favourite Pokémon had always been Jolteon. That is, until I set my eyes on the adorable leaf-type Lilligant. Though in many ways she looks just like a bigger version of Bellossom, Lilligant just has a design that tickles my fancy. Even better, with Quiver Dance and Leaf Storm she can really pack a punch!